Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Muse Is Back

And so it begins . . .or so I think! Redrafted block and fabric for Eve's quilt
I don't know where my muse takes off to, but every now and then she goes on vacation, coming back refreshed. Sometimes a little TOO refreshed. Mine has been stirring up and turning over my brain for weeks with tantalizing ideas she presents as my eyes wander from the tv to a beautiful art note card propped nearby or as I try to fall asleep thinking of ways fabric might be folded for snow dyeing, or as I think through the technical challenges in the slice quilt, or as I scribble alternate block dimensions in the margin of a catalog by my wingback chair. And then there's the driving urge to get back to sketching and finish the course I paid for last April and still have 2 sections to finish. Usually when my brain is this overloaded, I end up doing nothing because I can't decide which to work on, something I call being on spin cycle because it can literally have me spinning from one thing to another as I change my mind. This time, the muse grabbed me by the scruff of the neck one day (when I'd run short on studio time which left me ready to put anything off to the morrow) and sat me down at the work table saying, "For Pete's sake, draft out the new dimensions on the block for the baby quilt . . . NOW!" Yes, it was THAT strong of a feeling, and so I did. But as is so often the case, once done my curiosity about what was in my stash to go with the lavender hand-dye got the better of me. Oh, that will only take a few minutes, and actually, it really DID take only a few minutes as I immediately found varying amounts of a collection that changed my whole idea of kind and color of fabric for this quilt. Exciting!

But I wasn't ready to dive into the cutting yet. No, I could feel a stubborn streak about the sketching coming on and the muse did not disagree, gathering up my sketchbook and plopping me in front of the computer to warm up with a hatching exercise in a Sketchbook Skool video on their blog which related to the very first segment of my course. I'd even left a few pages blank for more hatching practice before continuing to the next segment. I've been wanting to try this green ink in this sketchbook and have it in an "eyedropper" pen that I suddenly was having problems with. Couldn't get the ink to flow. Could see ink leaking out where it shouldn't be leaking. I took the pen apart, soaking the nib and feed in a small cup of water, fished them out, rinsed and reassembled the pen. Nearly tossed the water, but it was quite green. This is permanent ink and even diluted, I figured it might produce a nice wash over a mixed media page. I saved it and went back to my sketching course.

But every evening, I'd find myself staring at the art card and envisioning what kind of background I could paint/mark/collage for it. May as well start with that wash. Four years ago I bought a large Canson Mixed Media Art Book, one with pages that can be removed and put back in. Have I tried it? Of course not. But it should be the right size for what I have in mind for the card, and no time like the present to try out the paper and those ideas the muse keeps nudging me towards. Although the reviews and descriptions indicate it will take wet media and stay flat, I was probably using too much wet with my diluted ink and form brush. The paper curled right up, almost into a cylinder, but relaxed some once dry. I put it back in the journal and weighted it which has flattened it pretty well. There was still ink left and it occurred to me that when I experimented with making paper from recycled paper, one of my questions was how it would take fairly diluted paint. So I pulled out a sheet and used up the rest of the diluted ink on it, discovering that it went on well and didn't soak all the way through. It showed darker than on the mixed media paper (and as I started working the ink off the sides and bottom of the cup, the transfer to the paper towards the bottom was darker). Then again, the mixed media paper is white; my hand-made paper is a bit greyed with the added browns from the tea leaves. But I'm very pleased with this test run.

As for the fabric folding thoughts, they arose with the growing piles of snow outside. I don't really want to dye up more one-of-a-kind fabrics; I've not done anything with most of what I produced last winter. However, I do have pieces I wasn't that jazzed about, and have not gotten anywhere with thoughts of how to improve them with printing. But what if I just did various folds that would give interesting patterning over them like the kaleidoscopes? In a "tidying up" sorting through a very old file awhile ago, I'd run across instructions for folding and cutting 5 and 6 pointed snowflakes and set it aside to try at least the folding part to produce better kaleidoscopes in my fabric dyeing. And then at the January art group meeting, Rebecca handed out copies of folding techniques related to the indigo dyeing. The muse stood in the corner of the room, nodding her head. Get with it, girl, before the snow melts away! This time I plan to use the tip of ironing in the folds to see if I can get more precise delineations.

Using the ironing board to organize as the worktable is still cluttered.

I've been thinking about that slice quilt too, and how I can collage the water per the inspiration from Terrie's quilt, also from the January meeting (the muse could hardly contain herself). I couldn't find the very old article on using a non-fused collage technique in clothing (must have decided I'd never make that vest, nor collage fabric in a quilt - silly me), but I found someone else on line showing basically the same thing as I remember it so I think I am ready to give it a go. But my attention really is now focused on this baby quilt, in spite of the fact I thought I would "whip together" the slice quilt before moving on to it. I'm being challenged by it in the way I've always enjoyed working best: letting the fabrics on hand and the amounts of each available drive the designing. The hand-dyed fabric is half yards and right away I discovered I needed a yard just for the 6 long background strips in each block for a 9 block quilt. Hmmm. Well, the two middle steps in the gradation are fairly close and I've pulled in a purple from a different dye run for the shorter background strips, even though it obviously shades more red than blue. Cut in smaller pieces, I think it will blend ok. As for the prints, it's a similar story - enough of two, very small amounts of others and a need to dig through the stash again for one or two prints that will work with them. After dithering over two batiks that were reading a bit too bright, I ended yesterday by unearthing the perfect batik. Still lots of cutting and mulling to do before assembling but the muse seems satisfied with my progress. Enough to not mind when I close the studio door and sit at the computer for 15 or 20 minutes watching more videos from my on-line drawing class. 

It's been good, this bouncing from one focus to another, combined with a lot of cross-pollination. I'm making progress and my brain has stopped feeling like it is being pulled in too many directions to the point of pulling apart. The muse has been a bit like a dance partner, firmly leading through the steps of our particular creative dance.

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