Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Does nothing last???

I've been using fabric paints for decades and have accumulated 25 or 30 bottles of Setacolor, my favorite brand.  They never seemed to go bad, and have been my go-to stuff for printing my wood and metal type, either onto fabric or onto paper.  I haven't used any in years, but they're still there at the ready.  Last week I wanted to use some type in my daily calligraphy, and grabbed the first couple of bottles from my stash.

And much to my surprise, two out of the three bottles had broken apart in exactly the same way!

I can't imagine why this would happen.  If I had just screwed the tops on too tight, surely I would have noticed them breaking in my hands.  Maybe it was a gremlin.

I peeked inside and the paint still seems to be viscous; I will experiment to see if it's still usable.  Meanwhile the third bottle seemed a bit thicker in consistency than the paints were to begin with, but it worked just fine.

The two busted bottles didn't have dates, but the third one did -- 2003.  Here's a shout-out to the folks at Pebeo -- you make one long-lasting product!!! 

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Last week on Art With a Needle

It was not a good week for Art With a Needle's proprietor.  I fell on a busted-up patch of sidewalk and broke my ankle in two places, fortunately not enough to require surgery but unfortunately with enough collateral tendon and ligament damage to make for a long recovery.  Here's my moon boot, complete with an air pump that inflates bladders around my heel and ankle to hold everything rigid inside.  I can walk on it and there's no pain, just aches after a long day.  (Liquor helps.)

Last week I showed you my cascading-letters calligraphy and asked whether it's a good idea to just keep doing something that you love to do and looks good, or whether you should move on to something else if you can't think of a new twist.

My readers came to my rescue.  Artquilter left a comment: "You have lots of letters from  your dad's collection and your own, maybe it's time to "draw" some of those."  And that got me to thinking...

What if I used some of my metal type to print onto the page, then added the cascade of hand-drawn letters?  (After all, it is a daily calligraphy project.)  (And yes, to the readers who couldn't believe the letters are drawn by hand -- after all, it is a daily calligraphy project.)

Here's my favorite miniature of the week:

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Calligraphy update -- sea songs

I wrote earlier in the year about a project I did with calligraphy for the "home" show at PYRO Gallery.  I found a bunch of songs that had the word "home" somewhere in their lyrics, and wrote them into a book that was illustrated by photos of front steps.  I thought I might try to do another book along the same lines, except this time using the word "sea."  Now I need to go through my bazillion photos from our various ocean voyages and find the best ones for the book.

As with "home," it wasn't too hard to find lots of songs with the magic word.  What surprised me was how much overlap there is with songs containing both "home" and "sea."

Maybe I need to make a book about "home" and "sea."  Will have to keep on the lookout for houseboats to take pictures of.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Calligraphy update -- lotsa letters

I don't remember how I got this idea, to make individual letters that would start as dense collections and then fall apart as they tumbled downward on the page.  The first few I made were with a bunch of new polymer-tip pens in bright, cheery colors.

I loved the effect, and the bright colors, except that these pens were relatively thin-line, and I found it hard to get a uniform wash of color on the larger letters with so much drawing back-and-forth.   Also it took quite a while to draw these letters.

So I started making these compositions with a dip pen.  I used my springiest nib, one that effortlessly gives you swoopy lines that go from thin to thick with just a bit of extra pressure.  For most of the letters, I could draw thick lines with just one pass, and the curved letters like S and B looked beautiful as they swelled and ebbed.

It was faster to make these letters, but it also took a while for the ink to dry, so I had to do the day's page in several different sittings.  Particularly nice when I started in the morning, did one color for a bit, went away and came back later for a bit more writing.

My ink supply is all dark colors, so these compositions aren't as light and bright as the first ones, but I think they're more sophisticated.  Now I'm at the same point that I was a couple of years ago when I was making tangles in my daily drawing.  Namely, is it a good plan to keep making the same drawing over and over again, day after day, even if you think it's beautiful and it's fun to do?  Are you losing the opportunity to try something new if you just repeat your favorite theme?

Certainly when you're perfecting a new approach, and certainly when you have ideas for a new frisson in your new approach, it's good to keep going day after day.  But when you have no new idea and just want to make another one like the ones you did before, maybe it's better to move on.

What do you think?

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Last week on Art With a Needle

I discovered -- and bought -- a new product at the fabric store this week, a thin non-woven polypropylene.  I asked the clerk what people were doing with this and she said the bottoms of upholstered furniture, or as background for fancy bulletin board displays.  I used it to cover stretcher bars and mount a small quilt.

I sewed the quilt to the poly fabric all along the top edge and a ways down each side.  I have not tested the tearing properties of the poly and hope I haven't overloaded its capacity; I did make a point of using large stitches.  The quilt is only 26 inches square, so it isn't terribly heavy.  I will hope for the best.

I wrote last week about my so-far unsatisfying attempts to use Arabic script in my daily calligraphy.  Irene commented that I should try flipping the letters and writing left-to-right (among other things, it would keep my hand out of the wet ink).  Good idea, and I will try it.  Thanks! 

I also wrote last week about my new haul of air-drying clay and showed you the first little guy made from it.  Monica left a comment:  "I really like your miniature.  It brings a smile to my face, so I have saved it in my photos (I hope that is fine with you.)"  It certainly is, Monica.  In general I'm happy to let any of my readers use stuff from my blog, as long as you mention my name! 

I made all my miniatures for this week from the clay, experimenting with inserting stuff into the clay and adding paint to the dry figures.  I guess my favorite is Monday, the little guy in the hooded cloak with the shepherd's staff.   Already I'm learning how the material works and how to get a better finish, without cracks or burrs.  This is a lot of fun! 

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Calligraphy update -- Arabic experiments

I've been faithfully doing my daily calligraphy, on two different tracks these days.  I'm still copying a passage from each book I read, either the day I finish reading it or the next day.  But on the other track I'm trying to find a style or styles of calligraphy that are less about writing and more about art.

I wrote about this a couple of months ago and some readers suggested that I try writing Arabic script, because it's beautiful and because I couldn't get distracted by meaning, focusing solely on the visual appeal.  So I did dutifully try Arabic for a while.  I found that writing from right to left was interesting and seemed to fire different neurons than when I write in European languages.  But I also found that right to left doesn't work very well with a dip pen and ink that takes a while to dry.  (New sympathy for lefties.)

More important, I had a hard time finding exemplars to work from.  The Arabic alphabet sites that I found online showed individual letters but little help in how to combine them into longer "words" -- using that term loosely, because of course I had no idea of what I was putting together.  I realized only after more research that all these letters, when written into words, emanate from a baseline, and the letter charts don't tell you whether a given letter goes up or down. 

I had better luck with sites in which Arabic writers posted samples of their own handwriting.  A great deal of variation, as you might imagine, and I enjoyed copying from them.  But I never did develop any comfort level that would let me "write" several characters in a row -- even if I permitted myself to write Arabic-like squiggles that weren't exactly correct letters.  In other words, I never could get myself into a rhythm that approximated the writing I saw on screen.  I felt like an impostor and I think the writing looked awkward as a result.

I abandoned this approach, even though there were aspects of it that appealed to me.  In particular, I liked the down-and-left stroke that resembles a fat J, but have found it difficult to incorporate into my left-to-right writing.  So, an experiment that did not pay off.  Maybe I quit too soon; maybe I should go back and try again.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Fiberart International 4 -- knitting and crochet

There were several intriguing knitted and crocheted pieces at Fiberart International, which was on display all summer in Pittsburgh.

Adrienne Sloane, Marking Time (details below)

This piece is knitted over wire, which is bent to make the script.  I liked the strong graphic quality of the "lines".  (Wished they had put the gallery tag somewhere other than smack in the middle of the pencil-drawn hash marks on the wall!)

Nicole Benner, Comfort/Confine II

Crocheted with metallic yarn and displayed over a mannequin, although in the past it has been worn by a person as performance art.  Can't you just imagine what it would be like to wear a garment like this?  Would you feel slinky and flashy as all get-out, or imprisoned, or both?

Marianne Moore, Financial Ruin (detail below)

A real knockout, knitted out of shredded US currency.  I had to wonder -- did she first have to glue a bazillion six-inch shreds into long yarns?  Sounds like a labor of love.

Rachel Hefferan, Woven/Crochet Transition (details below)

Here's a piece that starts off as weaving and ends up as crochet.  A clever idea, but since the transition between the two techniques seems to be the subject of the work -- see the title -- I wished that she had started crocheting on some of those long warp threads to more seamlessly join the two parts instead of just draping them on top.

Carol Milne, You Can Leave Your Hat On, Doll

And this one gets the originality award: "lead crystal knitted glass hat on mold-blown glass head."  I wish I knew more about glass to understand how this got made -- probably not with asbestos gloves holding knitting needles in the furnace.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Last week on Art With a Needle

For 33 years we have lived in a house set back quite a way from the street near the bottom of a cul-de-sac.  When we first moved in I nailed some house numbers to a piece of scrap treated lumber, stuck it to a piece of scrap metal and set it at the corner of the driveway.  Felt very proud of myself.  But over the years shrubbery grew into the corner and overran the sign; meanwhile the sign itself rotted away.  I have been wanting a new sign for a long time and finally got my wish this week.  Don't you love the bright orange aluminum numbers?

More hemming of quilts this week, but mostly I worked on revising the member handbook for PYRO Gallery.  This is the kind of fussy writing task that I love to do, but it sure is time-consuming, and at the end of the week, when you realize how much time you have NOT spent in the studio.

Walking up and down the aisles of the art supply store, I discovered air-drying modeling clay and bought a two-pound hunk.  I've been thinking that it would be fun to make some little clay sculptures for my daily miniatures, but didn't want to use Sculpey or Premo because they have to be baked in the oven.  My rule for daily miniatures is that they have to be finished by midnight and never touched again except to photograph and store them.  Sometimes I will leave a miniature out by itself overnight for paint or ink or Fray Check to dry, but no further making is allowed.  So self-drying clay will follow the rules.

Here's my first little guy from the bag of clay, and my favorite of the week:

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Fiberart International 3 -- more holes

Seen at Fiberart International, which has unfortunately just closed in Pittsburgh.

Marie Fornaro, It is Bread We Fight for, but We Fight for Roses, Too (details below)

It's sort of a quilt, since it contains batting and is layered in some places, but it's more deconstructed than not.  Apparently after the large hanging was sewed together, the artist went at it madly with a scissors, slashing and snipping lots of holes and letting the cut-off bits pool attractively on the floor.

I liked the use of old garments, towels and sheets; the touches of red that suggest both roses (as in the title) and blood; the nod to traditional quilt patterns; and the audacity of the crude construction and of course, the slashing,

Susan Avishai, No Place to Hide a Dark Heart (detail below)

It's four layers of an old shirt, hand-cut with scissors into a lacy pattern and suspended about an inch apart, close enough to the wall that the lace casts intricate shadows.  I like the way the untouched pocket and collar stand out from the filigree of the cut shirt.

Leigh Suggs, Untitled (Mondrian's City) (detail below)

This is a construction of Mylar on Tyvek, and I'm not sure how it qualifies as fiber art except that it vaguely resembles weaving.  What's special about it is the red shadow on the wall, cast that way because the back surface is red.  Clever and intriguing.

Six very different takes on holes, transparency and visual weight; I liked the contrasts.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Fiberart International 2 -- lots of holes

Putting holes in previously unbroken materials turned out to be a theme at this year's Fiberart International show, which has been on display in Pittsburgh this summer but just closed two days ago.

My favorite in this category is this pixelated photo treatment made of holes burned into buckram.  There are actually three layers of buckram, hanging about an inch apart, and I think the photo is slightly different on each layer. (It may even be two different people, morphing from one to the other.)

Xia Gao, Passing (details below)

Having worked briefly with burning fabric several years ago, I can appreciate the immense control it takes to burn a regular grid of holes without setting the whole thing on fire, and beyond that, to get exactly enough charred fabric around the edge of each hole to produce value gradations to make the image appear.  An altogether beautiful piece!

Each of the two venues had its own big, black, hulking suspended sculpture --apparently the jurors really wanted to have something big, black, hulking and suspended, but couldn't make up their minds which one to choose.

Jozef Bajus, Toccata and Fugue (detail below)

This one is made out of shiny black leather, cut into smooth-edged cascades of loops and shapes and hung against the wall.

Zlatko Cvetkovic, Wave (detail below)

The second one is made of video and audio tapes, removed from their cassettes and looped into an airy curtain in mid-room.  (Apologies for the out-of-focus photos on both these pieces -- cellphone cameras are pretty capable but apparently don't do well with shiny black stuff.)

But wait, there's more!  More holes in the next post...

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Last week on Art With a Needle

A reader left a comment the other day about a very old blog post in which I was complaining about  my fancy new washing machine that uses very little water and never gives me the feeling that the clothes are squeaky clean.  At the time, that post got more than a dozen comments from people who also hate their washing machines.  And apparently people are still stumbling over it, and it still strikes a chord.  This week's visitor wrote: "My big problem is the water level.  After the wash cycle finishes and before the spin cycle starts I have actually found dry spots of clothing sticking up out of the water that had never gotten wet.  How could they get clean if they never got wet?"  Amen, sister!

Coincidentally, the same day that she left that comment, I had a washing machine experience that I'd never had before.  The two-year-old threw up in the car as it was pulling into our street, so we began the day with a bath and two loads of wash, one devoted to the covers from the car seat plus a couple of towels for ballast.  I thought the heavy seat covers would perplex the washing machine, which doesn't just wash things to order but has to think about it first.  In the past it has not been happy with large items that get off balance as they spin.  But these covers definitely had to be washed, now.

I chose the "Bulky / bedding" cycle, called for extra water, and kept my fingers crossed.  When I went into the laundry room some time later, it was nearing the end of the wash cycle and to my amazement, I saw the tub full of water!  (The door is glass -- lots of fun for little ones to watch the machine at work.)  The water actually came to within four inches of the top of the tub and the seat covers were happily sloshing away underneath.

I have never seen more than an inch of water visible in the tub, so this was a breakthrough.  I am now wondering whether I could replicate this in the future, such as when I want to dye, or soak after dyeing.

Out of the laundry room and into the studio....  I decided to sew narrow black bindings onto at least two of my four new quilts, and am now stitching them down.  I usually think quilts look more like art and less like bedcoverings when they are finished with facings, not bindings, but for these pieces I think the binding will be unobtrusive, the quilt will be flatter, and it's certainly easier.

Here's my favorite miniature of the week:

Thursday, August 22, 2019

State Fair prizewinners 2 -- the overachievers

Two of my fiber friends just love to enter the State Fair, and have been regulars in the textile categories for many years.  Trish Korte and Kevin Schultz, who both were teachers, spend much of their vacations making art, often working together.  For instance, this year you can tell that they had cyanotype play days.

Kevin Schultz, first place, surface design (pretty big -- the dress is adult-size)

Trish Korte, third place, surface design

Trish Korte, first place, stitched fabric construction

But they work in other techniques as well.

Kevin Schultz, second place, stitched fabric construction  (an ecoprint of leaves)

Kevin Schultz, second place, three-dimensional (cast paper)

Trish Korte, third place, manipulated fiber construction (felting)

Lots of ribbons between the two of them, and lots of beautiful work.  Well done!