Assignment 1 – Tutor feed back for Part 1 EXPLORING MATERIALS

TUTOR FEEDBACK –  Exploring materials – Trisha Goodwin

Overall Comments

This was an excellent first assignment, which was a real treat to see; the OCA approach is new to you and you managed it well, coming straight to a second level course. A few pointers here and there, but nothing major. The work was handled intelligently and conscientiously with sensitivity to materials and a fine display of working techniques.  I look forward to seeing how this develops over time; I am quite excited by the possibilities for you.

Assessment potential (after Assignment 1)

Please consider whether you want to put your work forward for assessment and let me know your decision when you submit Assignment 2. I can then give you feedback on how well your work meets the assessment requirements

Feedback on assignment Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity Assignment 1: Exploring Materials

Traditional Materials

Yes, it’s often wise to make a list of words that evoke a feeling – traditional in this case. Of course you can separate out the various elements as traditional or not (as the course notes imply) – fibre type, weave process and maybe surface print design. A good point that traditional feeling fabrics (maybe the print or weave?) nonetheless often now have some manmade content. Have a look online for the work of the Nuno Corporation in Japan, they often use traditional fibres but finish with amazing high tech techniques. Also, really high tech fabrics are given a new take on traditional processes.

I feel you’re right, the silk fabrics are aimed at the high-end market, often bridal and obviously for craftworkers/embroiderers by way of small pieces (this is an expensive way to buy silk!). Whaleys in Yorkshire sell it cheaper online for you to dye; sometimes already coloured.  Beckford Silks weave it at their mill near Tewksbury, not especially cheap, but lovely to visit – they have a good café too. Hemp does appeal to the Glastonbury set, it has a nice, earthy feel to it as well as good environmental credentials. It’s used a lot for clothing in Scandinavian and Germany, where they seem to be more environmentally conscious.

A good list of suppliers, which I’m sure, you’ll be able to add to all the time. Think in terms of non-specialist suppliers too, the garden centre is often a good source of non-woven (vilene type) fabrics, nets and plastics. Also keep an eye open in the DIY centre, bargain bookshops/kids art supplies in supermarkets, a lot of these materials can be adapted into textile “fabrics”.

Working with Traditional Fabrics

I like the way you selected a group of natural coloured fabrics for this exercise. I would suggest putting your chosen words associated with “traditional” very obviously at the start of the samples, just so we both know what they are – you for a design brief, me to understand your intent at the beginning of the work (a problem with distance learning, I’m afraid. Some great visual notes: I can see that you think in visual terms and have a feel for combinations of materials and methods of assembly – which is brilliant to see. Question at every point, why you do things – how do you attempt those design aims in particular sample pieces? Write in your notes, either alongside the samples or in your logbook text as you work – that intent and how it relates to those bigger aims.  I like the chosen words (textural, variation, light, and heavy, worn) and can see what you probably intended, but say it consciously, if you can. This is very much the OCA/art school way of working, and you’ll get used to it after a while.  I especially like your use of the soldering iron – love those deep holes cut through the layers in the third sample. Its good that your notemaking explains why you like an effect or not, you can expand that type of notemaking all you like.  I can see that you put a lot of emphasis on texture, but actually within that, you also control line and shape very well too. Overall, your pieces and have nice balance, clearly achieved by repeating many elements – circular forms, vertical lines as well as areas of contrast, calm sections where the eye can rest.

If you have a brief upfront, you need to let the design develop organically from that. Of course, we all have that visual imagery in our heads as we work, but it can also restrict our ideas from flowing to new places (related to the brief). There will be opportunities later on to do more work which is “materials led” – i.e. just playing with them and seeing where it goes. A lot of textile artists  prefer this approach, but keep your options open for now. I like the final sample piece and especially those little loopy bits, but there’s something I miss from the other big sample piece, those rounded ball shapes. I just feel they formed such a strong focal point that the other areas (which are calmer than in the last piece) form a perfect foil to them – to do with that balance thing again. Still, these were both exceptionally good as first samples and this whole exercise displayed a lot of excellent ideas.

New and Future Materials

A comprehensive list of materials, you certainly did some good research; you can add to this continually over time. I think we were both at Stroud and heard the same lectures! Your notes about the collaboration between Philippa Brock and Aaron Klug were interesting to read, I feel we are only at the tip of the iceberg with Smart textiles, particularly for medical use, it touches on the edge of my design consultancy work for hospital devices too. Unfortunately cuts have made the NHS more conservative with their money, which was inevitable. Chalayan’s work is very leading edge and exciting, but do you see it going main stream in a less gimacky way? It has lots of environmental issues around it to be solved first as well. Do you see any downsides of this collaboration? Living with a scientist, I know the job is partly creative too, often involved with designing products in a similar process to textile designers, and aesthetics are important, although the public perception is different!

Experimenting with New Materials

It was wise to approach this very methodically to see what the materials could do. I doesn’t  mater that you had very small samples to start with, in fact that’s the way we encourage you to work with new materials, just playing with them. When you know what their properties are and how they work and handle, you can make them into larger samples. I like the very dissolved edges of the Angelina pieces (next to large green circle) they seem to disappear beautifully into soft, almost mystical quality, with those colours especially. I like the Tyvek with the slight metallic finish (first page of those samples) – that gives it a different quality, less artificial than the pinks/oranges, but artificial is good if that’s the effect you’re after. I note your observation that you can’t move on until you’re excited about something. I feel you’re at a slight disadvantage not having done earlier courses with us, because then you’d know, this is exactly what we encourage – right from the start of the design process. Have a look at those early notes I sent you (attached again here) – whether you start from a design source or materials, we’re looking for that excitement that gels, its this which leads to that personal voice we prize so highly. I admire you notemaking, it’s as important to say why things don’t work or what you don’t like as what you do. You found out things about yourself here and that’s an important step towards good self-critical analysis.

I think you can feel pleased with the final piece, as you say, it demonstrates that shiny/matt quality contrast. It’s very different from the earlier natural fabric pieces. The colours might be described as acidic, but this tallies with the slightly high tech feel for me, implied by the wires and the green mesh fabric. It might be interesting to see this lit up with some LEDs too.

Found Materials

Some good research again, and its very positive that you ask yourself questions as you go. I take your point about the difference between creating shabby chic (is that just fakery?) and upcycling a genuine old piece. Looking at the various definitions of eco art, assemblages etc would be a good idea. Don’t forget that a lot of natural material is found and added to as art pieces. I wouldn’t advocate stripping bark from trees though, only the fallen bits; anything else is highly suspect. It looks as if you started a good collection of materials and have loads more to hand. Choosing alternative materials instead of standard fabrics was a good idea, as many of these could be found too and it gave your work a definite edge.  The first set of samples have a gridded format, which I think was natural given the diverse material; to organize it in some way. Don’t worry about it becoming mixed media or altered art, textile artists purloined these terms first! I love the subtle colours of these postal pieces and the way you’ve integrated them with stitch. Particularly, I like the work with the old pattern instructions, paper pieces etc. As a former dressmaker, this has a lot of appeal, although I struggle with nostalgia.  This type of work has to take account of the limitations of certain material, the samples will nearly always be one offs.  Have you read James Hunting’s piece on nostalgia on the blog? Actually as the ephemera came from your store, it has personal meaning, but you would work more into a larger piece, this was a good starting place. The process itself has also preserved a material, which may have disintegrated with time, giving it new life.

Transforming Materials

.A really comprehensive list of fabric transforming processes, both used in industry and by the textile artist. Sometimes these overlap and sometimes they differ. Polyester is quite difficult to dye at home that’s why transfer paints are so often used on it. Another fabric to try (often deemed nasty) is nylon, which is often cheaper than polyester, but dyes beautifully with acid dyes (alongside wool and silk). You can often put nylon (plastic) buttons and so on in the same dyepot, its trial and error as not all based on nylon. I like the opening effect of heat on the chenille, the change is strikingly 3D. I especially like the red felt with the cotton slubs and the subtle overlay, the unlikely colours work and are less obvious perhaps than some of the preceding more colourful pieces – which are still lovely. There’s something quite animal about the rust dyed piece. For me, that feeling was carried through to your final piece, although it rather reminds me of a beach with pebbles on too. I like the repetition of the circular shapes, the close toned colouring and the contrast in materials and textures. I think you were right not to further embellish, leave it out if you can, unless you’re very sure of what it adds, both in meaning and/or visual effect.

Learning Logs or Blogs / Critical essays Context

You write your log notes well and clearly as you work on practical samples- this is great to see. Lots of evidence too of exhibitions/reviews etc.


Again, it’s a bit early yet, but could you include general sketchbook(s) i.e. stuff not related directly to course work in next assignment please?

Suggested viewing/reading Context

I think you know all the books I would have sent you too look at and know you don’t want to buy too many new ones. But keep an eye on Amazon; check in the newly published textile books frequently. is fairly new if you don’t know it, some great links to other artists and yes, one great book.


Pointers for the next assignment

You set yourself a heavy workload in this assignment, which is partly why the long timespan. Lovely as it was to see, don’t feel you have to do as much, I can see you’re highly capable on the technique front and you’ll get through the course on time.

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