Gouache studies 3.1 – part 2

For part 2 I have chosen a new piece of printed fabric with white and black flower shapes on a red background.  The colours on this photo are not quite true, the red is a slightly deeper shade and the white flowers have a slightly pink tint to them.

Printed sample  – part 2

I have chosen to extend the design and make the flowers look as if they are moving or falling downward.  The flowers at the top of the image are smaller giving the impression of moving away from you and the flowers at the bottom of the image are bigger and are elongated to give the appearance of getting closer.

As you can see my painting skills using gouache are not very good, the background is very uneven!  However I do like the thickness of the paint and the matt finish to the paint.

Exercise 3.1 Gouache studies

My initial mixing experiments with gouache paints


I have had to do some research into colour mixing as I have found mixing paints to get specific colours a bit hit and miss and usually end up nowhere close to what I want.  I found a book called “Getting the Most from the Wilcox Mixing Palette” by Michael Wilcox (ISBN 1-931780-23-4) which I must have bought from a charity shop although I can’t remember when or where.  The author explains how colours work together and why when you mix certain colours you don’t get the results you would like or expect.  He goes on to explain why traditional colour theory is flawed and how to mix a wide range of colours from a limited palette of six colours (Cadmium Red Light, Quinacridone Violet, Ultramarine Blue, Cerulean Blue, Hansa or Lemon Yellow and Cadmium Yellow Light).  I found this book extremely helpful and I have learnt so much about mixing colour, what relationships colours have with each other and how colours are biased towards another colour.

My gouache paints and mixing exercise

Because I have not used gouache paints before I had bought a cheap set from a High Street store which gave me a good basis to start experimenting with mixing the colours in my fabric samples, however I found that I had to buy some specific colours to create the restricted palette described in the book.   I did find these exercises quite time consuming as you think you have mixed the right colour then when its dried it’s not the same! I also seemed to have chosen fabrics with more colours than specified but I really enjoyed the process and learnt so much about which colours to mix together to produce the required colour.  I did have to buy one more colour (Prussian Blue) because I could not mix the dark navy blue colour in printed sample 3.


Printed colour sample 1

When I selected this piece of fabric I counted 5 colours then as I started to mix the gouache paints to make the colour chips I realised that there were more colours because of the way the fabric has been printed and some I just didn’t notice until I really looked at it.  I have laid the colour chips out in order of light to dark.  The colour with the greatest proportion is the darker pink whilst the purple is the smallest.


Printed colour sample 2

I selected this fabric because it has a wide range of colours, more than the brief stated and although It was a challenge I really enjoyed identifying all the colours and experimenting mixing the gouache paints to match. The colour proportions in this sample are very similar, there is no one colour that has a greater proportion although the pale blue is quite dominant.


Printed colour sample 3

This fabric caused me the most difficulty as I really struggled to produce the background colour which is a really dark blue.  I tried mixing ultramarine and magenta but the result was not dark enough, adding even the tiniest amount of black resulted in the blue tone being removed.  I had to buy the darkest blue which was Prussian blue to enable me to mix a reasonable match. I think that the dark blue has the greater colour proportion because it is the background colour and is used in some of the motifs.

Neutral sample 1

The neutral sample of fabric is a 100% silk woven fabric.  This was quite a difficult exercise, at the start I thought there would only be light colours but because of the structure of the fibre and fabric there is light and dark.  I am happy with my selected colours but I understand that others may see different colours to me.


Neutral sample 2

This is a hessian fabric, the fibres are different colours which gives an overall colour range from a pale ochre colour through to the dark brown colour.  I found with this sample that the different colour chips were formed from mixing the same colours but in different proportions.  This was the first time that I had considered this.  The order that I have presented the colour chips also represents the colour proportions for this sample.



Part Three – Colour studies

Project 1 – Colour palettes and proportion

Research point 1

Voyage Decoration – A British company based in Glasgow that produce a wide range of interior design textiles using British woven cotton, linen and wool fabrics.  Their textile collections are inspired by nature with depictions of plants, animals, both wild and domestic and some patterned fabrics including checks which compliment the main textile scheme .  The images used are designed and printed in a painterly, artistic way with a watercolour quality.  They don’t have a restricted palette of colour but the use of muted colours and tones with accents of bright pink, mauve and green are part of their characteristic and allow the collections to be interchangeable.



Marimekko – Based in Helsinki Finland and registered in 1951 by Armi Ratia who found talented young artists to join her in her quest for new bold designs for her textile printing company.    The company has remained fresh and innovative throughout the decades, with new designers bringing their own cultural influence into the patterns and designs.  The designs are stylized images of flowers, plants, fruit alongside bold pattern, large spots and stripes.  Colours used are often complimentry or monochromatic schemes which are vibrant and playful.



Mary Katrantzou – A young fashion designer who uses digital technology printing in her designs.  Geometric patterns combined with historical art and objects of luxury feature in her work.  Her use of colour is bold, vibrant, playful and slightly psychedelic.  She uses colour to create a visual illusion, to play with the eye so you look at the clothing and not the person wearing it.  Whilst she uses lots of colour in each garment the colour is not often used in large blocks but broken up with the construction of the pattern.



Wallace Sewell – A collaboration between Harriet Wallace-Jones and Emma Sewell established in 1990 producing woven textiles.  They use colour in geometric blocks and stripes influenced by the Bauhaus period.  The colours they use range from muted natural colours to bright pinks and reds.  Probably the most well known of their work is the upholstery fabric used by Transport for London in their trains.




Cole & Sons – Founded in 1875 and produced block printed wallpapers.  Today the wallpaper they produce is a mix of classic and contemporary designs featuring themes from nature and geometric designs.  A lot of their papers use a limited palette,  2 and 3 colours, however there are a few contemporary designs that use a wider range of colour, which would suit the current trend for all white interiors with an accent wall decorated with wallpaper or emulsion.   Each design comes in a number of colourways for example “Palm Jungle” has 7 colourways giving their designs a wider market range.


Norma Starszakowna – A Scottish textile artist who produces large digitally printed textiles which hang in groups displayed from floor to ceiling.  The textiles have a mixed media quality, she uses text, rust marks and surface texture which is transferred in the print giving them a depth.  She uses muted colours which are taken from her source material and with areas of contrasting colour which are used to communicate a mood or feeling.

https://www.parliment.scot/visitand learn/24488.aspx

Paul Smith – Trained as a tailor and worked on Savile Row designing mens suits before opening his own shop in 1970.  His iconic band of specific colours set out like a barcode is probably one of the best known designer trademark logos.  The range of colours used in his logo are also used in his clothing designs either in the instantly recognisable stripes,   or as accent colours along side the more conservative colours of his designs.




Vlisco – A Dutch textile printing company founded in 1864 who produced roller printed wax designs similar to batik that became popular in West and Central Africa.  They still produce their strong colourful designs which consist of geometric patterns and large motifs.  They use a limited colour palette but the designs come in more than one colourway.  The colours and motifs tell a story of the people, they indicate the wealth and heritage of the wearer and are a reflection of the landscape and flowers of Africa.



Ptolemy Mann – A contemporary hand weaver and dyer who uses stripes and blocks of bold colour in her woven textile designs.  She uses stripes of a colour hue which blend into tones of that colour alongside bold blocks or stripes of a harmonious and complimentary colours.  She has a very successful way of blending all these colours together to produce beautiful textiles that vibrate with colour.  They are perfect textiles for the current fashion of all white interiors as they are so striking and warm.  I think that they have a feel-good factor.


Key Pieces

Voyage Decoration – Morning Chorus

The colours are soft but colourful with good proportions of colour with some accent colours (pink and green) which add a dynamic to the design.  The colours are appropriate because it is a painterly representation of British plants and birds, the colours also combine with other fabrics in their range. The design and colour palette are interdependent especially as they are part of a larger collection that can be combined with each other.

Purchased sample of fabric


Marimekko – Unikko – the rebel flower designed by Maija Isola 1964

This design is of large bold simple flowers and is available in different colourways using either tonal or complimentry colours that produce a powerful stylised representation.   The design is important in this example, bold bright colours add impact but it looks equally good in monochrome.  It is a design that is still relevant today, 53 years from its conception.



Wallace-Sewell – 150th Anniversary throw for London Transport museum 

This throw is designed using the same colours that identify the different underground railway lines on the London Underground, iconic colours understood by anyone who uses the underground system and possibly recognised by people around the world from the London tube map.  This is such a clever way of adapting a predetermined colour palette that is still understood and is relative to the finished article.  Here the colour is fundamental to the design.



Ptolemy Mann – Red Vortex rug

This is a circular 100% wool hand knotted pile rug in which Ptolemy Mann uses the three primary colours of red, blue and yellow.  These colours are used across the rug in bands of different widths and within those bands there are different tones of those colours.  Her method of using colour produces a visually stimulating result, it has impact and vibrancy.  Colour plays an important role in all her work, she studied colour theory and is a colour consultant.

















Warner Textile Archive Textile Fair

On Sunday 7th May 2017 I visited the Textile Fair organised by the Warner Textile Archive in Braintree Essex.  The fair incorporates a textile exhibition, talks, “have a go” activities, opportunity to view a small part of the Warner Textile Archive, trade stalls and a pop up tearoom.

We started our visit at Braintree Town Hall where the trade stalls and pop up tearoom were set up.  After sampling a large piece of home made fruit cake and a cup of tea we walked from the Town Hall to Braintree Museum which is just around the corner, where the exhibition of new work by East Anglian Stitch Textiles (EAST) entitled ‘Following a Thread’ was on display.  The textile work was a beautiful range of work from bright quilts to depictions of personal journeys.  We were able to take photographs so here are a few.

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One of the ‘have a go’ activities was monoprinting which involved spreading acrylic paints on a laminated A4 sheet, making marks into the acrylic paint using a variety of implements and then laying over a piece of cotton calico resulting in the paint image being transferred onto the fabric. I had not tried this technique before and it gave very good results.

Playing with monoprinting


We went to hear a talk entitled ‘An Exhibition on Historic Silk at Gainsborough’s House’ by Louisa Brouwer, who is the ‘Keeper of Art & Place’ at Gainsborough’s House in Sudbury Suffolk. Her talk was about a forthcoming exhibition on the history of Silk and the connection between Spitalfields in London and Sudbury, which is the only place in the UK where silk is still produced.

In the afternoon we walked down to the Warner Textile Archive to have a look at a small selection of the Archive’s collection of textiles. The archivist had selected a range of fabrics that incorporated geometric designs from the early 1900’s until the closure of Warner’s Mills in the early 1970’s.  We saw fabrics designed by Marianne Straub and Alec Hunter.  Also on display were a collection of garments made by the fashion house Oasis who recently worked together with the Warner Textile Archive.  The design team from Oasis selected 5 different historic designs from the Archive and translated them into affordable fabrics for todays fashion market.  The designs were a wonderful example of how important the Archive is in not only preserving these samples for the future but enabling them to be rediscovered for a new audience.




My Blue Suitcase – a lecture by Amanda Clayton

I was lucky enough to be able to attend a lecture by the wonderful textile artist Amanda Clayton for the Colne and Colchester Embroiders’ Guild on 29th April 2017 at Firstsite in Colchester Essex.  Amanda took us on a journey through her “life of stitching, her education, influences, philosophies and experiences”.  She started by talking about her childhood memories, her family, Aunt Kate and her education which included being taught by Anwar Shemza the artist.  She brought along lots of little bits of memorabilia from that period of her life, school books, stitched pieces and match boxes of collected items.  During her time at school she was influenced by art and lots of different crafts including printmaking and not initially by textiles.

Part of her philosophy is “visual awareness without money” and she had examples of printed papers, pieces of found china, floral transfers, pieces of antique lace and lots of other items which she uses to start building a collection of found and saved objects to initiate new creative streams.  Using everyday objects in a grander context.  Amanda also described creativity as “a thing that sometimes may not work” but that even small ideas are significant and it is important to record all of them so they can be revisited in the future.  She talked about her sketchbooks and that she has a “studio diary” which she uses at home and a smaller sketchbook which she takes out with her.  If she has forgotten her pen she uses something else like a needle to make puncture holes in the pages just so she can record something she feels is important.

Anwar Shemza was a big influence in Amanda’s life and she said one of his quotes was “You are only as good as your next piece of work” and she has carried this motto with her throughout her life.  She talked about success and contentment and how we measure these things in our life and craft.

I don’t want to spoil the rest of her story for those who get the opportunity to see her lecture “My Blue Suitcase” but she was very generous, informative and inspirational.   Amanda had a large selection of her work that had previously been exhibited and we were able to handle and examine her beautiful hand stitched textiles.

Amanda’s website is https:///www.amandajclayton.co.uk which I recommend visiting.

The above was written from notes that I made during Amanda’s lecture.

Reflection – assessment criteria (part 2)

Demonstration of technical and Visual skills

I have tried to use a range of techniques and materials within my work.  I have a good knowledge of sewing and traditional embroidery techniques and I love to learn new skills.  Since starting this course I am enjoying learning about other practitioners and the wide variety of exciting textiles being produced.  I consider that my design and compositional skills are my area of weakness and I need to work on developing these areas to bring an individual quality and confidence to my work.

Quality of Outcome

I have worked through Part 2 following the brief, considering the information given along with the criteria required and made decisions based on my current knowledge and skill level along with some personal research.  I enjoy working on my learning blog, recording my processes, decision-making and progress together in one place.  I still need to use my sketchbook more to bring together my ideas and would like spend more time drawing and sketching and allow myself time to develop this skill.

Demonstration of Creativity

I have tried to be original and experiment with a range of different techniques some of which have been new to me and I have enjoyed them, some I have struggled with. I understand the need to develop my imagination and be more innovative and I am confident that this will happen as I progress through my journey within textiles.


I have tried to be objective in my reflection on the work I have completed and will always be realistic about my strenghts and weaknesses.  I have enjoyed the research that I have undertaken to inform and inspire me in the relevant areas.  I still work full time so going to exhibitions and museums will always be difficult, however I am conscious that this is an important part of my research development.