Thursday, 28 April 2011

Nora Fok's incredible structures.

Ruthin Craft Centre definitely rates amongst one of my favourite galleries due to its consistency in exhibiting the work of innovative craftspeople who offer extraordinary dedication and talent within their chosen area of study. Nora Fok is one of these people and her current exhibition 'Cloud Nylon', which predominantly features her pioneering nylon jewellery absolutely blew my mind!

Below are a few images which demonstrate the diversity of her work. Some vivid colours, some neutral, some extraordinarily complex structures created through computer programming and other simple knotting and tying techniques. Her inspiration comes from a spectrum of sources, such as water, space, flora and even scientific DNA structures. I'm certain that the extent of her experimentation will amuse and amaze any onlooker!

I have been aware of Nora Fok for a while as the constructive nature of her work particularly appeals to me as does her extensive study of self-taught hand techniques such as knitting, knotting, tying, weaving, plaiting. Her craft is truly pioneering with her creation of delicate, intricate forms from nylon monofilament. It was fascinating to learn of the path and creative development which led her to this point, from her initial tedious factory work which gave her an initial insight into construction to her incredibly complex collaborative computer aided design work with her son. She describes her 'eureka' moment as the day, after much experimentation that she finally perfected the right temperature to boil her nylon structures around golf balls so that they would hold their form.

Her innovative discovery of knitting around golf balls and heating her nylon to hold a definite form has lead her to investigate using other objects. I particularly like her use of beautifully shaped stones.

Despite the majority of her work having being made from man-made plastics, she has manipulated her chosen media in a way which gives it a very organic and convincingly natural appearance (see pieces below). The ability to dye monofilament has made me wonder whether it would be a good choice for weaving in the weft as it could give my fabric a stronger form and structural quality.

The exhibition also featured a collection of Fok's hand crafted insects made from found leaves, twigs and seeds. The natural untouched quality of this medium is in total contrast to her other highly manipulated nylon structures which dominate the exhibition. Nevertheless they have been created with great detail and show the versatility of the artist.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Mai Thomas- Sustainable, natural constructions.

Yesterday I went to see an exhibition of work by Welsh artist Mai Thomas. She is strongly influenced by the sculptural and textural qualities of the natural world and has recently embarked on a body of work using natural materials such as sheep's fleece and willow to make dramatic 3-D forms. She has recently decided to concentrate on making her work and materials sustainable and to develop new techniques of growing her own materials.

The simplicity of her chosen materials have allowed her to concentrate and focus on forms which successfully reflect her theme. I particularly like the woven circles below. With their subtle colours and delicate, precise positioning one has to look twice to realize they are in fact made from rough bark and found twigs etc.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Wonderwool Wales

Wonderwool Wales is a festival of wool and natural fibres held yearly in Builth Wells not far from where I live in Powys. Despite being held in the depth of mid Wales, the festival hosts exhibitors and trade stands from all over the UK. The breadth of choice of yarns and fibres available is incredible. I attended a brief workshop, which taught me the art of tubular hand knitting and given the time I could have attended far more! I was particularly impressed by the emphasis on natural, undyed fibres and also the amount of makers who had decided to use natural dying although those who didn’t argued that the mordants needed for this were potentially more environmentally harmful. I spent a long time chatting to the designer of ‘Toft’ who made stylish knitted garments and accessories using natural alpaca yarn. Funnily enough, Emi on my Textile Course is at the farm at the moment doing a month long internship. The business sounds fascinating with all parts of the making process on sight- the alpacas themselves, the spinning through to a team of knitters working on the designs. The farm also has a library of research into the history of knitting and weaving techniques across different cultures. The opportunity of using yarn sourced directly from a British supplier appeals greatly to me.

Adorable Angora Goats!

A visit to Blueberry Angora Goat Farm also in Pembrokeshire was a real treat. With 18 newborn kids with the softest and shiniest coats, it was easy to see how angora goat yarn is quite sought after. As a textile student I believe it is vital to support and use yarn from British suppliers. Not only is this significantly more environmentally friendly but knowing exactly where your yarn has come from, in my opinion is far more satisfying. You could buy some yarns in the small farm shop however all were dyed bright colours using acid milling dyes. I asked the farm owner why she had not considered natural dying and she argued that natural dyes fade and a consistent shade of colour cannot be repeatedly achieved.

The Welsh Woollen Museum

Tucked away in the Welsh countryside this extremely informative and fascinating museum is almost impossible to find. Inside is a detailed documentation of the ancient art of making woven welsh blankets from the untouched raw material to the final product. I am very exited to be specializing in weave after the Easter break. Not only will I gain considerable knowledge and skill, but it is also very closely connected to Welsh tradition and history and my own personal heritage. The process of actually creating a cloth allows for an extreme level of control over each decision and design development.

As well as its factual insight, the museum is also currently hosting a Sasha Kagan exhibition. Her iconic knitwear pieces demonstrate a passion for geometry, natural forms and colour and range form pictorial repeats to abstract pattern.