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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Getting Rusty...

...or maybe that should be, rustier... I found quite a lot of the rust dyed silk, and I'm working my way through it.  I stitched this a couple of nights ago, a very simple little piece.  The shape of the rust motif just begged to be turned into a flower, a daisy of sorts, perhaps... and the 'stem' is made from semi felted hand dyed yarn.  After the frenzy of stitch that was the last piece I showed you, I think this is a great reminder that often, less is more.

Some of the rust dyed silk isn't terribly interesting, though, so I have taken a couple of smaller pieces and bundled them up with onion skins, oak leaves and birch bark (I almost typed birk barch..err.. birk works, barch, though, doesn't, except as slang (look it up...)).  Here's one of them...

Because it's such a small piece, I confess that I just popped in what was lying around from a previous bundling session.  I like working in that kind of random way, not knowing what will appear.  It's how I work in general.  It's fun.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Rewriting History...

or, in this case, restitching a piece.   I told you here that I intended to take some of the stitching in one of my rusted pieces out, so that I could do it again; well, once I'd started, I couldn't stop.  All of it, gone.  This particular piece was the third that I'd made of rust dyed silk, in what I thought was a series called 'Flotsam'.  The first I've already shown you, but I'm going to show it here, too, for the sake of comparison.

The second, framed in a similar way, is this one;

I used very little stitch, just enough to keep it interesting, in the same thread that I used in the third piece.  I clearly intended to make the second and third pieces very similar in nature, as the latter also had very little stitch in it.  But while the second piece has flow to it, encouraged by the stitch, the third piece didn't,  The stitch seemed to create little stagnant pools of stillness, which weren't good to look at.  I was happy enough about it at the time...but with hindsight, it just Didn't Work.

This was what it looked like before...

And... here is the final version (believe me, I'm not taking this lot out again!).

Much more stitch this time.  The piece feels very lively, as a result.  I decided that I preferred it the other way round, and as the piece of mother of pearl came off during the process, I turned it over to give a bit more contrast between it and the background.  The thread is a lovely variegated hand dyed brown with hints of gold and yellow.

I work often in series.  What I hadn't realised was that that can be a curse, as well as a blessing  In this case, I was so busy linking this piece with what had gone before it, that I failed to look at the piece itself, and see what it needed.  I've done that now, and I'm pleased with it.  And oddly enough, it links very nicely with the original starting place of the there is a natural, rather than a forced, connection.  All in all, a useful piece of learning.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Crash! Bang! Wallop!

What a picture!  Imagine the scene... Me in bed, Robin at computer downstairs, and suddenly there's an almighty crash.  Both of us thought pretty  much the same thing...what have those damn cats done now...  But in fact, a textile work had come off the wall; the frame had pretty much bounced, but the glass was a write off... this is is after we'd cleaned off the worst of the loose glass.

Fortunately, nobody had actually accused the cats, so treats were not required to sooth indignant egos...  

There is a debate which goes along the lines of, glass or no glass in framed textiles... my framer assures me that glass does no harm to a textile, provided there is a decent degree of separation between glass and work.  This is a custom box frame, so there certainly was plenty separation.  I've now removed the rest of the glass, and rehung the piece;

I'm sure Haydn the framer is right in what he says...but I think I prefer it without the glass.  This is a really tactile piece; there's something about being able to see it without the glass, that makes it much more immediate.  The piece itself is called 'Echoes', and features hand dyed and printed fabric.  There's also some coloured Bondaweb on there, but it doesn't show up in the image.  It's there to provide texture, rather than colour.  I had the silk carrier rods lying about..they seemed to want to be included.

Wondering about the title?  It's a misquote of a Tommy Steele classic, 'Flash, Bang, Wallop'.  Wondering who Tommy Steele was?  Sorry, before my time too... but you'll  find the song on YouTube.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

This Clearout...

means that I'm finding all sorts of things that I'd put aside.  At first glance, this rust dyed piece looked complete; closer inspection, however, told me that I Really Don't Like the stitching.  I'm mostly allergic to frog stitch, but I think, given that the rusted areas are interesting, I'll take out at least some of the stitching, and replace it with... I know not what, yet, but I'll think of something.  The larger stitches definitely need to come out;  I can't make up my mind about the smaller ones.  They are the wrong colour, I think... but better, perhaps, or at least, simpler to stitch over them in a more appropriate colour.  Of course, if that doesn't work, it'll be Even More Stitches to take out...but I'm game to try, because I think it will be okay.

Here's a close up of that bottom element, which I like a lot.

Remember yesterday's pieces?  Well, I decided to try the blue one in a mount, and have decided not to touch it.  It's called 'Rock Fall', and I'm fairly pleased.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

One Thing Leads...

to another... at least if you're me.  Someone bought a journal cover from me on Etsy, but the size was wrong, so I suggested I made her one that would actually fit... and that's what I've been working on today.

As always, this is similar to the original, in process and look, but it is also quite different, so I hope she likes it.  This dotty, vaguely action painting style is typical of my paintings, but not so much my textiles, until recently.  

Spring Gardens, above, is one of the paintings I'm talking about, though this one is a much more controlled application of semi random dots.  I've recently been wondering about why I didn't bring painting and textiles closer together, and the journal covers have been the result.  Until today, when I took things a bit further... like I said, one thing leads to another.  

I liked the black/white/grey dots on the cover, so wanted to try that out in a piece for stitch...which led to this;
I like this one, it's got real potential, though perhaps not with this orientation.  So then, I wondered, what about changing the background... and got this; 
I rather like this one, too.  Originally, it just had a blue background, but I felt it needed something else, so added a flash of yellow, which I think makes it dramatic.  It has the feel of a monoprint, to some extent, really quite painterly.  The 'bird' in the foreground originally only had one 'wing', so I looked for a mark that seemed similar, and added it; I think it looks good....or at least, balanced.  I'm questioning whether I need to add stitch to this, it looks good on its own.

And finally... I had to trim a bit off from the original fabric, so grabbed an interesting looking background paper, and got this;

Four very different pieces, derived from the same basic approach, and the same base papers.  Isn't transfer dyeing a wonderful thing?  

ps thanks to everyone who was so encouraging in response to my last post, it's much appreciated.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Reculer Pour Mieux Sauter

It's just so elegant in French... it means, going backwards, to go forwards. I suspect I've used it in a title before, but it's worth restating.   I'm in the process of clearing out and reorganising my fabric rooms, upstairs in the attic.  I'd like to say it looks worse than it is, but I suspect it's the other way round.  I've shown you pictures of my chaotic workroom before, so I've put up some eye candy instead.  Much more fun to look at than mess, however creative it might have been at some point.  I've got a bag of scrap to go to a school, a bag of fabric for the Hub and I've surprised myself...more of that in a moment.

I've been giving myself a hard time recently, about my work.  How it's admired, but doesn't sell.  How, much as I'd love to work as a creativity coach, I haven't got out there to persuade people to try it, even though I know I'm good at it, and have a suitable background.  How I didn't write a book last year, despite planning it.  How the kits haven't sold...and how I haven't promoted them enough.  Me, me, me.  When you work on your own, it really is all down to you.  Above all, I worried that I've been so busy trying to make work that other people might like, so I could earn  some money (my husband is currently out of work, so there's no money coming in), that I'd lost sight of my own work.

Not a pretty picture, is it?  Whilst I might sound as if I'm being hard on myself (and heaven knows I'm good at it...), it's really the truth.  All, except the last bit.  What I've discovered is that there has been a lot of work going on around the edges in the last two years or so.  I know it, because I've found it, in piles, waiting to be developed, hidden under Yet More Fabric....I can't believe how much fabric there is, I swear it has been breeding up there during the summer...  And I haven't looked at the hand dyes, yet... argh...

So... I've decided to Get A Grip.  I'm going to finish clearing the studios, and see what else I find, and then make A Plan.  And, because I know that I have had this revelation before, and forgotten it, I'm going to write it down, but not in such detail that I drown in it (which is what happened last year).  Give myself room to make.  Stick with the daily haiku idea (twenty days, something like twenty four haiku), which is quickly turning into a journal of sorts, with some illustration.  Not quite an artist's journal, but interesting, nonetheless.
Scared?  Hell, yes.  Confident?  Not really.  But it does feel I'm just going to think less, and do more.  That's the catch line for the plan... think less, do more.  And yes, I've said it all before, in public, too.  Hopefully, this time, I'll be able to stick with the plan.  Wish me luck, I think I need it.

The image above is 'Where'.  I made it several years ago.  It's made from hand dyes; the word 'where' was discharge dyed on one piece.  Then, I painted over the top, using acrylic dyes, after extensive machine stitching.  I love texture, and this piece has it by the bucketload.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Bundling Up...

is a good idea in the winter (it's a three jumper day round here)... but  eco printers do it all year round!  I was given India Flint's book on natural dyeing for Christmas, and a week ago, I followed her instructions for 'cold bundling'.  This technique basically involves putting plant materials onto damp cloth, wrapping them up tight, and leaving them for at least a week, or as long as you can bear it... the longer the better, really... before unwrapping them to expose the colour, letting them dry, then ironing.  Ecoprinting, in a nutshell..  Of course, there's a lot more to it than that... but for my first attempt, I used red and brown onion skins and tops, the top of a red pepper (I didn't think that would work, and I don't think it did...), and some tea.  I tied them up with fishing line, and left them for a week.  This is what I found when I went to check them today.

The one on the left is reminiscent of a haggis... as you can see, the one at the right is not terribly well wrapped... I'm not the tidiest of workers...  My intention had been to take a photograph, and then leave them a bit longer; and then I spotted the mould.  Reader, I panicked.  So... I unwrapped them, and they are currently drying off.  The one on the left is silk, the other one is cotton, and the difference is clear.

Here is a close up of the silk... the dark flecks are tea leaves, still hanging on; they will brush off when it's dry (I hope!).

The variety of colour isn't really showing well in a photograph; I'm quite pleased with it, though, and think it will make an interesting little quilted piece.  There are reddish sections where there were red onion skins, but they show much better on the cotton (there were more of them in this bundle);

There is much more overall colour on the silk piece, but it was much smaller than the cotton.  I think I have a lot to learn about this particular process, but I'm happy enough with my first this space to see what I (eventually) do with it.  It is a slow process; it will have to sit for a couple of weeks before it is rinsed, and then I will be able to do something with it.  

Now to try ivy... 

Monday, January 13, 2014


I got round to working on the piece I told you about here; in fact, it's pretty much finished, though I'm still debating about the foiling.  And one or two other bits and pieces... I don't think a piece is ever really finished; the trick, though, is to get to a point where you accept that you have done everything possible, and it is at least okay as it is... And that's where I'm at here.  You may not agree (feel free to differ, that 's what the comments box is for!).  Here it is;
A fair amount has happened since you last saw it.  Having drawn in the skeleton of the leaves, I got really quite disheartened: I thought it was awful.  Which is pretty much where I left it in the last post, telling you (and most of all, myself), that it had a long way to go.  I picked it up again a couple of days ago, and started by adding the hand stitch, in variegated hand dyed yarn by Sassalynne (I rarely ever dye my own yarn, too much of a fuss, though now that I'm getting into natural dyes,  I might change my mind).

The stitch helped.  A lot.  It added much needed texture I started in the top left hand side, carefully avoiding the leaf shapes, and as I approached the dark green section, I happened to spot a lutradur leaf made from rust dyed fabric.  It wasn't rocket science to realise that it would look good on that section... so on it went.  I don't normally add things like that until last, but somehow, it felt important to do it right away.  More stitching, and a bit of raking about to find another lutradur leaf.  That produced not just the leaf, but a 'seed pod' that I had felted, which seemed to fit very nicely under the text.  The second lutradur leaf was then added right up at the top.

I haven't stitched anywhere that I've added an embellishment, other than a stitch or two to hold them on the work.  That's not my usual practice, but they are very light, and don't really need any stitch to reinforce the areas that they are lying on.  Which left the text, and the leaves.  The text was easier, so I worked on that next.

I had said in a FB conversation that I wanted to make it difficult for people to find and read the text, possibly hiding it underneath things, or around things, or spreading it around the work.  What I didn't want, though, was for it to be difficult to read, and the gold on that green/yellow cloth was exactly that.  So I took a dark blue fine liner, and rewrote the text, a major improvement.

And then there was Those Leaves.  I really didn't want to hand stitch them, and when I wondered what that was about, I realised that they, too, needed to be relatively free of obvious stitch.  I wanted to outline the leaves, not make them stand out as a direct result of the thickness of the thread.  So I machine stitched them in variegated thread, which made them puff up slightly, but without visual interference from the thread.  If you see what I mean...

And there it is.  It's a small piece, about the size of the laptop I'm working on, and I'll probably put it into a mount for display.  It's title : Highland Leaves.  The colours make me think of Scotland in autumn.

Friday, January 10, 2014

What To Do...

with my silk... that is the question...    Sorry, Hamlet.

These are the two larger pieces of rust dyed silk; there are other odd bits, but these are fairly substantial.  The top one was made using a very rusty gate; the other, I suspect, using a selection of odds and sods.  I'm having an argument with myself (nothing new there, huh?)...though actually, I think I've found a compromise for the first piece, at least.  The top piece, I want to cut in half, and work as a diptych; here's what one half will look like.  

The second, though, isn't so cohesive, and therefore, not as easy to decide.  Looking at the image, rather than the real thing (a good way of distancing oneself from the actual work), I find myself wondering if I should leave it as a wholecloth, and hand stitch patterning into it, working as if it was a painting, a mark here, a mark there, creating pattern and cohesion.  Or I may cut it in half (note to self, not quarters, you have enough small pieces lying around!!), and use other natural dyestuffs to add colour and pattern on one half, and simply stitch the other.  Decisions, decisions.  Any thoughts?

This is part of the half that I'd stitch; plenty visual interest here.  

There is, of course, another option, and that is to leave both of them alone, and simply stretch them.  If the silk wasn't so fine, I might have done, but I think stitch is the better option; layering and stitching will support the silk.. so, watch this space.  All comments and suggestions welcome, as always..

Thursday, January 09, 2014

New Directions.

Firstly of course, Happy (if belated) New Year!  Our festive season introduced us to a new person, our grand daughter, Cara, who was born shortly before she is on her quilt...well, okay, half her quilt...
The quilt features some of my hand dyes, as well as some hand painted and printed fabric, along with a mixture of commercial fabrics.  I wanted to make something that represents my creative life, as well as something pretty..I think I achieved what I wanted to  The quilting is different in every block, featuring hearts and flowers, as well as a doll like shape, plus some stylised Macintosh roses, for a Scottish baby.  Though Charles Rennie was credited with these, it was, in fact, his wife, Margaret MacDonald, also an artist, who designed such  motifs.  She was a skilled artist, working in textiles and other media.  I hope she'd approve of my use of her motif.  More information about her is to be found here.

But I digress.  As usual.

Last year was difficult, for a variety of reasons, and it looks like this year will be little different.  I've been struggling with the demon depression, and my lovely husband has been struggling with unemployment, also a demon, with its own nasty consequences.  So this year is the year where I don't spend any money, but try to be as creative as possible with what I have, and with what surrounds me.  What I have, is quite substantial; like all quilters, I've got a substantial stash of cloth and threads.  And plenty of ideas about what to do with them!

I've been inspired, recently, by the work of a new Facebook friend, Fabienne Dorsman-Rey; check out some work and an artist's statement by her here .  She kindly suggested the book 'Eco Colour' by India Flint as a starting point, and I was given it for Christmas..  So, any dyeing I do this year, is likely to be of the natural variety.  But I had already started down that path a couple of years ago; if you are familiar with the book 'Exquisite Evolon', you will know that I give instructions for rust dyeing that most flexible of fabrics.  Mainly, though, I have rust dyed silk and cotton, and started a series of work called 'Flotsam', featuring hand stitched rust dyed silk with found objects.  This is the first of the series;

...and here is a detail;

I'm particularly fond of the piece of wood at the bottom of this image; its textures seem to echo the textures created by the hand stitching.  I started out machine stitching this piece, but soon realised that it just didn't look right to me.  Machine stitching gives a hard, regular line, regardless of how you vary the stitch length within the line.  That seemed lacking in the subtlety that the cloth shows, so I removed it, and started again by hand.  I think the piece has benefited from it, regardless of how long it takes.   It is, of course, a good thing to pick up and put down, and to take with me on journeys.  I find myself using hand stitch more and more, either in conjunction with machine stitch, or on its own.  It feels very personal.

So, I have looked out two large pieces of rust dyed silk... more in my next post.