Saturday, February 27, 2016

Where Ideas Are Born

In my experience there are two ways to approach design. One is to have a definite image or idea in your head; you know what you are going for, all you have to do is figure out how to transfer it from your head into reality using your medium and tools of choice. The other is to stumble upon something purely by accident, the cleverness of your eye recognizing that a random juxtaposition of things could turn into something wonderful. I've done both but I often think my better "ideas" that come together with the least effort are a result of design by accident. It's happened again, and is the thing that has been distracting me so. Here's the evolution thus far of what I hope will be a successful new piece of textile art. It started with these two pieces of fabric, cut for padfolio pockets but rejected. I moved them to the far end of the work table, a tiny bit of open space, in case they might be used on a different padfolio.

I couldn't help playing with them a bit, flipping one to get that offset look. It reminded me of a computer manipulation I randomly generated a long time ago and thought might be an idea to follow up on at a later date, pieced from strips of hand-dyed gradations. That corner of the table where things get sidelined is nearest the door. I walk back and forth past it dozens of times, and each time that fabric takes a few seconds of my attention, unwanted but inescapable musings of what I might do with this germ of an idea.

Days or possibly weeks later, while I was still enmeshed in padfolio production, I'd dug out that leaf cluster to use as a pattern for the stitching I'd do on the burgundy ones (see this post). That cluster was also demanding my attention, thoughts straying to other uses for it and how to make it a more permanent template. So when I was done tracing around it, I wasn't done with the idea of its potential and so did not want to file it away quite yet. Where to safely put this somewhat fragile thing until I could get back to it? Well, that is what that end of the table has become, the place to set things I'm not quite ready to put away yet but need to be out of the way. The only flat place was on top of the rejected pockets so I laid it there. Oh. OH! I never would have thought to do that intentionally or choose those colors, but boy did I like what I was seeing. I'd been considering revisiting a 10 x 10 stretched over canvas frame format for highlighting individually stamped leaves (see this post), so having these two things randomly pair up in pretty much that size was remarkable and timely. Maybe I would have hit upon this with more direct thought and auditioning, maybe I would have only frustrated myself as I floundered somewhat stuck with the image of the original pieces in my head. No doubt about it, though, this felt like a gift.

And gifts should not be ignored, although I knew I had to finish up those padfolios first. As with the fabric itself, now with the leaf resting over it, my eyes lingered longer as did my musings each time I passed that end of the table (and many times when I merely paused to turn my gaze that direction). How did I see that leaf cluster translated on the fabric? At the moment, with paint followed by some machine stitching. But it could just as easily be with applique. I could cut a template or make a linocut for instance. But whatever way I went, I'd need to copy the outline of that cluster. I thought about tracing around it as I had on the padfolio, but instead I decided to do a rubbing on tracing paper. 

I used a very soft dark 6B woodless graphite pencil which worked well to pick up not only the outline of the leaves and stem but the individual veins as well. In spite of my diagonal folds to help with centering and preserving of the cluster angle, I ended up trimming the tracing on two sides to center it.

By now my mind was busy seeing ways I could use this cluster and a stamp made a lot of sense. Normally it's the other way around - lots of ideas for stamps but no ideas of how to use them. I got out my linocut tools and a big slab of Inovart Eco Printing Plate from which I cut a 7 inch block. I love this stuff for all the reasons stated on Inovart's website. Since I use a box cutter to slice through it, I always get out an old cutting mat (it may be a self-healing mat but blades like that can cut pretty deep, unlike a rotary cutter) and use a metal cork-backed ruler.

I figured my rubbing would transfer pretty well to the block surface and I was right. I remembered my bamboo baren purchased but not much used for my linocut class and used it to make the transfer. The back of a large spoon would work as well, but I was very impressed with that baren as I rubbed it in circular motions across the back of the tracing paper. There was enough graphite left on the tracing paper to transfer the image again on the other side of the plate. You know me - I have a hard time making up my mind about things, and while my original thought was to have flat leaves with no veining stamped on the fabric, the veins showed up so well in the transfer that I'm going to try a second version with veins. I can see a use for both.

I traced the outlines of the leaf cluster with a Sharpie pen, shading the areas that will be in relief. Now all that remains is the slow methodical, somewhat meditative removal of the areas that will not print as I reacquaint myself with the gouging tools. I love this part!


The Inside Stori said...

What an awesome brilliant idea!!!

Michele Matucheski said...

Ah--Delicious Serendipity, and a touch of Grace! See you got enough out of the lino-printing class to call up the skills when inspiration strikes.

I think I have some of that striped fabric in my stash, too. The burgundy leaves on topi is perfect!

Charlton Stitcher said...

I love the very subtle offsets in the striped fabric pieces ... and the sight of your lino tools makes me think I should return to mine, long unused!