another napkin

Here's one of the pieces I mentioned in my other post today:

It started as a napkin, hand dyed at the same time as some of the birds. But it had a sense of light in it (from the way it was folded in the dye bath).

The tree is drawn from the sumac I have in my garden--a tree which, in the wild, forms large clumps and is not remarkable, but which, as a single specimen, is quite cool. It's kind of like an umbrella, with bare branches almost all the way up to a canopy of graceful leaves. Very Oriental in feel, like a Japanese maple but much cheaper and easier to grow.

It was cut out of a piece of discharged black cotton. I'm becoming a big believer in keeping every little bit of leftovers (sorry, Ann), as the circle was in that pile. It wanted to be on the piece, and it wanted to be in front of the tree. I don't know what it represented except a design element. I stitched the leaves with a varigated embroidery thread. Then I quilted horizontal lines with invisible thread. And couched down the red thread.

The piece has no deep meaning. It's actually not quite as bright as you might think from the photo--this particular napkin is quite shiny. But I like it. A good use for a discarded napkin.

stuck again

Once again I have a piece that I've hand dyed that I can't bring myself to cut. It happened before, and I ended up framing the piece as is. I've never been happy with that solution, but I can't figure out what else to do with it.

This is the new piece:

One of the dye baths was shibori style--wrapped around a pole with string tying it off. The resulting cloth looks like ripples on water at sunset.

The fabric is an old tea towel. If you look closely, though, you'll see that there are small holes in the piece in the lower right hand corner. That's part of the problem, how to deal with that. I've tried applique shapes on it (realism kills the cloth for me), watercolor sketches (not working so far). I keep thinking I need to tear it into strips and put it on something. I had a piece of hand dyed silk that I think would go with it, but in a cleaning fit I misplaced it. Still looking.

But what make this piece special? I try to abide by the Doritos principle (use it, they'll make more), but then this comes along. It might be that it is so close to being perfect in my eyes on its own that I can't stand the possibility of ruining it--I paint watercolors, too, and many's the one that I ruined by not stopping soon enough. Or maybe even though it's 'pretty' as is, it's just not inspiring me. I've brought it out and hung it on my design wall two or three times in the last few months, and always end up putting it away for lack of motivation.

In the meantime, while it's been hanging there, I've done a couple of little sketch pieces (not done yet), thought about dyeing more napkins, cleaned the house, anything to avoid attacking this piece. Perhaps it is time to put it away again...


when series collide

I currently have three or four series going in my work. I jump from one to another as the mood strikes, or sometimes--like last week--everything I do is about one series. Over time, I've found that having established the series idea helps to concentrate my thinking, helps even in the design process. One piece informs the next. Even the pieces that don't work, that never make it out of the studio, help advance the concept in my head.

But once in a while, the series collide. They seem to come together in a way that makes sense to me. This piece I'm working on is one such piece:

It might have begun as a 'Recharged' piece. I had a bunch of pieces of black fabric that has discharged to a rusty orange color, but none of them were very large. But the idea that came to me was a 'Stratification' piece formed by ripping crossgrain strips of the fabrics, layering them onto a background of fusible interfacing, and then sewing them down with some raw edges showing. I threw in three strips of a bright orange silk I had dyed. The piece was becoming something.

But it needed something more. It has actually hung on my design wall for several days, waiting for the bird fixation to ease, and waiting for an answer. An answer which I really knew almost from the start, but fought for a while. It wanted to be a part of the 'Dance of the Blue Slash' series, too. So I think I'm going to add the blue slashes permanently (they're just hanging there right now, stuck by friction). The contrast in both shape and color make the piece sing.

It needs to be quilted, and to keep it firmly rooted in the Stratification world (which was inspired by the layers of rock), I'm thinking of doing some fossils with the quilting. Especially in the bigger strips. Fossils of birds? Probably not.

So I guess the lesson is that series work in many ways--they teach the artist about design, they offer new possibilities that wouldn't have been thought of otherwise, they help to illustrate the artist's voice. Even though people have been telling me for a while that they recognize my work without seeing a label, I haven't always seen the voice that is mine. I'm starting to. And working in series has aided that.


more birds on linen

I may be obsessing about these birds. I've been sketching them in my journal for month, and now I can't stop sketching them on fabric. The color of the hand dyed napkins, when I put them through more than one dye bath, is mesmerizing.

I decided to just put some minimal quilting on the Gossip Time 7 piece to give it some structure:

I just listed this piece on my etsy store: click here to see.

So I went back to the original napkins I used in the Klee pieces. One of them I tried to do some bleach pen on, but I made the bird way too big. So I cut pieces off of it and made some more little birds:

Lonesome Bird 3

Singing Bird


Tete-a-tete 2

All of the above can be seen on my etsy site by clicking on the title.

With the rest of the napkin, I played with some rosy gold Luminere paint:

You can see part of the bleached bird in the background. It's starting to remind me of graffiti, paleolithic style. So it will probably get another layer of birds, maybe done with thread?

I'm not sure where this is leading me, but I'm letting it (my artistic vision? my muse? my subconscious?) take me where it will.


more birds and napkins

I dyed some more napkins, this time with yellow and two blues. I wanted to continue the bird drawing, and decided to try the same method I had used in September buckeye--a piece that recreates the idea of pen and ink with thread.

The first one I did on a whole napkin--three birds on the forest floor, pecking around.

This piece isn't finished yet; it needs some quilting. But I want to keep it subtle, so I'm thinking of using invisible thread. Haven't decided, so there it hangs on my design wall. But I did add a touch of shiva paintstick in red and rust.

I wanted to do some smaller pieces, so I cut the next napkin--not an easy thing to do, but they'll make more. Or sell more at garage sales.

It has more birds, less negative space so they feel closer in. It needs some finishing touches, too.

So I moved even smaller, to something I could decide how to finish.

This piece, Lonesome Bird, is available for sale on my etsy store as a matted, ready to frame piece of art. Note: this piece has now sold.

I'm ready to continue exploring this image. I'm not sure why it interests me so much these days, but it keeps showing up in my work. I have more napkins to dye.....

On a completely different note, I also have a new buckeye interest--this one is a bottlebrush buckeye, almost a shrub, blooming in my back yard. As the blooms were opening, they had this lovely ochre and white and cream combo that intrigues me...now it's in full bloom:

Don't know what will come of this, but stay tuned.....


more klee

I dyed a set of three napkins--at least they looked the same. They all measure slightly different for some reason.

So I continued with the theme. This is the second one:

Better. I like the variation in width of the quilting lines, and I kind of like the effect of the strips of fusing. But once again the fusing was shiny. I tried fixing it, and managed to tone it down some by applying some shiva paintstick lightly...as a series, they're working. But I thought I could do better, so this is the third one:

Finally, one I'm happy with. The quilting is minimal, the bird still shows, the mystery still remains.

I had another napkin dyed at the same time, but a different size. I tried drawing a bird with a bleach pen on it. It ended up with a halo effect on some of the lines, and the bird is out of proportion with the size of the piece. I tried overdyeing it with some yellow; it brightened up, but the halos are still show up. So for now I'm setting it aside for some thought.

And I'm dyeing a new set of napkins; ready to continue the series in another color...


linens and Klee

For some time I have been buying old napkins and tablecloths at yard sales. I think it started because I had some I had inherited, but I couldn't bring myself to do anything with them...my philosophy usually is 'use it, they'll make more', but something stopped me from using those exact ones. So I bought other people's discards.

I love the feel of them, the texture, the way the patterns are subtle but still distinctive. I've even done some compost dyeing with some of the tablecloths.

But recently I started playing with dyeing them. I'm not sure of their fiber content, but I think they're linen. If they're not, they're cotton. Either way, they take Procion Mx dyes wonderfully. I do multiple dye baths to get a range of color in them (which I plan to exploit with a bleach pen soon).

At the same time, I was drawn back to a bird I keep drawing. I had started him from a petroglyph I saw online somewhere, but thanks to an article about Morris Graves on the Ragged Cloth blog, I was reminded of the ones that the abstract expressionists made. Including one of my favorites, Paul Klee.

So when I saw the color and depth of one batch of the napkins, I wanted to recreate that feeling, the low key value system, the texture, the mystery. Here is the result of the first one:

The bird was sketched with Shiva paint sticks. He looks off the edge of the piece, almost sadly. I then machine quilted it heavily, but the piece seemed a little too bright. So I fused on some black Misty Fuse, torn into abstract shapes. Better. But they are a little too shiny.

So I've started yet another series...this piece is named 'After Klee'.