Resolving the repeat

Since I first came to Leeds College of Art to develop my textile design practice I have been intrigued by the opportunity to screen print a full scale repeat design on a length of cloth. In my studio I can produce print samples that can be developed into repeat designs and printed elsewhere but as an ‘experiential learner’ and ‘haptic junky’ I always hanker after opportunities to get my hands dirty and ‘feel’ how these processes work. While I have access to a good-sized repeat print table I can’t help but hatch my plan.

Working with colours from my graffiti palette and with a range of imagery from my edgelands space, including drawing, painting, mark making, scanned objects and torn paper, my resulting design has a modern-retro feel to it and more than a passing nod to one of my design heroines, Lucienne Day (the centenary of whose birth is coming up next year). In aesthetic terms, ‘retro’ is rarely my intention but on this occasion I embraced these qualities and printed the design on a bark weave cotton which gave it a texture similar to the bark cloth of Day’s mid-century era. Here are some images of the Midday design printing in progress.


As with most processes of hand making I found the experience of printing this repeat enormously empowering. The only problem is I now want to do it again! In the meantime, I am very grateful to Lorna Jewitt for being the other side of the squeegee and to Mike and Wendy in the LCA print room for all their good advice!

The finished piece will be exhibited as part of the MA Creative Practice show opening on Thursday 27th October at Studio 24, Mabgate, Leeds.





Placement Prints

Since I exhibited As You Like… – an installation featuring digital designs projection mapped onto a blank dress toile  – I have been interested in producing placement prints for garments, where the composition of the surface pattern design relates to where it will end up on the body when the finished piece is made. I am interested in the process of translating 3D inspiration into 2D design, which is then transformed back into a 3D object or garment. Here is an example of a hand printed placement design made up into a simple shift dress. From inspiration to final product.



Collagraph printing

I recently bought a small nipping press to help with book binding and simple relief printing. It’s a lovely solid piece of kit. It’s in good condition but also showing marks of wear and tear that suggest a long life in use.


Around the same time I’d also been on a trip to the canal side to take some more research photos for inspiration. Looking for ways to represent common weed/flower shapes and the texture of asphalt or coarse concrete, I found the answer in cocktail sticks and lentils! These simple collagraphs gave me the starting point I needed for parts of my final collection.




I’ve been experimenting with repeat marks mimicking textile textures of stitch, knit and weave. I’ve also been experimenting with scale, so had photocopied my marks at various sizes. As a big fan of nothing being left to waste – I have a lot of scraps of fabric and paper stashed away in the studio. I wrote earlier about paper stencil screen-printing being an enjoyable process with some useful by-products. One Friday in April I got out some of the used stencils that I had saved and started collaging with these and some of my photocopied marks. I had no plan in mind for these collages. They were very much an in the moment thing. Once I’d got a composition that I was happy with I started looking for areas that I thought might make interesting print samples before testing these out in the print workshop.


I’ve yet to make these into fully fledged textile designs but I am interested in developing them as paper prints and exploring whether they would work on a larger scale as rugs or tapestries.



Order and Chaos

Order and chaos have become recurring themes in my practice. I am utilising both hand and digital print processes and the contrasts between the two, in terms of design and production, are brought into stark relief as my practice develops. Aesthetically I am looking for something ‘in-between’ the hand-crafted and the digital, where hand and digital print might be used interchangeably or even concurrently.

What I like in my edgelands space (full of industrial structures and irrepressible nature) is the juxtaposition of order and chaos, which I am looking to reflect in the nature of my designs. Experimenting with hand and digital print processes I find that the digital tends toward order which, if not the desired aesthetic, must be somehow overcome. In contrast, when designing and making using hand techniques there is a tendency toward chaos, which it takes skill to keep in check.

I find uniform pixels and vector drawn lines cold and uninspiring. The crispness and regularity that digital processes offer can result in a flatness that stifles designs simply because they are too ordered. I recognise this as an aesthetic preference and not purely a digital thing. I have a similarly negative reaction to Escher’s tessellated creatures and the stifling geometry of much traditional European/American quilting.

As a surface pattern designer what I am seeking (in design and perhaps also in life!) is a good balance between order and chaos, where there is coherence but also space for the chance event. The word pattern implies a certain order. Textiles also have an inherent order in their structure ie. the patterns that enable the weaver to weave or the knitter to knit. But can you have too much order? I’m certain you can.

hand-and-digital-test-samplesComparing hand (a-c) and digital (d-e) print samples

A friend recently told me about the concept of the ‘chaordic’ path. A portmanteau of the words ‘chaos’ and ‘order’ the concept is one developed by Dee Hock, former CEO of Visa Credit Card Company. He uses the term to describe the place of overlap between chaos and order that is required for a complex and de-centralised system to work. Such systems he argues reflect nature. This is an interesting idea that is being used in organisational development and conflict resolution settings. But it is interesting to me in an aesthetic sense because I am also looking for an ‘ideal’ place between chaos and order that reflects my observations of nature in the edgelands environment.

Deyan Sudjic makes an interesting observation about the relationship between nature and design at the beginning of The Language of Things. With reference to a MacBook that came with the wrong coloured cable he suggests we look for a consistency in designed things that we observe in nature. He gives the example of a tree:

‘the outline of it’s silhouette, the shape of a leaf, the rings on its trunk, the shape of its roots are all formed by the same DNA; and they are all of a piece. And in some way we look for man-made objects to reflect, or mimic, this quality. When they are revealed not to have it we are disappointed.’ (Sudjic, 2015 p17).

 I have experienced this in developing designs where I have tried to use imagery produced using different processes, they don’t always work because the elements can jar when placed together. But building on Sudjic’s theme, I would go one step further and say that it is not just the consistency we seek but also the ‘imperfection’ the overlap between chaos and order – for example the rings of a tree stump are all perfectly concentric (ordered) a result of the way that trees grow/what they are made of but they are not evenly spaced or perfectly round (they are more chaotic) mostly due to climactic and other physical and environmental impacts. This is the same, if less obviously so, for people as it is for trees and I suspect we also look for ourselves in the material things we cherish.

Textiles provide many metaphors for other aspects human experience e.g. the threads that run through our lives, the way people, ideas, communities are woven together, the possibility of frayed edges teaching us more about the whole. And it is to these frayed edges – where order starts to unravel – that I keep returning.

Interesting reading:


  • Sudjic, Deyan (2009) The Language of Things: Design, Luxury, Fashion, Art: how we are seduced by the objects around us. London: Penguin.
  • Chapman, Jonathan (2005) Emotionally Durable Design: Objects, Experiences and Empathy, Earthscan: Oxford


The Textile Society’s Antique Textile Fair in Manchester

In March I was invited to attend the Textile Society’s Antique Textile Fair in Manchester as a shortlisted candidate for their Postgraduate Bursary award.


The fair itself was a brilliant experience. I got to meet a number of members of  The Textile Society’s members judging the award, who were all very knowledgeable on the subject of textiles and interesting to speak to. I also got terrific feedback from members of the public who were very enthusiastic and encouraging about my work. As well as receiving a generous bursary award at the end of the day I also got to look round the fair itself. I bought some lovely antique French linen to print on and a beautiful piece of 1940s mercerised cotton printed fabric from Christine Boydell who has written a wonderful book on Horrockses Fashions published by the V&A.

All in all a great day out and a real confidence boost.

Liminality – exploring the in-between

I am attracted to in-betweeness for all sorts of reason, not least that what is in-between is often also overlooked. This led me to research liminality as a theme early on in my MA project.

The word liminality comes from the Latin ‘limen’ meaning threshold. As a concept, ‘liminality’ originates with ethnographer Arnold Van Gennep who worked in the early 20th century, looking at tribal initiation rituals. Victor Turner, who studied subcultural communities in the 1960s/70s, subsequently expanded on Van Gennep’s ideas.

Van Gennep talks about transitional rituals at times of adolescence, marriage, pregnancy having three parts – separation, liminal period, re-assimilation – during which the individual’s social status is changed. Once stripped of their original social status the individual enters the liminal period of transition, before being re-assimilated into society with their new social status – eg. as adult, parent or spouse. Turner, who describes liminality as a state of being ‘betwixt and between’ suggests that in the liminal period the subject of the ritual is to some extent ‘invisible’ making the liminal state one of ‘pure possibility’ prescribed within the ritual context but between common social structures and hierarchies. The participant in a right of passage is therefore:

‘liberated from normative demands and existing in a gap between ordered worlds where everything is unknown and almost anything can happen’ (La Shure 2005).

This brings us to an understanding of liminality as an in-between state, where there is ambiguity and contradiction and the potential for transformation.

Van Gennep also compared these rites of passage to a journey in which there are also three phases – departure, travelling and arriving. According to Westerveld (2010):

‘This physical passage in space is however almost always accompanied by a passage of internal change of some kind as well’.

The way liminality is conceptualised here reflects some of my experiences of liminal spaces and my reasons for being there. The analogy with the journey, where some transformation takes place, makes complete sense to me. It is reflected in my experience of walking while in search of inspiration – it is a time when anything can happen and in the experience of travelling (walking and looking) my mind is somehow also changed. It is from this that the ideas start to flow. I am struck by how often creative ideas are sparked by physical activity – in my case either walking or though the act of making – drawing, printing, collaging – whatever it may be.

This is a theme also picked up by Dallow:

“One way art can usefully be thought of is as an indeterminate condition, a threshold between conscious thought and unconscious feeling, an opening onto a liminal space where rationality (theory) and irrationality (experience, emotion, art) mix in the individual creative act (practice). It appears to offer a doorway beyond mere perception, an opening onto the imperceptible.”


Interesting reading: