Monthly Archives: September 2015


Module 2 – Record logs

evaluation of a functional 3D embroidered item

The completed assessment piece for Module Two is a reliquary in the shape of a cone snail based on the design topic of a tonal study of animal markings.

How do you feel about the resulting conclusion?

I am very pleased with the resulting conclusion.  The item works as a reliquary – I envisaged it as a receptacle for my small seashell collection, and it functions very well for this purpose.  The reliquary resembles very closely the full-scale paper model I made in the first part of Chapter 12, which suggests that most aspects of the design were well-resolved before I started making.  One outcome of Module 1 for me was that I have recognised in myself a tendency to ‘jump to conclusions’ so am making a concerted effort to exhaust as many options for sampling as present themselves.  I feel the cone snail is vindication of my attempts to take a more rigorous approach.  There were still tell-tale signs in the first part of Chapter 12 that I have not been wholly successful in this but I’m OK with it being a work in progress if Siân is.  The things I particularly like about the shell are the way the outer surface works as a tonal column, the contrast between the outer surface and the lining, the way the lining works as a reference to the predatory nature of the cone snail, and the way the spire construction has worked out as a wrapped Vilene spiral.  I also like the effects of the trims, and the wave form of the stand.

Is it fit for its purpose? Give reasons.

I do believe it is fit for its purpose.  First, it complies with the design brief in that it is functional, is three-dimensional, and is embroidered.  It works well as a reliquary, and is a suitable size to contain the objects I intend to keep in it.  The fastening (laces and loops) are a functional means of closure as well as a decorative trim, but it does require a considered decision to open the container, which is appropriate, I feel, for a reliquary.  The stand keeps the long axis of the snail horizontal, which prevents objects contained in the reliquary from falling out.

If you were asked to make it again, what changes would you make to the way you designed it and the way you made it?

There are two things I would work through more thoroughly in making design decisions: the choice of fabrics for the trim along the long opening edges of the shell, and the choice of thread for the satin stitch used in assembling the object.  That is not to say I would have made different choices; however, after I constructed the shell, I realised that I probably should have trialled a fringed trim consisting of frayed black fabric enclosing the diagonal grey frayed squares, and sampled a dark grey thread for the satin stitch.  As it turns out, I think the choices I made instinctively worked well, but I should have sampled options before deciding.  The only other change I would have made would have been to use two layers of the S133 heavy pelmet Vilene in the stand rather than the S520 Vilene, as the stand would have been better had the construction been a bit more rigid.

references consulted for module 2

Geddes, E. & McNeill, M. 1976, Blackwork Embroidery, Dover Publications, New York

Hogg, B. 2010, RSN Essential Stitch Guides: Blackwork, Search Press, Tunbridge Wells

Holmes, V. 2003, The Encyclopedia of Machine Embroidery, B.T. Batsford, London

Langford, P. 1999, Embroidery Ideas from Blackwork, Kangaroo Press, Sydney

Lucano, S. 2010, Made in France: Blackwork, Murdoch Books, Sydney

Möller, E. 1999, Shibori: The art of fabric tying, folding, pleating and dyeing, Search Press, Tunbridge Wells

Saunders, S. (ed.) 1998, Royal School of Needlework Embroidery Techniques, B.T. Batsford, London

Thomas, M. 1983 (1936), Mary Thomas’s Embroidery Book, Dover Publications, New York

Watts, P. 2003, Beginner’s Guide to Machine Embroidery, Search Press, Tunbridge Wells

Time Log

Here is my time log for Module 2, based upon diary notes and timesheets:

Chapter Dates Time in hours
Intro + Chapter 1 21/5/14 – 28/5/14 16
Chapter 2 31/5/14 – 6/7/14 28
Chapter 3 9/6/14 – 26/7/14 15
Chapter 4 10/7/14 – 2/8/14 10
Chapter 5 6/8/14 – 21/9/14 9
Chapter 6 16/8/14 – 27/9/14 23
Chapter 7 2/11/14 – 26/12/14 30
Chapter 8 19/1/15 – 26/1/15 14
Chapter 9 26/1/15 – 8/2/15 14
Chapter 10 15/2/15 – 17/3/15 21
Chapter 11 18/3/15 – 13/5/15 30
Chapter 12 17/5/15 – 12/9/15 60
Chapter 13 13/9/15 – 20/9/15 8

Of the time recorded against Chapter 12, just under 30 hours (17/5/15 – 9/7/15) were spent on design, and just over 30 hours (24/7/15 – 12/9/15) on making.

Costing of materials

The costing of materials for Module 2 appears in the table below.


Date Item Supplier Cost of item
Amount used Cost estimate
A3 cartridge pad Stock (originally Gallery 126) 19.95 1.3 pads 26.35
A4 bond paper Stock 1.25c/ sheet 100 sheets 1.25
Watercolour paper Stock (originally Gallery 126) 13.95/ 12 sheets 4 sheets 4.65
Pastel paper Stock 11.95/ 25 sheets 2 sheets 0.95
Tissue paper Stock 0.50/ sheet 0.5 sheet 0.25
Tracing paper Stock 2.00/ sheet 1 sheet 2.00
Squared/ graph paper Stock 0.50/ sheet 2 sheets 1.00
Various dates Copying/ printing Burns Aldis 10c/ sheet 60 copies 6.00
Acrylic ink Stock 9.90 ea 0.5 4.95
Acrylic paint Stock 3.95 0.5 2.00
Marker pens Stock 3.95 0.5 2.00
9/7/14 Procion dye The Thread Studio 8.40 0.6 5.05
9/7/14 Sun dye The Thread Studio 7.00 1 7.00
9/7/14 Jacquard textile paint The Thread Studio 6.60 0.5 3.30
9/7/14 Synthrapol detergent The Thread Studio 13.60 0.1 1.35
9/7/14 Soda ash The Thread Studio 6.30 0.1 0.65
White King bleach Woolworths 0.30
Various dates Glue sticks Woolworths 2.10 each 4 8.40
Canvas Stock (originally Mosman Needlecraft) 73.15/ m2 0.03 m2 2.20
Belfast linen Stock (originally Mosman Needlecraft) $99/ m 0.1 m 10.00
31/5/14 Coton à Broder Mosman Needlecraft 2.10 ea 0.5 1.05
24/5/14 Tapestry wool Lincraft 0.79 ea 1 0.80
31/5/14 Appleton’s crewel wool Mosman Needlecraft 2.65 ea 1 2.65
24/5/14 Stranded cotton Lincraft 0.98 ea 0.3 0.30
Various Pearl cotton Lincraft, Spotlight 5.99 ea 3 18.00
Various Gutermann Machine thread Lincraft, Spotlight 6.99/ 250 m spool 4 28.00


Cotton homespun Lincraft 6.99/ m
5.5 m2 34.30
9/7/14 Fuse and tear The Thread Studio 7.70/m 0.2 m 1.55
24/8/14 Printed fabrics Lincraft 9.99/ m 0.3 m 3.00
3/7/14 Printed fabrics Kimono House 25.00/ m 0.3 m 7.50
Gauze Stock 4.40/ m 0.1 m 0.45
Chiffon Stock 10.00/ m 0.05 m 0.50
15/5/15 Felt Spotlight 0.99 ea 5 5.00
Polyester stuffing Stock 0.20
22/3/15 Vilene S133 Kraftkolour 21.35/ m 0.05 m 1.10
7/9/13 Vilene S520 Voodoo Rabbit 26.30/ m 0.25 m 6.60
Sea urchin spines Stock (The Thread Studio) 0.45 ea 2 0.90
Vliesofix Stock 19.99/ m 0.05 m 1.00
Total 202.55

The total cost of $202.55 equates to £93.79 at today’s exchange rate.

work health and safety

Work health and safety considerations which I have observed which are relevant to this module include:

Painting, dyeing and printing on paper and fabric:
  • If using solvent-based paints or inks, work in a well ventilated area and, if necessary, use a respirator;
  • Ensure that work surfaces and all other surfaces prone to splashes and spillages are covered with an impermeable protective material (I bought a piece of PVC sheet to cover my work surface);
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when making up dyes and other products;
  • Wear protective clothing, including to cover arms, and wear latex or vinyl gloves to protect hands from paints and inks;
  • Ensure that paints and inks are kept out of reach of vulnerable people such as children and use non-toxic products whenever possible;
  • Keep paints, inks and dyes (and other chemicals) in a cool, dark place;
  • Wear a mask when mixing dyes and ancillary ingredients such as soda ash to avoid breathing powder;
  • Keep a set of utensils specifically for dyeing – never use any utensil which has been used for painting or dyeing for food preparation;
  • If using bleach, ensure good ventilation (I worked outside on our outdoor table which I protected with layers of newspaper) and wear a PVC apron and latex or vinyl gloves.  Don’t use natural sponges or brushes to apply bleach as they will disintegrate.  Wash off any bleach splashes immediately – bleach dissolves protein, including one’s own skin.
  • Wash all equipment as soon as practicable after use, preferably not in a sink used for food preparation (I use the laundry tub, then clean it well afterwards);
Cutting paper and fabric
  • Cut paper and card on a proper cutting mat using a sharp knife or rotary cutter (because blunt knives are more likely to slip and cause injury), being conscious to keep fingers out of the way, and cut away from the body whenever possible;
  • Always retract the rotary cutter blade when not in use;
  • Cap and put sharp utensils away immediately after use.  I keep the point of my sharp embroidery scissors driven into a cork to avoid accidents;
  • Take care when holding the steel rule for cutting straight lines;
  • Cut only in good light and on a stable surface to avoid errors or injury.
Using any electrical equipment: irons, sewing machines
  • Ensure cords are tucked away to avoid entanglement or trip hazard;
  • Ensure cords are not frayed and that equipment, including cords and plugs, is not damaged in any way;
  • Only ever use electrical equipment on a circuit protected by a residual current device or safety switch;
  • Always switch equipment off at the power point and remove the cord using the plug.
Hand and machine sewing
  • Ensure the lighting is good, that there is adequate task lighting, and that the set-up of one’s chair and sewing table are ergonomically sound;
  • When embroidering, use a foot at all times (including use of a darning foot if free-motion embroidering) and be conscious of keeping fingers out of the way (and best not to stitch when very tired or in a rush);
  • Take regular rest breaks to re-focus eyes, stretch and walk around;
  • Keep track of pins and needles – if one is lost, look for it immediately;
  • Keep a lidded container to hand as a receptacle for broken pins, damaged needles, blunted stencil knife blades and other unwanted sharp objects;
  • Never go barefoot in the studio (not in mine, anyway, as it is carpeted, thus making it more difficult to see dropped pins and needles).
Using the iron
  • Ensure the temperature is set at the correct level for the fabric used;
  • Protect the iron and ironing board when using vliesofix or other fusibles with silicone-coated baking paper and/or a teflon ironing cloth;
  • Watch fingers, especially holding fiddly bits of fabric when using steam settings.  Better still, when ironing pieced fabrics with closely-spaced narrow seams, avoid the risk of scalding fingers by not using  the steam setting.

storage of completed work, materials and equipment

I have made some progress on this since Module 1, with labelled, stacking boxes for materials now residing in the  built-in wardrobe in my studio:


At the moment:

  • threads are stored in a drawer with colour families sorted into trays;
  • fabrics are stored loosely folded and hanging from skirt hangers or, where folding does not matter, folded in a labelled box in the wardrobe;
  • paints and inks are stored in labelled plastic boxes in the wardrobe, away from light and heat;
  • electrical equipment (except the iron, which is in use constantly and the sewing machine, which has its own cabinet) is stored in the original boxes with the flex carefully wrapped;
  • paper is stored flat on shelves in the wardrobe.

Work in progress is generally spread out on my work surface – I have the luxury of not having to clear it away, and anything likely to fade is covered.  Fabrics in use are kept in a basket on my work table, and threads in another basket, out of sunlight but readily to hand.  I have been placing completed samples in a sketchbook – multi-layered fabric samples are stuck in with removable mounting tape but I wouldn’t want to do this with a single fabric layer because of the risk of staining.  Three-dimensional samples and models are kept in a sturdy, lidded box.

My cone snail is living in the china cabinet in the dining room for now, away from dust, light and fiddling fingers – we need to find it a permanent home where it is a bit more visible.


Module 2 Chapter 13

Hans Holbein the Elder (c. 1460-1524) and Hans Holbein the Younger (c. 1497-1543)

Born about 1460 in Augsburg in Germany, Hans Holbein the Elder lived and work at the cusp of late Gothic and early Renaissance art.  He belonged to a significant family of painters; his father was a painter and his brother, Sigismund, worked with him in partnership.  Hans Holbein’s earlier body of work includes many religious works such as altar paintings characteristic of the Gothic tradition but he was also a successful portrait artist and his works evidence the transformation from the late Gothic to the Renaissance style.  The Renaissance-style portrait of a Man (1518-1520; image 1) prefigures the portrait work of Holbein’s son Hans the Younger.

1. Portrait of a Man, Hans Holbein the Elder (1518-1520)

The portrait of St Barbara (image 2), on the other hand, to me appears still to be influenced by the late Gothic tradition, although perhaps the Renaissance influence is making itself felt in the way Holbein has painted the drapery of St Barbara’s gown.

2. Saint Barbara, Hans Holbein the Elder (1516)










One aspect of interest in both these portraits is the suggestion of blackwork embroidery on the garments worn by the models.  The depiction of blackwork is generally associated with the work of Hans Holbein the Younger (and, in fact, a number of web-based sources attribute the painting of St Barbara to the younger Holbein) but these works do appear to show examples of this style of embroidery.

The elder Holbein’s life was eventful; he was forced to leave Augsburg after 1516, when he was declared a tax defaulter, and moved to Issenheim, in Alsace.  Pursued by creditors, he moved to Basel, where he died in 1524.

Hans Holbein the Younger, son of the elder Hans Holbein, was born in about 1497, also in Augsburg.  Image 3 shows a charming silverpoint drawing of Hans and his brother Ambrosius (also a painter) by their father, Hans Holbein the Elder.

3. Ambrosius and Hans Holbein, Hans Holbein the Elder (1511)

The younger Holbein’s early career, to 1526, was spent predominantly in Basel, where he painted murals, religious paintings, cartoons for stained glass, and woodcut book illustrations, also painting the occasional portrait.

In 1526, Holbein moved to England, where he executed a number of portraits in the Renaissance style, perhaps most notably of Sir Thomas More and his family.  From 1529 to 1532, Holbein lived again in Basel, but he returned to England in 1532, and in his second English period, he produced the portraits for which he is most famous.  Images 4 to 7 reproduce portraits of Henry VIII and two of his queens, Jane Seymour and Catherine Howard, from the period 1536 to 1540.  The aspect of these portraits of particularly interest in the context of Module 2 is, of course, the fine drawing of blackwork embroidery on the garments (see, particularly, image 6).

4. Henry VIII, Hans Holbein the Younger (c. 1536)


5. Jane Seymour, Hans Holbein the Younger (c. 1537)

6. Detail of blackwork embroidery on Jane Seymour’s cuff

7.  Catherine Howard (or perhaps Elizabeth Seymour), Hans Holbein the Younger (c. 1540)

Hans Holbein the Younger continued as King’s Painter  and also undertook private commissions up to the time of his death in 1543.

Holbein Stitch, used extensively in blackwork, is named after Hans Holbein the Younger on the basis of his paintings of members of King Henry VII’s family, most of which depict blackwork embroidery.  Various references suggest that blackwork was introduced to England from Spain by Catherine of Aragon (queen consort from 1509 to 1533).  It is thought to have Moorish roots, although Pat Langford (1999) noted that it is impossible to pinpoint the source of the technique.  Holbein Stitch produces reversible line embroidery and is worked in two stages, as shown in the stitch diagram in image 8, reproduced from Wikipedia.

8.Holbein Stitch diagram


Langford, P. 1999, Embroidery Ideas from Blackwork, Kangaroo Press, Sydney

Textile Research Centre Leiden 2015, Hans Holbein the Younger and Blackwork, retrieved 15th September 2015 from

Wikipedia 2015, Hans Holbein the Elder, retrieved 15th September 2015 from

Wikipedia 2015, Hans Holbein the Younger, retrieved 15th September 2015 from

Wikipedia 2015, Holbein stitch, retrieved 15th September 2015 from




Bridget Riley

Bridget Riley, born in 1931 at Norwood, London, is a British contemporary artist best known as a pioneer and foremost practitioner of Op Art (or optical art), a movement initiated in the 1960s which relies on use of abstract geometrical forms to create optical illusions; often, to produce the illusion of three-dimensional space with or without a perception of movement, from a two-dimensional surface. The term ‘Op Art’ was coined around the time of a seminal exhibition, in which Bridget Riley was a key participant, entitled The Responsive Eye at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1965.

Riley’s early art education involved study at Goldsmith’s College and the Royal College of Art, whence she graduated with a BA in 1955.  Her early work was figurative; later, intrigued by Seurat’s use of small points of complementary colours in his painting Bridge of Courbevoie, she explored pointillism, demonstrating a growing interest in the way vision and image interact dynamically.  Her neo-impressionistic landscape paintings from the late 1950s reflect Seurat’s influence.

The body of work which first engaged critical interest began to emerge in about 1960, when Bridget Riley commenced working in black and white (and sometimes tonal scales of grey), using geometric shapes to produce optical effects where art was made not solely by the work itself but by the perceptions induced by the interaction of the work with the eye of the viewer.  From 1960 to 1967, Riley worked exclusively in achromatic colours (black, white and grey) in various media (tempera on board, emulsion on board, PVA on canvas …) to produce a series of geometric abstractions which explored the dynamic effects of optical illusion produced by pure tone, as images 8 to 12 illustrate.  Her work from this period is relevant to our use of tone in Module 2 – for example, in the tonal columns in Chapter 1, and in the tonal arrangements of paper and textiles later in the module.

8. Movement in Squares, Bridget Riley (1961)

Here, the effect of a curve is formed by rectangles of decreasing width and the eye is drawn into what appears to be a valley fold in the surface.

9. Britannia, Bridget Riley (1961)

In Britannia, the eccentric circles appear to form a tunnel down which the gaze of the observer is drawn.  This effect is accentuated by the formation of three optical pathways to the centre of the stacked circles – the series of black circle segments at the top and bottom of the ‘tunnel’ and the narrow black and white path formed by the thin stripe at the ‘equator’ of the image.

10. Blaze 1, Bridget Riley (1962)

In Blaze, another visual tunnel is formed by circles of chevrons, seemingly concentric but actually, again, offset relative to one another.  I thought when first viewing this image that the visual effect is formed by a spiral but this, too, is an optical illusion formed by the way the circles are offset relative to each other.  The tunnel has a pleated appearance and the eye is drawn to the centre by the use of chevrons of ever-decreasing size, with the ones closest to the centre appearing more as a grey tone than as pure black and white.  For me, this work induces a sense of movement which is quite unsettling.

11. Fall, Bridget Riley (1963)

Fall creates its sense of a folding, then collapsing, surface through use of curved lines with increasing frequency of curvature towards the bottom of the image.  Again, the arrangement of the lines creates the perception of grey tone from pure black and white lines.

12. Loss, Bridget Riley (1964)

Loss is an example of Bridget Riley’s work from this period where she has used a tonal scale of grey as well as pure black and white.  As with Movement in Squares, the effect of a curve is formed by circles which become ellipses of progressively smaller width the closer the are to the centre of the image, and the eye is drawn into what appears to be a valley fold in the surface.  The perception of three-dimensionality is enhanced by the grey circles with both lead the eye to the bottom of the image at the centre and give the appearance of light shining on a three-dimensional form.

Bridget Riley wrote of her work during this period: “In my earlier paintings, I wanted the space between the picture plane and the spectator to be active.  It was in that space, paradoxically, the painting ‘took place’.”

From 1967 onwards, Riley began experimenting with colour.  Initially, her works used colour to produce the same effects of dynamic instability inherent in her achromatic works, as in Cataract 3 (image 13).

13. Cataract 3, Bridget Riley (1967)

Her later work was influenced more by visual and emotional responses to colour, by her interest in ancient Egyptian art kindled by a visit to Egypt in 1981, and by increasing interest in arrangements of geometric units of colour in relation to one another.  The screen print Fete (image 14) is an example of her later work.  Bridget Riley, now in her 80s, continues to work.

14. Fete, Bridget Riley (1999)

Of Bridget Riley’s work in colour, critic Robert Hughes observed: ‘The swelling, wavelike surfaces of her new work had replaced the sharp, unstable arrays of black and white dots … but their main content, a sense of slippage or threat to underlying order, remained.  What seem, at first, “mere” variations of pattern turn into metaphors of unease, closely tuned uncertainties of reading’ (Hughes 1991:389).  This interpretation sees her work as destabilising and perhaps subversive and manipulative, in a  visual sense.


Bittleston, M. n.d. Bridget Riley, retrieved 15th September 2015 from

Colour Vision and Art n.d., Bridget Riley and Op Art, retrieved 15th September 2015 from

Hughes, R. 1991, The Shock of the New, Thames and Hudson, London. 2015, Bridget Riley, retrieved 15th September 2015 from

Riggs, T. 1998, Bridget Riley born 1931: Artist biography, retrieved 15th September 2015 from

Tate: What’s on (2003), Bridget Riley Tate Britain: Exhibition, retrieved 15th September 2015 from

Wikipedia 2015, Bridget Riley, retrieved 15th September 2015 from

William Brian ‘Badger’ Bates

For my ‘own choice’ artist I have elected to write about Badger Bates.  Badger is a Paakantji (also spelled Barkindji and pronounced with a hard ‘B’ and the stress on the first syllable) elder and knowledge-holder whose country is situated along the Darling River in far-western NSW.  He works in several media: linocut, emu egg carving, stone carving and metal and timber sculpture, but it is his printmaking which is directly relevant to Module 2.

Badger Bates’s country begins a short distance west of Bourke, and continues along the Darling River past Wilcannia.  He is also a Traditional Owner of country in and around the Mutawintji National Park, north of Wilcannia.  His Meat (usually rendered in English as ‘totem’) is the wedge tailed eagle, which is sacred to him and his family.  Badger was born in Wilcannia in 1947, and reared by his extended family but, especially, by his grandmother, Granny Moysey (1870-1976), a famous Gurnu Paakantji matriarch, who was reputed to be a Clever Woman.  As a Wimpatja Paaka (man of the Darling River), he spent his youth moving from location to location along the river with his grandmother who, intent on keeping him from the clutches of the Aborigines Welfare Board, managed to ensure that, unlike his siblings, Badger never became one of the Stolen Generations.

Badger’s work is strongly influenced by his Paakantji heritage but also by his concerns about environmental degradation of riparian ecosystems.  For Aboriginal people, connections to place are deeply ontological, so Badger’s work represents his very identity.  His work is an expression of environmental activism but also peace activism – Badger’s father was a Scot, his mother Paakantji, and much of his work is about reconciliation – the bridging of cultures.  Badger receives inspiration from the Old People – his ancestors and, especially, his grandmother, who give him ideas and guide his hand.  His work illustrates his dreaming, the natural environment of the river and surrounding country, and his life experiences and those of his people.

Of particular interest in the context of this module is Badger’s use of tone, the marks he makes to denote the animals in his work, and his use of mark-making more generally.  He produces his linocut prints purely in black and white.  He incises the linoleum freehand  with minimal if any preparatory sketching on the linoleum surface.  His work has a sharp, contemporary feel very different from much of the Aboriginal art currently being made in western NSW, where many people are working with techniques traditional to the Northern Territory.  Badger’s rendering of animal markings often takes the form of a representation of the interior architecture of the animal rather than its exterior, but sometimes is purely abstract (as with the echidna in image 15, which is based on an earlier sculptural work made from a circular saw blade and a bicycle chain).

15. Echidna feeding after rain, Badger Bates (2004)

Echidna Feeding after Rain

Images 16 and 17 show, respectively, a cod eating yabbies, and the Ngatyi (Paakantji for Rainbow Serpent) and a plesiosaur entwined.  In both of these images, the animals are rendered partly to represent the external appearance and partly to reference the internal form.  The depiction of food inside the animals reflects the ecosystem of which the animal is a part.  Mark-making external to the animal creates tonal variation in the background, and is expressive of the environment – the current within the river, the clouds in the sky, the surrounding landscape.

Parntu Thayilana Wiiithi (Cod Eating Yabbies), Badger Bates (2004)

Parntu Thayilana Wiiithi (Cod Eating Yabbies)


16. Ngatyi (Rainbow Serpent) Embracing Plesiosaur, Badger Bates (2004)

Image 17 shows a narrative image based on the bronze wing pigeon story.  Again, Badger has used textural marks to produce tonal variation which differentiates landscape elements in the print and to reference the actual textures in the landscape.

Marnpi Dreaming (The bronze wing pigeon story), Badger Bates (1994)

Badger was taught to carve by his grandmother from the age of about eight.  He later studied basic printmaking techniques at Broken Hill TAFE in the 1980s.  He is an arts educator, and has taught as an artist in residence at Wilcannia, at the College of Fine Arts (University of New South Wales) and, more recently, in Rio Tinto in Andalusia, Spain.  His works are held in public collections including the Australian Museum, the Art Gallery of NSW, the Broken Hill Regional Gallery, and in private collections (including ours).

Note: Badger, his partner Dr Sarah Martin and their family are dear friends of ours.  I was hoping to be able to be able to interview Badger and include an audio recording in this post but we haven’t yet managed to coincide either in Broken Hill or in Armidale to record an interview.  If we manage to get together to do this at some point in the near future I will add an audio file to this post.


Broken Hill City Council n.d., Gallery collection, retrieved 20th September 2015 from

Culture Victoria 2014, Badger Bates, retrieved 20th September 2015 from

Lander, J.  2008, William Brian ‘Badger’ Bates, born 1947, retrieved 20th September 2015 from

Module 2 Chapter 12 (continued)

Making the reliquary

The whorl

The first step was to go back to the paper models in the previous post and make a final decision as to which one to make.  I opted for the first alternative (images 19 to 22 in the previous post), so I made tonal columns using the same papers as in that model so that I could match fabrics as closely as possible to the tones in the paper (image 1)



At this stage I realised I needed to decorate some more fabrics with stitch so that I would have a range of fabrics which would approximate the papers in the columns above.  Siân suggested that I might like to incorporate some stitch in a colour to match the bleach marks on some of my bleached fabrics, so I bought some machine thread and pearl cotton in a matching colour and have used these selectively in the elements of the cone.  Images 2 and 3 show alternative arrangements of two tonal columns of fabrics.  I couldn’t decide which variations provided the better gradation without arranging the fabrics and photographing the resulting columns.





After a few more tweaks in fabric choice to make the tonal gradation more consistent, I arrived at the selections in image 4.  These show the first stage of piecing the outer surface of the cone snail.



Before I began piecing I made three samples to help me to decide how to tackle the seams.  The samples in image 5 show (from left to right) forward facing crosswise seams and backward facing lengthwise seams; backward facing crosswise seams and forward facing lengthwise seams; and all seams forward-facing.  I decided on the second option because, while I wanted forward-facing seams for the textural effect, I was keen to maintain the tonal gradation in the columns.  Some of my fabrics were monoprinted, which meant that the reverse (white) of the fabrics were showing in forward-facing crosswise seams, and I wanted to avoid this.  I also preferred to have as much of the surface decoration showing as possible, so I opted for forward-facing lengthwise seams only, and decided to try to get the seam allowances to stand up.



It also seemed to be a good idea at this stage to see how the seamed surface would wrap around the cone surface (image 6).  I found that, while the fabric would wrap, the seam allowances lay flat on the surface.  I reasoned that if the pieces in the finished surface were smaller, and the seam allowances perhaps a bit narrower, I could tease the ends of the crosswise seams apart (in the lengthwise seam allowances) to make the lengthwise seams allowances to stand away from the cone.  This would be safe to do because the pieced surface would be bonded to the surface of the Vilene, so there would be no risk of the surface coming apart.



At this point, I felt that I had resolved all the questions which had arisen so far about the external surface of the cone, so I pieced the surface together and cut out the cone shape using pattern pieces I had made based on the calculations in the previous post (image 7).  I had to be careful to remember which way to cut the surface to ensure that the dark end of the tonal column lay along the external flap of the cone.



The lining

As mentioned in the previous post, I decided to use one of the more spiky designs from Chapter 10 as the lining, to reference the harpoon the cone snail uses to inject venom into its prey.  I went back to the size of the sample in Chapter 10 to try to work out how large I needed to make my starting black and white strips.  The maths got the better of me, so I decided (quite arbitrarily) to tear eight strips the full width (112 cm) of each of my black and white fabrics, sufficiently wide to allow for 1.5 cm wide strips with a 7.5 mm seam allowance on each side.  This was probably a reasonably safe way to go since the 4 strips in each of the black and white fabrics in Chapter 10  gave me a sample about half of the width I needed for the lining.  The first round of piecing gave me a surface almost as large as the top of the ironing board (image 8).



It was considerably smaller after the second round of piecing (1.5 x 6 cm rectangles – image 9).



After the final round of piecing (diagonal slices with a finished width of 1.5 cm) I ended up with a piece just the right size to cut out the lining of the whorl and the large end of the spire (images 10 and 11).





Just a few words of explanation at this point about the construction method.  My S520 Vilene arrived just after my previous blog post, so I had two weights of pelmet/craft Vilene to play with.  I had decided to use the heavy pelmet Vilene (S133) to make the plane surface which passes through the cone between the spire and the whorl, on the basis that this would stabilise the whole construction.  I fused the round section of lining to this piece of Vilene, then cut out a piece of plain black fabric to cover the reverse side of the Vilene circle and fused it on with Vliesofix, just to make sure that no white Vilene showed through once I had assembled the cone (image 12).



The S133 Vilene was too stiff to use for the whorl, but the S520, once it arrived, proved to be ideal.  Siân suggested using two layers of this, one fused to the reverse side of each surface (the outside and the lining) so that they could slip over each other as the reliquary is opened and closed.  I trimmed the Vilene for the outer surface to 4 mm smaller on each side than the pieced fabric (so that I could satin stitch around the edges of the shape without catching too much of the Vilene in) then fused it to the back of the fabric surface.  It seemed likely that the outer and lining layers of the cone would be sufficiently thick to make the radius (and therefore the circumference) of the cross-section of the outside of the cone slightly larger than the cross-section of the lining (I’m not explaining this at all well).   When I assembled the outside of the cone with the lining inside, I found that the lining was indeed slightly oversized so I trimmed it and its Vilene stiffening before fusing the Vilene to the lining.


Before beginning to assemble the cone, I made trimmings to incorporate in the seams.  Image 13 shows the edging for the opening and inner edges of the whorl.  These were made by capturing small frayed squares of shibori fabric placed on the diagonal between two strips of frayed white fabric.



I also needed some cords for the loops to be incorporated in the opening edge of the spire (on both the spire and the whorl), for the lacings and to decorate the spire.  The cord for the loop was made from one of my stitched strips (image 14) with zigzag stitching using pearl cotton in the bobbin.



The cord for the laces and spire trim was made using a printed fabric with white and peachy-coloured pearl cotton (the colour of the bleach marks) trapped in the zigzag stitching (image 15).




Assembling the whorl

Because of the complexity of the construction (incorporating the outer and lining layers and the trims) it was necessary to tack the layers together, precisely matching the edges and laying the seam allowances in the directions I wanted, before machining (image 16, showing me tacking for authentication purposes).  I tacked the seam allowances for the outside of the cone open, intending to press the seams so that the seam allowances would stand upright for most of their length once the whorl was assembled.



I used the widest zigzag stitch my machine would produce, with a close stitch spacing to produce a robust satin stitch. Image 17 shows a detail of the outside of the flap of the cone; image 18 shows the outside of the cone with both the straight edges seamed; and image 19 shows a similar view of the cone lining







One of the things I like about the outer surface of the cone is the way the seam allowances undulate depending upon how heavily stitched the strip of fabric is.  Where there is a lot of stitching, the seam allowance bends out, and the staggered piecing of the strips produces an interesting effect where this happens.

The next step was to stitch the opening edge where the spire meets the whorl.  For the lacing loops, I incorporated a continuous piece of cord shaped into loops between the inner and outer layers of Vilene and tacked the edge of the seam in place (image 20).  For the spire, I laid the cord in loops along the black surface of the circle (image 21).  At this stage, the intention was then to machine the remainder of the whorl and the circles together once the opening edges had been machined.





It quickly became apparent when I tried to tack the top of the whorl and the circle together that it would not be possible to machine these edges, so I satin-stitched each curved edge separately then hand-stitched the whorl to the circle.  Images 22 to 25 show different views of the outside and inside of the assembled shape at this point.  The seams on the outside of the whorl were standing up, just as I hoped.









Then, I attached the cords for the laces to the top of the circle (image 26)



The spire

The spire was one of the less-resolved aspects of the design in the previous post.  Siân suggested that, rather than the loose, informal wired arrangement I had previously, I experiment with a heavier shaping material (heavier wire or perhaps nylon line from a line trimmer).  I found that it was almost impossible to get the nylon line to curve to a small enough radius, and use of a heavier wire still produced a rather floppy result.  Siân also suggested that I try cutting a spiral from Vilene and binding it with fabric, on the basis that the thickness of the fabric binding would prevent the spiral laying flat, and the result would be a conical shape.  This proved to be a very successful way of making the spire.  I cut the spiral from heavy pelmet Vilene (S133) – it proved to be easier than I thought to cut a fairly intricate shape from this thick, semi-rigid materials.  Image 27 shows padding of the shape in progress – this involved winding strips of black fabric around the spiral.  The padded shape is shown in image 28.





The next step was to wind strips of decorated fabrics over the padding to produce the tonal variation I was seeking.  I had decided to grade the tone from darkest at the edge of the spire to lightest at the apex to emphasise the conical shape, rather than to grade the tone from one edge to the other, as shown on the paper model.  Once I had wrapped the spiral, I attached cords to the underside of the spiral and decorated the spiral by wrapping the cords around each layer from bottom to top, and bringing the cords out at the centre.  Then, and this was the most difficult part of the construction, I hand-stitched each layer of the spiral to the next  on the inside of the shape using a curved needle.  Images 29 to 32 show the outside and inside of the spire once wrapping and stitching were complete. 









It remained at this point to decide how to finish the cords.  I decided to wrap the point at which the cords emerged from the spiral with a tapered strip of fabric and bind it with pearl cotton, and to finish each cord with an overhand knot close to the end of the cord, as shown in image 33.



At this point, I also needed to decide how to finish the laces.  Traditionally, reliquaries incorporate precious stones in their ornamentation and I thought, since this is a secular reliquary in the form of a sea creature (or its home), I would like to include some precious objects from the sea.  I just happened to have a small packet of sea urchin spines which I bought a while back from The Thread Studio, and thought that these would make good aglets (yes, there is a word for the hard plasticky bits on the end of shoelaces).  So I bound the ends of the laces to the spines using pearl cotton which I had anchored in the cords (image 34).  I think the binding is robust enough to stand up to lacing and unlacing, especially as the reliquary won’t be laced or unlaced frequently.  If they start to move I can coat them with a layer of PVA glue.  The spines have a ridged matt texture which will hold the thread in place.



Assembling the reliquary

The spire and whorl were attached with hand-stitching in black machine thread.  I oversewed the two edges together.  Fortunately, there is so much going on stitchwise at the edges of both components that I didn’t have to worry too much about making invisible stitches – my hand-stitching just blended in with what was already there.  Image 35 shows the process of stitching the two elements together.  I did end up with calluses on the tips of my thumb and forefinger from pulling the needle through so many layers of fabric and Vilene (not a complaint; just an observation).



The stand

The stand was the other aspect of the design which was not well resolved in the previous post.  Having thought further about this, I decided on a form which was less formal, and perhaps referencing the environment in which the cone snail lives, and so came up with a simple wave-form with cut-out circle segments designed to display the cone snail with its long axis more or less horizontal.  The design was based on three circles of diameters 10 cm, 7 cm and 4 cm, with their centres aligned and equal distances apart. The circles were cut down so that the stand would sit well below the axis of the cone.  I prepared a further piece of black fabric decorated with stitch; cut two pieces of craft Vilene (S520) to shape and applied it to the fabric; cut the fabric to shape (image 36); then folded the fabric along the base line and machined the edges in satin stitch (image 37).





The next step was to make holes in the stand using a stiletto, bend the shape into a wave form, then insert bamboo satay sticks which I had dyed black through the holes and trimming the pointed ends.    Even though I pierced the stiletto holes first, the bamboo sticks were sufficiently thicker to make this a fairly difficult job (it almost turned into a wrestling match).  Once in place, the sticks weren’t going anywhere.  I had planned to finish the stand by wrapping the sticks to keep the fabric in place but there was no need to restrain the fabric on the sticks, so the wrapping (shibori fabric held in place with wrapped pearl cotton) simply serves as a trim to make the stand look finished (image 38 shows the trim and images 39 and 40 show the form of the finished stand).








Images 41 to 49 show the reliquary on its stand.



















And fulfilling its practical function with a cargo of seashells … (image 50)



I’m sitting at my desk rather bemused, not quite able to believe I made this.  It’s amazing just how much like the paper model it turned out (with the added benefit of all the interesting textures, of course).  I can’t imagine even being able to conceive of an object like this before I began this course, let alone to design and make it!  I’ll evaluate it properly in the next post.