Dancing Trees – textile art in the making

What a pompous title, couldn’t resist it!


This is stage  1 and 2 of the story of making a piece of textile work, from pondering and selecting to drafting, planning, trying, unpicking, redoing, festering, evaluating through to a conclusion.  I have about a 60% ‘ it will do’ rate, only about a 20% ‘chuffed with it’ rate, so this may well all end in tears and an attack of the rotary cutter….,

Stage 1 =  I live in  the Vale of York,  for those who are not familiar with it – a wide, quite flat, mixed agricultural landscape. Cycling through this  gives me time to look, to think, stopping to sketch or photograph gives the headspace for ideas and responses to develop. The biggest thing I  see (apart from the pylons) are the trees,  blocks of woodland, wind breaks and lonely giants punctuating the fields. There have been many quick pencil scribbles, watercolour studies, and quantities of  bad photos on repeated pedal pasts.   Many of these trees are individuals, they show their history, askham bryan treesthey change moods,  and it was these  two particular ones that tempted me out to Askham Bryan last Monday.  I think of them as dancing, there is a movement in the distortions of the trunks and branches,  witch-like and stark in winter, softened under a full canopy in summer


The pen and wash sketch below was Monday’s result.


Stage 2 – Plotting and planning –  returned  during the week (4 miles of pedalling; powered by fruit pastilles)  taking a swag bag of fabric and layering them on the initial pen sketch. I  tend to use sheers, silks, voiles, muslins.  Varying the order of the  layers  gives shades and subtleties, adding or ripping through  creates depth in the colours and textures. Trying  out the colour matching  on site is so much better than relying on photos! I now have a pool of chosen scraps, some totally unexpected, to draw on, and  a series of notes suggested ways of combining them.

As you can see it was breezy so scrabbled around for gravel to hold things still!

As I sat  there I decided to try a tighter composition, focussing just on the trees themselves. I am nearly decided on doing a cropped image,  like the one shown above, but am not convinced yet.

I used Gimp on the photo trying different sections and also on the sketch with a  couple of scraps of card to make a framing device.  This I think is almost right  Time to try it sketched on fabric and see how it works. Quite often the making process dictates the final decision!

Getting it on to the backing fabric  and making a start will be Stage 3……


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