Experimental ceramic figures

I have been developing a way of creating sculptures with a clay and textile mix on a wire frame.

The figures (usually felted) are changing in response to the theme of ‘Fragility’ for the Prism Textiles Exhibition at Hoxton Arches gallery, London next month.

 

There is nothing the least fragile about my felt sculptures that go through a very vigorous, wet felt process. By creating a ceramic sculpture I have introduced an element of fragility to the form – or that is my intention!

 

 

The process thus far:

The figures have a twisted wire skeleton – 2mm and 2.5mm to reinforce the standing leg.

I made a paper clay slip with stoneware clay, paper and water and used this to soak ribbons of cut knitted woollen fabric to bind around the wires – then left to dry.

I repeated this process with the same material to shape the arms and the hips and legs. The torso was formed with solid clay to add a textural contrast.

Once dry I polished the torso clay to bring it up to a smooth shine – but only possible in places so not very sucessful!

Firing the figures

I have placed the figures in a foil ‘saggar’ with a range of colouring materials.

Materials:

  • Seaweed powder (spirulaena)
  • wire wool rusted
  • copper wire
  • banana skins
  • salt

I wrapped fine wire wool and banana skins around the figure securing them with copper wire. Spirulaena and salt was sprinkled on last and wrapped the whole in layers of foil.

Figure wrapped in foil

 

Then out to the yard and my steel bin!

I put a good 30cm of sawdust in the bottom of the bin and lined the sides with wood. I then placed two foil parcels of figures onto the sawdust base. Long ribbons of fabric soaked in white spirit were tucked into the this layer and then filled the rest of the bin with smallish pieces of wood. Finally I pushed more spirit-soaked fabric through the four vent holes, into the layer of sawdust, at the bottom of the bin.

I lit the kiln from the base of the bin – lighting the four fabric ribbons.

Once the fire was really going – about 8-10 minutes – I closed the vents with fire proof fabric kept in place with bricks.

Finally, once I was sure the fire was hot and fierce, I put the lid over the flames and there it stayed for 18 hours (over night).

Link to Raku firing

The materials have added plenty of colour to the figure and happily there are no cracks in the clay!

My final task is to find a suitable base in which to set the figures!

Question – do I add a wire head dress? Gold leaf to highlight? Lacquer? Hmmmm……

 

 

 

3 Jackets

I have been experimenting with hand dyeing and painting fabric and the fabric I have chosen for this development is a beautiful ottoman rib viscose/cotton fabric.

The fabric has behaved beautifully during the dyeing processes and has been a joy to make into garments.

So to recap:

Three dye techniques:

  1. Shibori kimono

A simple kimono design – medium size 14 -16 UK

Shibori pattern – 2 metres ready to cut the pattern pieces.

Kimono pattern:

Kimono pattern

 

2. Ikat design jacket

A short boxy jacket with machine stitched ribs

I made the fabric into a short boxy jacket – size 14/16. Great with black dress or trousers or team with jeans for a BOHO look!

3. Shocking pink jacket

Hand painted twice with a rich, deep pink dye I have used this lovely fabric to make a kaftan style jacket with some shaping at the waist  with set in sleeves and lined.

To embellish the plain fabric I cut sections of gold embroidery from an old Zari sari and have stitched it down one side of the front.

See examples on my Etsy shop

To my dyeing day No. 1!

Actually two dyeing days as I spent the first day experimenting with dye colours and techniques on small samples of white cotton fabric that had been pre-soaked in a solution of soda ash for 3 hours.

I am very lucky to have a great assistant for a few days – Carmen is a fashion photography student who is doing 20 hours work experience with me and her work is included in the following sample images.

Techniques:

  • Lino printing – with a thickened procion dye paste
  • Brush painting with both liquid procion dye and paste
  • Combining the two techniques

 

Dye samples covered with clingfilm to prevent drying and left to cure over night – 18 hours

 

The results are interesting as I have never used dyes like this before and, although the samples are rather rough and ready, there is potential. The lino print is not as good as I hoped – some lines are indistinct as it is difficult to apply the dye paste evenly. I find using a brush is the best method as it gives me better control over the dye placement than with a roller.

So tomorrow I will jump in to this wonderful world of colour and dye 6 meters of beautiful Ottoman Rib Viscose/cotton fabric to make three colourful fabrics for jackets:

  1. Plain colour – a strong pink mixing a little scarlet not magenta dye powder
  2. Shibori tie dye with indigo procion dye
  3. Brush designs in three – four colours with Ikat patterns in mind.

References

Shibori

Dye painting

Ikat

Ottoman garment fabrics and patterns 1.

Gomlek

The under shirt (chemise)

17thC image British Museum archive depicting a white gomlek under a hirka or short entari

Fabrics

Finest, translucent woven cotton or silk fabric was used to make the under garments. There are examples of men’s winter gomleks made of fine wool. This garment was very wide and loose and often reached to the ankles, with generously wide, long sleeves.

Gomlek pattern

Entari

The entari was a decorative indoor coat cut in several designs:

16thC Ottoman ladies

Long to the floor:

  • sleeveless
  • short sleeved
  • long sleeved – tight fitted at the top widening below the elbow

Short to below the hips:

  • sleeveless
  • short sleeved
  • long tight sleeved

Fabrics

The most popular fabrics were heavy silks such as brocaded silk, velvet, brocaded silk with metallic threads in lampas structure, and clothe of gold and silver. Colours – rich reds and yellows, some blue but green was rare until the 18th century

Entari pattern

 

 

Whirling dervishes

The Order of the Whirling Dervishes is one branch of the vast Sufi tradition of Islam.The ritual dance SEMA began with the inspiration of Mevlâna Jalâluddîn Rumi (1207-1273) and was influenced by Turkish customs and culture.

The Mevlevi Order was founded by the followers of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi-Rumi (popularly referred to as Rumi) in 1273. Rumi was a 13th century Islamic spiritual leader who was born in 1207 in Balkh in present day Afghanistan. With the onset of the Mongol invasion of Central Asia between 1215 and 1220, Rumi’s family journeyed westwards, eventually settling down in Konya, Anatolia, in present day Turkey.

One of Rumi’s most fruitful friendships was with Shams-e Tabrizi, whom he met at the age of 37. Among other things, Shams had introduced Rumi to music, poetry and dance as a mystical way of connecting with the divine. It is these artistic expressions that are the characteristic features of the whirling dervishes of the Mevlevi Order, which was founded after Rumi’s death by his son, Sultan Veled, his disciple Çelebi Hüsamettin, and his grandson Ulu Arif Çelebi.

Ancient origins

Pro-marker pen on water colour paper © Molly Williams

The Ritual Dance or Sema

The Mevlevi Ritual dance consists of several stages with different meanings:

The first stage, Naat-i Sherif, is a eulogy to the Messenger of Islam and the all Prophets before him, who represent love. 

The Naat-i Sherif is followed by a Taksim, an improvisation on the reed flute or neyThis expresses the divine breath, which gives life to everything.

Then follows the Sultan Veled procession or Devr-i Veled, accompanied by peshrev music; this is a circular, anticlockwise, procession three times around the turning space. The greetings of the semazen, or whirling dervishes, during the procession represent the three stages of knowledge: ilm-al yaqin (received knowledge, gained from others or through study), ayn-al yaqin (knowing by seeing or observing for oneself) and haqq-al yakin (knowledge gained through direct experience, gnosis).

During the Sema itself there are four selams, or musical movements, each with a distinct rhythm. At the beginning, during and close of each selam, the semazen testify to God’s existence, unity, majesty and power:

The First Selam represents the human being’s birth to truth through feeling and mind. It represents his complete acceptance of his condition as a creature created by God.

The Second Selam expresses the rapture of the human being witnessing the splendor of creation in the face of God’s greatness and omnipotence.

The Third Selam is the rapture of dissolving into love and the sacrifice of the mind to love. It is complete submission, unity, and the annihilation of self in the Beloved. This is the state that is known as nirvana in Buddhism and fana fillah in Islam. The next stage in Islamic belief is the state of servanthood represented by the Prophet, who is called God’s servant foremost and subsequently His ‘Messenger.’ The aim of Sema is not uncontrolled ecstasy and loss of consciousness, but the realization of submission to God.

In the Fourth Selam, just as the Prophet ascends to the spiritual Throne of Allah and then returns to his task on earth, the whirling dervish, after the ascent of his spiritual journey, returns to his task, to his servanthood. He is a servant of God, of His Books, of His Prophets, of His whole Creation.

This is followed by a recitation from the Qur’an, the Sura (Chapter) Mary on the miracle birth of Jesus and his mission.

At the end, by the salute, the dervish demonstrates again the number ‘1’ in his appearance, arms consciously and humbly crossed, and, by this, the unity of God.

The ceremony ends with a prayer for the peace of the souls of all the Prophets and believers.
After the completion of the Sema, all the dervishes retire silently to their rooms for meditation and further remembrance of God.

The whirling dervishes

Click on the link above to be directed to a Youtube video

Dervishes

19th century Ottoman entari

This beautiful Ottoman entari is in the archives of the Clothworkers Centre, London and I had the chance to examine it closely and to make notes about its size and construction.

The main fabric appears to be of cotton with stripes of soft yellow motifs and darker black floral motifs woven into the fabric on a cream background, further embellished with hand embroidered chain stitch flower and leaf motifs in several shades of green, blue, soft brown and pink/red.

 

The lining is a deep blue fabric with a woven floral pattern

Scalloped edges are embellished with a gold coloured braiding

Garment measurements:

The sleeves are over long and shaped beautifully towards the cuff

Neck line detail – a scalloped edge and no buttons or evidence of closure

Finishing – to finish the edges of the entari I could see that the top striped fabric was hemmed at the edges – turned in together with the blue lining and hand stitched. The braiding was then stitched along the edges of the top fabric. I could not see any facings or interlinings.

 

Braiding is attached to the top striped fabric along the scalloped edge:

The Clothworkers Centre, London