manipulation of the medium

I continue to exploit my materials for all they're worth. Once again I tried the soda ash/vinegar silk dyeing thing, this time using a black dye. Silk and Procion MX black dye don't work as planned--this version of black dye comes out as blue, grey, or orange. So I expected some variation from that. Doing strips of soda ash alternating with vinegar increased the variation--this time I can see the stripes formed, although they are subtle.

Just to mix things up, I put a piece of a silk curtain material I had picked up from a clearance bin underneath (and coated it with soda ash), the piece of silk, and then a layer of plain cotton cheesecloth on top (also treated with soda ash). All of this was on top of a garbage bag on my picnic table. Next I poured on a not very concentrated solution of the black dye. And rolled the whole thing up and left it sit for a day before washing it out.

There is no picture of just the cloth, but here it is with the beginnings of a design:

What I can't quite figure out is how just one corner got to be mostly rust colored. Serendipity I guess. This piece is quite large for me--around 25" tall by something like 75" long. I like the horizontal format. I think it reminds me of the woods in November--lots of greys, with a touch of color here and there where the leaves are still on a tree.

The other pieces are here are the other two pieces I dyed at the same time--the strips are the curtain silk, which came out really cool. The amorphous piece is the cheesecloth, which I stretched and deformed by pulling it about:

That's where the piece is at the moment. I think it will be heavily quilted, but I'm not sure whether anything else will be added. It's quite serene at the moment, I like that.


recovery, redux

The recovered piece continues to evolve. It has been hanging on my design wall off and on for the past few days, and it just didn't feel right. Maybe it's the image of a human figure I keep imposing on it. Maybe it's the technical difficulty of putting the pieces together. Maybe it's the top piece that I don't like as much as the other pieces.

So today I tried simplifying it to this:

It would be my intent to sew the pieces together so there would be no gaps as show in this snapshot. It has an oriental feel to it, and is much simpler and calmer than the previous variation.

So do I wait another week to see if this the right way? So sew it together and move on with my art? I vacillate even as I type this. Maybe tomorrow I'll decide....or put it off...

And of course this leaves me with three other pieces to play with. I really like the thin long strips that formed the arms...could they be stand alone pieces? I could see them hanging on a narrow wall...art for problem spaces...


Blog Action Day

Today is Blog Action Day. Bloggers around the world are taking one day to post on the same subject; this year it's 'environment.'

I was trained as a botanist. These days, the only real botany I do is as a volunteer for The Nature Conservancy at a preserve near my home (Kibbe Life Science Research Station, Warsaw, Illinois), helping to establish a small tall grass prairie and restoring oak woodlands (a globally endangered ecosystem).

But this environment impacts all of my work as an artist--it informs me, inspires me, and sometimes depresses me by the state it is in. I try to say something about the microcosm in which I live with every piece of art I make--for instance, Prairie Fire 2 was inspired by actual prescribed burns at Kibbe, the colorful fire on a cloudy day, the charred ground left behind the leaping flames.

So the word 'environment' is very close to my heart, and thus to my art. I can't make art without it, I need to do all I can to preserve it.


recovery or improvement?

The piece is almost done. Until a few hours ago, I wasn't sure if it was a series of seven pieces, or one piece with seven parts. Now that it's laid out this way, I'm pretty sure it's one piece.

Although each piece stands fairly well on its own, I like the connected-ness of them being put together in this figure-like shape. Does it make sense that they want to be together? That they're happier this way?

Forget the technical challenge of putting them together; there's just a synergy at work here that I can't ignore. So I'll figure out the technical parts, finish it up, and then move on.

I'm not the only fiber artist cutting things apart and putting them back together--check out Katherine Sand's blog post.
Great minds thinking alike and all that.

And I keep thinking back to the original piece, prediaster. There was a time when it was very cool, but incomplete. I took the wrong fork in the road trying to complete it, and there was no going back. But if I hadn't made that mistake, would the resultant piece be as good as this one? I guess there's no way to know...but I may dye another piece of silk and start all over....


Diaster and Recovery

I got carried away with paint today. It's fabric, I can make more, but still. I should have known better.

I started out yesterday with gold paint on the stalks I had quilted in. OK, but a little bright. How to tone it down...how about some transparent black paint? Toned them down, and then bled out into the rest of the piece in unattractive ways.

So I decided, with nothing to lose, to get out the rotary cutter and ruler and start whacking out the bad parts and making a bunch of little pieces.

Some of the shapes are rather cool--the long narrow ones especially. I see the pieces being finished into a series of related pieces. The worse parts can be covered with something, or else add more paint to cover up the problem...don't quite know yet, but it's kind of an exciting idea that I get to work on making decent art, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat...if I'm lucky.

The thought for the day is then, don't worry, be happy. And keep working.


more playing and playing

This is the kind of quilting I was trying to describe. A blend of geometric lines and organic shapes.

The piece shown is a piece of silk I dyed a couple of weeks ago after seeing Katherine Sands' blog about the difference in color between using soda ash and vinegar to fix fiber reactive dyes to silk. So I tried brushing stripes of each onto a piece of silk, then adding dye. The differences in color are hard to see, but I ended up with a nice piece of cloth anyway.

A great discussion of the importance of line in fiber art is going on in the Art and Perception blog by Jane Underwood--she does a good job of describing what I'm doing (well, she's not really talking about me, but her, but it's kind of the same thing). Line that produces texture like this is one of the main reasons I quilt most of my pieces.

When I get done quilting this piece, I am thinking of adding some touches of paint to the organic shapes, just to highlight them. And adding some hand stitching to the spaces.

At the same time, I'm trying to figure out how to capture the beauty and simpleness of yet another buckeye--this time the fruit of a bottlebrush buckeye. They're very velvety and cool colors right now as they ripen.