Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Painting, plain and fancy

In Field and Fen, my other blog, I wrote yesterday about cooking plain and fancy.  Today we're two floors up, and it's painting plain and fancy.

The work in the studio now finished by handyman and genius Mike, it's ready to paint, particularly the doors, which are raw wood and need to be protected.  He also replaced the broad sill with MDF, which he rounded at the front end, very posh, and which I painted today, couldn't wait to do that, such an improvement.

So, since I found a gallon of paint at the dumpster, which turns out to be a warm sort of beigy color, inoffensive anyway, I started by painting the doors today, and finished up what was in the tray doing most of an end wall.  

The plan was to set up a tray of paint and go till it's finished. Longer than that and I'm inclined to get a bit sloppy, from boredom.  I could paint much longer but oh well, always onto something else.

The purplish thing you see behind the door below is a brilliant invention by Mike, namely rigid foam insulation, cut to fit, with handles he installed, to pull into the cavity behind each door and seal off the open roof, as much better insulation than I had before.  Then the door shuts over it, and you have a double seal.  

If I have any paint left I'll paint the panels to match, but for the moment I want to see how far it will go on the walls. They're very thirsty, never painted since the builders skimmed them with builders' white, 22 years ago. And he trimmed up the bits of insulation left over, and presented them to me for art purposes, yay.  They're standing to the left of the open door.

Then, fancy painting comes in, since it's time for the Easter Eggs. Which are actually Spring Eggs, and have been received happily by people for whom the Christian observance is not relevant.  Here's this year's clutch:

 Since they're blown, and washed, and the paint is acrylic, they're pretty much indestructible at this point, and I usually make one for my collection, others to give away. Handsome Son always gets one, and whoever I really want to give to this year gets the others. 

I make them different every year, painted or dabbed, or covered in handmade paper, or scrunched to give a frosted appearance. This year it's copper with gold drawing, and blue and red dots here and there.

A whole range of people have received them, ranging from HPs helpers in his later years, to neighbors, to friends, to library folk, to stitching buds, anyone who seems particularly significant right now.  So we'll see who gets the other two.

And they've joined the collection that stays with me, which is now officially out for the season, along with Bon Hiver, or Bon Printemps I guess he is now the season's changed, and various other spring celebrants. The Bonnes Paques crowd.  Or Paschal Rascals.  Sounds like a seminary rock band.

At the top right, about two o'clock, is a tiny Wedgwood cup and saucer, with eggs from my dear late cockatiel Emily, painted and kept forever.  No need to blow them, though, since they're so tiny the contents desiccate very fast.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Big Doorway Emerges

If you've been idly wondering how those floating motifs work with the doorway theme, since you can't read my mind which is where all the art planning takes place, I thought I'd post this.

This is the first outline of the first part of the doorway. The motifs will float across it as they're developed -- one already does, as you see -- and there will be more lines to reinforce the shape visually as I go.  You see pins holding the couching thread in place here, so as not to lose the shape as I go, since markings wear off the fabric very fast.

The usual problem with scribing an arch is to get the curve working, and rather than resort to endless math computation ending in a wobbly result, I look around for an object already the size and curve I want. This can be a lengthy search, but this time it wasn't.

The  round metal dish I've been keeping my supplies for the project in, is just the ticket.  So I drew around it without emptying it, living dangerously with all those little containers of beads, and you see a nice result.  I reset the pins a couple of times to get the straight part straight and the curved part reasonably symmetrical.  

Unusual for me to be particular about a shape to the point of not freehanding it, but for this piece, the archway needs to be a firm readable contour, against which the freeform shapes can play and work better.  Just sayin'.

There's another work going on, too, but the progress is so slow that there's not much to show you yet.  It's the portable piece, the stitching on white silk with stumpwork one, a flower with leaves, maybe a waterlily, maybe a chrysanthemum, jury still out, not my design, or I'd know!   I can take it in to stitch-in evenings, unlike the Big Doorway, which is definitely not portable, what with the size and the different threads and the beads and different needles and all that.

I found today that I need to stand to work on this, just like old times, never sat in the studio.  I have it on a wooden cabinet with the edge sticking out far enough for me to work from underneath, and a good height for me to work at.  One big reason never to sit to make art is that you have to see it straight in order to understand it.  No use sitting and looking across the work as you go, since though we hardly notice it, that gives us a warped image.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Update on three pieces at once

The experiment with the goldwork initials is about done, and I think ready to frame.  

It's a combo of hand dyeing, goldwork, beads and painted dots.  I have a nice Japanese frame ready for it when I get to it.

And here's the Big Doorway Piece, more work done on it.  The trailing couched gold thread, of which there will be much more, around the other two motifs,  will enclose drifts of beads and  stitching.  

I can only do this for a short time, because the size is very tiring for my ribcage, oddly enough.  Reaching forward and back and guiding the thread front and back is more strenuous than you might think.  So a short period at a time works.

This is the interior petals of the flower, which will be done partly in stumpwork like this, partly with surface embroidery. 

 In the interests of transparency, very appropriate since I'm working on organza, the two open areas are you might say abandoned.  I tried them but the thread didn't work out, tried another thread, still wasn't right, so I switched to a floss which is working much better.

I've also moved on from drawing the petals and keeping the wire in the boundary, the usual stumpwork technique, to doing it more freehand, shaping the wire as I go, and it's better for my style than doggedly following a pattern. Why are you not surprised at this.

And this morning I found a gallon of white semi gloss enamel at the dumpster, so it's now up in the studio, and I think my paint requirements for the room have been met.  I need a bit of spackle and after that I can get under way.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Studio work of a different kind

My studio is at the top of the house, with access on each side to the rafters, where some neighbors store items, and I don't.  Most of the neighbors who use the eaves for storage, which I think is not a good idea, being of the school of thought that says if you need more and more storage you probably have too much stuff...anyway, they've got doors put in. 

The original access panels were ugly and awkward -- you had to raise your knee to your chin at the same time as stepping up and into a little opening -- then try to reverse the position once in, all without a solid floor.  And you had to unscrew and rescrew them every time anyone needed to be in.

See the size of this access door, resting against a table? My friend and handywoman par excellence once got stuck in there, couldn't get out again, slim, but too tall to fold down far enough! 

So I decided finally to get the accesses replaced by doors you can just open and walk in.  I rarely need to get in there, but when I do I'm not in a mood to be doing contortions, since I'm usually tracking down a leak or some weirdness. And when the roof people need to get in, it seems friendly not to make it as hard as possible for them to do it.

So finally, the weather moderated enough that it wasn't cruel and inhuman to ask Michael the Contractor to step into the unprotected eaves, and today he shows up ready to measure and go.  Like this:

And here's the first door, built, set in, hinged, awaiting trim and finishing.  The studio is swathed in sheets to protect from dust, though the way he works, there's very little of it. He's good.

Just one more day's work and it's done.He's a gem in that once he starts, he finishes. None of that oh, now I have to work somewhere else for three weeks..

The work I'm on had to be evacuated from there and I worked downstairs, a bit awkward, light not very good, and the portable lamp was all swathed and inaccessible upstairs.

But I did stitch and bead.  And here's where I am on one piece.

 I think this is another doorway concept, but much bigger than the earlier series.  And here are details of those bigger motifs

 I'm realizing that doorways seem to be a dominant motif in my life at the moment, too.  And that there's a LOT more work to be done on this piece.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

At long last, signs of spring!

Here's the first sighting this year, late but undaunted, of the patio snowdrops.  

In the words of the Zen master whose name totally escapes me, one flower blooms, spring everywhere!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Doorway Three, fragile little thing

It looks as if DoorwayThree might be done, not sure yet.  But I do know that this is one of those fragile, delicate artworks that can hardly be handled. It will be a bit of a challenge to exhibit this one, I think. 

It's not that the materials are fragile, just the construction is. Between slippery copper knitted ribbon weaving, and silk floss weaving, and the nylon doorway icon woven in sort of secured, and the net overlay, it looks nice, but I have to think how to stabilize the whole thing, perhaps.  Iron on stabilizer fabric might do a job on the weaving, though.  And possibly some weight at the bottom will help.  Anyway, we'll see.

On the offchance that this completes the Doorway series, I'm looking at other design ideas for later on, after the several stitching works I have under way are all done.  Here's a longterm idea, and you'll see all the contrasts in direction and subtleties of color and shape and negative space, and well, I like it.

The other stitching works going are looking like this:

 Japanese fabric, which I'm continuing from the original designer with goldwork, dyed, and beading. It's about 16 x 20 inches. Much more to happen here.  The goldwork icons were my self teaching tries way back, and I wanted to see if they would work in a context.

 Almost invisible, a transfer image of a waterlily, on silk, to be worked with gold threads and silk, and I'm going to add in some stumpwork petals as I go.  This is probably one to work on in warmer weather, on the patio, in the aforementioned Adirondack chair. A gift from our goldwork teacher.

And here's an initial set, created as an exercise in our goldwork class last year.  I dyed the thing with silk dye, after the stitching, and got quite a surprise at how the stitching all shriveled up and crinkled, but I managed to restore it with pressing and resting a printmaking press on it.  

I'm think that this, beaded and with more stitching, not yet decided if it will be a Japanese stitching deal, or what, but it will be a signature piece, once framed, to show up at the next exhibit just as my signature to the show.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A funny thing happened on the way to the weaving

The original thought was to create a weaving as a backdrop to Doorway Two, so I started on a weaving, using copper ribbon and silk floss, and a newly cut cardboard loom, and then realized I had started on Doorway Three...

there will be more parts to this in terms of manipulating the weaving, still to be decided.  But it does seem as if Doorway Two is done. And this is the last of the series.

It's a side effect of a lot of art material organization and moving yesterday, where all my little weaving bits and spinning bits were moved upstairs along with the embroidery materials and beads, finally all in one home in the studio.  And a couple of attendant catastrophes, which I will whine about in Field and Fen.

This including the catastrophes, the shakuhachi effect at work again, triggered all kinds of new ideas, including this one.  Just a helpless prawn, I tell you.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Doorway Two almost there

As you see, a lot has happened to Doorway Two since all your helpful ideas on orientation. The original silk is now covered in a fine netting, and there's a roofline stitched in.  So it's become a kind of paradox, a childlike house containing a doorway, looking out at a house and doorways, and you don't know if you're inside looking out, or outside seeing it from the street,  or not. I like this.

Anyway,  this is the current state of Doorway Two, and since it's very fragile looking in person, it might also be backed with a piece of handweaving.  Not sure yet. I have to see it on the wall a couple of days before I know. And the fringes will need a day or two to calm down and lie flatter.  

The dowel type thing you see is a pickup stick, from a set I'll be using at my paper jewelry workshop to teach people beadmaking! this one had just the right color for the piece.

But as always, open to suggestions.  I'm thinking of a much finer weave than on Doorway One, using one of my cardboard looms and finer yarn, just so it's not overwhelmed.  If I decide on weaving, that is.

The glistening fringes look nice now, all knotted and frayed at the ends to make them airy and light, but they were definitely one of those why did I start this processes.  I was making lark's head knots through netting with the finest crochet hook, like working in mid air on nothing, and it was good when it was done.  But I do like how it worked.  This reminded me of working with that gold rayon thread, lovely when done, very trying to work with.