Guest post Emma Colyer
I have just finished my second year at university of Creative Arts Farnham and I’m moving into my third year after the summer. I study textiles for fashion and interiors choosing to specialise in the interior field and in particular printed textiles.
Originally the title of my project was ‘transformations’ I chose to look at transformations within the environment and in particular those associated with ageing and weathering, leading me to look at rusting, rotting, decay and other similar themes. I found it interesting how something perceived to be bad and ugly could actually look quite interesting and somehow beautiful at closer observation. I wanted to create a piece that incorporated these ideas and almost looked as if it had grown out of the space I put it into.
When the university was approached to research the bark cloth I thought it would be a very fitting material for me to try out as it followed the natural themes within the environment I had previously looked at as it is in fact itself made from the inner bark of trees in Africa. The bark cloth took a lot of researching as it is a very unusual, non- conventional material which meant that I had to complete several tests to see what could be done with it.
As the Bark cloth is a natural fibre like the conventional materials I am used to printing onto such as cotton I thought that many of the processes may transfer across so this was a good starting point for my testing. I was able to dye the bark cloth using Procion dyes and obtain a range of colours as well as print with certain substances onto the cloth before then steaming and baking to finish.
I wanted to create a variety of interesting textures within my samples that replicated the many photos and sources I had observed. Therefore within my printing I used a range of different techniques including using pigments, puff binder, flock, discharge and procion printing techniques to not only create an interesting aesthetic but also an unusual texture that replicated those I looked at.
After producing a range of samples I then produced two larger production lengths in repeat. This was a huge challenge as the cloth is so delicate and hard to manipulate. There were a few obstacles to overcome such as the shrinking and stretching that occurs when the cloth is wetted after dyeing which made the cloth difficult to pin out over and over again however in the end I worked with these characteristics of the cloth and incorporated them into my designs. The beauty of the bark cloth is that no two pieces are the same and whatever design you apply to the cloth is will always be slightly different to the next.
I then wanted to really explore the possibilities the bark cloth had so I decided to complete some further experiments. I dyed the grounds in really bright colours and printed in a more minimal way, giving a more modern contemporary feel showing that there are a range of possibilities with the cloth.
I loved working with the bark cloth and the interesting research opportunities it open up for me. The joy of working with such an unusual cloth meant that I was one of the first people to try out these experiments which allowed me free reign over what I could do. I loved the trial and error approach with in my initial research which as a result generated some really interesting results. I like the fact that every design is different and that it is a material well suited for one off handmade designs as opposed to the normal main stream mass produced materials of today.
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