Category Archives: Assignment 1

Tutor report Part 1

Overall Comments

Sue, you have made a considered and very positive start to Exploring Ideas. You have worked carefully, investigating in depth historical lineage, methodically collecting and compiling a wealth of inspirational research. This body of research has led to experimenting with a variety of techniques, applications and materials to create conceptual ideas, samples and textile artworks. Sketchbooks contain testing, sketching, collage, print, research including notes and annotation. You have documented this emotional personal journey of discovery via your excellent on-­‐line learning log. Well, done.

Assessment potential (after Assignment 1)

You may want to get credit for your hard work and achievements with the OCA by formally submitting your work for assessment at the end of the module. More and more people are taking the idea of lifelong learning seriously by submitting their work for assessment but it is entirely up to you. We are just as keen to support you whether you study for pleasure or to gain qualifications. Please consider whether you want to put your work forward for assessment and let me know your decision when you submit Assignment 2. I can then give you feedback on how well your work meets the assessment requirements.

Feedback on assignment

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

Sue, you clearly used the body of research to inspire ideas and concepts, made innovative textile samples and utilised the research material within the actual work. I am particularly excited about the concept of darning and mending. Here, you darned over the faces of images that represented times in Helena’s life that she theoretically wanted to disappear. I think of darning, mending or patching as a forgotten skill. This wonderful art of mending perhaps evokes repairing of emotion or giving life to something, loving care of a worn garment. Something from a bygone era – as today we just discard or throw away. Therefore, the ‘Darning Helper’ is a really interesting tool!

You have used fabric as a medium to express the hidden aspects of Helena’s life via layering gauzes. The realities are perhaps distorted via the transparencies, as you cannot fully know the whole truth. It is great to see you really considering fabrics, material lineage as a way to convey history. Calico used because of its composition, weave and durability. You have explored drawing on fabric, embroidering text, collage (census forms & marriage certificates), photographs and printing on fabric. The constructed corset panels include darned areas evoking the period of dress during Helena’s life. You experimented with various colours via ‘word’ on the computer printing onto silk and calico.

Final selected designs ideas and concepts include:

The Victorian Mourning Cape purchased on EBay. This historic garment led you to consider using this as a vehicle to tell Helena’s story or perhaps create a 21st Century mourning piece. You created a sample including printed documents, beadwork, hand stitching and an antique clasp. This effectively conveys messages from the past in a sensory, contemporary manner. The antique cape is beautiful in its present state of wear with missing beads, faded fabric and tired lace. Perhaps you could consider thinking about this decomposition. The splendor of time ingraining and wearing imprints upon garments or artifacts, these then become transmitters of history. Perhaps the missing pieces of beadwork and lace are significant reflecting Helena’s story that has gaps. Could you consider creating an artwork that is decayed, distressed with missing pieces within it?

Images Layered As A Book:

Again this is a lovely conceptual idea. Could Helena’s life be transfigured into a cloth book? The gauze fabrics distort the images and text, this reflecting and how her life was transformed from relative affluence to poverty within the workhouse. Consider revisiting the tea stained samples. Stains evoke the concept of us not being able to wash away past experiences. It is often said, “It was a stain on his character”. Could this book be stained with memories that cannot be erased?

Printed Panels:

The conceptual idea of having large scale hanging panels is interesting and exciting. Again you could possibly consider extending some of your experiments. Perhaps include large darned areas, stains, embroidery, lace, layering transparencies to distort images and text.

Sue, you have a highly effective grasp of ideas and communication of those ideas. The work is presented in a professional manner showing strong judgement. I would encourage you to perhaps take a few more risks within the work. Extend experimentation & exploration of materials; push the boundaries of a technique or application. I could certainly see the darning, mending & staining go further.


Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity

Within Part 1, Cultural Fusions, Sketchbook 3 you have evidenced a body of work that is strongly creative, takes risks with many imaginative and successful outcomes with a clear identifiable personal voice. Here, you have evidenced a body of work incorporating many techniques and applications including: mono print, collage, hand and machine embroidery. Within this sketchbook you are free in expression, experimentation and exploration.

In particularly the fragmented collage pieces are very successful. The interpretation into cloth (squares, stitched in rows) is also very affective. I could imagine your historic photographs fragmented in such a way. The fluid spaces giving rise to the notion of lost memories.

Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays


It is evident that this has been an emotional journey, as you researched your own ancestry and lineage. Firstly being drawn to your mother’s grandfather William Kitson who was a potter and came from the Romany community travelling in a traditional wooden Vardar. Looking at your ancestry led to looking at your father’s lineage. Here, you found a rich tapestry of human struggle including a great grandfather James Kinnear, who was an inventor involved in designing prosthetic limbs, his wife Helena who sadly was at one time living in the workhouse with her daughter.

You truly threw yourself into discovering as much as possible relating to the life and times of your predecessors. Including scouring sites such as, darning & mending, the Romany Community, fashion 1870 – 1880, prosthetics, and workhouses including corresponding with Lyn Howsan who wrote about Firvale Workhouse. Here, you document study visits to: The Thackray Medical Museum in Leeds, Lynda Benglis at the Hepworth Gallery, Tabitha Moses (Moses used human bones to build a limb using cotton fabric, sawdust & hand embroidery), Investment at the Walker Gallery in Liverpool, plus visiting the grave yard where your great grandparents are buried.

Many books and articles are listed too including a paper written about the textile artist Beth Barron relating to ‘telling stories’ via textile artworks and The Corset, a Cultural History by Valarie Steele.

You have documented this voyage of discovery via in-­‐depth writing on your on-­‐line learning log. Here, you have also included personal reflection; revisiting work that you felt was relevant (the white embroidered piece – made from donated fabric – and created whilst you were in psychotherapy – navigation of life). This evidences you are highly articulate and self aware, having extensively researched, therefore demonstrating a highly developed intellectual understanding.

Suggested reading/viewing


Cloth and Memory Exhibition (Salt Mill)
Lost in Lace (Curated by Gail Baxter) At the Gas Hall, Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery Artist
Anslem Keifer (who has an interest in materials that decay over time
Anne Wilson (her series ‘Topologies’ – using deconstructed black lace)‐credits.html
Transition & Influence (University for the Creative Arts)
Fibre Arts: (Great article)
Claire Barber (text) Louise Bourgeois – The Fabric Works‐bourgeois-the‐fabric works/view/
Mawra Tahreem (Emotions, Thoughts and Experiments)‐thoughts‐experiments/

• Quinn, Bradley, (2009), Textile Designers The Cutting Edge. London, Laurence King Publishing, Hudson.
• Celant, Germano, (2010), Louise Bourgeois The Fabric Works. Milan, Italy, Skira Editore S.P.A.
• Impey, Sarah, (2014) Text in Textile Art. Batsford Ltd. ISBN: 9781849940429

Pointers for the next assignment:

  • Maintain your excellent working practices.
    • Consider extending the ideas & concepts of: mending, darning, staining & patching.
    • Take risks within your ideas & concepts for final samples.
    • Perhaps capture elements of your exploration & experimentation in Sketchbook 3 with the ideas you have for finished pieces.
    • Consider refining your research area to one or two elements and then pushing all the possibilities & boundaries of that inspirational material.

Well, done Sue, I look forward to your next assignment. You have a wealth of research here that I think will feed wonderful ideas for future projects.



Part 1 review

Do your finished samples fulfill your expectations? To what extent do they reflect the initial research that you undertook for this assignment?

The finished samples were a complete surprise to me. I had no concept of what I would produce from the outset and was pleased I was able to surrender to the process. Even when the idea of producing a corset came to me I never envisaged that I would in fact be lead to another idea for a finished item. I was thrilled with the samples especially with the hanging panels which were a complete departure from anything I would have thought up. I think they conveyed the emotional connection and empathy I had discovered during my research. I feel that because the research was mostly words as in census forms etc. thus I had no obvious vehicle for producing something visual. This helped to push me towards an outcome without preconceived ideas. It was also a tussle for me mentally to get from research to visual piece because of this. I set out to explore what my tribe and cultural background was and I do know I managed to accomplish this. The process allowed me to then look for ways of expressing the emotions the research had stirred in me.


Can you see a clear line of progression from source material to preliminary ideas and finished samples or did you have to change direction at any point?

I personally feel you can see clearly my progression from the source material. I will obviously welcome any constructive thoughts on this point. I am uncertain as to whether it can be seen where I have changed direction or begun to explore new ideas as they came to me. I look for advice on this. My initial thoughts are that you can, but that is me looking at it all with additional knowledge of my work. The first place I had to change direction was in researching the Kitson arm of the family, when I could not get to any museums that had items related to their life as gypsies. I found this fundamental to me knowing how their lives must be. I then had to look to other branches of ancestry to research. I do have the beginnings of work I can pick up at any time though.



Did you make the right choices and decisions when selecting and developing your ideas? If not, what would you change and how might that alter the outcome?

The choices I made in selecting ideas I wanted to work on was completely organic and came from how and where I was stimulated to record my own feelings in response to my research. I am not sure I would change anything as it has been a wonderful exercise in not only getting lost in the process, it was because I was in completely new territory as far as research goes. Ordinarily I would start from something which is visual, an artefact or image, which brings initial thoughts also visual. With the type of research I undertook, I was starved of such stimulus from the outset. I now see another way of conducting research, one which causes me to react solely to emotions which have been stirred inside me. I am overjoyed that I have the experience of listening to my reactions and beginning to find ways of expressing them.

In choosing an idea from which I could design a product I was working towards the corset making. I had come to the idea even before I had gone back to the course to see what my next moves should be. It was something that I had begun to have a passion for so I was pleased I could utilise this idea and run with it.

The conceptual piece again I had stumbled upon whilst playing around with samples and images I had collected. I would never have thought of approaching such a method for expression as the hanging panels and also the work of darning out unpleasant life experiences. This took me again deep into the emotions that had been stirred because of the research. Part of me was unsure if I had done enough as the pieces had simple darning added into the piece. Had I done enough embroidery or applied myself enough. I feel I had many questions about its adequacy because it was a new process for me. Overall I am proud of the work as I know that if I had seen the work produced by someone else, I would be moved by it.


 How important was the choice of material in terms of determining the qualities that you achieved?

I feel that the choice of the loosely woven cotton, which had a transparency and delicacy to it was the best for both projects. It alluded to the fragility of life and also allowed me to work with the idea of having images or text beneath it to express the thoughts of secrecy and hidden taboos. I was able to use calico to give the cotton a firm basis for the corset but also to present a fabric that was basic a utilitarian again, I saw this as introducing the idea of being stripped to the basic needs in life’s circumstances with regards to Helena’s demise to the workhouse and into servitude.


 How did your choice of colours contribute to the overall results?

I chose the plain white fabric as not only did it prove the base vehicle for printing on but it also had the traditional thought of purity. Helena’s life was full of highs and lows and, the fact that she spent time in the workhouse through circumstances out of her control I felt the white expressed her innocence through her trials.



Did you try the brainstorming exercise? If so, did you find it useful?

I did try the brainstorming idea. I reached a point in my research when I was awash with words, facts and many printed documents and yet I had no ideas of any way I could create a piece of work from it. I then took a piece of paper and noted down all the information I had on Helena and kept reducing it until I got a few bullet points I wanted to express somehow. I would definitely use this method again if I found I was lost in the research or in fact stuck at any point.

Exploring ideas Stage 4 Selecting designs for a specified outcome. 27.02.2015

So, weeks of research and also developing, sample making and then what to do with all this? I had a number of ideas I wanted to note down if not for now but for future use. The main question I kept focusing on was ‘How can I tell Helena’s story?’. I had made samples of fabric printing and wanted to think about making a corset from it. I then through sampling wanted to use the images I had depicting stages in her life into initially some kind of book made from fabric but then saw the potential of a larger piece of work that would be hung somewhere.

Further samples of how to present these ideas.

images layered as in a book fastened at the corner with an antique button.

images layered as in a book fastened at the corner with an antique button.

buttoned in one corner and stitched spine on the other

buttoned in one corner and stitched spine on the other

sketch of panels suspended from the ceiling allowing the drafts around the room to move each piece

sketch of panels suspended from the ceiling allowing the drafts around the room to move each piece

I particularly like this idea. I can see it being quite imposing. I would see the prints being around 5-6 foot tall printed on fine cotton as I have done with my samples, and with the faces being darned over again as in my samples.

Whilst I have been working on the printed panels I also have been working on an idea based on the Victorian mourning cape I purchased. I was thinking about hidden taboos again and wondered if I could create a mourning cape and use the fabric samples I had to line it?

I began by sketching the cape I bought which gave me time to really look at how it was made. I love the idea how every inch is hand stitched and wonder if it was the Woman who was to wear it who made it? It is a simple design, in no way elaborate so I can easily imagine it was.  I eventually settled on a crisp cotton mix fabric for the outer payer of the sample, with the printed fabric I had which detailed census forms, marriage certificate and photographic images. I patched the images onto the back ground fabric, darned the areas I needed to and then stitched both together. I also found beads that I would use to edge the cape section and an antique clasp the same as the one on my bought cape. the sample worked well I thought.

lace detail on the Victorian mourning cape

beautiful lace detail on the Victorian mourning cape

cape section sample

cape section sample