Sunday, June 25, 2017

Paper adventures taking a rest for the moment, grapevine pens return

Here's the complete output of several days' work!  the post i.e. stack, of iris and abaca paper

 complete with wild grapevine twig as suggested binding for potential book and the post of iris and cotton linters paper different room, different light

 About twenty plus pages in all. I doubt if you can see much difference in pix, in fact in person either, between the two types, though I can!  it's a bit like that joke about aha, this isn't Ahasuerus the First, it's Ahasuerus the SECOND!  one distinct difference was in the handling though.

The abaca mix came pretty easily off the support when it was dry, but the cotton linters was much harder to remove. Hence the scraps in the picture. My paper making teacher used to impress on us never to throw away any scrap even the smallest, of handmade paper, too valuable.  And never to cut it, a crime of the first water.

The scraps will come into some other artwork, I expect.

and that's last year's entire harvest of iris leaves all used up.  When I recover from this bout, I'll make some abaca paper and some cotton linters paper, which will come out cream and white respectively. And will probably make a nice partnership with some of the iris paper, in use. 

I went walking down at Plainsboro Pond this morning before it got too hot, taking pix and watching birds, tons of song and activity, a couple of families of catbirds.  A couple of the babies were kittenbirds, too young to fly away when I watched them, just making that little miow noise they do. 

And in the course of observing them, I noticed, joy, that there are wild grapevines growing down there now.  This is a big deal, because I cut twigs off them for pens (van Gogh did this, too, in his poverty stricken days, which was all his days), and use them as lovely binding twigs for handmade books.  

My other secret place to gather them was right behind the condo I used to live in, by the water.  I was able to gather and dry them to give to drawing students, along with my homemade walnut ink, so they could be really authentic, which actually was quite thrilling to them.  Then those vines went away.  Nothing else in the hedges did, so I'm not sure what happened. Not sprayed, otherwise other vegetation would show it.  

So I was downhearted at this loss, until today, and now I have a new source.  Yay.  Just a few little prunings, won't hurt the plant, and if I take already dead twigs, even better.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Peaceful interlude, just looking at plants

After a busy time papermaking, now used up all of last year's iris leaves, latest batch mixed with cotton linters, and now pretty much dry, harder to remove from glass than the abaca mix, it seemed like a good idea to have an interlude of just looking at what's up in the garden.

Sometimes it's good to just watch and enjoy and not try to do anything about it.  Especially in the current political state of danger we're experiencing, in a number of countries including mine.  Nature comes through.

Every June about the third week, the faithful daylilies return,  and the Russian sage behind them flowers up

and the sunflower type plant, completely forget what it is, returns in the unsheltered container, out all winter, still returns.  

And my Thai basil started from seed from last year's plant, really booming despite squirrel invasions, here in foreground. Pachysandra everywhere, but sedum, another faithful returner there, in front of the container of English thyme and the lavender.

The lavender, also in a container, just goes on and on, and the Russian sage, which was knocked about by the builders, but didn't care.

On the patio fence, nasturtiums in front of lantana, getting ready for a second flush of flowers, spiderwort back there, too.  Both sides of the fence, daylilies getting all ready for their grand entrance.

This reliability is great to stop and consider now and then, in a world which is very short of it right now.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Iris abaca paper, ready for prime time

I was able to peel off the paper I made yesterday, from the glass sheets in the studio I'd slapped it off onto, add it to the previous day's work, and here's a post of iris/abaca paper.  

It worked out as I'd hoped, a lovely golden color, soft to the touch from the inclusion of abaca, and with some fiber shreds here and there.  It's lovely.  The last sheets to be made, as the pulp in the vat gets used up, are usually lacy, and very transparent, and I like them a lot.  I wish you could reach in and handle them!  this paper is a lot more sturdy than it looks.

 Post, that is stack, of paper, seen from above. About 20 sheets, forgot to count them. As you see, paper making is labor intensive! two days' work here.  I still have more pulp to use up, so there will be more in the next few days.  The advantage of hot weather is that the paper dries pretty fast.  Most of the pulp sheets are in fact water, so even when they look pretty sturdy when you first turn them out, they thin down to fineness when they dry.

I have another bag of iris cuttings from this year, which I'm keeping in the outdoor storage which gets hot in summer, in a big paper bag, to use in the fall when the foliage has dried naturally.  This will give me a different color of paper.  But I like the abaca in it, so I think I'll do that again.  I also have cotton linters (that's the second cut of cotton after it's on the cotton plant, after the seeds have been ginned out) which is bright white, comes out crisp as paper, and might also be a good experiment to mix with iris pulp. 

And I'm thinking of using some of the plant dyes I've made as inks. They will be fugitive on the paper, being natural not synthetic, but will be great to try.  Except that black walnut and turmeric will probably stay bright forever just about. 

PS on the brain artwork:  Cynthia C. supplied me with the web address of the project, whereupon I sent them an image, and heard back in about thirty minutes, amazing.  Very excited, asked me to fill out questionnaire (this is a neurological research experiment as well as an art project), and talked about an exhibit next year in Amsterdam. They'll keep in touch with me before then. So we'll see. Who knows what might happen.  I'm up for it!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Papermaking stages

Iris paper making is under way.  For technical reasons, I got to work early, in case builders had to be working here and needed to be on the patio when I needed it.  They came, they saw, they explained, not a problem requiring ladders they went away. New roof is fine. Fine.

Anyway, I decided to do a little variation on the iris leaves, by adding a prepulped sheet of abaca paper to the mix.  Abaca gives a lovely softness to the finished product, and in case the iris paper is crisp, like daylily paper, this might make it more malleable. Abaca is banana tree fiber, clearly a fiber I can't cut for myself and process from scratch.  You can send away for it.  One sheet makes a lot of paper. For a hobby user, I bet a package would be a lifetime supply.

So I soaked pieces of the abaca pulp overnight in water, ready to blend this morning and add to the pulp vat, i.e. bucket.

The iris leaves I cooked for several hours, left overnight to cool, then cooked again a couple more hours. 

Then cut them down a bit, easier when they're cooked than when they're fresh, and blended the pulp.  Small handful of pulp, per blender load, blend till pretty well broken down, no chunks of fiber.  Then I added several blender loads to the vat, mixed it by hand, and was able to make paper.

Background is sheets of paper interleaved with felts, in a pan to catch the water, middle is the mold I used, foreground the vat, i.e. dishpan, of pulp.
The felts, the fabric you see between the paper pulp, can be anything, wool blanket, etc., and these are Pellon, interfacing. Works a treat, washes clean, dries fast, and I've been using them about thirty years, not worn out yet.  The felts, that is, the artist I'm not so sure about.

I used a mold I'd been given, but it didn't work as well, too thick, so hard to maneuver the pulp -- you shake it around a bit under water to distribute pulp evenly -- and went to my old fave, a picture frame.  Just stapled screening over it, used another frame as the deckle, and works fine.  Makes a 6 x 8 in sheet or thereabouts.

The deckle is the frame bit that goes on top and corrals the pulp into a rectangular shape, or whatever shape the mold and deckle is, hence the term deckle edge.  It's that lovely irregular edge to handmade paper.

So there's a post of paper now sitting outside, having been pressed down to get a lot of water out -- papermaking is strenuous, involves a lot of carrying water about -- and I'm trying the experiment of leaving it in a post, that means a stack, to dry.  Hot weather, and it might keep shape and not cockle as it dries.  At least that's the idea.

So now I get to wait and see.  Great fun to visit your paper when you think it's dry and see if it's ready to peel off the felts.

I had a lot of liquid left after cooking up the pulp, so I've frozen it for use as dye.  

Still have a lot of pulp left to use, so if this first try works out, there will be more.  Incidentally, you see that this is taking place in the kitchen.  Perfectly safe.  Blender is strictly for papermaking, pots, containers likewise.  And the materials are totally nontoxic. You could probably eat this stuff without a problem.  If I were using synthetic dyes, unknown ingredients, etc., I'd work away from the kitchen. 

People tend to email me with concerns about safety, so I put in these notes to head them off!  Gentle reminder: I've been making art for over 70 years, teaching it for 45 years, and have been insistent all the teaching years on safety in the studio.  But it's nice to be concerned, it's appreciated.  And yes, I do know that natural doesn't mean nontoxic, very respectful around plant life for that reason.

Handsome Son has grown up with fridges and freezers stuffed with (nontoxic) art materials, and with inquiring whether there's any actual food in the the moment the chest freezer is duking it out between papermaking supplies and food. His own art materials at his home are more like pens, Fimo, etc., no refrigeration required. But since  paper materials are organic, they need to be preserved to avoid rotting.  Once they're paper, they're stable indefinitely.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Brain work done, I think, and iris leaves experiment under way

I ended up with a simpler work than I planned, since I found that the silk image I printed of the brain shape, no matter how I handled it, made the whole thing look too symmetrical and uninteresting. So it will be part of something else, and meanwhile, here's my brain on dreaming!  The painted canvas was from a kit given me by Cynthia C, partly to see what would happen to it.  And as you see, various things did.

It's in a 12 x 12 shadow box frame, currently black metal, but I might change that and paint it metallic, I'll see.  The canvas, with burlap behind, is painted in gold, and there's stitching and acrylic painted shapes there, too, torn from dried paint which I save for this sort of use.  I believe there's a website to send this too, at least once it's really done, must check that.

That's done for the moment, though more might happen yet, and I am on to a summer work, iris paper.  I had a large bag of last year's iris leaves from when I tidied up last year, and the experiment is to see how they fared after a year of freezing.  Pretty well, from the look of things.  

 Usually I would spend ages cutting the leaves into short sections, to cook faster, since you boil them for ages in stage one.  But here I wanted to see if freezing had broken down the fibers so I didn't cut them up.  We'll see how this goes.  Iris paper is quite a dark color, and I'm hoping it will work well with metallic paint.

I want to bring handmade paper as presents for the Artspace people I'm doing a workshop for in September, never too early to get the materials under way.

Summer's a great time for paper making, uses gallons of water, and you can dry the sheets outside.  If it rains, all to the good, since raindrops can make a great design on the pulp as it dries.  I usually slap off paper onto my windows, but this year, since they're brand new I think I might not do that.  I'm still quite respectful of them.

Friday, June 16, 2017

New work under way, and some thoughts about process

This week has seen: total downheartedness at the weaving piece which was looking too heavy, too something, needs a different approach.  But that made me remember the brain stitching, which is in progress, and wonder if it could be applied to the weaving.  Tried that, even more downhearted.  Oil and water.  Didn't work. The weaving has some other destination and process.

So played a bit with fairly meaningless design with caran d'ache watercolor pencils and a bit of water, as here

doesn't amount to much as art, but it allowed me to tread water until today the idea for the Dreaming artwork for the Plainsboro Artists' Group show late August, burst upon me, yay.  The Brain Project, by itself, duh!

I realized it was not part of the weaving after all, the weaving being the initial idea for the Dreaming work, now relegated to another category.  But the overlay of the brain image I printed on silk still relevant, and a backing of burlap and gold paint and various other things yet to happen, very much relevant to the notion of the dreaming brain.  Mine, anyway.

So that's how fine art sometimes happens. Not a linear process, where you decide what to do and do it. And you remember that the fine in fine art doesn't mean it's lovely, it means it's a finished item, stands alone, has no physical function other than being experienced by the viewer.  It means complete.  Sadly misunderstood term.

Anyway, Cynthia, I thought you'd like to see this stage of the work, since you triggered the whole thing! This is a lot of the moving parts, and there's the 12 x 12 shadow box frame in the background, waiting to be occupied.  More pix when it's done. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Plein air, at home

My hopes for a revival of our plein air group having faded with lack of interest, nothing daunted, I set up at home today for myself, on the patio, to just fool about with materials.

This is not designed as a single painting, just a series of images and trials to get my hand back in after a very long break from painting and drawing.  First I had to find the materials, plenty of exercise trotting up and down stairs to assemble them.

Then I made a sort of compendium work, a bunch of images on one page, not intended to be a single painting, drew, then painted, then once dry, drew again.  And cut them into a group of smaller works, which might become an accordion book, or might be part of a mailbag, in which I'm far behind on account of May being one damn thing after another. 

 Anyway, right now, they're filling this little portfolio I showed you a while back.  These portfolios are the greatest thing. Really glad I started making them.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

ArtJam ends, happily for moi

ArtJam, the annual popup gallery exhibit benefiting Homefront, ended today, and I picked up my pieces, and found that I had made a sale!  this is always exciting, never gets old.  And this time the fee would be shared with Homefront, so that's exciting, too, donating to them.

It's a piece called Tidepool, in fact I think I got the title from a reader of this blog.  It's a mixed media piece, with stitching on net, beading, and painting on Tyvek attacked with a hot iron.  In fact quite small, 8x8 inches, though it looks big in the pic.  I'm so glad it went to a new home, and hope the new owner enjoys having it. 

I was still using a tired old digi camera when I did this pic, so it's dimmer than the ones I make with the tablet.  Tyvek is that material that you see wrapped around houses, and also as those white envelopes that courier services use.  It feels like paper, but is plasticized and won't tear.  You paint it, then it shrivels up dramatically when you apply a hot iron, using parchment paper to save the iron, and is a very exciting material to use.  You learn how to make holes where you want them, and creases where you want them.  

With this piece, I had made the painted Tyvek background separately from stitching the beads onto net. Some stitcher friends were intrigued by the apparently invisible work I was doing, at stitch-in, applying beads in mid air, since the net was almost not there!

It never gets old when someone wants to live with an artwork I've made.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Weaving saori style with silk, on the pvc loom

Remember ages ago I built a pvc piping embroidery frame, on which I stretched work, so I could sit and stitch?  At the time I thought this could also be a good weaving loom, with the clips I got to hold work onto the frame.

So today I embarked on a new piece, silk strips I had hand dyed, some with natural dyes, and linen, likewise.  Did this last year and set them aside for future use.  The future seems to have arrived. Warped up with the silk, not wanting to work tapestry style this time. 

In tapestry, the warp is covered by the weft, just a support, not a design motif.  But in this weaving, both warp and weft will work together.

As you see I can work either horizontally or vertically on this loom. Sturdy enough to hold up, but lightweight to maneuver.  Very happy with this new outing. See the clips in place along the bottom of the work.  Vital with silk to keep it in one place.  It's a slippery customer.

I have to tear more stash fabric to continue work on this, and I may rethink the weft threads. At this point, they're separate, so it's easy to rethink and move them about as I go.  I haven't used clips on the sides at this point, so as to give me more thinking room.

When this piece is done, and there are a few more ideas to test as I go along, backing? spread out the tails of warp fabric? fray them? stitch it down?  paint over parts?  stencil onto it?  stamp? and other ideas, when it's done, it will also be raw material for more of the transparency series I'm still working on.  But this tapestry may be stitched, painted, cut into, don't know yet, it's a classic wip!  And if you want to come along on the adventure, join me.  Try it for yourself, too, and send pix of your progress. 

I have a couple more long pvc pipes, from when I replaced the curtain rods with real ones last week.  So I may build something else, once I think of what.  To add to the niddy noddy and the loom, in my slightly loony diy frame collection!