Tuesday, 22 September 2009

New African project

At last I've been able to get back into the studio after the hectic goings on for the past few months.

Having been so inspired by our holiday in Tanzania I had to make a start with a new sketch book to flesh out some ideas of where I wanted to go with it.

I started with a double spread looking at the various influences I had found exciting, from the people and textiles to the animals. I set the page on a brown Parker ink base ( that I knew would bleach), because it reminded me of the African dusty soil.

From here I went on to look at the colours and designs that the Massai use in their clothing and jewellery. I was also struck by the fact that they use quite a lot of found objects to add to the beading, such as fragments of Coak cans that shine like precious metals in the sun. Their colours and patterns are very bold by Western standards, so I may have think quite hard about the colour pallet that I want to use.

I noticed these wonderful cushion covers in one of the lodges and recognised them as Shoowa cut pile embroidery made by the Kuba people of Zaire. It was great to see them and feel the rough texture of the raphia panels, as I'd studied these textiles on the C&G.
I thought I might use the designs to develop a print, either paper or cloth and maybe experiment with a starch resist.

These cloths, also Kuba, and made with raphia, had been used for lampshades in another lodge. They consist of strips that are joined together with the seams exposed and have various appliquéd shapes. I had the idea to maybe create a coloured version of this using the colours I'd seen in the Massai blankets, and also using the sewing machine to construct it. I wondered what the people would do with our textiles and machines if they had them at their disposal. Maybe they'd wonder why we bother to spend so much time, energy and money, in setting up a machine to do what they do naturally and with virtually no equipment.

As you see I'm a long way from making any decisions yet, but at the moment I'm just enjoying the feeling that I can take this any way I want to, be it a paper print, a painting, or a textile piece.


Julie said...

Sharon it's really interesting to see how you are setting out ideas in your sketchbook. You certainly have a wealth of inspiration to explore here. I recently saw some of these Kuba cloths and I know what you mean about the texture. I could not believe they were made with raffia. Mary Sleigh brought some samples to our local Quilters' group and it was fascinating to see and handle them and to see how they had used reverse applique. You've just reminded me I've not yet opened Mary's book on African Inspirations which I bought that night.

Enjoy your explorations and I'll look forward to what comes from it all.

Françoise said...

This sounds exciting. I too saw some Kuba cloths last week in Alsace. There was an exhibition about new and old African textiles.