Research Point – Digital Printing on textiles

The research point asked to take a look at Mary Katrantzou’s work, looking at an article in style magazine and answer a few questions regarding the article. The article is no longer accessible; [accessed 03/03/14]

What do you make of the article’s reference to ‘the room on the woman’ and ‘the woman in the room’?

I have instead decided to you my own research into a different designer, who I love, the label is called The Age of Reason, by ALI MAPLETOFT.

Age of reason is based in Brighton, we’re I found them after my friend raved about their scarves. It was only until today that I spent the morning reading through all of their blog postings and mission statements, that I began to fall further in love with them. The designs are fierce, strong, and uncompromised, whilst remaining ethical, environmentally sound, supporting British industry and celebrating women of every age and distinction, highlighting uniqueness and individual beauty.

Here’s how Ali explains her company:

It’s a design company with an anti-sweatshop ethos. It’s all about making fun, playful prints – cushions, scarves, womenswear – in a way that’s ethically sustainable. We’re not exploiting anyone. There are no children working on it. We’re trying to do as much as we can in the UK and we source as many sustainable products as possible. We use wool to stuff our cushions that comes from Orkney sheep that eat seaweed! They’re the most sustainable sheep in Britain, apparently. We also believe in inclusivity and sharing. We’ll share our supplier details with anyone who wants to know. If a university student wants to know, we’ll tell them. If another brand wants to know, we’ll tell them, because we believe in moving that ethical community forward. Some people view that as sharing trade secrets, but that’s not the secret. The secret is the creativity. That’s the bit that’s important. We also believe in helping women, which is why we use older models, street-cast models and models.


Reading through their process, I was inspired by their transparency. Ali writes about wanting to share her manufacturers details, sharing the love, by not keeping any secrets from those who perhaps would like to produce their own designs. She walks through her steps from initial ideas, onto sketches, collage, then digital rendering, ready for print. You can appreciate the time and talent it takes her, true artistry, vision and style.

What I learnt is digital printing is very eco-friendly as there is no ink wastage which can pollute the water.  I’ve always been a keep supporter of natural dyes, but they are not suitable for garment manufacturing as the colours fade and run.  You need a chemical mordant to set the colours, which as harmful and toxic to both the environment and person. A lot of water is needed to rinse or boil off dye resists such as bees-wax or otherwise. There are traditional practices which with the right environment, such as in Japan where they use the local mud and rivers to create and wash dyes, on an industrial scale, this type, or any type of dyeing pollutes or uses a lot of water.

Digital printing is a way for artists/ designers to produce large-scale work (135cm x 135cm) + onto silk  or cotton with little impact on the earth. The colours are so vivid, and allows for grades of shades and tones, which previously would be impossible with block printing techniques, used in industrial printing. You would have to layer your colour to create form, with digital printing, you can be more creative, with more ease and accurate results.

I hand-paint fabric, it’s what I love to do, creating one of a kind works of art, never to be replicated. I love the way the age of reason keeps the integrity of its work, but creating a limited number of scarves. Instead of mass production, churning them out, they make sure what you are buying is as special as can be.

Ali says this about Fast Fashion

I’m really excited about how fashion is changing, with more emphasis on individuality and less on trends and seasons. People used to think of sustainable fashion as beige and boring. That’s changed so much, and it’s great to be a part of the movement.

Ali put women artist and designers on pedestals by promoting them in England and America, as well as being sure she contributes 10% of everything she sells to the charity called Womankind Worldwide. It’s about empowering women globally.

If I could choose a mentor, it would be Ali Mapletoft.


Research Point – Fashion Images

Here is my Pinterest Board of Fashion Images I am drawn to, looking at iconic photographers such as Irving Penn, Annie Leibovitz, Richard Avedon, David Lachapelle, and designers such as Dior, Gaultier, and Versace.

I’ve tried to vary my searches by time – era, Vintage, Classic, Designer, Art, Couture, Iconic, Modern —  basically what I am drawn to, trying to look at Silhouettes, Volume, Drape, Movement, and Colour.  I wanted to steer away from the obvious but I do love Gaultier’s Saints 2007, and Dior Classic dresses.

Palimpsest in Textiles

Pal-imp-sest: a parchment or tablet, reused after earlier writing has been erased (Oxford Dictionary)


Palimpsest — A compounding of designs, layers of creation, like sedementary rocks, they tell a story of time. This is perhaps my new favourite term, especially when looking at it in terms of Architecture, or indeed Textiles, which we’ve been asked to do in this research.

In searching for examples of Palimpsest, I came across this explanation in the Thesis by Robbert Verheij, on Architectural Palimpsest. ¹

It is a metaphor to suggest the processes of transformation through time. Phenomena occurring in the world around us constantly change and evolve, but at the same time they leave inscriptions and traces.


Palimpsest for me us conversation between the old and new, traditions and modernity, generation differences in aesthetics, all talking about the same thing, only use different vocabularies.


Reading through the pages 68-70 (PLACE) Totes Haus ur by Gregor Schneider, 2001 (an uninhabited apartment, with hidden doors, and light coming in through dark window, shifting out perception of room, and safe places) I reminded of the main characters explanation of making of quilts in the book “Alias Grace” by Margrete Atwood,   The idea of a bed, made beautiful, adorned with a handmade quilt, is a beautiful place, where we rest, love, sleep, and dream. It can also be a sinister place, where woman give birth, where you are ill, and where you often die.

We often look at textiles in a warm, comforting way,  a place to hide away, to be safe, but this isn’t always the case.




In a more positive light,  Palimpsest in quilts, often past down through generation, tell a story through cloth. A torn piece of a flag, a mothers hankerchief, a corner of a favourite dress, or a piece of a baby blanket, all composed to create a tapestry of history, telling a story of each generation. It was not uncommon, in early American culture, for quilts to reflect a mosaic of a woman’s life, often including swatches of material from memorable events such as pieces of a wedding gown or a child’s baptismal garment ² and were often mentioned in a will, past down from generation to generation.

Another beautiful textile Palimpsest is Kantha Quilts made from layers of Sari materials and hand-sewn running stitches.



And of course there is the utterly wonderful and my favourite textiles in the world. The Japanese Boro, made very similarly to the Kantha quilt, with simple parallel running stitched binding worn and old indigo cloth, constantly mending it over and over with more and more patches, until, it consists only of patches.



In summary, the whole idea of Palimpsest in textiles, is to keep, mend/ make / add to, and pass so future generations can remember and re-tell the story.

Life is made of layers of time, represented in fabric mended together by memories.


  1. Robbert Verheij,  Architectural Palimpsest.Graduation thesis Faculty of Architecture Delft University of Technology pg. 12.


  2. Quilts, available at [29-11-17]

Christian Boltanski’s 2010 installation Personnes, at the Grand Palais, Paris

Research Point


  • You’ll see that, in addition to the garments, the noise of heartbeats permeates the exhibition. Why do you think this might be?

Laura Cummings writes for the Guardian on Christian Boltanski “Personnes”

The austerity of the scene is overwhelming, compounded by the booming heartbeats that seem to emit from nowhere and yet all around – time being measured out by human life.

It’s not clear whether this is a graveyard of empty clothes, or a camp or spirits, but revising the title “Personnes” which means in French Person, but also holds a turn of phrase when used, “Nobody.”

The Heartbeat echos and is felt in the living. Is it a question of us all being one, and nobody, a joining of rhythms, a common beat?

Perhaps is a question of anti-physical, nobody, but a sound.

Boltanski’s talks of the Hand of God, in his interview, and how the few a chosen daily, by chance, or will, to die. There is no rhythm, no reason, no answer.

  • To what extent are the textiles transformed into something other than fabric?

The formation, or shape, on the clothes laid on the floor, creates a sense of organization, human organization, of a camp, or marching soldiers, even and distributed. The shape of the mountain, monumentally overshadowing the camps of clothes below, is symbolic of a higher power, a pyramid, a hierarchy, a tip, pointing upwards.

Each garment is treated individually, they are laid out, instead on bundled haphazardly on the floor.  The claw which collects the clothes, let’s them go, in a way which you can see each one fall, like leaves.

The idea on Momento-Mori,  materialism and ownership, which represented an individual’s life, is very prevalent in this piece. Each one of those thousands of garments was once worn by someone, it is not clear if that person is still living, but it does remind you of accumulation of one times one times one, equals indefinite numbers.

  • What’s the significance of the installation title – and of the mechanical grabber?

Personnes in French means No-one, and the mechanical grabber is the hand of God, randomly choosing clothes, or someone, or no one.

  • What associations does this work conjure up in your mind

It reminds me on concentration camps in Germany, the mass graves, the order, the senseless killing, a hierarchy a white supremacy choosing without consideration, who will die.


Christian Boltanski, Guradian, written by Laura Cummings available at [22-11-17]

Christian Boltanski, Youtube, available at [22-11-17]

Exercise 1 What function does Straub’s textile serve?

Straub’s designs were hand-made first on a loom, and then made to industrialised standards through machine manufacturing. I believe that this hand-made development created a more humane design, through slow design practices, which has not only pleasing colour palettes, but calming simple repeat patterns.

You could say that Straub’s designs are quintessentially British, which brought forth respect and sense of pride, you couldn’t help but appreciate, and therefore not vandalise (perhaps).

Straub’s textiles are not only strong and durable to withstand commuters, gum, dirt and other bodily fluids, the print served as a way of communication, creating unity in the transport department.

There was a certain print for the routemaster, underground, and train system, and even aircrafts, which created an identity by which passengers feel united, without consciously being aware.

The pride of Britain, in its transport system (TFL) had become an emblem of England, as soon as you see a red double-decker, you think of London. Every good brand has not only a font, a logo, a colour, but also a feeling. The fact that Straub, one person, created all of the prints, kept the transport brand tied together. Although the prints were are all different, they were made by the same person, the same slow considered design, hand crafted on a loom, and influenced by a strong school of design, the Bauhaus.

The Bauhaus was founded with the idea of creating a “total” work of art (Gesamtkunstwerk) in which all arts, including architecture, would eventually be brought together. It is no wonder Straub’s designs work so well to create the same “total” feeling on the TFL.

Looking through google images, you see umbrella’s, pillows and cushions, made from Straub’s designs. They automatically feel out-of-place, but do make you reminisce of a daily commute, even if it was tedious, for some reason, they still make you happy.

These hand-woven designs, were made to make everyday people feel content even during long journeys. It is incredible how timeless they are. The colour palettes are well thought-out, the pattern,  whether geometric or organic, all have serve a human purpose, of which includes movement and distance, comfort and securty, pride and indentity.

Marianne Straub — Moquette textile 1970


Textile Pattern design creates an identity, whether is be Mulberry plaid, Liberty Prints, or for seating on public transport. The repeating pattern and colour may look different from up-close to far-away, with smaller details blending in and altering the perception of colours. They also hold a sense of time, an era; 60’s flower power, 70’s geometric shouting squares, 80’s neon shapes,etc..

The Moquette Design, up close, looks wild — you’d never imagine conservative transport agency choosing such bright colours, and defined patterns, but when you see them on a whole,,seat next to seat, row after row, you realize the positive effect they have on an otherwise dreary tube line.

Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec — Clouds

TEMPORARY or PERMANENT — could be either, remain in a place long-term, but also due to it’s easily assembled/dissembled design it could be temporary.
LARGE SCALE or SMALL SCALE – could be either by fitting in a normal sized house/room or covering a whole warm of an office building.
TRANSFORMING and/or DEFINING — the clouds can transform a room through division or through feeling, rounding the edges, creating soft, cushioning feel
PATTERN and/or COLOUR and/or REPETITION and/or SHAPE — the clouds do all these, through patter and simple use of colour the repetition of the adjoining shapes create larger installations, which are versatile, and impermanent.


Yayoi Kusama

There are not many artist who make me as happy as Kusama makes me.

She has taken what could have disable her, through mental illness, and converted it into utter beauty and wonderment. Her use of pattern and simple shapes vs scale, takes everyone down the rabbit hole by shifting our reality. The world can be too obvious, too mundane, Kusama creates spaces where the make-belief is real, the trip is tangible, the obscure is clear. I believe many people take hallucinatory drugs to be able to see what Kusama sees everyday, it’s incredible she has the courage to see it realized, in order for us to experience a shift from our everyday.

I am very sensitive towards many colour/aesthetics/lighting, and I’d more than happily live under a massive toad-stool covered in Kusama’s paintings.

I would categorise Kusama’s work “Infinity Mirrored Room 1998”


Temporary and large-scale installation spaces.


Christo and Jeanne-Claude — Textiles and Scale

No artists have used textiles on the scale and with the same impact as Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Well-known for their wrapping of the Reichstag in Berlin and the Pont Neuf in Paris, Surrounded Islands sees textiles used on an extremely large scale to both define and cover aspects of the natural environment, in this case two islands.

I feel like the sheer ambition Christo and Jeanne-Claude have, merits them the highest “Art” praise. To have such massive ideas, in scale, magnitude, and effort, is absolutely commendable.

The statement above cannot be more true; the scale of their work, especially the work “Valley Curtain”  which was installed between two Colorado mountain slopes in 1972. The orange curtain was made from 200,200 square feet (18,600 square meters) of woven nylon fabric.

One thing, among many, on their website, is there are many categories for their work including ‘work not realized’ (yet) and the fact that the planning and permission of such undertakings takes years, and even decades, as for example in wrapped trees, in Riehen were the outcome of 32 years of effort.

I absolutely love the work of “Floating islands” where Christo and Jeanne-Claude and a team of 430 and 120 boats surrounding the islands in Florida with HOT PINK floating fabric. The thing I love most about their work, is actually, their preparatory drawings. The project took place in 1983, and it is the absolute crescendo of the 80’s.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude
Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, Florida, 1980-83
Photo: Wolfgang Volz
© 1983 Christo

This illustration could be a textiles print — repeated pattern.


Talk about Miami vice…

The second project we were asked to look about was that of “Wrapped Trees.”

“The “wrapping” is NOT at all the common denominator of the works.

What is really the common denominator is the use of fabric, cloth,

textile. Fragile, sensuous and temporary materials which translate the

temporary character of the works of art.”

Christo and Jeanne-Claude
Wrapped Trees, Fondation Beyeler and Berower Park, Riehen, Switzerland, 1997-98
Photo: Wolfgang Volz
© 1998 Christo
Christo and Jeanne-Claude
Wrapped Trees, Fondation Beyeler and Berower Park, Riehen, Switzerland, 1997-98
Photo: Wolfgang Volz
© 1998 Christo

I feel like the beauty of this project, is how the environment of light and surrounding, influence the work. When you are up close, with the sun shinning through the canopy of drapped fabric held by branches, the envelopment to the tree takes on a new perspective, more human, as if it’s dancing in a sheer dress.

The further you stand away, the reflection of high, in contrast to the light through the fabric, created angular solid bunches of perhaps crumpled paper.

These are only two views seen only in photographs, I cannot imagine the many more feeling you’d have towards the trees, but it’s interesting to shift the paradigm of natural shapes, to those you’d imagine in a cubist painting.

Scale and perspective are the two elements of art and design I’d attribute to Christo and Jeanne- Claude’s work, that and a credit to ingenuity and determination, as well and an inspiring vision.

Textiles are a powerful medium, rich with symbolic meaning and aesthetic significance. They remain ‘sources of communication and manifestations of power’, fibrous forms consisting in present day ‘fashions, vehicles, interior textiles, communication technologies and cutting-edge architecture’

Bradley Quinn, Textile Designers at the Cutting Edge,


When you first consider the idea of textiles, your think soft – flowing – warm – natural – fabric. The reality is, textiles are made up of fibers, which can be glass, metal, synthetic, polyester, all which can be coated with PVA or otherwise to create a solid Architectural structure.

There are many wonderful examples, using giant sales such as  at Canada Place in Vancouver.


Venezuelan pavilion designed by architect Fruto Vivas; construction: Rasch und Bradatsch Architekten / 3dtex GmbH

And this Pavilion in Venezuela, which uses PVC-coated polyester to protect the fabric.

Often, structures made from fabric, are temporary, and set up during festivals and tour around cities as installation spaces such as this wooden geometric design by DAR LUZ installation by Lars Meeß-Olsohn and Ali Heshmati in Eindhoven.

DAR LUZ installation by Lars Meeß-Olsohn and Ali Heshmati in Eindhoven; Photo © Patrik Matheeuwsen

And many use flowing natural fibers in interior to create a sense of peace and tranquility for example in Tahari showroom in New York.

Tahari Showroom, New York; Photo © Gisela Stromeyer

By far my favourite textile+architectures are the Bauhaus School, with special mention of Anni Albers (previously explored in this course) who marries the art of weaving with that of walls hangings and carpets, creating seemless patterns, with her husband Josef Albers, who uses patterns in building material such as bricks.

Josef Albers
Loggia Wall, 1967
8 × 70 ft. (2.5 × 21 m)
College of Science, Rochester Institute of Technology
Anni Albers, Design for a rug, 1925