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  • Beth

Playing with Oblique Strategies

Updated: Mar 20, 2020

It seems like a lifetime ago now but at the end of January we (Beth & Laura) met to work on our collaboration. Laura had brought along with her eight white tiles and the goal of the session was to create a prototype for the tile puzzle that we plan to build for the final project exhibition later this year. Laura’s ceramic surface pattern process which she uses in her own work is to cut out motifs from sheets of enamel which are then applied to clay forms after their glaze firing or can be applied to tiles before the final firing in the kiln.

So we were looking at a bunch of colourful enamel sheet wondering what motifs to use for our mock up; enter Beth’s Oblique Strategy cards! The cards were created by Peter Schmidt and Brian Eno in the 1970’s to help eliminate artist's block for any creative by offering suggestions on a course of action to enable creative solutions. If you didn’t get them as a Christmas present as Beth did but still want to give them a try, an online version can be found here.

We both shuffled the cards and picked out one each. The first was ‘Reverse’ which we both felt didn’t really help us with an idea to generate motifs so we pulled out another which was ‘Remove ambiguities and convert to specifics’. Since we both often intuitively work quite precisely we thought the best way to move forward was to have a looser approach to the designs, i.e. don’t overthink them, thus ‘reversing’ what was on the second card.

After that we did a quick drawing exercise where we took five minutes to draw out eight tiles each and with shapes on each one. We picked our four favourite designs and a colour scheme to work with - we decided to keep it simple and use primary colours, again not over thinking our choice. Then we set about cutting out our shapes from the enamel sheets for our four tiles. Here are couple of combinations of the finished tiles:

As we were cutting we organically tweaked our designs and Laura suggested overlapping the shapes to create an additional effect on the finished tiles. We were running out of time so we had a bit of a mad rush to cut out all our shapes from the enamel sheets and then soak them in water and apply them to the white tiles, hence the lack of 'work in progress' images. We will take some next time, promise!

An additional idea came from the cards as we were cutting out our designs - for our final set of tiles we could work with very simple single motifs and then ‘reverse’ them thus using the negative image and making a stencil. The advantage of this would be that each tile would have coloured enamel running along each of its edges. Needless to say, there will be plenty of possibilities to experiment with prior to creating the final puzzle game.

The tiles have now been fired and are all shiny and ready to be shared with the rest of the Aural Textiles team the next time we meet. This was planned for the coming weekend and it will now sadly be replaced with a virtual session. Hopefully we will still get the project team's feedback and also share some ideas we have to get a sound from each team member to convert into a motif for our final piece. Here are all the finished test tiles laid out together:

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