Exercise 4.5 (Option 1): Using Karen Nicol as inspiration

Looking at one of my research topics for my archive, namely my “lost scarf” I began to create mind maps, in order to really sound down and pick apart my ideas to myself.  Seeing the words and links on paper, should help me to comprehend whether an idea has enough depth to pursue.

I started my mind map by looking at the scarf in its historical context.  The second focuses on where it has travelled with me.  I feel the second mind map has the most potential, as it is looking at my “personal history” and evokes imagery rather than just historical history, which needs to be known, but not necessarily repeated.



Note my comments on illustrative paintings, based upon the places I had visited with the scarf.  It was when viewing this skirt, by Karen Nicol, what ideas to use this began to flourish:

karen-nicol-map.pngI wish that more was written on each piece, yet this makes us more interested.  I found that I want to investigate each technique for myself, as I can’t simply understand it from looking at her images.

However looking at the above, and the title ‘honeymoon’, would give the idea that it is maybe a personal memory of hers.  It has the air of cut away applique, mixed with paper / fabric cut out.  I also love the black drawn pattern, which frame her scenes.  Are they painted?  Embroidered?

I may never know, but the concept of memory and displaying this in small scenes, makes me think of what I could do with my own “lost scarf” research.  Could I make a “map” of where I have visited wearing the scarf?

Using Karen Nicol and especially the pieces she has uploaded onto Instagram, I feel I could at least draw out some ideas.

I will begin my looking back at images of myself where I know the scarf has been with me, or that directly show the scarf being worn.  I could draw and paint these and see where I go from there.  These are the sort of images I mean, as taken from my personal focus could have a personal angle, as obviously I am in the images.  It could also show the place in some way, the country or the exact place itself, I,E. under the Eiffel Tower.

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I will collate imagery, draw, paint and begin to build ideas, which I will illustrate here:


Above:  Sketchbook page linking connections with Nicol’s work and my own.  I began to play with the technique of Cut Away Applique, as that is what I feel moved by from Nicol’s piece.  Revealing something, but not everything.  A memento or memory?  Could this be a continuous narrative?


Above:  As you can see from the above page, I have a lot of ideas which I am piecing together.  However I don’t want to create over much detail, sometimes a single idea is better.

I wondered how I could link inspiration from my lost scarf.  I began to look at the edge of it:

scarf1.jpg This lacy knotted edge has potential.  See drawings below:


I wanted to emulate my findings above in a small sample.  I chose a small piece of vintage white lace and began to cut it into sections.  I chose the piece of lace and a slight contrast of grey thread, with a white under bobbin, as I was inspired by looking at my lace and vintage fabric collection and pieces like this:


Using a free machine embroidery foot on my machine, I began to create links which related to the drawings on my sketchbook page and the lacy edge on my lost scarf:



By moving my needle quickly over the technically “free space”, it is possible to link in the pieces and have control of line shapes.  I also tried the same idea, but using a backing fabric, which could be dissolved.  This time I look more attention to shape and for the sake of the sample, I used the bird and butterfly shape, as seen in the original scarf pattern:

The dissolvable fabric, allowed me to embroider as I would on fabric, thus I had more freedom and ability to create a neat piece.

Having discovered You Tube videos of Karen Nicol’s work, I thought this piece of hers really fitted with this section:


Its the theme of interlinking objects within a body of lace.  This is a contemporary take, which really is inspiring to see.  I find that the videos on You Tube are very useful.  Nicol’s website has imagery on, but not the ability to observe size, which we can visualise through the videos.

Insight is also given into her working methods.  For example her fondness of transparent thread to hold down objects where she wants stitch kept to a minimum.   Like myself, she uses dissolvable fabric where needed too:kn12.png

These videos will prove to be visual reminders of techniques and ways of doing things for myself too.  I have made many screen shots like the above, to have those reminders in my source books and sketchbooks too, thus I can constantly look back on them in a variety of media sources.

What do I think of my sampling in this context so far?

I enjoy the freedom of movement that the dissolvable fabric gives me.  In the context of this technique, I feel it best to use it rather than free hand, as I gain more control.  The lace idea and it’s marriage with the inspiration from the knotted lacy edge on my lost scarf, is one I can look towards pursuing, if desired.  In other words I feel that this technique fits the concept.

The above example is just one way I have been inspired by this artist.  You will see more examples, sketches and samples through my physical body of work.





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