MMT- Part one- Surface distortion-Project 5 puncturing and stitching


Project 5 Puncturing and stitching 

Exercise 1 puncturing 

Again, I started with A4 copy paper to experiment with my various tools. I used a piece of foam to lay the paper on to punch through as none of the tools were going through the paper on a hard surface.  Some tools gave very neat, clean holes, others gave very rough edges when pulled back through the paper. Punching slowly gave neater holes, fast and random gave rougher marks. The pronged sculpting tool gave an interesting perforated hole and the curved sculpting tool gave little half moon type marks, a little like if you press your fingernail into a soft surface. The seam marker had to be used on a hard surface as it didn’t show up well when used on the foam. It gave very even, uniform, small holes and was easy to move in any direction, meaning I could create straight lines or curved with no difference in the way the holes came out. These holes could be used as they were or used as a guide to then puncture with something bigger.

A4 copy paper

On thicker material like card, the front of the hole stays smooth while the back is raised and rough. On the copy paper the puncturing tool tended to pull the back through to the front on removal of the tool from the paper, making it rough on both sides. The thicker weight of the card seems to prevent this action on the whole, giving you a defined front and back side. I found this helps when you shine light through the piece-the light will shine through all the holes, creating an image, whereas if the rough side has been pulled through to the front this often obscures the hole, allowing no light through. 

Black card stock and tissue paper

I experimented with tissue paper, which gave much the same results as the copy paper. Handmade paper; the holes were very hard to see, even with light behind it as the paper itself is quite translucent. The vellum was nice to work on. The vellum is sturdy so doesn’t buckle or crease when you are puncturing it. The holes are easy to see, light comes through the holes evenly and the rough side is very rough and defined, giving a really tactile feel which reminded me of braille. 


I tried puncturing medium weight plastic on both soft and hard surfaces with mixed results; some marks were well defined, others very rough and messy. I experimented on puncturing leaves. I used bay leaves from my garden as although fresh they are quite sturdy. I used a pin first and it went through easily, but the holes were very tiny. I then tried one of the sculpting tools but that kept tearing the leaf around the hole. Then I used my Crop-a-Dile (like a hole punch). This worked extremely well and gave small, crisp holes with no tearing and no roughness on the reverse side.

cardboard, handmade paper, corrugated card, vellum, plastic

I had a few small off cuts of balsa wood so decided to try piercing those. I used the same tools. Some worked better than others, for instance, the seam marker worked really well and although the holes were not going all the way through, it was easy to use a needle to make them slightly bigger. The awl and one of the drill bit awl’s split the wood when I pressed too hard, or tried to do the holes too close to each other. My crop-a-dile worked extremely well which surprised me as I didnt think it would go through the wood. It gave quite clean holes as well.

Balsa wood
Holes in deli paper made with a burning incense stick

Not sure whether this one should be in the puncturing section but I really liked the technique having used it previously in ATV. Also inspired by images on pinterest and works by Karen Margolis.

Work by Karen Margolis

I used a lit incense stick to burn different sized holes in white deli paper. The practice was very meditative, the result very intriguing, the burnt edges leave a brown rim and every circle is a slightly different shape. When layered up they seem to go on forever. When held up, the shadow cast underneath is really interesting. Reminded me a little of the embroidered works by meredith Woolnough, where she mounts them on pins on the board so you can see the shadow underneath. Progression of these samples could include adding colour, creating shapes other than circles with the burning, layering and mounting to show the shadows underneath.

Work by Meredith Woolnough

card, vellum, bay leaves

Thinking again of braille I wanted to do a recognizable image. Something that you could see visually but could also feel to get an idea of the design. I used the vellum as this I felt had given the best results. I drew 3 poppy seed heads. The large centre one I pricked first using a medium sized pin. I then flipped the vellum over and did 2 more with a smaller needle. This meant that the piece was tactile both sides. When light shone through it the image sort of glowed which was pleasing. 

White paper, inspired by the works of Gillian Adair

Whilst researching puncturing paper I came across the work of Gillian Adair who makes sensory drawings using pinpricks in paper.

Work by Gillian Adair
On paper and card. inspired by image of an Agate geode

Gillian’s work inspired me to have a go at some sensory drawings. I used various sized holes for different sensory experiences and I also did images rather than random holes.

Agate, image from Pinterest
Mixed media paper, front and back, inspired by an agate

The agate geode images on white mixed media paper worked especially well. The variation of hole sizes and placement really show up well when placed on a light box. The reverse side is very tactile and it is easy to follow the lines and make out the shape.

I enjoyed the puncturing exercise. It sounds silly but the sound of the different tools puncturing the paper when it was on the foam, was a very satisfying sound.This added to the sensory aspect of this exercise, not only could you feel the holes after they were made you could also hear them being made.

Exercise 2 stitching

Mixed media paper with stitch

Because I liked how the agate geode hole samples came out I decided to start with that shape again and then use different stitches in the holes to create the image. This didn’t turn out as well as I had envisioned it. Maybe it was the choice of colour or the stitches, or maybe there is not enough stitches but, overall, I was disappointed with this piece.

Bay leaves with flaps and stitches

I went back to the bay leaves I had punctured with my crop-a-dile. I collected some dried grasses from the garden and more leaves and had a play with stitching through the holes with the grass. This was ok, but some of the grasses kept breaking. Looking back, fresh grass would have been better as there would have been more flexibility and then if it had dried in place it would probably hold better. Not to be deterred i tried cutting some holes and flaps in the leaves and using embroidery thread to stitch the flaps down or stitch across the holes. The leaves were really easy to stitch onto, I had expected them to fall apart but they held up well. I like the contrast of colour from the front and the back of the leaf when the flap is folded over and stitched. I also enjoyed stitching across the circles in a ‘dream catcher’ style. I thought the end result was very effective. Further progression for these samples could include, different types of leaves, shape, colour and maybe making a hanging piece with all the leaves. Or stitching different leaves together in a sort of crazy patchwork sort of way.

Cardboard templates and madeira poly-

I still had all the circle templates left from the embossing exercises so I decided to work with these, joining the circles together and experimenting with stitch across the circles. I used variegated thread for more colour. This was another piece that I think looked better in my head! It reminded me of those wood and nail string art things you used to make at primary school for Mothers day or the like! Better card could be used and different thicknesses of thread if this sample was to be taken further. Also more experimentation with shapes and distance between shapes.

Plastic circles, folded and stitched

Inspired by Liz Sofield i tried cutting some circles and folding them and then stitching them in place. I did this on plastic rather than white paper like Sofield does as I wanted to see what it would like transparent. I used ‘invisible’ thread so as not to distract from the folded shapes. It is the white on white which makes Sofields work so attractive I feel. I don’t think I achieved the same aesthetic with the plastic although I feel there is scope for development- maybe using different coloured threads or different coloured plastics.. Also Sofields work is very precise with the folding and placement and as I discovered during the folding exercise, I just don’t have the patience for that precision!

Layered plastic with stitching inspired by Leisa Rich and Nava Lubelski

Inspired by Leisa Rich and Nava Lubelski I cut 3 layers of plastic and cut out holes in each piece. I used embroidery thread to stitch around and across the holes and then I stitched the 3 layers together on one side, creating a booklet style sample. I was really inspired by the layers of some of Rich’s work, being able to see through to the layers underneath, but obscuring those layers slightly with stitch and other embellishments. For me it created depth and made me feel like a secret was being slowly exposed.

Plastic, stitch and shadows

I am pleased with this sample, it is colourful, different and has lots of scope for development- playing with scale, shapes, colour, different materials. I like the shadow play as well, it reminds me of a spirograph drawing.

Looking back at work from previous exercises I stitched onto a sheet of crumpled A4 copy paper. I made ridges and used a running stitch with white cotton to gather the ridge a little, creating more crumples. I like the tiny little pleats this created and how these could be laid flat or raised. The shadow of the ridges also created nice tones on the paper.

Crumpled white copy paper and stitch

I then tried to recreate some of the crumpled lines with stitch on mixed media paper. I punctured holes randomly across the paper and then used mulberry silk string to make loop stitches that stood proud of the paper. The loops crossed over each other, representative of the crossing crumpled lines. The shadows from the looped stitches added more ‘lines’ onto the sample recreating the grey tone from the ridged sample above. I like how this has turned out but feel i could have done a lot more loops on it to really convey the busyness of the crumpled lines.

Mulberry string loop stitches, cross stitching and stitching into wood

I then wanted to try and recreate the grey tone of the crumples so I used squares of tin foil crumpled up, mounted on white mixed media paper and used silver wire to create the looped stitches this time. I do like this but think maybe it would work better without being mounted on white. I mounted it to show up the colour but samples could be developed using just the tin foil as the base.

tin foil and wire stitching

Again I looked at samples from the previous exercises to inspire stitch and made a little cross stitch sample based on the x-cut flap piece from exercise 5, project 2. All the crosses are white except for one which is red to stand out from the others. Very simple but quite effective.

Lastly I found one of the small pieces of balsa wood I had made in holes in and stitched into that. Care had to be taken not to break the wood between the holes if they were too close together, but the stitching was easy. Development of this sample could involve a larger piece of balsa wood, possibly with holes cut out rather than punctured and then doing the stitching around the edges and across the centers of the holes like I did in the plastic samples.

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