Overall, my third year at university has been the best of all. I feel that I really found my ‘mojo’ and completed my best work to date. Throughout my first and second years, for me it was very much about the ‘university experience’, learning new skills, meeting new people and finding my feet as a textile artist. This put me in a good place for my final year as I feel that I knew exactly what my skills were, and simply what side of art and design I preferred.
This year I focused heavily on hand and machine stitch skills, knowing that embroidery was my passion and the route I want to go down in the future. Although I have enjoyed the experimentation and learning within print and dye, stitch is most definitely my ‘thing’.
The consultancy module from September to December allowed me to perfect my stitch skills but also to work on a topic completely chosen by me. Here I discovered my passion for nature and British wildlife as an inspiration.
When beginning the final major project, it was important to me to study a subject which is close to my heart, and that had to be the coast. I personally have a huge love for the beach and despite not coming from a coastal area in the UK, it is something that has always been, and will always be a huge part of my life. My favourite thing to do is to stroll along the beaches of Britain, whether it be bare foot along the sand in the summer months, or wrapped up against the elements wearing wellies and clambering across the rocks.
The beach is a subject which has previously been done and seen in the industry a countless amount, so I knew that I would have to choose a pathway which slightly differed from the popular beach huts, light house and boat motifs. I came across the concept of rock-pooling while pondering over my personal favourite things to do at the beach, and I feel that this particular topic allowed me to deeper explore the wildlife living on the beaches (and the satisfaction of a good find, be it a crab or just some beautifully coloured seaweed).
Primary research played a huge part for me throughout the whole of this project, not just at the start, and I have thoroughly enjoyed taking myself and my camera to a variety of beautiful coastal locations to observe and record the colours, textures and motifs present. My photography was a big help while designing the collection, but it was mainly the inspiration which I was getting personally, by being on location, which helped me to keep going and feel motivated.
I will definitely take this idea of working with a subject with which I hold a personal love for throughout my work in the future.
The collection is all completely stitched, using techniques such as applique, free hand embroidery, hand embroidery and wet felting, which meant that each design was very time consuming to complete. I however love the concept of so much time and love going into each individual piece, and feel that it adds so much to the value. As a previously quite impatient person, this module has allowed me to learn to take my time in my work, and therefore to produce much more worthwhile, delicate pieces.
In terms of products, I am pleasantly surprised with how happy I am with the pieces I produced. They are the sort of thing which I would expect to be sold and displayed in places such as National Trust galleries, coastal gift shops and even eateries in coastal locations, so am satisfied with the fulfilment of my self set brief. These pieces are intended for purchase at a higher price than for similar products which have instead been digitally printed.
If I was to develop this collection further, I think I would include some pieces in frames, as I feel that this is a product which would sell well, and is a popular setting for artwork in the homes of my target customer.
In the future I plan to set up my own business selling my work, both through online platforms and in face-to-face settings such as craft fairs and shops. I would very much like to take some of the concepts from my degree project further in this venture, with a combination of other inspirations from nature. Again, this is a positive outcome of this module, in allowing me to discover my love for both stitch and British wildlife.
While putting up the degree show, I have very much enjoyed the collaborative atmosphere, and love how everyone helped each other throughout the last couple of weeks. I feel that this helps me to personally be more invested and involved in everybody else’s work alongside my own, and also results in a much more cohesive exhibition. It is brilliant to see everyone’s collections, and the amount of work which has gone into it all. These last two weeks are also so beneficial for the second years, and I know that without our own experience of it last year, I would have found putting up my own show a lot harder.
I am really happy with my exhibition space, and despite all of the stresses and doubts, I feel that there is nothing that I would change. I think I’ve not ‘over propped’ the area, but have styled it effectively. I love the positioning of my design collection on the wall and the products frame them well. My business cards and post cards are displayed on a tiny wooden holder on the wall, which is painted white in order for it to be understated, and cohesive to the rest of the display.
Overall I am feeling equally relieved and sad that it is all over. It is lovely to see all of my hard work together, but the last three years have gone so incredibly fast and I think I would quite like to do them all over again!
On to the next chapter!
Today I finally got everything up in my space, a little later in the week than I would have liked, but done all the same! All that’s left for me to do now is little bits of consultancy work and finishing my press packs, I can’t believe it is all over!
There have been a phew minor changes of plan in terms of display and composition of my designs, but overall I have stuck to plan and am really happy with it. My cushions are now displayed on a floating, corner shelf, without the green wooden crate, and the tea towels are now pinned to the wall in a graduated display, rather than draped over the driftwood. I have however kept the driftwood in, as I felt that it just ‘made’ the overall display. I also have a personal connection to it so am happy that it is being used. I almost forgot about my felt ball garland but remembered at the end of today and strung it up between the driftwood branch and one of the mounted samples.
All the display needs is my post cards going up on the wall, which will be done tomorrow morning.
Below is the revised, final version of my self set brief:
I have also written my artist statement for this project, which will be displayed in my space, in the catalogue and also included in my press packs. It reads as follows:
“This collection aims to bring the British coast to the homes of city dwellers, inspiring nostalgia and reminiscence by combating a longing for the fresh, seaside air.
Taking inspiration from the rock pools covering the beaches along the south coast of England and Wales, these pieces focus on the textures and wildlife found along the shores.
Through felting, machine stitch and hand embroidery, combined with a mixture of new and reused fabrics, these products are intended for sale in coastal locations including tourist information, eateries and gift shops.
May you always have a shell in your pocket and sand in your shoes.”
This morning I had a little chat with Keireine and Helen about my ideas for display and where I am at so far. It was quite helpful but understandably for them, it was hard to talk about a blank white wall. So I’m going to talk to them again at some point this week once I’ve got something up.
Walking into the studio this morning, I was blown away by the standard of work which was put up over the weekend. I am still a little worried about how small and muted my collection is going to look up against all of the other displays, but for now I’m just to keep going as I am and hope that my work will stand out for other reasons.
This morning I got all of my overlocking ends finished, including the rolled hem on the silk organza samples, which I feel made a big difference.
The thing that I was most worried about getting done today was getting my wood cut down smaller, but my second year buddy Leigh was so helpful and completely sorted it for me, so it was one less thing I had to think about and was done by 2pm! Last week, I was a little bit worried about not having anything for Leigh to do other than paint my wall and help me get everything up, because admittedly I am a little bit of a ‘control freak’ and wanted to do everything myself. Today however I have learnt that it is actually okay to accept the help that is being offered, and it will help me to not stress out over everything I still need to do!
Once the MDF was sorted I could start mounting. How this would be done was one thing that Keireine and Helen were questioning this morning, but I was actually surprised how quickly I worked out how to do it neatly and professionally. I managed to get four done so am hoping to get the rest finished tomorrow.
I’ve also been thinking about options for the buttons on my third cushion, with the beadlet anemones. I’m really stuck with these because the other buttons I have made each have individual interests, so I need these to be creative and different.
I had the idea of creating a dense stitch similar to that which makes up the tentacles on the anemones, and covering a button, however when I tried this the fabric was much too thick to work so I need to rethink!
This evening I have also had a little look at my business cards. I tried rounding the corners of one and also the stitching on the front. I’m not too sure about the threads – it looks a little too thick and the holes are too big – but I’m going to try this again tomorrow at uni.
In terms of the corners, although I do really like the rounded corners, and they add something a little different, I’m now thinking that the original squared corners look more professional and will look better when displayed next to my post cards. I can always round them off in the future.
So my plan for tomorrow is to continue mounting my samples, and then to spend the evening in the library finishing off digital bits.
Over Thursday and Friday I have been concentrating on getting all of my cushions finished and I’m finally done! I am really proud of the outcome of these, previously when making cushions I have just kind of ‘winged it’ and maybe cut a few corners, but here I followed the instructions carefully and took my time. Although this has meant that they’ve taken me a little while, they have a much more professional finish.
I am so so happy with the look of the polymer clay buttons I made, the texture on them matched the marks on the seaweed perfectly and the yellow thread is a really nice tough. I was a bit worried that they might be too bright white but the fact that they stand out is quite effective. I am also really happy with the green felt balls on the corner of this one, which just add an extra bit of colour and interest to the overall cushion.
I also love the barnacle buttons on the back of the mussel cushion, which I feel coordinate with the front really nicely.
The oblong mussel cushion is filled with a polyester insert, as opposed to the fuck feather cushions inside the others, and to me there is an obvious difference. I have therefore ordered another feather one to replace it, and match the much fatter, higher quality ones. This may not actually arrive by Friday for the deadline, but at least I can replace it in time for the exhibition to open.
The third cushion, with the anemones, has no buttons on the back yet, because I’ve been really indecisive on what I want them to look like! I think I’m pretty set on an idea now though so this is one of the first jobs for this week!
This week I’ve had a complete change in terms of my exhibition space – I have completely swapped with someone. It is only one space across, so I am still getting all of the benefits which I was so happy with when originally finding out my space, in terms of room placement and lighting etc, but now don’t have to worry about the four plug sockets in the middle of the wall! This space is also a bit smaller, which is good for me as I was concerned that my small pieces would get lost on the large, high wall. The other plus is that my new area is made of wooden walls, so will be easier to work with.
The space has now all been built and painted and I’m very grateful to all of the second years who helped get it finished in time!
On Friday I also got all of my overlocking done. Although the edges of my samples won’t be visible behind the wood, I’d still like them to be neat. These still need to be finished on the corners but it felt good to get this done. One thing I did realise while doing this however is that some of my samples are way too small to fit around the wood! I want them to all be the same size so I am now going to have to cut down all 13 squares even more.
I over-locked the two samples which are on the silk organza, and these look so pretty now that they are finished nicely.
It was my birthday yesterday so this weekend has been a little bit of a break (brilliant timing, I know..!), but I did visit a beach today. It was actually really nice to get back to the heart of the inspiration of this project and it put me in a good place ready for the deadline.
I have now bought a small shelf, which is only 30cm long and will be perfect for my small wall on the right of my exhibition space. On this I am hoping to display my post cards and business cards.
Speaking of which, these have also arrived! I was a bit worried about how they were going to turn out, I think because the design is so simple, but I am so happy with the look of them! These just need to be stitched now and they’ll be ready to go. I have been thinking about maybe doing a variety of thread colours throughout the pile rather than just the mustard yellow, but this is something I’ll decide when I actually get to it. Just another thing to add to my (rather long) to do list for this week eek!
My plan tomorrow is to make the last three buttons, finish off the ends of all of my overlocking, get my wood trimmed down a bit further (hopefully) and to get mounting.
Today I did the embroidery for my herring gull tea towel and also constructed all three.
I went with my plans of using bright threads for the construction and am really pleased with this decision. I feel that this just added a bit of ‘me’ to the products and made them a bit different to what is already out there. The three colours of threads I chose are also going to be used to construct the three cushions.
I also cut out the fronts of my three cushions ready to be made. I am hoping to get this done tomorrow so that I can spend the rest of my time concentrating on mounting, getting my show up and finishing bits and bobs.
I’ve added a little initial to all of my product embroideries, as an alternative to signing my whole name. I decided that this could be too long and stand out too much, so I chose a much smaller, simple ‘h’.
Today I didn’t get as much done as I was hoping to, I think due to a mix of the buddy meeting, clearing and moving out of the studio and the tasks I had set myself taking longer than I was expecting!
Although I didn’t manage to finished both tea towels’ decoration, I did complete the one with the brittle stars. I am happy with the result and am looking forward to seeing it once the pen has faded and it has been hemmed and finished.
It was really good to meet my second year buddy today (finally!) and I am really grateful for her help!
When the studio was being cleared today, my exhibition space was emptied and revealed 4 rather ugly plug sockets…right in the middle of the wall! I was really thrown off by these, I don’t need electricity for my show and they are going to be just a little bit in the way! I spoke to Helen and Steve and my options are to have a box built around it and use that as a shelf, have the whole wall boarded up or to swap spaces with someone who would be able to cover it with large pieces/products. I am doubtful that anyone would want to move at this late stage, and I would also be reluctant. I like the idea of the box, if it means I could use it as a shelf (and wouldn’t have to buy one) but this would mean either building it myself (unlikely and asking for a disaster) or trying to get the time and attention from a TD for long enough for them to build it for me. I like the idea of a new ‘wall’ being put in because this will cover them completely and discretely, and also means that I won’t have to be hammering/drilling into a solid wall, where there is the risk of pipes/wiring etc being hit. I have also spoken to Georgia, who is next to me, and she would quite like the use of these plug sockets, so a new, temporary wall built over the top would be ideal, because she could then run hidden wires behind it. I’m really hoping that this is something that can be done, and soon. This was a bit of an unexpected obstacle, but I can do this!
This weekend I managed to finished all of the hand embroidery on the seaweed cushion! This is something that I was a bit worried about finishing after knowing how long even the smaller sample took me, so much so that I wasn’t even sure if I was going to do it or not. I am so glad I decided to go ahead because it has made such a difference, and I am really excited to see it as a cushion.
I also spent a lot of time creating felt balls. I got this idea because I was thinking about how little of the felting technique I have actually ended up using in my final collection and that this is a bit of a shame.
I ended up making a pile in three different colours in my chosen palette, with the intention of these being strung into a garland to complement my exhibition display. I feel that this is a nice way of incorporating the traditional technique with a contemporary idea of display.
I also made four in a brighter green, in two different sizes which I am hoping will be sewn into the corners of the seaweed cushion. I love how well these colours complement each other and that it adds that little something more to the overall product.
I am enjoying thinking about the trimmings and additions to complement my cushions, and these are my current ideas:
– 16″ square cushion with yellow seaweed
Green felt balls on each corner
Polymer clay buttons with texture to match hand embroidery on seaweed
– 16″ square cushion with beadlet anemones
Want to try to make some sort of tassel using the same idea/technique as the tentacles
Covered fabric buttons – orange or pink to match front, or another colour in palette
– 12″ by 18″ oblong cushion with mussels
Linen covered buttons with appliqued barnacles (love these!)
For the moment I have decided against the tassels, because although I love them, I’m not sure if they’re actually adding anything to my collection at all. I want to make something along the same lines though for the anemone cushion, but I’m not quite sure yet!
I’m really looking forward to meeting my buddy tomorrow and also to get back into the stitch room. My plan for the day is to finish the embroidery for both remaining tea towels – brittle stars and herring gulls and then the rest of the week is constructing the cushions and tea towels and starting to mount the pieces onto wood.