Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Fiber Art Smorgasbord

I'm flying half way across the country next month just to look at art.  It seems rather extravagant and is out of character for me.  But I can't pass the opportunity to see cutting edge fiber art from artists around the world. This weekend is the opening of FiberPhiladelphia, an international biennial and regional festival for innovative fiber/textile art. Exhibitions are planned for 40 locations throughout the city. They will include work by renowned international artists and a new generation of artists breaking into the field.

View the FiberPhiladelphia website to see all the exhibitions that are planned.  You can also view photos from one of the main exhibitions, Outside/Inside the Box. Several of my pieces will be on exhibit as part of the ArtCloth Network's Lines and Numbers exhibition. (More on that next week.)

I'm really looking forward to it.  If you're going, maybe I'll see you there!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Working with Resists - Tip #1

After experimentation with a wide variety of resists, I have concluded that one's satisfaction with the end result and enjoyment of the process is related to a number of  factors.  This post is the first of several that outline my "tips for success".

#1 Leave your expectations behind

This is often difficult for artists.  We have a vision, an outcome we want to achieve.  We may even have a strong desire to control the process.You'll enjoy your work with resists more if you can leave that part of yourself outside the studio.

The thrill of working with resists is in the unveiling of the cloth after the resist is washed out.  You never really know exactly what the end result will be. Rather than trying to control it, delight in the unexpected! The end result you achieve with a resist is dependent on so many factors; it is hard to control them all.  Even if you think you have limited your variables, a new one pops up that you hadn't considered. The end results may be exactly as you expected, or they may be completely different. So my advice is to enjoy the end result, whatever it may be. Below are a couple of my “failures”.

Gel glue resist
The labyrinth image on this cloth was created by applying gel glue with a thermofax.  Instead of blocking the dye, the color seems to have wicked into the glue. So instead of the labyrinth being a paler color than the background, it is darker.  I learned that can happen with a thin coating of glue.  Even though this isn’t what I expected, it’s useful to know this and now I use this technique on purpose.

Flour paste resist
This cloth was created with a flour paste resist. The crackle pattern is not as strong as I wanted, and the dye breached the resist in large patches.  I realized that the culprit was wrapping it in black plastic and letting it batch outside on a hot day. Again, not what I expected, but it’s still a great background for some additional printing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the end results are always unpredictable.  With practice, and an understanding of a resist’s basic characteristics, you can usually envision what will occur.  However, even when you did everything “right”, sometimes it doesn’t turn out as expected.  That’s when to let go and enjoy the serendipity of the process.  

View Tip #2

Read about working with sugar syrup resist

Read about working with acrylic medium resist

Read about working with flour paste resist 

Read about working with oatmeal resist
Read about working with potato dextrin resist

Read about working with soy wax resist

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Maybe I can't . . .

do it all. Those are words of heresy from someone of the era when we were taught that we could have it all, do it all.  I've been feeling overwhelmed the past two months.  And its easy to blame it on work.  Too many deadlines, both external and self-imposed. But when I take a closer look, I realize it is all the other stuff I'm trying to do at the same time.  Things that really aren't that important and take my time and energy away from what is meaningful. I think information overload is part of the problem, too.  The internet is great, but it can also sap my energy and time.

Okay, deep breath.  Maybe I don't really want to "do it all".  Time to let go of some things. Change my focus from "doing" to "being".

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Paintings on Silk

Emergence, 48" x 39"

My latest body of work, Paintings on Silk, has been on exhibit at the Hill Country Arts Foundation in Ingram, TX all month. The pieces in this series were created with a variety of resist techniques, multiple layers of hand painting with dyes and paints and some include needle felting, stitching and metal leaf. This series was created over the past year and represents a new direction for me.  In the past, I have focused on immersion dyeing or screen printing with dye to create my cloth.  This series was created by applying thickened dyes by hand - with brushes, scrapers and even my fingers.  I know it sounds kind of silly, but it was hard for me to make that leap.  In the past, when I tried applying color by hand, I wasn't satisfied with the results. I continued to pursue it because I felt a desire to have my hand directly on the cloth.

Emergence, detail

I was inspired by some of the abstract expressionist painters from the 50's. I'm drawn to that style and wanted to try it on cloth with dyes, rather than on canvas with paint. I've been using compositions with a strong vertical component, and I chose to continue that for this series. I wanted to expand on a piece I created in 2010.

The Best Season, 95" x 30"

The Best Season, detail

I came across Barnett Newman's work while researching the abstract expressionist movement. Barnett Newman is known for his paintings in which areas of color are separated by thin vertical lines, which he called "zips". I was not familiar with Newman's work when I created The Best Season, so my jaw dropped when I first saw his "zips". Funny how we think we are being so innovative and unique - I guess there truly is "nothing new under the sun". Or maybe another way to say it is that I was tapping into the collective unconscious.

My exhibit is being held in conjunction with the Texas Federation of Fiber Artists' Fiberwerkes exhibition.  There is a closing reception for both shows this Friday evening.  If you are in the Kerrville area this Friday, please join us.  Photos of some of the pieces are on my website, and I'll be updating it to include them all within the next month.

Hill Country Arts Foundation
February 24, 2012, 6-8 PM
120 Point Theatre Road South
Ingram, TX

Thursday, February 16, 2012

What is Your "Label"?

Over the past few years I have had numerous conversations with other artists who work with textiles about how they describe themselves and their work.  Fiber artist, textile artist, art quilter, contemporary textile artist and mixed media textile artist are some of the common labels people give themselves. Some artists are moving away from including the word textile in their description, feeling that many people don't consider textiles to be "real" art or that it is too limiting when entering exhibits with a lot of work in traditional fine art media. Others feel that it is important to define themselves as working in the fiber/textile field, precisely because of its rich heritage.

I removed the term "fiber artist" from my artist statement a few years ago and haven't come up with anything I really like. Which begs the question - do I really need a label?  It makes it easier when talking with people about one's work - although even when I called myself a fiber artist, people didn't know what that meant. And even when talking with someone who is familiar with fiber art, one still has to describe the area of focus.

I still haven't decided on the best approach for me. I think it's an evolutionary process.  Several years ago, I began to compare my work to other media by saying that I used cloth as my canvas.  That I dyed, printed and painted on cloth instead of canvas or paper. Now I say that I create abstract paintings on cloth.  I borrowed the term from Kathy Williams, an artist from Memphis. It still isn't completely clear, because people often have an image of what a "painting" looks like.  But until I come up with something better, that's my label.

How do you describe yourself and your work to others?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Custom Printed Fabrics

Have you heard about the online companies that print fabric from your designs?  There are a number of companies who do so, including Spoonflower, Fabric on Demand and KarmaKraft. It's a fun way to create your own fabric, especially for those with limited space to use paints and dyes! You don't have to be able to draw, although that is one way to create a pattern.  I've been experimenting with a variety of ways to generate designs on Spoonflower. Below are photos of some of my designs.   View my entire collection on Spoonflower.

1. Reproductions of my hand-dyed and printed fabric.  I photographed the fabric, cropped out the portion I wanted and uploaded it to the Spoonflower website.

2. Reproductions of some of my resist-dyed fabrics

3 . Designs taken from black and white imagery I created.  These images were scanned into the computer, manipulated as desired and uploaded to Spoonflower.

4. Photographs - The first is a photo of my cat - not necessarily something I would use in my art, but it's a great photo and I wanted to see how it would come out. The second image was created by manipulating a photo in photo shop to create a black and white outline drawing of the photographic image.

One of the neat things about Spoonflower is that you can change the colors of the design after it is uploaded.  The following cloth was uploaded as a black and white image. 

Another feature is that you can choose from several repeat patterns.  There are several variations on the grid as well as a mirror repeat that creates a kaleidoscope effect.  The first image below is a half drop repeat, the second is the same image with a mirror repeat.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Working with Resists

Sacred Path, silk with oatmeal resist

Over the past seven years, I've been working to expand my expertise with resists .  Ever since a friend invited me over to play with potato dextrin eight years ago, I have heard their siren call.  I've tried most of  the commercially available products and just about anything available from the grocery store that forms a paste. One of the things I discovered in my play is that it takes tenacity.  Early on, I gave up on some resists because I didn't like the results. I later realized that I just hadn't found the right formula or technique.

Working with resists is kind of like magic.  When you apply it, you have no idea what the final piece will look like.  And when you paint on the dye, you end up with a stiff, ugly, strange-looking piece of fabric.  Then, once you wash off the resist and excess dye, the pattern appears, seemingly out of thin air!

This detail view of Sacred Path is a good example of the magic. I used oatmeal for the background layer on the two right-hand pieces. The beautiful patterning didn't show up until I had washed off all the oatmeal and excess dye.

One of the things I found during my experimentation is that there is not a readily accessible knowledge base on how to use these techniques.  There are a few books with a few pages or a chapter on resists, and you can find things here and there on the internet, but there isn't a comprehensive resource.  I wanted to share what I've learned, so I produced a DVD on the use of five resists  in 2010.  I wanted to cover all the resists, but I realized that would be a very long DVD!  Last year I embarked on a book project to offer more information on the use of resists. It was a long process, and soon my vision will be reality.  My book, Visual Texture: Create Stunning ArtCloth with Water-Based Resists will be released this June.  It is a comprehensive guide to the use of resists, covering 8 resists and 7 techniques for applying them.  Over the coming months, I'll be posting photos of cloth I created for the book and more information about the techniques. For now, if you would like to learn more, visit the Visual Texture website. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Evolution . . . of Style

A thought-provoking observation at the fiber exhibition last weekend.  I'm familiar with the work of many of the artists, and was surprised by a few of the pieces.  Surprised in the sense that I didn't recognize them as the work of that particular artist. This all goes back to the idea of artistic style (one of my fascinations).  These pieces seemed very different from what I thought of as that person's "style".  And while I believe there is value in creating an aesthetic sense that is recognizable, I also think we have to break free from that sometimes. Our style evolves as we evolve, and trying something new or doing something in a different way opens us to new possibilities.

How have you broken out of your "style" lately?  How did it turn out?  I'll share some of my evolution in a later post.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Art in Fiber Exhibition

Today is the opening reception for the Art in Fiber exhibition at the Copper Shade Tree gallery.  This invitational exhibit includes 21 Texas artists - with a broad diversity of styles and approaches.  I'd like to say that I'll post photos, but I know I won't.  I always get too carried away looking at the art and talking to the other artists.  If you can't make it to Round Top, TX and would like to see the work, the owners are working on getting them posted on the Copper Shade Tree website. Right now you can see the work from last year's exhibit. If you are in the area, I encourage you to visit sometime before March 4th.  I know it will be great!


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