Monday, August 20, 2012

Flour Paste Resist or Sourdough Starter?

I absent-mindedly left a cup of flour paste resist in my studio yesterday and woke up to 2 cups of a frothy, foaming liquid. This is the second time this week I've done this.  I must have a subconscious craving for sourdough. I wonder if it will still work as a resist?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Change of Heart

I'm trying something new this fall - teaching online classes.  I thought about doing so two years ago, but the perfectionist in me asked "How could this be of value without face to face interaction?"  A few things have contributed to my change of heart.  I have come to recognize the power of connecting and communicating online. As I have become more involved online, I have developed friendships with people that are more meaningful than I would have thought possible. Sure, nothing can compare with being together in person, but when you can't do that, online connections are great.

I have taken some online classes and I like the self study aspect. It's great to be able to fit something into my schedule and not have to worry about being in a certain place at a certain time.  And the cost is also a big draw.  I can take an online workshop with a well known instructor for a lot less than going to a workshop in person (plus no travel costs!)

So, I'm taking the plunge.  This fall I'm offering two classes: a version of my resist class that focuses on resists from the pantry and a class on African inspired cloth, which focuses on the use of adinkra symbols.  You can read more about the classes on my website. If you are thinking about giving an online class a try, I'd love to have a few friendly faces in the inaugural group!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Three Dimensional Texture - Needle Felting

I'm always a bit behind the latest trends.  Needle felting is no exception.  I remember when the needle felting machines became popular a few years ago.  My friend has one and she let me play around on it.  It was fun, but I always felt so out of control - it moved so fast! I never tried anything substantial with it and none of my small play pieces amounted to anything.

Let me start with a quick description for those who haven't tried needle felting. It's a way to add texture to a fabric or bond two fibers together using special barbed needles. It is typically used as an alternative method of felting wool without water, although I use it a bit differently. Essentially you place roving, yarn or fabric on top of another piece of fabric, press through both layers with the tool and the barbs in the needles cause the fibers to intermingle.  I haven't tried it on wool, although my understanding is that the nature of the wool fibers creates a strong bond between the two fibers.  On cottons and silks the fibers can be pulled apart.

Last year I decided to try again, this time with a hand felting tool. The one I have uses five needles.You also need a felting mat or something to place behind the bottom layer to cushion the needles. I have used thick upholstery foam and foam kitchen mats (double layer).
I only have two two samples of my work, so I've also included the work of Leila Reynolds, a local artist who does a lot of work that incorporates felting.

Flow, detail
I used the felting tool to add texture to the blue strip of silk.  Repeated punching of the silk with the tool created holes and small runs, which resulted in a nice pucker-y effect.
Flow, 40" x 36"

The Edge, detail

On this piece, I was trying to re-create the fibrous look of a palm tree where the palm frond fell off. Several colors of cotton roving were felted to the silk background fabric.

The Edge, 40" x 16"

Needle felting on rusted silk, by Leila Reynolds

Needle felting on silk shawl, by Leila Reynolds

Needle felted hat, by Leila Reynolds

Needle felted hat by Leila Reynolds

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Something New

Earlier this summer I did a lot of screenprinting with dye and have many pieces in the works.  I finally finished one! It incorporates multiple layers of screenprinting with dye, screenprinting with paint, soy wax resist, hand stitching and metal leaf.

Now Points, 36" x 18", Cotton

I had a great time stitching the french knots. Lots and lots of single, double and triple french knots. I'm guessing there have to be at least 250 of them.This is one of those cases where I could easily have been carried away in the stitching.  I didn't want to stop! 

Now Points, detail
This piece was inspired by a quote I came across last year.

Time is not a line, but a series of now-points.
- Taisen Deshimaru

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Three Dimensional Texture - Beading

Beads add a touch of elegance to cloth.  They shimmer as they catch the light and their subtle shadows add depth. I tend toward minimalism, so I use beads sparingly.  If I don't rein myself in, I can easily end up with so much beading that it detracts from the piece. Too much of a good thing can be ... well, too much!

The three pieces below are from a series I created a few years ago.  I chose to use hand stitching and beading on all the pieces.

I Am . . . Peace, detail
A cluster of blue and blue/violet beads adds dimension to the center focal point.

I Am . . . Peace, detail
Individual seed beads highlight the edges of the "flower" shape.

I Am . . . Peace, 42" x 42", Silk noil

I Am . . . Joy, detail
The seed beads form a spiral path that leads the eye through the cloth.  This cloth also has hand couched threads and yarns.

I Am . . . Joy, 42" x 42", Silk noil

I Am . . . Spirit, detail

Rather than a cluster of beads at the center, small gold beads  delicately surround the central focal point.

I Am . . . Spirit, detail

Individual seed beads highlight the edges of some of the swirls that are printed throughout the cloth.

I Am . . . Spirit, 42" x 42", Silk noil
One of the things I love about using beads this way is their subtlety.  From afar, you can't see them.  They are a "reward" for taking a closer look.

How do you use beading in your work?

Read the next entry in this series on needle felting.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Is Anything Really "New" or Truly "Ours?

Another conversation with a friend has sparked my interest and inspired this blog post.   My friend commented about the hand stitching on a piece of mine she saw on exhibit. I chose the stitch pattern intentionally to represent the meaning behind the cloth. My friend didn't have that background information and her initial reaction was " I use those type of marks in my work all the time.  I wonder if Lisa copied me?"

Hearing that, I struggled to recall any pieces of hers that had those type of marks.Was I subconsciously inspired by her stitching or did my mind come up with it on my own?  Hard to say. So many factors influence us - we don't always know where that inspiration comes from.

On a number of occasions, I have incorporated some element or technique into my work, and felt that it was "mine" - unique to me.  Then I see a similar element or technique in the work of another.  The person didn't know me, and was unlikely influenced by me.  I didn't know them, so my work wasn't influenced by theirs.  We just happened to come up with something similar.

This also brings the question - when can we claim something to be "ours" ?  Many people use similar imagery in their work, yet the work may be very different. I have used a lot of labyrinth imagery.  So does that mean others who use it are copying me?  Perhaps, if they see my work and consciously decide to use it.  But most likely, the imagery speaks to them.  They aren't copying me, they are tapping into a universal symbol.

I suppose a lot of this is about ego - the need to feel that something is "mine".  Instead of recognizing that we are all connected and we are all tapping into the same source of inspiration, we have to claim ownership.

Have you experienced this? I'd love to hear your stories.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Bigger Picture

Our art movie last week was David Hockney, A Bigger Picture. It was very good.  Hockney is from the UK and moved to Los Angeles when he was young.  After 50 years in the states, he decided to go back to his hometown and paint landscapes plein air.  The documentary follows him over a 3 year period.

I was fascinated by his evolving vision and his journey. Hockney spent a year painting almost a single canvas each day. He often went back to the same spot throughout the year to capture the differences in lighting, color and foliage. Then his vision shifted. He arranged six canvases on easels (three across and two high) and painted the landscape as if they were one large canvas.Once again, he often painted the same spot multiple times.  Then his vision expanded once again and he painted a landscape on 60 canvases (10 across and six high) to fill up a wall. It was amazing how he did it, because he did not have a place large enough to see the composition as a whole.  His solution was to photograph each painting, then create a collage to get the big picture.

The message I took from the DVD ties back to what I need at this moment. (Isn't that always the way - each of us takes away a different message.)  I have a vague vision for a series, but this helps reinforce the idea that I don't have to have a clear vision now.  All I have to do is get started and let it evolve along the way. But if I don't work on it, I'll never achieve the breakthrough. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sugar Syrup Tutorial and Fabric Giveaway

Just a reminder - today I'm a guest on the And Then We Set It On Fire blog.  I'll be sharing information on using sugar syrup as a resist and I'll be giving away a sample set of resist-dyed fabrics.

Visit the Fire blog to download the tutorial and enter the drawing.
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