My work is created in collections. A small snippet is written about each piece as I go along, but once a collection is complete it can be reviewed here. Due to the nature of weaving most collections have a consistent colour theme. Please enjoy reading about my work and contact me (Sue Russell) if you have questions.
For the winter break we were given a choice of topics to provide research inspiration for the Spring semester. I chose 1920s Poole Pottery and did some on-line research to get a feel for the period and the factory. The abstract and geometric shapes of art deco and silhouettes were very much the style of the 20s. These two themes are both found in my sketchbook from this period. Poole Pottery is well known for florals and many artists in this period included flowing animals, such as their bluebird pattern and John Adam’s ‘leaping gazelle’, this too translated into the collection as a running hare.
And so, back to Uni - Monday 16th January 2017 - New Year and a new technique. An interest in weaving is what brought me to Textile design in the first place, so this was a very exciting step. We were given lifting plans for a set of 8-shaft weaves to start technical folders. I decided to choose colours based on my mood boards from the holiday work, so started with an orange, however, this subsequently was replaced with two yellows.
Inspired by the progress on Monday, I returned to Uni on the Tuesday to complete the initial set of weave patterns and also to visit the library. I am a theorist learner and (like Hermione Granger of Harry Potter fame) tend to retreat to books as my comfort zone. Having spent some time reading "The Structure of Weaving" by Ann Sutton (1982) I started drawing out the weave patterns that we had been given with the shafts threaded in two different ways, this explained a lot to me about pattern in weaving.
Wove a few more rows of plain weave and then came the moment of truth, I cut the piece from the loom and retied the ends so that I could start on my first real weaving. This piece was then cut into strips of each weave pattern to go into my technical book and my weaving life has officially started.
Having completed the set of standard weaves, I now had just 6 days in which to weave a set for submission. With such limited time I decided to "freestyle" the first piece using one of my two colour palettes based on 1920's Poole Pottery. The palette I selected is pale yellow, bright yellow, pale blue, pale grey, red and black. To further enhance the abstract qualities, I used a range of yarns, including wools and acrylics, even a yellow with elastane.
Blue was the base colour for this first piece, so I embarked upon sun sea sand and palm trees, using the same colour palette as before. Blue is the obvious colour for the sea and by using a 4/4 twill it was possible to provide a hint of movement in the water. To add depth to the water I introduced both grey and bright yellow to suggest the water getting shallower as it approached the beach and also reflecting some sunlight.
A week elapsed between my visits to the weave studio and this provided time to plan black with tufts. I had already decided that the main colour would be black and had started to weave twilled hopsack. I wanted to maintain the stripe theme, used these to enclose some plain black weaving full of coloured tufts.
The next piece, red stripes, wasalso to have a strong background field as it was all about the weave pattern. I had drawn up a variable twill pattern, worked mostly in one direction but some sets were inverted to produce a zig-zag pattern in the cloth. To really emphasize the diagonal effect; I chose red as my background colour for the weft as my warp was neutral beige and this provided a suitable contrast.
During yesterday's session (Monday 30th) I had taken the opportunity to discuss my ideas with Jackie; she agreed that one piece could be done by painting on to the warp threads, but also suggested some ideas for including another of my sketchbook designs into the weave. My chosen image was first painted onto the warp threads. As this would provide the pattern, I used the pale yellow to weave a warp satin, so that the coloured image seems to be trapped within the structure of the piece, curved lines.
When discussing the painted image, Jackie had also suggested creating the same linear motif within the weave. I drew up a pattern for this with a brick repeat. The aim for Tuesday 7th February was to complete my final piece for this rotation. It is in two parts; it starts using the weave pattern I had created based on the curved lines of my previous piece. Above this my hare image was drawn onto the warp in red and again warp satin was used to bring this image to the fore in the weave.
Monday 13th Back to print, my introduction had felt very activist - let's try it and see. After lots of reading during the break, I now had a much better idea of how different fibers needed different dyes or techniques, for example reactive dyes tend to suit plant sources and acid dyes animal ones.
This time the aim was that we would learn to think about patterns and repeats. The morning was spent with our sketch books looking for inspiration for patterns that can be used to form a repeat. I started with an image that I had already used across a full A3 page, using it to form a 16 * 16 cm block, based on four squares. Each of the squares had a similar hand drawn image, but two of them were done in black on a white field and two were done as the negative. This urchin image was then used to create three designs (with the help of Photoshop) that form the basis of most of this rotation.
Monday 27th A lesson in mixing (and using) acid dyes resulted in a ready to use dye in scarlet. One of my colours is red, no one else seemed interested and waste is neither cost effective nor good for the environment, so I gladly used it to create Little Urchins 1. Then the same screen and red dye were used in combination with a paper mask and black dye to produce Little Urchins 2.
There was still a small amount of the red acid dye left so I used this to colour the background of a silk sample, before overprinting the whole check pattern using black. The intention is to discharge a large urchin imprint over the top of this, which I later did in gold illumination to create Gold Urchin.
It seems that Friday is the day for learning (and reinforcing) lessons the hard way. All started well. I cleaned the screen and squeegee and started using a lemon yellow, first to do the complementary set of vertical stripes (to create Little Urchins 3), but then also to do some horizontal stripes and a diagonal split. When I printed onto wool for the vertical stripes and subsequent horizontal stripes in yellow, I was reminded how important it is to ensure that both the printing surface and the squeegee are absolutely clean. It also became clear that washing yellow can present a challenge as it is so pale in dilution.
The feedback from last semester was to experiment with scale, so today (Monday 27th) I printed a large urchin in blue and also in daffodil yellow. My original colour palette had a pale yellow and a darker yellow, so this is my darker one. In each case this will provide the background for over printing with a further screen. Staying with the large yellow urchin and the daffodil yellow I also printed this image into the centre of the blue frame that I had produced last week to make Surrounded Urchin.
To continue exploring the effects that can be achieved with scale, I felt that it was time to work with another pattern, this time I used the urchin shape that had been drawn into a tile and then manipulated to make a repeat pattern in a range of sizes. I used this in several ways, some more successfully than others, but they were all worth trying. I liked the idea of using two different designs and colours on the same sample in an angulated block. This resulted in Little Urchins 4. The same combination was used in stripes (Little Urchins 5) and I felt that this worked much better, although of the two colours, the blue dominates, despite the yellow appearing in solid blocks.
I also tried printing the repeating image over the top of a large urchin. Urchin 1, but the blue continues to look very strong. Time was pushing on and we had also been asked to try some dying. So, I took two wool samples and used claret red to dye them. These samples were washed and dried ready for printing on my next visit; as I intended to return tomorrow, I kept all the remaining mixed dyes to use. I had a small amount of blue left and some illuminating golden yellow. With the urchin mix pattern still on the screen I printed the mid blue on to one sample and then illuminated the other (Little Gold Urchins 1). Then a second illuminated print was made slightly offset to the blue, making Little Gold Urchins 2.
One last pattern to try. Urchin 2, in theory both were done in daffodil yellow, but the second printing came out darker. I'm not sure if this is due to contamination of the dye, as I recovered as much as possible from screen and squeegee each time, or if this is due to the dye maturing overnight.
I hadn't tried painting with dye and fixing this image, so returned to the studio to do something with my Celtic knot border and a painted image. I could also move off my colour palette for this, so tried green and brown dyes. The final image was Celtic Hare.
Before moving into the knit rotation, we were asked to do some research on Gunta Stolzl and the Bauhaus movement. This influenced my colours for the final part of this collection and also emphasized the geometrics of the Art Deco period. After considerable trial and error, just four colours were retained, a soft green chenille, a dark red wool with a fleck, a pink marl and a dark blue / purple.
An afternoon in the knit studio (Friday 17th March) and I was able to test my first design. I worked through my plan for making a hem on a sample, then mixing rows of lace holes with triangles (and inverted triangles) made with ladders. The final hole above the ladders in the green chenille were a little dominant, so I softened these by extending the ladder slightly. They seem to impact less on the zigzag, which is supposed to be the feature, in the purple yarn, so these panels will remain the same. This created Making Waves.
Next, I cast on in the green and made a short hemmed piece before introducing the jacquard and making lace holes between the "blobs" on the vertical lines. I created a punch card to produce a border pattern followed by two sets of the lines and then repeating this process to complete Breaking Waves. Kay saw this and suggested using the lace hole and jacquard pattern again, but this time off setting the pattern on the repeat and also using all my colours. This created Cliffside.
Monday 27th The aim for this week was to finish a collection of pieces. All started well, based on vertical stripe combinations I had explored last week, I produced On the Level. Three different vertical stripe combinations separated by a horizontal tuck and row of lace holes.
Now for Waves on the Beach. This was a zigzag of lace holes with horizontal stripes created by colour changes. I chose pink for my base colour as this has been least represented in the samples so far and, also, as one of the lightest yarns would be ideal for showing the lace holes to best effect. The pattern was based on a design from "John Allen's Treasury of Machine Knitting Stitches", by John Allen, 1989. To further emphasize the lightness of the yarn a picot edge was introduced into the bottom hem.
With a small amount of time left I returned to the small squares pattern. This time purple is the base colour and the 3 stitch by 4 row squares are to be made in green and pink, moving one stitch across on each "on hold" row. Monday 3rd April. Last taught session. Most things happen for a reason and having to restart Rock Pools had given me time to modify my plans. I had already decided that I wanted the whole sample to shift in the same direction on each repeat, with the colours decreasing in number each time to increase the sense of movement in this piece. The collection was completed with a combination of Waves on Rock Pools. This tied lots of ideas together creating an abstract geometric design with heavy art deco influence.
The final collection is a mixture of weave, print and knit samples, these can all be seen in the gallery and some can be purchased through the shop.
First day at University on an “arts” course after ending my formal education in art about 40 years ago (it was a case of sacrificing art or giving up either German or Biology when I made my ‘O’ level choices. Art lost at that stage.) In addition, now I was starting a week behind everyone else and some rapid catching up was required.
We had been asked to complete a sketch book of plant shadows as inspiration (and a starting point) for this term. The individual pages from this have all been posted on my Instagram account (@suerusselpeakgatetextiles). So, I found a potential image from my sketch book and used a light box to capture the key outlines before adding a variety of circles.
We were shown how to coat and then expose a screen, prior to printing using a pigment. I chose a purple and used a transparent binder for a white background. Then my first ever screen print onto a cotton fabric (purple on white cotton). Apart from the change in colour, this looks very similar to the black on white drawing from which the screen was made. This same process was used to add complexity in the form of two colours and a slight pattern shift (purple and yellow on coloured cotton).
Into the print studio on Friday 30th, for my second visit, to see if I could remember everything that we'd been taught on Monday. Coated and exposed a new screen and used this as the base of today's work. A couple of ideas using green and red pigments were tried, overprinting images looked to busy so everything waws simplified to create green with printed red field.
My second week in print and a whole new way of working. This week we were introduced to reactives. Rather than sitting on the fabric (as the pigments did), these react with the fabric to dye the fibres. We were also introduced to a new way of creating images, by painting directly on to the screen with the reactive mixed in water and then fixing to the fabric by screen printing with the fixer (Manitex).
Asked to pick up a paintbrush and paint directly on to the screen I used my sketch book to provide inspiration and chose a hare that I had taken from a piece of Slovakian pottery dated 1707 in the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. This was painted in buttercup yellow and then a background of squares created using the same yellow, bright turquoise and electric blue influenced by Lisa Congden's style of working (hare on silk).
I was really pleased with the hare on silk piece, however, with the best will in the world, this could not be described as fitting in to my plant shadow theme. Back to the shadow sketchbook and this time I used the shadow produced by grasses picked in the field opposite to my home to act as my painting guide. Having created this painted grass image (in bright turquoise) I transferred it to silk using Manitex. Then I tried combining techniques by screen printing my earlier line-based shadow image using raspberry reactive mixed in the Manitex as my "ink". Once both images were on the silk I then steamed the image and fixed both images in one go (turquoise and raspberry two plants).
I liked the colour of the raspberry and I am still attached to my first screen image, so I tried making up jade in the Manitex then overprinting the silk with the same image in raspberry shifted approximately 1/4 width to the left of the image in turquoise (turquoise and raspberry same plant).
Our last week in print and a time to really experiment with some of the techniques that we had learnt. I wanted to start with reactives and try using cotton as my base. Although the hare that I had first tried on silk was not suitable for inclusion in my 6 themed samples I did love the colours; so I started by making a screen full of circles, blending in to each other by keeping the solution of reactive in water quite weak.
The intention was to produce another screen based on my grass image and print over the circle-based background before fixing the colour. However, once the yellow, turquoise and blue field was transferred from the screen to the cotton, it was clear that this would be too dark to overprint so this was steamed and fixed. With the field fixed on the cotton it was now time to try another technique this time using discharge through an exposed screen. The discharge is a form of bleach taking out most colours and returning the fabric to its original natural colour. Some of the blue reactives have a colour element that is resistant to the discharge and this could be seen in the turquoise and electric blue circles on my piece (blue and yellow with discharged grasses).
A discussion with John (lecturer) about pieces for my final submission suggested that I should try some variations in scale. Using two screens: the grass shadow composed of small circles and one with larger circles, I used a raspberry reactive mixed in Manitex for the grass and jade reactive for the large circles onto silk (raspberry grasses with jade circles). I made my final print and superimposed the large circles onto the striped background already added to one of the grass prints, as seen in the image above (dark blue grasses striped field).
Another first - machine knitting. The initial session objectives were fully met as I learnt how to cast on, how to change colour, how to adjust tension and the effect that this has on the stich size, also how to carry stitches up and so make a ridge in the work and finally how to create intentional holes and ladders.
Making a ladder one stich wide on the machine with several stitches between has a similar effect to rib knitting by needle. Closing the ladder gives a round end. The remainder of the session was spent experimenting with picking up stitches, making holes and ladders. I discovered that on the "front" of the sample the pick-up stitches have the effect of narrowing the rows that they are lifted over.
Reflection on my shadows and sketches left me with a feeling of dappled shade and splashes of sunshine. This means that I chose a "dappled" thread in grey and green as my starting point. For my second day using a knitting machine I started with this thread and quickly realised that I had found one with little elasticity, this meant that I was failing to maintain the appropriate tension and after several abortive starts I returned to the rack to find an alternative spool.
This session started well as I was able to cast on in the mottled yarn that I had found last week. Also found a lovely yellow and, on Kay's guidance, a very fine shiny orange. I wanted the yellow and orange to reflect sunlight in random patches so was using picking up random numbers of stitches from two or four rows below to create this effect. Then the orange snapped. This provided the perfect opportunity to try casting off, which I got eventually; then back to my random sunlight patches. As we had now also been shown how to avoid stitching by using "hold" tabs on the knitting machine I started doing some of this too. Again, I had problems with the orange thread. It was very fine and slippery, it kept sliding off the spool and also snagging and snapping in the knitting.
I was by now, totally frustrated, with the orange thread. Although I really liked the way that it looked, I was beginning to feel the pressure about completing my first sample today, so chose another orange yarn. Still fine, but less shiny and hopefully easier to work with. I upped the width to 60 stitches in order to achieve a suitable size sample and continued to use the mottled green as my background (shadow) with splashes of yellow and orange sunshine made using two techniques over different row numbers. Again, the orange snagged and jammed and broke. Kay rescued me (thanks, Kay) and I was ultimately able to finish the piece. On reflection it is a little small, but it will still be my first sample for submission (orange and yellow blocks).
The really positive thing is that I also now had lots of ideas for things that I wanted to try. More regular splashes of sunlight, using ladders and holes to reflect my shadows of grasses. I was now looking forward to getting back into the studio on Friday. Friday was a mixture of progress and lessons learned, the hard way. The piece that I had left on the machine on Friday was nearly finished and was ready and waiting when I arrived on Monday, two more rows of single stitch lace holes, then some plain knitting before casting off and sample 2 was done (green, orange and yellow bricks with lace holes).
Then we had some further instruction in using flaps to make hems and also to provide the opportunity to put a different colour behind a row of holes. Perfect for the development of my theme. It took a little while to work out exactly how to achieve the effect that I wanted but ultimately a series of mottled stripes visible through holes in grey was achieved.
So, another good day in knit. Not only did I manage to finish my third sample, I also got all my pieces steamed. A look at various other samples on the walls and produced by other students had shown me how to produce triangular inserts, so I had a quick practice and then launched into making sample four. Inserts in yellow, green and orange. To tie this sample in with my others I decided that a pattern of lace holes would help, then back to the inserts and a final couple of rows of holes and this sample was finished, so I now had a set to hand in.
We had been tasked with creating a group of between four and six samples, I now had four with time to work another one. As I now have three samples with a dark background and only on with the focus on the sunshine and grass colours it was time to return to the shadows' sketchbook. My final piece is influenced by grass shadows, (again captured in Vancouver, this time from a pot of grasses growing at the Olympic park athletes' village). I started with a hem and a short piece of grey / green knitting, then the main yellow and green, plus yellow and orange field, which was cast off. The dark knitting was picked up in groups of 5 stitches and the shadows knitted, before rehooking the field, adding the grass shadows and finishing with a few rows of the grey / green (grey stems over green and orange field). So, my final submission will be of 5 samples showing a variety of techniques based on my summer shadow sketchbook.
The final collection is a mixture of print and knit samples, these can all be seen in the gallery and some can be purchased through the shop.