Cultural Fusion – Stage 2c Contemporary design totem development

While working on my lizard totem samples I’ve been considering designs for a contemporary totem.  I am very taken with the work of John Dahlsen and the messages he is portraying.  He is trying to make the world aware of wastage and damage to the planet by our thoughtlessness.  I also like the work of Jenny Orchard and her fantasy world of Zookinii’s which is stimulating and exciting.  Although these artists are coming from different places and giving wildly different messages through their totem creations I can relate to both.

How can I make a totem and portray a message?
I started off by thinking about the most common way we receive visual message communication these days.  Of course advertising comes to mind immediately – through the TV, on our phones, computer website adverts, mailbox drops, faxed promotions (one of my particular dislikes), newspapers, magazines and the like.

They all bring to my mind wordy, manic, brightly coloured, busy, in-your-face, pushy messages and that is not what I want to use as my source material.

What more simplified clear-cut visual messages do we immediately relate to?
Road signs.  The minute I thought of road signs I was interested.

Sign - slippery roadSo I started looking on the net at Australian images.

This slippery road is about as simple as signage comes and very able to be understood.Sign - railway crossing

Another very basic design is the railway crossing sign.  Although red is the first light wave to reach our eyes, yellow is the most vibrant.  So a good colour choice of black on yellow.

Australian animal crossingI couldn’t resist this – an 88km wide wildlife crossing.

Sign - road closedAnd for those who really can’t work things out for themselves!!

Sign - accidentSign - road train

Cars, trucks and road trains – stay alert.  Yes, I think they are gun shots in the road train image.

Sign - tortoise crossing

And keep your eye out for those who move a little more slowly.

There are many, many typically Australian signs warning of things such as emus crossing, crocodiles in the area, koala area.  Then there are, naturally, all the standard internationally used signs showing children crossing, entry and exits, traffic lights, keep right or left and hundreds more but the one below is definitely unique…..

Sign - Go aheadCouldn’t get much clearer than that except to add something about taking someone else’s life along the way.  This image is from a site where there are some ‘doctored’ signs posted so it probably isn’t establishment approved for actual roadside.  Shame really as it certainly gets the message across.

Can I say what I want and create a totem based on this type of visualization?
Yes, I think I can.

I have some long-held beliefs and ‘wants’ which I am considering creating into textile art.  To try to demonstrate the length of time I’ve held many of these thoughts I decided it would be a good idea to incorporate some rusting into my samples – items of age can become rusty, it indicates a passage of time and my thoughts have been stewing for many a year.

Rusty itemsMy neighbour and I spent a pleasant hour sitting on his driveway searching through his treasure trove of rusty metal junk.  Heaven only knows what most of these things are but they looked excellent to rust some fabric.

I started by making some rust water because I’ve seen a bit of rusted fabric around and most often it is very patchy and mainly still white where the rusted items haven’t been.  I wanted to give a gentle wash to the whole cloth to avoid this.

Rusty fabric 1Rusty fabric

The first rusting was done by lying the items within the cloth, washing with the rust water, rolling it up and leaving it in clingfilm for 4 days in the sun.  I didn’t get 100% what I wanted so I repeated the process but tied the times individually in place the next time round.  Much better and the result is usable for what I have in mind.

Resources: – terrific funny images here!!


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.

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