Category Archives: research and reflection

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]

Research Point

Refer to ‘Room Six: Territories’ Pages 146 & 147.

Investigate ‘Gers’ and other such textile based shelters/homes such as Wigwams, Tipis and Tents.

In the book “Textiles, The Whole Story” Beverly Gordon looks at the Textiles around the world, and the role it plays in bonding communities, spiritually and out of necessity for warmth and cover. She looks at the vast world of Textiles through anthropological glasses, not only in Art but science, craft, and technology.

She talks about Yurts and Gers and Tipis, used by nomadic cultures , which are light weight, portable and comfortable in harsh conditions. They are have the same common thread, they are made of wood and textiles for warmth and shelter. It’s incredible to think about how intertwined textile and humans are; warmth – fashion – shelter – tribal craft – politically – and in modern technology and medical practices. It is everywhere, from how we used to catch our food, to how we carry our groceries. From harvested fields to looms or factories, traditional making methods or machines.  Textiles are in our sports, how we protest, and where we worship. They represent our identity, our tribe, our beliefs and our creativity. Textiles are the epicentre of life.



Speaking from experience, both Yurts and Tipis are beautifully designs, circular, tall, and cozy. Over a dozen of years ago, our friends and I embarked on the beautiful journey, which is still going, call the Bimble Inn. The Bimble Inn is a unique structure made from canvas and wood fusing ancient tipi design with modern ideas. The space that is created inside is between 60 to 80 ft, it holds up to 600 people. It is a Solar Powers mobile venue normally found at festivals such as Glastonbury.

Although most people no longer live nomadic lives, I feel like many yearn to, and structures such as the Bimble Inn bring forth our ancestral feeling towards a need to be next to the Earth, to live simply, with a community, in nature, with music, drink, open fires and dancing.

The coursework ask as at this point to consider Assignment 5. I had looked at a contemporary artist, who I will research non the less, but am now considering looking at textiles such as canvases, which enable people to return to their nomadic tribal roots.

Project 2 – research point // Slow design

Slow Design


Slow design, essentially, is the revival of the hand-made, or independent makers/designers which use sustainable materials with a low-cost on the Earth, ethically — fair trade, and local.

When looking at the Earth on a whole, the West is getting richer, whilst the East is becoming more and more poor, by lifting the West up by providing products and labor at significantly lower prices, which have a cost on the environment and the people of the East.

There’s a story about Whitby prawns (not craft related but relevant) where they are shipped to Thailand to be de-shelled, then shipped back to the UK to be sold, because it is cheaper. So the cost on the Earth simply through travel — the crude oil and the tanker, as well as the freezing process, and trucks on each side, to save money on labor, it’s crazy!

It’s cheap to ship, around $700 a container, which seems like such a small number. Everything to do with the shipping world is mechanized, the human labour cost is very small, which means getting clothing made a shipped from say India to Southampton, makes more sense for such big fast fashion companies such as H&M (which I believe are the worst).

This doesn’t take into account the fact that the owners of such companies cannot keep track of slave/ child labour – factory conditions, water pollution etc… when manufacturing overseas.

The idea of fast fashion is so superficial, and is born out of insecurity of not wanting to look different, wanting to blend in, and be a part of a whole. This is what marketing is all about.

Slow fashion is different from slow design, in a way that it’s not about cat walks and popularity, it is about individuals, being individuals.

Slow design for me means supporting artists/makers/designers who create one of a kind products, with thought, skill, considerations for the environment, with love — and probably not for the money.

It’s about knowing where your money is going, knowing where your product came from and who made it.

Of course there is a bigger price tag, but not in comparison. Shop local markets, shop online, shop on ETSY… it’s a movement where we can take control of where our money goes.  Don’t buy more, buy smarter.

I found this great company through my research who believe in selling “Classic clothing” they are called Slow and Steady Win the Race. They were featured by MoMA in an exhibition which is called  “a Living Archive” which is a set of garments on display, that were sold in 2002, and is still being sold today, because they don’t go out of style.

Each garment cost $100, which is affordable because it will last, and can be worn for a decade, or so.

I love the idea that good design can be universal. The whole goal is to make something affordable, but still aesthetically interesting. Romantically speaking, it just makes the world better.

I believe this is what Slow Design is all about — it’s the antithesis of Fast Fashion.

Assignment 4 – Feedback

Feedback on assignment 4 — Written by Carla Rees (my notes in red)

For this assignment, you have explored the work of Louise Lawler, a New York based artist and photographer who has incorporated portraits of other artists’ work into her own output. Her work is a good choice for this assignment, since it often emphasises the course theme of place by including the locations the artworks are situated in.

You write in a clear, well-communicated way, but sometimes your writing is be more editorial in style than academic. It would be helpful to back up your opinions with more evidence or detail, including the opinions of other academic writers who support your arguments. You should use in-text citations to show where your information has come from, and it would be helpful to use a wider range of academic sources for your information, rather than relying on websites. Now that OCA students have access to UCA’s library, there are numerous online journals and scholarly articles that you can use for your research. Remember to give references for the artwork you include in your essay within the captions; any copyright material needs to be credited, both in terms of the copyright holder and the source, using the Harvard format.

I totally understand I need to understand better the Harvard format, and could do with an example of what I am doing wrong, I thought I was siting my sources correctly, but realize I need to use in-text citations (does this mean with numbers next to the phrase?) This is the first time I have written academic papers, and perhaps I could use some help. I tried to access the UCA’s library, but had some difficulty, which the tech team told me was due to being in Vietnam, with different servers?  I will try again and hope the error has been resolved.  Being in Vietnam with no access to physical libraries, or book stores, I am sadly reliant on the internet for resources, this is why I tried to find a popular artist, which I could rely on MoMA for information, and did find a couple of papers on Acadamia.Edu, which were really helpful.


I feel there are several areas of your essay that you could explore in more depth. For example, you raise the question of whether or not photography can be considered as fine art; you are arguing that Lawler’s work is indeed art, but suggest that other photographers might not be included within the term. It would be helpful here to expand your argument further; what it is about the work of other photographers that makes it not considered as fine art? Do you have evidence to support your opinions? You say of Lawler ‘her photographs are considered art because she is an artist’ – isn’t this true of all other photographers too? If not, why not?

This is a very important point, and realize now I didn’t clarify why the art world doesn’t regard photography as fine art, and will find some scholarly papers to support my argument and maybe re-visit the idea of if an artist make work, is it considered art?

How does she ‘question the influence of the original art work’? Is it just through her titles, or would you also have the same response if you didn’t know what the titles were? What is the importance of place in her message to the viewer? What is she trying to show when she gives the viewer a new perspective on another artist’s work and how does she achieve this?

Another really great point, I think I touched upon how her words influence her work, how they talk back to the viewer, but there is an example of the same photograph in the exhibition repeated opposite the room with a different title — Lawler challenges the viewer by questioning titles as well as content.  She is constantly giving the viewer different perspectives on other artists work through both words and documentary style photography.

You draw parallels with Duchamp, and this is something that could also be subject to further exploration, especially in terms of how the context and reception of their work differs as a result to a changing cultural environment.

How has art changed since Duchamp’s ready-mades, which could have influenced the Picture Generation in the early 80’s? Conceptual and Visually — both artist question the art world, challenging the ideas of what art is at the time.

Regarding the medium of photography itself, it is clearly intrinsically linked to Lawler’s work, but what precisely is the effect of this medium in this context – for example, is she reproducing images/situations exactly as found (ie documentation) or manipulating them in a way that is best suited to the photographic medium? How different might her work be if she was painting rather than photographing, for example? What about the way the images are seen by the viewer, and reproduced? Are they designed to be seen in a particular place or context, or do they have the same meaning when reproduced and seen in other forms? What about the course theme of Time? How does this fit in to Lawler’s work? It strikes me that she is using photography to direct the viewer into a particular ‘way of seeing’ (John Berger’s work springs to mind here – you mention him in your notes on the blog but this is something else that you could bring in more detail to your essay, demonstrating context and an awareness of the work of other commentators) to enable her audience to experience her point of view.

I really wanted to include the work of Jon Berger, its so relevant to the the theme of place, and where you physically view art, I will look into this further. I did think I worked the coursework theme of Time when looking at the photograph “War on Terror” which visits the idea of matriarch lineage on powerful women through time, and their role in photography, literature and painting — art, through anti-war works. As far as looking at the medium of photography itself, reproducing images exactly as they are seen, like documentation, or manipulation, Lawler’s work used the photograph as the starting point, but through time, she has distorted or changes the medium, for example the tracings — not neccesarily a painting, like in the example, but she demonstrated many different forms, in scale/colour/words/distortion.


Imposter Syndrome

Impostor syndrome is a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

This is what I feel like whenever I meet someone new,  their first question is always “What do you do?” This is the second most frequent question asked when living in a foreign country full of expats, the first is “Where are you from?”

I despise both questions, for they have very little correlation to who I am,  unless you have a while to discuss it, which I normally don’t want to.

I know I should just answer  “Canada, and I have an on-line shop”, then ask the question right back, to avoid further inquiry. I learnt this the hard way last Friday, when a fella asked me what do I do.

I said I was a maker, as that is what I feel I am, I create, I make. He didn’t get it, so I said I design and make clothes, and am studying to be a textile artist.

Him “Oh, so you’re a fashion designer?”

Me “No….. I’m against (most) Fashion which is based on huge industries manipulating people to into thinking they should look a certain way,  by buying clothes they don’t need, at a significant cost to the Earth”

Him “So you make things as a hobby?”

Me “I’ve got a shop on-line, I hand-paint organic cotton, and make unique pieces or clothing.”

Him “There’s no money in that unless you sell them for thousands”

Me “I’m happy with £40/hr”

Him “You should probably find a better way of selling yourself, using 10 words or less, you’re not very good at this are you?”

Me “You’re totally right”

I get paid to teach, does that make me a teacher, or do I need a PGCE to validate it.

I make clothes, but that does not make me a tailor.

I paint, does that make me a painter?

I design, does that make me a designer?

Am I am Artist? Can I call myself that? And who the hell has the right to say? Do I need a BA from a University, or have shows and exhibitions?

I’m so confused, and frankly a bit disheartened with titles and labels.

Money money money, that’s what people want to equate to careers, and even if I was making loads of money, I would never say I was a fashion designer. I have 100% more respect for those who actually know how to and make the products they design, instead of drawing a picture and getting someone else to make it because they haven’t got the skills, but have the money, and can afford to get the credit.


Reading the article on Clothing to Dye for which looks at how much water is used to dye textiles, and how the used water is the number one pollutant to the Environment, its devastating to realize the full impact its had on already marginalised people, for example in part lies in Tirupur, India,

Local dye houses have long dumped wastewater into the local river, rendering groundwater undrinkable and local farmland ruined. Despite tougher regulations, a watchful local press, and the closure of companies in non-compliance, water pollution has festered. The city’s 350,000 residents, not multinational textile companies, pay the price.

Reading on about how much more water and dye is needed to colour synthetic materials such as polyester, it makes you wonder, why anyone would want anything made out of polyester in the first place?

Synthetics textiles hold a nastier fate for the Earth, in the form of microplastics. Even after the garment has been manufactured with dye stuff and pollutants, probably made in a factory with unlivable wages, maybe by children, it is sold and worn, and continues to pollute the water every time you wash it.  Up to 1,900 plastic microfibers enters the water from one garment, every single wash.

Of course natural materials have a negative impact as well, the chemical pesticides and water needed to grow cotton for example alsongside dangerous fibers sometimes inhaled by workers, aren’t ideal, but compared to synthetics, they are a better choice.

Companies which recycle plastics into fibers and garments hoped to do good for the environment, but it looks as if they are causing more harm.

While Patagonia and other outdoor companies, like Polartec, use recycled plastic bottles as a way to conserve and reduce waste, this latest research indicates that the plastic might ultimately end up in the oceans anyway – and in a form that’s even more likely to cause problems.

There are articles writen up to 6 years ago, warning about the dangers of plastic in fish, but its far more advanced, plastic is in the water we drink, the food we each, and probably the air we breath.

Is it too late? Have we crossed the event horizon? How far does it have to go, until these mega companies actually care about the future of the earth instead of buying another super yatch?

Organic natural fibers, natural dyes, slow fashion, awareness and prevention.

Part 5 — Textiles

There are a few points in your life, when you think, I’m on the right path, I followed the correct sign post, and it has directed me to this incredible place, with a spectacular view. Reading through the projects of Part 5 — Textiles; Sustainability / Hand-made / Art based pretty much sums up what I am striving for everyday, in and outside of this course, towards my BA.

This is what I’ve been working towards this last 2.5 years, my shop, called

“The old is new again” 

Sustainability — I only use pre-loved textiles; vintage lace and trims / ethnic heirloom indigo batik and embroidered hand-woven hemp (made by Dao and H’mong women) / embroidered table clothes & napkins — the only fabric I use that is new is GOTS certified 100% Organic cotton, un-bleached and natural.

Hand-made — I try and make as much as I can myself, although I have a tailor, Hoa and her mother, to help me with some tailored shirts and to replicate original Victorian garments, such as bloomers, nighties, corset covers, and dresses. I have not got the 50 years of experience these women have on a machine, they are incredible.

I make all of the one of a kind pieces, blouses, tops and boro inspired skirts.

Art based design — Using fabric paints, I delicately re-create Kilburn and Morris inspired floral designs on tops and dresses, using traditional Brush Painting techniques, originating in Japan and China, using the same brushes, which I have practiced since 2002.

The Story behind my work — (copied from my website)

« Perhaps you’ve come to tell us, don’t forget, the old is new again, each birth enriching aged ol’ earth. »

– by Richard Work,
from his poem “To Five Day Old Alyssa Jeanne,
from her grandfather whom she hasn’t seen”


These words have stuck with me through the years, in everything I have done, the decisions I have made, the friends I have loved, and my appreciation for the old.

To me it means everything that has come before, should be cherished and remembered; ancestry, heirlooms, books, suitcases, songs,typewriters, letters, paintings,textiles, crockery, photographs. They hold the key to the past, when people past down skills from generation to generation, when objects were artfully crafted with such detail and care, never thrown out, like sadly, many things are today.

We are so quick to look forward, we forget to look back.

Like the sharing of folk songs, or following a family recipe, this world is so full of past beauty we need to share and bring into the present.

We need to create to keep our spirits alive, a bit of ourselves to be remembered by future generations, leaving something behind by sharing it.

I want to find the cross roads between art and design, to make more than something you hang on your wall, to integrate it with slow fashion/design movements, to improve with every piece I make, with the help of this course, I hope to look further into how I can progress, and perhaps sell enough pieces to make a living as a working artist/designer… that is the dream, right?