Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Serendipity today

I'm a huge believer in serendipity, aka never cleaning up your studio too much.  So many times I have found a piece of fabric or a button or a paper or a piece of rusty metal lying around and a few minutes later realize that it's just what I need for a piece of art in progress. 

The latest recurrence came about as I was sitting at my worktable cleaning up, and what appeared from under a pile of stuff but an empty slide mount.  I do have a box full of slide mounts that it could have been filed into, but that would have required me to get up, find the box, open it up, put it back.  Seemed like an awful lot of work for just one little piece of plastic -- simpler to just use it!  And anyway, I needed a break from all that cleaning up.

So I took some thread that was also sitting on the worktable and warped up a little loom.  What to put on it -- beads? thread of a different weight or color?  Plenty of stuff was within reach. 

Including a leftover bit of map from a collage.  I cut it into narrow strips and used that as the weft.  The weaving was fiddly because of course I didn't have heddles or any other mechanism to make a shed, so each thread had to be pulled up with tweezers for each strip of map.  But it was a nice zen hour, lost in the process (which after all, is why we've all become sewists and textile artists, isn't it?).

I'm making this my daily map.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

On retreat 2

Those of us on retreat last week had a lot of fun watching Cindy Rollins made felt.  Her first project was to make a pair of slippers, and we made her call us over to watch each time she did a new step in the process.

First, she made lasts for the slippers.  She put on a pair of throwaway socks and proceeded to apply many layers of duct tape over her feet.  Then she cut through the whole contraption, removed each one from her foot, taped it back together and stuffed it with plastic bags.

She marked the forms with the height she wanted the finished slippers to taken.

Then she started to lay small patches of wool roving onto the forms, gradually building up several layers of felt.  She massaged soapy water onto the slippers as they developed, wrapping them in nylon net so she could work them vigorously without the wool coming off into her hands.

Eventually she encased the slippers, still on the lasts, in bubble wrap, tied them tightly in a pair of old knee-high stockings, and put them in the dryer for one last round of heat and agitation.

Everybody there gathered around to see each step of the process.  We were impressed by how neat Cindy had managed to be while doing wet felting, with all the mess contained in a big plastic tub and a lot of old bath towels pressed into service to keep things dry.  And of course we all wanted a pair of slippers!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

On retreat 1

Twice a year, a handful of people from my local fiber and textile art group go on retreat to a quilters' getaway venue about a half-hour up the road from us.  It isn't all that far away -- if you have to go back into town for a meeting or a funeral or a dentist appointment, you can -- but it's a world away from home.  Recent retreats haven't been all that wonderful for me; on the last one, I got sick and had to come home early, and a year previously, I fell on the first night and broke a toe and spent the whole time in pain.  But this time was great for me.

You can read about some of my other retreat experiences here and here and here and here.

The ladies who typically come to this venue are traditional quilters.  Occasionally some of them who are working at the next-door facility will drop by for a visit, and we can always detect their slightly uneasy smiles covering up the thought "what the hell is going on here anyway???"  Because we rarely have more than one or two people making quilts, and those quilts aren't usually traditional in any way, shape or form.

So this year, we had people doing felting, hand-stitching, machine-stitching, assemblage, sketching, and yes, quilting.  One of my fellow retreatees, Beth Schnellenberger, wrote about the week and said that the mediums being practiced included "organization."  I had to laugh, because that meant me.  And if organization is indeed an art form, I'm a pretty lame practitioner.

For years now, I haven't taken my sewing machine to the retreat, nor have I produced much that could be described as art.  I usually take several boxes of miscellaneous clippings and junk, plus a bunch of unread newspapers and magazines.  I have the bad habit, when left to my own devices at home, of clipping things from the newspaper, or saving entire sections that I haven't read yet, and putting them in a pile.  This occurs at the dining room table.  When somebody shows up for dinner and we need to clear the table, my pile often gets picked up and deposited into a box.  Where it may stay for weeks, or months, or years.

So I take those boxes with me on retreat, and I go through them.  I clip what needs to be clipped, I paste up what needs to go into books or daily art, I file things to be kept in folders, and throw out the rest.  This takes a long time, because much of the stuff has to be read first.  In 3 1/2 days I came up with one huge grocery bag full of discarded papers to be recycled, plus a whole lot of bits and pieces to be filed or processed.

clippings to go into an artist book

I also came across things to give to others in the room.  Beth was working on a quilt that happened to be the same colors as a little scrap of batik fabric that I found in my pile.  Who knows why that scrap got into a pile of clippings, but it ended up in Beth's quilt.

Somebody else asked if anybody had a bit of MistyFuse, because she needed to add some new fabric to her hand-stitching project.  What had I come across only a half-hour before in my boxes but a sample pack of MistyFuse!  I don't remember where I got it, but it leaped into action when it was needed.

I gave a piece of tatted lace that happened to be in the trunk of my car to somebody else, and some clippings to yet another person.

Best of all, I got several weeks ahead on my weekly "found poetry" project.  Every Sunday I post a "found poem" on the blog, composed of clippings from newspapers and magazines.  In the ten weeks so far this year, I have most often been composing and pasting up my poems after dark on Saturday night.  This makes for stress.  And I have been looking forward with a bit of trepidation to our longish vacation planned for late spring, because the kindle I carry on trips doesn't allow me to do much blog posting.  So it was good to crank out a bunch of poems and put them in the queue in advance.

I'll tell you more about the retreat later this week.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Maps everywhere

Since I have been doing a map a day as my art project for 2018, I'm on the lookout for ideas that I can try out.  So I was intrigued to come across three different artists in the last couple of weeks who have used maps in their work.

Stacy McKnight Maney, At Home

She pasted a map onto a wood panel, covered it with semi-opaque paint, then added the big at sign as a gel transfer over the top.  What's not to love -- wood panel, map, typographical character!

Kristina Arnold, Specimen Series: Meles meles

Bottom layer: a topographical map of Wyoming.  Middle layer: a drawing of the jawbone of a badger (Meles meles) that Kristina found while walking in the woods in England.  Top layer: a map of the English town where she was living at the time, including the route she took when she found the bone, drawn on vellum.

I liked the translucency of the vellum, and especially the concept of layered maps of different scales, different mediums, different colors and different places.

Kayla Bischoff, Synapse Map 3

Again, a wood panel, papered with bits of maps -- all cut from the Rand McNally Road Atlas, but from different states and places.  Top layer: a network connecting nodes of brain activity or maybe other neuron bundles, its map-like qualities echoing the underlying road maps.

It's true that once you start looking for something, you're likely to find it everywhere.  Since I've been watching for maps, I'm seeing them!  I'm not one to steal visual images but I am happy to try on other people's concepts for size.  I'm intrigued by the layered maps, by the small map sections abutting one another, by the overlay of (other) symbols on top of the total-symbol map.  I had already started exploring some of these concepts before I saw the other people's artwork, but maybe I'll add some borrowed ingredients to my daily art going forward.  I'll show you what I come up with!

Monday, March 5, 2018

My new toy

One of my wonderful daughters-in-law gave me a present the other day.  She had been at a weaving workshop and got the chance to buy a leather bracelet that is also a tape measure.  It wraps around your wrist twice with just enough slack so you barely notice it's there.  Unwrapped, it's 17 inches long (or 40 cm).

She said she thought I might find this useful.  And she was so right -- not even two hours later, I was walking down the street with two of my gallery colleagues, looking at the temporary vinyl signs that a neighboring business had hung on its fence.  We were thinking about signs, and somebody said "How tall do you think that sign is?  Maybe 24 inches or so?"  I started to eyeball it, and then I remembered!

"WAIT!  Look what my daughter-in-law just gave me!!"  I whipped it off my wrist and measured the sign (it was 30 inches).  Rarely has a gift meant to be useful proven its worth in such a short time!

Having never seen an accessory like this before, I was surprised to see, the very next day, the same bracelet on the arm of a friend of mine whom I saw at an art fair.  Synchronicity in the universe!   (She thought she was ordering the same color that I have, but it came pale and raw.  Since she dyes things for a living, she just dunked the leather in some red dye and got this beautiful coral.)

I plan to continue wearing mine every day.  Who knows how frequently it will be whipped into action -- I suspect quite a bit.  Thank you Kristin!!  I'm so glad we married you.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Kimono challenge -- my response

Last fall I wrote about the kimono challenge in our local fiber and textile art group, and showed photos of several of the different things that people made.  But I never got around to showing you a picture of my own pieces.

I made two small hand-stitched pieces with bits of kimono fabric stitched on top of larger kimono backgrounds.  Mostly running stitches, in a variety of different threads, with french knots for emphasis.

I did a lot of experimenting with different threads.  Silk thread felt elegant and I thought there was a certain karma to using it on the silk kimono fabrics, but even doubled, it made a pretty faint line.  Rayons and polyesters worked the same way.  They were fine as background running stitches but didn't have the substance to make assertive french knots.

After trying every thread in my stash, or so it seemed, I found two spools of variegated Aurifil cotton in the very heavy 28 weight.  I don't know why I bought them in the first place, because Aurifil is an expensive toy to get if you don't have a plan for it.  But the ivory-pink-coral-rust colorway looked just perfect with my pink and coral fabrics, and made beautiful, fat french knots.  I had so much fun making the knots that I started piling them densely on, totally covering the background.

Before I display these in public I'll have to come up with a way to mount them.  I'm thinking of affixing them to wood panels, like the ones I've been using for collage.  The contrast of the soft fabric with the hard panel seems appealing.  I'll let you know how that works out!