Trial #1 [25cm x 15cm x 1cm] 2021
For a long time my practice has included the deconstruction of clothing, and I recently became interested in the by-products created from this process. Often cutting the fabric into uniform strips and shapes results in waste scraps, and as I started to collect these scraps I became interested in breaking them down into fibres and re-working them into a new material that was both solid but also held the properties of the fabric/clothing in some way.
First trying resin as a way to harden the material, I felt that the resin became the principle material, and the fabric was a secondary material, and the resin became too obviously the main means of construction, which I didn't like.
I mixed flour and water into a paste, as a kind of natural glue, and mixed the fabric in. It was effective at solidifying the fabric but there was some shrinkage and discolouration. It felt important to me that the material stayed true to colour so this wasn't appropriate.
The mix of PVA and water resulted in a lot of shrinkage and distortion once dried. The fabric stayed 'fabric-like' to a degree, but the material was very fragile and easily crumbled when handled. Other trials with higher concentration of PVA resulted in the material becoming very hard and plastic to the touch.
The most effective way to transform the material was using vegetable glycerine, sodium alginate powder and water, with a small amount of PVA mixed in. The object was solid, but the fabric still had the same texture and hadn't become too plastic-like. The form was true to the mould, and the material felt strong enough.
Using the same technique I then made a 15cm x 25cm test sheet using a frame and deckle, similar to that used by paper-making. It was interesting to me that when handling the wet substance it seemed to be workable like clay, as opposed to the wet mulsch used for paper-making. The longer the material was left, the more the sodium alginate and vegetable glycerin formed a jelly-like paste, and the mixture became very malleable.
Once dried, I wanted to see what was possible. Could I work this new material like wood? Using a hand drill I made holes. The fabric didn't twist and distort, the holes made were clear and precise. This new object can lean independently without bending and its rigid form can be combined with things like screws and bolts, mimicking that of a material used for constructing and building upon - entirely made from fabric.
Using this new material, I would like to start making shapes that can be used as constituent pieces for a larger form.
After knowing I had a sheet of material I wanted to see if I could make a larger one.
Using a home-made paper-making mould I created a 70cm x 20cm sheet. The netting I used bent slightly when I applied pressure to it, giving the material a slight curve once dried. Despite this, the material was solid when fully dried. It takes about 10 days for the material to be solid all the way through, with no give. Testing this new substance, I wanted to see if I could snap the material and how the material would react to being broken. I really liked the effect of the jagged edge, and the break/tear looked quite natural, with some contrast to the straighter edges.
I decided to display this as a wall-based piece, holding the fabric together using nuts and bolts. The simple metal devices worked well against the noise of the fabric, and the shiny silver stood out against the material without taking too much attention away from the surface.
Trial #2 [50cm x 24cm x 6cm] 2021
I felt happy with these material trials, and felt that the material was able to be used for wall-based work. Next I wanted to try a 3D object.
Going from ‘sheet material’ I wanted to try and make lengths of fabric. The most obvious way to do this seemed to be to either cover lengths of wire/armature wire or wooden dowel. I tested this by first covering wire with the fabric cuttings, and the result looked really organic and true to the lumpy nature of fabric. I let the wire stay somewhat uneven, so the wire dictates the form of the fabric. I then wanted to try contrasting this with more of a straight form, by covering wood. Bringing these together into one form highlighted the feel of the two different lengths, but the shape became a whole and the differences created an ambiguity of how the sculpture was put together.
I think this piece is successful – the two types of form speak to each other effectively, and the spaces in between then become a feature of the work too.
During my online presentation this piece got a lot of attention and it made me reflect on how I can push the successful elements of this further. At 52cm x 65cm the piece is small, and so I would like to try scaling a structure like this up and see if it’s still as effective.
Trial #3 [52cm x 65cm x 1.5cm] 2021
Thinking about structures and forms to apply the material to
The purple structure is reliant on the wall because it leans, so next I wanted to make something self-supporting that viewers can move around.
I talked to Dan, in the metal workshop, about making a simple structure to learn the basics of MIG welding, and chose this column shape, a meter in height, connected by 25cm rods.
Despite feeling quite intimidated to begin with, I found the process reasonably easy to pick up, and was grateful that Dan allowed me the space to really grasp each part of the process myself. Working with the 3mm rods and the fine solder was difficult with the large gloves and heavy helmet (on my small hands and head), but I was really happy with a lot of the joints.
I had a blouse made from a patterned, shiny velvet material. Velvet is made from a fine pile, synthetic fabric, with a nylon under layer. The pattern was made up of dark brown, beige, yellow and orange, with the other side being black. When I cut the fabric the material created a lot of dust fibres that were very small and shiny, and once cut the different colours created a strong metallic finish, not too different from the metallic rods used to create the column.
I covered the structure, at first just half to see the relationship between the material and the exposed metal, and then finally the whole thing to give the object a uniformity. I felt this uniformity was more successful, and by not disclosing the core material to the viewer it gave the illusion of the strength of the fabric.
Trial #4 [38cm x 38cm x 102cm] 2021
Clay: made from lots of minuscule clay particles that comes from rock. Characteristics include elasticity when wet that hardens when dry. Clay dries from the outside in, and there is a working time. Once it starts to dry, it makes it difficult to work with the material without cracking, which I’m finding with this new material (work time approx 6 hours).
Papier-mâché: a cheap yet historic art material made from pulp of paper and sometimes textiles, bound with water and glue. This creates a completely new surface texture (that will often be painted or covered over, or left raw to be used as a paper surface again). I’m interested in the new surface of the fabric, and how it leaves traces of its previous form.
Chipboard: small wood chips are combined with resin and compressed to create a cheap construction material. I think there is something interesting in the pressure being applied, and I think there's an element of pressure in the squeezing and reforming of my new material.
OSB board: a sheet material made by compressing layers of fragments of wood, and sealing them with resin adhesive. The fragments of wood are placed in certain orientations to make the wood as strong as possible, with the internal strips laying perpendicular to the external strips, commonly used in construction. This placement of the wood chips remind me of weaving, and the strength in materials when intercrossed, much like how the fibres I'm working with bond by overlapping.
Concrete: concrete is made from an aggregate and cement that reacts to water. In this way, the new material works in a similar way because it’s reliant on both the larger fabric cuttings and the smaller fibres, even dust, mixing with the water. The fabric absorbs the liquid and all the elements bond together.
Making the bed
Making a mess
Making a way
Focusing on the repetitious process of the cutting, I wanted to see how this repetition could be replicated elsewhere in the work. Focusing on the repetitious movements and actions of the body, as well as the habitual routines within our everyday lives, I turned my focus on the other processes I undertake every day that could be seen as somewhat labour-intensive. Thinking about my daily commute from my home to the Peckham Road building, I focused on my foot and leg movements, my breathing, how I navigate the environment and what I look at. I noticed that a lot of the paving slabs in the Lambeth borough (where I walk for most of my commute) were the same size and formation, and so I measured them and replicated this in the studio.
I guess maybe 30cm square
I think about my foot in each one
We fall out of sync
I have my own rhythm
Broken by a root emerging
Creating a bulging crack
I step further in order to avoid it
Someone is walking fast behind me
I hear their steps
I cross the road and three different people dart in irregular angles
We all cross
A car approaches
I’m on the other side
One, two, one, two
A bus is close to the curb
The warmth and murmur
The bass of the engine
And it’s gone
The wind created by the bus hits my face
Clenched fist around a piece of plastic
Smooth and shiny
I feel a leaf under my foot
Interrupting the friction of brick
I feel myself leaning slightly forward
Counter-acting the weight of my bag
I step to the side to avoid a man walking at a different speed to myself
One, two, one, two
My hands pull my jacket taut
Everything in place
I made the depth thicker than I had previously and decided not to use the paper-making frame, but instead use a sheet with the dimensions marked out and work with the material more like clay, moulding the material into a square, like I was doing onto the long lengths of metal and wood. I first started filling the space with a white dress I had cut up, that had a graphic print which added in small fragments of colour. This only covered part of the space, so I also cut up a grey top, and I attached the two by creating this jagged line across that looked similar to how natural rock formations might form. I wanted the fusion of the two very different materials to feel more natural, as opposed to geometric with straight lines, in-keeping with the different feels of the materials and the mood of the clothing items.My original idea was to prop the square up on stilts because I was inspired by the ‘double ground’ that Walter Benjamin speaks about in relation to the Flâneur, which incapsulates the history of the urban space alongside the present urban experience as experienced by the Flâneur.
‘anamnetic intoxication’ (AP: 417) – anamnesis, from the Greek ana- (again) and mneme (remembrance), which can be translated to re-remembrance. During the ‘anamneic intoxication’ the flaneur enters a state in which the separation between past and present becomes blurred. Past and present appear superposed or in overlap; time becomes spatialized (AP 418).’
I put some threaded sockets into the material whilst it was wet for the material to shrink around when drying, with the intention of using some threaded rods to create these free-standing structures. I thought about filling a room with them, with the multiples emphasising the repetitious nature of the cutting and the walking, and possibly having them at different heights so that the space above and below is just as important as the fabric platforms.
I came across a few problems whilst making the work. I knew there was a small amount of shrinkage when the fabric dried, but it was the first time I found that different fabrics had different shrinkage rates, which distorted the shapes/dimensions slightly. I also found that the threaded sockets interacted with the liquid and rusted, and the rust seeped out a couple of centimetres from the socket, so decided to take them out and make the holes wider. I tried attaching the work to the threaded rods, and the structure wasn’t stable, and I didn’t think the metal and the fabric was speaking together in the right way. I also felt that the surface of the grey and white fabric together was much more interesting than the stilted object, and was being lost when the fabric was laying horizontally.
I decided to move the square to a wall-based piece and build up the surface using a third fabric. I think the black was a poor choice, and because of the matte nature of the fabric a lot of the details of the cut up fragments were lost. I also felt the black was too heavy and drowned out the white and grey fabric, and whilst I tried to continue the more irregular application of the material I don’t think it has worked as well. I think it will be interesting to continue to build up the different textures and layers and continue to work on how the different fabrics interact and speak to each other.
Trial #5 [37cm x 37cm x 4cm] 2021
the body as an energy source >
making connections between different repetitive bodily actions and expelling energy
Still focusing on this repetitive motion of walking and this 'double ground', I wanted to explore more of the spindly lengths of the fabric that I felt were effective in the middle of the purple sculpture and trying to incorporate something that relates to the body some way.
The four legs reference the movement of the legs, and the heavy, chunky, cartoonish feet contrast with the light-weight long lengths. Even the movement in the wire feels appropriate against the grounded, heavy feet. The main area that I can’t resolve is the top point of the sculpture where the four lengths come together.
One, two, three, four, [130cm x 165cm x 60cm] 2021
For our end-of-term crits, I wanted to challenge myself to make something bigger that responded to a specific space or environment. I considered public spaces that people are forced to enter, like staircases and lifts, and I considered how I could disrupt the space whilst still being sensitive to the body and architecture of the space.
In particular with the stairs, it felt like there were so many ways to mimic, intersect and respond to the different spacial elements as well as the functional aspects.
The lift space felt like a more stationary, enclosed space so I wanted the work to reflect this caging in feel.
I wanted to do something outside of the studio that responded to a different environment. Thinking about the walk between home and the studio as an in-between space, or an in-between time, I wanted to focus on other in-between spaces, focusing on making work that responds/reacts/moves between the staircase and the lift, and other practice areas of the building. When thinking about the material in relation to these spaces, I ended up moving towards the long lengths of fabric. Thinking about what Sara had said to me during one of our tutorials, about the material being noisy and commanding attention in itself, I wanted the focus to be really on the fabric and how the fabric interacts with space.
I made plans to create a structure in the A510 project space, working to the dimensions and features of the room. One of the main features of the room is the windows along the exterior wall. Again, considering this in-betweenness, as well as the actions of our own bodies and the urban spaces I navigate each day, I thought it would be interesting to have elements of the installation exiting the room and moving out through the window.
I had also been thinking about scaffolding and how scaffolding is make from lots of different uniform elements that comes together to wrap around buildings and the overall shape and structure is dictated by the different buildings each time the structures are erected. Again, thinking about how this new material also mimics other practice materials, especially raw materials in construction, I wanted to think about how this material can mimic metal structures, and I have used key lock several times before. I think there is something really beautiful about the clamps that hold the poles together – the slightly textured, shiny surface of the metal, the different forms that adhere to the different angles and arrangements, and the weight of the steel in your hand. These features juxtapose the typical features associated with light-weight, malleable clothing that moves around our bodies as we move.
I decided to title the work the individual items of clothing that went into the creation. Keeping the different garments separate in the lengths, rather than mixing all the material together, was a specific decision to keep certain characteristics of the clothing as a material true to form.
Two t-shirts, a pair of trousers, pyjama pants, a top and a blouse
wooden dowel, metal tube clamps, reclaimed clothing
installed in A510 project space
During my crit there were a few things that particularly stood out. There was a lot of speculation over the point where the sculpture left the room and entered the outside space. We discussed the infinite possibility that this posed, and how I could take this further. There was also a point of tension when the window, the fabric, the metal, the room and the outside all come together and a lot of attention was draw to this point, which I wasn’t expecting.
There was also a conversation about the metal clamps. Matt talked about how the joins feel uncomfortable because the clamps don’t always fit the fabric lengths very well. When the fabric dried, I found that, once again, different material shrank more than others and it was hard to predict. This many that some of the fabric shrunk more than others, and the uniform clamps were occasionally too big. However, with the uneven, spindly nature of the lengths, this didn’t bother me as much as I think it bothered Matt. He also suggested that I use clamps for the base lengths, like I have to attach to the walls. I like the precarious look of the lengths on the floor, which reminded me of the bamboo scaffolding I saw in China, where whole skyscrapers were being erected using scaffolding made from bamboo and tied together with small trips of leather. The bamboo at the base of the scaffolding was cut into a point, creating this delicate balance and top-heavy sensation, from which whole cities are built on. Matt’s comments made me think that there might be other ways to attach the sculpture, or even balance the sculpture, against the walls to match the way it balances on the floor.
Matt also felt the title was too obvious, which Olivia disagreed with. I’m unsure; but I was excited by the fact that the work could work for different people in different ways, and Olivia highlighted the importance of having tension, contradictions and juxtapositions in the work, and I think this is the most successful part of the installation.
photos taken by me in Hong Kong, 2018
Since the crit, I have thought a lot about some of the comments, and I went back to A510 with the lengths of fabric to play with objects in the space. Whilst this felt like a good exercise, I think that I need to modify the work more than I was able to at this time, and moving forward I'm going to think about ways to reform this work in a more purposeful way.
As I move onto Unit 2 there are a few things I’d like to focus on.
I’d like to take Matt’s advice and try creating my own attachments and different sculptural elements that respond and react with the cut up fabric. I’d like to try making ceramic clamps and also go back to the metal workshop to continue building these skills. I’d like to think about material language, not just in the deconstruction and reconstruction of the clothing objects, but the material language between two different, contrasting materials too.
Going forward I’d also like to continue focusing on form. I’m happy with the material properties I’ve been developing, but feel like I haven’t been able to resolve the issue of form and how best to present this material. Important things to consider are how to reveal the labour-intensive process through the form, but not to let the focus on the cutting of the fabric be the only thing that is important about the work. I’d like to try some more work that responds directly to space and environment, in both site-specific contexts and as an object entering and existing within a space. I’d also like to take the things that I feel are successful so far, for example the purple sculpture, and push that forward; thinking of structures that explore these tensions further. Finally, I’d also like to think of ways the sculptures can relate back to their original form; weaving, stitching, hand construction and the dimensions of the body.