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Digital Textile Printing

Dissemination – Textiles & Life, Textile Institute Student Conference, Manchester 22nd November 2017

I will be presenting at the Textile Institute Student Conference in Manchester on 22nd November. My poster presentation, The development of methodologies for digital colour printing in textile design, looks at the emerging themes from a number of interviews I’ve been conducting with designers and SMEs who are engaging with digital textile printing.

The cost of attending has been being funded through the WD Wright award from the Colour Group of Great Britain. Thank you for your support The Colour Group GB!

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Practitioner – Le Corbusier

Charles-Edouard Jeanneret was known as Le Corbusier. A Swiss-French national, Le Corbusier became famous for his modern approach to architecture, designing buildings and spaces across the world using new materials such as concrete. Art school trained, Le Corbusier designed spaces for living, in a bid to change the typical crowded cityscapes he came across in his travels across Europe.

In 1931 Le Corbusier came up with an architectural colour palette which he used to create a sense of space and harmony inside and outside of his buildings. The system is laid out as a sliding colour chart, consisting of 12 pages, where you can create colour combinations by sliding across the centre to reveal different colours to pair up with the header and footer colour. The Le Corbusier website has an interactive version which you can find here. There is also a nice video of a copy that came up for auction on the Co Design website.

This apparently simple tool demonstrates how a visual colour chart can be really important to designers when making choices about colour within their work. The colours still resonate today, despite an updated version being produced in 1959 with a reduced colour set. It feels very similar to many of the colour combinations offered by contemporary paint producers such as Farrow and Ball

Exhibition – Weaving Magic – Chris Ofili, 26th April to 28th August 2017, National Gallery, London

Chris Ofili‘s work has evolved from the colourful , dazzling collages perched on elephant dung which I first saw at the infamous Sensation show at the Royal Academy of Art way back in 1997, and more recently at MUMOK, Vienna. The works at MUMOK looked lonely, and lost but the a lot of the work at MUMOK looked like that. My experience there was rather unwelcoming, so much so I didn’t even write about visiting there in my Vienna Posts (here, here and here).

His work is still colourful and cultural but is far more pictorial and crossed mediums into weaving. ‘Weaving Magic‘ is a collaborative piece really, the piece took Dovecot Tapestry Studio three years to make, the labour undertaken by five weavers. Surrounding the weaving are dancers, drawn onto the wall from the cornice to the skirting by members of the Royal Opera House scenography department. The drawings look like they’ve been done in graphite or a soft HB pencil and are actually panel installations, created just like the ROH’s backdrops.

What is really magical is how the translation of Ofili’s original watercolours into thread. The tonal gradations really look like they’ve been painted on in a wash of water and paint. It reminds me of the Shadow Tissue technique, where thread was printed before being woven to create blurred images. I can only guess how the weaver’s achieved this affect. The work was funded by The Clothworkers Company who will now host the work in the Clothworker’s Hall.

Exhibition – X Play – Camille Walala, 14th July to 24th September, Now Gallery, London

Camille Walala is a textile designer whose work has branched out into installation pieces. Her exhibition at the Now Gallery in Greenwich was a colourful pattern maze which asked the viewer to question their perception and visual memory whilst enjoying a brightly coloured space. You were meant to spot the pattern anomalies but we mainly enjoyed the intersections created by mirrors and space.

Practitioner – Verner Panton

 

Verner Panton was a Danish designer whose work covered everything from interior, products, furniture and textiles. He liked to use bright colours and bold patterns. I came across his work via Hella Jongerius when reading about the Colour and Material Library at Vitra.

You’d probably recognise the curvy, stackable plastic chairs he designed in 1960. His style is very 60s and 70s infact. The colour is so saturated it’s unbelievable. Plastic is used everywhere although his textiles are a mixture of manmade (polyester and rayon) and natural (cotton, wool). His Anatomical Design series feature photographic imagery printed onto cretonne, a heavy cotton upholstery fabric. The aesthetic of these prints is really unusual, the stencil photographic style not something normally used in textile design. Using such a photorealist approach is normally something that is associated with digital textile printing which is unusual because paper printers have used this style for decades.

Matt Flynn 024Panton 9Panton 10

 

 

Dissemination – DataAche Exhibition, Radiant Gallery, Plymouth 9th-12th September 2017

 

My work was shown in the Radiant Gallery, Plymouth as part of the DataAche Conference, the 21st International Conference on Digital Research in the Humanities and Arts.

I presented a colour reference book which features 1137 Pantone Colours printed across 5 substrates (paper, wool, linen, cotton and silk) to compare the visual differences. Each colour featured a table of metrics listing the numeric values needed to create it digitally (RGB, HSB, LAB, CMYK and Hex). 4 printed colour charts (wool, linen, cotton and silk) were hung on the wall so that visitors could get a closer look at the differences between the substrates. I wanted to demonstrate that the substrate being printed upon played a big part in colour result.

After making the colour reference book I used a spectrophotometer to measure each coloured swatch in the book. The values returned were translated back into digital colour, using LAB values, and converted into HSB data in order to compare the hue, saturation and brightness shifts between the original screen colour chosen and resulting printed colour. To visualise the shifts I created colour maps using hue, saturation and brightness circles with the screen colour plotted centrally and the resulting colours placed on the outer rings to demonstrate where hues were shifting, and how the intensity and lightness of colours changed. I proceeded to take an average of each colour shift to create a predicted colour change which was plotted on a second map so that each hue had two maps to show actual shift and predicted shift. These maps were printed onto matt textured paper and displayed on the wall alongside the reference book and colour charts.

Its all work in progress for the moment, the next step is to test if the predicted colours are a better match than current software gamut mapping previews.

The group exhibition featured work by other 3D3 students on the theme that we are drowning in data and the use and misuse of data.

Dissemination – Exhibition at Gallery Kopio, University of Lapland, Rovaniemi, Finland 24th August – 30th September 2017

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The 3D3 Residential this year was hosted by the University of Lapland which is in Rovaniemi, Finland. The 3D3 cohort travelled to the North Pole via Helsinki, our aeroplane greeted by Santa and his sleigh and huge towering Reindeers. We stayed on campus in the University’s guest accommodation (some of the rooms had en-suite saunas!) and were made thoroughly welcome by the Faculty of Art and Design.

Along with visits to Santa Claus Village and Bilberry picking in the forests our trip involved talks by many of the research staff. Finland has a long history of engaging with practice as research so it was incredibly interesting to hear about the diverse work they were undertaking.

Professor Tuija Hautala-Hirvioja talked to us about the history of the indiginous Suomi population whose territory extended across the top of Finland and Scandinavia. Many of the craft traditions have been continued with many Suomi artists questioning their heritage, identity and cultural placing, within their work.

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Professor Eija Timonen presented the work she has been conducting with ice. The environment is very important to the Finnish, temperatures descend to -40 and below in the Winter and in a period known as ‘Kaamos’ (roughly end of Dec – February) the sun does not rise at all. In the Summer the sun will only set for a few hours a night. These extreme conditions mean that people are very aware of the weather and their surroundings. Timonen observes the ice as it thickens and thaws across the seasons. She documents the changes through photography and film, often sawing through large chunks of ice to extract and place objects behind it in colourful photographic compositions. Whilst she does not record the sounds it makes she talked dynamically about the noises and rhythms the ice creates. Timonen creates cut out collages from her photographs that she displays as installation pieces, the spaces between the photographs and the shadows cast by them becoming as important as the photographic images themselves. She frequently collaborates with other practitioners and has produced a range of clothing and textile pieces.

Professor Jaana Erkkila was our primary host and she couldn’t have been more welcome and generous. Erkkila is a printmaker but the process she wanted to share with us in her lecture was more about modes of reflection than her personal practice. Erkkila began the Slow Lab at the University of Lapland as a response to the bureaucratic structure of academia where academics who are ‘paid to think’ lose their reflection time to administrative tasks and teaching because of a culture where busyness rather than productivity is championed. The Slow Lab opened a space where people could come and think. The only rule was that you weren’t allowed to do anything in the space that was constructive, for example write a journal article or funding application, knit socks, make work. The space was a place to celebrate idleness and a need to un-think. The Slow Lab also holds events where staff members can come together, to cross divides, and collaborate through activities such as cake making, where the end result is not a measurable output, but rather an opportunity to get to know each other, improving working relations across the University.

Jaana Erkkila

We were invited to show our work in the University’s public space, Gallery Kopio. The exhibition presented work by staff and students from the 3D3 Consortium. I displayed 48 Colour Maps which I’d been working on. The maps represent the changes in Hue, Saturation and Brightness values of 24 Pantone Colours which had been printed onto different fabrics (wool, linen, cotton and silk), measured with a spectrophotometer and the LAB values converted into HSB. These were then plotted as squares on a Hue circle and compared with the original screen colour. The changes in value were used to predict an average colour change for printing on fabric which was visualised on a second colour map (each hue had 2 maps). The exhibition remained open until the end of September even though our residential finished on 27th August.

It was a wonderful trip. Very thought provoking and a great way to experience other cultures and discuss work with the other 3D3 students and staff in a really supportive environment.

 

Practitioner – Hella Jongerius

 

Hella Jongerius is a Dutch Designer whose extensive research into colour was exhibited at the Design Museum in an exhibition titled ‘Breathing Colour’ .

Jongerius runs the JongeriusLab in Berlin, Germany and designs for Vitra, a Swiss Design Company whose bank of designers include Ray and Charles Eames. Jongerius revived Vitra’s Colour and Material Library, highlighting significant colours used by designers and building up a palette of bridging colours that married each designer’s look into a cohesive Vitra collection.

Jongerius’ own research into colour truly epitomises the Professor Robin Nelson’s resolution that practice and theory should overlap to become praxis (practice as research). Her experiments with colour visualise concepts such as metamerism and delves down into colour creation but primarily how our colour perception is affected by environment (changes in light, orientation etc).

The industry’s desire for ‘colour objectively and colour stability’ neglects and even distorts the strong sensitivity that humans have for colour.

Designer’s need to consider how their product will work as a functional object whether it be a textile, piece of furniture or architectural piece.  Therefore an understanding of the transformative, subjective nature of colour is vital in an industry where colour fidelity is cruicial. The work that Jongerius does with colour and materials provides a fantastic educational resource for designers. If her approach was rolled out into design education there would be a much broader understanding of how design success is impacted by colour.

Helle Jongerius 1Helle Jongerius 2

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Practitioner – Eileen Hunter

Eileen Hunter set up her own company, Eileen Hunter Fabrics in 1933, as the ‘most efficient way of getting her prints into retail outlets’.

Screen printing began to come into use in textile design opening up a new aesthetic where large areas of colour could be printed. Prior to this block printing was the primary means of creating a printed pattern onto fabric. The industrial revolution had developed a number of printing machines which used engraved copper rollers to mechanise the print process but the mark making was still fairly linear.

Using a mesh to squeegee through dye onto the cloth allowed designers to create big and bold motifs, layering their colours. This style was exploited by many artists and designers (among them the Bloomsbury Group / Omega workshop) but research by Dr Christine Boydell indicates that initially much of the screen print designs were outsourced by textile houses to freelancers who were women. Boydell aserts that this was done because it was uncertain of the commercial success of these new prints which were printed in short runs. By commissioning female freelancers, rather than the inhouse studio designers, the companies could pay less for the designs in case they were not a success.

The Interwar period, economically, was very difficult, with the Great Depression of the 1930s and societal changes post First World War, meaning that many more women needed to enter the workforce than before in order to survive. I’ve not been able to find much out about Eileen Hunter to date apart from scant details listed by Boydell and in the Victoria and Albert Museum’s archive but perhaps it can be presumed that Hunter set up her own business in order to make a viable living as a textile designer when employment in a design studio would have been difficult to come by, especially as a woman. Many of the designs held by the V&A from her collection are screen printed. The motifs are bold and modern, her colours strong.

In comparison with the block prints by her peers, Larcher and Barron, Hunter’s prints seem far more contemporary, predicting the change in style brought in by mid century  designers like  Althea McNish, John Drummond and Jacqueline Groag and 60s/ 70s style heralded by Barbara Brown.

I really like her work and am hoping to see some of her work at the Textiles Study Centre, part of the V&A Collections, to learn more about Hunter.

 

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