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Canvas making continued

Initial Ideas:

After the Reworlding exhibition had been taken down I found that I had large amounts of the scrap green upholstery fabric. I wanted to make use of this as I enjoy reusing materials as well as taking previous pieces of work and transforming them into new contexts or through different processes. I spent a period of time simply playing with the material, looking at the cut out shapes, its forms, how it can be brushed to form different textures and colour. I also started laying out these shapes and began to consider them as painting - possible canvas pieces.


Henri Matisse, paper cut outs – The Snail

Use of fragmented shapes – mix of collage – use of primary colours

Reference for printed fabric stones – could push to explore way in which it is collated and dispersed

Textiles paintings

  • Use of layering - exploration of texture

  • The geometry could reference architecture - such as archways or windows or doors

  • Very minimal - sophisticated play with colour - simple single colour or combination of similar shades.

Testing canvases:

Testing different ways of attaching fabric

  1. Tested fabric glue - putting 3 small dots of glue across the fabric. However, this bled through the wadding backing and damaged the surface, causing noticeable spots of glue to be shown.

  2. Double sided tape - does not cover all of fabric leading corners to lift.

  3. Tested different colour thread. Such as various shades of green to best match the fabric. Eventually going for a dark brown. However, after sewing a small test piece this did not match well and caused the fabric to appear dull.

  4. Tested how hand sewing a single piece. This proved very time consuming even at this small scale. It was hard to get the stick strait and at even spacing from the edge of the fabric and between each stich. Ultimately this was both too time consuming and not neat enough so I decided to use machine sewing.

  5. To use the machine I had to be inducted, learning the correct health and safety measures to take, such as wearing protective glasses while using the machine. I learnt how to turn the machine on safely, how to thread and load the bobbin and how to correctly thread the machine through all the correct hoops. This was a very complex task and it had been a few years since I had last use the process, meaning this recap was much appreciated.

  6. Once I had the machine set up I tested the various stiches on a scrap piece of material, learning how to set the stick in reverse, the distance of each stick, putting a cap on the speed. Allowing the needed to end in the downwards position so that the material could be turned while still keeping the correct position. I even tested some of the unique stiches that can be used to create pattern - however, at this stage this was not necessary.

  7. For the final test I used brighter colour thread - inspired by processes of painting, considering colour theory I explored contrasting colours such as red and blue. In the end I settled upon orange as a more unusual contrasting colour which would stand out against the fabric. I had originally wanted to disguise the stick however, embracing the materiality I decided to make a point of showcasing the stick and drawing more attention to it. Using off cuts of the fabric I tested sewing both blue and red on the machine starting with a very low speed setting and then as my confidence grew I began to sew at a faster pace. I also tested different distances from the edge of the material as well as the length of stich. I eventually decided on the widest stich option no.5 and having it sewn quite close to the edge. It was helpful to test this as some mistakes were made, such as stitching off the fabric, and identifying difficult sections such as tight corners in the cut.

Testing with larger scale:

As the first canvas test proved successfully I wanted to play with a larger scale.

First I made 3 new canvases, after making my previous canvases I felt much more confident and did not come across any issues. I chose to make the canvases square as it created a uniform container to place the fabric inside - with the fabric acting as pieces of terrazzo. These are usually put into tiles or paving stones - often square in shape.

For this 3 mid sized square canvases I used various offcuts of the fabric - finding interesting and natural shapes. I tested many different compositions. At first aligning the fabric pieces along the edge of the canvas. Creating islands and landmasses of fabric - with the spaces between alluding at a river system perhaps. With others I worked more spatially and minimally, even placing singular pieces. I also tried to make the process more random by simply throwing the fabric on and seeing where they landed.

Once I had a composition I was happy with I took the pieces of fabric into the textiles workshop and sewed the orange thread with the machine. This was more challenging with the larger pieces and complex shapes but by slowing down my pace I was able to create a neat stitch. As all the fabric was reused some were quite creased. To reduce this I used an iron, being careful to iron the back of the fabric and test smaller off cuts first to see if it would damage the fabric. I also tested using the steam however I found that this left marks on the fabric so avoided this for the other sections. Also it was only until after assembling one of the compositions that I discovered strange marks and patterns from the iron which I first thought could be brushed out. This was due to ironing against the grain of the fabric, moving in circular motions. For the next pieces I ensured to only iron in the direction of the fibres to not leave any heat marks.

To attach the fabric to the larger canvases I used a heavy duty carpet contact adhesive. This worked well as it did not leave any marks on the fabric and was also repositionable. I just had to ensure that the surface I placed the fabric onto was clean as some areas picked up the glue on the surface. To remove this I used a scalpel blade and cut through separating the fibres. However, this was not a very strong fix and I doubted how long lasting it would be, especially with the weight of the larger pieces of fabric. To ensure the fabric was more attached I had sewed small loops into the main corners, meaning the fabric would not pull away from the cotton canvas.

Moving forwards onto the largest canvases I wanted to make use of the very large pieces of fabric which were originally installed for Reworlding. These canvases were much more difficult to stretch. The first test was quite loose, so areas had to have the staples removed and sections of the canvas re stretched. However, with the final canvas I put all my previous knowledge in and ensured that it had an even tension all around.

After a tutorial I began to consider the canvases and reflect on them. I found that the shards did relate to the process of terrazzo - showing something having gone through a process of being smashed up - shattered.

I also found that the piece that consisted of the fabric following the constrains of the canvas frame were less successful as they felt overly contrived. Canvas pieces where the shards were more fragmented and existing in space were more successful - they suggested more organic - like they are floating or slipping across the canvas.

Testing different canvas material:

  • testing with linen canvas

  • works better tonally - matches with the green fabric

  • appears more of a smooth and oily surface - possibly furthers the idea of slippages and the movement of the fabric


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