I've just finished work on my drawing chair. It's a document of a day Catherine and I spent walking. It was the first time we'd spent that length of time together and it stuck with me as a special time that I wanted to record.
There was nothing remarkable about the design of the chair to begin with - it started life as part of a set belonging to my granny - but it had a quietness and a familiarity that I liked. So for five years it's been the chair I sit on when I draw.
This is the first time I've tried embroidery, so I spent time early on systematically making marks and learning what could be achieved with stitch.
In my head I tend to divide two-dimensional image-making into two common methods:
- drawing, which to me means moving something across a surface to create a line, often describing forms from without; and
- painting, which to me means exploring a form from within, expanding to fill a space with colour and texture.
I think of those words as being about process rather than tool or material. You could paint with a pencil and you could draw with a brush. But clearly some tools or media are better suited to one process over another.
A piece of thread is a line in its unused form, ready to be drawn through the fabric. And as soon as you start to labour over creating blocks of colour or texture (painting) with a needle, it feels obvious that thread is better suited as a drawing tool.
There's also a nice relationship between drawing a line across a surface and making a journey.
I often take a reductive approach to drawing. That is: reducing real-world things to their most vital structures and forms. Trying to rationalise the visual world has become a theme. I've allowed myself to indulge here, documenting this line of visual thought: the processes of reducing, codifying, finding rhythm and common components.
I decided right away to use the weave of the fabric as a grid to draw on. (This meant searching a lot of fabric stores for something with the right qualities.) It's nice to use a material to its full advantage, but mostly this was me indulging my quest for order.
Using the fabric as a grid meant that to fully map out the design on paper or digitally, I needed to know the size of that grid. I measured the fabric by sewing a line across it, where each stitch of thread was 3 stitches of the fabric weave in length.
Small numbers are easier to count. Measuring a stretch of road by counting individual millimetres would be very difficult, for example. Grouping those millimetres into centimetres and metres and kilometres makes things easier. I did something like this by punctuating my line at regular intervals to make it an easier structure to use.
I like the idea of design processes being transparent, so I let this measure be a deliberate part of my image, rather than unpicking it once it had done its job.
There was a nice conversational nature to the design process: digital drawings being tried out physically; failures and successes informing change in the digital designs. This back and forth was new to me. I've been reluctant to leave the safety of working in ordered steps.
Much further down the line, something like a finished design is happening at a point where it's already being mapped out for real on the fabric. In this less linear process, they feel more like counterparts than design and reality.