Karen Spurgin: From conception to creation
Since graduating from Goldsmiths College of Art with a first class honours degree in Fine Art Textiles, Karen Spurgin has worked as a textile designer for over 20 years. During this time she has built up a reputation for innovative design and inspiring new ways of using both traditional and not so traditional techniques.
In this article, Karen talks about her piece The Joshua Tree panel which she created with Christina Kim. We learn why the collaboration came about, how Karen found inspiration from the desert and we discover which materials and techniques she employed to bring this work of art to life.
Name of piece: Joshua Tree Panel, collaboration with dosa’s Christina Kim.
Year of piece: 2013
Size of piece: 2m x 14m
Materials used: Cotton organdie, embroidery thread, cotton fabric.
Techniques used: Appliqué, embroidery, dyeing, digital print.
TextileArtist.org: How did the idea for the piece come about? What was your inspiration?
Karen Spurgin: The Joshua Tree panel came out of a collaboration with Christina Kim, of dosa. We wanted to re-create the feeling we had experienced in the desert while visiting Joshua Tree National Park in California.
dosa had been asked to show at the Santa Monica Museum of Art in CA and Christina asked me to create a running textile for an installation for the occasion.
What research did you do before you started to make?
There was a great deal of preparation before beginning the piece. We began by visiting the state park. This was particularly helpful, as I had never seen Joshua tree’s.
It is always important for me to gather visual research before embarking on a piece of work and this was definitely the case for this project. The experience of seeing the tree’s in situ and understanding that each one was different and extraordinary was amazing and provided great food for thought.
Food for thought
Was there any other preparatory work?
Following the trip, during which I took many photo’s, drawing on this visual research I prepared a series of swatches to help plan the project. The swatches played with the idea and helped firm up the ultimate choices for the embroidery and appliqué techniques I decided.
I also spent time drawing the Joshua trees, so as to get a good representation of the tree’s for the panel. Eventually, the drawings were photographed and used to create the image that would be digitally printed onto the background fabric.
What materials were used in the creation of the piece? How did you select them? Where did you source them?
We were able to find beautiful cotton organdie in Ahmedabad, India at the dosa workshop. I wanted to use a transparent fabric that was quite robust and easy to dye.
The workshop in Ahmedabad was able to do the digital print for us and help with some of the applique used for the project.
What equipment did you use in the creation of the piece and how was it used?
The equipment used, besides the digital printing equipment, was very simple, scissors needles and thread.
Take us through the creation of the piece stage by stage.
The panels started as white cotton organdie. They were digitally printed with the design supplied as a digital file.
Following this, each panel was appliquéd and embroidered. The digital image worked well as a pattern to follow for the stitch work.
Tea dye was used to change to a softer colour with some dips. The bottom of the panels were dipped longer so that the bottom was darker.
A sunset feel was created by spraying the panels with a plant mister containing colours such as blue and soft red. Finally, the panels were cut and sewn with a sewing machine.
What journey has the piece been on since its creation?
The panel was created to be shown at the Santa Monica Museum of Art (SMMoA) as part of a collaboration with Christina Kim of dosa. The images included show it installed in the museum.
For more information visit: www.spurgin.co.uk
Got something to say about the techniques, materials and processes used by this artist – let us know by leaving a comment below.
3 comments on “Karen Spurgin: From conception to creation”
Karen thanks for the description of the making of your fabulous Joshua Tree piece. Can you elaborate on the digital printing for me or send me a link describing this. Was it done on a large flat bed printer or some other way. Thanks. Paulette
Your installation is beautiful and innovation. I adore the printing aspect and handdyeing too.
Can you please elaborate on the printer or size that you printed. I am very interested in learning s but more of your process.
Thank you for providing such inspiration.
karen, thank you for your description. YOur work is beautiful.My question is the same as Paulettes- how was the digital printing done?