Thursday, March 31, 2016

AIR Week Five, Dorset Buttons and Dyeing

Here's the setup for the day

And the weaving I embarked on, and had to stop working on to pack and come into the libe to set up for the afternoon


This is the back, hence the ends sticking out, much calmer on the other side. And here's the green yarn I dyed

stretched on the niddy noddy and waiting to join its friends in the weaving.  Just two colors for the yarn dyeing: Dharma Trading silk dyes, in French blue, undiluted, then heavily diluted daffodil yellow with a touch of the blue for the yellow, to take the edge off the color, then more blue in the yellow diluted dye, for that really nice soft variegated green. Simple chemistry. This is the yarn I was spinning last week.

Today was a busy one, with a continuous stream of visitors, complete with a continuous stream of comments and questions, mostly on topic, but with some meanders along the paths of food, Field and Fen, Chinese art, Japanese art and history, recent bereavement, diverging family opinions, the bubble test, and more.

All very welcome and interesting, and an illustration of how art is intermeshed with daily life, as I listened and  stitched a newly started piece of goldwork, and started a Dorset button (Tayra B and young daughter joined in and did some of that one) and showed the weaving in progress.  I switched back and forth as needed for the demo.

The dyeing with natural materials was interesting -- not demonstrated, but the linens I was working on and displaying with Dorset buttons were dyed with onion and turmeric, as well as being printed.  

I did bring a container of powdered turmeric along, with a bag of onionskins.  And I talked about harvesting local plant material, rose heads, Japanese maple leaves, black walnut hulls, spinach and other kitchen vegetables, and so on, for dyeing at home.  Good timing for the upcoming season, if I do say it myself.

And the Dharma Trading catalogue, I love dealing with them, also the book on natural plant dyeing, both come highly recommended.

I have to acknowledge sister dogonart for first introducing me to Dorset buttons, unleashing a frenzy of making them, and I recounted their history to several groups today, all of whom were quite surprised to hear how it worked.  

I was unable to find a book with Dorset buttons and their history, at least outside of the rare books category, so I recommended people google on it to learn abit more, and explained the history in brief. the slices of Dorset rams' horns that were the earliest base for the buttons, how they were used for practical buttons on garments, and other background.

I shoved in an economic fact or two, along the way, about how England's great wealth was founded on the wool trade, and how to this day the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that's the head of the Treasury,  sits on the Woolsack, a ceremonial seat stuffed with English wool, as a symbol of following the money!  I guess in those days instead of saying every war was about the oil, they said every war was about the wool.

This artist in residence series is proving to be a great way to transmit history, sociology, physics, chemistry, and economics.  And here was I thinking it was going to be only about stitching..much richer than that in the event.  An appreciative audience deserves a lot of the credit.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Framing done, and new weaving warped up

So here's the start of the weaving I've been talking about, here warped up on a faithful old cardboard loom, and ready to go.  

After I'd thought about whether to warp this on a big frame, since it will be a longish piece, I realized that the main body of it will be compact and that there will be long trailers.  So in the interest of portability, I warped up a cardboard loom with that dyed thread, as you see, using the plexi I'd stretched it on to dry as a feeder.  The warping goes right over the back of the loom, so as to give plenty of elbow room for the finishing.  I noted, too, that even though I had used undiluted silk dye, nothing came off on my fingers as I worked, quite a relief there, since I didn't want to carry color over to where it didn't oughta be.  

And I dyed a hank of woven yarn with daffodil yellow with a touch of the same blue in this thread, to give an interesting, nonprimary color, which echoes the blue though the observer won't know why they seem to go together.  It's still drying, so I can't work with it yet.  But I can do the establishing rows of the piece using the same thread as the warp yarn.

Just a reminder that you can make lovely woven pieces without a fancy loom.

I got the rest of the Doorway series framed, what another relief.  Of all the things I don't like doing, framing ranks high. And these pieces, fragile, moving parts, great care needed in handling and securing, and then when they're under glass you can't go in and rearrange anything. These were a bit stressful. But they're done, and I'm pretty pleased with how they look.  No pix of these, you've seen all the pieces before anyway!


Monday, March 28, 2016

Dyeing for Weaving

This is the narrative of what happens when you have a general notion and let it take over.  I have been spinning up a storm, made quite a bit of yarn, getting better as I go, with the idea of weaving a wallhanging from it.  I have the general size and shape of the piece thought out, but have as usual let the rest come as I work.

Then I thought, rather than paint the finished weaving, which was idea one, I would dye the yarn I've spun, some of it, anyway.  And I wanted a central motif in blue, so I took yesterday's hank, and dyed it by pouring French Blue silk dye over it in a bag.  The yarn is Spanish merino wool, and took the dye pretty well.  It was wet from being twist set, so it was ready to take up the color.

When I was figuring out how to hang the hank to dry without dyeing all the area around it, I hung it over the high studio chair, over a white silk scarf, which will be in a future project.  This is how one artwork steps on the heels of the last!  The hank is to be the weft thread of a tapestry piece. Cotton perle. Then the silk scarf in the middle, and the merino wool yarn on the right.

I was then thinking about the warp threads.  I had decided on a nice perle thread, strong, but fine looking, and picked a white ball, decided why not dye this too, right on the ball, just pour color through it and massage it a bit, but not try to make a solid color all through.  I wanted a variegated yarn. This one was dry when I applied the color, and didn't seem to mind it at all.  You see it above, on the chair, still damp.

See the wool yarn drying on the left. When I  rinsed out the silk scarf, seen here rinsed,  I wished I'd had the forethought to preserve the rinse water which was still very blue and useful as dye.

In the course of that thinking, I went back to the stumpwork pieces I'd done recently for part of a collaged textile piece, and realized they'd be better dyed, so I put them in the bag of rinse water from the bag that had held the scarf, and which I wanted to re-use.  They're now drying too, so that's a third piece in process right now.  And I redeemed my frugal instinct to use the rinse water twice.

I had to think of a way to hank the warp threads, too, so I wound them around a piece of plexi, as you see, nice variegated effect. 

Wondering if this week's residence afternoon might include thoughts on dyeing..or on the lack of planning that sometimes works well, sometimes not so well. And how you need to have many strands of thinking going at once in order to make art.

Also thinking about Dorset buttons.  Since the piece I'm thinking of taking in as a demo is also dyed and stamped, this might be a good combo this week.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

AIR 2016 Week Four Yarn Arts

Here's today's setup.  I needed two tables this week, one for finished work, including dogs and Dollivers, and one for reference books and materials.

After a quiet start, when I was just thinking I could catch up with my spindle spinning, suddenly a continual stream of interested visitors, several bringing their children.  I was showing knitting, spinning, and crochet today, both art form and functional.

I demonstrated hand spinning several times, giving some of the technical terms as I drafted and spun, to their amazement, at seeing how that fluff ended up being yarn, and explained that this yarn is to be part of a woven work I plan on next, as another entry in my June show.  
And that this was how everyone's clothes were made long ago before machinery.  We talked a bit about the physics of energy, how the spinning transmits energy to the roving, to create the twist and the strength that gives, so that you can break roving, but not yarn.

And how spinning with a heavier whorl gives more momentum, and therefore longer spinning time before you need to spin the spindle again.  Since most of the visiting kids were girls, it seemed like a good chance to push a little bit of practical physics thinking. Just to open the idea that physics isn't something that happens in a science lab.

I talked about the ancient Norse graves of women where parts of spindles have been found, the belief being way back then that even in the afterlife, women would work at spinning!  seems a bit tough to me, after a life of work, but it was also their prized tool and livelihood, so perhaps burying the women  with their spindles, or often just the whorls, honored that, too.  The whorl is that round part at the end of the stick.  Often it was a stone piece, the stick part having long since disintegrated.

I also did a bit of sociology, with the Bolivian llama yarn, showing them that women there handspun it just as I had just shown them, and that they were paid a fair price for their work, very important to look for fair trade items when you buy handcrafts from other countries.

One young woman was astonished at the crocheted and woven wall hanging, and very excited at this way of using crochet, which she can already do.  She went off full of plans to try it for herself, and I invited her to come back with her finished work, if she completes it before the end of the residence series.  She looked at me in disbelief when I explained I'd dyed the yarn with Kool Aid!  true, though.

The other string hanging was a magnet, too, especially since it had wire knitting involved in it, as well as string knitting.

And several people made note of the Dollivers and plan to follow their exploits over in Field and Fen, while sending pix of the Knit Your Own Dog book to friends who are knitters, to encourage them to try it.  And the Knit Your Own Royal Wedding was a prime source of amusement, especially when I pulled out the little bag of Kate's knitted body parts, yet to be made up into a figure.

A good day's work in every sense. I got out late, an engrossed visitor wanting a longer visit and I had promised not to leave while anyone wanted to talk.

Week Five coming up next week, already.  Amazing how it's flying by, and how there's plenty to show and share.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Easter eggs WIP and AIR Week Four crate

Today was about remembering finally to get eggs to blow and paint for Easter.  Completely forgot to do it until now, and had to do a quick store run to get enough eggs. Here are the eggs in waiting

And I found that the better the egg, i.e. cage free, well fed, etc., the better the shell, well we knew that, but the better to blow without cracking the shell.  It's less fragile, and more sturdy, and to my surprise either my lungs are much better than last year, which wouldn't be a surprise, in fact, or these eggs were much easier to blow.


and here are the empty shells, rinsed, and drying ready to paint. Along with the little skewer I use to pierce them, and the contents of the eggs, which will probably be a quiche in the near future. 

Every year I paint each egg differently, one for Handsome Son's collection, one for mine, and the others for other people who've been significant in the last year in some way.  Haven't decided on the recipients yet.  And I still have to get out the egg collection and other Easter items, very remiss this year.

I also needed to organize items for tomorrow's Artist in Residence session at the libe.  Here's the haul.  

Tomorrow will be about knitting and crochet and spinning, general yarn art.  I'll be bringing in a knitted hanging in progress with things not yet worked out, and two completed knitted hangings, plus some more toylike ideas which are not for the June exhibit.  Such as knitted breed specific dogs! and the Dollivers! dressed in handknits.

The Ds consider this a major photo shoot All About Them, and were less than delighted to be packed with the dogs into the hatbox ready to travel.  They insisted on bringing backup clothes with them, just in case they decide to change.

Anyway, if I feel adept enough, I'll do a bit of spindle spinning, show some crochet I've done, and talk about the artworks two of which will be in the June exhibit, see if I can get ahead on the knitted hanging.  It's all go!

Oh, and possibly one of the Planet Suite might have found a future home.  Buyer saw it recently and is seriously wanting it, so we'll see if she can budget for it. She has a couple of my artworks, and really enjoys them, so it will be an honor if another one goes home with her.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Incidental art, art when the shadow is better than the substance, and nn in action

Field trip to Princeton Art Museum this morning, mainly to see the current exhibit of landscapes, the Dark Satanic Mills one, very interesting study of the nineteenth century and the industrial revolution in Wales and England, with a few landscape refs to Italy.

Some very nice Turner watercolors, two later ones with much energy, two earlier ones, a bit more careful and timid before he broke out.  A nice Constable.  And a raft of artists I was not familiar with at all. Some Monet, reminding me that he did live in London for a while when there was a war in France.  

Very worth seeing this show, for the social significance, about the environment, as well as the historical background.  And some great art going on, foreshadowing other later painters. Couple of great night scenes of blast furnaces at the steelworks in Cardiff, like ones I saw as a kid in the town I lived in.  Exhibit set up by arrangement with the national Museum of Wales.

The bright sun today was great for shadows out of doors, too, and once again I found that the shadows cast by the Any Body Oddly Propped installation much superior to the substance of the work itself.  Here's sun reflected twice, through the work itself, then onto the wall of the art museum.

And here's the colored shadows as the sun falls through the stained glass sections.

On the way back to the car, since there's a lot of construction and renovation  going on, as always, I noticed this great heap of sand, looking like a landscape, since I was ready to see landscapes everywhere after visiting the exhibit.  

Probably the best item of the day. Only a couple of feet high and maybe six across.

And, since work goes on apace with the spinning -- I've got the idea of what to use the yarn for, a weaving I have  in mind, idea came in the middle of the night, and need to get on with making it -- I thought I'd show you the niddy noddy's maiden voyage with yarn strung on it.

It's ready to tie with string in sections, then soak in hot water then take off the nn, bang the hank on the floor, to set the twist further, and hang to dry.  Very physical work, spinning.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

DIY yarn related

I wrote a blogpost that belongs in both this blog and in Field and Fen, so, to see it, go here

 And enjoy my return to spindle spinning, complete with new toy.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

AIR 2016 Week Three Stumpwork

Here's the setup for this session of the Artist in Residence:

Finished works and reference books

bag of handcarved stamps

This week I actually got to do some demonstrating, since the stitchers who visited were wanting to see me set up a new piece of stumpwork. So I drew in a design on a piece of linen I'd dyed ages ago with black walnut dye, and did a shibori wrap to make it interesting, and started attaching the copper wire. I used 24 gauge for this, figuring it was a good strength for the purpose.  

Stumpwork started -- see the wire on the left, partly stitched over

I'm creating a few fronds of grasses to install on one of my stretched dyed landscapes.  Once stitched and cut out, I will turn and move them before attaching them to their canvas.

And doing this made me think of another great idea for that landscape, using some of the acrylic metallic paint pieces that I peeled off my saucer yesterday, lovely gold and other colors.  Have to consider how to attach them.

Back to the present:  As usual the raw materials, especially the silk threads, were a magnet, and the hoops and other tools, and the stumpwork reference books I brought in.  I did produce a couple of my own framed stumpwork pieces, too, to show how I'd used the technique in a design.

And I brought in some of my handcarved stamps and the archival inkpads to show people. The carved wine corks were quite a hit!

Again, there was a steady procession of visitors, usually one or two at a time, and I got only a few minutes without anyone there, which was fine, since I could stitch happily.

I'm really enjoying this AIR, interesting people with serious questions, including folks who don't do this sort of work but are intrigued by people who do!  one visitor commented that she can't see herself doing anything like this, but was glad to see that the skills were being kept up and passed on.  Fine by me, since interested viewers are important to the completion of the work.

No idea what next week will bring, yet. But the finished pieces, plus reference books plus tools and raw materials, seems to be working as a good formula, and certainly enough for me to carry.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Goldwork "Gone Nova" final stages

Here comes the goldwork I was involved with in Week One of the AIR 2016.  At this point it's ready to assemble and frame.  As I worked with it I realized it's part of the Planet Suite.  This is one planet that's gone nova -- exploded and flinging parts and flashes in all directions in space.  Technically it may be stars that do that, but the gist is fine.

So here it is, and I thought you might like to see the stages as it came to be complete.  This is the work itself, goldwork on printed cotton lawn. I used monotype making ink for the printing.

Then here's the underside piece of silk I dyed, and attached as a base for the piece, with a bit of show-through

And here's the assembled work, goldwork overlaid on the silk.

The colors from the silk show through more to the eye than to the camera.
Now for the framing. A plain black metal 12 x 12 inch shadowbox frame wasn't quite up to the nova concept, so I painted it with gold metallic acrylic. 

I love doing this.  You start thinking, oh, framing, oh joy, not, then once the painting starts it becomes oh, right, I like doing this and seeing how it comes out.

Pretty simple, in fact. I take the plastic shrinkwrap the frame came in, paint the frame with the acrylic, using a sponge brush, then scrumple up the plastic and just sort of press it down into the wet paint.  Great fun how it comes out!  and that paint in the saucer will be a great bit of collage material once dry and peeled off.

I'm thinking of doing this with a piece of furniture by my bed which could urgently use some spiffing up, but I digress. Anyway, since the shrinkwrap would be tossed anyway, it may as well earn its keep first.

I think that framing isn't just an afterthought -- it's part of the artwork, which is why I tend to leave things framed once done, since each frame has either been chosen or upcycled to work with the artwork. 

This week I'm thinking of demo'ing stumpwork, to see what that is stay tuned!  and come on Thursday if you're local, and I'll also bring in this goldwork piece, all being well, so people who have become regulars can see the progress.

Another week when I bring in my Vilene and net adventures, I'll have to think about the butterfly/strange creature I made with Teneriffe lace, which now lives on that piece with the V and net items.

So I have to get out my stumpwork, and I have another in mind already..

Friday, March 11, 2016

Teneriffe lace turns out to be another butterfly

I went on with the Teneriffe lace piece, departing almost  immediately from the traditional pattern, and came up with this nice little butterfly.  

It's separated from the original working foundation and resting on this background for the moment to make it more visible.  When I attach it to the work it's planned for, I'll tack it down and adjust the threads enough so that it still has a bit of movement, but a bit more orderly looking.

This was just like doing a sawblade weaving in miniature, with a fine thread and a tiny area.

It was  pleasing to do this, since it was the motif that I was needing to finish a hand dyed linen piece, the one I attached the stitching on net to.  It came along at just the right time.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

AIR 2016 Week Two weaving

Great afternoon, despite serious competition from warm sunny weather, but I still did get visitors, and many questions. This is one of the unexpected things about doing this sort of process. You have no idea what is going to be asked!

Deciding what to ask first..

Weaving,both art and functional items, and ref books
 I brought in two framed pieces, each from a series, which will appear again at the June exhibit, as well as sawblade weavings, also to appear then, along with older works, such as the wild mask, woven from copper wire, and telephone wires with various inclusions, and a piece of knitted wire inserted.  The bag and the little pouch in the background came from ideas in the weaving book, as did the hanging landscape piece on the bottom left.

Today, two visitors spent a long time each, full of thoughts, one a philosophical convo, but with new plans for introducing weaving to her daughters.  She took a pic of the Weaving Without a Loom book, one of my favorites, with a view to trying out some of the ideas in there. I do recommend that book for sheer beauty of illustration as well as a friendly and encouraging approach.

The other visitor had a practical, more technical set of musings, and plans to bring in a piece of her own artwork when she comes back next week!  We talked about her possible use of goldwork in conjunction with leather and/or wood, so we'll see what she comes up with.

In the course of this sort of discussion, people tend to tell each other the stories of their lives, a big part of why textile arts have always been valuable to women particularly, and why I am very willing to be available for this sort of informal exploration of art and how to fit it into a busy life. Or in my case, how to fit a busy life into the ongoing art work.

The various forms of weaving I brought with me were interesting, and I think surprising, since most people think of weaving as scarves and fabric to wear, so the sheer art function was a new aspect to consider.  The current artwork I'm involved in which will become part of a bigger piece, is a Teneriffe lace piece, hard to photo, since it's fine white thread on a white background! but once it takes its place in the bigger piece where it belongs, you'll see it.  Not that I got much done today, since I gave priority to visitors.

And then there were the simple and humble tools I brought in -- the potholder loom you made your mom a potholder on, which I used for the Doorway Series piece I brought in, the cardboard looms, on which the bags were made, the weaving sticks, used to make the strap for the bigger bag, the sawblade, used for several pieces here, including the representative of the Planet Suite.  And the materials, Spanish merino roving, alpaca roving, llama yarn, fun fur,copper wire.

There came along a European lady who saw the weaving tools and asked if I knew anything about machine knitting!  she had finally got out her machine, and after years, wanted to learn how to use it.  I gave her a couple of ideas, one of them the Ravelry website, because if there's any help anywhere, it's there, and maybe she would find help near at hand via Rav, too.

And a young Indian graduate student of architectural design, embarking on her thesis on the use of fabrics as design elements in architecture, was interested in the whole area of weaving.  We had a great wide ranging chat about the Japanese use of fabrics in interiors, Indian hangings, and medieval tapestries, and she took a pic of the tapestry reference book I had with me, to search it out.  

She commented that until now she'd been thinking of tapestry as simply fabric, not as artwork.  I referred her to the Four Sisters tapestry one floor up, as an example of an art tapestry that was not a wall covering.  Very interesting young woman, and I hope our chat was useful to her.

And the Library staffer, Darren, who writes the newsletter stopped by, made pix, and promised space next week in the newsletter, to encourage participation. Loved this visitor!

So today was all about quality, rather than sheer numbers. And I have to decide what to do next week!

All this showing and telling and working is resulting in the dreaded framing.  I quickly framed a Doorway Series piece this morning, seen on the table, at left, because I decided it was too fragile not to be protected, though I'd rather not cover textile works, but needs must.  And then the goldwork piece I'm pushing on with, almost to the end, will need a frame.  And the other doorway pieces will, too.

I'll think about that tomorrow..but first I'll think about what form of textile fun will happen next week.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

AIR 2016 Week Two, Weaving

All the textile arts borrow and exchange motifs, ideas, and techniques and materials from one another.  Tomorrow's Artist in Residence session will be fun!  I'll be  showing completed works and a work in progress, in weaving.  This is not your grandma's loom!  all kinds of materials and ideas get into here if you're not careful.

This piece won a Best in Show award a while back, so he's stopping by for a visit, with other weavings

I'll be bringing in raw materials to show, as well as the various looms I've used (artist made, very very simple, the work is done by the artist, not the loom) and I'm looking forward to another afternoon of sharing and teaching and asking and answering.

Thursday, March 10, 2-4 p.m. at Plainsboro Public Library. Look for me at the big windows near the gallery.  No sign-up, just show up!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Goldwork goes on

The work I took to demo on at the residency session is this piece, a cotton lawn piece, which I printed with blockprinting ink, and now I'm elaborating with goldwork.  It's starting to take shape and make sense to me now

and it's starting to talk back at this point!

And I think I have a title for the June exhibit: Leap, And The Net Will Appear.  This pretty much sums up how I make art, and as I was talking with visitors at the AIR on Thursday, it occurred to me as a good description of the wildly varied work to be seen in June.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

AIR Week One, Goldwork setup

Today was Week One of the Artist in Residence, 2016, Textile Arts series, Goldwork, and the library did me proud.

I arrived early, but Donna was ahead of me, with a table, complete with official Library covering which went to the floor, table easel with mounted flyer on it, flyers for handouts, chairs at the ready, great hospitality.  

I added in framed work, reference books, my goldwork thread stash, work in progress, work next in line and on stretcher bars, and dyed linen ready to hoop.  I did demo how to hoop the linen.

The big tablecloth was great, since I was able to stow all my crates, coverings, coats, and so on under there and look like less of a bag lady, always a consideration for events like this.

And the goldwork went over big!  I had scarcely five minutes alone the whole afternoon, because of a steady stream of interested viewers with hundreds of questions, in fact I ran over half an hour, because I didn't want to send anyone away unheard.  No pix, because I was busy showing and telling!  

I've noticed that people show up in ones and twos, and tend to wait till they can talk more privately with me rather than being in a group.  I think it's because art is so personal that many people prefer not to talk in front of strangers about their forays into this adventure.  This happened when I worked on the AIR 2014, the Four Sisters tapestry, too.

Youngest visitor today, aged two,  loved the goldwork picture book, oldest, well, might have been your humble blogwriter.  Three people stopped by with children in tow to show them.

One person, a literacy tutor as a volunteer here, plans to stop by every week after her tutoring session, to see what's up.  And several people were thinking they had to make a return trip, since it will be different every week. So far so good!  

Favorite item, after they'd admired the finished work, was the box of goldwork threads -- people's eyes really light up when they see gold!  But my favorite was the happiness of  the people who stopped to look, and shared their own stories of trying their hands at arts and crafts and their varying degrees of success.  This is really why I do this sort of community work, just to remind everyone that the arts are there for us all.  Particularly at stressful times such as the immediate one we in the US are living through.

And there was sharing going on between observers, too, one planning on suggesting to a friend who's a mutual acquaintance, to come join the embroiderers' guild, another being encouraged to show her work for the first time at her community's art exhibit.

 Another person is thinking about getting some drawing tutoring from me, and I suggested she put together a little group, to share the cost, if she is interested.  One lady commented that she has no interest in stitching, but her mother is excellent at knitting. I wondered aloud if it skipped a generation, and her young daughter who was standing there during this convo,  looked very interested in this idea!  twig bending, I admit it.

Nice day.  Must plan on next week's focus soon.