First day studying Stitch; initial session demonstrating Free-Machine Embroidery. Maggie Cullinane is the TD for Stitch and gave me some incredibly useful information before starting on my Stitch journey:


Maggie gave an introduction to Stitch and delivered a Health & Safety induction. She gave a demonstration in how to use the sewing machines and began a tutorial to instruct us on our first task.

I have a Bernina 330 at home, so seeing these machines did strike a little fear into my heart. However, I discovered that the simplicity of these machines, JANOME, was a welcome find. After I had threaded the machine and bobbin, I began experimenting with stitch width, length, shape and pattern. Utilising a thick and more rigid thread to use in the bobbin does come with a risk of jamming, as evidenced below. I gained valuable insight by my mistake to use thick/rigid thread within the bobbin, going forward the thread can be thicker, but far more flexible. Fluffy or fibrous thread can easily jam the bobbin……avoid.


It is amazing what modern machines can do, the stitches available are incredible. The machine I am using is a basic model, but there are machines that can undertake the most  incredibly intricate and complex stitches. Certain stitches have a certain function, I will make a comprehensive technical file detailing what is what and how it can be readily available when I need it.

I was instructed to begin using samples of my drawing/sketchbook to transfer the image from paper to fabric/stitch. I have always loved linear quality within any artwork, so decided to use a very simple line drawing of a section of bark on a tree. At first the process of free-machining using an embroidery hoop seemed alien and restrictive, but after a few minutes of free-stitch I actually began to really enjoy myself.

Building a simple linear quality by straight stitch. I think that either the tension was a little loose or the bobbin had been inserted with a clockwise action, this made the stitch look/seem a little off/weak; in future this will be carried out before I begin to stitch.

I began to incorporate another colour to add contrast and to describe a more 3-D image. I incorporated straight stitch, zig-zag and half mood stitch. Looking at this sample it seems apparent that this application would be far more effective when used in conjunction with Appliqué, which is what will be demonstrated next Friday.


I was introduced to our new Associate Tutor, Sasha Kingston. Sasha is a Paper Artist. I would highly recommend visiting her homepage @ http://www.sashakingston.com. She would be teaching us a range of drawing exercises to deconstruct preconceived ideas, flex our creative muscles and start us on our journey of mark-making, visual interpretation, print & dye, stitch and Fine Art.

Sasha asked us to form a group. The group would then choose an individual to discuss their work and what they had been up to over the Summer. A specific piece of my work was chosen for an exercise looking at working with monotone dry point materials; 15 minutes was given to capture as much of the images’ essence. It was fascinating to hear and watch all of my contemporaries busy creating their own interpretations of their own work, myself included.


My 15 minute sketch is the image with the darkest black diagonal running from top right to bottom left. It is an explication of tree bark. I get really animated seeing other artists work. Taking inspiration from one another is what it’s all about.

The image (right) is of a tree I had photographed @ St Fagans. This image was then studied to create 2 continuous line drawings of a section. Using a viewfinder, I was asked to draw an observational study within a 3 minute time frame; the pencil was not to leave the paper. The (middle) image using a 2B pencil felt fluid and effortless, I really like it. The (right) image using a brown fine liner felt stiff and resistant, I actually drew with my left hand. Deciding upon which drawing implement to use can not only alter your work but can also alter how you feel when making it.

I wasn’t given homework as such, but knew that the self-directed study days are a perfect opportunity to transcend the knowledge, gained from the previous day, into new and exciting avenues.


Investigating different ideas and thought processes; photocopy, photograph, print and observational drawing. Compressed charcoal pencil and graphite pencil.


Considering new angles of mark marking. Observational drawing and print. Red biro, compressed charcoal pencil and fine liner.

I will begin to incorporate these marks within fabric and mixed media samples. I will take a trip to Re-create, a most fantastic arts and crafts store specifically designed for Children…….quote (by Re-Create):

‘A Scrapstore: a wide variety of re-usable waste and surplus material donated and collected from firms around South Wales to re-use in children’s play. Arts and Crafts shop: to stock a wide range of cut-price arts and crafts materials’.

The Start of My Professional Career

The time has come. I am now on my own professional journey to the career I have always wanted.

Today marks the day. Work hard, listen and take advantage of every single opportunity.

Introduction to the course leaders and staff:

KEIREINE CANAVAN – Programme Director/Principal Lecturer/Constructed Textiles


HELEN WATKINS – Level 4 Director/Senior Lecturer/Print/Dye Textiles


SASCHA KINGSTON – Associate Tutor/Paper Artist




Was told that there are to be 3 main areas of study within my BA TEXTILE DESIGN Degree.

SUBJECT, FIELD & CONSTELLATION. The tutors gave their best attempt to try and break down what each subject area would entail, but the information was so broad I could only vaguely get to grips with a few aspects of each.

SUBJECT – My Discipline/Own area of study

FIELD – Coming into contact with other artists/disciplines within the creative industry. Assimilate. Accommodate. Transform.

CONSTELLATION – Theory/Research/Contextual studies. Learning to look. Learning to know. Learning to do.

How do I find more information about all these 3 areas of study? Martin Woodward gave a welcome lecture to discuss ways to manage and comprehend each area. The information that we would require to familiarise ourselves with each of the 3 areas of study could be found on MOODLE. Moodle is an online an interactive hub of information related to all studies for the upcoming 3 years; timetables, briefs, technical information and Library resources can all be found here. I must admit, the prospect of having to manage and become proficient in all my creative work, essays, disciplines and navigating a new and unfamiliar online hub is extremely daunting. Nevertheless, I will do my best.

I did manage to hear some exciting news today, I am able to see the Library 24/7! It is open to students as and when needed. I think this will be fantastic in the coming months/years, especially when I’d dire need of research material. Keireine strongly urged my year group to come in early and take advantage of all tools readily available to us; coming in early to appropriate these tools would put us in good stead for future endeavors.


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My first attempt at looking at Moodle, I really thought an extremely important to document the core objective of my creative journey. Breaking down, long and often confusing briefs, into more poignant, manageable and bite-size pieces really helps me to comprehend the task at hand.

I will begin my contextual and research journals within the next 2 weeks. Having a broad knowledge bank of interests, hobbies and pastimes will influence heavily towards my choice of creative artists/designers I wish to reference and Use as inspiration. I have previously mentioned a few artists/designers that I am currently/due to work/working with and will make a visual diary to gain a bank full of creative wealth and knowledge.



This was the brief set by Kereine & Helen. The brief was devised to take the group back to basics. Drawing is fundamental to any designer. I was encouraged to be as experimental and creative as possible , but to make sure that the brief and it’s core was adhered to.



I thought a map of St Fagans would come in extremely handy, knowing where to go and sites of interest could cut down wasted time. A group of us decided to check out the Chapel


I absolutely loved the wonderful shapes and angles within the chapel, I decided that I would incorporate a few quick linear drawings of specific areas of interest. I especially liked the small square window within the Chapel and completed  one of my six mandatory 5 minute sketches.




I absolutely love Trees! They are so beautiful and full of rich shapes, textures and tone. I really enjoy looking at the trunk and have tried to sketch an interpretation of it using line and collage.



I thoroughly enjoyed these 6 x 5minute descriptive sketches. Looking over my work, it is evident to see I really enjoy working within a simple and effective colour scheme, namely black, brown, green, yellow and blue. The purpose of this exercise was to build a selection of monotone drawings that focused on close-up, detail, line, scale, tone and shadow. I had quite forgotten how wonderful drawing is using fine liner pens, the visual handwriting produced could be exploited extremely successfully within Embroidery. Free Machine Embroidery could be an incredible way to describe these images. This is something I will be learning within the next couple of weeks.


More descriptive sketches of natural and found objects within St Fagans’ grounds. (Left) Shows very experimental/observational sketches of Sycamore ‘helicopter’ seed pods, incorporating scanned/drawn images. Learning that a simple line/mark made can be far more effective than spending more time over complicating an idea. (Right) 20 minute sketch of a wondrous tree in the foreground and the Stryd Lydan Barn behind a tree in the mid ground/documenting marks views within the overall scene.


Experimenting with ink, charcoal and direct leaf printing. I learnt a valuable lesson whilst printing direct from the leaf; surface pattern and texture is vital to create a detailed and wildly imaginative print. It is no good using a flat and uninspired type of leaf/flower, the print will result in a flat and description less image.


45 minute composition of Y-Garreg Fawr Farmhouse, incorporating texture, collage, perspective, line, surface quality and tone. Really pleased with this drawing, although I could continue to work on more studies utilising the textural and tonal qualities of slate walls. This could then be interpreted into stitch, possible hand stitch or machine embroidery. Drawn with Stitch; which brings me back to an artist I have recently discovered. DRAWN TO STITCHGwen Hedley (Using as one of my influences/Research), contains some of the most incredibly imaginative and tactile images I have had the fortune to discover. As previously mentioned in my blog, I have at times over burdened myself with way too much information stimulus. Her book strips back the preconceptions of not being able to draw and starts with the basics of line and mark making, something I am keen to explore much further.


Whilst on the trip at St. Fagans, I began documenting, by photograph, visual stimulus for further study. Looking at specific areas of items/materials/forms has always been a favourite hobby of mine. One can gain such information from such a small observation. I was reminded of one of my first notes I made when entering Room B1.06 (My First Year Study Room), I came across a ‘leaflet’ created by a Professor @ Cardiff Met University. The ‘leaflet’ introduced me to a few images of substances/materials under magnification, the research material named as ‘MICROSCOPE IN WAITING’ – Professor Richard Weston. I have e-mailed Professor Weston and am currently awaiting a response.




Module Briefing. Keareine and Helen introduced the group to the Module – MATERIAL MATTERS.

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I won’t go into too much detail, on my blog, with regards to how I will begin to break all of this information down (there is so much of it!!), I will begin  specific folders/sketchbooks that will deal with contextual/research element of my course.

My group was given a wonderful introduction, by Martha Lee (Academic Librarian), into how we can access the Academic Library/Library Resources. I can access the Library Resources through the Student Portal and gaining admittance via MetSearch. The process to source a book, journal or article is extremely simple, the best way to get to grips with the site is simple trial and error. There are important aspects to look out for when sourcing research material; GET IT = Location & Availability, when found the research material can then be saved to the eShelf for a later date, should it be required.

An A-Z Database search would access focused collections of key publications for specific subjects. Publications such as:

ACADEMIC COMPLETE, ART FULL TEXT, ART BIBLIOGRAPHIES MODERN/HUMANITIES FULL TEXT, CAMBRIDGE UNI PRESS, DESIGN & APPLIED ARTS INDEX, INTERNATIONAL BIBLIOGRAPHY OF ART, JSTOR, OUP JOURNALS, VOGUE ARCHIVE and WGSN, should all be heavily utilised. Image Databases hold a treasure trove of high definition imagery for research and dissertation purposes; something I will arrange explore with Martha. It is of paramount importance that ALL images are to be referenced. If WGSN is to be utilised, they will not allow images to be referenced, but rather a link to the image is to be adopted. CITE THEM RIGHT online is another fantastic website to use.

Academic Skills workshops  are run on a Wednesday between 12-1pm, I am scheduled for workshops on a Wednesday morning every other week, so I will most definitely attend when I am free. All knowledge is power.

Martha mentioned that it could be useful to subscribe to a few magazines and journals of my own volition. I already subscribe to SELVEDGE, ELLE DECORATION and WALLPAPER.  Books that have come highly recommended for the course are as follows:

Clark, S, 2011, Textile Design, Laurence King Publishing, London

Colchester, C., 2009, The New Textiles, & Textiles Today, Thames and Hudson

Dunnewold, J. (1996), Complex Cloth: A Comprehensive Guide to Surface design, Martingale & Co.

Fish, J., 2005, Designing and Printing Textiles, The Crowood Press

Quinn, B, 2009, Textile Designers: At the Cutting Edge, Laurence King Publishing Ltd, London.

Steed, J. & Stevenson, 2012, Basics: Sourcing Ideas, ava. publishing

Wells, K, 2000, Fabric Dyeing and Printing, Conran Octopus Ltd

Wado, Y., 2012: Memory on Cloth: Shibori Now, Kodansha, America.


Drawing from the Modern 1975 – 2005, Museum of Modern Art, New York

Vitamin D, 2005, New Perspectives in Drawing,

Riegelman, N, 2006, 9 Heads, a guide to fashion drawing, 9 heads media.

Kuky Drudi/Tiziana Paci, 2012, The Pepin Press, Amsterdam.

Downs Marshall et al, 2009, Drawing Now, between the lines of Contemporary Art, I.B Tauris&Co Ltd, London.

Stobart, J. 2006, Drawing Matters, A&C Black, London

Kaupelis, S, 1980, Experimental Drawing, Guptil Publication, New York

Martin, R & Thurstan, M. 2008. Contemporary Botanical Illustration with the Eden Project, Batsford, London

Szabo, Z, 1987, Painting Nature’s Hidden Treasures, Advanced Techniques in Watercolour, Watsill-Guphil Publication, NYC

Evans, J, 1987, Chinese Brush Painting, William Collins Sons, Glasgow






First Blog Post

This is the post excerpt.

Writing a first blog is like drawing on a bright white piece of paper, it is both terrifying and exciting. Having always documented my own creative thoughts, processes and ideas into a paper sketchbook, this is a totally new and alien experience for me. At the ripe old age of 37, I begin this new journey with you.

I have always had a habit of over-complicating information; briefs, modules and research material, so on this occasion I have decided to go completely against grain and simply showcase what I have been up to during the summer. This will be in the form of images, websites, web links, blogs and photographs.

Firstly I decided to go back to basics and undertake a session of ‘touch drawings’. I have always been crippled by the idea that I cannot draw ‘properly’, this has caused great anxiety and depression. I do not want to be one of the growing ‘artists’ that cannot draw, but are full of ideas; I am greedy and want to be rich in every field.

Here a few examples of been given an item, by my helpful Dad, and not knowing what I was about to draw. This would help with my mark making/drawing, as I had no pre-conceived ideas of what should be.


These were my first 2 experimental ‘touch’ drawings. The task at hand was to take a few drawing implements such as a biro, pencil, charcoal stick, pastel; a range that would describe surfaces and textures without actually viewing them. My Dad, bless him, had gone into the garage to retrieve car parts (starter motor and water bottle) for me to draw. These are a direct sensory interpretation, using touch only, to create a multi faceted and descriptive drawing. I learnt a great deal about my drawing style/skill over these quick studies. I can draw, I just need to use more than my eyes when it comes to creating a new work of art. I need to study it, touch it, visualise it.


I was now given 2 new objects from which to ‘draw’ from touch. Image 1 (left) is that of a pine cone, using more angular and sharp drawing instruments i.e biro, compressed charcoal pencil and graphite pencil to interpret rougher, sharper and distinct edges; colour is immaterial but really gives a nice overall natural look. Image 2 (right) is that of a seashell, again using drawing implements to suggest sharp, smooth and rounded surfaces, namely charcoal, pastel and broad tip pen. I found it extremely important to use different drawing implements, it is both vital and necessary if I am to convey an accurate interpretation of what I feel.

I found the touch drawing exercises invaluable and now moved on to actual sample drawings, using a viewfinder to create unusual and descriptive areas of an overall shape. I was always told to concentrate on a section of the subject before tackling the whole, this would allow one to understand and analyse without getting bombarded with information overload.


Mark making to create tone, shade and pattern. Yes, these are slightly basic and unfinished sketches, but they gave me invaluable knowledge into how I can create a bigger and more comprehensive study for future endeavours.

I decided to incorporate what I had already learned in my previous studies and incorporate a little collage/paper cutting. I found the experience really freeing and expressive; allowing myself the spontaneity of making marks with both paper and drawing implements gave me a greater confidence in dealing with possible future creative problems.


I only used old scrap paper, oil pastels and charcoal to create the image above, I thoroughly enjoyed recycling materials, without having to use new; this mentality will help me financially in future and help with the conversation of trees.

Being exposed to the potential of collage has really ignited a desire to find out a lot more about it’s history and how I can incorporate it by new and exciting methods of practice. Who knew that it was actually Picasso and George Braques that coined the term COLLAGE (from the French coller ‘to glue’) at the beginning part of the 20th Century, it became a distinctive part of Modern Art. *RESEARCH VIA CONTEXTUAL STUDIES

What is drawing? Each artist is their own person, they have their own unique visual handwriting. Everyone can write, but can they write well? Is it fluent? Does it look beautiful? Can we improve our own ‘handwriting’? This is what I will dedicate my blog to. I want to learn. I want to grow. I want to improve.


I wanted to concentrate on specific details within a chosen observational drawing. This exercise would see me look at shadow and contrast. Image 1 (left) is that of a seed pod surface; I used an angle poised lamp to create a rich and sumptuous shadow. I used a grey and white pastel with a hard compressed charcoal pencil, which has turned out to be one of my favourite items to draw with. Image 2 is that of 2 egg shells, one next to another. I wanted to create the sense of shape and fragility, for the best part I think I have succeeded. I really enjoyed the subtle mark making uses of gently charcoal marks that are built up with varying pressures of hand/instrument.


One of the aspects I struggled with in my previous shape and tone drawings was knowing which mark I could use to define a more circular and rounded visual. I decided that I wanted to concentrate on an observation that would incorporate a study without going into too much detail, this being a study using negative space and mark making. Spaces between random cylinders such as deodorant spray bottles, toilet rolls and plastic piping were filled with whatever marks I wanted. I used different pressures of marks, sizes and shapes. I learnt the importance of mark making and how it can make a drawing pop or seem flat. I feel a little more confident in exploring a more observational and fine art approach to the subject I wish to draw. Experimental mark making and sketches will form a major part of my body of work from now on.

Moving on, I decided to take an art class with none other than Chris Holloway, the resident teach of Fine Art/Drawing @ Cardiff met. Chris gave us the task to draw a bottle and an apple side by side, this seemed simple enough but brought all of my insecurities of not being able to draw, up to the surface all over again. I think having so many other people working side by side next to me was a deterrent and made concentration difficult.


I found that my drawing style had gone little backwards, having a more childlike quality which was something I felt uncomfortable about. I did not give up and continue to document what it is I saw in front of me. I tried to capture the essence of a teacup with as many quick studies as I could within a 10 minute period.


The results were mixed, to say the least. Another still life was assembled in front of the group and we were instructed to document what was in front of us. Again, the results were mixed. The moral of the tale, to take from this exercise, would be to practice and sign up to more observational workshops. Practice makes perfect.

Chris could see that the group overall was struggling. He decided to make us work in a negative fashion, rather to darken the white paper with charcoal and to work backwards. This method made me add the hi-lights via a rubber, something I had never really done before. The overall method of working was extremely liberating; final results were a little mixed but I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.


I found this exercise rather cathartic. Most people I know would say I usually do everything arse backwards, hahaha.I now need to look at form and spacial awareness.

And now for something completely different……..ECO PRINTING/BOTANICAL PRINTING

Over the Summer I managed to come across a wonderful local artist called Catherine Lewis; I had made a mental note of her a few months previous when I had seen her on Countryfile. She utilises natural medium to create inks, dyes and prints. Her website is as follows:


When I visited her website I was extremely excited to see she was running an ECO/BOTANICAL Printing session, which I immediately signed up to. On Saturday 1st July I began my first step towards a growing passion of natural dyeing and using the flora of the world around me to create the most fantastic print designs.

To prepare me for the workshop ahead, I was given a bundle of different fabrics to view and touch. The purpose of the exercise was to take mental/physical notes of how each fabric could be represented visually and how it would ultimately take the dye. I was asked to cut off 4 strips of each individual fabric and gather each, using a fabric clip, to create a bundle of all the different fabrics. The 4 bundles were then submerged in the dye baths, 2 being placed in the Walnut and 2 in the Turmeric and Agrimony flower. One of the two bundles had been previously prepared using an Iron Mordant*. Cath had prepared 2 natural dye baths; one being Walnut and the other turmeric and dandelion flower. At the same time, Cath introduced the group to Shibori (I will discuss this in more detail as I get further within my blog). I took the remaining fabric leftovers and began to clamp, pleat and concertina. These leftovers were also submerged alongside the sample strips and left to absorb the dye within each bath.


*Mordant = A metal ion which attaches to the fibre, usually by being boiled together for a length of time. A dye which has no natural attraction to the fibre can then attach to the metal ion. Most, but not all natural dyes are mordant dyes, which require the metal ion to be in the fibre in order for them to have any attraction to the fibre. Mordants include ALUM, CHROMIUM, COPPER, IRON, OXALIC ACID and TIN.

* Modifier = Can be used to alter and fix colours after the initial dyeing process. Can be subtle or a new colour. Acidic modifiers – Citric Acid, Lemon juice, Vinegar. Can make colours brighter and more yellow in tone. Alkaline Modifiers – Washing soda, household ammonia. Turns colours pinker in tone. Copper Modifiers – Copper Sulphate. Makes colours browner/greyer in tone. Iron Modifiers – Ferrous Sulphate. Tends to make colours darken. Yellows to Olive greens

The dye baths were heated to a specific temperature to allow  for the natural medium to break down and release it’s sumptuous treasure. The bundles were submerged and left to absorb the dye. Cath suggested leaving them in the dye solution for a couple of hours. As I waited for the fabric samples, Cath prepared fabrics to begin an experimental session of Eco/Botanical printing. I was given numerous long strips of fabric to prepare as I wanted, many were prepared in an Iron rust bath, alum bath and others were prepared within a vinegar bath.


A range of leaves and flowers including Hydrangea, Acer and Eucalyptus were on offer for arrangement, however I saw fit, over the prepared long strip fabric carrier cloth*.

*Carrier Cloth = Way of transferring a dye, mordant or other additive to the cloth you are wanting to dye or print.



When the plant/floral material was placed on the strip fabric, the carrier cloth was then placed over the top. The fabric was then wrapped tightly using either chopsticks or an iron/copper pipe (depending on if you wanted a darker or lighter print); the bundle was then bound with wool/sting and placed within an steaming Fish Kettle for a minimum of 45 minutes. The Fish Kettle was heated by a 2 Plate electric hob, something  that could be purchased  inexpensively.

Fish Kettle

Whilst waiting for the eco/botanical bundles to do their magic, Cath informed us that the sample strips and shibori leftovers were due to be taken out, discussed and unmasked. Unfortunately my camera decided to die during the money shot reveal. I was extremely pissed off to say the least, but on a positive note I was able to dry the strips/shibori leftovers whilst at home home.


I think the most exciting aspect of this process had to be the uncertainty of the end product. I had never practiced anything quite like this before, but really felt a certain kind of natural affinity/attraction to these new processes.

The image above demonstrates the fabric samples using the Walnut and Turmeric and Agrimony flower dye baths. I wonder if you can see which fabrics were exposed to a  mordant and which were not? This is not immediately easy to see; the fabric used can really affect the level of colour saturation as much as the mordant. There are predominantly 2 types of natural fibre:

  1. CELLULOSE – Plant fibres. Includes Cotton, Linen, Hemp, Bamboo, Paper and Viscose.
  2. PROTEIN – Animal fibres. Includes Silk, Wool and Leather.

Plant fibres such as linen, hemp and cotton tend to be lighter and duller and more often require mordanting. The natural lustre of silk fibre compliments any natural dye beautifully and takes the colour most readily of all fibres. Wool absorbs the dye to slightly paler shades initially but with time and care, beautiful strong colours can be achieved.



From top left clockwise:

Image 1 – Shibori. Marbles and elastic bands. Marbles were used to bunch the fabric. Elastic bands were used to restrict and keep fabric in place by tightening and tightening around marble. Submerged within Turmeric and Agrimony Flower dye bath for 2 hours.

Image 2. Shibori. Circular Wooden blocks and Wool twine. Fabric was folded over and over and clamped between circular wood blocks. Block and fabric was kept in place with wrapping wooden twine around bundle. Submerged within Walnut dye bath for 2 hours.

Image 3. Shibori. Folded fabric and large wooden spectrum. Fabric folded like a concertina and clamped using a wooden spectrum. Submerged within Walnut dye bath for 2 hours.

Image 4. Shibori. Folded 180 Degrees. Clamped with chopsticks and twine. Fabric folded into a fan pattern and clamped using wooden chopsticks. Submerged within Walnut dye bath for 2 hours.

The simple immersion of Shibori gave me an immense feeling of freedom and self expression. I knew that I would want to find out a lot more about Shobori, it’s history and how it could aid my practice. I decided to buy a couple of books on the subject: 1. STITCHED SHIBORI – Jane Callender and 2. SHIBORI DESIGNS & TECHNIQUES – Mandy Southan. These books will be a guiding light to fulfil a personal ambition to become proficient and creative within this incredible ancient Japanese traditional process.

The time had come to remove the cloth from the Fish Kettle. I was advised to let the bundles cool to avoid any injury, the bundles were extremely hot. Waiting for the cooling process would also allow all prints to settle and to obtain best results.


The fabrics used for the eco/botanical print bundles ranged from cotton to silk. Some of the fabrics used carrier cloths and others did not. The fabrics that had been immersed/exposed to mordants (top photos) resulted in backgrounds of darker hues and earthy tones, whilst the fabrics that had been exposed/immersed with modifiers gave birth to more vibrant and crisp result. The photos do not give the best impression of the wonderful textural and natural forms that have been captured by cloth. The nature of textiles seems to be how we touch and feel each material; I find it vital to immerse myself in a multi-sensory experience when dealing with my creative practices.

Cath was kind enough to recommend a couple of artists that have been pioneers within the field of Eco/Botanical Printing; India Flint has written an amazing collection of books on the subject and comes highly recommended. The 2 books I chose to purchase from Amazon are ECO COLOUR: Botanical Dyes for Beautiful Textiles and SECOND SKIN. This is an artist I will be researching heavily and in depth. I love the idea of being self sufficient, creating art from nature and making a living without destroying the environment. I am extremely excited to begin research into Sustainable Practices when I begin my professional career @ Cardiff Met in September.

Whilst briefly being exposed to a taster session in Shibori, Cath mentioned that she was running a Shibori/Indigo workshop, this would in turn delve a little further into the experimentation and process involved in making a batch of Indigo and taking further the practice of fabric manipulation. Hopefully the resulting dyed cloth would drive me on to become a more advanced practitioner.

I was first given instructions to prepare my first batch of indigo, I was wonderfully excited and eager to begin.

The Indigo dye that I was using was synthetic, Cath told me that I could utilise a natural Indigo dye but it was vastly more expensive and a little more time consuming to prepare and use. For the purposes of this 1-day introduction into experimental Shibori/Indigo dyeing, synthetic indigo was absolutely perfect. Going forward, I would like to experience the natural dyeing process of Indigo, but that will be another time and day.


Ta-da, my first homemade and prepared batch of Indigo. I was totally amazed to find that Indigo in it’s freshly prepared form is actually a bright, rich and extremely deep hue of green. Wow!! Cath explained to me how Indigo itself will only turn blue due to the oxidation process of being exposed to the air. The fabric would be taken from the dye bath looking a mixture of deep greens, the blue will begin to appear once exposed to the air around it. At first I could expect the fabric to show a mixture of blues and greens, which create intense and wildly imaginative patterns. The oxidisation process will begin the metamorphosis from greens into indigo blues, the process is quite magical.

First things first, I was given different fabric types and told  to cut them into sample strips for submersion into the indigo dye vat. These strips were immersed in a bath of water to prepare for the Indigo.


One sample strip was going to be submerged for 30minutes and taken out to dry. The second sample strip was going to experience an identical 30minute bath, but would be taken out to dry and then re-submerged for a further 30 minutes. Cath would tell us why when the time came to dry the 2nd batch again. I was really looking forward to finding out why.

The remaining fabric was manipulated by pleating, binding, twisting, blocking, using marbles and elastic and clamping. The tools at my disposal were fantastic and so simple to use; definitely on my to-do list to procure/make.


The fabric manipulation was documented by photograph. In the session, there was no right or wrong way to experiment. Mistakes are invaluable, they are vital to learn.

When all the fabric samples/bundles had been created, they were all deluged within a water bath. This bath would allow preparation for the Indigo dye and give a crisper and more even finish (hopefully) to the samples when removed from the dye bath.


To make room within the Indigo dye vat, the sample strips were taken out and hung up to dry. One set had been taken out previously after 30 minutes and the other had been dried and re-submerged for the required 30 minutes. Cath now informed us why she had demonstrated this process; Indigo colour can be made far more effective by immersing the fabric on separate occasions. For example, take 2 samples of the fabric and immerse one for a whole hour and the other for 2 lots of 30 minutes, this would demonstrate efficiency of multiple ‘dips’. The colour saturation would be more sumptuous and desirable.


Can you see the amazing hues of green? These areas of the fabric were the last to be exposed to air; oxidisation. The colour will eventually all turn to blue.

Cath and I had our lunch and waited for Indigo Shibori samples to do their magic. The time then came to remove the fabric samples from the dye vat. I really didn’t know what to expect, but nonetheless was excited.


I was transfixed and in awe of what I saw. Different fabrics created the most wonderfully different culminations. Yes, some of the results were not as sharp and desirable as I had wanted, but mistakes create knowledge. I have always found the colour blue to be such an enigmatic and powerful colour. I know I have mentioned my intention to research the subject of Shibori and it’s origins, but I really want to traverse through an experimental journey of the use of blue within art and history. Watch this space.

Creating Patterns with Indigo. The afternoon workshop carried on from the experimental nature of the morning workshop; new tools and a new process.


A wide drainage pipe had been cut to around 10″ in height, it looked like it had been used many times before. I was asked to cut a length of Parachute Silk, about 2feet in length and about 1 foot in width, this was then stretched over the drainage pipe and clipped onto the top with an elastic band. A length of wooden twine was then used to bind/wrap around the top of the pipe and silk.

Initially, I was asked to keep the wooden twine tight and to keep an equidistant length between each binding. After around 5 ‘orbits’ around the pipe I was informed to push the twine up to create  gathering of the fabric.

I continued the process of binding and pushing up to gather until there was no more silk fabric available and the pipe was completely covered.


Now the fun part!! The pipe/silk gathered fabric was placed gently within the Indigo vat. It was immersed and submerged for 45 minutes.

The wait made me anxious for some reason, again I did not know what to expect. Cath told me that I could have prepared the silk fabric with other dyes/mordants/modifiers before the immersion within the Indigo vat. On this occasion she wanted to demonstrate the simplicity of the process and create a wonderful contrast of colour between the blue and white.

All ready. 45 minutes of yummy cooking, lol. Now, time to unwrap all of the wooden twine; therapeutic. Would the Indigo look as dark as it does on the pipe?


Wow!!!! I was so proud of this peace. Immediately, I was transported back to holidays of my childhood; swimming pools in the south of France and memories by the Sea. This sample evokes a feeling of serenity, peace, tranquility and sense of empowerment. It amazes me how subjective and emotive Art can be.

Not to waste any of the precious studio time, I asked Cath if we could incorporate the Eco/Botanical printing with the Indigo process knowledge we had absorbed throughout the day. Needless to say, she was thrilled to find out that my enthusiasm was still running wild, even after 7 hours. The Fish Kettle was quickly heated up and now began the preparing of the cloth. No mordant or modifier was used, time was precious and we had only a little left. The cloth I used was around 3 feet long and 1 foot wide.

I utilised the spare beech and willow tree leaves and arranged them with hydrangea flowers and blackberry leaves over the cloth. The cloth was covered with a carrier cloth to keep all medium safe and secure, this was then wrapped around 2 x 1″ copper pipe and steamed for 45minutes. I used 2 copper pipes, not one, due to the desire to include as much surface coverage of the Indigo as possible. If I had used only 1 pipe and wrapped the cloth all the way around, I would have only covered a small and single-sided part of the cloth.

The bundle was now added to the Indigo dye vat for 15minutes. I was expectantly nervous to find if the experiment was a success or an utter mess. Turns out, I was positively surprised how it turned out. The inclusion of Indigo and Eco/Botanical printing is something that I really am excited to continue; in fact I have spoken to Cath to arrange some 121 sessions to further my inquisitive nature within the field of print and dye.

(Left) Shows how bundle looked as it was opened 5 minutes after cooling off. (Right) Unravelling from centre to both ends. The initial placing of the natural mediums had been intentionally symmetrical. I thought the end result was fantastic, I was extremely happy.


‘Finished’ pieces hanging on a drying rack. (Left) Cotton cloth. (Right) Parachute Silk.

I cannot express my gratitude enough to Cath Lewis, she has opened my eyes to a whole new world I really didn’t know existed. I now have my mind wide open, the desire to evaluate every leaf, flower and seed pod I have the fortune to come across; shape, pattern, colour, surface texture and printing potential.

Cath has also been generous enough to give me the names of 2 of her peers, which coincidentally are all based within 30 minutes of the city centre of Cardiff. Fantastic!!!! The artists in question are:

Michelle Griffiths –  SHIBORI NETWORK REPRESENTATIVE for UK/IRELAND.             Studio 9, Model House Craft & Design Centre,
The Bull Ring,
South Wales,
CF72 8EB
Mobile: 07974 417403
Model House Office Tel: 01446 237758                                                              www.shibori.co.uk

Claire Cawte – FELT/NATURAL PRINT TEXTILE/FINE ARTIST http://www.clairecawtetextiles.co.uk                                                                                                Mobile: 07748842117

I have already been in touch with both Michelle and Claire. We are currently arranging a mentor programme, workshops and 121 tutorials which should all begin within the next few months.