Author: tamarmaclellan

Layers of mark making

Having received copies of P’s text pages, I have begun to explore the process of making with more focus! I have selected imagery to make use of, sourced larger scale self-adhesive paper, and gathered a series of blue media to draw with including wax pencils, tape, an assortment of writing pens and a dip pen with blue Quink ink.   I have re-read extracts from the returned questionnaire to provide ideas for image placement,  and am begin to refine how these objects will be viewed through layers of tracing paper.

I have begun to explore using carbon paper as a dry alternative to mono-printing and have trialled this by using a series of drawing tools to imply the action of digging. I read a little around the history of garden tools, and have started to use my hand held garden fork to transfer carbon onto the tracing paper and self-adhesive labels to suggest a nod to how each object was found. Whilst this produces some interesting mark making, the tone of blue is limited to the colour of the carbon which be be too strong for the text? As a response, I have spent some time adding differing amounts of extender ink to blue relief ink and have produced some monoprints with the garden fork onto the self-adhesive paper and tracing paper surfaces.

Layers of mark making have started to emerge within the illustrations of each kept objects. The first layer will be a pale blue monoprint, made with the garden fork on a part of the inside surface of the tracing paper page.  Each object will then be recorded as a contour line drawing using the dip pen on the self-adhesive surface.  This will enable a degree of choice around which drawings are selected to be cut out and presented within the book.  Prior to cutting, carbon paper marks will be produced on top of each object providing a second reference to the act of digging. The objects will be positioned inside each page with some reference to where they are now kept, and will also be be glimpsed behind the text which P has produced.



Putting an end to inactivity



Five weeks and two cancelled meetings later, a pre-arranged Facetime meeting enabled dialogue and decision making.  The title for this project was confirmed as Kept, and the number of stories clarified as seven, with P providing a possible addition/alternative, if required, in response to a recently recovered hand forged nail. This project will document responses to questionnaires through text and image and focus on alternative finds to broken pottery.  Both P and I are keen to make a third response around the theme of Recovered Recorded, possibly as a pair of books, to catalogue only the hoard of blue and white broken china pieces found in P’s new garden and at my mum’s allotment.

Having previously agreed on the page size, format and three components of content for this book, P has begun to research each of the given postcodes to collect historical facts about each specific location. In conversation it was agreed that these snippets of additional information could be presented within the book as Tip-In’s, possibly echoing the record card presentation style made use of within the Recovered Recorded. I have begun to explore how to make the illustrations within the inside of the tracing paper French-fold format and have started to work on top of self-adhesive labels so that the object can be viewed clearly from one side and becomes only a shape/shadow from the other side.  These need to be refined further, and experiments using mono-print, carbon paper and tape are planned.  P will send the text pages to be printed onto tracing paper so that the scale and placement of image can be resolved next week.

Kept: Colour, Pattern and Stories of Times Past  

In response to ideas generated by the book structures P produced, I have begun to re-read written responses within the returned questionnaires.  Drawing upon the process of inductive coding, ideas have begun to emerge around colour, pattern arrangement and stories of times past.  Several responses record local industry or points of interest which could be included within the hidden inside pages of the book structure P has produced. I have been reminded of working methodologies employed within the original Meeting in the Middle project which referenced social history discovered through on line local history groups.

The majority of questionnaires record that found objects have been kept, with one participant noting that they were ‘too beautiful to throw away’.  The idea of giving value comes to mind and the challenge of how to realise this visually.  Several answers include references to pattern arrangement which has begun to inform page layout ideas exploring the use of edges, negative shapes and repeating patterns. Postcodes and specific locations are recorded which has led to some investigation around map markings and the idea of using types of lines to trace the outline of each found object. Whilst considering map markings, I came across a contour drawing challenge at The House of Illustration which provided further context about this style of observation which may afford value to each object.  I have begun to make line drawings informed by this which I intend to develop using selected map markings.


Predominate colours are noted within the questionnaire as blue and translucent green glass which I will begin to explore as shapes within the line drawings.

Taking on board suggestions by P, and the notion of revealing information, I have begun to consider what if these illustrations were produced on translucent surfaces so that some information and imagery may be glimpsed through from one page to another.



Questionnaires & Collections


A pre-planned FaceTime discussion last week, offered the opportunity to comment upon each other’s new practical work, share making processes, and exchange design methodology in order to clarify next steps of this project.

P talked through the making of her text pieces in which she had selected phrases from the returned questionnaires.  The media made use of has restricted style and scale of text and provided translucent surfaces to make use of.  The subsequent layered pieces have the potential to link to the notion of the pottery fragments being found at different layers within the earth in P’s garden.

Having been given a collection of broken pottery pieces found in my mum and dad’s allotment, I made use of this, alongside the text pieces made by P, to inform my first practical work.  Interested in developing more refined visual work, I started to catalogue all the different plates in my kitchen by tracing around them in response to one of the returned questionnaires.

As the project has developed alternative ideas are emerging.  One idea is to respond to the returned questionnaires.  These provide given starting points, snippets of others’ stories and found imagery in a similar way to our previous project in which we documented sewing secrets. There may or may not be connections across one or more questionnaires, but the interest is in documenting individual voices.  Having made use of The Small Publisher’s Fair in November 2018 to hand out the questionnaire and gather feedback on the project from visitors and participants, it would be interesting to present their responses next year at the fair.   P has already started to explore the potential of these questionnaires by selecting phrases which I could interpret visually, or I could re-examine the questionnaires independently to select visual imagery.  During the face time discussion we shared potential ideas for the format of this book which P will develop.

The second idea is to respond to the found collections of pottery in either P’s new garden or a combination of my parents allotment and P’s garden. This could become a second book in which the structure, text and visual imagery is more complex.  This may involve further research both to collect stories about either P’s house or my parents allotment or about the china pieces themselves.

Towards the end of the discussion we agreed to respond to the returned questionnaires in the first instance as we have the content for this book.  We agreed to develop the book structure and visual imagery independently and meet again via Facetime after four weeks to exchange ideas with a view to working together to construct part or all of the book within the Easter holiday.

What if they were all plates?


In response to experimental text pieces produced by P this week, and my own interest in exploring visual imagery, I began by tracing all the different plates in my kitchen! The slight differences in size created multiple overlapping lines which reminded me of patterns formed when using a spirograph.

Having documented multiple plates, I spent some time reading about dinnerware and plates in particular. I read about earthenware which is ‘prone to chipping’, stoneware which is typically used in ‘everyday place settings’ and porcelain which is used in ‘formal dining settings’.  These phrases may  be interesting to draw upon as the project develops.    I discovered that there are eight traditional types of plate, ranging in diameter from 140mm to 500mm, and noted that the outside edge of the plate is often decorated with a pattern. I am interested in re-examining the found pottery pieces to search out edges – as if in a jigsaw when the outside edges are found in order to assemble the rest of the picture.

In response to this research, I selected different types, and sizes of plates from my collection, and recorded 1 charger, 1 standard plate, 1 dessert plate, 3 side plates and 1 saucer.  In consideration of multiple pieces, I traced all remaining pieces from my Grandmother’s tea service: 1 cake plate, 5 cups, 6 saucers and 4 plates. Multiple lines becoming darker in tone were created by tracing round every individual piece of china. Having traced the outside edge of plates, I am now beginning to connect these to the found pottery pieces.


Whilst exploring the shape and scale of plates, I am still keen to make use of colour and pattern in some way and took a series of photographs documenting a second recovered collection of pottery pieces.  These were found by my mother and father in their allotment.  By documenting them in a similar way to P, I was drawn to the simple geometric patterns on some of the pieces which I may explore further.







SPF: Presentation, Discussion & Conversation

Recovered / Recorded was presented on the Caseroom Press table at Small Publishers Fair, Conway Hall on 9-10 November. This afforded opportunities for P and I to discuss the project face to face alongside conversations with fellow exhibitors and visitors in response to questions around objects discovered in gardens.

P and I exchanged stories of making processes including challenges, successes and technical skills developing. We began to consider the potential of this project, and some consideration was given to C9 which was the one fragment P and I had both selected to be represented. We discussed the idea of making larger prints which combined imagery from these first books and extended each fragment to reveal the imagined whole object it may have been originally part of. These could be linked to more objects and perhaps the original/imagined owners of the china.

As visitors and fellow exhibitors stopped to view books on the table, conversations were entered into with those interested in Recovered/Recorded. Stories of objects being found in gardens were invited to be recounted, shared and documented in response to a pre-prepared series of 10 questions substantiating our areas of interest. Approximately 8 questionnaires were given out on day one in response to stories revealing:

  • the burying of barbie doll heads as a child
  • the finding of a stone head in a garden which is ‘a bit strange’ and now ‘lives on a shelf in the house’
  • the finding of lots of pottery and ‘even whole glass bottles’
  • the finding of a grenade
  • the storing of found objects within a cabinet of curiosities

Following on from the initial success of  sales and conversations at SPF, P and I will now send the questionnaire to friends and family before Christmas in the hope of gathering further stories to make use of within the development of this project in the New Year.

Recovered Progress Report

In consideration of the 8 pieces of china selected, I began by arranging these sequentially in response to grid numbers attributed by P within first cataloguing. Interestingly this resulted in each of our 4 fragments being presented alternatively. As I explored the arrangement of these within each page of the book,I began to play with composition rotating each fragment to create a sense of rhythm through the resulting positive and negative shapes discovered.

Two tracings were made of the final page layout, and having sent one to P, I made use of the second to trial linear mark making in order to imply the earth around each fragment of china when it was discovered. I decided to use the process of drypoint etching and began by working on top of the outline of each fragment taking note of the first trial to keep a sense of movement to the mark making. Within the printing process, I explored alternative approaches to inking the plate which resulted in different depths of tone surrounding the fragments. As I made the work, I began to prefer the darker tones which provided a greater contrast to the white shapes.

The prints produced were left to dry over the weekend and I returned on Monday to mark the cutting lines in order to send to P for trimming and folding. At this point I realised the process of drypoint printing had reversed the original composition and these prints would not be the same as the Recorded prints P had already produce! As there was no time to re-make the plate and re-print, I selected my favourite drypoint and used the copier machine to reverse the image onto a medium weight recycled cartridge paper. Unfortunately this lost the quality of the individual print and the thickness of the fabriano paper which I could return to later in the project. Some alterations were required with depth of tone and the placement of the print to avoid a white border around the image, although as this is a process I have used before this was reasonably straightforward and the prints were posted to P in time.

C9 & Moving Forward

Having agreed to the content of a new project, a series of 9 email exchanges alongside 34 text messages over 16 days has enabled us to take some steps forward.

Decision making began with the organisation of all found fragments as a labelled photograph which was shared by P via email. This enabled the individual selection of 4 pieces of china each to be represented in the book. Whilst we both later admitted to making this selection without using any pre-determined system or pattern, interestingly one choice overlapped and C9 was chosen by both of us.

The exchange of written conversations has enabled a different form of decision making to take place, and the thinking through of ideas has been undertaken as questions inviting comments. This open ended approach has resulted in the shared clarification of design decisions and technical details. The use of photographs within emails from P has very much supported this process and mock ups of the final books were presented alongside written ideas. This aided decision making around choice of scale and presentation of the final 2 books. The final email decision centred around choices connected to the positioning of each fragment within the book. In response to this a tracing will be made to document the arrangement of fragments so that both of us work to the same format.

A series of book titles were also proposed by P –  a joint decision was made to call book 1 – Recovered and book 2 – Recorded, titles that reflect the individual nature of each editionAs we hope to use Small Publishers Fair as a platform to gather information for part two of this project, a set of initial questions was also received, using these as a starting point, we will formulate a final list which we can use both at the Fair, and as a questionnaire to friends and family.

P has sent me the selected 8 fragments so that I can explore the positioning of each piece to document their discovery within the ground and make tracings which we both can use. I am keen to develop my own printmaking practice and will take on board compositional formats seen in A Slice through the World, the recent exhibition at Modern Art Oxford ( In particular I will draw upon the ‘floating’ compositions seen in the work of Lucy Skaer and ‘overlapping’ compositions seen in the work of Kate Davies within the construction of a drypoint background for the fragments.

Thrift & The Button Box


With first research around the theme of housekeeping completed individually, a pre-arranged Face Time conversation enabled the joint consideration of these. Emerging areas of interest were identified, and further detail exchanged through free-flowing conversation and recalled anecdotes. As research sources were discussed, we spent some time reflecting upon how content gathered to inform this new project may enable challenge to our working methodologies and individual practice alongside the avoidance of repeating earlier projects located within similar themes of social history and domesticity.

Drawn to the notion of specific moments in time, we reflected upon the marriage bar, changing roles within the household and the identification of specific tasks assigned to these for our parents, grandparents and self. The routine and rotation of household tasks through the fortnightly turn-out were discussed and linked to some extent to our own experiences. Some consideration was given to taking this theme forward through the collection of data from friends and their families.

Continuing to explore notions of thrift, we discussed the teaching of domestic skills and the saving of buttons from old clothes within the button box. The button as an evocative object was considered through the research and writings of Lynn Knight, and the potential for collecting our own real and imagined stories considered.

With some consideration of potential timings and deadlines for this project, we agreed to spend August undertaking further individual research around The Button Box through reading and the collection of real and imagined stories. This will form the content of the project and enable September and October to be allocated to design and production.

Keeping House: The Way Things Were

First research around the notion of keeping house, revealed a series of linked words defining a range of domestic materials, account books to catalogue household expenditure, and money given or granted on a regular basis to finance the running of the household. I read about differences across generations, expectations for raising children, keeping house and the marriage bar.

The marriage bar restricted employment of married women, and (as in the case of my maternal Grandmother), required the termination of a woman’s employment when she married. Seemingly, this practice was justified as a social policy to find jobs for men and single women and allegedly created a disincentive for women to marry. In 1946, The Spectator, published an article which presented reasons for the implementation of marriage bars. These included thoughts around married women not needing jobs as they were financially supported by their husbands. Schools prepared girls for this life of domesticity providing tuition in cookery, household management, darning, sewing and how to iron a shirt properly. Girls were taught to look after their house and husband, and once married their husbands were considered the head of the household. Clothes were often homemade, either sewn or knitted. Knitted items were re-cycled by being unraveled and re-knitted into something else. Allegedly, when collars on shirts became frayed, they were unpicked, turned inside out and sewed back on! And buttons from old clothes were saved for the button box.

I discovered a Housewife’s Button Box within the contents of a discarded sewing box for sale in a local bric-a-brac shop earlier this year. Of the original 72 plastic two-hole and four-hole buttons, 29 are remaining and 25 other buttons have been added to the box. Of these 25, 10 have 4 holes, 13 have 2 holes and 2 are shank buttons with a loop at the back for fastening. In reading about button types, I discovered correct and incorrect sewing conventions linked to button and fabric type. Whilst investigating stories surrounding button boxes, I happened upon the historian Lynn Knight who explores the narrative of haberdashery through lives of ordinary women. For Knight, buttons are tokens to recall the clothes they were made to fasten and embellish, the housewives and mothers who made and wore those clothes, and the lives they contained. Within her book, The Button Box: Lifting the Lid on Women’s Lives, Knight writes about stories passed on from the women in her family, their changing prospects over generations and of clothes as self-expression, defiance and entertainment.

An article in The Guardian, written in February 2000, questions whatever happened to the housewife? It begins by presenting the view of a journalist some 40 years ago who wrote about suburbia as a good place to bring up children but a dull place to live! The original article apparently connected with readers and ultimately led to the formation of the National Housewives’ Register which aimed to unite housebound wives with liberal interests and a desire to remain individuals. Re-named as the National Women’s Register in 1987 it continues today, with groups meeting regularly to discuss everything except the domestic. The article notes that early members of the register admitted to fiddling the housekeeping to pay for the membership fee! A present NWR member, who is just 10 years older than I am, recalls having to give up her secretarial job when she got married because the company did not employ married women stating “it was the way things were”.

Alongside information about the roles of women within the house, I also found a WW2 sewing kit, called The Housewife, designed to contain all the materials a soldier would require to carry out any repairs to his clothing, including a thimble, two balls of grey darning wool for socks, 50 yards of linen thread wound around card, needles, brass dish buttons for battledress and plastic buttons for shirts.