A VISUAL DIARY
Weaving from my living room during the outbreak of COVID-19.
Constructing the loom took about 3 weeks. I hand made it with the following materials:
- metal pins
- metal nails
- algae yarn
I secured Cecilia's micro-loom with wool to begin experimenting with weaving human hair, and my original loom design drawing.
Adobe Illustrator file for pinhole stencil that I laser cut from raw fabric.
To begin understanding a loom, a wove a miniature loom with wool and began attempting to weave human hair through it. It was dificult as the strands are so thin.
I designed a stencil for the pin holes of the loom that run along the bottom and top sides. I laser cut the stencil onto a piece of fabric and hammered the nails through on the timber.
I used the shape of the seaweed farming beds as design inspiration for my loom.
I started by sketching up a design of a scaffold on A3 paper. This included vertical strings and frame. I stitched thread along the vertical's and began to insert human hair and seaweed that I had harvested into it. I wanted to see how the elements fused aesthetically together, and experiemtn with ways in which I could insert my materials. I searched for a rhythm.
This is what I ended up with. The colours did not align with me, they were too luminescent, rich and romantic. I knew from here that I wanted to work with soft, raw hues like pale pinks and browns. I enjoyed the aesthetic if it were for a large scale canvas collage. But the reality of mirroring that onto a loom was impossible. So I decided to begin by constructing the loom as a first step.
I bought 4 timber poles from Schmidt, our trusty hardware store in the Red Light District. The vertical poles were 2.5m and the horizontal 1.5m. These lengths were based on nothing but my intuition, which is what I let guide me throughout my project development. Before drilling the timber poles into a frame, I used my pinhole stencil mentioned above, and hammered 138 pins into the horizontal poles. This would function as the warp string support sytem. I then drilled 4mm screws into each perpendicular corner of the frame. This actually took about 2 days of trial and error because I was trying to balance the poles evenly which proved difficulat when resting on a table that is smaller than the frame.
I created a double loop system with Cecilia, seen below.
I began laying samples of alginate and agar bioplastics that I had fabricated in Week 6. These samples had jute and my own hair cast within them, so it was a nice indicator of how the texture of the wefts could evolve. This process helped me identity a centre point and where the best starting position would be.
I tried many techniques of inserting material into the loom. I tried to insert panels of bioplastics and fishing net. This approach wasthe most abstract of them all, having no consistency. It was similar to my first mock earlier on the A3 paper. I enjoyed it but for this scale, it was not going to evolve with softness and delicacy.
I began experimenting with fabric scissors, cutting the bioplastic panels into strips of different widths. This, I loved and was sold on the technique.
I decided to take some of the bioplastic samples to the laser cutter, where I set the Power: 80 and Speed: 75. Aside from being slightly burnt, the strips were beautiful delicate locks of seaweed and human hair, all different lengths, textures and pastel tones, ready to be woven into my loom. This was the appraoch I would continue throughout my artwork.
To seal Gaia, I hand stitched the bioplastic strips around the warp strings. I used algae yarn to stitch.
Aside from female human hair (which I was given consent by the owners to use), Gaia is fabricated with only vegetable based materials.
I took a trip to Den Haag, Skeveningen to harvest seaweed. Trains, trams, buses to get to a horizon line. I brough my seaweed collecting toolkit: 2 large glass containers and a sharp knife. The most sustainable way to harvest seaweed is to trim it above the holdfast to ensure it grows back. It is destructive to pull seaweed directly off a rock or ocean floor. I harvested 3 contaniers of Bladderwrack seaweed (Fucus Vesiculosus), string algae/ rock moss, and Monstroma. I transported the seaweed back to my flat in Amsterdam where I rinsed as much sand off the leaves as possible. I then divided the different tyeps of seaweed I collected into 3 categories and lay them out flat on fabric to dry overnight. They resulted as dry, crispy, and darkened. Not the exact result I had planned. I discovered that I could soak the dried samples in warm water to relax their structure again. I wanted some samples of seaweed to be crunchy so that I could blend them into a pigment to use as dye. But others I also wanted moist and fresh so as to layer, cast, and knot them with hair.
In order to understand the structures I was working with, I drew mindmaps to break down the chemical properties of both alginate and agar. Chemical Properties of Algiate Bioplastic. Image Credit: Bela Rofe. Chemical Properties of Agar Bioplastic. Image Credit: Bela Rofe.
First Experiments I spent my first weeks in the lab conducting small experiements in petri dishes to see how the hair and seaweed would react in different environments. The experiments that resulted well would be scaled up to weave into my loom.
I made recipe's with strictly alginate and agar combined with dried plants from the sea, and female human hair. By simplyfying my ingredients I was able to better control my process and relationship to my work.
I used textured material to cast my bioplastic mixture onto. I loved the effect of it drying in a fishscale pattern.
The Most Reliable Alginate Recipe
- 12g sodium alginate
- 20g - 24g glycerine
- 400 mL water
Doubled Perfect Recipe:
- 24g sodium alginate
- 40g glycerine
- 800mL water
- Better to do 2 separate batches of the 'Perfect' recipe.
- The doubled recipe leaves white clumps and is not as runny.
Microscopic Imagery To help my reveal the world of Gaia I needed to go deeper. So, I decided to magnify the results of my bioplastics. I trimmed small samples of my bioplastics and placed them on a glass slide to analyse under high magnifications. I cannot explain my excitement. An environment I created has come to life under the microscope. Contours, valleys, ridges, roots- a self sufficient ecosystem. A little mermaid world. Colours of blue green algae explode with structure and form - an infinite network. Patterns erupt in vibrant turquoise - a biological texture unfolds. I am deep under the ocean- swimming through zones, pushing through bodies of water ,thoughtfully engaging with my surroundings- zooming in, enhancing definition, looking for discoveries. Women of the sea. Mermaid, nurturer, mother. This is my story. A world between worlds.
To collect hair I jumped on my bike and asked my local hair salons in Amsterdam. I located a female only hair salon so that worked in my favour. Other salon's told me it was too much work to separate the male hair from the female hair. I was provided with hair for 4 weeks. I picked it up once a week on Sunday's.
Letter of Consent I Gave to Hair Salon's.
I used the traditional, hands-on technique of wet felting hair to cast into bioplastics.
Properties of Human Hair and Algae
HEADPIECE & MASK
I made 2 versions of a headpiece to act as a mini mise-en-scene with Gaia. I showcased it in my film which can be seen here.
Made from agar bioplastic, dried aonori and wakame seaweed.
Made from alginate bioplastic, dried wakame and seamoss.
Sketches of Head Piece. Image Credit: Bela Rofe
MIRROR (Hand Held)
I made a mirror from sodium alginate to accompany the art installation and book at the exhibition. I designed a 3D file of a hand held mirror mold in Blender. I used a CNC milling machine to cut my mold design into foam; CNC Instructions.
Alginate Bioplastic Mirror Recipe:
- Alginate 40 g
- Water 275 mL
- Glycerine 10 g
I coated the mold with primer and paint. I filled the mold with a mixture of alginate bioplastic combined with dried seaweed, and cured it with Calcium Chloride. The drying process was tedious, it took almost 3 weeks to properly set. The final shape is organic, flexible in form, and transparent.
I designed organic shaped mirrors on Adobe Illustrator, exported as DXF and laser cut onto reflective acrylic. I placed a small plug on the mirror piece as it dried in the alginate so I could remove it once dry.