How long did it take to make that?

That question is one that most fiber artists who sell their work and interact with potential customers come to dislike intensely. Is it asked as a polite way of saying 'why is this piece so $#@% expensive'? Is time spent the only way they can relate to being an artist? Are they just making conversation because they don't know how to ask about composition or technique? Or do they genuinely care about the answer?

One has to be nice to potential customers (unless they're using sticky fingers to feel the work). So I try to answer the question slowly, sounding out what answer they're really looking for.

The piece I just finished (well, finished except for hanging mechanism) shows some of my problems with a straight forward answer.

Below the Dam

1a. Time between white silk and today? 3-4 years, can't quite remember when I dyed the fabric.
`1b. Actual working time, hands on cloth? Maybe 100 hours.

difference--lots of time spent with it on my design wall, deciding what to do next. In this case, most of the time was spent on deciding the quilting.

2. Time the idea first started itching my brain to today? Maybe up to 20 years--every November I drove almost daily across the Mississippi River from Keokuk, IA to Hamilton, IL, and admired the last traces of fall in the bottoms, reflected in the slow moving part of the river.

3. Time spent learning how to translate my vision into actual art? A lifetime.

I haven't priced this piece yet, but must do that soon as it will debut in a show in March. It will probably be near the top of my price range as it has a lot of hand work (=more time). But whatever the price, someone at some show will see it and tsk, tsk, that it is too much for just a 'wall hanging'. Whatever. Plumbers don't give away their work, neither should artists.


making color when there is none

The world outside my window has been rather bleak lately--several days of low hanging fog, white stuff covering the ground, no sign of the sun. There have been occasional brief glimpses of blue sky or crescent moon, but not enough.

This seems to be causing me to choose bright, summery colors when I dye. The above pieces were snow dyed in several baths, and look like a summery day at the river. I just did some shirts, and they're bright red and orange and yellow.

I'm kind of a willy-nilly dyer, doing what the mood dictates rather than planning ahead. I attended a lecture by Regina Benson the other day, and she works completely differently--knowing what she intends the finished piece of art to look like before she starts her dyeing or discharge process.

I tend to dye with more serendipity--work until I get cloth I love, then decide what the finished piece is going to be--and even that can change along the way.

So while I may tone down the shirts (they're for me; I tend to wear muted colors), the smile this piece puts on my face will keep this fabric the way it is--and it may well become the largest piece I've made in sometime.

Figuring all that out is part of the process for me, the fun part.


moving to the 21st century

Here's a quick video Ann and I made at our show, discussing the differences in our techniques:

Kind of cheesy, but not bad for a first attempt at utilizing the interwebs, huh?


mulling and musing

The days are getting longer a minute or two every day. We're in the midst of a January thaw. The world outside my window is pretty much white on white--white ground, white sky.

So what better time to be distracted like Ricochet Rabbit? I bounce around from a great newly discovered blog to wondering why I keep making snow dyed pieces that look too much like '60's tie dye to patiently hand stitching a silk piece. I think of a 1000 things I'd like to try and then worry that what I make looks like 1000 people made it. Nothing is quite right, nothing is altogether wrong.

Cabin fever? Maybe, although I get out every day--tomorrow I'm even going to Wisconsin to Regina Benson's artist's talk. Mostly, though, I think I'm just stuck in winter doldrums. It should be a good time to catch up on the minutiae of art like sewing on hanging devices or cutting mats. But the interwebs beckon and I heed their siren.

But I have found that the things I think of now, the ideas I mull and dissect, will show themselves in future work. I make art in the present, but it is conceived in the past.

However, I wouldn't turn down a sunny day or 14.


puckering, right or wrong

The pucker you get from eating an unripe wild plum: bad.

The pucker you get from tart lemonade: good.

The pucker you get unplanned when machine quilting a silk piece: Bad:

Puckers caused by careful placing and tightening of hand stitches on silk: Good:

The truth is, when I started this hand stitching, I didn't even think about puckers--they just kind of happened in the first few stitches. I liked what I saw, so I continued it, thinking I had discovered a great process. Once again, whatever it is about the universe that causes you to suddenly discover everywhere something you just learned existed, happened. I ran across this on the artmixter blog, by Scottish artist Marion Barnett. Great minds and all that.

Sometimes I think I should be reluctant to share how much of what is good about my art is happy accidents. But then I concede that part of the answer is one has to have the eye to notice and exploit the accident to make it into art.

So I continue quilting on two pieces, celebrating the puckers in the hand stitched one, trying to avoid (and sometimes unsewing) them in the machine stitched ones. Both projects are, however, living up to the plan in my brain. That's a good thing.

And that is all.


Fine Line Opening this Friday

The wait is almost over. Our show at the Fine Line Creative Arts Center opens this Friday night, January 8, with a reception from 5:30-8:00pm. The center is located just off Randall Road in St. Charles, Illinois.

Artwork will remain hanging until February 12, and can be seen during normal business hours at the Center.

Even though Ann and I have played together for years now, it still amazes me how different our work is and yet how well it hangs together. Maybe it's both of us growing up in the Midwest, maybe it's the long interchange of ideas, maybe it's just a coincidence.

Friday night promises to be a cold night, but the opening reception will be warm!