Category Archives: Art

Laser cutting for Textiles at Central Saint Martins

A week of laser-cutting fun!

Regents Canal opposite Granary Square

Regents Canal opposite Granary Square

I joined the Central Saint Martins (CSM) short course on Laser-cutting for Textiles, located in Granary Square alongside the Regent’s canal.  This was a week long course introducing students to the process of creating electronic (Adobe Illustrator) files to be used for laser-cutting, the various effects and techniques that can be achieved with laser cutting, and an array of fabrics, materials and textures to experiment with. The title is, therefore, a little misleading, as it wasn’t just fabrics we worked with, however there was a slight more slant towards fashion.

Our course tutor was Laura Baker, a specialist in fashion and textile print. And our technical tutor was Franklin Mok, both staff at the University of the Arts London (UAL), of which CSM forms a part. We were also joined by Miriam Griffiths, a knitwear designer and alumni of the London College of Fashion (also part of the UAL).

Laura demonstrated pattern-making methods within Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. We were also shown numerous examples of jewellery, fashion, food, and everyday objects and furnishings that have been designed or made using laser cutting. There were many previously cut samples on hand and we soon learnt that what may work on one type of fabric/material may look terrible on another and that accidents can sometimes lead to interesting results. Some materials worked better and others were not strong enough for the laser to engrave for example.

 

We were shown the materials library where a huge wall was adorned with hundreds of samples of plastics, woods, metals, fabrics, stone, etc. There were also many reference books on fashion and textiles and future developments within this area. Experimentation was very much encouraged.

Materials Library within Central Saint Martins

Materials Library within Central Saint Martins

We were taken down to the laser cutting room where we were introduced to a huge Trotec laser machine. As indicated on the front it could not only cut but also engrave and mark/score.

Trotec Laser cutting machine at CSM

Trotec Laser cutting machine at CSM

We were shown that specific cyan colours (magenta, blue, green and black) are interpreted by the computer as being either an internal cut, external cut, engraving or scoring. These lines had to be paths within an EPS or AI file format and be only hairline thin (with the exception of the engraving).

The following image shows engraving, scoring, internal and external cuts:

Sample demo of laser effects on veneer

Sample demo of laser effects on veneer

We were also taken to a few shops in the Aldgate area where we discovered suppliers of rare leather pieces from various animals. See if you can guess what each of these animal skin is? Most leather pieces had been treated with colour and stretched or stitched so may not look natural (pink rabbit skin being a key example).

Miriam Griffiths brought in some of her final year work of knitwear. Within the designs she also added pieces of laser cut wood. These wood pieces helped with the structural design of her garments which were based on garments worn by a remote tribe in China.

More of Miriam’s work can be seen on her website: http://www.miriamgriffiths.co.uk/

The next day we got on with designing our first samples for laser cutting. I’ve recently worked with iznik flower motifs so following in this theme I looked on the V&A Museum’s website some inspiration. I liked the look of the carnations on this velvet fabric dated at 1600-50:

Velvet fabric with carnation pattern c1600-50

Velvet fabric with carnation pattern c1600-50 (Image from V&A website:

http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/t/teachers-resource-exploring-plant-based-design-through-the-jameel-gallery-of-islamic-art/)

I began working on isolating and redrawing the flower shape in Photoshop and then switched to Illustrator for colouring the drawn paths which would be where the laser would engrave and cut the material:

Preparing flower motif file

Preparing flower motif file

I chose to use the metallic leather sample piece I obtained from one of the leather shops we visited earlier in the week for the flower motifs:

Flower motif laser cut into metallic cow leather

Flower motif laser cut into metallic cow leather

I later realised that I should have changed the colour of the middle paths so that those would have been internal cuts. Instead I cut one of the motifs’ inner strokes by hand to see how this would look.

Flower motif laser cut from metallic cow leather

Flower motif laser cut from metallic cow leather

You realise when going through the process of designing, amending and laser-cutting the pieces that it can be very much trial and error until you’ve had a bit of practice with not only the design file, but also the material you work with. The same file worked well on stronger materials like the mirrored acrylic but not so much on the thinner sheepskin leather shown below:

Flower motif laser cut into acrylic and sheepskin leather

Flower motif laser cut into mirrored acrylic and sheepskin leather

Princes School of Traditional Arts Degree Show 2014

I managed to catch the Degree Show at The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts (PSTA), an exhibition of work produced by graduates of the postgraduate programme.

As you may have guessed, there are strong ties between traditional arts and crafts Islamic art. In fact ‘traditional arts and crafts’ is often the description provided for the term ‘Islamic art’, and it is usually these types of items that are displayed as examples of it. Rightly, or wrongly? It is debatable.  However, we must acknowledge that the link persists, and thankfully, the skills have been passed on to generations of artists and craftsmen today.

At the PSTA, students hone their skills of creativity and activity to produce contemporary artworks using traditional methods and materials, and always to a high standard.

Below is work produced by Ahmed Angawi, who comes from a product design background. His hand-made woodwork combined various woods to enable a mixture of shades and patterns within his pieces.

Close-up of woodwork by Ahmed Angawi

Close-up of woodwork by Ahmed Angawi

Woodwork by Ahmed Angawi

Woodwork by Ahmed Angawi

Also, on show were a pair of beautiful replica Hijazi doors produced by Sarah Al Abdali, using plaster.

Plaster replica Hijazi doors by Sara Al Abdali

Plaster replica Hijazi doors by Sara Al Abdali

Detail of plaster replica Hijazi doors by Sara Al Abdali

Detail of plaster replica Hijazi doors by Sara Al Abdali

Close-up of plaster replica Hijazi doors by Sara Al Abdali

Close-up of plaster replica Hijazi doors by Sara Al Abdali

The inspiration behind this piece was Sarah’s discovery of the original wooden doors within the Jameel Centre collection in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England.

Hijazi Doors, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

17th century, carved wooden Hijazi Doors at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Image and item details can be viewed here: http://jameelcentre.ashmolean.org/object/EAX.422

Cutwork pieces by Sarah Al Abdali

Laser-cut pieces by Sarah Al Abdali

Having viewed previous work produced from PSTA gradautes, it was great to see  students are now also experimenting more with new technologies such as laser-cutting. It’ll be interesting to see how much technology will influence the work produced by artists in future.

Another favourite was the Zouaq ceiling by Natasha Mann who learnt this unique method for decorating wood in Morocco:

Zouaq ceiling by Natasha Mann

Zouaq ceiling by Natasha Mann (for further details visit http://www.natashazouaq.co.uk)

Painting by Natasha Mann

Painting by Natasha Mann using hand ground natural pigments with egg tempera and 24 carat gold leaf.

Painting by Natasha Mann

Painting by Natasha Mann using hand ground natural pigments with egg tempera and 24 carat gold leaf.

Further images below demonstrate some of the incredibly intricate work on show:

Read more about The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts and both their taught and public programmes on their website: http://psta.org.uk/

 

Iznik: Ottoman Ceramic Design at PSTA

The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts (based in East London) runs a number of practical short-courses. I recently attended the Iznik: Ottoman Ceramic Design course where a small group of students learnt how to apply focussed and delicate brush strokes to ceramic tiles and plates. The class firstly taught us that concentration and a calm approach is key to producing the best results. We spent some time practising small lines and swirls. I honestly found this a little difficult, as I am used to applying deliberate and highly pressure movements through my tools, be it pens or brushes. As a result my brush strokes using ink came out quite bulky 😐 This technique called for dainty elegance for sure.

We soon moved on to experimenting with applying glaze to tiles. The change of texture was stark and proved even more difficult to work with. However the tutor, Nooshin Shafiei (very much an expert in the art of ceramic design) was able to depose some tips and eventually we cracked on with our final pieces – large ceramic plates!

Designs were transferred on to the plates by applying red powder dye to the back of the paper and then tracing over the top so that the pattern was drawn with the powder only.

Iznik ceramic design class at PSTA

Iznik ceramic design class at PSTA

We chose designs from a beautiful book full of photographic examples of Iznik ceramics: Iznik: The Pottery of Ottoman Turkey I chose the following design. I thought it was simple enough for my less than advanced skills but I soon learnt that even this was perhaps a little ambitious. In the following two sessions, conversation amongst students centred on one topic – the desire to make this final piece worthy of display in our own homes. The collective goal was to give it everything we had.

The various stages of my efforts are displayed below:

Iznik ceramic design class at PSTA

Iznik ceramic design class at PSTA

 

Iznik ceramic design class at PSTA

Iznik ceramic design class at PSTA

Iznik ceramic design class at PSTA

Iznik ceramic design class at PSTA

However, based on our tests on glazing tiles previously, it would not be until much later, once the plates had been fired that we would know exactly how our skills played out in reality…

Iznik ceramic plate design

Original plate that I was trying to replicate

Detail of Iznik ceramic plate design

Detail of Iznik ceramic plate design

The plate is now ready for it’s final coat of transparent glaze which will give it a shiny smooth surface.

Overall, the class was very enjoyable. I learnt new motif designs distinctive of the Iznik region within the Ottoman reign. I’ve not done much freehand, non-geometric art practice so this was definitely something new and challenging for me but I am very glad I decided to do it. The fellow students and the teacher Nooshin made it a very friendly environment with lots of interaction dispersed with the much appreciated tea-breaks (thanks for the biscuits Nooshin!).

I would highly recommend practical short-courses to anyone who either has a soft-spot for creativity, is looking for some inspiration, wants a break from their normal life routine or for the opportunity to meet new people. For further information on courses provided by the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts have a look on their website: http://www.psta.org.uk/openprogramme/

Design Museum London

Design Museum London

Design Museum London

A visit to the Design Museum (London) is full of a surprising array of objects. I was not sure what to expect but the collection of well designed examples included stationary, print work, clothing, shoes, parts of buildings, architectural scale models, mobile apps, mobile devices, and conceptual solutions to everyday problems, from the mundane to the extraordinary, including a beautiful sports car.

The collection demonstrated the best of design from 2014, with entrants nominated by peers. Below is imagery of some of my favourites examples:

 

DAS Abayas

DAS Abayas

Dumb Ways To Die - Metro Trains,  Designed by McCann Melbourne

Dumb Ways To Die (http://dumbwaystodie.com/) – Designed by McCann Melbourne

Also within the museum were exhibitions focussed on specific creative individuals. We saw beautiful time pieces designed by Daniel Weil including a range of his commercial design projects:

Daniel Weil Clock at the Design Museum
Daniel Weil Clock at the Design Museum
Daniel Weil Clock at the Design Museum
Daniel Weil Clock at the Design Museum

The museum was also exhibiting the larger than life decades worth of Paul Smith history. Hello, My Name is Paul Smith starts with a display of Smith’s first shop, re-created to its tiny life-size proportions showing us Smith’s humble beginnings that eventually turned into a huge design house now worth millions. His story was told in simple terms with examples of his iconic prints illustrating his journey. His prints have been applied to hundreds of objects and he has worked on a number of high profile collaborations with companies such as Mini (cars), Evian (water bottles), Thomas Goode (Teapots), Roberts Radio and The Rug Company.

Paul Smith Mini Cooper

Paul Smith Mini Cooper

Paul Smith Shop Facade

Paul Smith Shop Facade

Paul Smith print swatch

Paul Smith print swatch

I have a soft spot for Paul Smith’s prints and colour schemes and they bode well on fashion as well as stationary. The huge collection of items form only a fraction of the work and belongings of the designer, but still provide a vast insight into what appears to be his creative genius.

 

A Hidden Order

I had the opportunity to attend the private view and launch of A Hidden Order at the Princes School of Traditional Arts. The project is a collaboration between geometer Sama Mara and composer Lee Westwood who have created a digital method for producing Islamic geometric patterns using sound.

The design of the patterns were projected showing how the pattern built up further and further based on the composition of the musical sounds. Each key or note was interpreted by a program that would then convert the sound to form part of a colour and shape system. The programming was meticulously developed by Sama Mara but the development interface plays a hidden role in the final display of the artwork.

Read more about the project on the official website here: www.musicalforms.com/

Projection from live performance of A Hidden Order by Sama Mara and Lee Westwood

Projection from live performance of A Hidden Order by Sama Mara and Lee Westwood

Once the patterns have been generated they can be seen as standalone visuals. These were exhibited as digital prints along the walls at the PSTA.

Print generated from A Hidden Order

Print generated from A Hidden Order

Jameel Prize 3 exhibition 11 Dec 2013 – 21 April 2014

The Jameel Prize is an international award designed to highlight the production of contemporary art and design which has been inspired by Islamic traditions.

The Jameel Prize 3 winners, Dice Kayek, are a fashion house based in Istanbul whose collection of garments ‘Istanbul Contrast’, for which they won the prize, was inspired by the famous architectural sites of Istanbul.

Istanbul Contrast by Dice Kayek, Winner of Jameel Prize 3, Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Istanbul Contrast by Dice Kayek, Winner of Jameel Prize 3, Victoria & Albert Museum, London

The garments in Istanbul Contrast bring to mind the famous domes of Istanbul’s historical mosques and are an example of how Islamic artistic styles can be applied to a range of mediums. The cross-application of aesthetics from one medium to another is much like the methods adopted by traditional Islamic artisans in the vast history of Islamic art. Traditional artists were more akin to craftsmen who were known to decorate varying items of differing materials using the same stylistic designs including ceramics, metalwork and wood.

Inspiration from the architecture of Istanbul is not new. A previous nomination in the 2009 short-list of the same prize included the work of jeweller Sevan Biçakçi who created miniature scenes of Istanbul in the form of rings.

 

Saray Burnu (Seraglio Point). 2005 Umut Kapısı (The Gate of Hope). 2007 Sevan Biçakçi

Saray Burnu (Seraglio Point), 2005
Umut Kapısı (The Gate of Hope), 2007
Sevan Biçakçi

All shortlisted nominations are featured in the current exhibition at  the Victoria and Albert Musuem, London on show until 21 April 2014.

Some of the featured work includes pieces which are digital in form such as the multi-media installations by Mounir Fatmi – Modern Times: A History of the Machine and Technologia. These installations are animated videos projected on to the walls supported by static noise audio.

Still from Mounir Fatmi's Modern Times: A History of the Machine, Jameel Prize 3 exhibition, V&A, London, 2013

Still from Mounir Fatmi’s Modern Times: A History of the Machine, Jameel Prize 3 exhibition, V&A, London, 2013

Another artist who made use of digital technology was Faig Ahmed who designed his carpets using computer software before having them hand-made in the traditional weaving method of Azerbaijan.

Hollow, Pixellate Tradition by Faig Ahmed, Jameel Prize 3 exhibition, V&A, London, 2013

Hollow, Pixellate Tradition by Faig Ahmed, Jameel Prize 3 exhibition, V&A, London, 2013

To see more of the striking artworks on show visit the V&A before the exhibition ends on 21 April 2014.

To learn more about the current exhibition:  http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/exhibitions/exhibition-jameel-prize/

To learn more about the Jameel Prize: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/exhibitions/exhibition-jameel-prize/jameel-prize/

Felix Ackermann’s Al Salam – 3D typeface

Felix Ackermann works with typography and has developed a grid system allowing him to portray a 3d typeface. The grid system is such that the view from above is different to that from the side or below, therefore allowing for more than one word and meaning within the same space.

Take a look at the images below for a better idea of how this works. The idea is that each differing view provides a different perspective.

Grid system typeface by Felix Ackermann. Image accessed via: http://www.wallpaper.com/directory/1950 [24 Dec 2013 13:53]

Grid system typeface by Felix Ackermann. Image accessed via: http://www.wallpaper.com/directory/1950 [24 Dec 2013 13:53]

The effects of this grid-based typeface can be effectively viewed in Ackermann’s  ‘Al-Salam’, commissioned by Queen Rania of Jordan.

Chalk Studios (based in London) were asked to 3d print the piece and have kindly granted me permission to share their photos of Al-Salam within this post.

Al Salam by Felix Ackermann

Al Salam by Felix Ackermann

Al Salam by Felix Ackermann

Al Salam by Felix Ackermann

Al Salam by Felix Ackermann

Al Salam by Felix Ackermann

Al Salam by Felix Ackermann

Al Salam by Felix Ackermann

Al Salam by Felix Ackermann accessed via Chalk Studios Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/chalkstudios/

Al Salam by Felix Ackermann accessed via Chalk Studios Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/chalkstudios/

The front perspective shows the words ‘al-salam’ in Arabic text. If you move across to view the words from the top they appear to transform and you see the word ‘Peace’ in English text.

My favourite image is this one where you can see the English word ‘Peace’ cast in shadow whilst seeing only the Arabic when viewing the artwork from in front.

Not only is there visual value to this work, and also the inventiveness to be appreciated but also ideas regarding communication and differences. Things can be deceptive or they can be enlightening. You just need to be prepared to have an open mind and look for what else can be found and learnt by trying a new perspective.

For more information and images on this work and the studios who conducted the 3D-printing, visit Chalk Studios’ web site: http://www.chalkstudios.co.uk/article/a-fresh-look-at-typography