During the private view I was able to borrow Angela’s wheel again and teach spinning to some of the guests. I found it interesting to be able to continue the ideas of collaboration and the passing on of skills which I have been exploring in this project and really enjoyed taking on the role of teacher and showing others how to do the things I have spent the last few months learning myself. Sadly I did not have enough time to teach anyone and of the more complex skills, which would have taken hours for them to master, I did get the chance to explain how the wheel works and give them a little taster which I hope will encourage them to explore this skill or other crafts in the future.
It was also interesting to be able to pass on my knowledge about dyeing to those who asked, especially as many where surprised by the fact that I had managed to achieve such bright colours using natural sources. I hope that this has given those people a renewed appreciation of natural dyes as well as an understanding of what people used before the creation of synthetic dyes.
I decided to make some business cards to go along with my work in the hope of gaining some publicity from this exhibition. Initially I had planned to make double sided cards but as single sided ones are considerably cheaper I instead went for this option. This led me to the dilemma of how to have both readable text and an eye-catching image on just one side of the card. To rectify this problem I faded the image slightly and used bright, thick text over the top. I managed to make this a cohesive design by picking the colour of the font to match one of the shades in the photo and editing the symbols to match this font. I had them printed in Brookes Print and believe that the outcome was very successful.
Learning how to set up a professional exhibition has been very useful in giving me an understanding of what is needed for an exhibition and has given me the skills to display my own work professionally in the future. For example I have learnt how to make plinths and mount my work on foam board.
Initially I was unsure how I was going to suspend my branch and photographs from the ceiling. Lucy advised that I screw hooks into the ceiling and hang everything from these using finishing wire. I first measured out the places I wanted to hang the images and branch from, then screwed hooks into these places and finally with the help of a friend managed to attach everything to these hooks. These held everything up very sturdily and I am confident that this will remain stable for the remainder of the exhibition. I continued to adjust the branch until I had it in the position that I wanted. I found that the most successful way to do this was to take photographs as I tested out different positions and to ask friends to hold the branch so I could see it for myself. I also adjusted the hight of the photographs to a position where they worked best with the branch and used a spirit level to ensure they hung straight.
Along the plinth in front of my branch I have placed a row of jars containing dyes and wools and silks dye using them. I am hoping that displaying these alongside the branch will give the viewer an insight into the context of my piece as well as making my exhibition space more visually exciting. Furthermore I have labeled the jars so that the viewer is made aware of the dyes I have used for each colour wool.
I have also laid out a table with my excess wool on it ready to be used for my demonstrations during the private view. This along with the spinning wheel will allow my to demonstrate spinning during the exhibition and therefore further emphasis the context behind my work.
I am pleased with this final layout and so have decided to definitely keep all of these elements in the exhibition. I think that the jars and wool on the plinth and the hanging pictures really add to my exhibition as they display the context of my work to the viewer, something which I do not think would be clear without them, as well as emphasising the colour and textures of the yarn. The horizontal branch also works very well in the space and its fluidity works well with the softness of the wool. Overall I think that this is a very successful display which shows off both the beauty of my work and the context behind it.
Overall I am pleased with the yarns I have managed to produce as my final piece. I think that the colours I have managed to achieve from the dyes have been immensely successful. They are bright and eye-catching as well as having that complexity of colour which makes natural dyes so exciting to use. Furthermore in the creation of my final piece I was able to create even more successful, interesting dyes than in my initial experiments, such as logwood overdyed in cochineal, as even in this short space of time I have greatly improved by dyeing skills. I am also interested in the contrasts I have discovered between the use of natural and synthetic dyes as synthetics take hold faster and create more solid and vibrant colours. I am especially pleased with how well the different colours I have been able to create work together and the way I have been able to card the different shades of dyed wool together to create complex colours. My yarns therefore use many of the colour I originally identified in my photographs, allowing me to successfully meet my brief.
Furthermore I am please with my exploration of texture through these yarns. I have successfully been able to add texture to the unspun wool by carding silk noil and shredded fabric into it. This makes for exciting, complex yarns which become more interesting the more they are examined. I was also able to create texture during spinning by creating yarns which used both silk and wool strands, using decorative spinning techniques and adding embellishments with sewing thread. The use of beehive, tornado and stack trap techniques allowed me to create a range of different textures in my yarns which will contrast well with each other when they are displayed together.
I did however face some problems during the making of the final piece. The most notable issue was when my alkanet dye did not create the correct colour. As this colour was an important part of many of my yarns I had to order some more alkanet and redye my yarns. The second time I was able to get much better wool colours and was also able to create better silk colours after a third try, but this issue meant that I got behind in my time plan and so had less time to spin. My spinning was already quite slow as I had to use a normal flyer instead of a super one meaning that I had to wind all my thread on manually if I wanted to make thick art yarns and so this added delay resulted in me producing less yarn than I had intended. Although I did want more yarn I am still very pleased with my final yarns and, as they are so complex, am happy with quality over quantity.
I have come to an impasse in my exhibition design as I cannot chose between two different layouts and I think I need to see what my piece looks like in situ before I can make a decision. I am considering placing a low plinth beneath my hanging branch with jars containing dyes and some unspun wool arranged on it and hanging my most relevant photographs alongside my branch. This could successfully add to my exhibition by linking in the context I am exploring. It will give the viewer an understanding of the process I have used, which has been really fundamental to my project, and of my inspiration for my colour palettes. However I am concerned that these additions will over complicate my display and thus detract from the yarn. I need to install the branch and yarns before I can decide if my work has more impact with or without the plinth and photographs.
After over dyeing the silk I had originally tried to dye with alkanet I was able to achieve much better results. I over dyed half the silk in logwood and half in alkanet and now have a range of purple tones which I think will produce some successful lilacs when they are carded together. I have learnt a lot more about alkanet dye through this experience. It is a far more difficult dye to use than the other natural dyes I have experimented with. Because the dye has to be extracted by soaking it in a spirit for a few days it is a much longer process and so if mistakes are made it takes much longer to rectify them. The dye stuff also doesn’t release as much dye as the others meaning that it takes longer for the dyes to take and that it becomes exhaust dye very quickly, at this point it stops creating lilacs and just dyes the fibres grey.
Although due to these problems it has taken me far longer to do the dyeing than I had wished I am glad that I took the time to get the right colours as matching the colours to the photograph is an important part of my project and without good colours it will be impossible to make successful yarns even if I had more time.