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.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Grits are Great Part 2

I first tried grits as a resist after Gay Ousley made the suggestion last fall. I was intrigued by the pattern, somewhat like oats but more finely textured. I experimented with a variety of grits and recipes. They have become one of my favorite resists. (I know, I say that about all of them!) Below are photos of cloth created using grits. It is very easy - they only require hot water - no cooking. Complete directions are in a tutorial I created.  If you try them, let me know how it turns out!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Relief from the Heat

It has been a particularly hot and dry summer - where I live and in many other parts of the country. Having worked to create a drought-friendly landscape, we never water our lawn, and rarely water our plants. We have learned that the brown grass will come back again when it rains, and so will most of the plants. However this year, the drought and heat have been exceptional. Even the medium-sized trees are feeling the heat. So it was a joyful respite to see our spider lily bloom.

Yes, I know - it isn't technically relief from the heat.  It's still just as hot as ever.  But looking at the beautiful blooms takes my mind off the heat - for a few glorious moments.

What is your "relief"?
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