Week 4 Fashion and Textiles: Reflection






After gathering primary research of everyday shapes on the buildings and urban environment around Archway, we then chose shapes from the drawings and isolated them to create shapes for design development. There were plenty of shapes I found interesting, however attempting to assemble a 3D paper form proved trickier than expected as I realised that simpler shapes worked better to look most effective -I wondered if mine were simply too complicated/not angular enough?


This initial form seemed fairly promising, however complications arose when I tried to incorporate the second shape by cutting a slit in the first in order for them to interlock:



I liked the aerial view of this form because of the silhouette it created and the contrast between the sharp outcrops and the smooth curves of the centre, however from most other angles I was fairly unimpressed as it didn't really stand up very well.


Developing on from the previous form, I made an effort to try and fold the shapes so they would stand upright, however this was harder than I had thought (in hindsight I just hadn't considered folding the shapes in a more complex/repeated way, if I could have done it differently I would have acquired Peter Jackson's paper folding book sooner in order to improve my designs.) The aerial view remained interesting, however again from most other angles it was a fairly formless blob of paper with a few droopy outcrops.


Returning to the slit idea, this was slightly more successful but for the most part I disliked the form as it wasn't as freestanding or angular as I'd wanted it to be.


The final shape I produced was more freestanding, but this came at the cost of the more interesting angles of the shape itself, which had to be folded inward in order to support each other. While I feel as though I initially struggled with the exercises in class today, after researching paper folding and trying again with more paper when I got home, I felt I was able to overcome the challenge of considering how to manipulate the shapes, and I was able to produce some collages using fanned versions of the shapes that made interesting silhouettes on the body (see later on in this post.)



^The two shapes I chose to develop as paper forms on the body^


I particularly liked the spindly shape of the railings I drew outside a shop, however when I tried to manipulate the shape on the body the spindles just weren't really visible and the shape became reduced to a stringy, limp kind of strap. The other shape worked slightly better as I was able to make some interesting folds/fan shapes with the trapezium but because its partner wasn't working I felt the whole design combination was somewhat off. If I'd had more time during the session I would have cut a different shape and made it longer (and so easier to fold) and I probably would have gone for a shape with more edges than the trapezium as I realised it looked bland when it had been magnified. Despite the fairly lacklustre paper toiling, I did really enjoy being experimental with my illustrations, even when the faces went wrong with continuous line or when Debbie's legs accidentally were drawn half the size of her arms: 




Returning to pastel and watercolour as a medium was really interesting, as it made me think back to Susan Collis' work during fine art 2 weeks ago, and the idea that mistakes, mess and generally wonky drawings can be a valuable part of process. It reminded me of what I love most about fashion illustration; that drawing something slightly wrong or at a weird angle can add character or personality to your work and ideas, and makes your portrayal of that shape/form one that is distinctly yours.




I also enjoyed learning about the idea of drawing "negative space", which was something new to me. I had previously with Art A level thought a lot about ways of communicating/expressing a form without actually observing it - I had produced lots of blind drawings and paintings with braille dots on them, yet never once considered drawing a subjects surroundings or the space around it as a means of showing its form, which I now realise is a really integral part the object (especially within fashion illustration, where the silhouette is incredibly important.) While I remain unsure as to whether my negative space drawings were the correct way of doing it (there was some ambiguity around whether to draw shadows as well as silhouette/space where the garment wasn't) but I definitely feel I have gained a new observational drawing method.

After doing some more research today in the library about different techniques that can be used to manipulate paper, (using Paul Jackson's Folding Techniques for Designers from Sheet to Form, which has literally changed my life) I tried out different ways of manipulating the paper with folds and pleats, which proved much more successful - especially as I tried using a thicker paper so my shapes would retain their pleated form. After experimenting with the shapes, I tried again with newspaper collage on flat drawings to consider ways of arranging the observed shapes on the body, which was somewhat more successful than my attempts in today's lesson. I also made the discovery that one of the shapes could become a tessellating repeat pattern, which I thought would look interesting on a textile/graphic print.





Despite my initial failed attempts at paper folding in class, I was fairly pleased with the resultant outcomes in my sketchbook as the pleats drastically altered the weight and form of the paper, and prevented them from looking too droopy/flat (which was the main issue with the models I had made during the day.) If I had more time to develop this pleated idea I would try again large scale with heavier paper (in order to retain the pleats) and would try and make a more complex structure involving lots of folds that dramatically altered the silhouette (like it did in the above illustration.)

Alongside the shapes I had observed whilst out drawing this morning, I was also inspired by Kaleb de Groot's fashion illustrations, which I found in the WOMAN book I got out the library today. His use of masking tape and pen studies of architecture to highlight the body linked well to my previous thoughts on architectural shapes and negative space, and so I had a go at working around the human silhouette with gridded/architectural designs as a potential way of developing my work for Everyday Shapes even further. The masking tape gave an interesting, collage-like element to the illustrations, but was useful as it could be easily worked into with ink, and I felt this really made the page strong. I liked the busy nature of the overlapping squares and rectangles, and thought that perhaps maybe using simpler shapes is simply necessary so they can be arranged in more complex layouts.


Developing on from this page, I thought about how everyday shapes are repeated and collaged in interlocking patterns to form wall and pavement surfaces- I took some photographs on the way home around Tulse Hill to demonstrate this and I really liked the wonkiness of the paving stones jutting together, which were an interesting contrast to the carefully designed church building I had drawn this morning.




After looking at these examples of makeshift tessellation in urban environments, I did a quick collage response which I didn't think was as successful- I got bored again of using squares/rectangles because it simply felt too easy arranging them, and they didn't really create and new or interesting shapes- it just ended up as a fairly angular grid shape floating around the body. However, after realising that I no longer wanted to look at making simple shapes interlock, I decided to experiment with arranging less uniform shapes- using pieces of broken shell that had been thrown away from the restaurant I work in. This was much more exciting as a process, and I enjoyed the irregular lines created by the shards (rather than the basic grid pattern made when lots of squares/rectangles are put together.) If I had more time I would love to develop the negative space created by the shells' arrangement into a larger scale print, or a textile, or a similar technique could even be applied around the body, McQueen-VOSS style. Overall, I learnt a lot today about the arrangement and manipulation of shapes and the relationships they have with each other and their surroundings, and I feel that this will definitely help my design process in future.







Today as a whole felt somewhat more successful than yesterday, as I was able to see a development in my illustrations and the tutors said they had improved gradually throughout the day. We began the morning working in monochrome, focusing on continuous line drawing, the silhouette and negative space. I really enjoyed the process of observing and recording shapes, tones and textures in this particular way, especially how mistakes can be embraced in illustration as part of your personal interpretation of an outfit. As to whether my illustrations were any good I have no idea - all I know is I enjoyed the process and want to continue working in this way. We developed ideas about texture further by producing rubbings of the surfaces in and around the Archway site, and then used them in collage- these were definitely my favourite illustrations of the day as I liked being able to create volume by scrunching and folding the paper to fit the shapes on the page, adding a more tactile element (which I have realised is often important to my work.)


The first illustrations I produced were significantly worse than the last ones by a long way, and it was satisfying seeing the overall transition.


I initially felt that I struggled to include the features of the model (hands, faces, eyes etc) because I was spending too much time focusing on details in the clothing  but by the end of the day (and after doing further research into Kenneth Paul Block's illustrations) I felt much more confident in my drawing style. I want to practice life drawing more (which I am undoubtedly rusty on at the moment) as I feel this would help improve the problems I was having when showing details of the face and hands, but I joined UAL life drawing society last week and so I plan on going to the one this Thursday. However, I really enjoyed emphasising/playing up things that had gone wrong in my initial illustrations, and amplifying them into prints/illustrations in their own right. When I got home this evening I took elements that I liked (or really disliked, like the face that had gone wrong in the above ink study^) and drew them up larger, working into them with different media. I liked this process as it allowed me to dismantle my earlier illustrations and consider why I liked and disliked them, as well as what I could do to improve. I realised that mistakes can often become impressive and interesting when scaled up, or portrayed with different textures and colours.


I liked the print qualities of this ink/pen detail I'd done in one of the monochrome studies this morning, and decided to extrapolate it into a print that filled the opposite page:


I then did a similar process with the detail of a face I'd drawn, which was then blown up bigger in collage:



As well as amplifying mistakes/detail I liked in the literal sense, I also liked responding to my earlier illustrations in more abstract ways, simply focusing on colour, pattern or line rather than figure:






While I really enjoyed being experimental with patterns, textures and media in today's session, the above silhouette/collage/shambolic piece really troubled me, as the colours were just too jarring, and the model moved her hand halfway through so my silhouette suddenly became incorrect and I had to improve by filling in space with black pen. Doing so many illustrations of moving people was definitely a challenge today, but I really loved as a useful way of highlighting key elements of fashion; shape, form, silhouette, colour and texture. I want to carry on with more illustrations (I plan on making one of my siblings dress up so I can draw them) to refine my figure drawing, but I really feel comfortable in this style of working as I love that fashion illustrations can be beautiful and personal even when drawn wonkily or anatomically incorrect.





Today was an enjoyable and productive study day that allowed me to develop my illustration skills further, but also experimenting in response to the research I'd done on Rei Kawakubo on monday.

I began by dressing up my brother (and then my sister who felt left out when I was doing the A2 drawings) and repeating techniques we'd used the previous day, focusing on silhouette, pattern elements and colour etc. I tried pushing myself to work larger scale, which was surprisingly freeing- especially when drawing the whole body across two pages. I was fairly pleased with the variety and the quality of the illustrations I produced, as they picked up on where yesterday had left off, and enabled me to fill in the gaps on my technique.


In an attempt to move away from the messy pastel/watercolour/collage combinations I'd been repeatedly using, taking inspiration from Kenneth Block, I tried painting my brother in watercolour and quickly working into it with pen. I was pleased with the result because it had a very different quality to some of the more experimental studies I'd produced the previous day, and I like being able to work in contrasting styles without being too restricted to a specific way of drawing. 


In another attempt to move away from the messy drawings of yesterday, I like this more graphic drawing of my brother I did, which focused on print. It made me consider how the displacement of prints (ie leaving someone's shirt blank but using the pattern to fill the space where their face would be) could successfully communicate an ensemble without being too accurate a representation.


I particularly enjoyed attempting to show my brother in amore painterly way, remaining monochrome but using acryllics. I found it challenging trying to vary the brush strokes to suggest different kinds of patterns, but I really liked the overall outcome (especially when displayed next to the  more graphic version.)




After the failure of my collage/silhouette/shambolic piece from the day before, I was keen to try drawing/cutting the silhouette again, but thought I would stick to a smaller scale to see if I could do it successfully. Ted's pose was especially fun to work with as the silhouette was really distorted by the jumper he had on his head, and so on the next outfit/set of studies I wanted to look further at how the outline of the body could be drastically altered:


This idea of the distorted silhouette reminded me of Rei Kawakubo's work for Comme des Garçons, in particular the SS97 collection Dress Meets Body, Body Meets Dress. After finding an interview with Kawakubo in the Guardian lying around the house, I decided to investigate further into how she distorts the human form and subverts expectation by engineering an "organised chaos", which I later attempted to emulate with a weaving experiment. I liked that her collections seem to often be purposefully ugly or jarring as a means of challenging preconceived notions of beauty or fashion, and making us question why we like what we like- I tried to challenge myself by picking a colour that I thought was quite gross (snotty green) and manipulating yarns with it:



I also thought about how she alters the women's silhouettes in Dress Meets Body, Body Meets Dress with padding, and made a little silhouette/padding tester myself which was interesting on a more tactile level.


Developing forwards with this padding idea (which I had used balls of wadding for,) I then thought about encasing pompoms in fabric as way of recreating these bulbous/tumour-like growths that Kawakubo included on her garments.

I started off with a miniature version of the pompoms, and then tried filling little pockets of sheer fabric with beads, creating sparkly bulbs that didn't hold their form as consistently (which I really liked.) I then tried scaling up the pompoms slightly larger, which looked more impressive (especially with the distortion of the fabric that had been created by the weight of the wool) and was my favourite experiment of the day. Overall, looking at how her work subverts traditional notions of beauty and fashion really made me aspire to be more subversive in my work, and question why I want to make things the way they are, rather than simply accepting a desire to make pretty things.




The enlarged version of the pompoms were most interesting because of the way their weight distorted the fabric they were encased in, and I would push this further if I had more time. While I enjoyed the process of weaving the fabric/yarn strips, I felt it wasn't very successful at emulating the "organised chaos" that is intrinsic to Kawakubo's work- the softness of the yarns made it just look grassy and appealing, while I had initially intended to create something that was purposefully grotesque. I thought the bulbous nature of the pompoms achieved this much more effectively, and so if I had more time/funds I would make some even larger ones (maybe the size of someone's head?) and try and make the distortion even more extreme. Today was useful in allowing me to realise that my work can be driven mainly by process, constructing objects, seeing what is wrong with them, and then trying to change it so it suits my intention more.




Today was interesting in that my designs and developments were much more abstract than any of the other work I had produced during Fashion and Textiles week so far, and it made me reconsider the nature of textile design. I enjoyed having the freedom to collage and reinterpret observational studies, and it reaffirmed for me my desire to join the FT curriculum area full time as I love how mistakes and accidents can become intrinsic parts of your reinterpretations and the design process as a whole. I enjoyed the experimental studies we did in the morning, however my favourite part was definitely producing the collage studies from observing our installation. Having done quite a lot of research into Chiharu Shiota during Ideas Factory in my first week, I thought our group's piece was really successful as we managed to suspend objects and create a web of threads around an overturned table.





I really liked how the rag doll my great grandma made me became a sort of centrepiece of the installation, being suspended amongst the books and becoming the focal point of the installation. I enjoyed the four initial collages, especially incorporating in thread and j-cloths to show the tactility of the objects I was observing.



I was less certain about the quality of my second set of collages, as I think I was stuck between opposites- I felt the first one was too boring/literal, but then I thought the second one was slightly too abstract. I had a similar problem with the acetate pieces I made, but the resultant print amplified in my book looked really good in the end (partially because I worked in lots of different textures, colours and materials, including the green yarn left over from my weaving experiment, j-cloth and acrylic paint dots.)


I used shredded pieces of j-cloth to investigate the fluffy quality of the pompoms on the bangle, and then used collage to show the negative space of the bangle. Whilst I liked the simplicity of this piece and thought the colour scheme was interesting (choosing a plain back background to show shadow, instead of the brown table) I felt that I could be more maximalist in my approach, and decided to use lots of colour and pattern in my second attempt:


The acetate projections were interesting because my first attempt failed distinctly- I wanted to see if layering up different widths of clear sellotape would affect the transparency/depth of light that went through, and in reality it had very little effect at all. I tried to recreate the pompoms' shape with staples around a circle of acetate, but this also didn't work very well as the glue underneath made the silhouette look scribbly, without any distinguishable shapes or patterns.



Despite the comparative failure of my first attempt on acetate, I used a spare piece to quickly draw up the my other collage design, which had been based on negative space in between the threads and objects of our installation. Whilst as a flat work It was very simplistic, I felt it was much more successful when projected onto the body and on the wall, and so I chose to draw this piece enlarged across the double page in my sketchbook.




Overall, I really enjoyed today's process of abstracting shapes and textures of objects so personal to us into designs that could be applied to textiles, as it made me consider how inspiration for fashion, prints or textiles can come from even the most personal and abstract feelings. I plan on working into the enlarged print I have in my book tomorrow, and I might also try and see if I can somehow transfer the shapes of the print onto a fabric (or perhaps I could do this with embroidery?)



Today I spent time working into the enlarged print I transferred into my book yesterday, which I really enjoyed as I could translate various textures and pattern qualities of my objects onto the more abstract shapes created by the print.



Despite the shapes in the piece being unexpectedly more phallic than I would have guessed, I really liked being able to incorporate such a wide variety of patterns and textures, based on the grids created by the string, the knitted texture of my rag doll, the splashes of blue in the crystal and the furry edge of the pompoms on the bangle.

I was pleased with the shapes so much that I spent most of today producing a Lino cut and attempting to print the shape onto felt. The attempt wasn't altogether successful as I didn't have any printing ink, however I improvised with acrylic paint and was able to produce and interesting embroidery sample on some pink thread. Despite my initial setbacks, I was relatively pleased with the outcomes of my Lino pieces, even the failed one that I worked into with pen and pencil to emphasise the shapes. I really enjoyed the fashion and textile design process that I've got to know during the course of this week, and if I had more time (and money for printing inks) I want to make another print that tessellates, so I can make a large repeat pattern on a bigger piece of fabric, in order for me to embroider/applique/embellish onto.


Flat lino cut


Failed print (worked into with pen and coloured pencil)


Embroidery into failed print tester



After going to see Liberty In Fashion at the Fashion and Textiles museum today, I thought about how this week has gone as a whole, and how ideas and developments for F&T design can come from the most personal places. I was particularly inspired by Susan Collier and Sarah Campbell's painterly approach to textile design, creating prints such as "Cottage Garden 74" from reinterpreting their own surroundings and personal lives, and thought that there were clear similarities between their working process and the development of my ideas during the lesson on Thursday. I have enjoyed being able to work in such a personal way, from the objects we were drawing, to the nature of fashion illustration itself. Whilst I found it really challenging trying to construct 3D forms out of paper at first, I have realised that I like working around the confines of the body, as I think the restriction it creates allows for more interesting developments and results. With regards to problem solving, I think the body is an important site for change and innovation, and I really want to continue working in this kind of process, and so I am likely to pick fashion and textiles as the curriculum area I most want to specialise in.



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