Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Making up stories and turning everything blue

We all do it, we make up stories, we imagine things, we construct a narrative around an object or a moment. This may be a true story or it may be completely imaginary. This fascination with the difference between imagined realities and real realties and how we portray ourselves and our place in the world lay behind my exhibition proposal for 'Fabricated Narratives'.

The artists participating in this exhibition have been selected for their previous connection to this theme in their chosen media. Their challenge is to create works which examine their own ‘fabricated narratives’ or simply fabricate stories for the objects and stains of objects. Whether historically accurate or playfully inventive, each work in the exhibition is part of a fabricated story. There is much new science which helps us to understand both the psychology and the philosophy of how and why we construct narratives to help us through life which the artists will be asked to investigate as a part of this exhibition.

The artists (Helene Carpenter, Di Halstead, Marianda Twydell and myself) have varied backgrounds – textiles, paint, design, photography, sculpture and book art amongst others and these skills will be not only used to create the artists individual ‘fabricated narratives’ but to collaborate with the artists using other media to create ‘fabricated narratives’ in shared ways.

As a textile artist think I will be approaching this through the long standing traditions of reusing and repurposing materials through darning, slips, boro, kantha, pojaki and other patchwork and stitch techniques used all over the world to conserve precious materials and to repurpose them. However, there is a long way between concept and outcome and I always keep my endpoint fluid at these early stages, so we shall see!

As a part of the progress towards ‘Fabricated Narratives’ (which will initially be exhibited at the Knitting and Stitching Shows in London, Dublin and Harrogate 2018), we have to each share a smidgeon of our skills and interests. Not so much in the expectation that we will use these in our projects, but to help us to understand each other’s work in a more visceral way than simply talking about what we do. We hope that these sharings and the time discussing work and approaches will create an ongoing connection between us.

Marianda wanted us to delve into one of her passions which is indigo dyeing. Indigo dyeing is both ancient and fascinating. If you have ever a had a session with an indigo vat, you will know exactly what I mean. It is the magic of the dye. To watch the colour change from a beautiful green (which I would love to be able to make stay as it is such a wonderful emerald which tones perfectly with the dark blues of the indigo), oxidising through to the classic indigo.

On a previous indigo dyeing session most of us there ended up getting (partly) undressed and dyeing as many of the clothes we were wearing as we could! Imagine a group of us emerging from a village hall dressed in coats with little left on underneath and bags full of wet blue fabric – memorable!

With Marianda we were more restrained with our clothing, but more experimental in the variety of materials. We dipped various fabrics, fibres, papers, threads, bones, shells and almost anything else we could into the vats. Some were shibori folded or stitched in advance, others plunged into the vats as they were. Helene, being a painter used the dye as paint and with some beautiful brushes and some masterly brush techniques began to explore using indigo directly onto stretched fabric.

Helene's marbles all tied up

Fabric folded and clipped
Unfolding silk from around a pipe. 
Hanging out to dry
The fabulous green showing when the fabric is first lifted from the vat

Then everything turns blue!
If you want to keep up to date with Fabricated Narratives, the easiest way is @fabricatednarratives on fb. See you there, or at the exhibition.