Assignment Two (Option 2): Exercise 2.2: Focus on embellishment and risk taking in experimentation. Boro Work

Boro Work:

Boro was born of forgotten values of ‘mottainai’ or ‘too good to waste’. An idea dangerously lacking in the modern consumer lifestyle.  Literally translated as rags or scraps of cloth, the term boro is also used to describe clothes and household items which have been patched-up and repaired many times to create new surfaces.  Boro uses everything and wastes nothing. The ‘beauty of practicality’ or ‘Yuyo-no-bi’.  Often indigo colours are used, however this is not a law.  My own samples made before this course are shown below:


The above were rust dyed, but there are many other ways.  However the core concept remains the same…waste nothing.

Mandy Pattullo is a textile artist and tutor, known for her textile collages. Her book Textile Collage was published by Batsford this autumn. Coincidentally, Mandy’s illustrator daughter Alice Pattullo also released a book this autumn: An Animal ABC, a children’s picture book published by Batsford’s sister company Pavilion. 

She was recently interviewed on Textile artist online, has a website and also has an exhibition near myself which I will document:

The picture above (top) is a view of part of her studio.  I love to see how others keep their sources handy and also how they store them.  Mood and inspiration boards seem to be a constant feature, as they are in my own studio.

Mandy does not necessarily call her work Boro as such, yet she has the same values and at times uses the same style of stitch and that look of innocence and vulnerability within her work, which is also conveyed through Boro.

Unless mounted for the wall or other, I sometimes find it hard to display my textile pieces well, in order to show them off to their full advantage.  I wonder if some sort of fabric sketchbook instead of a paper one, may be something to plan?

Look how she embellishes her work, all patched together in a very “folk art” form, with overstitching to give a sketchbook look.

Her sketchbooks are like art forms themselves.  They lose the division between paper and outcome, they become merged to literally be an art form.

Mandy Pattullo re-cycles and reuses very old and often disintegrating materials, refashioning them in to new patchworks. She cuts up and unpicks well-worn North Country quilts and antique garments, creating a palette of fabrics which have the shadows of other women’s stitching and the stains and marks of use. These are used to construct new textile collages which are embellished with hand stitchery and sometimes words mixing up her own family’s history with the story the quilt tells.  Her work relates to the thrift and ‘make- do and mend” culture of past times, in particular utility patchworks and quilts made by women in domestic settings and home dressmaking. Mandy’s collages, large wall quilts and garments bring together precious fragments to form evocative compositions. The viewer is invited to re-examine fabrics that have become flawed through wear and tear, to find in them, a new beauty. Mandy Pattullo published a book “Textile Collage” in September 2016 which details the thinking behind her thread and thrift aesthetic as well as demonstrating techniques for working with garments, book making, portraits and collages.

What are my main thoughts after viewing her work?

–          Her sketchbook and drawing work actually made me sad.  I feel that I used to work more in this way, but the idea that I have got into my head about the course I am doing here and the form of clear presentation, has knocked the core personality of my work.  My work has personality, I mean the pieces the final ones, but my sketchbooks recently have lost that personal element, the drawings and core foundation that the end pieces should spring from.  I would like to bring that back into my work.

–          Merging text or writing with her drawings and paintings.

–          Fabric sketchbooks.

–          Historical context.  Maybe this is something I can work on in later assignments where this may be more appropriate.

–          More play inside my sketchbooks…fabric extensions in drawing mediums etc.

–          No, her work is not Boro, but holds the same values – waste nothing.  I would like to continue to run this as a feature within my work, as I have previously.

In line with my comments, I reflected back on a piece I wrote for the Drawing North East website a few years ago..


This reminded me of who I wanted to be then and still do now.  I also found an image of a few of my sketchbooks together, when interviewed for Mr X Stitch…


A clear reminder of how to build a sketchbook.

Mandy is an artist who I feel that I can truly learn from and really take to heart.  I have used the above pages as much of a showcase of her work as a research investment, as I feel that visually I want to be able to reflect back a lot on her work.

Of course there is the traditional form of Boro work too, which my idea derived from.  I will illustrate the technique here:

The lines within the Boro work of stitching, don’t always just had the piece together but also act as embellishment and decoration.  The white in the piece above, offsets the dark indigo beautifully.  In the piece below, we see a mix of garment colours, which have been used to piece the work together.  Notice the small the large then small stitch lines. 

Artists have taken inspiration from the Boro style and used it in different ways.  I was interested to see works on paper and found the piece above.  The artist has here used Boro as a drawing inspiration point.  The shapes which are “jigsawed” together.  Below, a sketchbook colour reference to Boro, along with a “fabric sketchbook” made in the Boro style.  I wonder if I could put my own Boro inspired work in some sort of specialised sketchbook?

Coming away from the styles above, I first decided to try my own version of this technique Boro, along with my hand cut stencils.  I wondered what would happen if I used some of my decolourant fabric, chopped it up and reworked it in the Boro style?

Boro is traditionally INDIGO DYED.  However any offcuts can be used.  I found a selection of edges of linen, old face cloths and parts of old jeans.  I dyed them using quite a simple process, with dark Koh-I-Noor dyes.  At this point in the experimentation, it’s not about the safety of the dye or whether it will last, but rather what will it look like if a sew parts together.  Using my machine at times for speed, I used all the offcuts I had available, chopped up.  You will see that some still have decolourant areas.  This is because I had earlier used my hand cut stencils to discolour areas.  (You will see more about this within this section).  On this page, the piece you see is quite large.  A mix with the pure concept of piecing together with no real though to pattern, only the goal of making something new out of rags.  The stitching is quite juvenile.  You will notice that Boro work is not an exact science, neither in stitching or form.  Thus this is to symbolise this.

The next piece you see, has been made a little more carefully.  The pieces have been cut, so that only three eyes are seen.  They are then joined in stitch, to each flow into one another.  Again all made from scraps, hand dyed materials and decolourant paste, along with my hand cut stencils.  The stencil used was a section based on one of my facial drawings zoomed up.  Thus it has come away from its original form, which I like….



What do I think of this technique?

As I seem to be finding with many of my risks, I am enjoying them all and want to pursue them all.  This concept has so much potential and variance.  For example:

–          Materials on a theme, such as vintage, all denim etc etc.

–          Dyed all one colour.

–          On a previous project I dyed all my materials with rust.

–          Pictorial hand stitching / machine

It is very conceptual, it doesn’t have to be perfect, and there are no prior plans or assumptions.  That’s what’s nice about it, it has a surprise and not a perfectionist element.

Will I try it again?

I will certainly play will scanning and altering digitally within Project 4.


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