Practical Exercise 3 – Clothing with Foodstuffs


  • Everyday foodstuffs – Cup-a-Soup, Tunnock’s teacakes, Milk chocolate
  • Daler Rowney canvas panel
  • Acrylic ribbed top, polyester trousers
  • Golden Mediums GAC – 400 fabric glue
  • Acrylic paint – Titanium White
  • Liquitex Matte Super Heavy Gel
  • Size: 35.6 x 25.4 cm (14” x 10”)


In this exercise, I wanted to further explore the lack of control and vulnerability that comes with old age. Some of this arises from being increasing frailty and ill health or from feeling dependent on others. My aim was, again, to focus on the difficulty of feeding yourself, simple things like not being able to grip a cup or lift food to your mouth and having to depend on family or carers to help to feed you and clean your hands and clothes.

Session 1

This exercise was developed after working for several days exploring the stains produced by particular foodstuffs. This approach was influenced by the work of Ed Ruscha particularly his experimentation with everyday liquids and foodstuffs and the use of different materials as supports.

In Exercise 2 – Clothing with Liquids I concentrated on experimenting with the effect of liquids on material. For this third exercise, I wanted to focus on adding texture, using foodstuffs, to clothing. These were foods which I knew were a favourite of elderly relations over the years including Cup-a-Soup, Tunnock’s teacakes and chocolate. In the initial experimentation with foodstuffs these had also created an interesting range of textures.

I also wanted to experiment on the types of clothing and materials that I have found to be favoured by the elderly. For the purposes of the exercises I used a purple, ribbed acrylic top and grey polyester trousers.

Acrylic top and trouser material on canvas panel

As in Exercise 2 – Clothing with Liquids I wanted to try and replicate the idea of food spilling or being smeared onto clothes. I soaked the materials using textile glue and fixed them to a canvas panel for support, creating creases in the fabric before the glue dried.

Session 2

Top with selection of foodstuffs added

In the second session I started with Cup-a-Soup. During my initial exploration of stains and textures I had found that Minestrone soup spilled on to different fabrics created a lot of interesting textures because of ingredients like croutons, peas and pasta hoops. However, once dried, these tended to come unstuck. To try and ensure they would adhere to the fabric I added a little heavy gel medium to the mix.

I tried to create the sense of soup being spilled by lifting a spoonful of soup to my lips and recreating the movement of the soup missing the mouth and falling. Initially I allowed the element of chance to create the stain initially but found I was being left with lumps of ingredients in one area so, at that point, I moved the textures a little to create more of a spread of textures.

I then added a Tunnock’s teacake by melting it in my hand, adding a little of the heavy gel to help with adhesion, and smearing this across the top right of the fabric. I extracted and used more of the marshmallow filling, smearing this on the left-hand side of the fabric to create more texture.

Once the soup and teacake had dried I melted milk chocolate by holding it in the palm of my hand and smearing it across previous foodstuffs. Repeatedly dragging across the stains created a layered effect.

Session 3

Detail of top with white paint added

At this stage I reached a bit of an impasse feeling that I should be able to do more with this idea but not sure quite what. I decided to use a thin layer of Titanium White acrylic paint to see if this would bring out the textures of the food.

Detail of top with white paint added

This didn’t work as the textures weren’t strong enough to really show through the paint. The result is what it is – clothing, spilled food and paint.

On Reflection

  •  My aim with this and the previous exercise was to consider the theme of ageing through the exploration of becoming less able to feed yourself as you lose dexterity. I had hoped to create something that would make the viewer think about the issues that come with getting older and reflect on this. This was an exploratory exercise which, I feel, has reached a bit of a dead end.
  • There is still some potential with the idea but I think I need to expand the scope of my research and check out other artists using food within their work and see if this can give me some ideas to work with.
  • I liked the sculptural effect of the rumpled clothing created with the textile glue and that this technique has possibilities for creating more textured supports on which to work, perhaps not in relation to food but in a wider sense.

Related Posts

Practical Exercise 1  – Stains  – Initial Exploration  –

Practical Exercise 2 – Clothing with Liquids –

Ed Ruscha – Research Notes –