I spent most of the flight home working through design exercises for Phoenix Rising, as examples for the book. In the process, I’ve conceived a few new ideas. The top one is to rearrange the wall hanging so that instead of phoenixes flying atop a black background, you have a black foreground with phoenix-shaped cutouts, so you can see the fiery fabric below. (Ideally, the front layer would be mounted at least six inches in front of the back layer, so you could see the bottom fabric rippling with air movement.)
This has several attractive aspects:
- Much more interesting design
- Fits in beautifully with the death/rebirth theme – dead outside, but when you look through the dead outside you find beautiful life inside the destructive inferno
- Adds movement to the piece (if properly mounted, to allow the fire-colored fabric to move with air currents)
- Solves the problem of how to mount fabric phoenixes gracefully onto a textured/crumpled foreground
There are also a few design challenges, most notably how to do the phoenix cutouts without sagging. At the moment I’m thinking of clear plastic reinforcement behind the top layer – either a single firm layer behind the entire foreground (thin plexiglas?), with cutouts for the phoenixes, or a thin acetate layer across the phoenixes, like a window. If the latter, I would probably cut the thin acetate into flamelike patterns.
Here are two versions of this idea. (Unfortunately, they totally don’t convey the idea of a three dimensional piece, but you can get the basic idea.)
The second version doesn’t look particularly good right now, mostly because the phoenix shape in the orange fabric doesn’t match the phoenix shape cut out from the foreground. If I continue further with the idea, I’ll likely redesign one of the shapes to match the other one. I might also cut and piece the orange fabric so the phoenixes aren’t flying in such a rigid phalanx. Lots of things to consider.
Meanwhile, I have also been considering the black crinkly fabric, which I think will be the biggest design challenge. There are so many possibilities! and I am almost totally unfamiliar with collapse weaves. I spent an hour or so creating a mind map with all my thoughts about the fabric – click to get the full size image, then click again to get (and scroll through) the full view:
For those who can’t read the mind map (or don’t like all that scrolling), here’s a summary:
Characteristics of fabric:
- Crinkly surface, with crinkles about 1/2″ to 1″ in diameter
- Black with glints of fire colors
- Ideally, red rivulets in the bottom of the crenelations, like lava
- Stable enough to make clothing from, or to hang
- Unstable fabric with backing
- Options for attaching backing: tacking down by hand, fusible interfacing, glue
- Techniques that could be used:
- woven shibori
- flat fabric tacked down to a surface to create crinkles
- a single layer of fabric, with shrinking warp and weft creating crenelations
- Fabric stable enough to hang by itself – the only candidate I could think of was double weave with differential shrinkage
- Techniques that could be used: four color double weave, double weave with ties or spots of interchanged layers
- Black, nonshrinking layer:
- Rough, dull appearance with fiery (metallic?) glints
- Materials: silk noil, unmercerized cotton, black/silk copper thread (to help shaping and add metallic glints), fiery metallic yarns for highlights
- Fiery red, shrinking layer:
- Mostly not visible, except at the bottom of the crenelations
- Materials: strong elastic silk thread?, feltable wool, plus metallic yarn to add glitter. Probably not an overtwist yarn as this produces a stretchy fabric.
- Very loosely sett, with fine yarns, to allow shrinkage
As you can see, I did quite a bit of thinking – the next sample up will likely be a collapse weave, double weave with differential shrinkage, to see What Happens If! I still need to think about yarns, drafts, etc. but since I already have a different sample warp (that isn’t even on the loom yet!), I’ve got plenty of time.