Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Taking a Break

I had planned to post photos today from my demonstration Tuesday at the Kerrville Art Club.  However my morning has been spent on website updates and I just don't have the energy to upload the photos today.  I have decided to take some time off. I'm looking forward to curling up on the sofa with my knitting needles, my newly dyed alpaca and my kitties. So, look for photos late next week.

And whatever your holiday persuasion, may you have a pleasant one!

Monday, December 19, 2011

A New Fascination

I started knitting about a year ago.  I haven't made very many things during that time - I got hung up on creating a baby blanket for our newest grandson.  That took about 10 months (only about 4 weeks actual working  - I started in February, but once it got warm in March I didn't have any interest in having a warm blanket on my lap).  I dyed the yarn for the blanket, because I wanted it to be unique.  Now that the blanket is finished and mailed off  (I couldn't start anything else until I finished it), I've been back at work and have finished a scarf and a neckwarmer.

I was given a lifetime supply of yarn by a friend of mine earlier this year.  She had given up knitting and sent me all her projects in process.  It was a wonderful surprise, lots of beautiful yarn - and high quality yarn, too.  Although I love the colors she sent, I decided to overdye a few skeins of alpaca yarn yesterday.  She bought it for a sweater (beyond my abilities at this point), so it's an awful lot of yarn in that color.  The yarn started out a beautiful golden/brown color.

I dyed one skein in bronze, one in olive green and one in red.  Here are the dyed versions.

I can see that dyeing yarn could easily become an obsession.  It's just as exciting as dyeing fabric.  And the additional complexity of over-dyeing the existing colors is too tantalizing. Oh dear, here I go . . .

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Art of Layering

I have come to think of myself as a layerist. When I think about my work and why I like working with this medium, I think of the appeal in creating multiple layers. Any given piece of cloth has 10-20 physical layers and a number of metaphorical layers.  I also see the layers as a metaphor for my life's journey. The transformation that occurs on the cloth reflects the transformation that occurs within me as I create. The white fabric represents unlimited possibilities. As I build layer upon layer of resist, dye, printing, stitching and beading, the cloth becomes rich with depth and texture, just as each experience I have in life adds depth and texture to my being.

This topic is on my mind this week because I've been invited to speak to the Kerrville Art Club next week. I spent a lot of time trying to decide what would appeal to the group. How could I translate what I do to other media? After a lot of thought, I realized that the best approach is to talk about what I know, so I'll be demonstrating the process of layering.  I'll start with white cloth and transform it layer by layer, showing some of the techniques I typically use. The meeting is open to the public, so stop by if you have a chance - I'd love to see you.

Kerrville Art Club
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
1:00 PM
Hill Country Arts Foundation
120 Point Theatre Road, Ingram, TX

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Sneak Peek

Throughout my life, when people spoke about writing a book, it seemed like something that was inaccessible to me.   It wasn't something I ever aspired to, or ever thought I would (or could) do.  Hm.  Funny how life proves you wrong.

Last week I received the final mock-up of my book on water-based resists (scheduled for release next June).    It has been a long process. I started writing last November and finished up in March. The how-to photos were shot in April.  Even though I've read it many times and have seen all the photos, it was pretty amazing to see it all put together. 

I discovered that writing a book isn't as daunting as I thought it would be. Yes, it was a lot of work, but (dare I say?) I actually enjoyed it. Actually, the writing was just a small portion of the work involved.  A lot of time was spent making fabric samples, planning the how-to photos and organizing supplies for the photo shoot.

And I really enjoyed everyone I worked with at C&T Publishing. They have all been helpful, enthusiastic and  encouraging.  They do their job well!

Here's a sneak peek at the cover.  In January I'll post more info about the book and the special incentives I have for those who purchase it directly from me.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Several weeks ago I had to turn in my workshop descriptions for the classes I'll be teaching next summer at the Southwest School of Art.  I try to come up with new workshops each time, because my classes are a mix of repeat and new students. I decided to teach a workshop using collography on fabric. Rather than taking the time here, I'll leave the description of collography to wikipedia.   I first became aware of the technique last year at a local Art Walk.  I was fascinated by the imagery on paper, but couldn't quite understand how it worked.  I did some research and experimented and have adapted the traditional printmaking techniques for use on fabric.

Now I keep seeing things about collographs everywhere.  Just this week I received an email about using the process on fabric from Cloth, Paper, Scissors magazine.  And this morning, as I looked at the blogs I follow, there was another mention of the collograph.  Both have given me additional ideas I can adapt for the class. Isn't it funny how the information turns up just when you need it?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mixing Your Own, Part 2

I spent last weekend facilitating a workshop focused on mixing dyes from primary colors.  (Yes, that's where my last blog post came from.  I've had color mixing on my mind for the past week.) It's a class that I love to teach and I learn something each time I do.

We used primary colors to make a color wheel in light, medium and dark values.  Then we mixed each color with its complement to obtain a collection of low intensity colors and browns. We also overdyed each of the primary and secondary colors with each of the others.

A finished set of color wheel swatches

The objective was to give artists a good understanding of color mixing with dyes, the effect of using cool vs warm primaries and to train their eyes to really see the undertones in a color. The topic that seemed to generate the most discussion was using mixed colors.  We borrowed Jane Dunnewold's paper towel technique.  You get a paper towel moist and then sprinkle a bit of dye on it.  That allows you to see all the colors that make up a mixed dye color.  The companion set of fabrics (dyed in both silk and cotton) allowed us to also see the difference in color between a protein and cellulose fiber.

You could almost see the flash of a light bulb above everyone's head as they realized why they didn't always get the color they expected when using mixed dyes.

I think I gained a few "mix-your-own" converts. But just as important,  even the non-converts felt that they gained a better understanding of how to work with their pre-mixed colors.

The workshop reminded me how much I love to experiment with color.  It has inspired me to do some more color studies on my own.  As I said last time, working with color is a life-long journey!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Do You Mix Your Own?

I am a strong advocate for using pure primaries to mix dye colors.  When I first started dyeing, I did so mainly for financial reasons.  Buying all those pre-mixed colors can get expensive!  I started with 7 colors - a set of warm primaries, a set of cool primaries and black.  And though I feel that mixed colors do have their place, I still work mostly with primaries.  My palette has changed, though.  Now I use one set of primaries.  After a lot of experimentation, I've found that I can get most of the colors I want by using Sun Yellow (Yellow MX-8G), Mixing Red (Red MX-5B) and Basic Blue (Blue MX-R).  (All names are the ProChemical version.) I also use Turquoise when I want a really vibrant green or violet.

Why do I like to mix my own? I learned so much about color in those first few years by mixing the primaries.  I believe that early foundation has been instrumental in my understanding of color. However I do feel this is a lifelong journey.  I don't think we ever know all there is to know about color. About five years ago I thought I knew it all (or at least all I needed to know) when it came to color.  Ha! Now I realize how wide the field is and I recognize that I'll never know it "all".

 I continue to mix my own colors because I know how to work with those hues to get the color I want. Working with pure colors rather than mixed allows greater predictability.  Mixed colors can break out in unexpected and undesirable ways.  (Of course, sometimes you want that, thus my use of mixed colors on occasion.)

So does this mean I am suggesting you should go buy the colors named above? Not at all.  There are a lot of wonderful books, workshops and resources about color theory and how to mix color. Each of them has merit. However, I have seen people become adamant that a particular approach is the "best". I truly don't believe there is one right way.  We could debate for hours which versions of each color to use as the primary, but  I think the most important thing is that each individual choose a set of colors and work with those. Each of us has a palette to which we are drawn and a one-size-fits-all approach just doesn't cut it.  And that applies to those who used pre-mixed colors as well.  By continually working with a finite set of colors, one learns the nuances of how each color responds in different situations and how it works with the other colors in one's palette.

I recognize that not everyone will join the primary bandwagon.  Mixed colors are convenient.  And they can be faster and easier if you haven't built up a knowledge base on color mixing. So, which are you - a mix-your-own or a ready-mixed dyer? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Achieving Balance

For the past ten years (at least), we have been inundated with books, magazine articles and TV shows dedicated to the subject of achieving balance in our lives. A Google search for "achieving life balance" yielded 5,960,000 results. A search on Amazon yielded 697 results. And I have to admit, I have wholeheartedly joined in the balance doctrine.   Ironically, we might be able to have more balance if we didn't spend so much time trying to figure out how to do it!

I had a flash of insight this morning.  (Don't you just love when that happens?!)  I realized that maybe rather than focusing on balance, we should be striving for integration.  So what does that mean?  And what exactly are we integrating? I can't say I have all the answers, since my "flash" just happened 15 minutes ago.  But it is something I plan to ponder a bit.

I suppose it will be different for everyone, just as "balance" is different for each of us. There is work, family, spirituality, health, community, friends, hobbies/interests.  For me,  integration means that my day is seamless. Each component is not discrete. For example, my work and my community often overlap, as does work and spirituality.  Health seems to find its way into all areas of my life in one way or another - whether in the ergonomics of surface design and computer time or a lack of fitness that makes some physical activities uncomfortable.  I am fortunate to have a "job" that is very flexible.  When I am not teaching classes, I can set my own schedule at home and in the studio. That goes a long way to make my life integrated.

I plan to spend some more time thinking about this and how I can continue to make all the pieces into a cohesive whole.  Oh, by the way, I also did a Google search on "achieving life integration" and came up with 36,000,000 results.  I guess my idea is not so new and innovative after all!

 How is your life integrated?  Or how can you make it more so? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Four Days in Albuquerque

We had a great time on our trip to Albuquerque last week.  No, we didn't make it to Santa Fe.  The trip was a nice blend of city time and nature time.  We shopped the unique stores of old town, and got all the Christmas shopping done.  Then we visited two art museums and an anthropology museum.  Since we only had a rental car one day, we did a lot of walking.  I enjoyed walking through the residential areas - that is not something most tourists get to see.

On the nature side, we went to the Rio Grande nature center one day.  Only saw the sandhill cranes flying overhead, but it was a lovely area and we sat on the banks of the river for awhile. We rented a car our last day there and drove to the Petroglyph National Monument.  It was much different than I expected.  Most pictures of petroglyphs are on red rocks.  This part of albuquerque was formed by volcanoes, so the large rocks are black. It is amazing to think of those rock drawings still there after hundreds of years.

As we walked in the nature center, I took a few photos that have design potential.

We saw this cutie on our walk to the nature center.  No - it wasn't a rural area.  The center is located right in the midst of a residential area.   They must allow agricultural zoning, because this property had several animals in the fenced yard.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

XXI: An exhibit of cloth by Carla Veliz

Artcloth is not only that which we make "pretty".  Sometimes we use destructive processes to make a statement or create meaning on the cloth.  A powerful example of this is an installation by artist Carla Veliz, titled XXI: Who We Are and Who We Could Become.  The exhibit was shown at Gallery Nord in San Antonio this past September. In an effort to represent the abuse humans have inflicted on the planet, each other and themselves over the past 21 centuries, Veliz spent 21 days ripping, burning, burying, cutting and destroying a 16-foot long piece of silk. Then she spent 21 days repairing the damage.

She documented this process in a 21 minute video.  Watching the video is an emotional experience - seeing the cloth tattered and damaged and then lovingly cared for and mended. The exhibit included still photos from the video and several assemblages created from the tools she used on her journey with the cloth. 

Read more about Veliz on her website.

View the following links to read more about the exhibit:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Soy Wax Batik on Paper

I've been playing around with using the techniques from Vibrant Color (mixing soy wax with dyes) on paper instead of fabric.  The look on paper is different than on fabric because the paper is not as absorbent.  I used acid-free, 50# sketch paper for these pieces. The dye and wax mixture was applied to the paper in a variety of ways, then steamed just as you would for fabric. After steaming, the paper is rinsed, dried and ironed.  Each piece is then brushed with several coats of water-soluble varnish.

I used the paper batiks to create a number of miniatures on canvas.  Some of the canvas edges have the added texture of screenprinting, metal leaf and sand. Below are some detail shots of the paper batiks.  You can view the finished miniatures on my website.

If you have tried this on paper, I would love to hear about your results

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Contemporary Art Exhibit by 16 Women Artists

I went to the opening reception for the "11.11.11" exhibition at Gallery Nord last Friday.  The exhibit features 16 women who represent a diversity of media. The show truly was awesome.  I can't really do it justice in words.  Some of the highlights:  the ethereal paintings of Greta Gundersen, the strong female forms in Marika Bordes' wood sculpture, the exquisite color and pattern in M. Guadalupe Marmolejo's digital prints and the passion in Vernita N'Cognita's paper sculptures.

The exhibition runs through January 12, 2012.  If you live in San Antonio, or will be visiting, I highly recommend it. Below are a few photos from the exhibit.  You can see more photos and learn more about the exhibition on Gallery Nord's website.

Greta Gundersen

Marika Bordes

M. Guadalupe Marmolejo

Vernita N'Cognita

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Little R & R

I'm going to Albuquerque, New Mexico later this month.  This will be my first real vacation in 11 years. ("Real" meaning it does not involve a visit to family.) I wish I could say that this was a destination of choice, but it is more by chance.  After receiving a promotional email from Southwest Airlines about a big sale,  I looked at the destinations in the lowest price range. Albuquerque seemed the most interesting of the bunch.

I received some interesting reactions after telling people of my planned trip.

"Albuquerque?  Hmmm. Well, you can always take the train to Santa Fe."

"Albuquerque? Oh. You're visiting family?  You're not? Why are you going to Albuquerque? You should go to Santa Fe instead."

"Albuquerque? That's really close to Santa Fe.  You should take a trip to Santa Fe."

I was in Santa Fe many years ago and I enjoyed it, but I looked forward to visiting a new place.  After receiving such a lukewarm response to my destination, I almost considered cancelling the hotel in Albuquerque and finding one in Santa Fe instead. But then my penchant for choosing the underdog kicked in.

So, yes, I am going to Albuquerque. And I am very much looking forward to it. I've done some internet research and have found a number of interesting ways to fill our four days.  Here are some of them: the National Petroglyph Monument, watching the sandhill cranes at the Rio Grande Nature Center, the Anthropology Museum, the Museum of Art and visiting the historical Old Town area. Of course, we can always take the train to Santa Fe if we get bored...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Out With The Old

I left for Quilt Festival with 15 boxes and arrived home with 11. That's the positive side of providing all the class supplies - my load is lighter on the way home!  I know I should just open each box and put the remaining supplies back in their place. But I think that will not happen for at least a week.  My studio is now filled with all the items I am clearing out for the local fiber group's Cobweb Sale on November 14.

A small sampling of what I'll have at the cobweb sale

The Fiber Artists of San Antonio hold the Cobweb Sale each year.  Members empty their studios of the fabric, beads, tools and other fiber art supplies they no longer want.  Many artists also sell their artwork. It is an opportunity to buy some really neat things at great prices! Details and location are on the FASA website

I realized yesterday that I have a lot more stuff than will fit on my sale table. I'll be selling
  • hand-dyed and printed fabric, both yardage and remnants
  • used thermofax screens
  • a rolling art tote
  • silk scarves and vests 
  • artwork miniatures
  • rubber stamps
  • assorted shells and beads
  • white t-shirts, ready for dyeing
  • miscellaneous surface design tools
Plus, half of my table will be devoted to items $1 or less.  It's the fiber art dollar store! I also have some freebies - remnants and samples of commercial and upholstery fabrics.

I'm looking forward to getting rid of items I no longer want or use. My studio will seem so open and spacious, although I know it won't take long before it fills up again.  But that's what next year's cobweb sale is for!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Vibrant Color Workshop

I've been invited to teach at the Newark Museum next spring.  They are interested in the Vibrant Color workshop on combining soy wax and dye.  I'm really excited about the opportunity to teach there.  They have a good fiber program and feature workshops with Judy Langille and Jan Myers Newbury, among others.

The workshop features three techniques for combining soy wax with MX dyes.  Crayons, which are great for writing, drawing and rubbings; dye paste, which is great for stencils and brush work; and hot printed wax, which works well with sponge stamps, brushes and dipping. What I love about these techniques is that they produce a color, luminescence and line quality that you just can't get any other way.   Below are photos of some cloth created using the techniques. You can find more information about the workshop on my website.

Silk dupioni with multiple layers of crayon rubbings

Silk habotai with crayon rubbings, immersed
Wax paste, applied through a thermofax

Wax paste applied through a stencil over a crayon rubbing background, immersed

Hot wax and dye applied with a brush and sponge, immersed

Hot wax and dye applied with a sponge, background handpainted with dye

Monday, October 31, 2011

Fifteen Boxes, Two Tubes, Assorted Pails and a Steamer...

That's what I am bringing to Houston for my classes at the Quilt Festival this week. For the past week, my living room and studio have looked like a hurricane swept through.  Open boxes, supplies, fabric everywhere.  When I see it all stacked up neatly, it doesn't look so bad. However, I do have to cart it all to my classrooms!

I'm feeling very pleased with myself, since I finished up with two days to spare. (I'm leaving Thursday morning.) I also learned some things last year, so I've used the same size boxes for all but one.  It's a lot easier to stack and organize when the boxes are the same size.

The other thing I learned from last year is to teach full day classes rather than half day classes.  Last year I taught 5 half day classes, all back-to-back.  I never expected that all of my proposals would be accepted!  It was exhausting, and the set up and clean up time for each meant I didn't have time for meals. One day, I taught two daytime classes and a night time class and was fueled only by four Cokes and some cashews.

This year, I'm teaching three classes and a demo over the course of four days. That is much more manageable!   As of two weeks ago, there are a few spaces left in each of my classes.  If you decide to make a last minute trip, you can check out my workshops on my website. Or maybe I'll see you in the exhibit hall or vendor area.

Friday, October 28, 2011

New Artwork

This summer was supposed to be devoted to studio time. But, if you read my last blog post, you see that it didn't end up that way.  I accomplished a lot in July, finishing up a new body of work. I showed photos of a few of them on my blog in July.  But other than that, I only managed to finish four pieces (and only because I had deadlines looming!) The first two were mounted on canvas.  One piece was all wrapped up and ready to ship before I realized I had not taken a photo.  I just didn't feel like unwrapping, so no photo.

The Edge

This piece incorporates multiple layers of dying, hand painting, acrylic paint and hand needle felting.

The other two are large pieces of artcloth, 72" x 30".  Created on dobby noil (a really nice fabric available from Exotic Silks), they incorporate both rice baby cereal resist and soy wax resist along with multiple layers of dye painting.

Crossing the Line

Between the Lines

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Life Happens

I have noticed a connection among some of the blogs I follow lately.  A number of people lament how little time they have spent creating because of ...(insert list of obligations/distractions here).  I feel exactly the same way.  This summer was supposed to be dedicated to studio time. I had a light teaching schedule and I planned to start a new series.  I felt I had all the time in the world.  I was going to have so much completed by the fall. happened to me, as well.  Don't get me wrong, I wasn't completely unproductive.  I was very productive on the administrative side of things (updated website, new computer, etc.) And I managed to complete a number of works that had been in progress for months. (Actually they were in the closet for months - the progress came in August.) So I now have a cohesive body of work for possible exhibition.

I wondered why this seems to be so common.  Why do we often let other priorities take over our studio time?  Sometimes there is no choice - family responsibilities take precedence. But in my case, much of it was personal choice (did I really have to redo my website this June - couldn't it wait until fall?) There were also emotional distractions that kept me away, rather than demands on my time.

So that leads to the question - how to prevent this from happening again?  Right now, I'm planning December as my next "studio month". Oh, I know all the time management techniques and the creativity unblocking techniques - I just have to use them.  And ultimately, that self-discipline is the hardest part.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fiber Exhibition

Yesterday I had a sneak peak at the entries for the Fiber Artists of San Antonio Annual Exhibition.  It seems like each year, the entries are better than than the last. Based on what I saw, the trend continues.

The exhibit was juried by Ilze Aviks.  Aviks creates amazing work using cloth she hand paints or dyes and then covers with hand stitching. The show runs throughout the month of October and the opening reception is this Thursday from 6-8 pm.  Hope you can make it! Below are some photos from previous exhibits.

When: October 6- 29
Where: Gallery Nord, 2009 NW Military Highway, San Antonio, TX
Gallery Hours:  Wed-Sat 12-5 pm

Sara Crittenden

Laura Ann Beehler

Sarah Burke

Laurie Brainerd

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Learning . . .

My husband and I are now empty-nesters.  No, we didn't just pack off the last of the kids to college - we brought our foster pups to the shelter so they can be adopted. For the past five weeks, my life has been absorbed by these pups. I was a reluctant foster parent, but I found them abandoned in the street and couldn't pass them by. The time spent with these puppies has really been a learning experience for me.  Sure - there was a lot of learning about how to care for puppies (I'm a cat person and have never had a dog). But I also learned a lot about myself. (For those who just want to skip to the puppy pictures, view the puppy blog.)

Okay, true confession time.  When I found the puppies, I thought I would only have them for a day or so.  I'd bring them home, check with one of the local shelters and drop them off. The puppies were so young (about 2 weeks), none of the shelters would take them. One shelter would take them, but they admitted that the puppies would be euthanized because they weren't equipped to provide the round-the-clock care they needed.  After a few days of denial, I realized I would have to keep them until they were weaned. I honestly didn't think I had it in me to do what needed to be done.  And to do it with no anger, regrets or resentment. I surprised myself.

The puppies have consumed my time for the past five weeks.  I was pretty much housebound - only leaving for short errands.We started out feeding them with a baby bottle every four hours. Not having children, the concept of 4 a.m. feedings was new to me.  Fortunately, the puppies moved through their growth cycle pretty quickly. By the second week, we were able to leave them for six hours at night. That period pretty much cured my insomnia - I slept great in the little time I had for sleep. I have a lot of respect and sympathy for new parents - they have to get by without sleep for a lot longer than I did!

And while I could have done work in my home studio, I found it difficult to concentrate. I worked just enough to meet the deadlines I had.  I now find myself with two pieces of artcloth due the end of next week for an ArtCloth Network exhibition. Fortunately I had a vision and created a number of samples earlier this summer. When I started working on the cloth last week, I was able to jump right in.

So, what did I learn from this experience?

I have more patience than I realized.
All that reading I have done on acceptance has paid off. I felt no resentment and was able to accept (and enjoy) the "disruption" to my life.
My practice of  living in the present moment has also paid off.  I focused completely on the puppies - not just with the caretaking tasks, but also holding them and playing with them.(to the detriment of my studio time!)
As much as I love the puppies (they really are great puppies), I am not ready for the responsibility of having a dog full-time in my household.

It was a bittersweet goodbye today, with plenty of tears.  But I know that they will be adopted into good  homes.  My home was just a stopping point on their journey.  And I feel privileged to have been a part of it.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

One People, Many Paths

Once again I am participating in One People, Many Paths; The Sacred Art of Altars. This exhibition and auction features over 50 artists working in a wide diversity of media. Each artist is supplied with a handcrafted wooden box to transform into an “altar” focused on whatever matters to them – personally, artistically and/or spiritually.  The altars are auctioned off to benefit Celebration Circle, a local spiritual community.

This is one of my favorite exhibitions, because I enjoy taking the time to think about what matters to me and I enjoy seeing the work of the other participating artists.  The altars will be on exhibit and available for silent auction bids throughout September during normal business hours.  The closing reception will take place on Thursday, September 29 from 6-7:30 pm.
It will be a fun evening, featuring live music, light hors d’oeuvres, final bidding and the official closing of the month-long silent auction. The reception will be followed by a special screening of Joe vs. The Volcano (1990), a delightful film with a funny, insightful look at purposeful living with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. This is a wonderful opportunity to mingle with the artists and enjoy the show. Tickets for the closing reception are $15 in advance, $20 at the door. There is no charge to view the exhibit during the theater's normal business hours. For more information, contact Celebration Circle.

View photos of the exhibit on flickr.

If you are in San Antonio in September, I hope you can make it to see the show!

What:  One People, Many Paths; The Sacred Art of Altars

When: September 1, 2011 through September 29, 2011

Where: Bijou Theatre in Wonderland of the Americas Mall, San Antonio, TX

Earth Wisdom

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Is There Music in Your Muse?

I'm fascinated by the subject of how sound affects our inspiration. Some people prefer to work in quiet.  Some prefer music. Others prefer talk radio. I find all three to be appropriate at different times. A lot depends on the particular task. My favorite NPR shows are perfect for tasks like hand stitching, fusing, etc. Design work requires absolute silence. I turn to upbeat music while doing more routine aspects of surface design - mixing dyes, applying resists. And then there are the hybrid moments.  When I'm working on design and surface design simultaneously.  This occurs when I have a general plan, but I need to make spontaneous decisions as I'm printing my fabric.That's when I turn to meditative music.

I have had two very productive studio days this week.  This is a welcome relief from a summer of lethargy. I was listening to a new CD both days - Music for a Shift in Consciousness.  Based on research by Bruce Lipton and composed by Russel Walder, this music is designed to create a shift in brain activity to the calming alpha state. I suppose if you are in a more relaxed state, it is easier to be open to the flow of creativity and inspiration. So, can I credit my burst of inspiration to this CD?  I don't really know.  It may truly be just a coincidence. But I do know that I will keep listening!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hardly Working

I was eager to get into my studio after my walk Monday morning.  I had a mental list of to-do's and I was excited about moving some projects forward. Those plans were completely turned around when I happened upon three abandoned puppies on my walk.  They were very small - their eyes weren't even open yet. Unable to just leave them in the street, I brought them home.

Baby, Brownie and Big Boy

After spending the first two days figuring out how to take care of them, trying to find a shelter that would take them and trying to take care of their terrible flea and tick infestation, I was exhausted and frustrated. I've got the routine down now.  Bottle feedings every four hours, daily sponge baths, periodic replacement of the paper in their box and frequent cuddles. Since no shelter will take them this young, we will be fostering them until they are weaned.

It has been an eye opening experience in many ways. On one hand, we've seen the result of the darker side of humanity - someone leaving those puppies to fend for themselves. (Based on the circumstances in which I found them, the shelter thinks it unlikely that they were born to a stray.) On the other hand, the people at the shelter were so helpful and obviously have a great concern for animals. They were eager to help us foster and provided us with food, a crate and veterinary care.

It has been fascinating to watch them. The changes in only four days are amazing. Their eyes are now open and they are trying to walk. We have also observed their different personalities.

I expect it will be challenging to care for them over the next few weeks, but I think it will be very rewarding. Plus, now that things have settled down and I have a routine, I can get back in the studio and create!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Noises in the Night

I was awakened from a very deep sleep by a noise at 4am (well, actually it was 3:52). In my sleep-dazed state, I was convinced it was the sound of someone trying to open the front door.  I silently listened for further noises. Nothing.  I was about to turn over to go back to sleep and a voice in my head said, "What if there really is someone out there?  I better get up and turn on a light.  That will scare them off." So I tiptoed to the edge of the hallway, reached in and turned on the light in the living room.  Then I sent my sleepy husband out to investigate further. (Funny how things I did for myself when I was single are now relegated to  my husband.  But that's a topic for another time.)

Once the adrenaline wore off, I lay in bed, unable to go back to sleep. I pondered the reasons such a small noise would cause that reaction.  I feel very safe in my neighborhood. But when I was in my early 20's I had two experiences that threatened my personal safety.  It has taken many years to overcome my feeling of vulnerability.

Then I started thinking how this was a good metaphor for what we often do with our art.  Most of us have unfounded fears related to creating and exhibiting our art. While some of the fears may be universal, I believe that we each have our own vulnerable areas. Our "noises in the night".

One of the ways I have worked to overcome my art-related fears is to make a list.  I think of the worst thing that could happen if my fear came to be. I know it sounds pretty strange for a confirmed optimist to purposely think negative thoughts.And I usually do try to banish negative thinking from my mind.  However I have found that it does help in this case.  When I contemplate what could happen, I realize it really isn't the end of the world. It may not be fun, but I know I would get through it. So I completely embrace the fear, let the feelings wash over me. As I realize all is well, the fear recedes and I can leave those vulnerabilities behind.

What are your "noises in the night" and how do you deal with them?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Solar Dyeing

The hot, sunny days we've been having are perfect for dyeing with plant materials.  I prefer the "no-cook" method to natural dyes and let the sun do the "cooking" for me. The technique is pretty simple, just place your pre-mordanted fabric or fibers in a container, layer with flowers, leaves or twigs, cover with water and let sit in the sun. These pots have been out since Tuesday.  I'm using esperanza and crape myrtle blooms, firebush, bay and rose leaves, and pecan husks.

My approach to natural dyes is to use what I have at hand - plants growing in my yard or items I can get at the grocery store.  I also use only non-toxic mordants. I had previously avoided natural dyes because of the mordants.  After reading India Flint's book, Eco Colour, a few years ago, I became interested in her approach. One of the techniques she discusses is bundling the fabric and plant materials and letting them sit for a few weeks so that as the plant decomposes, the natural colors are released into the fabric. Below are some of my experiments with the bundling technique.

Multiple varieties of leaves, and multiple layers of bundling

Dried hibiscus flowers

Red onion skins

Red rose petals

If this has sparked your interest, view my recommended reading list for other books about natural dyeing.
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