Grounds for expression – bespoke surfaces for textiles with Michael Brennand-Wood

Ref: S3D13315

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About this course

Explore the theme of grounds to create a piece or series of bespoke surfaces. Consider how to structure, layer, distort, articulate and shape fabric and threads in a largely non-traditional form, alongside non-textile media.

Course Description

Explore the theme of grounds to create bespoke surfaces which have qualities that aid and stimulate creativity. Investigate how choices made in selection of threads, fabrics and other media, can influence the rendition of an idea while practically, consider how to structure, layer, distort, articulate and shape fabric and threads in a largely non-traditional form, alongside non-textile media.

When we begin a work, choices are made via a selection of threads, fabrics and other media – all of which exert influence on the rendition of an idea. Materials are in effect our building blocks; we might choose a selection of new materials or something reclaimed. Textiles invariably are accompanied with a degree of embedded meaning. An old fabric has aesthetic, formal qualities, a colour, a texture and a surface. It can however also, because of its prior usage, contain substantial references to the person who owned it, their cultural background and any number of visual clues that can enrich the nascent idea currently in development.

As a rule we build from the ground upwards. A ground may be interpreted in a number of ways, it may be a territory, background, foundation, land surface, battle area, subject, painting surface and of course a fabric base within textiles on which to work. Grounds are essentially areas where something happens. The purpose of this workshop is to create a single or series of smaller bespoke personal grounds that have, within their construction, qualities that aid and stimulate creativity. Surfaces imbued with personal meaning that feel part of an idea from the onset, a visual landscape to explore.

Ideally you will experiment with a number of different approaches both technically and conceptually. Practically, the workshop will consider various technical approaches as to how to structure, layer, distort, articulate and shape fabric in a largely non-traditional form. Fabrics and threads will be utilised alongside non-textile media, wood, metal, paint, resins and plastic. You will be shown samples and experiment with riveting, moulding, wiring and other methods of construction. Additional context will focus on the use and referencing of grounds within the arts and natural worlds as potential sites for inspiration.

Critique and group discussion will be an important component of the course. You need to be open minded and willing to experiment with concept and media to develop original solutions in relation to the core aims of the workshop; this is not a technical or prescriptive course. Emphasis will be placed on the investigation and research of personal imagery and the development of related technical innovation; ideas that can be developed at a later stage.

Teaching will largely be on a one-to-one basis. At the close of the workshop, Michael will hold a group evaluation to discuss what has been achieved. The purpose of this final session is to share outcomes and to set a personal agenda to be continued and developed back at your home studios.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops until 9pm, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials


  • One simple timber frame 50cm square (approx.) to structure work around, plus a couple of pieces of fine transparent cloth the size of the frame

What students need to bring

  • Any fabrics or flexible materials that you feel might be of use. It's possible that an existing artefact, for example an item of clothing, tablemat or plastic surface could be subjected to change/distortion. Also consider combinations of textile and other media. If you have skills in other areas by all means integrate and reinvent.
  • A collection of further materials, that you enjoy using and which are relevant to your investigation and which might add character to your work, e.g. wires, threads, string and wool, fabrics, paints, ribbons, tapes, drawing media, thin papers, a personal textile/paint/work box of the things you like to work with or have collected.
  • Bring any scraps, almost waste thread and fabric, any interesting bits that can be re-invented.
  • Fabric pieces that can be torn into strips, bound or twisted. Alternatively you can additionally choose and buy from West Dean Craft Shop a range of undyed natural cloth that you personally relate to, if needed.
  • The first part of the day will be a brief group introduction and outline of the day. You should bring something that either describes your working methods or illustrates your chosen area of visual research for this session. This could be a sketchbook, photograph, object, piece of work or idea/inspiration image that illustrates your practice.
  • Camera or phone to record work.
  • Some basic tools, scissors, needles, pliers, brushes.

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Paint, wire and an extensive range of artist materials
  • Natural undyed fabric/cloth e.g. silk, muslin, cotton, scrim
  • Available from tutor:
  • The tutor will also bring a selection of materials, available for purchase on an individual basis (please reimburse the tutor for what you use by cash or cheque before the end of the course). These may include:
  • Wire, flexible mild steel modelling wire (1-1.5 mm diameter)
  • Aluminum wire rods 3.2 mm diameter soft pack of 50 x I metre lengths
  • Mild steel modelling wire 20 gauge 300mm lengths bundle
  • Mod Roc plaster gauze (a modelling, plaster infused fabric, add water and shape)
  • Aluminium strips

Additional information

Please wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio, this includes stout covered footwear (no sandals or open toes).


Michael Brennand- Wood portrait

Michael Brennand-Wood

Michael has an international reputation as one of the most innovative artists working in textiles today. He has lectured at Universities in London, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Poland and USA.His work is represented in collections worldwide, including the Victoria & Albert Museum and the National Gallery of Australia.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

Courses of interest

Further study options

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