Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A side trip into 3D

Yesterday I was fortunate to spend at a workshop - Sewn Animal Sculpture over Wire Armatures - given by sculptor Sadie Brockbank(Image below from her facebook page, here.) 
My attraction to 3D work persists, and the added incentive of the words sewn and wire armature were enough for an immediate positive response when Sadie offered me the opportunity to join one of her workshops. 
My introduction to art quilts in 1981 was when I met Elizabeth Gurrier - I was lucky enough to live for a couple of years in the same village in New Hampshire - and her bas relief forms have stayed in my mind ever since. (Image above from here.)
I have also been a great admirer of Louise Bourgeois' cloth forms of bodies and heads (image above from here, where there are more heads).
In doing my usual pre-workshop research I also encountered the amazing work of Karine Jollet in Paris.  Like Elizabeth Gurrier's work when I saw it, she works only in white - an aspect I also find very attractive.  (Image above from here - please scroll down a bit.)  Karine Jollet's subject matter often involves myth, which in my mind links with Sadie's animal forms.
Anyway, my flirtation with 3D forms had involved a papier mache workshop in 2009, where I explored making a form without a wire armature, and I was keen to try with wire.  Then I had made a mythical creature of my own, part woman, part bird, part fish, ...!
This time I chose a Komodo dragon, for a few reasons: I had a leftover small bit of batik I like from Indonesia, and more important I wanted an animal with a distinct body, legs, claws, and tail in order to get the most out of the workshop.  I also wanted to try an animal which I had not seen Sadie make, so that I had to make most of the decisions myself.
The beginning went well.  I found that working with the wire was OK.  I made the armature and started to wind the base fabric (curtain bump interlining).  I was pleased not to have difficulty with the feet and claws.  The base fabric is wound round and stitched where necessary to keep it down.
I had a clear idea of how I would deal with covering the claws with fabric, but it quickly struck me that I had not thought enough about the main covering of the body.  I had concentrated too much on the idea that I could perhaps reproduce the folds of skin round the head, while not taking into account the manoeuvrings needed to keep the fabric largely flat, tight, and in the stitching of it in surface situ!  I immediately began to wonder if Louise Bourgeois had done all her own stitching, and if so how accomplished both she and definitely Sadie were.
In order to make some kind of progress, and to explore the difficulties further I stitched on bands of fabric - although I was not happy at all with the result.  The elements which pleased me were the armature and base fabric covering of that, and the four sets of claws.
I was exhausted by the end of the day, and happy with what I'd gained - not least a greater specific appreciation of the people whose work I had researched, including of course Sadie.  The dragon, unfinished as is now joins other enlightening samples.  I enjoyed the day, it satisfactorily scratched that itch of curiosity about wire armatures, it led to fascinating research, and re-affirmed once again my familiar conclusion that ideas drive my work, not techniques.  But who knows when an idea which needs to be manifest in 3D will pop up - ?


  1. Fascinating... And so much fun!

  2. It was good to have such a close look at Sadie's technique.