Category Archives: Assignment 5

Part 5 Stage 3 Developing design ideas

I have sketched and pondered how to move forward with the samples I have produced. I have ideas of producing mourning jewellery from the distemper filled negatives, a mourning cape from the rust dyed fabric adding trims made from cine film. But they all seem hollow ideas. I came across a piece of paper on my work desk.. It was underneath a pile of my samples and i neither remember where I got the quote  upon it nor the author. But it came to me and settled something in my heart. I wanted to not make something abstract that had no obvious symbol of what had been haunting me since I started Exploring ideas and sought out my tribe. My family history. Whilst I want to explore a way of expressing myself that isn’t obvious, anecdotal. I wanted to show the discoveries and celebrate the life of my Great Grand Mother The quote reads:

‘Collections of work which evoke moments in our lives. Here are people and glimpses of stories making themes of our very existence. reminiscent works which reference mythology and storytelling, using the line of thread to connect relationships and define emotions such as suffering, hope and renewal.

These are punctuations which reveal the sense of self and identity, the making of connections between the touching and tactile quality of textile, and the expression of feelings’.

I copied the text and searched on-line for where I may have got it from. Fortunately I was successful in finding it as a quote on Alice kettles website.

I had been looking through my workbooks for all of Exploring ideas and there were certain approaches that when I looked they almost punched me in the stomach. The darning over faces was one set of samples that in my eye had a power to them. They resonated with me as I have had times in my life that I have wished I could erase myself from. The act of removing a face, and as I wrote, ‘Can we obliterate the past?’ We can remove our images from photographs, but we cannot remove those experiences from our history.

I undertook therapy a few years ago, where I explored my own history and I worked on events, relationships and how they had shaped my own view of myself. It was painful, hard work and most of the time I would have run away from doing it. What I had hoped for and what I got from it was the truth of who I am I was able to see a truth that had been obscured by other people’s word and actions to me that I had believed. They were wrong and I was able to be guided to the truth with the care of my therapist. She once told me ” We cannot rewrite our past, but we can learn to live with it in a different way.’

As I was working with my therapist, I started to work on a patchwork. It had items from my past within it. Quotes, thoughts, a glove from my first wedding and more. I was building a ‘wrapping cloth’. A cloth that I would have wished to present and gift  to myself when I was born. It would have words of encouragement and in painful lonely times I would have used it to wrap around myself to feel the warmth of the love that went into its production. As I read the quote from Alice kettle, I knew that I would like to make a similar quilt that would hold the many approaches i have worked on as I have progressed though Exploring Ideas. I feel It will allow me to produce something that has a story to tell. That a viewer would need, if they wished to take time to see all it contains. The hidden stories and textures that I have gathered.

The course notes ‘Design is as much about what you leave out as what you include and the ability to be succinct needs practice’. I feel that in the next stage of gathering together those approaches that are important to me, I will be able to  asses as I move forward. In my reintroduction to being materials led, I shall allow myself to judge each section of the quilt, as I go along.

These thoughts and realisations move me into Stage 4, Making a story board. In deed that is exactly where I am now. A board that tells not only the story of what samples and approaches I can take forward, but also of which aspects of my tribes story I reveal.


Kettle, A. (2016). Alice Kettle | Textile Artist Gallery. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 May 2016].



Part 5 Personal Project, Stage 2

I new as soon as I had completed Part 3 and received my tutors report that I wanted to take some of the materials I had gathered for part 3 and develop some of those samples further. I knew I had held back with some materials foolishly and, I needed to make sure I got a grip of letting materials take me to where they could go. I had been blocking their progress as ‘Something I wanted to tackle for Part 5’. I am so annoyed with myself for doing this as it was short-sighted and I was not pushing myself as I truly want to do so.

I had an idea that was stimulated by visiting Cornelia Parker’s exhibition at the Whitworth gallery, Manchester in April 2015, on a study day with the OCA. I was enamoured with her work and was particularly drawn to her ‘Pornographic’ drawings. In my blog dated June 2nd 2015 I had written:  ‘I wanted to see if she had included any of her ‘Pornographic drawings’ as I was referencing them in the Exploring ideas course. The first thing my eyes focussed on was indeed one of those images. Pornographic drawings are prints made using confiscated pornographic films given by H.M Customs, mixed with chemicals which melt the celluloid film into a substance Parker then make prints with. She used the method that produces images in the manner of Rorschach psychological ink blots.’

I wanted to do the same with the negatives I had and also the cine film. I have had both soaking in acetone for weeks and so far little has changed except that the negatives have warped slightly. I had been working on many ‘samples’ by working on using the raw materials I had gathered throughout the Exploring Ideas course. I was conscious when working on Part 3, especially so when my tutor had made this comment:



It stuck a chord as when I had been working on part 3 I had literally become frozen, and was unable to move forward. I noted that I had lost my ability to play and explore playfully with materials as I had a ‘end game’ in mind that I couldn’t shift. This disabled me from getting the most out of the materials I had used. I connected it with my year of working on the Introduction to printing that had me focussed on producing and end product -print- in mind and then  planning how to get there. I had struggled with this course and it had permeated into every pore and creative habit. One good thing that did arise from it was that because of that struggle with printing I had learned a lot about how I naturally prefer to work, think, problem solve and also how tenacious I can be in trying to solve a problem or master a technique.

I was at the stage of resigning myself to not being able to make the July assessment, which was a target of mine when I decided to review again the samples I had been working on for weeks. I had gathered the materials I had and started to break down some mental barriers I had about where I was going. I had bags of distemper, 4 reels of cine film numerous negatives of 35mm and medium format, old Polaroid film, a large piece of fabric that had been soaking for 9 months in vinegar and wrapped around an iron grate from the workhouse and slate roof tiles from the workhouse buildings.

The raw materials:

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Though I was working with materials I had gathered which related to my ancestry I wanted to look beyond any preconceived ideas I had about the end product, personal piece and allow myself to be led by those materials to a destination I knew not where or how. I needed to surrender to the process again. A lost skill. I soaked some in acetone as previously mentioned and then I set about looking at what I could do with the distemper as I had so much of it. The volume of distemper took away any nerves about using all I had to sample and nothing left to create a ‘finished piece’. it had been in my studio for nearly a year now and has dried out into small crusted blocks and dust. My first thought was how can I turn this into something I could work with? My tutor had commented that:


I felt I had validation that there was something in the distemper that I had to find and bring out. I knew I could only do this with experimenting. I decided to mix some with gesso and apply it to calico and also to a box canvas. I wanted to have some fabric I could manipulate after the mix had set in order to see what would be left if I crunched and broke up the dried paste.



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I felt I then had to look at ways of containing the dust and small crusts of the distemper. I ripped muslin and made a long tube from it, stitching the sides and I also sectioned it with stitching as I didn’t want it to all drop to the bottom and re-create the bag that it had been collected in.




I stitched together medium format negatives to form a pocket and filled them with distemper, as well as stitching medium format negatives to muslin and filling them with distemper.


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Some negatives I stitched on to acetate that would shrink in the oven and filled them with distemper. After they had been placed in the oven they came out looking as the images below.

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Some I stitched around all four edges and did not fill with distemper. I wanted to see how the negative would be able to mould and change whilst secured to the shrinking acetate.

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I tied medium format negatives onto the shrinking acetate to see how they would react together. I attached them at each corner to allow some flexibility and to see how they would interact together when heat was applied.

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I stitched a pocket of muslin onto the front of a Polaroid film and filled it with distemper too.



I stitched medium format negatives onto the stained fabric and created a pocket in which I filled with distemper.



I stitched a piece of the sinkable acetate to some of the stained fabric, stitching along each of the four sides. It came out of the oven beautifully manipulated.

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I then sandwiched the 35mm negatives that the acetone had distorted and not disintegrated between two pieces of muslin too.


I wrapped some of the acetone soaked negatives in calico to see if there could be a transfer of image.


I did the same with some Polaroid film I had soaked in acetone, but this time wrapped it in the rust stained fabric.


I soaked both in boiling water.I thought this would maximise the chances of transference of inks to the fabric.

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I stitched some of the distorted negatives onto strips of the stained fabric.

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Some of the negatives layers  had actually become slightly separated from each other. It looked as though I could actually coax them apart. I used a bamboo skewer to ease away the images from the stiff base layer of the film. I had done many Polaroid lifts before, where you can put the Polaroid photograph into hot water and the image comes away from the base of the photograph and becomes an almost fluid image that you can then apply to many things such as wood, porcelain etc. I did not know that negatives too could be manipulated in this way. I placed the image layer onto the shrinkable acetate to allow it to dry.

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The ghostly images took on a new persona due to the wrinkles and distortions.

I wondered if these would adhere to the fabric when dried. They didn’t and in fact curled and distorted to the point that they were unrecognisable as negatives. I wasn’t disappointed by this as I was also conscious that I needed to get away from being representational in my work. My tutor had noted:


This was another reason I wanted to revisit Part 3 in an attempt at getting me to work with and explore materials and where I had fallen short.

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I had taken apart some of the Polaroid cassettes and their unused contents as they had already begun to decompose from them being 20 years out of date. I discovered small packets of printing solution that hadn’t been disturbed so I decided to use the contents to see if I could get some print from them. I used calico in strips. I snipped off the ends of each sachet and squeezed the contents onto the calico. I then used a brayer to distribute the solution.  The results were similar to the ‘Pornographic drawings’ by Cornelia Parker.

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I was delighted with the results.

The more I have played with the materials I have gathered the more I removed myself for having any preconceived  idea of what I could produce from them. The had become simply found materials with no connection to my family or its history. I had in fact split my mind into two thoughts. One was that I will produce prints using the dissolved film to produce a final piece and two that I should just see what I could do with the materials I had. For some reason I had relegated my play to a heading of, ‘learn to play with materials’ and regain that skill lost in the Printing course. I had done this to the point where I had become blind to what had grown and developed for this playing.

My mind had been churning over reconciling myself to the fact I would have to wait until November assessment, that anything that would compromise my printing using the solution would not be completing this line of enquiry. Not pushing it to the farthest point. In deciding to out all these new samples out to review I realised that again, I had become blind to the opportunities and possibilities of the materials I had. I suddenly saw them in  a new light and realised my tunnel vision had taken me away from looking at the value of what had come out of my experimenting.

I took to my sketch book to work out some ideas of how I could combine my experiments in some way, to use at least two methods together as the OCA course had requested. I was excited at the prospect of following the materials to see where they would take me.





Part 5 Personal project Stage 1 Reviewing my work so far.

I sat and leafed through the workbooks and sketchbooks I had produced so far in Exploring ideas. I took photographs of work that ‘hit me’ in some way. I was looking for the twitch in my gut that didn’t necessarily tell me clearly why or what but something that was more instinctive.




















Two things struck me: firstly how I again returned to my ancestry project which was in Part one looking at cultures. I have unfinished business with this but I am not sure what? I am drawn to the hidden text, stitching to selectively show aspects of the text, darning to obliterate images or part of images.

Secondly, how in my sketchbooks I have used vivid colours and played with textures and ideas using collage,  ripping and using a variety of mediums, pastels, acrylics and machine and hand stitch.

Both are completely different as though two people have done the work. This puzzled me. It also showed me how when I began Exploring ideas I had got into the groove of working materials led, playing with ideas and also I had got a strong working process of beginning with research and then producing samples. I can remember being inspired and excited by both processes.

I knew I had lost these newly learnt skills through my working on the printing course, which is extremely well documented. I know from my tutors report for part 3 that I need to loosen up and get back into these grooves if my work was to develop to the standard I want and the course demands. I am fearful and anxious that I may not be able to, but that I know is my ego talking and in truth I want to progress and develop too much to be halted long by these fears. I decided to photograph part 4 and look for glimmers of these processes. (Drama Queen moment).









I took most images of the decaying fabric, distempered fabric and manipulated negatives and cine film. I have a voice in the back of my mind when producing any samples and it is of my tutor saying” Push them as far as you can, don’t stop short of what they can be”.  In this work I did stop too early and missed opportunities. In my mind I wanted to revisit these and take them further in my Part 5. I saw them as the seeds of inspiration that I could move with. A mistake in retrospect. I was not honouring my self as an artist who needs and strives to push herself and to see just what I can produce. I don’t want to just study a degree, I want to become the artist I dreamed of being when I was 14. I know through art I can express the soul that came on this earth to have a voice. I don’t wish the statement to be dramatic or pretentious. It is the truth that hides inside me. Given that truth, I now have looked at my work with a different narrative in my mind. What do the materials I choose to work with have to say? What voice do we together sound like?

I asked my tutor how I can move away from being representational and restrained. She advised me to just play and take the samples and exercises to the farthest point I could. Until I could do no more with them. I see clearly how I was doing this in part 1 and 2 but lost it in Part 3. I have printed out the photographs I took and have my mood board on the wall and also have workbooks and sketchbooks out covering one bedroom for me to sit amongst and to ponder over.


22.05.2015 Personal project

Time was of the essence in producing these images as the buildings are to be demolished on the 27th May 2015. I managed to have enough blood extracted to make the prints. I am calling these images ‘In my Grand-Mothers Footsteps’.

in my grand-mothers footsteps i

in my grand-mothers footsteps i

in my Grand-mothers footsteps ii

in my Grand-mothers footsteps ii

As I prepared myself for this work my mind was drawn to how my grand-mother and great grand-mother would have felt when they had to step over the threshold. I was simply there to add my generations D.N.A to the building, they had their hair shorn, clothes removed, deloused and the workhouse uniform to contend with. Whilst I know the emotional damage caused to them and  how that impacted on my life, I did feel a sense of sadness for their experiences and also a feeling of pride that despite all they came through it.

A few days later I revisited the site this time in the evening to project the cine film onto the workhouse exterior, this piece of work I am calling ‘From the grave to the cradle’. It is depicting how something that lived inside my Grandmothers’ died when they entered the workhouse, in their ability to love and be whole. This impacted on my father and then in his relationship with me. It contains cine film that I inherited from my Father, images taken of me of which I had not seen it’s content until the projection on the workhouse walls. The viewing was difficult in many ways as it showed me as a vulnerable child whom I know to have endured terrible incidents. It also showed a child who despite all looked to be happy and thriving. I saw the mask of normality in the form of Whitsuntide events, visits to the park and playing in the garden. I knew what was hiding behind the clothes, the smiles and the supposedly happy family scenes. I also felt a sense of pride in myself for overcoming my difficult life events. the first time in this process that I have felt pride for who I had become, despite my upbringing. I had found my way to contemplate my life from the chain of events that had gone before and their impact had echoed down the generations.

I had hoped to have the images much larger so as to show the outline of the workhouse building, but unfortunately the projector I had only allowed an image size of 6 foot tall which whilst filming in order for the images to be clearly visible I had to film quite close up to the wall.

Click the link below to view the video.




Screen printing part 2 & personal project development 28.04.15

I’ve now taken nearly two weeks out from working. I say that, I mean from working full tilt. I have slowed down as I have had a feeling in my gut that something isn’t going the way I’m wanting it too.  I am learning to listen to this feeling and give myself space for the uncertainty in my head to assemble itself into something I can recognise and work from.

I am using blood to print, locating a source has taken me nearly two weeks as I struggled to find a supplier. I have an abattoir pretty local and they wouldn’t entertain giving me any. Butchers and local farms also have rejected me. Finally I found a source on-line who I could buy dried blood from, it’s used to make black pudding. The up side of this is I don’t need to keep a bucket of fresh blood in my fridge, and I can mix just the amount I need. It’s an add water substance. I have samples bloodied and I am eager to see how the fabric reacts, if it rots, smells or how permanent the blood is. I have enjoyed more than I thought this process. I am amused that I would consider let alone actually use such a medium, if it could be considered a medium. I did realise last week that it is in fact using blood that has thrown me off kilter. Am I using the right material, is it because I want to shock, is it appropriate, what is it about the blood? It wasn’t until Sunday’s study visit to the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester that I finally accepted, Yes, blood is the right material for me. One of the images I have referenced in this work is a piece called ‘pornographic drawing’ by Cornelia Parker. I had hoped it would be in the exhibition but I didn’t know for certain. The itinerary for the visit looked tight and left me thinking that I wouldn’t be able to visit the exhibition. fortunately we were given free rein in the morning to go where we wished. Parker’s exhibition greeted me as soon as I turned a corner, and there in front of me was the piece. Her use of Customs, confiscated porn films,  gave her a supply of cellulose from which, mixed with some solvent gave her a substance she could print from. I liked the whole idea of alchemy, changing something to produce something else. I spent nearly 3 hours with the Parker exhibition. I found it exhilarating, and more than anything it opened up so many possibilities. There wasn’t one piece of her exhibition I didn’t get or like. To say I was inspired was an understatement.  What I am finding as I work through the courses is a feeling of possibilities opening out before me. It’s like I am walking down a corridor and the walls and ceiling are moving further apart giving me wider scope to work. Exciting in its self.

I had visited the workhouse buildings the week before to take photographs and to also see if I could bring away any artefacts I could use in my personal project work. I had sat in the grounds looking at the door the inmates would have gone through, wondering how I could touch that moment. Again I thought of using blood, mine. I had come home and on sheets of paper, brainstormed what it was I was hoping to do, what did I want? I wanted to acknowledge the part of me, the DNA that my ancestors had taken into that place, a place that had impacted on my grand-mother in such a way it had affected her ability to parent. The impact that had on my father and in turn his ability to parent. How he parented me had no excuse in the history of his upbringing, though it did have a contributory cause. If I could step into their world and change it, or at least tell them what would happen generationally as a consequence, maybe I would not have had the experiences I did have as a child. I wanted to put my DNA, from my body in the building. I wanted to use my blood to make a print of my feet standing on the threshold of that building. The same threshold they would have trod on. Did this have weight as a piece of work, Was it relevant, did it convey What I hoped it would?

storming my brain!

storming my brain!

In Parkers exhibition there were four pictures together, ‘Self portrait as a square’, ‘Self portrait as a line’, ‘Self portrait as a circle’ and ‘Self portrait as a triangle’. The four shapes she had drawn in her own blood. If this was endorsement that what I wanted to do had substance, this was it. This moment then acted as a catalyst for the ideas that tumbled out of me over that night and the following morning. I have ideas of three exercises I want to undertake as further development of part 1’s work. I explored my ancestry and the foot prints in blood on the threshold will be the first exercise. I got to wonder about how experiences of my ancestors went towards shaping how they behaved and more importantly, parented. How could I show this?

self portraits using own blood Cornelia Parker

self portraits using own blood
Cornelia Parker

I have had for a number of years a small box with 6 reels of cine film inside. The films I am told are of me. No-one knows what the true content is. I have been afraid of viewing them as there is a possibility that they contain images of extremely traumatic and disturbing times in my life. I began to form ideas about how I could use the workhouse  building, which is soon to be demolished. I want to project the unseen films onto the exterior of the buildings. I see it as representing the experience of my ancestors, mainly my Grand-Mother, and the resulting experiences in my childhood. I will not see the contents until that showing, the whole exercise will be filmed. The practicalities of this are being ironed out this week I have acquired a projector, the cine film is being converted into a DVD format, and I have a technician who is looking at ways of my using my car battery to power the projector. I am looking at ways like Parker, of using the original cine film to produce something that will transform the once feared film. A conclusion. I also want to project the images I was given permission to use in my work on to the building so I can honour those who were inmates and celebrate for them the demolition of those walls that incarcerated them. I will take still photographs which I am going to donate to the archives. I also want to seek permission of the inhabitants of the house I was born in and in which the cine film was taken, to project images of my daughter. I see this as symbolic of how the cycle of abuse was broken. My experiences enabled me to know what is not appropriate or constitutes a loving relationship. My relationship with my daughter is one of deep, mutual love and a constantly deepening and growing friendship as she is now in her 30’s. She always tells me that her childhood was wonderful and how her friends all wished their Mother was more like me. I was a conscious and conscientious parent and, hope I still am.

My friend is a nurse and she has agreed to extract some blood for me to use in the foot prints. That would have been a major hurdle. I didn’t want to use the dried blood I have as I wouldn’t have felt I was being true to myself.  I need this work to be authentic.

I am sure that the work will be emotional, hopefully cathartic, but most of all I feel I am able to find a way to express myself in a way I wouldn’t have even considered just four days ago.

The theme for the screen printing which is given in the course is ‘man made landscapes’. I have explored female genital mutation as my subject for this. I now recognise that in telling my own story as a development of my work in part 1, I am exploring this self same concept.