resources for the textile arts community
Since early childhood I've collected natural material when out walking in the countryside; leaves, acorns, pinecones, bits of twig; so much texture, colour and form! For a long time I harboured the idea of integrating natural found material and fabric, but was unable to see how I could do this. Was it possible? Was it even desirable? I carried on thinking about these questions through Art School as a mature student; like many things in life, some answers came from an unlikely chain of events.
A visit to my husband's relatives in the Highlands of Scotland, shortly after losing two people very close to me, was a turning point. Out hill walking, I came across an arrangement of pinecones lying on the ground, seemingly unimportant in themselves. Lifting one up, I was struck by how the moss beneath had formed a small impressed hollow exactly to its shape; the earth had literally been changed by its presence; a metaphor for our own lives and the preciousness of everyone of us. Back at College, the work seemed to dictate its own methods in that way it does when things really flow. I abandoned every rule, doing no preparatory drawing, working in an intuitive fashion instead. I allowed the material itself to suggest the way forward, so the work became about the object itself and not my ego as an artist.
The oriental students in my year understood this approach implicitly, as they work with a remarkable sense of humility towards Nature. As a Nature lover, and someone striving to be more eco-friendly, I had already abandoned certain types of dye, sticking to low impact ones (that leave little residue and use less water) or natural dyes. For this work I left dyes behind altogether, preferring to use the intrinsic beautiful natural colours of silk for both fabric and threads (thus it is deep green!). To me they seem to integrate more fully with the natural colours and textures of the found material.
Since then I have produced several series of work using these methods, each one determined by the particular qualities of the found materials. Sometimes I use techniques borrowed from quiltmaking, which suggest notions of caring and nurturing in the work.
I've also used discarded ephemera, packaging, leaflets, and plastic carrier bags to make new pieces, integrating this material with dyed and printed fabrics, machine embroidery threads, quilting, and anything else which feels right. This could be said to be slightly less eco-friendly since it use glues and new plastic bonding materials (light green!) but it's freeing to do and re-uses a lot of what would otherwise be waste. It's amazing how much beautiful material is thrown away, and how good it can look when re-assembled into something else. It's also an economical approach and, I feel reinforces the ideas of historic quilters who used what was freely available around them.
Trisha Goodwin teaches textiles courses with the Open College of the Arts, and offers specialist workshops and talks, and creative coaching.