Cultural Fusion – Stage 2a

Developing Source Material.

This stage starts off with a couple of questions to think about:

First, consider why you have chosen your particular subject.  What attracted you to it in the first place?  Do some brainstorming and make a list of things that caught your attention.

I’ve been interested in tribes, customs and spiritual beliefs for a while now.  Individuals in many clans throughout the ages relate to personal totems, their own benevolent spirit which looks over and protects them.  Many find their totem through experiences relating to particular animals and incidents involving these creatures.  There may be group totems as well as individual ones and many ceremonies are held in honour of these spirits.  Creating effigies and paintings and drawings are all ways of depicting these personal symbols.

What I have discovered whilst researching totems has amazed me and radically increased my understanding.  I hadn’t appreciated the myriad of different totem types, reasons for being and forms they take – and I’ve only scratched the surface.  I was completely ignorant about indigenous Australian totems and the different interpretations they attribute to the word:  it could be a long and complex range of images and carvings, it could be an abstract art piece with a symbolic meaning or it could be a carving of a single effigy which is connected to that particular person, such as the owls I wrote about on January 2nd.

Over the last 10 days I have been  putting some of my stash into my Inspiration Box ready for the totem samples I’ll be making, and also doing a little drawing.  Opening my box today and seeing what I thought might be appropriate was interesting, especially as I’ve evolved my ideas a lot since some of these pieces were chosen.  Here are some of my fabrics.

Fabric_0001Fabric_0002The masks above have been cut out from a patchwork fabric as I love the single images but not the way they were within the cloth.

Fabric_0003The fabrics on the right remind me of trees, wood and bark whilst the ones above feel more like ground cover.

Fabric_0004These next ones feel quite textural  and wrinkled (even though the designs are only printed) perhaps like animal skins – lizards come to mind.

Fabric_0005I don’t know why I like the fish in this next sample but I do.  Perhaps it is the closeness and repetition of the pattern.  It is like I imagine the frenzy of salmon spawning in Alaskan rivers must be.  The salmon swim upriver in enormous numbers to have their young, providing a bounty of food for both humans and bears.Fabric_0006

This last fabric seems very aboriginal.  The stylised and simplified goanna images along with the lack of colour and the dot design create this feel.

At the end of this project we are asked to select a design idea to be developed into a functional product such as a furnishing item or jewellery.  We are also asked to choose another idea which could end up as something more conceptual or an expressive piece.

I’m going to be working on my functional design first and would like to use my own personal totem, but what is my own totem?  Looking back through some of the textile art pieces I’ve done through recent years I find a recurring theme – lizards and terrain.  It seems too much of a coincidence to ignore the fact that a baby goanna happened to stroll into my garden as I was drawing a few days ago.  Here are a few goanna/lizard/gecko pieces for inspiration.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese beaded geckos are fun and fast to do.  Made with size 15 petite seed beads they make great earrings.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This silk paper lizard has been coloured using alcohol inks.  He features hand-stitched patterning and has two coats of Aleene’s Paper Glaze.  I like him a lot.

goannaThis photograph shows roughly what my baby goanna will look like when he is fully grown.  We have several living nearby, adults and juveniles, and they can get up to around two metres in length with fearsome talons.  I regularly see them as they climb up a tree trunk to stay away from my dogs.  In reality they could kill a dog without a problem using their long curved talons.

Gecko terrain This picture shows the lid of a box I made a few years ago.  I bought the modelling clay gecko in an art gallery in Tasmania and built and decorated the box for him.  He is originally a brooch.

Next I will be posting some of my drawings and ideas of how to put my lizard totem into a piece of functional textile art.

Beaded gecko pattern from: Sonal Bhatt, Beaded Critters, Sterling Publishing Co, New York, 2005
Goanna photo from:


About Claire B

I'm a passionate printmaker, paper-maker and a poor sketcher (which I'm working to improve). I've stitched from early childhood and am a perpetual student, loving learning and participating in everything creative.
This entry was posted in Assignment 1: Cultural Fusion, Textiles 1: Exploring Ideas and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Cultural Fusion – Stage 2a

  1. Pingback: Exploring Ideas: Assignment 1 Cultural Fusion – Addendum | TactualTextiles

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