Sunday, February 26, 2017

An Infusion of Energy

Rebecca and her snow dyes

My art group met last week, and after several months of spotty attendance, we had a full house including all but one of our newest members. After several years of unsuccessfully beating the bushes to swell our small ranks, last fall we were suddenly presented with four like-minded textile artists eager to join our group. Each brings her own voice and enthusiasm, and all but one attended the February meeting, some meeting original members for the first time. It made for a lively and exciting meeting. I took my snow-dyes and discovered I wasn't the only one who had been playing in the snow. New member Rebecca (who comes to us via Cody, WY where she also belonged to an art group) also had snow-dyes to show off, hers looking quite different from mine. Of course, we compared notes.

Rebecca's Challenge Quilt

Rebecca is still in touch with her Wyoming group and is taking part in their yearly challenge, this year's theme of child abuse requiring much thought and presenting more of a challenge than many in her group initially cared to take on. Rebecca wanted to focus on more than just the abuse, and came up with this design expressing how a small thing can make a big difference and provide hope. Of course, we wanted to know how she added the text, and it was by composing it on the computer and printing it directly onto the fabric.

Rebecca's Mini-Me
She also shared this guild challenge where all were given a shape like a gingerbread man which they were to use as the starting point for a self portrait. Not content to stay within that stiff form, she cut off the arms and reattached them reaching up, and added the colorful umbrella on top.

Vickie's Ode to Janis Jopline

Another new member, Vickie, sells a lot of her work through the local artist co-op. You can see some of her work and learn more about her on the Art Works site here. I suppose you would say she works rather organically, not tied to working with traditional fabrics but preferring to mix textures and types. This is her "Ode to Janis", using old jeans (leaving the edges fraying) and silks, and adding some embroidery touches. She's a great proponent of the big stitch and she uses it well.

I believe Vickie calls this "Home"

Here's another that shows off her big stitches and also love of adding beads and found objects like the key. She also often incorporates branches or distressed metal rods through loops to combine the function of hanging apparatus with another visual detail of the piece.

Vickie's WIP

This is a piece in progress that I wanted to share because Vickie often adds gold leaf motifs to her quilts. Actual gold leaf applied over dried matte medium as opposed to the foil most of us are familiar with. She feels the foil is too bright and harsh for her style whereas the gold leaf gives just the right amount of bling she is looking for. In fact, this rendition of a 1920's bicycle done in gold leaf is still a bit too in your face for Vickie. She plans to go over the entire piece lightly with white paint, just hitting the high points and giving it a rustic look.

Terrie's play with crayons on dyed (or maybe painted) fabric

Yet another new member, Terrie, runs a quilting business adjacent to her home - Moose Country Quilts. She has written several books, published numerous patterns, teaches workshops, sells fabric and sundries and does longarm quilting. It's a wonder she has time for us! She also works with kids in the classroom so some of her experimentation relates to what would work well in those sessions. Here she colored her design with crayons, often with multiple layers of colors to get just the right shade, then ironed it between absorbant paper to remove the wax. You'd never know this was done by the lowly crayon. Also, she brought along her sketchbook where, inspired by my Inktober drawing a day project, she has been doodling and sketching as close to daily as she can manage. Some of them are tryouts for continuous line quilting, others for applique designs, some just for fun. In fact, the design she colored with crayons is one developed in the sketchbook. She is such a talent.

Terrie's rain quilt - top of quilt is to the left

Since joining last year, Terrie keeps showing us progress on this "rain" piece that started as an experiment with paint. She saw a paned window looking out into the world and has been steadily working to enhance that vision. She has written with pen all kinds of rain-related sayings in waving lines like rain falling and done some hand quilting in the same manner. Her most recent addition she wanted to show was adding ribbon to create the sashing of the panes in the window, something she had not been able to make show up just with quilting. She is well on her way to finishing this.

Meg's latest "kids" fused to Peltex and near ready to be cut out

So what has the old guard been up to? Well, Meg is still creating her "quirkies" - stand-alone images that create stories as she starts grouping them on the wall. Her "Unforgettable Tree" from the Fiber Show last spring remains up, and she's been adding and subtracting to it as the seasons change (follow this link to see the June version). These kids are getting ready to have a snowball fight in front of said tree! Meg has also change her web presence again, ditching her blog site for a platform on Tumblr. Check out what the tree looks like now on her new site, Meg Marchiando Art.

Adele's computer drawings

Her daughter, Adele, was able to join us since it was a school holiday. Only a sophomore in High School, she has many talents including drawing. She and her mother have been doing a drawing a day and posting them to Instagram for over 200 days now. Adele does all her work in a graphics program, using a graphic pad and stylus to draw. She demoed it as well as showing some of her latest drawings. She makes it look so easy!

Robin's booty from her Japan trip including "Year of the Rooster" fabric painting

And last but not least, Robin had photos of her January 12 day Textile-themed tour to Japan to share, with lots of explanations. Not only did she attend the Tokyo International Quilt Festival but she also got to observe a master indigo dyer and learn how to do one kind of shibori tying. Here are some of the treasures she brought home with her, including a quick impromptu painting on fabric done for her by one of the artists they visited.

I think we all left totally fired up and looking forward to the next meeting!  

Monday, February 13, 2017

For Your Consideration While I Dawdle

Running out of room to toss the latest 7 inches of snow
I'm still on artistic hiatus of sorts, having run into time-sucking computer issues, more snow to shovel and other "that's life" sort of things. I'm really not in much hurry to get productive again, rather enjoying this time off to get long-nagging issues attended to and reading caught up on. Time moves forward though and POAC has sent out a schedule of upcoming exhibits that I can and should be a part of. They have reached a magic number of 100 artist members and want each of us to submit a new piece for a March exhibit. Yeah, I can do that, I really can. The yearly fiber exhibit has been moved from spring to fall so I have lots of leeway there. In between, ArtWalk, and several months to get my act together for that.

So while I am taking a break (and mentally mulling possible transformations of some of those snow-dyes into wall art), I can at least share some of the interesting (to me) things I've run across lately. Austin Kleon continues to be a great source, and this Tumblr post caught my eye since I have new sketchbooks awaiting and actually did recently start work in a fresh one: "I like the idea of starting new notebooks by stationing guardian spirits inside the front cover, to watch over things." Click on the preceding link to see an example. This may be a good idea, especially since I've often heard that first page of a new book creates a bit of a block. Once you do anything to it, then it's supposed to be easier to get on with your sketching or journaling.

How I recently started a new sketchbook

Austin also wrote an interesting bit on an often shared quotation of Goethe's: one ought every day at least to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.” Follow this link to get the story of where Goethe got onto this bit of advice which Kleon thinks is "about appreciating, not creating, which is one reason why I like it so much — appreciating (input) is the first step towards creating (output), and too often today we emphasize output over input." 

He also gets into the common advice to work whether or not you are particularly inspired to, that inspiration often comes in the doing. Goethe did not agree with this, nor Marilynne Robinson:
"I write when something makes a strong claim on me. When I don’t feel like writing, I absolutely don’t feel like writing. I tried that work ethic thing a couple of times—I can’t say I exhausted its possibilities—but if there’s not something on my mind that I really want to write about, I tend to write something that I hate. And that depresses me." 
I like the honesty in that. And have days on both ends of the spectrum: didn't feel inspired and ended up with great results, didn't feel inspired and got nowhere but frustrated. (and an aside, I have read several of her books but until I looked her up in Wikipedia, I didn't realize she was born right here in Sandpoint, Idaho!) Austin wraps up with this that I can certainly agree with:

"Productivity and creativity often get confused — anybody who has done creative work knows that good ideas often come when one is least productive. Everybody does it differently: some writers need inspiration before they sit down, and some writers need to sit down for the inspiration.
What seems universally true is that we could all use a little song, a good poem, and a fine picture in our daily routine. (Speaking a few good words seems entirely optional.)"
Finally, someone who I've previously quoted on my blog has recently died, author and art critic John Berger. His book, About Looking, is one I've wanted to read. Upon his passing, several videos have appeared on youtube including a late 2016 BBC documentary exploring Berger's life and work. You can also find his 1972 4-part television series, Ways of Seeing, the scripts of which were adapted for the book of the same name, also on my reading list. You can find episode one here, with the rest in the sidebar. Because I know you don't have anything else to do, right? What's 3 hours of your time on a wintry day? :-)

Storm 3 brought snow followed by freezing rain


Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Getting In Gear

Round 1 of weekend snow
I've been meaning to do some dyeing, maybe even snow dyeing, for awhile. I even bought 25 yards of mercerized cotton and three new dyes (totally unneeded when one views my stash of gifted old dyes) late last year so there'd be no excuses. It took this additional sequence of events to get me there: 1. While doing my January tidy-up, I unearthed Wil's directions for Parfait snow dyeing that I had printed out from the And Then They Set It On Fire blog (a terrific resource for all kinds of interesting textile techniques and surface design ideas), and  Beth's general instructions for snow/ice-dyeing printed from her blog (she ice-dyes the most extraordinary mandalas and is so generous in sharing her knowledge). Oh yeah, plenty of snow stacked up outside, lots of dye powder languishing in the garage and yards of fabric at the ready. 2. Friend Mary posted this new prairie-style art quilt on her blog, made from her own experiments with ice-dyeing (close cousin to snow-dyeing). So in love with this quilt and what an excellent way to use those interesting fabrics. 3. Then friend Chris blogged about snow-dyeing last week. Alright already! I'll probably do some snow dyeing over the weekend, I thought. And then... 4. We got about 10 inches of fresh snow Friday into Saturday. What else is a gal to do when life gives her that much snow?

I started with Wil's parfait method. If you're not familiar with parfait dyeing, it's basically laying out a piece of fabric, pouring dye over it, adding another piece of fabric on top and pouring a different dye over it, continuing in this manner with as many layers as you want. The dyes seep through to the underlying layers creating interesting and unexpected results. In this case, snow is added on top of the fabric and dye powder is sprinkled on top followed by a little more snow before adding the next fabric. Wil did her demo inside a glass vase so we could see the layers, each fabric scrunched as opposed to laid flat. She also notes that you can substitute ice cubes; she got beautiful results from both.) I didn't have a vase big enough so used a big plastic bucket. 

It wasn't until I was trying to get the snow to stay on the top of my precarious stack that I realized I'd failed to fill in the space around each layer with snow. I tried to rectify it after the fact. I think it skewed my results some as my fabrics did not come out anything like Wil's. The snow I used was very light and powdery, very little water content as visible from the small amount of liquid at the bottom of the bucket once the snow had melted. On either side of the container at the bottom that kept the fat quarters out of that melt, I'd placed a fat eighth of white muslin. Waste not, want not.

Each snow-covered fat quarter got a sprinkling of one dye color only. From bottom to top, I used seafoam, tangerine, basic blue, and maroon - all ProChem dyes. As these are quite old, some may not be available anymore. I was just tapping the dye out from the jars which worked pretty well until that last one when a big bunch let loose on my first tap. Well, not as critical as when I've done the same thing measuring a spice from a bottle right over my bowl, but it did cascade down one side which probably explains why the blue and seafoam layers have so much red. I was hoping the blue and maroon would blend into something more purple or lavender, that the tangerine would pick up some of the blue to create some greens and that the seafoam would also blend nicely into a yellow/green piece. The maroon didn't look to pick up any of the blue below it and is the only piece out of the four that as I whole looks good. The others though, all have areas on them that on their own will be usable. They are definitely cutters. And I don't think I've used basic blue before, so was happy to see what it looked like, and I like how it looks.

Here are some close-ups of the great texturing in the maroon piece. The browns in there are the dye separating into the two dye powders mixed to come up with maroon.

As long as I was at it and had so much snow at my disposal, I set up the more standard snow-dyeing process per Beth, and experimented with manipulating the fabric by folding rather than just scrunching it up. I tried two different triangle folds and two loose accordion folds, one rolled after folding, the other bound with twist ties in four places and coiled to fit the remaining space. That's a tray from a garden center, nearly taken back for recycling after it carried my pots of plants home. I realized it might come in handy for sun-printing or such, but it works pretty well set on top of a bin for this snow-dyeing. Again, waste not, want not; I laid another fat eighth of white muslin flat in the bottom of the bin to soak in the dyes that would drip down as the snow melted.

One of the things that I didn't like the last time I snow-dyed was sprinkling on the dye - either by tapping straight from the jar or by tapping it off a measuring spoon. I'd been thinking about these old salt and pepper shakers I'd put in with my dye supplies just in case they might come in handy, and now was my chance to see how handy they might be for distributing dye powder more evenly and with less of it flying around in the air. Goodness - they worked even better than I anticipated!

Here's that folded fabric covered with snow and sprinkled with dye - first ProChem golden yellow over the entire surface, then Dharma Better Blue Green in places that I hoped might hit the outer edges of some of the folds. I used a measuring spoon to add here and there some Dharma Cobalt Blue. Again, old dyes and I'm not sure if the Dharma ones are still available under those names. It always looks so gruesome to me at this stage.

But after the snow had melted off, it looked very promising! After rinsing, definitely promising!

Ahhhh - basking in my success! I love these! (click on any picture for a larger view)

These are the fat eighths that soaked in the run-off. Kind of fighting with my camera to pick up the actual colors but I think I've manipulated them fairly closely. Okay and usable somewhere, but not in the "precious" category. I actually have plans for these sparked by a textile artist I follow on Facebook - stay tuned.

Overall, my outcomes were more successful than my first try at this and here are some of the reasons I think why. I still don't quite have the scrunching down like I would like but folding the fabric really produced exciting results. I don't think I've tried this mercerized print cloth before but am very pleased with it. It barely raveled during the washing process, it's a weight and weave I like working with better than Pimatex, and the dye color looks rich and really taken up in the threads. I also tried Beth's method of heating the wet dyed fabric in the microwave prior to using a cold water soak before starting to rinse out the excess dyes in warm soaks. I've read of this method before but this is the first time I used it and I think it made a difference.

By Sunday night my dyeing was all done, new fabric ironed and tickling my imagination. By Monday morning, round two of ten inches of snow had stacked up, wet heavy stuff this time, and demanding I spend my time removing it from my driveway and path to the front door. I hear your snow-dyeing results can be affected by how much moisture is trapped in the snow you use. Will I try this wetter snow to see? Naw - I have other things to shift my attention to. But gosh, I have so many talented women to thank for getting me off my duff to give this snow dyeing another go. Be sure to check out their blogs and art.