Sunday, 13 January 2013

Working on Brick Lane

Dear Diane,

This is a bonus post from me because I wanted to tell you about my evening in the studio last night and I thought our friends might like to read and see the photos too. All the good stuff is in here.. Would you like to see inside?


OK, you can but first some background....

You will recall that I am in a newly formed group here and we are starting out by making quilts or embroideries to the theme of 'Transitions' with a view to entering them all together into a public show. To make our group work cohesive we are working around a grid of sixteen inch squares ( for the quilt, no particular measurement for the embroidery) of three rows of four columns. I decided my interpretation of Transitions was going to be about immigration and I began by looking at the area of Brick Lane in London which has seen several waves of immigraton over the years : Hugenot, Jewish, Irish, Bengali and now recently, Somali.

The thinking work started in September when I went to take some of the photos you see here, and the first thing I wanted to say is that it is interesting how my initial ideas have refined themselves. Initially I wanted my quilt to reference all those groups and to show the way the area changed. Increasingly as I have 'worked on it' ( in inverted commas because until yesterday there was no fabric and the work was mostly talk! ) it has become narrower and narrower until now I am focusing only on the Bengali community. And there is enough there for a series before I return to the other communities.

I wrote over at Plan • Create • Succeed about my new system of Focus words. I think my Focus word for the studio at the moment should be FOCUS!!

Anyway, I took some of the photos and played on Photoshop and also got Dennis to do some writing for me, because I hated my own writing when I tried to do a screen even though I like it when I write directly in my african quilts. Go figure! Then I ordered a stack of thermofaxes. Then yesterday it was time to play and learn how to use them. I mean, I knew how to get the paint through them, but what I have no experience of is how to intergrate them into the kind of multi layered design that was in my minds eye.

I allowed myself to just 'waste' some fabric ( I kept notes, I can replicate the handdyed stuff!) and then put the results in a design book. This in itself is a breakthrough. I don't DO samples.. But for this, it seems I do. Stuff actually improved a lot when I trimmed it down and arranged it nicely!

Here are some pages for you to see what I was dong until one am this morning.

I thought that things started to improve when I dragged out some monoprints and rubbed fabric I had made with no purpose in a class ( or in the case of the rubbed fabric, when the builders revealed amazing plaster texture on the wall when they ripped out my kitchen!).

Black is too harsh on these samples but I like the sense of transition from night to day. The view is down the famous Petticoat Lane looking from the Brick Lane end.

This next one I particularly like for its sense of Islamic mystery. The silver screen over the monoprint is the pattern from the metal minaret in Brick Lane Mosque. Who is she? Where is she going?

These were unsuccessful prints but when I cut them out and in the case of the right hand side one masked off the skirt and added words, I really liked them,.

They gave me the idea to go in this direction.

But by then it was way past bedtime and I had to stop.I feel like there is a lot of work to be done yet and I know that the piece whch has to be done by April will probably not be the best one in this series ( for surely, it is a new series?!) but I am really excited about wher this is going and all I have to learn about it.

The frustrating thing is that this work would be so much easier if I had the wet studio ready. Work started this week and I have just done a post here on my own blog showing the conditions these samples were made in and explaining the little accident I had in the early hours...

And next time I really will tell you all about the Tate visit!




Liz Plummer said...

I'm finding it fascinating following blog with Diane, Helen. Have you seen the blog Spitalfields Life? It is all about the local personalities of the area around Brick Lane and the East End.

Diane Perin Hock said...

Oh my, oh my, Helen -- I am so glad you posted this, and so delighted to see where this is going. I can see how much has developed in your head and the streamlined results of this getting onto fabric. I know you have felt generally that "practicing" in a small format on paper or fabric runs the risk of then destroying your need to do the actual big piece -- and here your explorations have allowed you to play and discover new possibilities! I applaud you for letting yourself play and discover. I love seeing how your journaling process is informing your art choices!

So, WOW. I love the mix of photos and printing -- but please don't assume that your own writing isn't good enough, btw -- it's YOU and mixing that in is important. Maybe you can manipulate your own writing in Photoshop (stretch it or make it smaller or add space, whatever) so it's still YOURS but visually pleases you more?

Diane Perin Hock said...

Also -- is that first shot at BocBoc? That was my first impression! Or is it at your house?

Helen Conway said...

Hi Diane, yes it is at Boc Boc. And thank you for the suggestion of manipluating my own writing. That never occured to me! Although I alteady thought of asking you to write my next thermofax.. You have good handwriting!! Actually its not so much that I dodnt think mine was good enough so much as it was too rounded and just didnt look right somehow.