Project 4 Transforming materials Exercise 2.3 Transforming materials

This final project seeks to consolidate all the knowledge and research gained through  the first two parts of this course through a self-led project.

The initial stage involved reflecting on the word done so far in order to pull out ideas, techniques, materials and styles that appeal to me and in addition ,for me, that I find exciting and want to develop further.

I decided to continue working on theme of dilapidation and decay and used a series of photographs that I have taken of my garden shed and also some taken at a local country house of door locks, latches, and weathered wood.

The image below is my initial mind map which pulls out potential materials, techniques and things to take into consideration – techniques considered include collage (dismissed due to my love/hate relationship), lino cut – not used for considerable time, burning, slow stitch, dyeing – restricted by time and weather so dismissed, printing with found objects – not used eventually due to the use of digital printing instead, rubbing and generalized mark making – again not used but only due to other techniques being used instead.

A second review of Parts 1 and 2 and also researching and reading through my collection of books including Image to Stitch by Maggie Grey and Drawn to Stitch by Gwen Hedley started to reveal an initial concept of looking at locks and doorways as a potential narrative.

In addition the possibilities revealed in my books of using digital printing with tyvek are intriguing me due to the distortion and descent into decay and abstraction but I am questioning how it will worth with other materials such as denim.

I also considered and made brief notes on the artists I had thus far researched during these first two parts, highlighting particular points that are relevant to this part of the course:

  • Claire Wellesley-Smith – exploration of place and slow stitch
  • Robin Cowley – importance placed on textural qualities, abstraction and graphic presence – all of these are the very root of the samples
  • Elizabeth Couzins-Scott – objects/artifacts used to convey narratives either directly or indirectly – the underlying metaphor of chronic illness was almost put on the back burner in order to concentrate on a direct narrative of decay
  • Hannah Leighton-Boyce – the use of in-depth and archival research (which has been at the forefront of study throughout the course), exploration of objects and locations
  • Diana Harrison -working with marks and traces left behind, remembrance – symbolic acts that capture a moment of her life …. both again, even if without realising it, at the root of the samples and this exercise.
  • Claire Bartleman – previously used or worked on projects up-cycled/re-imagined
  • Louise Baldwin – use of domestic packaging, sense of order despite abstraction

I also researched Sue Hotchkis:

  • abstract forms/fragments which highlight beauty in decay
  • Use of tyvek/lutradur and mixed media
  • Treasures the imperfections created by decay – weathered stone or wood, crumbling plaster
  • Working intuitively – process led enabling the deconstruction and reconstruction of materials
  • Connection to my underlying narrative – the deterioration and decay of being a possible metaphor for death and loss

and Kim Thittichai

  • exploration of mixed media – an impression of this artist pushing boundaries and continually exploring her chosen materials
  • process led approach – something I am naturally veering towards as I each stage or exploration creates questions that leads to further exploration
  • use of heat tools in her work to create layers and textural effects


The research I actually found incredibly frustrating – I considered the work of Anthony Gormley or Ami Simms due to both the infamous figures that are being allowed to weather on Crosby Beach and also the Alzheimer quilts of the latter but I realised that the contextual research I had thus far done was by far more influential and with the exceptions of Kim Thittichai and Sue Hotchkis I felt I was adding padding for the sake of it rather than something that would further enhance or help my work.  However, a further frustration has been due to not remember a quilter whose name I mention in Exercise 2.2 but whose work is incredible relevant not just to this exercise but also to my essay – considerable research is still proving fruitless but feelers on social media have gone out in the hope someone in one of the quilting groups or my old college group (prior to OCA) will remember the name and I will update both blogs when she is eventually found.

Keeping these two pages pinned in front of me I also put together a project page containing selected imagery and also a generalized palette in order to keep me focused – this does work well for me and in theory could be expanded to include a specific palette page and materials page in the same manner you would put together a trend book.

This project page puts together an initial overall narrative although my underlying theme of decay being a metaphor for chronic illness is hidden or put on the back burner as mentioned above.

During the course of researching and reflecting both through notes and also with regards to new contextual research I revised my initial concept or ideas of working with a variety of found materials  to primarily working with denim as far as was practically possible – I had literally found 1 set of old jeans!  I also considered using lino cut as an additional technique or printing with corn husks or pieces of bark although the latter two were later dismissed in favour of the former.

My main issue with the denim jeans were that there are incredibly soft due to being well worn and I wanted to distress them prior to working on them but we only have one kitchen grater which on hygiene grounds was kept in the kitchen but here the weather played its part – one wet day plus a nicely stained gate, walls and fences and natural colour was transferred to the fabric!

I started my visual research and subsequent early samples by using a photograph taken of one of the rusted hinges on my garden shed and through a simplified sketch created a lino cut print – the first had too thin layer of paint added (using a brush due to my roller having gone missing) but the second was by far more successful with distinct linear elements and patterns.

A second basic lino cut print was cut basing the design on a simple photograph of part of one of the weathered porches in our locality.    What I wanted to capture is the grain of the wood and if possible an indication of the natural knots and this was relatively successful in a basic form.


As a point of reference lino cut is a technique I have explored briefly in earlier modules but found it quite tough on my wrists but I have been inspired to have a second go by remembering the work of James Green whose work I have seen at a local arts festival.  I am drawn to the simplified  linear forms of lino-cut but which in the hands of a skilled master can also be highly complex particularly when the lino is cut back gradually with differing colours printed individually.

For my purposes however a simple block design painted with the appropriate acrylic colours will suffice although there is room for development if the need arises.

Using the lino-cut I worked 3 printed samples with the latter two adding either/and free machine stitch and long slow-stitching details – the slow stitch I was keen to incorporate having studied the work of Claire Wellesley-Smith in  Part 1.  I do like the slow stitching but feel a greater variety of yarns in both texture and colour would enhance the samples particularly if combined with finding a way of fraying or distressing the edges – due to the denim being cut from a pair of jeans they proved incredible difficult to tear or fray much to my dismay.

The weathering of the denim by rubbing along the gate or fences has proved successful and added an impression of the griminess of age.

At this point I felt it appropriate to consider how digital printing could work on tyvek – this is totally new to me and inspired by the work of Maggie Hedley in her book Image to Stitch.  I chose a photograph taken of the bricks of our house which was printed onto tyvek and then heat treated using my iron.

I find the distortion and abstraction of the brick pattern and the dilapidation or decay particularly at the edges incredibly exciting – something in my brain struggles to understand abstraction in art as it is simply not logical and many people with Asperger’s struggle with the illogical but distorting in this manner somehow overcomes this for me.    I am finding that distorting, deconstructing, reconstructing retains the logical patterns and make up of the original imagery as it is still very much a part of it but it just cannot always be seen – ‘the material becomes the immaterial’ to almost quote Hannah Leighton-Boyce (‘almost’ meaning the quote not quite being identical but finally understanding).

Taking the digital printing forward I chose  a simple image of weathered wood which was part of a porch within my neighbourhood which I printed onto an A4 size piece of tyvek before free-machine stitching it to a similar sized piece of denim using two differing coloured threads.  After stitching I used my heat gun to distress the piece creating holes in some areas and a weathered effect in others.  For an initial sample I am really pleased with both the textural and linear effects – there is a real sense of weathering and decay although again I need to find a way of fraying or distressing the edges of the fabric as this for me lets the piece down.

A second smaller sample using a second version of the same photograph which had been manipulated in terms of colour in Photoshop.  This A5 sized sample was treated in exactly the same way although the stitching was adjusted to create greater potential for bubbling or distortion.

What I am finding intriguing is the unknown in using tyvek as it is difficult to control how it will react and this alone is exciting but also something I somehow want to harness – by learning to control or understand how it will react under differing circumstances enables me to further adapt my methodology and gain the experience of how to use it effectively.

I chose a second image taken at nearby country house – the edge of a weathered door and stonework which had what looks like a decayed ivy growing up – the ivy/plant was beautiful in its patterns and textures but what appealed more was tonal variations of the blue and blue-green paint of the door which I manipulated further in Photoshop.

As before I free machine stitched the tyvek to the denim using two differing coloured threads to enhance and highly differing sections including the dead ivy.  The heat gun was applied again albeit with more confidence as I attempted to control the amount of distressing of the tyvek – more holes were created and more parts of the photographic image were decayed and this proved very effective at conveying my narrative.  The issue I had with this sample was the background denim as I still could not solve the edges but felt despite using ‘weathered’ naturally stained denim (the fence came in useful again) the denim still retained an almost new appearance and hence I used a soldering iron to burn a few holes – the addition of those holes started to create the appearance I was and am seeking i.e. dilapidated, decaying and deconstructing through the inevitable march of time.

A third image of a door look was printed onto an A5 sized piece of tyvek and the same methodology applied although I used a singular colour of thread throughout to create an impression of form and depth.

The application of the heat gun distorted the digital print but experience was beginning to teach me the control that I desired – the sample retains a clear impression of the lock and latch but it is descending into  a logical semi-abstraction. I have had the confidence to burn away more areas letting just the stitching remain and the denim to be seen through the tyvek much clearer but due to the the fact I decided to use a piece of fresh material which was not coloured in any way the soft linear texture of the denim weave can be seen creating a further dimension to the sample.

As I have been working to finish this assignment we have taken delivery of a sofa bed with came in some kind of plastic or polyvinyl style packaging – a new ‘found’ material to explore and combine in this project.

My first thoughts were to colour the packaging using acrylic paint – the uptake of the paint on the vilene/fleece was relatively good and soaked through but the more plastic version the paint sat on the surface as I expected.    Both fabrics were much stiffer when the paint dried and this could be eased if a textile medium was mixed in – I have used textile medium in previous modules and discovered its use in retaining drape and also setting the paint in order for the fabric to become washable although this is not needed in this instance.

I did trying seeing how the pieces would react to heat and discovered that careful application is needed as they both just melted completely (windows were opened further than they already were suffice to say ….. lesson learnt!)!

Questions arose as to how to use these new found materials and time was spent look and reflecting to consider possibilities – my first instinct was to digitally print an image on to tyvek, free machine stitch and then apply heat with an iron as a first stage.  The second stage was free machine stitching the tyvek to a background piece of the vilene/fleece following the lines created by the bubbling on the tyvek – thinking very much about the work of Diana Harrison  in using the traces and marks made by manipulation processes.  After the second stitching heat was applied again using the iron but protecting both the sample and iron using an additional layer of baking paper – lessons learnt having had to clean tyvek off the iron on more than one occasion!

The resulting sample has a wonderfully distressed, dilapidated and weathered appearance whilst the original image has semi but not fully abstracted – the essence of it can still be seen but it has taken on the appearance of something more reminiscent of a rusted window frame than the remnants of dead ivy growing up a wall.

Throughout this exercise I have worked methodically and logically whilst combining design led and process led approaches – by this I mean I have sought to really work with the materials sensitively and intuitively asking questions at each stage particularly with regards to what will work or not.  I have also tried to vary my artistic media to reflect the textural aspects of the fabrics I am using but have struggled to depict what my eventual sample will look like and hence the use of photographs at each stage has been ever more useful as a record of intent and process.

A further two samples were worked both of A5 size using two differing photographic images.  The left hand photographic of the lock was stitched as before, heat treated and then stitched to denim before being heat treated again with the heat gun.

The second image was simply stitched, heat treated with the iron and then stitched to the polyvinyl packaging before being treated again with heat gun.

By working these samples similar size but on differing backgrounds I am able to contrast and compare the differing results effectively.

Both samples worked well and demonstrated how changing the background fabric can change the overall look as well as allowing me to adjust the application of the heat gun.  Increasing confidence has also enabled me to distress the sample stitched to the denim more effectively leaving a lacy effect reminiscent of skeleton leaves or spiders webs.   The heavy stitching on both has restrained the effects of the heat gun and iron in some places – it appears to act on initial application as a barrier although with consistency this barrier is negated.

Finally I decided to develop two final samples using the knowledge gained throughout this exercise – note the samples were worked simultaneously.

The first stage was printing two images with strong graphic qualities, textures, linear elements, definition of form, colour and appearance of weathering and decay. I then weathered the denim in order to create an underlying distressed or aged look but quite literally the weather was not in my favour and hence I needed to use Inktense blocks in order to apply colour before burning holes into the fabric using a soldering iron.

Second stage: free machine stitching the digitally printed tyvek along the lines of the wood grain or highlighting areas of rust or marks before heat treating with an iron.

Third stage:  free machine stitching both pieces of tyvek onto the vilene/fleece style packaging – I dismissed the polyvinyl due to the vilene type of fabric being more effective after heating (it closely resembles lutradur).  Both pieces were again heated with the iron before being stitched to their respective denim backings – note:  I did not want the edges of the denim to show where possible so cut them back during the subsequent heating process.

The resulting two developed samples I feel encompass all that I have explored, learnt and developed within this project.. Both samples demonstrate a weathered, decayed narrative with emphasis on texture, linear elements and form – in reality they are bubbled, distorted, distressed and almost but not quite fully abstracted from their original photographic imagery and I feel amongst the most successful of my samples throughout my studies.





About Me (s.d.) At: (Accessed on 10 September 2019)
admin (2013) Sue Hotchkis interview: Working intuitively. At: (Accessed on 10 September 2019)
admin (2014) Robin Cowley interview: Contemporary quilts. At: (Accessed on 10 September 2019)
admin (2016a) Kirsty Whitlock: From conception to creation. At: (Accessed on 8 September 2019)
admin (2016b) Susan Hotchkis: From conception to creation. At: (Accessed on 8 September 2019)
admin (2017) Kim Thittichai: Designing through process. At: (Accessed on 10 September 2019)
Bartels, D. (2002) Textile Art. Hove: Apple Press.
Exhibitions (s.d.) At: (Accessed on 8 September 2019)
Grey, M. (2008) From Image to Stitch. London: Batsford.
Hedley, G. (2010) Drawn to Stitch. London: Batsford.
Installations/interactive — Leisa Rich (s.d.) At: (Accessed on 8 September 2019)
James Green, printmaker :: Art Up Close (s.d.) At: (Accessed on 10 September 2019)
Jessica Hess (s.d.) At: (Accessed on 11 September 2019)
Juxtapoz Magazine – Jessica Hess: Dilapidated Structures, Decay and Meta-Paintings (s.d.) At: (Accessed on 8 September 2019)
Leisa Rich (s.d.) At: (Accessed on 8 September 2019)
Parrott, H. (2013) Mark-making in Textile Art. London: Batsford.
Swengley, N. (2016) Textiles transformed into contemporary art. At: (Accessed on 8 September 2019)












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