Sunday, December 4, 2016

Art reception at Plainsboro Library. Liz Aubrey's "Soul Scapes"

This afternoon, painter Liz Aubrey gave an artchat at the reception for her solo show currently at Plainsboro Library Gallery, to a keen crowd.  Very high level art, and if you're local, make a point of getting there.  All the hours the library is open, the gallery is, too. The exhibit stays up till January 4, 2017.

She's a local person, and the landscape and surroundings of New Jersey, from farmland to turnpike, are part of her mental raw material, not in a literal, but in a metaphorical way.

She brought with her notebooks full of preparatory drawings and thumbnails, always created with the goal of  composition in mind. 

She's a true painter -- it's not the narrative that matters, it's the success of the overall composition which gives it meaning and illustrates the intent.  And she's generous, sharing all the material she brought so as to illustrate the points she was making.

You see certain colors recurring, blue and orange, and the wintry colors of landscape when the trees are bare, part of her visual vocabulary.  Very satisfying to see and study and let the art unfold as you observe it. 

Not many pix, a lot of people milling about, but I secured a few examples, and Liz posed for us in front of one of her works. She let me choose which one, which I thought very courteous and friendly.

Among the artists and civilians (!) attending was Mel Leipzig, prominent artist and longtime teacher, who has followed her work since its inception and was very warm in his praises.  Mel has long since retired from teaching, but is still a working artist, and supporter of the arts in the region, as well as a much-loved figure in the art world.

A number of Creative Collective artists came, too, and we had a mini reunion.  All in all, this was a five star Sunday afternoon.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Transparency Show, Protest Art, now available

I've finished the dozen pieces in my promised online show, all transparencies printed on silk gauze.  These pieces are layered,  literally and metaphorically, with varying meanings to whoever sees them.  That's why I didn't name them. They're for you to interpret and enjoy.  They're all new works, not exhibited anywhere except here.

They are all my own artwork (with the exception of a couple of iconic male sculpted heads), which I photographed and printed out on silk. They remind us that there are many layers in life, and very few yes/no, on/off choices. I used paintings, drawings, prints, weaving, stitching, painted eggs and photography as the bases for these pieces.

This is presented to you as part of my personal effort to support local good works, in the expectation that times will be getting harder for their clients, and, since my own income is very modest, I can't fund them directly, but I can parlay art into funds for them.

It works like this:  each piece is available, matted and backed, for $75 plus $10 s and h (if you're outside the US, we might have to talk about this, I'll check ahead and let you know the exact amount).  Of that amount, every penny other than my expenses in creating the works, will be directed to a local charity by me.  And I will account to you, the buyer, for where your money went, just so you know you did a good thing!  If you have a preference as to what sort of charity, is close to your heart, just say so and I will direct your money to that, locally to here. I will not be funding any political entities at all.

Each mat is 14 x 11" (35.5 x 28 cm), and the image opening is 9.5 x 7.5" (24 x 19 cm).  This is a standard size, so you can frame for yourself if you'd rather avoid the frame shop.  Every piece will be matted, with a backing sheet, acid free, in arctic white, in a protective clear envelope.  The watermark, bu the way, is only online, not on the actual physical artwork.

So here's the show.  Be in touch if you want to be part of the project by buying and enjoying original art.  These are some of the best works I've done to date, and I think you'll like them.

Transparency 1

Transparency 2

Transparency 3

Transparency 4

Transparency 5

Transparency 6

Transparency 7

Transparency 8

Transparency 9

Transparency 10

Transparency 11

Transparency 12

You can be in touch either via the comments section after this post (click on comments link, to open up the comment section), or by email at l xx adams at yahoo dot com, but no spaces, and use the usual "at" sign.  

And thank you!


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Sad Day, but art heals

This morning when I woke to news I didn't expect nor welcome, I wondered for a moment whether I should get up at all.  Then after a few minutes with two cats purring on my chest, I decided, oh well, art is vital, always will be, no matter what.

And today I had to take in three pieces to an exhibit at Homefront, The Gratitude Show, a joint show by Creative Collective artists and the artists of Homefront, run as a benefit for Homefront.

This seemed all the more important to get my art in there this morning, this being one of the more significant things I can do this year, and certainly today.  So these three pieces, created from my handmade daylily paper, will be hung there.

Titled In the Clearing I, II and III, the message is that I'm grateful for the gifts of nature which enable me to make my own materials for art.

If you're local, see here for details on Homefront and directions; the Gratitude exhibit is at the Family Campus in Ewing.  Opening on November 9 and running to January 4, there will be a reception December 11 from 1-3, and all are invited! please come, support the artists of Creative Collective as well as the artists of Homefront and the organization that partners with them in rebuilding their lives.

If you can't come to the reception, you can call Director Ruthann Traylor at 609 883 7500 x316 and arrange a time to attend and enjoy a wonderful display of art, and maybe buy yourself a little something for the holidays, or to remember a friend who loves original art.  And Homefront more than ever needs the support from this exhibit.

This morning, on 11.9, delivering art after stunning and frightening news, bookended that terrible morning on 9.11 when I delivered art to another group show, deciding that no matter what, art must go on.  All the artists showed up then, without even discussing whether we should.  And I think today at Homefront the same will happen.  Art rises above the events of the day.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Fingerless Gloves, aka displacement activity

You know how cats do all sorts of things when anxious or hoping to conceal a mistake?  known as displacement activity, it's seen as a way to defuse tension and anxiety.

I think my current knitting and spinning come under the same heading.  And to prove it, here are the two pairs of fingerless gloves I made over the course of a few days when I was also doing a lot of other things.  The upcoming election is the cause of much displacement activity stress reduction, in forms varying from comfort food, to knitting, to frantic emailing, to walking briskly, to tea drinking,  and who knows how much else.

The white ones, the homespun, stay with me, fine by me, bumpy beginner spinning, but I'm proud of it anyway, the brown ones, storebought yarn, go to Handsome Son, who picked the yarn out of my small stash.  

I originally had this brown yarn to knit comfort dolls for African children attended by an AIDS clinic, and used that color at the request of Billy, from ICROSS Canada, who said most of the children were very dark skinned and really wanted dolls like them, not the pink-faced ones people often knit by default.   HS was torn over the choice between this and an exciting dark grey....which I had to make doll wigs with.  But he loves his choice, so fiiiiiine.

Now wondering if spinning will work today, or if I should cast on some other item, who knows what.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Spinning becomes knitting

All this spinning's fine, but there comes a moment, once there's a bag full of spun yarn, when a person thinks it's time to try it out as knitting material.  The lumpy yarn is good for weaving artworks, but where the yarn was more consistent, time to try it out as something to wear.

The sudden final arrival of cold weather triggered a need for some warm gloves, since last winter's knitted gloves long ago became gardening items, so I figured some fingerless ones, in Coopworth lovely cosy yarn, would fit the bill.  Since I'm still a learner, my yarn is not fine enough to ply yet, so this yarn is in the form of singles, and seems to work fine.  I also did my first spit splice in the course of finishing one ball and starting the next, very proud of that accomplishment.

So here we are, and the second one is on the needles, so I'm safe from the peril of one gloveitis, which is similar to one sockitis, where your enthusiasm wanes after the first item, and is nowhere to be found when it comes to finishing the second one.

You'll notice that I'm using four, not five, needles, though the cast on is for 32 stitches, which would divide equally on four.  I just find four too fussy, and prefer to knit around a triangle, but if you like to use all five of your set, this is a place to do it.

The pattern is a very well written one, free from Ravelry and her blog, and designed by someone whose name will be displayed here as soon as I track it down!  sorry, lost in the mists of searching for the moment, but it's very nice.  Good thumb gusset, and though this is a man's item, since I have big hands, it works fine for me. And the exposed fingertips make it easy to use phone and tablet where you have to make contact directly with the screen.

Of course now the weather has gone all warm again, but I'll be ready for when the cold gets us.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Celebrating Diwali

Diwali, the Feast of Lights celebrated by Indian neighbors, triggers huge displays of colored lights on houses and trees, and this morning being the day, the little boy next door and his mom have made this traditional Diwali artwork. covering their front steps like this

All made of live flowers, mostly marigolds, and chalk.  Very cool.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

New Arrivals in the Clan

Today great excitement around here. Two boxes arrived, and two brave Dollivers helped get into them to welcome two new arrivals to what is a growing family of dolls.  

These are gifts from the estate of a lady who died a while back at a very great age, and her daughter gave me custody. These were her mother's dolls, and the outfit on the bisque doll she made herself, very nice work indeed.  

She needs a little work, but I have a bag with the eyes in it, maybe need replacing, not sure, but I have friends to consult about this.  And if you can help me identify it beyond knowing it's bisque, with a sort of leather like body, Japanese made in German style, please do!  No idea about date. 

Here's the mark on the back of her neck.  You can see that the wig might have been cut by a little girl playing with her doll.  This doll was played with, no staying in the box for her, I'm guessing.
The Nippon collectors' site gave a similar mark but said they didn't have information.

The other is what I think might be called a bed doll?  big sweeping skirts, flirty hat, highly colored face.  Mrs Slocum would love her. And so do I in fact.

The Dollivers were a little intimidated by the size of these newcomers, but soon made their peace when they realized the newcomers already had their own outfits and wouldn't fit into D clothes anyway, so they were safe.  I must remember to ask my friend if they had names, if she knows them.

Meanwhile, I really love this addition to the dollerie.  Now I have to see about how to display all the various sizes and kinds of dolls. I'm not really a collector, but they just sort of show up and ask to be mine.  Not unlike the way all my pets have come to me.  I did make the Dollivers on purpose, with a career in mind for them, but all the tiny ones made from buttons and cotton reels and pipe cleaners just sort of found their way in.  And now this great new branch of the family.

Entirely possible they may have a role in the Land of Blog, too, come to think of it.  But for now they have homes

 one surveying the whole place

the other ensconced in her position as matriarch of the Dolliver clan. Thanks so much, Sue!  they fit in already.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Dyeing and spinning results, and Duncan sits in judgment

I noted earlier that Duncan has to be removed from the vicinity of the Spanish merino roving, since he loses his mind around it, and I don't want kitty drool all over it.  Oddly enough, the Coopworth doesn't have the same effect.  Maybe Spanish sheep are more hotblooded than Kiwi ones?

Anyway, he's safe around the Coopworth, and aside from Marigold dying to help with the spindle, things are pretty calm.  He did take a bit out of the bag, though, to test his theory, but it didn't seem to have that kick for him.

So here's the current spinning and dyeing output.

The spinning is improving as I go, and the dyeing is always a surprise.

Here you see left  a ball of natural colored Coopworth, lovely creamy color, and a ball (I have forgotten again to measure lengths, must get into the habit) of merino in green, top right, which was the result of beet and red cabbage, go figure.  And the merino dyed with turmeric, unmistakably, top left, plus the latest, bottom right, black walnut on Coopworth. The yarn on the spindle is natural Coopworth.

These are all very delicate, really pleasing colors,with a lot of variation, unlike the flat color of synthetic dye, which has its place, but not right now. And I'm glad to say I remembered to label them. 
I have dyed using Koolaid in the past and got some vibrant colors, for different purposes. 

I'm thinking since I'm still a spinning novice, that I will try reversing hands and see how that works for me, before I get too used to a single method.  I do have mixed dominance anyway, and it might equalize the wear and tear on my shoulders if I can spin with either hand at will.  

It will also mean that I'll probably be spinning the opposite twist to now, which I'll have to note in case I ever get to plying, when it Will Matter.  Currently I spin counterclockwise, which is an s twist, if I've got it right.  Clockwise would be a z twist.  There are technical reasons for using one or the other which I haven't found out about yet, but I bet it's all in my Respect the Spindle book.

Next I plan to haul out the giant bag of iris cut up leaves from the freezer and see what color that gives me in the dyebath.  I also might use the iris pulp to make paper, and I think I can probably use it in the dyebath with the yarn, and then blend it in small batches to make a vat of paper pulp.  I need to get out my natural dyeing book and see what she says about the color from iris, but there are so many variables in natural materials that it's only a general sort of indicator.

I'll let you know how that goes. This output of homespun might go for knitting things to use, or it might be knitted into a wallhanging or two.  All the Things to Do!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Multitasking in the studio, on the one hand, spindles, on the other, dyeing, on the third, transparencies

Before I make a pot of tea and thankfully sit down with an Emma Lathen to read, I thought you might like to see the latest doings around here, in the studio, that is.  

Many doings on the renovation and on Neighbors' Great Ideas Complicating It, and kitty Duncan's downturn in health, and incessant callers at the door trying to get me to switch my utility provider, and well, never mind, the studio is always there.

So I did take a shot at making a few spindles, just for the halibut, and learned a ton about why they do or don't work. And learned to appreciate  my Schacht ones better, too.

I recycled a couple of ancient CDs with material on them no modern program will display, so no loss, and cut a length of dowel, dug out O rings from my Dorset Button Caper, and tried it out. The combo of CDs and O rings fit the dowel snugly, with a bit of help from duct tape, and all it needs is a cup hook in the top.

I tested this by doing larks head knots in place of a hook, and was not impressed by my expertise. Also the spinning action was okay, but too soon over.

And another knitting needle, with two thingies from the kit I got when we learned the braiding from Charlene, they fit well, but are too light in weight to work well, need more ballast.

Then the ancient  knitting needle and the metal thingie I found in the kitchen drawer, again, lovely snug fit, and the needle willing to spin evenly, but again too short, the metal thingie needing more width to work well physically. That's a WIP.  No knitting needles were harmed in the course of this experiment, no glue got on them, and they can go back to being needles when needed.

As you see I did test them all, using Coopworth roving, and they all made a pretty nice yarn, but it would be labor intensive to use them for long.  But a great experiment, one which caused me to run up and down many flights to corral all the ideas and pieces in one place at one time.  Never knew building spindles was aerobic.

Then on to the yarn I'd finished and hanked and soaked overnight to dye today.  I squeezed it out till damp, then put it in the dye, brought to the simmer, one hour at that temp, gradual cooling, and now it's hanging to dry.  And here's where natural dyes have it all over the synthetic ones when it comes to surprise results.  You know how a synthetic dye gives you the color you expect, based on the dye color?  Enter the world of nature.

Here I used a deep purple mixture of red cabbage, and beet with a mordant (probably alum, forget and the notes are across the room), and what a surprise when I lifted out the hank and rinsed it, to find it is a lovely shade of sort of green. 

And more surprise still, where it's draining, the dye draining out of it is the original dark red.  Hm. In bright daylight, more green shows, then in artificial light, more pinkish green.

This is where it's good to have the artist's rather than the artisan's temperament, I suppose.  I don't mind the surprise, but if I had my heart set on that dye color I'd be really irritated.

Interestingly, the other pink, the red maple and red onionskin one, came out pretty true, and the turmeric was unmistakably true to color.  So it's an interesting mystery. 

But the world of technology tends to run truer to expectations, and here are the latest images to be printed on silk, originally watercolors, one a Tyvek mixed media over dyed fabric.

I still need to overlay and combine these with other transparencies I already printed out, so that's still to come.  These can all be reproduced at will, so they will be on sale at very fair prices.  I have the original artworks, and you can still have an artwork, overlaid, printed on silk, and not duplicating the original.  The combinations will vary, so this will be fun.  Get in touch if you want to know more.  I can ship matted, unframed.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Before I move gently on from spinning, here's a great book

The spinning is going on apace, and one thing that's great about being a beginner is that you can see your improvement on a single cop -- that's the yarn on the spindle.  Yesterday's output was clearly better by the end of the cop than it had been at the beginning where it was lumpy and bumpy and not too yarny. By the end it was much more even and fine, and generally yarn like.

I will go on spinning just won't bore you with it any further!  this happens with all my artwork -- it all goes on apace, even when I don't write about it.  A lot of things go on in my life that don't make it into here, in fact, despite the innocents who tell me this is my journal....nooo.

Anyway, before I go on to write of other things, here's my entire spinning library, arrived today, and I stopped everything and went out on the patio, lovely mild day, to read and drink lemonade.

Respect the Spindle by Abby Franquemont, respected by many spinners as a great teaching book on history, culture, spinning techniques and why they evolved where they did, and the physics of spindle spinning. Also why it's an end in itself, not just the gateway to using a wheel..

The pix in the book are simply great, you have to see them.  And Abby Franquemont is an excellent spinner and teacher -- her videos on youtube full of encouraging sounds and that's nooooooormal interjected into the various stage of spinning she demonstrates.  

So though I'll be spinning and dyeing -- I now have a nice hank of Coopworth waiting to be dyed, as well as the cop you see on my spindle -- I'll be getting on with other plans, such as framing the transparencies. And with building a few spindles.  I wonder if a knitting needle and a small rubber wheel of some kind would work...must look around and see what I can press into service.  Toy wheels are used, too, and CDs, but that doesn't interest me so much.

Also kicking myself for ending the plein air season last week, because of a series of cold Mondays.  Today was wonderful, and I hope some of the artists ignored me and went out anyway.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Coopworth arrived, dyeing continued, and learning goes on apace

While I was waiting for the exciting Coopworth roving to arrive, from New Zealand sheep via Louet and Dharma Trading, I thought about including spinning into my meditation practice.  I had got pretty calm learning with the merino, and started even making better yarn. Ambitious thoughts about mindful spinning, creative sugar plums..

So the Coopworth arrived, smelling wonderfully clean-sheepy, and all the meditation went out the window. It's different. Despite all the places where I was assured it was easy to spin, that did not prove to be my experience.  

After breaking the fiber umpteen times, hardly ever happened with merino, and getting very annoyed with everything, I checked it out.  After I decided I was no good at spinning, that I had the wrong fiber, wrong house, holding my mouth wrong, all that. Turns out that I was probably using the wrong weight spindle. It just wasn't spinning long enough to draft and move the twist up the yarn, hence the breakages.  

I have three of these spindles, Schacht, if you're interested, maple, 4, 3 and 2.5 inches, forget the weights.  I was using the lightest, which had worked fine with the merino, as had the medium. I'd used the biggest with my own fleece.  But now I had to switch.  

Here are the experiments, and though the yarn is beginnerish, you see it's fluffier than the merino, so better for a less fine yarn. On the left you see older spun yarn, including the ball of newly dyed merino and the red mixture one is random dyed with Koolaid, using the fleece I processed, proud of having done that.

So I tried all three spindles with the Coopworth, and the larger ones are definitely more the ticket.  I also found that I can't spin it as fine as the merino, so this is for sturdier yarn.  At least in the hands of this spinner.  

I think there's a lot of personal variation in how spindles and yarns work, despite the assurances of expert spinners who can do all this on their heads with their eyes shut.

So now thoughts of the meditative aspect are beginning to return. Like knitting, it's very calming once you are adept at it, but in the beginner mind stage it can be a quick route to a stiff drink.

And the yarn I already had spun, from the fleece I processed years ago, and spun years ago, has had its turn in the dye, turmeric this time, and do admire this wonderful gold result. It looks as if there's a light behind it, just wonderful. On the right is a ball which I unraveled to let it dry,but the other bits are random stuff from the bag, which will probably end up in weavings.

Oh, and I measured the length of the yarn I dyed with the red maple and red onionskins, and it turns out I spun about 30 yards, amazing, really. Now I believe people who say they spin miles of yarn.

Natural dyes don't keep the smell of their original materials long, in case you wondered, so you don't have to be concerned that your yarn will smell of onions or turmeric or whatever you used to dye with. I've been asked this a number of times when people have seen me stuffing bags of onionskins into the water to cook for dye. Same with using vinegar as a mordant. The smell dissipates pretty fast.

Unlike the lovely sheepy smell of good yarn. Or llama smell, or alpaca, or whatever it is.  That seems to be hardwired into the fleece.  And the urge to acquire more roving of different kinds, and many more spindles, seems to be coming over me..But I think I have to resist.  I still have to buy groceries.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Dyeing continues, with natural dyes

When I originally made the natural dyes from local plant material and put the output in the freezer, quite a few people asked me if it would work. Not knowing, I had to say, well, let's find out later.  

So here I took out two containers of red natural dye, from Japanese red maple and from red onionskins, and tried out my experiment. Two parts to the experiment, though, testing how my homespun yarn would take up dye, and testing whether the dye would still retain its nature after freezing.  The containers have been in the bottom of a chest freezer for about a year and a bit.

I think the answer to both is: yes, fine!

I took out the frozen chunks, and after resoaking the yarn which had dried on the doorknob nicely, figured why not add it in to the thawing dye, which I was bringing to the simmer, just as you do with yarn dyeing anyway.  

So I did that, and at the simmer, turned off the heat, and left the pot with yarn overnight.  This morning the first thing I thought of when I woke, after cursing the cats for shouting at me to get their breakfast, was to lift out the yarn and see how it had worked. 

And before anyone asks anxiously if those are cooking utensils, no, they are dyeing things, dedicated pots and spoons and tongs, and all that, strictly for dyeing and put away on a special shelf between uses.

And I now have a skein of a lovely soft peach pink yarn, hanging up to dry.  In the top picture you can see the original color soaking in that small container. I must measure it to see how many yards, before I figure out what I can use it for.  It might be enough for a phone purse.  

Next turmeric is out of the freezer and ready to see if that worked, or if it separated in any way.  This doesn't have to be a great big operation.  Easy to do a small amount at a time.  A bit like making jam, come to think of it:  you see large operations in books for both natural dyeing and for jam making, using huge quantities and making enough for the foreseeable future.  But you don't actually have to do this.  

This is a throwback to the days before freezers were common, so you had to use the output when you had it, from your garden or fields.  But we can freeze small quantities, and thaw and use for both dyeing and jam.  Different pots and pans...

And on the spinning front, I want to learn to spin on the fold -- this is the way you see people on videos spinning with what looks like a fistful of roving.  I've been spinning the other way, with a pre-separated, by me, length of roving crossing my hand and ready to feed to the spun thread.  Either way is fine, but it's good to know how to do both.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Spinning continues, with dyeing in the offing

So I spun some more, then wound the product, a length of merino spun into a single, that's one ply,  onto my DIY niddy noddy, to make a hank. You can vary the size of hank by using different lengths of pvc piping, easy to add, since this whole thing comes apart without tools. You can cut lengths with a hacksaw.

In the course of winding onto the niddy noddy, which took all my powers of concentration and colorful language to get it all in the right direction and not crossing over, I noticed the bag of roving heaving up and down, and snorting and snoofling sounds coming from it.  

Duncan in there, tripping out on the roving, which has the same effect on him as catnip.  I hauled him out, drooling and glassy eyed, Duncan, not me, whereupon he staggered over to punch out Marigold.  She drew herself up to her full six pounds, half his size, and snarled you talkin to me??  and he discreetly withdrew and wove away to take a nap.

I did run into a beginner's problem in the winding in that in one place the yarn snapped, but I just put the end on the spindle, and spun  the broken ends together, and now you'd never know.
Close up to see the yarn a bit better

This yarn thickness and consistency is far from expert, but it's also far from where I was a while back, so I'm okay with it. That red bit is the leader yarn I used to start it on the spindle.

Washed it in fabric detergent meant for this sort of thing (Dharma Trading's version of Synthropol).  Rinsed, then had fun whacking it about.  You take the hank, now wet and tied here and there to keep it together, and whack it loudly on the floor a time or two, moving around it so it all gets hit.  This has something to do with setting the twist, forget exactly what. It's fun, though.

Then you hang the damp skein on a doorknob with a handy weight to hold it down, important to keep some tension there, otherwise it will all curl round on itself and be intractable.  The weight in this case is a large conch shell, which is working a treat.

When this is dry, giving it a day or two, I fancy using some of my natural dyes in the freezer to paint on and dye them with. I need to get them out to thaw, come to think of it.  I'll keep you updated on that as it goes.  I also plan to learn to ply using this yarn, which is now at least fine enough to try two ply, and see how that goes.

I will have to ply in the opposite direction from the way I spun, in order for it to work.  So since I usually spin counterclockwise, holding the roving in my left hand, and using right finger and thumb to spin the spindle, I will just switch hands, hold the threads in my right hand,  and use the left finger and thumb to spin the spindle, which will send it clockwise.  This is where mixed dominance comes in very handy.

At least, as always, that's the plan! And I got some interesting ideas on other kinds of roving, so now I'm awaiting a little shipment of Coopworth, which I'm told is easy to spin, which I will be glad of. Merino actually is okay, but it will be interesting to see how Coopworth compares.