EVALUATION – New and modern materials
Q – What did you set out to do?
I have never really accepted the current trend of “distressable fabrics” to be real fabrics and so I wanted to cast aside my negativity towards them and give them a chance to impress me. These products have infiltrated the textile world from other industries, Tyvek was originally a roofing material and Lutradur has migrated from the disposable protective clothing industry. If I’m honest I don’t really like them and have resisted using them until now disliking their synthetic qualities but I was still interested to know what effects could be achieved. They were also the complete opposite to the materials that I had used for the previous project, materials that I naturally respond to, and I liked that contrast this choice offered. I wanted to sample all the new materials in different combinations to see if I could achieve a textile piece that represented something beyond “craft”.
Q – How did you develop your samples to your final idea?
I approached my sampling in a very methodical way testing the same sample process out of each different substrate – perhaps a rather scientific approach but it made it a fair test as I didn’t know how these materials would respond not having used them before so it felt logical to approach it this way. Only when I found something interesting as a result did I feel I could stop trialing the products to develop it further. It therefore took far more samples than the suggested 4-6 but I was dealing with something unfamiliar so felt it was a worthy exercise. My samples were small as it was a process and reaction I was testing more than anything else. There’s a great deal of serendipity when using these products but having approached it in the way I did I could at least have an expected idea rather than leaving it completely to chance.
Q – What problems did you encounter along the way?
The first difficulty was not having enough information from the first samples to go on to develop any one of them further hence more samples. In reality, I could have made even more sample as I still feel I have only skimmed the surface of possibilities. I have however realised something about myself and the way that I work and that is I can’t move on to the next stage until I have found something that excites me enough to develop it further.
Some of the materials are unpredictable when melting and distressing with heat and whilst this can be exciting it also means you can’t plan exactly what the outcome will be. For example, the Tyvek bubbles and shrinks in a certain way and can’t be controlled. Sometimes its bubbles in a very attractive way and at other times it simply distorts which is very disappointing. The Angelina fibres melted and fused easily but there was a finite point at which it was over heated and the lustre was lost. When melting the Kunin felt with the heat gun, I couldn’t predict the way the Angelina would behave on the other side as some colours melted better than others. I would need to trial all colours to really know the answer to this.
However, one of my problems proved to be the turning point in knowing where I was heading with the final sample. None of the early samples felt like they had any depth to them and were felt like child’s play or simply burnt offerings but when I over melted the final two samples, one Angelina and the other Crystalina film on the black Kunin felt the results were interesting. I had wanted to simply reveal the coloured wires sandwiched between them hoping that the heat hadn’t altered the colour, which it hadn’t, but the Kunin felt had meted in such a way that it gave the impression that the wires were interwoven. This gave the sample a bit of texture and also depth as it revealed the light from behind. I also liked the contrast it gave from high glossy sheen to a matt lustre. I knew I wanted the final sample to have this detail.
Q – What would you do differently another time?
If I was to return to these materials and develop my sample further I would build on the results by investigating different and more complex combinations of techniques. Perhaps I might couch down lengths of wire to form a wire substrate and then foil over all of them with some masked off areas for example.
Q – How well do you feel your final piece succeeds?
Generally speaking I’m pleased with my final sample as it includes all the aspects that I wanted it to. I like the balance and mix of colours overall but also the contrast of the shine to the more matt areas. I am also pleased with the physical and visual texture of the melted areas; however, being unpredictable, the result is not as I exactly wanted it. I suspect this is because I was trying to control it more than I did with the sample where it happened spontaneously. I also think the scale of the sample is not quite right and if I were to move forwards with it it would need to be larger. It’s a very colourful and light reflective bit of work and very different to something I would normally produce but as I was such a sceptic at the start I am pleased that I have achieved something I believe is interesting to look at.
Q – How might you develop the idea in future?
I would really like to develop this further into a much larger / longer sample allowing for the sweep of the melting to be more relaxed. I would like to add further dimension by weaving into the melted areas. I could also use different colours of Kunin felts as the background, as this isn’t seen from the front, as it would add more colour along the line. I can imagine a large piece standing off from the wall behind Perspex allowing light to shine in from all angles to reveal the layers and reflect the light of the glitzy surface
Q – Anything else that it might be useful for your tutor to know
I have to admit I have enjoyed investigating these materials. I’m not sure that they will ever replace my preference for traditional fabrics but it has been a worthwhile working with materials I would normally avoid.
I attended a weekend workshop with Lynda Monk (Author of 2 books based on distressable fabrics) as an introduction. We sampled thermofax screens with Xpandaprint, Lutradur painted and foiled and made into a book and Evolon dyed and foiled and made into a Journal cover. Pictures attached.