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.