Material Study- Week 3

The first material material that I used is sugar syrup. I heated some sugar with water and left it to get a brownish color. As the sugar cooled, it became thicker and harder. This gave me an ideal consistency to work with. I used a paintbrush to apply the syrup when it was liquidy and hot. After that I let it dry and harden. I used this method show the idea of how ants get attracted to sugar. Initially when we had to imagine the word in a context, I had thought of this idea and wanted to give it a try. I left the word in the dorms’ lawn and let it sit for a night. I was hoping for some ants to come and get stuck to it-but of course, that did not happen.

Word written with sugar syrup

Another idea that I had was to carve an onion. Although I did not like this idea very much, I could see some potential of a good concept behind it. Onion juxtaposed the idea of attractive-its repulsive and have a strong and unpleasing smell. Also, the idea that an onion makes you cry because of the strong chemical that it produces related to the idea of repulsiveness.


I did not like the result very much though. I had to add some color in the carving that I did to show the word. I found it very hard to carve the onion and dropped the idea of using it for my word as it did not seemed to be impossible.

img_20160927_224725113  img_20160927_225752781

Next, I thought of using henna, as its something that is used to create beautiful designs. But, I thought of using it in an unusual way and making it ugly instead of beautiful. I like the how the result turned out because of its neatness and clarity.

Using henna

After the henna had dried, it gave a weird but nice texture which I might consider using.


The last experiment that I did was just very random, using yellow krink marker and dripped it over a stencil of the word. I really liked the outer paint marks that were created compared with the inside, which I initially wanted to use. In the end, I decided to show both during the class.

img_20160927_233550526     img_20160928_094633173

In class, we talked about which ones worked and which ones did not. At first I was not sure if I should show the professors my work as was not very happy with them, but I had to get feedback and a right way that I could follow, so I showed them my work, from which I got many ideas and a right guide to focus on what I should work on.

The question that was in my mind about using henna to make a beautiful or an ugly thing, which was really concerning last time was clear now, after I asked them how it actually works. My professor said it works either way but, maybe the best way to use henna is to make something beautiful but leaving the inside of the word plain. This would give some sort of juxtaposition which might give an interesting result.

I had also brought the onion to class, which at first I didn’t realize had a pungent smell, as I never really smell anything through my Niqab (face veil). However, some people started complaining about its smell and so I had to cover it up in a plastic bag and keep it inside. I actually found this very interesting as it totally relates to my idea of repulsiveness. After showing to the professors, they suggested the idea of carving the letters out of an onion- meaning that I cut shapes from the onion which will make the word. I was wondering  why I didn’t think of it before! This gave me a way forward to continue using the idea of using onion as a material and I was more confident about what the next step would be.

He also liked the idea of the using the sugar syrup but as my word had all melted, i was not able to show him the actual idea. However, I did manage to find an image of ants crawling on honey which sort of helped me in describing my idea.


For next class, I started working on some materials that I thought would be successful. I went back home from the dorms as I realized there were no ants in the dorms which i needed for my first idea to work. This time, I tried using dry sugar and jaggery to attract ants. The good news was, there were a lot of ants coming, but, they wouldn’t stay for a picture! I managed to photograph two images where an ant came to eat the sugar. But, I realized, this was a near to impossible idea and I would need to go to another place like India to find as many ants as I needed!- cuz that’s were I have seen lots of ants.

Word made with jaggery


Word made with sugar

I was really proud of my second attempt using henna. Being a henna lover, aI enjoyed doing it and also liked the outcome. However, during class critique, Everyone said that the henna has an outline. I did not realize until then that there I was creating outlines which made the letter. I learned from this class from my professor that the henna should look more flowy and natural and not forced. My professor suggested me to keep developing my art of henna and become a master of this in the end. I have always loved henna and thought I was really good at it. Clearly, I have more to go and this seemed like a big challenge for me because I had to become a master of the material that I loved.

img_20161003_050538894   img_20161003_053715828

The idea of onions seemed to be working this time and I loved the result of it. Even though it did not turn out very neat as you can see, I feel that the 3 dimensional quality of this material really made think that this is something I want to use. However, there was a downside to it.  I had a hard time cutting as the onion was very strong in smell and brought tears. But, in the end I loved the shadows created by it and to me it looked aesthetically pleasing- which was the definition of my word Jameel!

After showing to my professors, i decided I will now focus on using onions only and dropped the idea of henna and sugar. I received good feedback about this material and also got some other options to consider. Some of the things the professors mentioned were:

  • The size of the onion doesn’t matter, but make it look more continuous.
  • use an Xacto knife and replace the blade very often.
  • Use pins to attach the oinions together
  • Wear goggles!-to avoid tears

After they suggested me these things, I started to think about what can make it look more continuous. The first things was that I had to use bigger onions. The onion that I used to make this letter was very small, mainly because I don’t use onions a lot in the dorms! So my next goal was to buy bigger onions and I was sure they would be way better to work with in terms of size.


For my second attempt,  I used the onions I had in my dorm room as I couldn’t buy them during the week. I figured out a great idea which would give me my desired result.

I cut the onions right the middle vertically, as they are the widest in the centre. This gave me more room to work with. I tried to arrange them in a manner that made them look seamless. My method of working had 5 main steps:

  1. placing sliced onions next to each other
  2. cutting out a stencil of the word and placing it on the sliced onions
  3. pinning the stencil on the onion using fabric pins to keep it stable(this was a very helpful tip by my professor)
  4. cutting the letters out with an xacto and making sure to change the blade
  5. removing the stencil and the excess onion which was left when I cut the letters out.

img_20161003_061814904  img_20161005_070644282


Adding a context to my word
After a day of making the word

I showed my work to the professors and I received some very useful feedback. These were:

  •  using a small object to place under the knife to avoid the direct reflection
  • making the word a little bigger
  • making the context look more natural and not forced
  • having a clean cutting board

After class, I started researching for onion art. I did not realize that this was an actual thing got inspired from it.

Looking up ways to reduce my tears
Onion Art


Amazing type created using vegetables

screen-shot-2016-10-08-at-12-29-25-pm    ali5


I bought bigger onions for my 3rd attempt. I was lucky that I found these ones as they are not very common. My friend told me that these ones make you cry more and have a very strong smell.


…looking forward to cry more :’)



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