I have been trying to finish the wildlife masquerade quilt and finding a few difficulties. And also working on the reduced set of wildlife images – reduced to four faces – to screen print a length of fabric in three colours.
The problem with the quilt was that the bamboo wadding I used was too thin to produce a strong relief. So (abandoning my dislike of polyester) I added a layer of 2cm thick polyester wadding and a second backing sheet. Stitching through this produces a sculptured surface, most satisfactory. But it also meant that I needed to unpick many metres of stitching; whilst I was doing this, yesterday and this morning I was thinking about the fabric in three colours.
I have tried quite a few variations, colourways and sizes but still am not really satisfied.
As I was unpicking the quilt I had an insight (probably not at all original) into using facial images on fabric. Faces are unusual in fabric design, other than designs aimed at children, even then they are heavily stylised and simplified But there are exceptions, the most notable being t-shirts, which frequently feature photographic faces of pop stars and others, often for promotional purposes. But t-shirts seem to be in a category of their own when it comes to clothing decoration. The general absence of faces suggested to me that there must be strong cultural factors at work here. It has been suggested that the mask is not well understood in western culture and that they are seen as representing the ‘darker’ side of our natures (Maskwork, Forman, J. 1999).
Using an analogy with music, perhaps it might be said that when music is purely instrumental – no voice – then it has, for a while a parallel to abstract art, pattern and decoration. When singing is added to music then there may be a parallel to representation (of objects, people etc.) in drawing and painting. The complexity of both music and the visual arts suggests it would be impossible to draw any rules for this, but these ideas have helped me to get to grips with the problems I am having with this fabric design.
So I started looking for counter-examples of the idea that faces on fabric are somewhat taboo. Halloween, Christmas, dogs, dinosaurs, some older African or other ‘ethnic’ patterns with animals: there are a few, but otherwise faces are not there except for the occasional fashion student piece, or even rarer haute couture, such as http://fashionista.com/2017/01/maison-margiela-couture-spring-2017.
All in all I feel have wandered into some quite challenging territory with the wildlife mask images. I think the next thing to try is to further simplify these faces, make them closer to abstract patterns, which I am now doing. There are 24 wildlife images in the set, I could add more but they get very similar, especially the fish! Having chosen four and reduced to three colours I have a (current, above) cmyk image that produces several shades and tones and may require just two screens. But does it look right?
If I screen print this as it is I will have to print the cream, which means the fabric will be one sided, not the ideal for lightweight clothing (baggies).