Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Llama yarn and silk samples

This is the lovely handspun fair trade llama yarn I ordered from Bolivia via Dharma Trading, and a collection of colored silk squares, beautiful colors.  

The yarn will be part of the knitted and crocheted jungly background for the butterflies and other creatures to perch on, and the silk is going to be incorporated into the butterfly motif.

Can't tell you how lovely it is to handle the yarn, made by Bolivian women spinning from their own llamas, natural colors, their hands were on this yarn, as mine are now.  The Trades Union of Women at work!  

The silk colors are delicious, as silk takes dye so well, and for once I'm not dyeing my own, just wanted some different solid colors for the work.

All's well on the art front. I'm finding that my arm can cope better when I switch back and forward between fine stitching and freeform crochet and knitting with big needles and hooks.  

I have noticed a technical hitch though: if I stitch after crocheting or knitting, the stitching is much wilder than usual, so I have to think myself back into a state of mind where tiny stitches are happening. Or remember to stitch first, do the other later.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Butterfly, net and silverpoint capers

The enforced cutting back of stitching hours to pamper my arm has resulted in a few great ideas, rushing in the fill the space.  The crocheted background for the butterfly piece is now shaping up as a net, so the butterflies are escaping the net.  This concept only just came clear to me as I was about to talk about it, so you never know what you have to say until you start saying it.

It also became knitted alternating with crocheted, so as to make varying sizes of holes in the fabric.  I used a large pair of well used wooden knitting needles courtesy of Mittens.

It's seen here draped on a lampshade, tres artistique, but in fact because the cats are not interested in playing with it if it's there. Much more of this to come. I pulled out the first part, because as it progressed, it needed to be different.

Then the second butterfly acquired a beaded back, tiny silver beads too small to thread, I put in a kind of bed of glue on the back of the butterfly, after I painted it with metallic acrylic paint.

top side


And the bigger one,

 now drawn out on the silk I plan to work it on.  It's hand dyed silk and I lined it with an ecru lacy piece of fabric, once a blouse or something, which will blend well with the crocheted net.

I'll wire the wings again, with copper wire.  I chose the colors I think I'll work in.  As I set out choices of threads, I found a lovely purl thread in a blueish turquoise, an Indian gift, and that will be part of it, too.  Purl, you remember, is like a fine coiled spring, which you cut and apply like beads, stretching slightly first to make them curve over into little arcs.

Here's a butterfly posing on a gift: a lovely handmade needle book from Margaret K.  I love it, and I've started populating it already with needles for this project.

Fine art also goes booming on, and here's an experiment I've been thinking about for maybe twenty years and finally got to do today.  No point in rushing these things. It's a silverpoint drawing, very rapid one.  Very faint, read on to see why

I saw a blog recently, sorry, if I remember the source I'll credit her, where the writer had done a silverpoint portrait of her mother, using a silver earring she'd owned.

This reminded me that silverpoint drawing as done by the masters is actually done with a silver wire.  If you are unfamiliar with this art medium, take a look here, and there will be drawings you recognize, I'll bet.  You can get fancy holders and fancy expensive drawing wire, but I wanted to shop in my own stuff.

So I rummaged through my jewelry box for sterling earrings and found a pair I'd given myself as a gift long ago at Peters Valley, handmade crafted design, beautiful, but too long for my taste. So now one of them is in the drawing department, opened up to work as a drawing tool.  

I used an emery board to roughen and remove any polished finish from the decorated end, and it made a nice silvery grey, very subtle line, hard to see in pix, but nonetheless nice.  And will probably darken as the silver tarnishes on the page.  

This is not a properly treated surface, but it was okay for the rapid drawing experiment I was doing today. You have to put down a better ground, so as to enable the silver to make a bolder mark, but even then it's hard to see in pix.

Silverpoint may or may not take its place among the mixed media textiles I'm working on, but I wanted to start developing the skill anyway.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The butterfly Banner starts

I started the crochet, freeform as you see, involving various stitches and approaches, and here's the first few inches, with a butterfly tentatively trying it out!  

This will get to be more open as it goes, with darkening colors introduced.  If the light colors at the top become too evident, I'll paint them a bit. 

Right now I'm using my largest crochet hook which you can see down left there.  With the finer threads to come, it means the openwork will be much more airy and open.  But the top needs to be a bit sturdy, as here.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Makings of a banner idea

A number of influences suddenly came clear to me about the butterfly piece, and now it's going to be: a backing of dyed shibori patterned fabric, probably linen, and an overlay of crocheted network for the butterflies and other wildlife to attach to.  And I may find homes for some handmade paper beads, streaming from the crochet section.

So here's the makings of the crochet part of the banner!  

you'll see a little ball of alpaca, courtesy of Lily, the alpaca shown in the picture, and some lovely quality cotton thread from the goodwill, some wheat colored lambswool left over from many gifts to friends made from an unraveled lambswool sweater, as well as other selections from the stash.  I put out all my crochet hooks, since I don't know which I'll need at any given time, since this will be a variegated piece, different size patterning, varying approaches depending on the thread in use at the time.  

If anyone would like to donate a little sample of a good yarn, so as to be included in the work, just a token, I mean, please be in touch, and I'll be delighted to accept it.  I did this for the big tapestry I made for the library, for the Artist in Residence season, and it was so cool to know I was weaving friends into the Four Sisters design.

I made a couple of large knitted and crocheted pieces in the past, one of which was exhibited years ago, wire knitted fish swimming on a white knitted network background.  

 I also made this piece, knitted in stints in the surgical waiting room while HP was undergoing major surgery, partly keeping me breathing, partly distracted.  

This was part of a big installation, the Milkweed Project, which, as far as I know is still going the rounds! many artists contributed to it.

So this is a continuation of that idea. And I found a bigger butterfly drawing I've used before, which will make a bigger impact, in addition to the small ones currently in process. I may make very large versions of some of the small stumpwork pieces I've done, too, while I'm at it.

I have a solo exhibit coming up in June next year, so I need a couple of large pieces to balance the small ones, to give more impact, and this may be one of them.  

I had thought of weaving, but decided crochet was better, since I won't be limited by warp threads. And better than knitting since I can adjust width as I go, as needed. Also it's portable, a big issue if I want to take it to stitch-ins with me.

Anyway, all this occurred to me since yesterday, probably the fruit of being quiet all day, stitching a bit, cooking a bit, company in the evening, but no crowds and distraction in the day.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Look out, it's a stampede!

Recently, my art progress has been slowed up a bit by the arm trouble. It's doing better, thank you, more range of movement, less pain as I go along, but I still have to proceed with caution. Including bagging an event today that would have involved being in an unheated barn at a farm festival, demonstrating stamp carving.  

Neither my arm nor my supplies would have worked out well in cold temps, which we have today.  Not safe to cut cold-hardened surfaces with sharp blades and cold hands. But it was pretty informal, no registration or anything like that, not letting anyone down, so I'm staying home in the warm, and doing what I would have  anyway!

And stamping precedes stitching in this studio.  I'm planning on the bigger fabric piece on which the butterflies will eventually land, and have come up with a sort of banner idea, with stamped trees and flowers, from blocks I've carved.  Probably using my hand dyed fabric, too, once the idea gets a bit more thought out.  And maybe some minor stitching to create harmony between butterflies and background.

So here's the worktable of the stitcher at the moment:

All the stamps I carved either from soft cut rubber or from big plastic erasers -- these are a great way to get into it and find out if you like it, cheap, easy to find, pretty easy to cut, you see one drawing and awaiting cutting --and from wine corks.  Sorry I couldn't get to the farm festival event, since a wine tasting is part of the doings, and I thought that would be fun, to show how to make stamps from both ends of a plastic wine cork.

I use archival ink pads, to avoid smearing and fading, in sepia and in black.  You can get them in colors, but I like the color to come from the stitching part of the artwork, with the other images supporting them but not competing.  

And you see the tools -- a nice little set of Japanese carvers, plus my trusty xacto blade, which I use more than any of the others, and a lino knife.  I draw directly onto the block freehand, with sharpie or pilot pen, depending on what's to hand, and go from there.

Sometimes I carve in without a drawing, freehand, or freeblade, I guess you could call it, and that is great fun. Several of the blocks you see were done that way.  You just act as if the blade were a pencil.

It just shows how demanding fine stitching is, physically, when you know that I can carve for about twice as long as stitch, without having to stop for arm seizing up!

In other art news, a couple of days ago, I revisited the Book of Kings exhibit at Princeton Art Museum in the company of friends, one my longtime art partner Stefi, and there was a new exhibit downstairs, too, wonderful massive cedar sculptures, so glad I went back for the B of K, which I also spent time with.  

The sculptor's work is seen here: Ursula von Rydingsvard, amazing vision.  Huge contrast with the Book of Kings, too.  There are other exhibits, too, including a Silk Road one, but I have to go back again for that. I can only take in so much on one trip.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Creative Collective hangs the last show of the season at Terhune Orchard

There will be more exhibits elsewhere this season, watch this space, but this is the last of the season at Terhune, since the barn is unheated and the audience diminishes on the farm in winter.  Back again in March next year.

The show is large and varied, and I can't do justice to it here, just give you a few tastes of some of the artists whose work was hanging. It ranges from mixed media drawing, painting, bronze casting, stonework, stitching, ceramics, amazing range of talents.  So I'll just whip a few, very few compared to the exhibit, pix by you and invite you if you're in the central NJ area to stop by before early December and see for yourself.

Some of us will be there again over the weekend of November 14 and 15, when there will be pie (!) and wine and artists meeting and greeting.  The pie and wine tasting are a big Fall event at the orchard, and we're invited to be there, too.  I plan to demo some block carving on Sunday afternoon.  So that would be a good time to meet, greet, enjoy pie, wine and art!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Second Butterfly and a couple of artworks to be exhibited

Art goes on, with a second butterfly on the hoop, with a color scheme of turquoise, silver and chestnut brown with some dark blue

And tomorrow, these two pieces will go on display at Terhune Orchards in Lawrenceville.  Local readers can stop by over the next few weeks -- there is to be an open house and wine and pie event there the weekend of November 14 and 15, and I'll be there on the Sunday, demo'ing a bit of stamp carving and showing the butterflies to date.


Meadow, monotype, image size 3.5 inches by 6, framed at 10 x 12. Price $150US plus $10 s and h, and I can ship.  This one would ship portfolio style (no frame, no glass, for safety).  You frame to suit.

 Tidepool, beading, stitching, tyvek, framed at 8.75 inches square. Can be shipped in this frame, sturdy stuff.  $200 plus $15 s and h. 

Local buyers are asked to wait till the end of the exhibit to pick up, but out of town buyers can have shipping right away, and I can put other works in place so the exhibit doesn't have a hole in it.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Butterfly, and fame at last!

Today's blogpost on Mary Corbet's Needle 'n Thread, includes this blog you're reading in her Big List of Needlework Blogs.  So cool!  and thank you, Mary, much appreciated. 

Meanwhile, back in the studio, the first butterfly has emerged.  She's stitched with goldwork and blue metallic thread, beaded, and lined with a silk butterfly, same image, but reversed so as to fit on the back.  The apparent spaces on her wings are where the walnut stained linen shows through, as part of her coloring.

The lining is needed so that the underwings are finished, and to cover the stitching from the topside.  I wired the beaded front with 28 gauge copper wire, so that the butterfly can be posed with her wings up or at any angle to whatever surface she lands on, when I decide what that is to be.  It's great fun playing with her, and in fact she looks pretty lifelike perched on my hand.  Strange blue effect took place, but my hand is the usual color in real life.

I have several other butterflies, from the same stamp I carved, ready to do likewise.  

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Beading and goldwork goes on, and butterflies are in movement

The linen portiere already looks as if it's been in place for years!  since it's unchanged, it might even make it onto the Thanksgiving table.

Meanwhile, the stamped butterfly is going on nicely.  This is really fun to stitch and design as I go.  Thinking of several of them, all different in design, but the same general shape.  This is about four inches wingspread.  Anyway, this is where we are.  

Lately I've developed a few little problems, mainly in my left arm, hurt last winter in that dramatic fall, and injured many years ago by an enthusiastic black lab pulling on me.  My body seems to remember, and it's playing up a bit.  Painting the kitchen and installing two backsplashes and an insulation project may possibly be part of it, too.

So I have to remember to let my left arm rest a bit, and that means stitching sessions are a bit shortened.  But, aside from that organ recital, me, I am not complaining, as Andy's Ecuadorian aide used to say.  I am getting the butterfly done bit by bit instead of in one great big swoop.

On future plans for stitching:  when I mentioned I'd never done shisha embroidery -- that's the kind using small mirrors -- my good friend Girija promised instantly to find me some mirrors or metal substitutes when she goes to India in December for a wedding.  So there may be butterflies with it!

She also explained why some shisha uses mirrors and some metal circles instead.  And told me the Hindi name for the items, which I have now forgotten, dang. The mirrors are Gujarati, and clothes with shisha embroidery are washed with reverence for the mirror glass (that's what shisha means, by the way).  But elsewhere laundry is done by beating which is bad for the glass, so metal circles, prestamped with holes around for stitching, are substituted. The stuff I learn from her!  Mirrors would be fine for my butterflies, since they won't be a laundry item.

So look out for that!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Linen cloth, ready for her closeup, and current print

I'm posting a couple more pix of the linen and embroidered tablecloth, in the hope that you can help me identify the type of embroidery.  It's too much to ask if you can see if it's hand done or machine, but experts might know some of the signs they see.

Here are two views.  This is a heavy piece, weighs several pounds because of the weight of the stitching.  This is why I didn't take it in to stitch in last evening, to get expert eyes on it, because I was already carrying a lot and couldn't add this in.

The pinkish tinge is not visible to the eye, but shows up to the camera lens. It's the effect of the wall behind the cloth.

And here's the current print and embroidery combo.  I carved this stamp yesterday morning, you see it in the foreground, using that soft carving material whose name escapes me, but it's much easier on the hands than lino for cutting.  All my stamps are carved on this material, and it lends itself to fine detail if needed.  

Then I stamped it, using an archival sepia inkpad, onto pieces of linen and silk, all dyed by me, to make a flock of butterflies. I plan to wire their wings, giant stumpwork style, so that I can pose them as if flying or landing.  

At least that's the plan, as always, the plan could see the first butterfly on a 6 inch, I think, hoop, stamped on linen dyed with black walnut, and ready for whatever transpires as I work.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Stitching gets derailed by printmaking

So musing on that big yellow piece and the possible Dorset buttons and other things, I ended up finding my hand carved stamps and making a meadow on it instead, in archival sepia ink.

This is partly because I invited a friend to do the dollar tour of the place, including my studio, a very rare event for me, don't ask to come, the planets have to be in the right configuration for me to invite. But anyway, her take on a lot of items was very valuable, and I suddenly as a result of our chat had much better thoughts on how to make that yellow dyed linen piece.  The ingredients will find another home in another artwork once I get to sorting it. Thank you Margaret!  

Stitching may ensue on the yellow piece, but may not.  I have been drawn back into printmaking from the #printoctober activity on Twitter.  And I have plans to carve more prints with subjects I need next.

So here's that yellow piece, 20 x 16, but all different now

And a piece you haven't seen, an 8 x 10 monotype in blue dye on coarse linen overstamped with handcarved images.  There are butterfly like shapes and other natural objects in the blue dyed areas.

Quinn, you have no idea what an impact you had on me back in August when you wrote that blogpost about #drawingaugust!  from drawing more, though I always did, to #paintingseptember, painting again after a hiatus, and now to printmaking again, my lifelong love.  And learning to watermark my work.  

Well, when the student is ready the teacher appears.  Which is just another way of saying that chance favors the prepared mind, come to think of it.

On a less elevated plane, that curving shape that looks a bit like a dancer in the blue and white linen piece is in fact a carving I made based on the architecture inside a deer's nose!  just sayin'. You just never know where great design is to be found.

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Healing Power of Walking and Art

After a series of contretemps too boring to go into, what with HOAs and encroaching neighbors and Amazon billing foulups, I was very happy to seize the day and go out this afternoon to Princeton University Art Museum to see the new installation, and the big exhibit of the Book of Kings, the Persian manuscript.

Here are the flyers about them

And a few views of the installation, the piece being designed and created specifically for this location, and to my mind somewhat poorly installed. The reason I'm complaining is that a sculptural installation is usually meant to be seen from all sides, being designed as a 360 experience.  This one can only be seen from three sides, impossible to walk around it and experience it.  However, since the artists, the brothers Starn, no doubt took this into consideration, I suppose they didn't attach as much importance to it as I do.

So I muttered and took a few pix. 

 The bicycles are not part of the installation, but I left them in so as to give you a measure of the size of this piece.  And the landscaper blowing leaves and grass away from the base similarly.  Also I liked the concept of life going on around the artwork anyway. The parts which look like trees propping up the structure are in fact cast metal, brilliantly created to resemble wood, until you realize they have seams where the casting was joined.

I found the whole thing awkward, because too close to the building, difficult to see, because so big, at close quarters, almost impossible to get back far enough to see better because of construction going on a few yards away and fences blocked with temporary coverings.  Let's hope this situation improves before much longer.  I did like the light shining through the glass, though, and the incidental art that happened when the sun made a shadow on the museum wall.

If you want to see a bit more info about the artists and this installation, go here

Then the other item I wanted to see, can't see too much in one visit, need to digest, was the really spectacular Book of Kings exhibit, with original four centuries old manuscripts to peer at, over several galleries,  individual pages, newly restored, framed and being exhibited before they are put back into appropriate bindings by the restorers.  There are many copies of this classic Persian work, but this is the best conserved and restored one in the US.

This was a great idea, a chance to see many pages close up, using magnifying glasses provided, because of the fineness and detail in the manuscript pages, before it vanishes into its permanent rebinding and is accessible mainly to scholars.  

The light was kept a bit dimmed, because the pages are fragile, and no photography was permitted, as usual with collections on loan. But the experience of being up close to see this amazing work, with the beautiful old script, and even additional ancient notes in the margins, was very healing after a few bumps in my own little life!

If you want to know more (and this exhibit is there till January, should you be local enough to visit), go here

And, since it was a weekday, parking at a premium, I had to park way far away, which built in a walk, always a Good Thing!  So I got home in a much better mood, especially since I'd had sunshine all afternoon,  and, shortly after I arrived home, the skies went black and dumped a lot of rain.  I was home by then, and dry.  And smug!

Friday, October 2, 2015

October brings printmaking...

So, among all the stitching -- work on two pieces today, desultory, but oh well, teaching some goldwork for the stitching guild on Sunday, so that counts..

Anyway, October is PrintOctober on Twitter, so I thought I'd start by sending in a favorite, not new, but I really love it.  It's stamped, using my own carved stamps, on mulberry paper, and it depicts a little pod of small whales I saw from my hotel balcony some years ago -- those are the hotels along the ocean -- but seen from the whales' viewpoint.

And here 'tis


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Last paintings of September

Just a last gasp at September!  weather supposed to be rainy, but several of us showed up and had a wonderful sunny morning for working.  Rain came later, no problem at that point.

I will separate the paintings I showed you earlier.  Thanks for the input, and I think they work better as solos.  So here's today's painting and one little drawing, drawing always sneaks back in.

I am not one of those people who labor over art.  These are just the sponge brush and my fingernail, dancing over the work with very loose paint over a clear wash.  About an hour and a half total. Great fun to do, but you can't take them literally.  The drawing is the extra fine pilot pen, as usual, my fave, except on 140 lb. watercolor paper this time, as are the paintings. It's all about the changing colors as the season turns. 

And I have a little goldwork cute thing to show you, but not yet, don't want to spoil the surprise for my stitching buds.  It will all be revealed on the Princeton Embroiderers' blog
in due course. This is a little motif I designed on request, so they could learn an extra bit of goldwork or two.

And a wonderful present today, a great piece of linen, a banquet cloth,stitched, hemstitched, various cutwork forms, huge, which is even now in the dryer, after a bath in Synthropol for the stains. 

It's an old piece, given to me by a person trying to slim down her household before she moves south.  I promised pix for her once I decide on its new form and home, and will show you, too. I do like to rescue old textile pieces.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Painting and drawing in September goes on till the weather doesn't!

Wonderful weather today, sunny but not too hot, perfect for working out of doors.  I was the only person who showed up this week, but still had a good time.  This will go on till the end of September, but even if the group doesn't continue out of doors here, I think I will if the weather holds up.

 Interesting play with washes and fine pen.  Then I finished off the morning with a couple of very small drawings with fine pen on mulberry paper.  I'm thinking these little drawings might be really nice giveaways for the next Grow Your Blog caper, if I do it again next year.

Anyway, here's what transpired.  

picnic benches drunkenly falling about among the trees in the park, bottom is the pavilion where we meet, leaves and flowers blowing about in the wind.

 Looking across the canal

And looking back up the path to the entrance gate from the road. Fine pen on mulberry paper, these drawings about 5 inches a side.

The two paintings were on one  11 x 18, I think, sheet and I haven't separated them yet, in case I decide to frame them as one.  But I did take pix of each one, to help decide.  In fact, I'd welcome blogistas' thoughts on this:  should I separate the twins or leave them as a unit?  what do you think? They're different, but related, scenes. 

I have work hanging in two locations right now, with a third coming up in January, so I'm looking around to decide what to hang.  Doesn't have to be fiber art, in fact framed and glassed work is better in locations where I won't see them throughout the exhibit, and they'll be in food places, so better to take protected works.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Plein air strikes again...

Particularly nice plein air today, perfect weather, and an old friend not seen for years showed up and joined us, so I had great company while I painted.  

We sat on a bench at the side of the canal, so one painting is the view straight across the water.  With this one I painted then drew into it,  and one of the bridge further down the canal,left of where I was sitting. September yellow daisy like flowers have now joined the golden rod, and the leaves are thinning a bit now.

And here I drew then painted over it.

Unusual for me to work in company at all, so this was a new departure. She was breaking out her charcoal, first time in ages, so she had an adventure, too.  And we caught up on many years of our lives since we last met, which was way back when we rented studios in the same building.

Many interruptions from friendly bicyclers, walkers, joggers, runners, too.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Beaded and goldwork piece goes on amid painting frenzy

I seem to have two sides of my brain going at once, how unusual for me, one the more precise and planned and elaborate world of goldwork and beading, although mine is pretty freeform as I design it, and the world of loose and unplanned watercolor, where the less precise and planned and elaborate the better.

Tomorrow I go on location painting again, and this evening it's a meeting of local artists in the gallery where we have our work on display, the exhibit I showed you a few days ago. 

But for now, it's the continuation of the golden piece, one of a series of stitchings done on my dyed linen. This one is going to be named "Anonymous was a Woman" and is a little salute to  anonymous women stitchers and beaders and dyers over the centuries. 

You'll recognize the internet symbol for the anonymous poster in here, no doubt, and the references to anonymous stitching over the centuries and the elaboration of embroidered gifts and boxes.  Anyway, that's the concept.  The beading on the right side is complete, no it's not all going to be filled in.  Next I'll work within the outer frame in some way yet to be determined.

Interestingly I was stitching this precise and careful work while listening to a wonderful, and highly dramatic Kate Atkinson audiobook -- a God in Ruins. About Halifax bombers in action in WW2 and a lot of other dramatic events and human conflicts.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Painting this morning, music this's all go

This morning's painting is about lying in the tall grasses watching the Fall colors gradually come into view.  In this region, central NJ, the colors are gently, largely muted, with the gold of beech staying all winter. The margin on the painting is pure white, but it doesn't register here as white for some mysterious camera related reason.

This is largely painted, but with ink finishing, many washes and liftings took place.  It's good to work with 120 lb paper, because it allows you to continue working long after an 80 lb sheet would have pilled and collapsed.

Off to stitch now..I'll soon have something to show you, but more work needed yet.