River vessel - Karen Morton

©Victoria and Albert Museum, London View Inspiration Details

Artist Statement

Karen Morton

I was inspired by the Map shawl from the V&A textiles collection, showing the city of Srinagar and the Jhelum River, which was displayed in the 'Fabric of India', an exhibition I enjoyed visiting on a number of occasions. The elements of the shawl which really resonated with me were the colours of the natural dyes and the rhythm of the design, including the river flowing through the map. In the Textiles class I attend we have been experimenting with natural dyes using woad, indigo and madder; this feels like a direct link back to the work of the 19th century Indian textiles craftspeople and I was keen to carry this through into my own textiles work. I am also very interested in the interplay of structure, texture and colour and how different fibres and fabrics can themselves suggest uses, even as I am choosing specific materials as design ideas develop. For some time on my course, as well as experimenting and making functional pieces, I have been pre-occupied by making sculptural forms which can be executed in textiles. My intention in this piece was to create a rigid abstract vessel form containing a delicate flowing river. After researching various materials, I found that vilene served the purpose of creating the main vessel parts. I added surface pattern to this using natural leaf templates for cyanotype printing and by bonding plain silk, which I had dyed blue with woad and pink-red with madder root, onto alternate sides of the vessel parts. I created the river from silk georgette because of its delicate flowing quality and receptiveness to natural dyes; the 'watery' mark making was achieved by shibori dyeing in indigo and madder.

River vessel - Karen Morton

©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Inspiration details:


Embroidered Shawl

Kashmir, India (made)

third quarter of 19th century (made)

Unknown (production)

Wool embroidered with woollen thread

V&A collection reference number(s):

2015 Exhibition Guide

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