Monday, November 13, 2017

Improvisational Piecing Inspired by Kuba Cloth

Kuba cloth is one of two very distinctive types of cloth made in what was known as Congo, and now is the DRC. Typically two colours of raffia are knotted into a burlap-like base fabric, resulting in complex patterns of woven and slightly raised threads.
Kuba cloth designs are often worked on the diagonal, which is one of the reasons they appeal to me so much. Their imperfections are another aspect of their charm. And it is quite common to see one part of a design "collide" with another, as though two different people had been working on it.
I have admired these very graphic pieces of cloth for sometime, but it was the photograph below that inspired me to work with some of the shapes. It's from the book African Textiles by Christopher Spring, and is a sample that can be found at the British Museum.
I have worked with it once before, on a smaller piece, and returned to it this week while thinking about ideas for a piece I have committed to make for the Vancouver Island Surface Design Association (VISDA). The theme of this particular exhibit is "Pathways". And all those diagonal lines running between the rectangular blocks look just like pathways to me.
I started by making two types of units - rectangular block units and strip units - using the fabrics I'd chosen to bring with me to New Zealand.
I began joining them together on the diagonal. Knowing that the finished piece needed to be 12" x 60-72", I squared off the bottom and side corners to 13" when there were enough pieces joined together to do so.
I thought about squaring it off at this point, and might still do so, but felt compelled to keep adding to it a bit more before deciding whether or not that's what I want to do. For now it's spending a little time up on my design wall before I decide what to do next.
This is very much a work in progress, but I like the way it's going so far. The questions I'm asking myself now are: Do I want to add other design elements next? If so, which ones, and how can I keep them on the diagonal? Should the join between the first unit and the second be a horizontal line, or should it be on the diagonal too? Does it look better upside down than in this orientation? How will I work this so that the whole piece is balanced? Will it need another unit pieced a similar way at the top of the work? This way of working - asking these questions and considering the possible answers, weighing them and then moving forward to see what happens next - this is what I love most about improvisational piecing. I may have an idea where I'm headed, but I can't know the outcome at the beginning. It is very much a conversation that takes place between me and the fabric, me and the design. Each piece made this way is an adventure of sorts. I have to be prepared to fail spectacularly (by my own measure). Still, it is now my favourite way of working.

Monday, November 6, 2017

More Inspiration Photos

While the class I'm taking with Lisa Call has moved on to composition - and I will too, soon - I have continued taking lots of photos that look at line and shape. I feel I'm looking so much more closely at these elements, and learning so much in the process. I don't want to rush past this too quickly. Photos are one way to keep a record of what I see and what I think about it. Sketching is another, but more on that later. Here are some of the photos:
A rock formation at Castlepoint. Undulating curves. Sumptuous is the word that comes to mind.
A plan tree where some of the bark has come off. This is about texture as much as about line and shape. As is the rock formation above.
Tropical leaves of some sort - I don't know the name of the plant, but I know I like those curvy edges and the vein pattern and the secondary pattern that is formed where the edges overlap one another.
I was playing ball with Griffin the other day and happened to glance down at the it, and at the lines and shapes that resulted depending on how the ball had landed. I took a whole series of photos of these. Most interesting.
The lighting on the hull of this boat is not good, but the lines are beautiful. I am reminded of how often I have looked at boat plans - those graphic line drawings that are plans for boat builders - and wondered about spending more time investigating them, and thinking of including them in my work. Boats are such an apt metaphor for life, for living, and being by the sea and in a boat are two of my most favourite things. Note to self: Time to do a little more research in this area. Some sketches. Some reading. And then some stitching.
Sunrise at Castlepoint. Sky lines. Beach lines. Horizon lines. Sand lines.
A ten minute walk from Emily and Michael's home is this marina. Multiples of masts reflected in the water, with the curved shapes of hulls in between. The next time I go back there I will take more close-up photos. That's when I can best see the details of line and shape. That's when I'm surprised by what is in front of me, what I could so easily miss, if I were to limit myself to the big picture.