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Thursday 7 January 2021

Reflective Writing about my new tapestry - Pilgrim


Pilgrim 2020
116cm x 126cm

It's a New Year and I am currently working on my third large scale textile tapestry. I realised it was time to reflect on what I learned whilst making the second piece ‘Pilgrim’. I have made regular updates on my instagram account @olybliss whereas this is the place I can dump my full thoughts into this blog.

I wanted Pilgrim to focus on journeys, how we each have a life filled with discovery. I wanted this series of portraits to reflect something different about masculinity within each one. Each of the portraits have been based on profiles on instagram as a means of capturing a selection of men who have face and or body tattoos. I'm interested in creating a series which reflect a rage of men from this smaller subculture. 

After looking at @ecolina13’s profile I knew I wanted this piece to explore identity as an ever evolving journey. @ecolina13 or Enzo Colina Moro is based over in South America its been great to be able to connect with him and observe his world through instagram. I love that its possible to connect with someone from the other side of the world. He has shared images of his relationship with his wife and images of their wedding. There are pictures of him posing alone and with friends. He has a compelling look with sombre eyes and a pouty mouth that gives James Dean a run for his money. Enzo has a number of tattoos going up his sleeves and a large tattoo of a skull and flowers across his chest. The imagery combined through these tattoos sparked a lot of ideas within me.

When creating the portrait I start with an outline image and then build up the portrait in sections

The basis of the title of the piece ‘Pilgrim’ came from Enzo’s tattoo sleeve of a ship. It made me think of how we are all vessels (containing our soul) on our own unique journey. Every person is on a voyage of their own discovery and making. I thought this is quite universal feeling and how Enzo’s account is labeled a 'Personal Blog' containing these landmarks in life that he has experienced. He has proudly and publicly displaying his growth and progression. He has included images of his training and interests. He has surrounded himself with a loving unit of family and friends. He has been open about his transition from female to male on his Instagram account.

I knew I wanted to explore how internal and external factors change and shape our sense of self. These factors inform how we chose to exist and assert ourselves in the world. In the western world in particular we have freedom of self expression in ways which has not been provided or allocated previously. We have technology that can enable us to travel incredible distances, the ability to change our assigned gender to the gender we identify with and the freedom to marry. 

Growing up I was often accused of not being male enough. My wrist were too bent, my voice too soft, my lashes too long and my lips are too red. I wasn't athletic, aggressive or tough enough and for that I was challenged how much of a 'real man' I was.  Anatomically it was given I was male because of how I appeared in the showers and in the swimming pool. My behaviour however was enough to question my maleness by my peers and be bullied as a consequence.

It was the 90s and that’s how it was growing up. My parents were always supportive and accepting of me for me. A little misguided and hopeful that my connection with female friends were more than just platonic. I’ve never had many male friends in my life and always preferred the company of women. Adults often had that concerned look about how I might ‘turn out’ as an adult; and in all honesty- I was confused and concerned too!

The Genderbread Person version 4. my results

I found using the Gender Bread tool kit a useful way for me to loosely articulate myself in terms of gender and sexuality better.  My self described results are above. The format is still quite binary and requires you to self define what you consider ‘maleness’ and ‘femaleness’ but at least it gives you a scale to work with to help you self define where you sit. For me gender and sexuality is a little fluid but I would definitely put myself in the male box. I identify as male but my brand of masculinity may not relate or align to how other men identify themselves. For me the tick-boxes to describe gender itself is relative to the person’s understanding of that box.  I found this test below gave a better measure of where I sit with my relationship with my gender. It was a blunt and probably weak method of defining myself but I liked that it was attempting a boarder way to describe gender. 

(Results based on a questionnaire on facebook I took)

When I compare myself to each of the men in this series I am creating; part of me is questioning, how to I stack up when compared to all these guys? I feel this comparison is human question and applies to all of us that question of 'How to compare?' or ‘Am I enough?’ .

I have also reached the stage where I can comfortably say ‘Sure I'm enough, but I could always try a little more.’ 

I believe I accept myself in terms of body and soul. I believe the 'doing a little more' is  based on how much energy something takes for me to do; how relevant that task is and desire or need to change to create a return in benefit. My personal priorities are to stay clean and healthy and look after this ageing body! There is also another little voice in my head that says 'When I am an old man, will I look back at my life and think- 

‘Did used my time well?’

When it comes down to it, I think that is what Pilgrim is about. Taking stock of who you are as an individual, where you come from and what experiences have shaped you into the person you are now; and who you want to become in future. 

The piece explores a life journey, and the choices made during the ride.

In this picture of Enzo

 I like how he has a tattoo of a pentagram on the inside of his arm. It’s placed in a circle which accentuates the curve of his muscle. The pose is of a champion flexing his guns in triumph. The symbol of a pentagram in tarot it has significant. The symbol indicates taking control of your own opportunities you create. It usually is featured as:

‘A large coin that sits in the cupped palm, freely available to whoever has the wherewithal to take it. It is as if a new opportunity, associated with wealth, business, and manifestation, has appeared out of nowhere and is now being extended to you in all its glory. The impetus is now on you to accept this offer and turn it into something meaningful and sustainable.’

It is interesting to me that the tattoo is branded on his arm - Enzo is claiming and commanding that opportunity. Fire is also usually associated with passion, variance and ambition. This might not be his association or reason for choosing this tattoo. The pentagram can be associated with Wicca, protection against evil and Christianity. I like that with every visual symbol a choice is made by the creator to convey a message. There is the opportunity for the viewer to connect with the image and make a new interpretation of what they are observing.

When I created this piece I choose to amplify certain tattoos and change the context of meaning of the symbols through the materials I've used and composition of the symbols in relation to the rest of the piece. 

I was drawn to including the Pentagram symbol in the image but I felt it distilled the notion of freedom of choice. We each have to take hold of our own opportunities and my the most of what is given to us and I believe Enzo embodies freedom of choice and knowing himself truly.

This is also linked in with Enzo’s tattoo of a ship on his sleeve. I believe this tattoo conveys a sense of pursuit, of exploration, ambition and adventure into unknown seas. The style of ship in the tattoo made me think of old merchant ships and colonisation.  

(I used diluted fabric paint to create paint effects which splash across the material. I inked an outline of the ship and then sewed into the marks)

It made me think of Christopher Columbus leaving the coast of Spain and going on his first voyage to the New World. There is something in each of us that has to desire to explore our own boundaries and pursue new frontiers. I was able to find this image of a tutor ship 15th-16th century which was facing off into the distance, the ship used in this image would have been used by privateers and explores, unfortunately the origins of the image I have reference is unknown. 

I wanted to incorporate a ship heading out on a journey; this image presented an opportunity to create a connection to our heritage in terms of means to travel and communicate across vast distances.

 I like that merchant ships can represent this change which happened on an international scale. It was a significant move in shrinking boarders and boundaries between Europe and the Americas whilst exploiting other nationalities. Innovation in travel helped us reach further that we ever had before. In terms of Instagram as a social media platform the ship’s historic conniptions makes me think of these industrial changes toward a global community. We can traverse physical boarder through a swipe of screen. I can connect to Enzo who is on the other side of the world. 

Writing this though I realise I am romanticising the idea of shrinking boarders without acknowledging the historic cost. International trade and the industrial revolution was only made possible through the exploitation and slavery of millions of people, particularly from Africa.

Colonisation has defined a lot of historic atrocities which still permeates into the social structure and fabric of our lives today. I am aware that this piece is not touching on these social politics. I want to in some way acknowledge that this happened. I have provided further reader thorough these links two articles which explain this history in more detail.

Consequences of the slave trade:

Uncomfortable silences: anti-slavery, colonialism and imperialism:

Some key figures which I took from these articles is acknowledging that British ships transported 2.6 million enslaved people. It has been estimated overall,  Between 1532 and 1832, at least 12 million African people were enslaved and taken to the Americas, and at least a third of them were taken in British ships. There is also an unknowable total of millions who died during these passages. By 1914, Europeans are said to have occupied as much as 85% of the globe as colonies, protectorates, dependencies, dominions, and commonwealths.

Doing this reflection is making me think- actually I need to go back to Pligram and identify a symbol or figure that acknowledges this history a bit more.

After some further research I have come back to this article and found a Sculpture by Erwin de Vries.

He designed the National Monument Slavernijverleden (Slavernijmoument, slavery monument). I believe this image will be appropriate to incorporate. I think it works well because the first section of the sculpture represents slavery’s dark and dramatic history, the second represents breaking through the wall of resistance in the modern day, and the third element represents the longing for freedom and a better future. I like that the piece holds a message of liberation and hope.

I had already incorporated other symbolic elements into the piece which aim to build connections to the notions of globalisation and identity politics. This came from two key sources which I incorporated into the overall tapestry.

I traced around the map in the triangular sections and then free hand drew into the map 

Firstly having read The House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni I was introduced to Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion Map. The map shows how the globe can be flattened to create one connecting global island. In the image below you can see how there is a connecting path left to right, from Antartica through to New Zealand.

The Dymaxion world map has all the Country’s of the globe spread across the surface of an icosahedron. It can be unfolded from a three dimensional form and flattened to two dimensional form. This method enables the viewer to view the world as a whole island and is not politically weighted towards a particular geographical region.  It shows us how we are all connected. 

First I sewed in the details of the map and then the lines surrounding the countries. i used red boarders to contrast the black and white sections. I included the skull and cross bones material behind the map in negative space. This nods to pirates flags, danger and anarchy on open waters. It reflects opposing counter culture to building a global network. It's referencing something that takes from society for self serving gain. 

These were my favourite quotes:

’This, as Bucky said , is really one of the most intriguing of paradoxes: in order to expand outward, we must go... inward.”’


This makes me consider how all journeys occur in the real world whilst creating a change or movement internally in ourselves. We learn, grow and become altered by our experiences.

‘All at once, Bucky felt himself rising off the ground and floating in what he called a “sparkling sphere of light.” He looked around, and it seemed to him that time as he knew it had come to a complete halt. The Earth was standing utterly still. All was quiet. Then a voice, confident and soft, began speaking to him. It seemed to come out of the air itself and find its way to his ear. This voice told him that he did not have the right to kill himself. He could not cease to live yet. This was because he was important to the universe. He would, in fact be hurting others if he followed through with this grave action. “ You think the truth,” the voice told him. “Now go proclaim the truth.”


I like how this quote promotes our individual sense of worth and gives us an opportunity to consider how we can make a positive impact.  It acknowledges that by our absence we can do more damage to the world. So it’s important to play an active and positive role in life. This is definitely something I fundamentally believe. 

It’s the same sentiment as It’s a Wonderful Life with Clarence telling George “Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?”

These words encourages us all to believe we have value and useful to the world in some way. Going back to The House of Tomorrow I also like this quote:

“What did it look like?” I asked.”it was a marvellous Geoscope,” she said.

“I don’t know what that is,” I said.

“A globe. A world!”...

“Every single country! Paired to scale on the side of our house. Spaceship Earth realised. And I knew what it meant!” she said. 

She gripped harder, and her fingernails dig into my skin.

It would be a way to remind the people. To remind them about the relationship between human beings and our planet. It would I still a comprehensive worldview in everyone who saw it...’


This quote encourages the individual to consider others on a global level, our connection to each other, a reminder that we are apart of a greater whole. Each of the portraits in this series contains reoccurring themes regarding self and identity. Each portrait reflects an individual account on Instagram asserting and projecting their identity into the world. 

As followers or viewers we are connecting to them through a virtual space. I chose to incorporate the Dymaxion map into the piece to reference this global connection that exists between us.  The notion that we may not be physically connected to one another but we can connect to each other through tools which reflect our shared and collective experiences. 

Whilst I was making the section of the Dymaxion Map, I was listening to ‘On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous’. It’s a stunning book to listen to as it is narrated by the author Ocean Vuong. I hope to reinforce the idea of a borderless identity with a direct quote that I incorporated into the tapestry. The quote is: 

‘What is a Country but a borderless sentence, a life?’

Then later in the novel he also writes:

“What is a country but a life sentence?”

The novel explores identity on different levels from the perspective of someone who experiences a displacement and duality. The main character is trying to find their place in the world whilst asking the question ‘who am I? What does it mean to be me?’.

It’s written as an epistolary novel between Vietnamese American son to his mum. It made me think about notions of identity and labels we use. How we physically and mentally perceive ourselves in relation to how other people perceive us. That in conjunction with geographic labels and labels given to us from birth. These labels come from our social structures which are governed through social norms and are defined by law.  This in turn can create a legal definition of a person against the will of the individual if it does not align to that structure. This has a consequence on what a person experiences and how identify their place in the world.

It is incredible how different that experience can be on the basis of where you live and grow up and how much you have. The writer also has a trans perspective which is shared by Enzo of @ecolina13.  I aimed to incorporate a nod to a trans perspective as well through embellishing one of Enzo’s tattoos that he has of a jellyfish. 

Turritopsis dohrnii, also known as the immortal jellyfish, is a species of small, biologically immortal jellyfish found worldwide in temperate to tropic waters. The box jellyfish, Chironex fleckeri, is one of the most venomous animal in the world. Contact with the tentacles will trigger the explosive release of nematocysts that deliver potent and rapid-acting venom into the victim or prey. For humans this can lead to cardiovascular collapse and death as quickly as within 2 to 5 minutes. Certainly a strange and deadly creature. Also it is known that Jellyfish are able to change their gender. There are species that are both male and female at the same time. Other species of jellyfish – sequential hermaphrodites – are either male and then female, or vice-versa, but not both simultaneously. These are natural transgender jellyfish.

I used the colours of the trans pride flag and incorporated the colours into the flesh of the jellyfish

When breaking down the characteristics of a jellyfish the analysis makes for a particularly interesting symbol.  Enzo chose to have a jellyfish tattoo as part of a tattoo sleeve. It is something that is beautiful, dangerous and powerful all wrapped up in one. I wanted to include something that acknowledge Enzo’s transition as a contributing element that has shaped his overall sense of self. I am interested in all the elements that builds up an understanding of who we are. Gender is just one element there are many factors including sense of place, experiences our interaction within communities impacts our sense of self.

I incorporated Vuong’s quote with the backdrop of the Dymaxion map to build connections between personal, physical and geographical sense of identity. How we present ourselves to the world and how we feel connected to the world. 

On a personal level my country is being forced to question their geographical identity. I personally feel European, but my country has made the decision to sever that title with Brexit. 

This doesn’t alter my my experiences as someone who identifies as European. My previous holidays abroad or my genetic makeup (which contain both Irish and Scandinavian heritage) isn’t altered; but my passport and access to places I cherish will change along with our laws.  

I have lived in different parts of England and feel ‘English’ and ‘British’ as someone who  apart of the UK. But I do also feel very ashamed about a portion of the representatives within my country. They is a narrow majority of people who voted in ways which I don’t agree with and those votes will continue to have a global impact. 

Feeling both connected and separate from by country is a familiar experience for me. 

When I was living in Manchester my voice was out of place, as I have a southern accent.  I lived in the North of England for over a decade, I doubt anyone would describe me as a Northerner. I did not belong to that tribe because of my voice. I do have relative on my Grandmothers side of the family who were born and bred in the North. I have links to the Irish because my Grandparents moved from Ireland to England to escape the potato famine. So in a way I have a claim to some of my Irish/European heritage as well. I don't however have any experience of life or direct connection for myself.

 I was instead born in the South of England. My parents flipped houses, buying and selling them whilst I grew up meaning that we moved around a lot as I grew up. I have no relationship or connection to the place I was born, its just where my mum gave birth to me in a hospital in the South.  By the time I was grown up enough to start talking, my accent didn’t contain the localised dialect of where I was living. We had settled in Gloucestershire and my accent did not contain the local accent there either. 

I didn't quite fit in locally because of this. It place me outside of certain tribes because of how I spoke back then as well. This minor difference was used at times as a method to make me feel less than my peers. Kids and adults would in small ways highlight this difference and later in my teens it manifested into bullying.

I do however acknowledge that I hold other physically gendered attributes which gives me significant privilege. I am both white and male, and that make me feel much more included and accepted by those within my locality.

(Once I had constructed the figure I taped it to the wall to check the proportions)

When Ocean Vuong wrote “What is a country but a life sentence?” There is apart of my identity which resonates with that sense of being assigned aspects of my identity. These assigned aspects are a mixture of complex labels that were given to me from birth. Being ‘British’ keeps on morphing and changing in ways I can not control and I am aware this is experienced is multiple of different ways across the UK.  

The book Brit(ish) by Afua Hirsch discusses this combinations of identity much further.  She expands notions of race, identity and belonging in much greater detail and is told from a perspective of someone who is female, grew up in middle class family unit in London with a white English father and Ghanaian mother who had emigrated to Britain. 

She discusses engrained structural issues in education and society which support racism in the UK today and how they came from deeply rooted historic issues.

Her experience is very different from mine, in terms of how she was treated and what she experienced growing up and what she continues to experience today. She discusses how out of place she felt in both the UK and abroad in Africa when she travelled to gain a closer relationship to her roots from her mother’s side. 

She expressed how culturally out of place she felt going to Ghana and how she was treated differently when she was seeking a sense of belonging. Here is a great article which discusses the book in more detail

A part of Pilgrim aims to explore the journey every person takes to understanding themselves in a wider social context. This series has been created from a male perspective and I am trying to articulate a range of issues which fundamentally shape how I perceive myself as a man and what I believe society expects from me as a man.

During the 90s and 00s my sexuality was an issue for my safety. Now my sexuality impacts less on my safety; it is much less of an issue for me locally. In most cases my sexuality is either a non-issue or could even be described as a fabulously, favourable asset.  

I can say this cynically, as I have experienced being treated negatively because of my sexuality.  It was perceived as a bad thing and occasionally I can be judged and treated differently on the basis of my sexual preference.

I have cultivated safety through being friendly and polite to other straight people. In turn they are often  friendly and polite with me. They then feel safe with me and gain the sense that they are a more accepting and tolerant person by being comfortable with hanging out with a gay guy. They can feel positive about themselves because they can be civil with a person who has different characteristics to their own. This can then make them believe they are more inclusive and accepting to a wider range of people. 

I am not saying this is true of all cases; I have cultivated friendships in different way and on different interests and merits. I am aware however of how some relationships with peers have changed over time. Mainly with those beginning and fleeting moments with strangers, how they speak to you for a few minutes and make a summarised judgement about who you are.

My sexuality could be described as a social asset here in the UK.

 I have to be mindful of when discuss my sexuality as an 'asset' or currency, its value is treated differently internationally. It can be favoured or detested in different locations across the globe. Although the LGBTQ+ community are protected now in law through the 2010 Equality’s Act here in the UK, it doesn’t mean we are fully protected.

Here is a sample of annual recorded attacks linked to sexual orientation and Transgender attacks in England that occurred between 2009-14.

The figures are too high and shouldn’t exist. I do think it is good that we are recording this data. I fear that not all attacks are recorded and these statistics are limited in the full scope of the issue. At least we have protection in law where as internationally our rights are very different. Here are some headlines to get you thinking how safe we are internationally. How about the countries where they still have the death penalty for being gay…

I raise these statistics are a weird contributing factor to identity. 

How accepted we are as a person, as a man, from one country to another varies. It varies on the bases of contributing factors that make an individual accepted by a society or not. 

At times this can seem ridiculous and absurd that physical or behavioural factors can have such damaging impact. The show Rick and Morty in their episode Auto Erotic Assimilation takes showcases this absurdity well by stumbling across a race war on the basis of genetic difference in nipples.

Taken from Rick and Morty's episode 'Auto Erotic Assimilation'.

Absurdity aside- or at least segued toward how this is all relative to scale of prejudice, privilege and power. I recognise the rights of women are significantly worse off when looking at gender and individual rights specifically. Up until 2018 it was illegal for women to drive?!

source taken from this linked article

 Virginia Woolf hoped that eventually every woman would be able to drive a vehicle when she wrote a Room of One's Own back in 1929, something that wasn't realised until 89 years later.

 I find it baffling how inconsistent our human rights and experiences are on a global level. How we make comparisons to each other and place a distorted perspective of value on one another. 

It is these social structures make you consider your place in the world and make you question your place in the world. 

 It takes me back to those questions- am I enough? Local enough? Accepted enough? Male enough? I am also aware while I ask these questions,  I know I hold a lot more advantage and privilege by my gendered attributes and skin colouring. I hope that across the series of tapestries the portraits draw out why we ask ourselves these questions and who do they serve?

If you allow yourself to be compared and rated by another person; then you allow them to rate and control where you fit. They the are given permission to place you in a structure. You give that person or tribe power over you. It is your choice however to subscribe or reject that structure.

Enzo has also done something which I have not. He’s married, and that is seen culturally and globally, as a right of passage.

I wanted to honour and celebrate their marriage through including references to his wife’s tattoos in the top right of the tapestry. Her account is linked in his description @bb.abobora aka Rafaela Moro. 

The composition of the tapestry (which is also a continuous and separate struggle for me) shows the ship on the left heading out to sea and on the right is a floating island with a castle (which is a tattoo on her right forearm). I like that there is a sense of the journey of Enzo (as the ship) heading out towards that other soul- (the floating island) the concept of pursuing ‘the one’.  I ended up contacting Rafaela to get a better close-up of her hand tattoo which she provided so that I could incorporate the image above Enzo's right shoulder to honour their relationship with each other.

Marriage is one of the most significant reoccurring themes in the western world- to find a partner and get married. It is also arguably an expected outcome along anyone’s life journey. It is also arguably another social construct we are all expected to fulfil. 

The subject of marriage is something my Mum is guaranteed to bring up 

to me whenever I visit my parents. My Dad couldn't care less, in fact he sees it as a saving that I haven't got married. My Mum however will drop it into conversation at any time. She is aware I have been with my partner for over 14 years and and that we live together and even have a cat. But she really wants that wedding; and she is happy to make me uncomfortable and defensive by challenging me and asking why I have not conformed to this social norm.

It’s a contentious point between us, possibly the only contentious issue we have between us. For me it is about choice. I personally see a benefit in using the money that could be spent on a wedding to instead go towards holidays with the man I love and sharing lovely experiences with him. I don't sense that being married is particularly important to him and I believe we show our commitment and love to each other in alternative and personal ways.

I also have discussed this with other queer friends, some really love the idea of marriage and want to celebrate with there family and friends and love the idea of being able to say to the world- 'This is who I love!'

  For me, I quite like that we have got the legal choice to get married. What I have grown to like more is that this choice also includes the ability to say- ‘nah, that’s not for me’.

I do feel that marriage contributes to conforming to a particular way of behaving. When I am feeling most critical, marriage could be consider an obsolete goal. If I confronted my mum and asked her does me not being married make me less of a man?  I am sure she would say ‘no’, however she is still disappointed that I have not subscribed to the status quo and would want to celebrate our love. I also think there is is more religious association with marriage rather than a commitment ceremony. Neither of us come from a religious background and so we have less motivation driving us towards that as a goal. 

In terms of the tapestry Pilgrim, I am acknowledging choices. From Enzo's profile I can see how much joy that wedding has given them both. Historically they would not have had a choice to be become married. If marriage is a goal and a right of passage you believe in- that’s great for you.  

It's wonderful that some places have come as far as accepting the queer community and have not excluded us from that choice. This again is not a universal right and across the globe there are countries where is still illegal to get married if you are outside of a Cis-hetrosexual format. 

Thematically Pilgrim is about the tension between who we are, how we identify and how we assert the choices we have and what we are willing to fight for.

Practical lessons learnt:

I previously mentioned composition in my reflection. For this piece I did do a few draft sketches but the work evolves over time. Through the process of the construction of the tapestry I know a few elements that I will include.  I have to consider the size and shape of these symbols and their relationship to the space. In particular their relationship to the central figure. 

(Work in early development, using ink and fabric paint to sketch out the image.)

I know that I want each figures to be in the central subject. When a viewer is looking at the tapestry I want their eyes to be drawn towards the figure first; then dance across the rest of the tapestry. I want them to linger and wonder why I have chosen those symbols and colours. I want them to question their connection is to each other and find pockets of meaning in different areas of each piece.

This makes creating a balanced composition challenging at every step. What I did do differently this time was create some draft images half way through the process.

This really helped me settle on final ideas and direction because I use a photograph of the current progress I had made and then was able to use Krita (a digital program) to sketch out and test where I want to take the image next.

This process has really helped work out where I was placing each of the elements before making a final commitment and sewing sections of the tapestry.

One of the main things I learnt this time is that having a new sewing machine makes the world of difference. I realised I have wasted hours collectively because of tension issues and jams. This comes from not realising what you’re doing when it comes to tension and how it impacts the machine.

(my attempt to salvage one of the sewing machines!)

Full disclaimer, for my whole textile based life I have been winging it. 

I had a couple of set up lessons from my University Halls roommate Sue. I was on a Painting degree and she was on a Textile degree. She showed me how to set up a machine and then I felt I was good to go! 

The internet was in the earlier stages where there was less on line instructional videos and YouTubers explaining every step of what you should and should not do to a machine. I was inexperienced and too hot headed to gain advice and worked the machine until it broke down. 

I now watch more tip based videos and write myself notes about threading and tension:

  • The thread goes back and behind the spoil when you thread the machine. (I knew this one already I just may forget in future.)
  • When testing tension use two different colours one for the top thread and another contrasting colour for the bottom, this way you can see which colour is bunching up or too loose and then you’ll know which needs altering.
  • Tension is created by the thread being placed between two washers, the tighter the tension is due to a spring pressing the too washers closer together as the thread passes through.
  • Higher tension is used for thicker fabric! Loose tension is used for thin fabric
  • Bunching means that it probably too loose and the number is too low so the thread is making loops and catching itself.
  • Pinching of the fabric either side of the thread means the tension is set too high.

Since going on this textile based journey over the course of this year I have broken three machines!

(The third was fixed and given back to my partner’s sisters, so really I’ve only destroyed two.)

 The repair guy said I am treating the machines like a land rover when they are ford Kia’s. If there was a phone line for abusive relationships with sewing machines I have been imprisoned already. 

Through that process I did learn to listen to the repair guy and avoid ‘drop-in’ bobbins cases. 

When the threads caught up in the bobbin case it destroyed the tip of the casing itself making it impossible for the case to thread properly. The catch, the bobbin cases are no longer produced apart from obscure places for ridiculous prices. So lesson learnt, instead of buying a second hand sewing machine, I’ve brought a new Singer with 2 year warrantee, let see if I can keep this one alive for that long?!

Overall this piece took a lot less time in total Pilgrim took 25 days at five hours per day.

 So if I was paying myself (which I'm not) and charged £50 per day (£10 per hour) this piece would cost £1,250 to produce just in labour. This is better news as it means I'm getting faster and more experienced at using my machine. The previous piece 'Hard Core Vibes' labour costs £3,450 based on 69 days work.


1 comment:

  1. Oly, congrats on your new works of art. You're brilliant when it comes down to combine artistic sensibility and sexuality. And also I love what you said about how difficult it is to be part of the LGBT community depending on the country. Anyway, in case you're wondering, I've been trying to remain active with my comics, you can see the last one here:

    If you could write a post about it like you did for my first one, that'd be awesome!