Kirsty Whitlock: From conception to creation
Kirsty Whitlock is a mixed media textile artist who uses recycled and reclaimed materials as a response to the throwaway culture of consumerism. Her work is concept led and exploits the overlooked qualities of the selected printed materials.
In this interview, which is part of our From Conception to Creation series, Kirsty talks us through her creative process focussing on a series of thought provoking designs she created in 2010.
Name of piece: Bags of Aggro, Tomorrow the World, Suffocation.
Year of piece: 2010
Size of piece: (width x height x depth in cm) = 35.2cm x 41.1cm x 0.1cm
Materials used: Plastic carrier bags and polyester
Techniques used: Fusing and machine embroidery
TextileArtist.org: How did the idea for the piece come about? What was your inspiration?
Kirsty Whitlock: The idea for this collection initially came about whilst I was in the process of making ‘Losses 2009’. During this time, my attention was repeatably being drawn to the overwhelming media presences from the giant supermarket chain. From serious to humorous headlines the giant supermarket chain was occurring frequently within the talk of the nation. Documenting these early observations I later revisited this topic and begin to explore and research my ideas further.
With a prominent place in the media raising issues and concerns of its growth. The effect of our corporate world was causing great damage to local communities. Consequencing in fear of defeat from independent corner shops and small businesses. Emotions were high, the nation had started to feel the true effects of profit above all else.
Taking inspiration from comical and powerful newspaper headlines from a wide market of newspapers. The material was a big influence in this piece. Inspired by plastic carrier bags because of there graphic and powerful relation with the subject matter. The curiosity of having not worked with this material before inspired me to explore plastic further.
Embroidery is often preconceived as a limited conservative craft, conventionally associated with women of an older generation. The sewing machine is still sadly seen as a feminine domestic tool to many. I use materials and subject matters that are not normally associated with embroidery to push the boundaries and promote embroidery to a wider audience.
I wanted to draw attention to the increasing visibility of giant supermarket chains both on the high street and in the media. I aimed to question what the future holds for us, growing rapidly, are supermarkets taking over the world?
What research did you do before you started to make?
A substantial amount of time was spent researching and collecting information on the subject matter being a concept led project. The research was carried out through the scanning of news articles and reports. Research findings were documented in a journal. This approach allowed me to make connections and for areas of information to be highlighted. My own observations on this topic were also documented and combined with the research.
Commonly printed graphics and typography found both in the newspapers and corporate branding were also part of my initial research.
Was there any other preparatory work?
Time was spent with a hands-on approach experimenting and exploring plastic as a material. Having not worked with plastic before I spent time exploring the exciting qualities of the material, the overlooked qualities, and context of the material. Time processed experiments were conducted with a heat press and domestic iron to create a range of surfaces. The combination of plastic and stitch was then explored further on the sewing machine. These exploratory samples then led into one-off applied elements.
The throwaway culture of consumerism
What materials were used in the creation of the piece? How did you select them? Where did you source them?
Biodegradable plastic carrier bags were chosen as a response to the throwaway culture of consumerism. The concept of the work and the overlooked qualities led me to work with this material.
The collection of plastic bags were sourced from friends and family. What household doesn’t have a cupboard full of bags inside bags!
In effect of using biodegradable bags, they are gradually beginning to disintegrate. This process excites me most about this collection and will be recorded using photography. Will a skeleton of stitch remain? Will this convey a strong message of the overall effect of our corporate culture?
What equipment did you use in the creation of the piece and how was it used?
A heat press was used to create the surface of this collection. Through the process of deconstruction and layering of carrier bags, the heat press was used to fuse the surface together to create a reclaimed surface to stitch on.
Typography extracted from selected newspaper headlines were free hand stitched using machine embroidery. Making reference to the Great British flag featuring within ‘Bags of Aggro’. Machine embroidery is used to alter text mocking corporate culture and to create a graphic quality. In the piece ‘Suffocation’, the printed text on the plastic carrier bag is informing customers of health and safety information, by using playful embroidery I am drawing attention to the increasing suffocation of the giant supermarkets.
Take us through the creation of the piece stage by stage.
The concept led research feeds the creation of this body of work. My initial ideas are generated and developed through experimentation with the materials and manipulation, inspired by the research and my own observations. A sketchbook is used to explore ideas of the areas I want to draw attention to and comment on. This is where humour is also explored.
With the combination of materials, process and content explored in my sketch book from samples and diagrams this is then generated into finalised ideas. Each piece is created separately but through out the process considered together as a collection.
The surface is first created by deconstructing and reconstructing layers of plastic bags. This is then placed under a heat press for a very small amount of time using newspaper as a protective surface between the heat press and the plastic to transfer the inks from the print.
Once the surface of the piece has been fused preparation of the typography and the selected headline is typed on the computer and printed out to outline on the piece. The layout of each individual piece is considered and then background detail is applied using machine embroidery. Free hand embroidered is used to create the type face, water soluble fabric is used for smaller text.
What journey has the piece been on since its creation?
Relevant exhibitions include:
- Splendid Stitches, Buckinghamshire County museum, Aylesbury, 2013.
- 2012/2013 Hemmed In: Embroidery and Needlework from MK and Beyond. MK Gallery, Milton Keynes.
- ‘Embroiderers’ Guild Scholar’ The Knitting and Stitching Show, Alexandra Palace, London, 2012.
- ‘Embroiderers’ Guild Scholar’ The Knitting and Stitching Show, Harrogate International Centre, Harrogate, 2012.
- Magnificent stitches, Guildford house gallery, 2012.
- Lost & found exhibition, The Beetroot Tree Gallery, Draycott, Derbyshire, 2012.
- The Collective, LCB Depot, Leicester, 2011.
It has also been featured in the following books:
- Bright! Typography between Illustration and art. Slanted c/o Magma Brand Design.
- Strange Material, Story Telling Through Textiles. Leanne Prain, Arsenal Pulp Press.
- Stitch Stories, Personal places, spaces and traces in textile art. Cas Holmes, Batsford.
‘Tomorrow The World’ was sold in 2011, the remaining pieces continue their journey.
For more information visit: www.kirstywhitlock.com
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