Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

New Spring, New Garden

April 10, 2010

Not only a new garden, but a new expanded garden!  We have lots of plans for food-stuffs, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries, for starters, plus the sweet pea seeds that I saved from last year are already sprouting along with some sunflowers, soon to be joined by poppies and cosmos.  Oh, and a clematis.

But more importantly, I’m getting more dye plants this year!  The woad is already planted, and I’ve ordered some supplements:  madder (red), lady’s bedstraw (red), weld (yellow), dyer’s chamomile (yellow), and one I’d never heard of – elecampane.

There’s nothing on elecampane  in either of the dye books I own, or any others I’ve read.  Only a single sentence on the whole of the internet (repeated on many websites, apparently it’s from a book written in 1931 called A Modern Herbal):  “A blue dye has been extracted from the root, bruised and macerated and mingled with ashes and whortleberries.”  On some further research, whortleberries are also known as bilberries, and are a wild relative of blueberries.  The ashes part of the “recipe” makes sense, acidic solutions tend to shift dyes towards the red end of the spectrum, and alkaline towards blue.  But I can’t help wondering about why it also includes blueberries, if there actually is blue dye in the roots at all or if it’s a mordant that works on them better than, say, alum.

I guess I’ll let you know in a year or two.  Gorram root crops (three of my five new plants) need extra time to grow before I can go digging them up.  Which means they’re all going in pots, if we move after I finish school next year I’m darned well taking them with me!

If you’re curious, I ordered the seeds from Horizon Herbs, they were very nice on the phone and have some pretty cool stuff besides the dye plants.  Being a small package, I’m hoping it’ll arrive quickly so I can get planting!

Last year’s woad is now about waist high, it’s quite impressive.  I’m looking forward to seeing the flowers, not so much looking forward to trying to stop the seeds from taking over the neighbourhood.  I’m planning to cut most of them down after they’ve flowered, and put little cotton or cheesecloth bags over the remainders to catch the seeds.

And because I simply can’t post two photo-less posts in a row, here’s a picture of a drawing I did this semester:

Can you guess what it is?

My new favourite blog

March 9, 2010

Ok, first off I refuse to apologize for lack of posting.  Yes, I know it’s been over a month.  But I’m a student.  Which means that a) I write a lot, other places and b) I have very little time for frivolous pursuits like taking pictures of the things I’m making.  They’ll come, I promise.  Eventually.

Anyways, as a third-year student with a significant background in textile practices who is constantly frustrated at the well-meant but ignorant use of textile metaphors in the academic/art world (well, and the world in general) . . . I have a new favourite blog.  Material Metaphors is written by a writing professor on sabbatical, and she is learning how to weave in order to better understand such metaphors.  I think it’s fascinating to follow the progress of a person coming from the opposite direction, approaching the textile production while intentionally keeping the metaphors in mind and exploring them as she goes.

And I must confess I find it intensely gratifying to see such a person gain so much appreciation for the crafts which I so often end up defending as valid practices.


January 13, 2010

Art school is hard!  They make me use my brain and stuff.  I’ve been muddling the mast few years, since I graduated from college, about my art practice, why I’m still drawn to it despite the many things that drive me completely crazy about the art world.  It became clear last year around this time that I needed to figure it out because I wouldn’t be really happy until I did, so I ditched what I was doing and applied to art school.  The first semester . . . pretty much just frustrated me even more, for a lot of reasons.  The only really good part was the dyeing class back at my old college, with my favourite teacher.  My boyfriend says I’m jumping through their hoops to a) get the shiny piece of paper and b) find out what I don’t want to do.

But it’s a new semester now, new classes, new teachers, new classmates.  Which means yet another round of introductions, who are you, what’s your medium of choice, what are you interested in, why did you decide to take this class?  Oh right, it’s required to graduate.  Anyways.  Today was my last day of introductions and I don’t know why, but I started to think about my own practice in actual words for the first time.  So I quietly wrote them down.  I’m sure the teacher thought I was taking intense notes on her lecture.

So here you are, the muddled thoughts of a developing artist, on their way to becoming real.

My art is the embodiment of and metaphor for how I would like to live my life.  I like to understand things, how they work, how they’re made, as far back in the process as possible.  I don’t drive because I don’t really understand how cars work.  I process fibre, spin it, and make fabric out of it because the complete, physical understanding makes the end product, whatever it may be, a million times better, more real, than anything I could buy.  Building the backstrap loom has given me a better understanding of how my other (purchased) looms work.  Some day I will have sheep, goats, maybe alpacas, angora rabbits, flax and cotton plants and then I will truly understand where that fibre I’m working with came from.  As you know, I’ve already started with the dye plants.

I like (as much as is possible in my busy, student budget life) to do the same with food, and furniture, and housing, and exercise (I HATE going to the gym, I’d much rather just walk everywhere), and everything.  I really am a Cancer, I’m a nester, and I need to be fully involved in all aspects of my physical surroundings.    I’m a very private person, I like to be more or less self sufficient emotionally as well as physically, though I know it’s impossible and yes, undesirable, to be completely cut off from the world in either sense.

What I need to do is find a way to develop my art into something that expresses these thoughts of mine in terms that the art world will understand.  Or alternatively, change the art world so it recognizes the beauty of a well-made sock  🙂


December 13, 2009

Yay!  The semester is over!  Well, I have two more classes to go to this week, but the primary thing on the agenda for both of them is eating cookies.  Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time, learned a lot, did a whole lot, but I’m glad to have a break.

First up on the list of things to blog about is the only thing I have pictures of – a piece I made on top of all my school work for a competition.  The winning piece goes into the permanent collection at the hospital.  My piece was inspired by the stupendous view from the family lounge in the Palliative Care Ward, which is on the top floor of one of the few tall buildings in the city outside of downtown.

This was my original sketch.  The black lines are where it is divided into panels.  Because hey – why make one piece when you can make nine?

I decided to use one of the new techniques I learned earlier in the semester – direct application of natural dyes.  I’ll post more about that later, but essentially you make a concentrated solution of your dyes and mordants, paint them on your fabric, let it dry, and steam it.

After dyeing the canvas, I did free-motion embroidery to further define the areas and give it a bit of texture.  And then . . .  I was out of time.  I wish they had given us more than a month’s notice, there was tons more I could have done to this thing.  Oh well, next time.

So.  Want to see it?

(This is the extra-big version, click on the picture to see it full size)

The colours are much more vibrant than they look on my monitor.  The detail shots are better, but you don’t get the full impact without seeing it in real life.  Sorry.

I had a heck of a time photographing it.  It’s too big for me to do at home (23″x60″) so I’d booked the classroom at work, which has a nice big wall of windows that the sun shines right in until about noon.  Perfect, if I’d managed to finish it the night before.  Instead we got there at about 12:30, so by the end of setting up and the initial test shots, it was pretty dark in there.  After dragging up a couple of extra lights from the sales floor and a white cutting mat to help reflect the light, this is what it looked like:

I’m still pretty pleased with how they turned out, and hopefully the judges will be intrigued enough to want to see it in person.  I find out on Friday.  Wish me luck!

Next up:  Tomorrow I should get back my mammoth dye project, which means I can take pictures for you.  It’s far from finished, really, but I’ll post the beginnings.