Wednesday, December 30, 2015


Today studio time was broken up between frantic tidying and sorting and returning many many items from bags full of confusion to their real home, and getting my mind reorganized about all the moving parts in many bags.  Llama wool background, butterfly makings, Dorset button makings, and that was only a few.  Now sorted, feels much better. All my scissors are now found, and my three needlebooks. The thing is that each project feeds the others, and in some cases is part of the others, hence the many parts.

And some of the real work of art took place, today, too.  Here are a few shots of the weaving with the circular piece temporarily showing where I'm weaving as I work down.

The saw blade is 12 tooth to tooth tip, which makes the weaving about an inch smaller.  In order to estimate the placement of the round piece on the tapestry, I cut out a paper template of the sawblade, and wove it in  as you see.

Then testing the placement here.  

And a longer view of it, still with the paper template in place.  This is where it gets to be very much fun!  The circular weaving is now back on the wall out of harm's way, the paper stays in place as a guideline, and who knows what might transpire.

You'll see that I am starting at the top.  Usually you start at the bottom and weave up, but I didn't see why I shouldn't reverse the procedure for this piece. 

The bias tape you see across the top, the yellow part, will not be visible in the finished work. That will be folded back and stitched down to create a rod pocket for the dowel on which the piece will hang.  

The next section, the green tape, is the couple of establishing rows.  After this, the width now being more stable, weaving being a moving target at times, planning becomes much less a factor.  Except that at the end I'll repeat the yellow tape idea so that I can slide a dowel through the bottom of the piece, too.

I have a lot of materials in mind to add into this work, involving sequined fabric, dyed linen strips, yarn and various other bright ideas.  And other inserts, too, just thinking about that. That's why I had to tidy, so that other works and ideas didn't get buried in the doings for this one. That way madness lies.

To work around the circular motif, I'll do short rows, where the weft thread turns back on itself instead of continuing across the work.  And the c. m. will be attached in place at the end.

I mentioned earlier that this is a tapestry: that's a weaving in which the warp threads, the ones you start out with, are covered by the weft threads, the horizontal ones, as you go, unless you deliberately leave some open areas, which I probably will. It's why I chose a color for the warp instead of a white or neutral.

This sounds as if I do a lot of thinking, but most of it is plunging in, really!  and the nice part about the loom holder upper is that I can unclamp and reverse the weaving when I want to, top to bottom, or even side to side.  So that I can be standing to weave the bottom part, too, easier than crouching about.  Much more flexible than your classical, engineered loom.

And I must remember to change the date on my watermark, as well as when I write checks in a couple of days' time.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Next step: stretchers warped

Today I warped up artist stretchers as you see here, using, for the first time, the Loom Holder Upper my friend Michael designed and made for me. This right after making that circular weaving on the sawblade he gave me.  He's having an impact.  High time I used the LHU, it's ages since he made it, but other art got in the way.

 Two views, not so easy to see the warp thread.

This is warped up with cotton thread, perle, I think, size two.  The circular piece will end up near the top of this new work, along with various other ideas yet to be had.  I will probably paint this warp at some point, too.  The thing is that weaving is fabric, exactly as painter's canvas is, and you can paint if you choose.

I also plan a bit of handmade papermaking soon, using the saw blade as a mold for another  piece to be part of the same exhibit.

Back to the weaving: I warped it side to side, then turned it right side up to do the work.  The gauge is two warps to the inch, pretty generous. You can see why I had to warp side to side: when you clamp it in place, you can't pass warp thread around the frame at the bottom.  So side to side allows you to do that, and then, having duct taped the warp threads in place -- no engineering at all on this loom!-- I could turn it through a quarter turn and clamp it in place.

The piece will measure about 40 x 24, if I remember correctly. Nice wall hanging length.  It's possible that some Dorset buttons will end up on here, too.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Circular weaving segment of bigger work, done

Sawblade weaving now off the loom and on the wall, for the moment until it finds a home in a bigger piece.  I still have to work on the copper areas, after the paint I used to disguise the white warp ends, matching the fuzzy yarn area, has safely dried

I did include wire in the outer area, and as you see, it holds up well with a single pushpin in place, doesn't droop down.  If you wonder how I got it off the blade, since neither the blade nor the warp would flex, I cut the first half circle of the loops and tied them back, then was able to slide the whole thing off the rest of the blade.  This has been a good deal!

One observer sees it as a mandala, which I admit hadn't occurred to me.  But fine anyway!  and I now see the copper insert as a kind of head and shoulders. This shape seems to recur in my work nowadays, seems to have replaced the Yorkshire hills line. 

In the course of working with this one, I've been retraining so as to use my left arm less, since that's the overworked and sore one, so this has been good practice at being aware as I work instead of realizing later that I was frozen into one set of repetitious movements, not so good.

So this is where we are for now.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Warped up saw blade weaving continues

I've started to introduce hair-fine copper wire into this now, and you see that it's going to be a part of the shape, not traveling all around. More interesting composition that way. I'll get into it with a big needle to fluff up the fibers. Then there will be  more yarns of varying kinds.

If you're wondering about all the ends sticking out: this is the back! after it's done and I remove it from the blade/loom, I'll see how it looks.  There will be weaving in, probably. 

What's hard to detect in the picture is that there are a couple of different shades of yellow going on here, and some handspun and dyed yarn in there, too, and some sparkly yarn.

And I think the extreme outer edge I'll weave with copper wire, 26 gauge,  to keep its shape after it's off the loom, since it will be mounted on a bigger weaving.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Warping up a sawblade, sounds like a dance

Once I decide definitely to take time off from art for a few days, that seems to trigger an equal and opposite reaction in the brain somewhere which insists that this idea just has to happen NOW.  Which it did, and I remembered the saw blade that contractor/artist/friend Mike E. gave me some time ago figuring I would use it somehow.

I warped it up this morning, using perle cotton. I originally got the cotton to do card weaving, but my wonky arm has put a hold on that after all my plans, so I figured it would work just as well as a warping yarn, not too stretchy, strong enough not to snap under tension.

This is a part of a bigger piece, which will be created on one of my big artist-stretcher looms.  The warp sits over the teeth, and will be slipped off when the weaving is completed.  Nice regular pattern.

The work you see is as much as my arm allowed before it started to protest, but oh well.  The initial part is where you have to pull the most firmly, to establish the shape, so it was more demanding than the rest of it will be.  At least that's the hope.

The materials involve some beautiful hair-fine copper wire salvaged from a washing machine by the husband of a stitcher friend, who figured, correctly, that I would find a use for it.  Also roving possibly, some handspun (by me) lumpy yarn, and some more civilized yarns. Some of that llama yarn might get into the picture at some point, too.

And this morning I confirmed that I will be doing another Artist in Residence stint at the local public library, probably starting late Feb, early March, working on pieces that will be in my June exhibit.  I'll do as I did for the tapestry: show up at scheduled times, and people can come in, sit, ask questions, get demos, tell me their family's stitching history, all that.

A lot of this work will be stitching and beading, and maybe some weaving and knitting and crocheting...whatever's up for doing at the time.  People do like to see work in progress, and now that I do the sort of work you can actually work on in public without a massive arrangements of materials and so on, it's fun to do it.

So stay tuned for more info and pix on this as it transpires.  And if you're local, it will be Plainsboro Public Library, location TBA, times and dates TBA.

So much for taking time off art, I guess.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Large Butterfly Done, and so is the artist

So here's the large butterfly, finished, cut out and awaiting placement.  She's about six inches in both directions. 

 I painted the back with a mix of metallic emerald green and white glue, to reinforce as well as color it, and let color bleed through, which I'm very pleased about.  You  see how the blue stitching gives the impression of blue hindwings, and the green stitching on the forewings gives the impression of overall green? optical illusion.  Really, it's all green at the back.  And I really like that this worked the way it did.

This is the time of year when the light levels are low, this artist has too much sugar in the house, and energy is at a premium.  Uphill work, so it's better to give it a little rest, I think, and let ideas mull.

I have decided on a great background, a large embroidered piece dyed irregularly, and now I see that some of the dyed areas suggest butterflies, so this will work. And I found the right size stretcher bars to mount it on.  So this is in fact a big step forward in this piece, and it's better not to push the idea, but let it simmer a while.
Sometimes the work ethic gets in the way and presents activity, any activity, as forward movement when really it's just displacement activity.  It usually takes me till mid January to remember this, so perhaps I'm a little ahead of the game!

Of course, all that's needed to precipitate really  good new ideas is to decide to lay off entirely for a few days.  So we'll see what happens here!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Butterfly, nearly there now, and looking for her home

So here's the almost completed butterfly, the big one, that is, wired and when finished, to be cut out and posed, using the wiring to create a realistic effect.  

The hindwings are still to be done, and I'm resisting going on and on with more goldwork, this being a favorite thing to do, and there will be beads and other things, I think.  Thinking about using purl, too, meaning that fine spiral thread that you cut and use like beads, but make small hoop shapes as you go.  I have some of that in a wonderful color.

And I'm still foofling with the background, possibly using the llama yarn knit/crochet piece, but not as a solid background, more of a curtain drawn aside as the butterflies emerge -- Escaping the Net, is the idea here.  I have another big embroidered piece which I think I'll press into service as the solid background.  It has been exhibited as is, but now I think would benefit from more happening around it.

Sudden expedition yesterday to Princeton Art Museum, in search of these items, which they officially assured me were in the lower gallery.  Son came along, giving himself a couple of hours off from the job hunt, and had a great time playing hooky at the museum. We looked over the whole place, it being a while since he was there, and despite all our efforts, failed to find the items I originally went in search of.

But he loved the Book of Kings, and the von Rydingsvard sculpture, as well as the great African piece, the metal fabric, and looked over the Impressionist collection.  We both got a lot out of the Caves of the Silk Road exhibit, more here, which I hadn't seen before. This is a constantly changing place, worth repeated visits.

The weather was torrentially wet, so I didn't take any camera or tablet with me, not wanting to risk getting them wet, so you need to take my word on all this! and the Any Body Oddly Propped giant installation outside the front door looked very sad and forlorn and unimpressive in the rain.  It's very dependent on a high light, just goes dormant in wet weather.

The Dollivers are agitating for attention to their festive gear and decorating and so on, so that's the next item on the agenda chez Liz.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Field and Fen is really in our territory, what's that about?

So Field and Fen went all out of bounds today, doing art and all sorts of stuff, well,  fight back.  Go here and read!

This is known as a cross reference. Or a downright annoyed reference.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

LLama yarn in action

So fun to work with this -- the last person who handled it this closely was the Bolivian spinner, using the fleece from the cooperative's llama herd.

It's working up very softly, and I think in order to open out the design I will probably stretch it on a canvas or possibly just stretchers, with dyed fabric behind it, and perch butterflies and whatever else happens on it here and there.  We'll see.  I can only knit for a few minutes at a time before my arm starts to whine, so this is as far as I got to date.  Note the change of color toward the bottom. This is the right way up, the needle at the top acting the part of a dowel for picture purposes, which is why it passes through at intervals, using the holes I designed there for that purpose.

It's about yarnovers and k2togs and that kind of stitch.  I like this very much for knitted hangings.  This one may not have any crochet happening, though, a bit bulky for the bubbles I was making on the other one which is still in progress on the crochet hook, freeing up the needles for this one.  I probably won't do short rows on this piece, either, since the yarn is bulky and soft and might not do the drape well.

There may be two hangings, one the finer one with alpaca, the other the llama, but I'll see how I like it as it goes.  I need a couple of big pieces to offset the smallness of the embroidered framed items, and this might be just the right thing.  Or maybe it will end up being three pieces, remembering the rule of three..

One great advantage to alpaca and' I now find, llama, is that I don't sneeze or get any skin irritation when I work with it, unlike some sheep wools.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Five Minute Sculpture, the Birthday Caper Continues

Thought you'd enjoy a bit of clickbait! Your third birthday present coming up.

Today, I want to share with you an adventure I've often led my drawing students on, and invite you to join in.  This is literally a five minute sculpture journey.  Cat not included.

Take a piece of paper, copy or printer paper is fine.  Make two tears as shown, without separating the paper into separate pieces.  I show tears on the long side, since this becomes more stable, but you can tear down the short side if you prefer to.  Duncan shows you what I mean, he doesn't trust me to make it clear.

Now manipulate the sheet with your hands, no scissors, no tweezers, no steak knives, until you've achieved a small three dimensional sculpture that will stand up without support.  Remember this is to be seen from all sides, as sculpture is, so turn it as you work just to see that it doesn't just have a back and a front, but has interest all the way around.  Just play!  try not to crush it, since that will make it harder to support itself.

Stand it up now.  You can crease, fold, tear little openings to slot paper through itself or notches to slide together, whatever works physically.

And now you have a lovely piece of sculpture, maybe your first. Shine light on one side to get the benefit of the light and shade and see how many planes you've created.  And finally draw it. The drawing is not part of the five minutes, you can take your time and get your breath first.

Why two tears? because that gives you a three part piece of raw material to work on.  Three works well in art, being visually and physically stable, in drawing, painting, all the art forms, including theater and sport!  The three act play, the three set tennis match, are not all about having an easy to way to see the winner!  they also have a satisfying structure.

The reason I introduced this into a drawing class was that I noticed that people were able to draw objects they'd handled and were familiar with, so I figured if you create the object, you'll draw it well.  And they did, much to their surprise!  

I haven't done a drawing, not wanting to have that neurological connection made which forces the viewer to draw similarly to what they've seen. I'd rather you experience that for yourself, let your brain decide on your drawing.  And enjoy it!

By the end of this natal month, you will be experienced doll knitters, sculptors, meditators, and little do you (or I, come to that) know what else might happen in the next little while.  And I will be so happy to know that all the presents are happening thanks to my shoving   I mean encouragement.