Nina's Textile Trail 2

– Textiles 1: Mixed Media for Textiles

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MMT3 Workbook video

Final drawings, words, photos added and blog tweaked, MMT3 posted.

So, here, as promised to Lottie, who shared her sketchbook, is a video of the accompanying workbook.


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MMT Part 3 Molding and Casting REFLECTION

This has been a thoroughly enjoyable assignment. With so much possibility, materials and ideas to explore, it was a little overwhelming at times.  One of my aims for this section was to focus more.  I did and was more productive with my time, but may still have got carried away with amount of materials tested and samples produced.

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

I was pushed to explore and develop new technical skills and believe I was successful.   I have continued to demonstrate good visual skills in the choice of materials, colours and presentation, but realise I need to work more on thinking visually.  Lifetime habits of note taking and listening with a pen in my hand, writing to help assimilate information need to be exchanged for visual notes.  I have gained confidence in recording information visually but it is not yet a ‘habit’, more of a conscious decision.  Developing visual ‘note taking’ will improve my practice.  The basis for good design is continuing to grow.

Quality of outcome

Good research into the materials and observation of others’ work helped to produced a quality outcome, with a variety of content, good, clear presentation of learning log and workbook.

Demonstration of Creativity

Risk taking has increased with broader experimentation and invention.   The more creative approach to a workbook introduced for the last assignment, which fuses the research into materials and artists with my own sampling is continuing to fuel ideas and develop my skills and personal voice.  Greater creativity in drawing is evident.


Research has continued to be broadminded and there has been reflection, whilst looking at new material in context has been helpful.  A better understanding of metaphor is developing with perhaps less of a focus on critical thinking throughout this assignment.  I do however have a good understanding of the benefits of reflection, research and critical thinking  and am working on achieving a balance between all the assessment criteria.


Referring back to Formative feedback pointers from Assignment 2

  • Feed back from assignment 2 was reflected upon, more drawings were added, as was comment on TED talks.
  • I have taken more risks and been creative (although perhaps not as playful as I could have been)
  • I have drawn more samples but more, even more regularly would be good and aid playful creativity.
  • I have continued to be broadminded in my research investigation.
  • I have developed my understanding of metaphor but the development of language when discussing my own work and the work of others had less of a focus this time.

Overall, this was a successful and productive assignment which has enhanced the development of skills and confidence.

I look forward to video feedback and am excited at the prospect of exploring and developing printing skills in Assignment 4.







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MMT 3 – Molding & Casting – Sorting

Reviewing the samples created during this assignment, the following techniques or samples are considered worthy of further development.

Molding paste to capture or create texture, particularly for collagraph (next assignment)

DSCF5968Soluble paper proved a quick way to capture texture, as long as there is enough time for it to dry.  The way the paper picked up colour from the wood block or leaf created a lovely patina and the methods of Josh Monroe who produces woodblock prints with ink and paper pulp could be explored to develop this further.

Using fine hand made tissue in whole pieces as paper mache produced a lovely translucency, natural colour and good texture.


Whilst some of the samples were quite straight forward, my enthusiasm for the characteristics of hand made paper was fuelled by making and couching hand made paper onto different surfaces.  I am very keen to explore making finer, translucent paper or pulp for couching or casting.

Enormous satisfaction was found capturing the texture of my stitched pots with heat ‘n form block and printing with them.

Researching and experimenting with paper clay was definitely a highlight.  Assembling the textured pieces with staples, creating a wall hanging sample has lots to offer.  The variety of textures, the subtle use of colour and negative space created are all worthy of further development.


I really felt I learned from the molding and casting of liquid materials.  I was taken aback by the detail I could achieve with a few ingredients in my kitchen and was keen to understand and perfect the techniques, I could happily have explored further.  Although, I think that I was driven by the need to master the method and understand the materials more than the actual materials.  Maybe I could be persuaded, I was excited by the potential of alginate and hugely encouraged and satisfied by the results of my sewn vessels as containers and definitely want to explore the versatility of soluble film.

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Visualizing Research: A guide to the research process in art and design

The above book written by Carol Gray and Julian Malins and published by Ashgate was recommended to help me with the use of metaphor when reviewing mine and the work of others.

I borrowed a copy from Farnham UCA library and must confess to giving it my attention rather late in the assignment.

Thinking I had an understanding of metaphor, I was surprised to find how difficult it was to get my head around.  I understand well known metaphors, but however much I looked at my work, I couldn’t quite work out how to apply the principle to describing art.

Eventually, I downloaded the book Metaphors we live by, written by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson which helped me see how frequently metaphor is used in daily conversation.  Looking back through my workbook, I tried to identify appropriate metaphors where possible.  I hope my thinking is along the right lines and will give it more attention in Assignment 4.







a fossil?


another fossil?


a woven stream? – a streambed?


crumpled paper?


Inflated pillow?


plump cushion?


invisible buttons?

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Blind Continuous Line Drawing

Feedback from Assignment 2 recommended more drawing, starting with continuous line drawing in a wide range of media.

The following clip was suggested.

It was very helpful.  I have practiced blind continuous line drawing before, but was surprised at the difference if I blocked my view of the paper with a pad in front of my eyes. I hadn’t realised how much I cheated before trying this method.

It was useful to start each drawing with a quick blind sketch and then to continue drawing using the same principles but with an occasional look.  Most of the drawing in this assignment was with my attention firmly on the object rather than the paper, with satisfying results.

A variety of media were used and the more I did, the more relaxed and quicker I became.  I can see there is still room for many more quick observational sketches but feel by working this way, I have broken the habit of trying to produce a detailed ‘finished’ drawing and am better equipped to use drawing as a tool.



MMT Part 3 Molding & Casting – Plaster, Concrete, Alginate & Modroc PROJECT 2

(Paper workbook p46-58)

Project 2 Casting the internal space of a vessel

The course notes indicate that the aim of this project is to use flexible vessels to contain the casting material, which should then be manipulated by using wrapping and tying methods and found objects to make impressions in the cast materials.

A bowl shaped piece of free machined stitch originally stitched on soluble film was my start point, laid in a disposable bowl, the stitch was lined with cling film and plaster poured in and the cling film tied.  The plaster wasn’t heavy enough to sink into the stitch through the cling film which was a bit frustrating, so I gathered the edge of the stitched bowl and pulled it up tight.  The imprint was slight.

Three bags were filled with plaster and rested on beads, an alphabet stencil and some buttons in a polystyrene half-dome.  Following the success of the alginate and plaster experiments, the results from this were a little disappointing.  Less detail from the found objects was captured than I expected.

Moving on, aiming for more impact, two sheets of bubble wrap, one large bubbles, the other small were combined with masking tape to make a bag with the ‘bubbles’ on the inside.  The pouch was filled with plaster, sealed with duct tape and gently pressed to encourage the plaster into all the crevices.  When dry, the bubble wrap was removed to reveal lots of captured texture.   The detail in each bubble of the negative cast was very satisfying and although a bit predictable, I hadn’t expected such an efficient cast with sharp circular edges to contrast with the creases in the air bubbles or the smooth almost ‘plasticky’ surface to the plaster.

Close inspection whilst drawing made me realise the casting was less uniform than first appeared where the bubble wrap had crumpled and distorted in the process.

I then had a very frustrating session with some freezer bags and plaster which I had great difficulty tying or wrapping.  Later I realised that my first batch of plaster was good quality and the second, an inferior, cheaper product needed a much higher ratio of powder to water. So, hampered from the start with extremely liquid plaster sealed in a plastic bag, I tried to tie and or wrap various materials around the material with no success.  Finally I resorted to some elasticated beads, a chain threaded on to elastic to make a bracelet and a piece of cotton cord, not really managing to control the wrapping or tying as I’d hoped.

Where the beads were embedded into the plaster, they were impossible to remove and the plaster broke up in the areas with heavily scrunched plastic.  The silver coloured bracelet made some nice marks but I felt challenged to produce something over which I had more control.

I looked at Lindsay Harris’s work Coming of Age, 2007, as depicted in the course manual and read that it was constructed with stitched lycra and old tights.  I could imagine lycra being firmer than a plastic bag, but looked at materials that were immediately available and considered how I might sew vessels.

Having used up my second batch of plaster of paris, these castings were made with Artex finishing plaster, a coarser product that easily mixed to a stiff consistency, very easy to control and manipulate but with a 90 minute plus setting time.

Small drawstring bags were sewn from Tyvek, washed linen scrim and a combination of nylon net bag and cotton.

The Tyvek bag was too small and the drawstring difficult to loosen when the plaster was dry, causing it to crumble as the tyvek was pulled away. The looser gathering in the middle of the bag worked better and the fold and stitching line left a good impression.   As a material, it could work well made into a bag with a ‘sugar bagged’ bottom and a fold over top.

With the net and cotton bag, the aim was to get the texture of the net, but contain the plaster with the cotton, which didn’t quite work as the net became embedded in the plaster.  The cotton pulled away from the plaster quite well.  The traces of orange showing through the plaster and the net extending beyond the plaster adds interest.


The small linen bag was very effective with a drawstring at the top in a machine sewn channel and two single lines of thread hand sewn around the centre of the bag one from each side which allowed a gentle gathering in the middle.

A combination of blind continuous line drawing and continuous line drawing whilst looking helped me to see the gently gathered waist in the plaster and the loose folds of fabric.

I also used a tiny found gauze bag, which seemed too small and had the seams on the inside so the seam allowance was well embedded in the plaster, resulting in some breakage when trying to wrestle the cast from the bag.  However there was some pleasure in the remainder, a delicately detailed cast of the texture and folds of the fine fabric.



Still working on the possibility of capturing the texture of the nylon bag, I decided to sew it to soluble film to see if the moisture released as the plaster dried would dissolve the film, this was partially successful.  The base was a circle of plastic, then the net, soluble film and stitch creating a circular pouch.

The plaster was spooned through a funnel in the pouch and the opening hand stitched with back stitch to seal the bag.  The soluble film made a lovely wrinkly surface which showed promise, and as hoped it began to dissolve. It didn’t dissolve fully, but enough to left an interesting texture, although the nylon net was embedded in the plaster.

Whilst I failed to achieve an impression of the nylon bag, the texture and the bag itself were well captured in the plaster!  More exciting was the prospect of exploring different soluble materials with machine stitch.

Last in the sewing session was the creation of a pouch from a plastic Selvedge Magazine wrapping stitched with free machined circles  designed to create holes in the cast material. This was really quite exciting.  Pouring the plaster through a funnel into the bag created an inflated pillow.  Removing the bag when dry revealed a gorgeous plum cushion, with softly creased petals radiating from neat holes with stitch marked edges.




Whilst drawing the cushion, the delicate edges of the stitched holes caught my attention.


Material: Modroc

  • gauze strip impregnated with plaster dipped in water to use
  • can be layered over wire framework, mould or former
  • Surface can be textured and reworked whilst wet
  • can be used as a support for alginate moulds
  • sets quickly, first layer 3-4 minutes, work fast.
  • one strip at a time, immerse in water without agitating for 3 or 4 seconds, run through fingers to remove excess water, layer and smooth down
  • use fingertips,small soft paint brush, sponge or credit card to press and smooth the bandage
  • When dry, seal before painting.
  • Can paint with diluted inks and watch colours spread.

Safety Considerations

  • Wear gloves to avoid drying the skin or causing irritation
  • Use a former in clay, foil, alginate to avoid applying to skin although the heat caused by exothermic reaction when using Modroc is lower than ‘normal plaster of paris thus avoiding a potential burn situation’.

When using alginate for anything other than small moulds, it needs a jacket, which can be made from modroc.  With the intention of casting the ‘cup’ in my daughter’s cupped hands, alginate was poured into the space and a layer of modroc applied to support it.  This was placed in a container with the the modroc down and the remains of the builder’s plaster poured on top.   Annoyingly there wasn’t quite enough to cover the mould but the result  was fun and effective with the sinister cut off fingers highlighted by the negative space created by the hole in the plaster. Alginate is an amazing product to capture fine detail.



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MMT Part 3 Molding & Casting – Plaster, Concrete, Alginate & Air-Drying Clay

(paper workbook p41-45)

A fabulous resource introducing casting materials.  So much information and temptation to try everything.  During my initial look, I was drawn to shredded paper captured in resin, layered resin, gel-coat, a very thick gel-like polyester resin used to draw in three dimensional space which can be piped from an icing bag.   Alginate caught my attention as a material for the capture of fine detail.

Over-excited at the thought of trying new materials, I had to reign myself in.  Much as I need to push boundaries, I also need to focus on the materials I can usefully explore at home, incorporating some samples from Assignments 1 and 2.

Contemplating a liquid material to capture texture and in preparation for part 2, plaster and concrete were considered.  Initial thoughts are that whilst my eye is drawn to the three dimensional pillows of colour and texture of Rebecca Fairley’s work below and I find them visually appealing,  I don’t feel compelled to touch or feel the material in the same way as I do with paper mache, paper clay and pulp-made products.

Looking at larger, detailed photographs in her online portfolio for a long time, trying to decipher my thoughts and interpret my feelings, there is no doubt that the softer curvaceous shapes are more attractive to me, the flatter, sharper edged pieces, some containing other materials are visually interesting and invite a closer look, those from a more knitted surface which have retained scraps of the cast material are absorbing, but the two that capture the soft, billowing folds of a textured cloth (images P1100371.jpg and P1100363) provoke a feeling not experienced with any of the other samples.  It is so elusive, I almost can’t get it, but it is there, I’m closing my eyes, trying to identify the feeling, a pleasure and warmth, a slight glow, causing a relaxing of my shoulders, maybe a comfort, a coming home?  Is that meaningful or a confirmation that I am comfortable with the familiar?!

When first researching for this Assignment, Ines Seidel’s work was so inspirational, different from anything I’d seen, loose and expressive and telling a story. I still find it so, but feel the ‘story’ is such an integral part of the work that without its title, each piece loses some of its meaning. The inclusion of plant material, strips of newsprint or text on slivers of paper contrast with the dense roughness of the concrete.  There is some capturing of surface texture but more capturing/containment of actual textural material.  I think it is the contrast of materials and textures and an appreciation for the subtle and descriptive humour of the titles of each piece that appeals to me.

Rachel Whiteread’s “sculptures subtly disturb the status quo” comments Charlotte Mullins in her book Rachel Whiteread, Tate Publishing.  The negative space cast certainly plays with my mind, in some cases, I really had to think to identify the space that had been ‘solidified’.  How does her work make me feel?  The mattress cast in rubber has a feeling of being alive, the texture of dental plaster untitled bed/mattress has captured texture like a wrinkled bed, a moment in time,  putting it into context.  I don’t feel the same about the casting of the ‘House’ or the Holocaust Monument which have less ‘life’, although this may be the point. This is art that needs to be seen in person, the size and desolate nature of some of the pieces cannot possibly be felt from a photograph.  Subesquent to this observation I came across an interesting article in The Guardian on a recent work from Whitehead, which reiterates my view.

Though the work photographs beautifully, it was made to be experienced in person. “You need to see it and be with it: the air, the weather, the sky, the ground, the piece and its relationships to all these other things,” Whiteread says. “It’s really quite something.”

The more organic, fluid shapes suggest a softer surface and the negative casts need careful thought as they’re not quite as I expect.   The casts from hot water bottles are the most interesting to me, the pillow-like shape, the rubber more alive than the plaster, the negative space immediately obvious, suggesting the fluid movement I expect from a hot-water bottle.

Rachel Dein’s method of casting plant forms helped me to better visualise the positive and negative aspects of casting. The idea of creating a mould of the negative space in a more flexible material which is then used to to achieve a detailed textural surface became clearer and quite tempting.  The following quote is taken from an article in Gardens Illustrated March 2014. Words Sorrel Everton.

Gathering plants, often from her own garden, Rachel lays them on to a rolled-out slab of clay and presses them in to transfer all their details, before carefully removing them. A wooden frame is then placed over and the plaster poured in. Once set, the clay is peeled away to reveal the ‘plants’ in relief. Yet it feels almost as if the real plants are still there, the casting is so accurate.

Here I am really taken by the detail of capturing nature ‘in the moment’, the composition, fluidity and movement created by the curling stems, the contrast in shapes, from the finest detail to the chunkier stalks.

Exploring alginate as a means of capturing detail, the following clip on pinterest was useful.

Additional inspiration for plaster casting:

Material: Plaster of Paris

  • made from the gypsum
  • when setting, it expands slightly so castings retain detail
  • strong and can be cut, carved, sanded, drilled.
  • works best in flexible moulds eg plastic, rubber, silicone and plasticine
  • gently sprinkle plaster into water, allowing it to sink and leave a few minutes for the powder to properly soak. Add plaster to any clear water.
  • mix slowly and pour gently to avoid creating air bubbles
  • immerse used tools and containers in water immediately to remove plaster and do not empty into sinks or drains.

Safety Considerations

  • When plaster is mixed with water, it is exothermic and can severely burn the skin. Although many tutorials show people mixing plaster with their hands, it is not recommended to do so, the exothermic reaction occurs as the mixed plaster is hardening and just after it would be possible to extract your hand!
  • Non-toxic
  • AVOID inhalation, ingestion, skin and/or eye contact.
  • Wear gloves and dust mask.


Material: Alginate

  • water-based gel, made from kelp, a type of seaweed
  • flexible mould/impression making material
  • produces very accurate impressions
  • clean and safe (used for dental impressions)
  • shrinks as it dries, detaching from non porous moulds.
  • sets quickly, 3-4 minutes
  • single-use product, use soon after forming, moulds deteriorate in 24-48 hours
  • not durable, skin moulds need supporting with, say, modroc

Safety Considerations

  • non-toxic
  • practice good hygiene, wear gloves
  • do not empty into sink or drains


Material: Air Drying Clay

  • soft & pliable
  • dries hard to a durable matt finish that can be painted and varnished

Safety Considerations

  • non-toxic
  • Avoid ingestion or eye contact.
  • Sensitive individuals may wish to wear gloves.


Project 1 – Molding from a surface

Sampling with Alginate, Plaster of Paris and Air-drying clay

My first attempts at capturing the texture of a natural wrapping from Assignment 2 worked to a degree but too much water in the alginate and insufficient plaster of paris powder to water affected results.  The alginate didn’t set well and the plaster cast is a little soft and has subsequently cracked. All the ingredients were prepared with separate disposable containers and spoons for each step with a large bucket of water in the sink to rinse off any remains of alginate and plaster to ensure the plaster didn’t get into the drain.  As soon as the grass was in the alginate, I started to mix the plaster of paris.  Once it was mixed and the alginate seemed set, the grass was removed and the plaster poured in.  The sides were tapped to encourage the air bubbles to the surface.  Once set it was easy to remove the plaster cast from the alginate. Inverting the plastic container to remove the cast, the alginate started to disintegrate.  If supported it may be possible to use it more than once, but better to assume it’s a single use material.  I was really encouraged by the detail of texture achieved from the central wrapped section and the movement created by the fine lines of grass.

Although a little scruffy, I was encouraged by the results.


Inspired by the negative cast of cauliflower found on Pinterest, I suspended a small cauliflower head over a plastic bowl and poured alginate into the vessel.  After two or three minutes, the alginate was set and the cauliflower easily and quite cleanly removed. The proportions of both were better than the first attempt but there were air bubbles in the alginate causing some extra little pimples in the cauliflower cast.  The results were still very satisfying.  There is something really impressive about the detail of textured and three-dimensional form achievable with this technique.



Not expecting to exceed such success, I was overjoyed with the texture achieved by rolling plantains into air drying clay and the resulting plaster cast.  Aquilegia seed heads were also effective but the plaster layer was a little thin and cracked.



The following was cast by pouring plaster directly onto cotton scrim.  The scrim was easily removed from the plaster. a lovely story of the soft undulating folds of the cloth and the loose weave.


Far less successful was the attempt at casting jute scrim direct from plaster.  The hairy-ness of the jute made it impossible to remove cleanly from the plaster.


Far better results were achieved by impressing it into air-drying clay to create a mold and casting from that. In both this and the plantain cast, the scraps of plant material and jute left behind in the cast remind me of the comment that some of Rachel Whiteread’s casts “captured traces of life” (Charlotte Mullins (2004)).  This record of a ‘moment in time’,  the thought of material evidence, a trace of human contact, perhaps in discarded clothing, is touching.


Attempting to cast the underside of a mushroom was a bit tricky, the alginate was difficult to remove from the mushroom and the plaster enveloped the smaller pieces, but the pieces that worked show promise.

The Plaster FAQ—Working With Plaster