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.
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