It’s A Chair Thing: Part 2

Since July, I have been looking at this scene, trying to decide how to proceed.

I have had various thoughts about this work; what material to make the main body, should I incorporate the ‘creepy legs’ which were in my original sketch, and how do I ensure it doesn’t end up looking like upholstery.

The influences behind this are the relationship between myself and my two sisters, magic shows and mind readers but also on another level there are echos of Gaudi and the beautiful vaulted ceilings of The Pedrera.

I want the piece to be anthropomorphic in some way so played with adding various pieces of clothing to the ‘shoulders’ of the chairs.

I have in my clothing archive a 1930’s shirt front which I found in the flea market at Porte De Vanves in Paris which fitted perfectly over the chair and was the only addition to the sculpture that I still thought interesting after a few month’s consideration.

I  have not yet resolved the use of red patent leather after my first piece of work ‘Ercol Easy Jodphur’ and I still it very alluring so I decided that I should continue to use it for this piece.

The following images are of the work in progress. It is slowly coming together and I am now clearer bout how this will look when it is finished.

Getting the correct ‘fit’ over the chairs is causing some problems at the moment. The collection of chairs I have all look the same, but have been produced in different factories over three decades so the measurements vary from chair to chair.
The ‘shirt’ will be made from white leather and grow out of the right hand chair.
There are still a few more decisions to be made about additions final piece but they will probably be decided on at the next or final stage of making.
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Susak Expo 2010

Cedric Christie, co-curator of the Susak Expo 2010 invited myself, Hedley Roberts and Hedley’s daughter Beulah to make some work around the title ‘Family’. After seeing images of the isalnd we decided that we would drive to Croatia along with some of the other contributing artists and make some site specific work. The journey took us through the flat plains of Nothern France, the crazy German Autobahn and the incredible mountains of Austria and Slovinia.

Austrian Alps.

Mountain Chalets.

The faded glamour of the port of Rijeke.

Rijeke old town.

Susak is a remote pile of rock and sand three hours ferry ride from Rjieka, Croatia. It has only a few native inhabitants but the population swells during the Summer months. The village streets are ancient and narrow, there are no cars on the island and everything is transported on wheelbarrows.

Susak’s narrow ancient streets.

The island’s forests of tall bamboo mostly obscure your view as you walk about it so it was serendipitous that we came across the local tip for furniture and white goods hidden in a clearing.

Bamboo forest.

The refuse tip.

I was especially happy to find such a source on this remote island. I was toying with the idea of making another piece of work around the ‘Three Sisters’ theme. I had been looking at some photgraphic research that has been ongoing for a few years. The research had begun as photographs of candid glimpses into foreign domestic environments, but has now evolved to pictures of stairs through doorways. This interest started in a town called Aigle in Switzerland, they images of which sadly no longer exist, however I have been able to find similar examples in Barcelona and Ibiza.

Ibiza town, August 2010.

Barcelona, January 2010

Ibiza town, August 2010

My initial idea was to create a ‘jumble’ of stepladders, reminiscent of Escher’s steps, leading to the projected door and stairs of one of my own step images. However, without transport is was going to be an impossible task to drag the theatre steps I had found up the many stone steps or the isalnd to the gallery space at the top of the town. This is a work I am now making in London, but for the purposes of the Susak Expo, the tip once again obligingly provided three worn out ladders of descending size which perfectly represented my sibling theme.

The ladders and some other ‘found’ items.

I used oil bars of gold, ivory and scarlet rubbed the colour into the weather beaten wood of the ladders. The medieval design of the street gave me a  cool and shaded space to work on an incredibly hot day.

The following images are of the work in progess.

The final piece was installed in the attic space of the gallery.

‘Three Sisters II ‘August 2010

Whilst in Susak I was also working on another ‘Three Sisters’ piece made from folded paper.

The island was very quiet and especially so during the hottest hours.  I began to play with a new fold during the stillness of the midday siesta.

This fold is similar to the one I have previously used however instead of being based on parallel lines it is based on a star formation.

Star fold.

As I put these folds on the balcony to photograph them I noticed how the washing on the line was quietly wafting in the breeze and I began to formulate an idea of attaching the pieces of paper together so they flipped an floated around, changing the light and shadow on their facets.

I also wanted the paper to be powerfully coloured; fluorescent orange has been a prevalent colour in my work over the past five years and I thought it would sit perfectly against the turquoise skies of Susak.

Spray painting the star folds.

Once installed in the street window where it could catch the wind easily, I thought that the colours needed to be more intense so they came down for a second spraying.

‘Three Sisters III’ August, 2010.

The final installation did not allow for the contrast of fluorescent orange and blue sky but I was very happy with the traditional green woodwork framing of the piece, also it’s positioning in the window allowed for it to move in the breeze as I had anticipated.

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It’s A Chair Thing: Part 1

I have already said in my introduction that the folding is one branch of the work I am currently making. The other current piece of work in progress is  a ‘dress’ for three arch backed 60’s chairs.

This work continues from the ‘Ercol Easy Jodhpur’ piece and the Conjoin:me sculptures my collaboration work with Hedley Roberts.

The chairs I decided to use are the same style that I sat on for virtually every meal until the age of 18. The style Ercol ‘Quaker’ and was produced in vast numbers in the 60’s and 70’s.

There are some other influences in this piece of work which hopefully will start to reveal themselves once the basic pattern cutting has been resolved. Here are some images I was looking at. They relate to my Grandmothers time on stage with her uncle the escapologist and illusionist Charlie Morritt and will be enmeshed in the final piece.

Still from ‘Celine and Julie go Boating’ Jacques Rivette 1974

Sawing a woman in half. Stage set.

Carol Golemboski ‘Sawing a Woman In Half’ 2008

‘Creepy Legs’ Found mannequin legs circa 1930

I intend to engraft the ‘Creepy Legs’ into the main body of the sculpture, the legs will be dressed will grown into the chair covering. I enjoy the fact that they are reminiscent of the dismembered legs of a magician’s assistant during the illustion of being sawn in half.

I intend to reference these theatre curtains in some way for this piece. For me they represent performance, mystery and glamour.

Florence Doleac  ‘La Chaise mise à nu’  2003

I found this piece Florence Deleac’s work when researching for the current sculpture. It has similarities to my work yet it derives from a completely different place.

There is a certain amount of trust which happens throughout the process of making a piece of work. If I consider that mistakes can hold new avenues of exploration then I am more open to taking risks. Intuition, or as it can also be described the subconscious measuring of the work in process against everything that has ever inspired or engaged me.

I initially made a pattern to cover one chair by taping paper to it and tracing through the main shapes with a pencil. At some points, if the shape made it impossible for me to do this I had to take measurements and transfer them to the pattern. I then constructed a crude pattern and used calico to make a toile or a mock-up of the pattern.

The paper pattern stage.

This is the toiling stage where mock ups are made in calico.

This is a process commonly used in fashion for pattern cutting. One can expect to make many toiles to get the pattern right and it reduces the expense of wasting fabric before mistakes are resolved.

The single calico ‘cell’ is complete. The next stage is to begin to find a way to join three seperate chairs together.

The chairs have many distinct details that it was essential not to lose as their character and particular styling is important to the work. Therefore the pattern cutting I have had to use is more akin to that of upholstery which is quite a different discipline even though the basic rules are the same.

It is important that each piece is joined integrally, that one chair elides into the other rather than them looking as if they have been crudely bolted together.

Should I decide to add other elements to this basic pattern the same process applies.

Finally, with some expert help from Helen Bailey, the toile of the three chairs joined together. This forms the basis of the sculpture ‘The Three Sisters’ and will be the core of Summer 2010’s studio work.

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Playing With A Different Fold

These are some studio shots of folded and compressed paper structures that I have been playing with. Architects have used this methodology for some time now to generate new structures. The same can be applied to sculpture, hence my interest.

At the moment I am treading on well trodden ground trying to understand what is possible from folding, however I am finding that it is a good way to open my mind to new possibilities for creating forms.

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A Lesson in Hand-pleating

Yesterday I took a trip to Potters Bar, Enfield to visit Ciment Pleaters. I had used this company a long time ago to pleat some rubber for me and to my regret I have never had the time to visit the company and see how pleating is actually done.

I was welcomed by Terry and Geraldine Weinert and as they weren’t to busy took the time to show me exactly how to pleat fabric and the thousands of different patterns that exist, some dating back 60 years and all made laboriously by hand.

If it was a surprise that the patterns were handmade, it was an even bigger surprise that the whole process is hand crafted. They do have a few machines which make basic pleats but anything with the sightest bit of intricacy cannot be automated.

I asked Terry if it would be possible to pleat my Transylvanian sacking cloth as looking at the intricate patterns, it seemed likely the fabric would be too heavy to respond to this delicate method. He suggested we try there and then and so followed an amazing lesson in pleating documented below in images.

First the fabric is placed between two scored card patterns which lock exactly on top of each other. The patterns are weighed down and the fabric between gently manipulated between the card.

The whole piece of work is then gently accordioned together.

At this point Terry bound the work together ready to put in the steam cupboard however this fabric had a lot of resistance, being very heavy and kept ‘popping’ it’s bindings. Instead Terry decided to steam it by hand on the industrial press.

The next stage was to take the fabric from the cardboard casings and steam it directly.

The fabric is compressed further between two slats of wood.

The final piece after about half an hour instead of two days doing each pleat individually with a domestic iron!

Here are some of the other card and paper patterns from the Ciment archives.

This is for a Tudor ruffle and is 60 years old.

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Pleating and Folding

During March and April I was working in Beijing for a month. One of my many challenges was how to make sculpture that was, cheap, transportable, reflected my experience of China and achievable. I had to re-think my methodologies completely and during ‘Burn Paper for Ancestors’ I considered paper structures printed with images of my ancestors. I considered displaying then burning them as part of an exhibition. I rediscovered my childhood interest in paper folding to create tessellated shapes digitally printed with domestic images I had taken in Beijing Hutongs and pictures of my deceased family.  Although these proposed works look completely different to my existing work, thematically they shared the same interests as previous works. They also fitted all my criteria for working in a foreign country and have opened up an exciting new body of work.

These are the first folds I started to work with and I could begin to see their potential as sculpture.

My next concern was the images. What would they be and how would I splice them alternatively?

I decided on using an image from the Hutongs that I had taken a few days previously. As I was not privy to the interiors of these unique Chinese homes  I became interested in the domestic items they publicly hung out in the street. From rugs to rubber gloves these small parts of day to day life gave me an insight into the environment the locals live in.

I also asked my mother to send a photos of some of our dead ancestors, namely my father and grandparents. I decided on this photo of my father in a climbing hut in the 50’s.

With the help of Hedley Roberts, via Skype we were able to splice the images using Photohop in the pattern of the folds.

Once folded this creates the final piece.

I have since made some very large pieces for the Professional Doctorate show in June 2010.

In the last week I have found some very interesting material I wanted to experiment with. It is Transyvanian sacking cloth and each village in the area has a different weave so that sacks of grain can be easily identifyable when they go to market. The profits from sale of the cloth go back to the villages to continue the craft. Besides this the material has great appeal to me. I responded to it’s texture and properties immediately and wanted to make something from it. The following images are the beginning of playing with it and seeing what it will do.

I stitched the back of the piece to secure the desired shape as being a concertina it likes to move around and change a lot.

The final shape.

It is extremely laborious to do this by hand with an iron, even though I have made this fold quite a few times now it is easy to get ‘lost’ and go completely wrong. It is for this reason I am off to Ciment Pleaters in Potters Bar to discuss having the pleating done mechanically.

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As a fashion designer I became frustrated with the limitations of designing clothing around the standard female body and in 2008 I began to experiment with pattern cutting ‘garments’ that joined disparate objects together. The result was my first soft sculpture and a completely new direction for me creatively.

These ideas are concerned with the engraftment of fashion with furniture and also with an element of performance and the ‘wearing’ of the sculpture.

‘Ercol Easy Jodhpur’ 2008

I have a collaborative partnership named ‘Conjoin:me’ with Hedley Roberts in which we make work within our respective areas of interest but to some degree outside our normal practice.

To date we have produced sculptures and installation which we exhibited in Tokyo in 2009 and are preparing new ideas for a show in Malaysia in July 2010.

‘Sofadress1’ Conjoin:me 2009

Currently I have another branch of work based around paper folding which I developed on a recent month-long trip to Beijing to teach at Tsinghua University . The themes are similar to those of the soft sculptures, however the fractured, tessellated images, digitally printed onto paper have a more ephemeral appearance.

‘Peter and the Hutong Rugs’ 2010 (seen from right side)

‘Peter and the Hutong Rugs’ (seen from the left side)

Content-subject matter and conceptual position

I am currently concerned with themes from my childhood, the politics of the female body and the domestic environment. My work has been and will continue to be autobiographical visiting the physical, emotional and sensual landscape of my early life whilst incorporating elements of design, costume, sculpture and theatre.

My aim is to create assemblages that are a metaphor for my past, my present and my future. These will be totems to my survival of, boredom conflict, family life and a new understanding of my creativity.

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