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RAE 2008

Sir John Cass Department of Art, Media and Design

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On the Fringe
Paula Ashbrooke

I work principally with drawings, photographs, and material manipulation. I have retained these methods in an attempt to keep control of the digital process which largely disappears into the computer screen until it is 'born' as an output of print, weave , embroidery or laser cutting, but also because I like to compare the results as I progress.

The following three examples give an idea of my working process:

1. A pencil drawing simplified from a rock study, scanned and prepared through Auto Cad software and then laser cut. The outcome demonstrated how combinations of synthetic and natural textiles, metal threads and fibres have fusing and melting possibilities when the laser cuts at different speed -frequency and power ratios.

2. A scanned image taken from a heavily manipulated combination of synthetic fibres and silk. I intend to experiment with the welding of materials, through appropriate ratios of laser technology, to give a more pronounced surface by selecting appropriate weights, thicknesses and overlays of materials and reducing stitch and wherever possible, bonding processes. See Image 1 left.

3. A photographic image of rocks with shadows, manipulated and repeated in Photoshop, (no traditional painting or drawing), to be prepared for 3 D printing onto a scanned and deeply cut surface. This demonstrates the ability to transfer images from reality to virtual 2D and 3D and back to 3D reality using only digital tools. I have reduced the visual impact of colour and rely on shapes and shadows, eventually printing an outcome in 3D form. See Image 2 left.

Update December 2006
In much of my work I centre on rocks, stones or earth as inspirational starting points which I feel ground the images in touch and increase the sensory aspect. Recently I have been working on contours taken from a map of East London, where the height and shape of the laser cutting takes precedence over the signs and colours of East London life and historic landmarks (which are described in Pat Moloney's article) thus emphasising pattern as levels. The location of the city and East London plays a part in our collaboration both visually and metaphorically.

At some point, through reading a number of books (listed on the website) I discovered 'a view' of working which affects the design process for me. I determined to dim the visual experience and use light, depth and shade rather than colour. By doing so I had the intention of creating more sensually orientated textile products with a tactile or haptic quality, maybe even with thermal or acoustic properties, which are more inclusive and do not depend solely on their decorative quality to define them.

I regard textile as our second skin, not only in clothing, but as the humanizing aspect of architecture. By employing new technologies, high speed manufacturing, fast communication channels, global merchandising and transportation we can produce abundant amounts of everything we desire.

However this never means we have to discard the fundamental character of textiles that benefit, comfort, protect and give us beauty and meaning in life. If we compare the disjunction between an exceptionally soft and enveloping textile against the alienating and stressful backdrop that exists in day to day living we see why the essential characteristics of textiles have to be reinstated within the typical glass and metal furnished contemporary interior.

Concluding questions
Maybe digital technology is yet another tool in the long history of mans engagement with craft?
Maybe it isn't possible to appreciate the use of digital technology until one has a long experience of craft processes?
Maybe digital is the new craft?
Maybe this new craft area can produce sustainable and more inclusive textiles.


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