Wednesday, April 30, 2008

In Flames

Weaving on, on the turned taquete piece. Here it is...

The warp and weft on this piece is tencel. Although it is difficult to see, the weft is a burgundy color so when you see the fabric in the flesh, the color is much richer than it appears in the photo.

Today is dyeing day in my house, another dyeing day, that is...since I dyed yesterday, as well. Yesterday it was more bombyx top, with just two colors from my Beachglass colorway. Today it is underdyeing two woven shibori pieces -- one is brand new, off the loom last week. The other I did about a year ago and I wasn't at all happy with the way it turned out. So I am re-dyeing it and then I'll do arashi shibori on it. Arashi shibori is a process of wrapping the fabric around a pole and then wrapping that with thread, then scrunching it down on the pole, then dyeing it. I've been meaning to try it for quite a while and now finally getting to it.

More later!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Texture & Color Revisited

Reflection in glassI'm no mandala maker, but I do love to tinker with images in Photoshop. This photo is a reflection on and through a corrugated glass cabinet door. Here's another one:

Reflection in glass

This next photo is of bark on a very mature apple tree.

Apple tree bark

How I love texture and color!

I started a new set of weavings today, in a turned taquete structure, something I've not done before. I'm greatly inspired and enchanted by Bonnie Inouye's weavings, and this weave structure is something she has used to great success. Although I've got a head full of ideas for other, new directions to move into with my textiles -- doing more of what I would now call Art Cloth -- I'm still wanting to try more traditional structures and designs I haven't gotten to yet in my rather brief weaving career.

I'll post an image tomorrow of what I've done thus far.

Monday, April 28, 2008


Sock it to Me

The other day after rereading my last post, I remembered that I knit a pair of socks with handspun yarn a few years ago, the yarn with similar colors to the shibori I finished last week. Here it is:

Handspun, handknit wool socks

This pair is 100% wool, dyed with acid dyes. And while I was shooting these, I decided to include these other handspun, handknit socks as well for your viewing pleasure...

Handdyed, handspun wool socks

The black pair is also wool, natural black merino and hand dyed romney.

Handdyed, handspun wool and silk socksThe orange pair is wool and silk, also hand dyed.

The last pair is alpaca and silk, and these I enjoyed making the most. And I like them the best. But I don't particularly like to wear handknit socks, they feel strange on the bottoms of my feet.

A friend suggested that I make a 4-ply sock yarn, rather than the 2-ply that I've used in the past, that the extra two plies would round out the yarn and it wouldn't feel so odd on the bottoms of my feet. I haven't tried that yet but I hope to someday.

Handdyed silk and natural alpaca handknit socks

Mostly I've enjoyed knitting socks, but not wearing them. They're a blast to knit!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Perceived Value

Silk woven shiboriHere are two photos I took this morning of the woven shibori I completed yesterday. I'm quite happy with the way it turned out. Often, it takes me a while to warm up to a finished piece, but this one I liked right away.

Silk woven shiboriJoan Gold and I were talking Thursday morning about art and perceived value. My prior experience in this arena has proven that one art piece or painting that is priced higher than another will always appear to have more value -- at the very least, it will in the buyer's eye -- and therefore sell more easily than a piece that is underpriced. And this is regardless of the actual value, or how good the idea is, or how well it's executed. It's all about perception.

Part of our conversation was about the fact that paintings, or wall art, or 2-D work, almost always command higher prices than fine craft -- again regardless of the actual value or workmanship, or whether the piece is even attractive or engaging. (Some of the most repulsive art fetches the highest prices!) So I was wondering last night whether this "price for art (paintings) vs. craft (functional work)" might be just another example of the distinction between men's work and women's work. After all, historically, most painters have been men, and most craftspeople or functional artists, have been women. It goes like this: Men get paid more for work they create than women do. So what else is new?

How this discussion impacts me and my art, is that I have been weaving/dyeing textiles in sizes appropriate to be considered wearable art, but I suspect now that I could more easily sell my work -- same piece, same or higher price -- if I intend that it be hung on the wall rather than worn on the body. One would think that something beautiful with a function would be more valuable than something that could only be looked at. But I don't think it works like that in the art world. This is a rude awakening!

Another issue is that making things with the express purpose of selling them is a good way for me to avoid having to grow as an artist. And I guess perhaps I'm at that point of growth where I'm beginning to want and need to follow the ideas in my head and not be circumscribed by whether or not I think a piece will sell. In a way, I'm late coming to this idea. In another way, though, I've been attempting to earn a living with my art -- which I'm not quite, yet -- so there's a reason why it's taken me this long to get here.

The thing is, there are so many exciting and creative things I want to try and I've been holding myself back. I'm right on the edge of jumping off this cliff, that being, pushing the edges of my own creative vision and going for it. I want to try new things. And I'm going to.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Supreme Act of Courage

Whenever I start painting a new shibori piece, it requires a supreme act of courage to actually put the dye on the fabric. I mean, I've just hand woven this fabric and now I'm going to take the risk to dye it in the way that I imagine it will turn out -- all the while knowing that, surprise being what it is, there's no guarantee at all that in the end I'll get what I imagined I would.

And so I go onward...

Going With the Day

Work table in studioI've got tons of interesting and exciting projects in front of me now...I've got a couple of things on my agenda for today, but I'm easily getting sidetracked to some of the others. I've decided to go with where the day takes me, knowing it's all within the context of me making art and doing creative things.

I've been reading a cool book called Living The Creative Life, by Rice Freeman-Zachery. It's actually a compendium of ideas and inspirations from about a dozen working artists, and I'm enjoying the little hints and tips and kicks-in-the-butt that I'm getting from it.

What's on my "plan" today is to:

  • dye one of my shibori pieces

  • write a new artist statement

  • takes steps toward getting set up to do arashi shibori (another shibori resist process of wrapping fabric on a pole, wrapping thread around the fabric, scrunching the fabric down to about 4 or 5 inches wide on the pole, then dyeing it)
    • Other things that are capturing my imagination today are:

    • continuing to spin up that Beachglass silk I dyed late last week

    • working on my crocheted afghan

    • working on a pocket shrine

    • collaging on a glass jar in which to hold slips of paper with creative words on them (such as "paint," "collage," "embellish," so I can pull out one word each day and plan to employ that word in some creative way that day -- this idea from the book I mentioned)

    • putting together big books of patterns and other written materials I've been collecting for years, on dyeing, weaving, knitting, textile design, pattern, etc.

    • selecting yarns for my next weavings and getting the loom warped

    • sewing woven labels on my finished and ready-to-sell textiles

    • applying for exhibitions
      • I feel really blessed to be a creative and to have so many avenues of expression. It makes me feel rich and prosperous to have an artistic life, to make beautiful things, to be able to bring my ideas into manifestation.

        Tuesday, April 22, 2008

        Off the Loom

        Three undyed woven shiboris just off the loomThese are my three latest woven shibori pieces, off the loom and ready to be dyed. The warp on these is 20/2 bombyx silk (remember the Warp From Hell I mentioned about 10 days ago -- this was it!) and although the warp is the same on all of them, I used a different silk weft on each. One uses the same 20/2 that I used for the warp; the second uses an interesting silk I got from another artist, it's a matte finished silk that feels as though it has been carded rather than combed; and the third uses a 30/3 fine silk cord.

        It's going to be interesting to dye and finish each of them. I'm looking forward to seeing how each of the weft silks takes the dye as well as how each piece feels, overall, when it's finished.

        I'm spending the rest of today finishing up some projects and loose ends, so that I can spend the rest of the week finishing off the shiboris, getting started on my next weavings, and applying to and submitting images for some upcoming exhibitions. I hope everybody is having a good week, so far.

        Monday, April 21, 2008

        Leigh's Fiber Links List

        I picked up this fantastic list of fiber related links from Meg Nakagawa in Nelson, NZ. I haven't had the time yet to look closely at it but I wanted to share it. (Yikes, we're having an earthquake right now on the North Coast as I'm writing this -- holy cow!)

        Leigh's list is chock full of terminology, how-to websites, resource info, free downloadable stuff, yarn converter charts, color mixing info, ad infinitum. Check it out!

        Incidentally, Nelson NZ is Eureka CA's sister city!

        New Stuff & Old Stuff

        I just got a cell phone over the first. I'm definitely a laggard with technology. I know a lot about computers but nothing about cell phones. It isn't something I ever thought I'd need or want, and it remains to be seen how much I'll use it. But it is being fun, and keeping me more connected with Scotty. Besides, texting is cool!

        The old stuff are these knitted swatches I ran across the other day when I was reorganizing my studio. You might recognize the two handspun silk yarns -- one bombyx, the other tussah -- that I showed off in those crocheted doilies I posted a few weeks ago.

        Leaf pattern bombyx silk knitted swatchArch pattern tussah silk knitted swatch

        I thought both of these yarns would be ideal to knit something light and lacy, like a camisole. I've just never gotten around to it, and it's not high on my list of priorities at this point. The swatches were tons of fun, though.

        I'm having a semi-productive day today...Mondays are always a little disorienting, getting back into my week day rhythm. So I think I'll go do something else while my energy is up.

        Friday, April 18, 2008

        Serendipitious Color

        Frequently when I dye, I have a colorway in mind, and I'll mix dyes specifically for what I'm wanting to do. Sometimes, though, I'll dye with already mixed-up colors I have on hand, and the results are usually delightful.

        Beachglass bombyx silk

        Last weekend at my silk dyeing class, I threw some colors together on the fly and created this colorway I'm calling Beachglass. (Sue, I know you'll love this and you're welcome to use it!) I've been spinning up the bombyx and tussah tops I'd dyed and decided I liked the colorway so much that I just dyed the remaining wet silk that's been sitting in my kitchen since last weekend. So now I'll have three ounces of each top, which will net me about 1000 yards of each, enough to do something lovely with.

        Yesterday I lamented about not having time to go to my ABC gathering, but what I did in the late afternoon was reorganize my working studio to give myself a table for collage and space for all the wonderful art supplies and materials I love playing with in my "free time." I've wanted to do this for a while and a bit of a spring cleaning mood hit me yesterday, so now it's done. Just having cool materials at hand and accessible, and a place to work, is oftentimes all I need to spontaneously create new stuff.

        Collage workspaceCollage Journal cover

        The photo at right is the cover of a collage journal I started a year ago. I'm hoping to get inspired to move forward with it.

        To the left of the photo on the left are shelves with tons of materials. But I want and need more art materials. I'm hoping to "hit up" my artist friend Joan Gold in the next few weeks to spend a little time in her studio test driving some of the incredible materials she uses in her art.

        Well, it's only just 9:00 am in my timezone and I've been up for nearly four hours, doing house chores, dyeing, spinning and blogging. Guess I'll sign off and get into the rest of my day.

        Thursday, April 17, 2008

        Keeps Growing and Growing...

        Thought I'd start the day with project updates...

        That afghan I'm crocheting is getting bigger as we speak! It's close to 16 square feet now, nearly 4 feet x 4 feet, on its way to becoming, maybe, 6 feet square.

        That cellulose fiber I dyed last week with acid dyes -- the Abalone tencel and bamboo -- got spun up and washed, and alas! most of the color washed out in the end. Oh well, can't blame a guy for trying. What I'll do with the yarn sometime in the near future will be to overdye it with natural dyes, after mordanting it for cellulose fibers. The experiment was worth doing, nonetheless, but I won't be doing it again! Can't say I wasn't warned that it might not turn out as I'd intended. If you try it at home and it works for you, please let me know!

        I'm finishing up my third woven shibori on the loom, and hope to dye them next week. I have a few exhibitions I plan to enter as well as a Trunk Show at Art of Wine in Eureka on May 17. I'm using that date as a deadline, of sorts, to get several more pieces completed.

        I just took this photo of yarns and wovens dyed with acid dyes, that I'll be sending out to local media along with a press release for the Colors to Dye For class I'm teaching on May 10 & 11.

        It seems like there are a lot of things happening at once, now, or maybe there's just lots to do, as always. I've been wanting to attend the monthly meeting of our Altered Book & Collage group, which is today, because I'm so interested in the projects the group does each month -- making books, embellishing journals and papers, polymer clay, paper beads, something different and exciting each month -- but I keep bringing my focus back to my fiber work and weaving textiles. Even though part of me wants to do the other stuff, just because it's so much fun and inspiring, I know enough about myself to realize that I don't really have the time to get distracted by other projects, despite how much fun they might be. I'm trying to build a body of work with my textiles, and try new things in this genre.

        On the other hand, I often see works of art in other media -- like glass, primarily -- where I'll be really attracted to some design on the surface of the piece, or some textural quality, and it gets me thinking about how I might go about creating something in textiles that utilizes those elements, or how I can represent what it is I like about that piece, in my medium.

        It's looking now like next week I'll have a lot of time to devote to my art -- lots of studio time, which I'm up for.

        Tuesday, April 15, 2008

        Awards & Prizes

        I just learned this morning that both pieces that I entered in the Dallas Handweavers Show won awards and cash prizes! How cool is that!

        I looked at their website last night but the color on the posted photos is off, so I didn't even recognize my work. But Michael Cook, show coordinator, let me know this morning that I've won the awards and prizes. And check out the ribbons, woven by Michael.

        The finished piece on the left is a shawl woven entirely of hand dyed, handspun silk hankies, with beaded fringe. The skein is 2-ply bombyx silk in a colorway I call Tropical. It's hard to tell from this photo, but the colors are turquoise, chartreuse and pale orange.

        This was a nice way to start the day! I'll be back later with more stuff to share.

        Monday, April 14, 2008

        Constance Changes

        Change is the only constant. My mom named me Constance because she thought I would be constant. Now that I'm truly my own person -- and oh! it took me so many years to become so! -- I'm not constant for very long anymore. What fun would life be if I were?

        Anyway, as much as I loved that olive green background color, I'm in the mood to simplify. I keep being inspired by other artists' white-backgrounded blogs. A blank page on which to splatter one's artistic life!

        Despite the new white background, color is filling my life these days. Here are some photos of the silks we dyed over the weekend at my workshop, and the yarns spun up yesterday...

        I have some wetted out silk left over that I plan to dye this week. I always forget just how wonderful 100% silk is to spin, especially bombyx, the Cadillac of spinning fibers, IMHO. Incidentally, I've got lots at Etsy just waiting to be dyed and spun up!

        Well, I'm late getting started on my Monday, so I'll post off now. Have a wonderful day!

        Sunday, April 13, 2008

        Home & Studio Tour, April 2008

        Well, here it is -- finally uploaded via YouTube -- Friday's Home and Studio Tour. Enjoy!

        Saturday, April 12, 2008

        I Dyed Today...

        ...along with five students, new dyers all, and we had a blast. We dyed silk hankies and caps, and bombyx and tussah top. Here's a photo of our group work, air drying on this gorgeous, hot spring day in Eureka.

        And tomorrow we'll spin for most of the day, turning all that brilliantly dyed silk into yarn. I'll post a photo of the finished yarns tomorrow or Monday.

        Thursday, April 10, 2008

        Breaking the Rules

        I broke the "dyeing rules" yesterday, when I dyed tencel and bamboo, both cellulose fibers, with acid dyes normally used for protein fibers. But I like to experiment. Here are the results:

        The bamboo is on the left, tencel on the right. I used color at about DOS 2 (depth of shade), which is normally medium dark, and I steamed the fiber for longer than I usually do with protein fibers. The cellulose fibers did not take up the dye all that well, nevertheless I am happy with the results. I would call this colorway Abalone. I'll post the yarn after it's been spun up.

        I just shot a video home tour this morning, but it's quite a large file and I'm having problems uploading it (have tried Google, Yahoo, Flickr and Blogger!). As soon as I get my technical difficulties resolved, I'll upload it for your viewing enjoyment!

        Wednesday, April 9, 2008

        Recent Spinning Demo

        Here I am a couple of Saturdays ago, at our local Co-op, demonstrating spinning with a few other folks from my guild. We do this several times a year, showing off and selling raffle tickets for the shawl we made the previous year at the Humboldt County Fair. Raffle proceeds support fair premiums for the current year.

        The fellow looking on is Harry Wells, president of the guild (also an associate dean at Humboldt State University, as well as being an avid spinner and knitter). Harry used to raise Angora bunnies.

        That vest I'm wearing was spun and knit by me a number of years ago, and believe it or not, I've only just started wearing it! Funny how that is. The blue scarf was my first piece of woven fabric made entirely of hand dyed, handspun silk hankies.

        I'm teaching my second class of three this weekend, Dyeing & Spinning Silk. Students will learn different methods of dyeing silk hankies and caps, as well as tussah and bombyx top. Sunday we'll spin up what we dye on Saturday. This next photo is finished yarns from my last silk dyeing class, last summer.

        The third class I've added this season is Color to Dye For, and that one will happen on May 10 and 11. I'll be teaching how to mix and use acid dyes, and students will create a swatch book of colors on silk fabric. If you're interested in attending that class, let me know as soon as possible. There are only six spaces available.

        More later!

        Monday, April 7, 2008

        Gratitude With Attitude

        Thank you, Sweet Irene, for the Gratitude with Attitude award. I love that name! Here it is, back to you!

        While I'm at it, I'm passing it on to Sue O'Kieffe as well. Have a good night, all.

        My Oldest Friend

        I've recently been in touch with my oldest friend, Abby Chavez (oldest, as in I've known her longer than any other friend!), who lives in Idaho. Abby and I have been friends since Los Angeles, where I was born, raised and went to school. Although we've seldom lived in the same place at the same time since then, we've managed to stay in touch over the years through marriages, divorces, major moves, life upheavals and more.

        Abby was one of my early inspirations when I started my textile career. She was quite the embroiderer herself, also a knitter and a seamstress, and over the years, like me, she has tackled numerous media and genre. She just sent me this photo of some of her latest work, and it is so unusual I wanted to share it with my readers.

        Unfortunately, Abby has no presence on the web, or else I'd link you to her and her work.

        I am one of those folks who over the years divorced my family of origin, so family for me, today, are those few special people who've taken the time to get to know who I am, who've shared all of themselves with me, and who I know would be there for me in a minute should the need arise. Abby is one of those people. I hope you enjoy her art!

        Thursday, April 3, 2008

        Crocheted Mandalas

        Mandala makers, take note!

        Here are two crocheted doilies I made a few years ago, with handspun silks. The doily on the left was made with bombyx silk, in an oak pattern.

        The piece on the right was made with tussah silk. I can't remember the pattern name, but it's quite unusual, isn't it!

        I love crocheting doilies and these with my handspun silk were really special, and fun to do. I'd love to have them framed someday, right now I use them in my upstairs bathroom.

        Work continues on my crocheted afghan, being made entirely of handspun yarns in greens, blues and purples. The one square, increasing in size every day, is nearly two feet square. I'm actually thinking of entering it in the Humboldt County Fair this year, so I'm working avidly on it so it's afghan-sized by the first of August.

        My guild, the Humboldt Handweavers & Spinners Guild, regularly participates in the County Fair, with our own guild room, fiber arts exhibits, sponsoring premiums for most of the fiber arts entry divisions and classes, doing a Sheep-to-Shawl demo, and judging entries. Every year I enter numerous skeins of yarns I've spun, and usually several finished pieces -- and I always manage to come home with a sack full of ribbons and some money! I'll post, here, my entries this year.

        Back downstairs for me -- I've been warping the loom since yesterday for three woven shiboris, using some problematic Chinese silk (that I will not use again!), meaning I'm working on the "Warp From Hell!"

        Wednesday, April 2, 2008

        Cards and Tags

        I appreciated everyone's comments on my post yesterday! It makes me feel warm inside when I realize my words and thoughts have a positive impact on others, and that I'm not alone. Also that my blog is a safe place to share my deepest thoughts and feelings about the life I'm living.

        Today I'm in a much softer place, doing whatever I'm doing with a new sense of joy and meaning. It's all good.

        Yesterday I reconsidered what I'd decided to do about business cards and hang tags, and after recent changes, I went back to an earlier format while still retaining a new look.

        For years I've been using the top business card, doing them at home on my computer and hand cutting them. Since I made changes to this or that fairly often, I couldn't see the point of having 1000 made each time. I used a hang tag that had a vertical layout with much of the same info on it.

        During the recent Art as Business program I attended, I decided to change to the middle card, and I made a hang tag that coordinated. I really like that image from one of my woven shiboris, used the image on an art postcard, and decided to go with this because it's so updated, fresh, and bright.

        The problem was, the bright hang tags looked ghastly on my scarves, nearly all of which are in subdued colors. So I decided last night to go back to the original cardstock that I have used for nearly 20 years, but with the newly laid out text -- and use them for business cards AND hang tags. It's a much more sophisticated look. And I've got woven labels coming, which will be black with gold letters, and I'm satisfied now that the whole package will be "of a piece."

        Tuesday, April 1, 2008

        Capacity's Edge

        There are times when I feel like I'm just not keeping up with all the things an artist needs to keep up with on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. Now is one of those times. Usually I call this state overwhelm and indeed, that is what I'm feeling. But more and more I'm thinking that it is where I live nearly all the time these days. At the edge of my capacity to handle the multitude of details in my creative life, let alone add more to the growing lists of projects, tasks, communications, stuff I'd like to check out, oodles of blogs I've been meaning to read, etc.

        I feel like a whiner because it seems I've been complaining a lot lately about not having enough time to do everything -- live this life, manage a household, take care of myself, my family and loved ones, make art, market my art, buy, package, post and ship fiber products, search for new suppliers, take a walk occasionally, spin, blog, AND relax and enjoy myself. And everytime I read a new blog post from wonderful folks like Chris O'Bryne about all the things we could be doing to do more with our art/our blogs/our websites, etc., I feel like I'm just not keeping up.

        Ten years ago when I lived in Southern Humboldt...I'm not sure how I managed to do this, but for three years I
        • gardened intensively, raising everlasting flowers on a virtually "impossible" piece of land with only minimal creek water, major pests in my organic garden, no topsoil, etc. -- harvested flowers twice a day in summertime, made dried floral products, and sold at the local farmers market
        • worked part time for nonprofit organizations
        • designed, produced, marketed and sold my beaded jewelry, including doing 5-7 out-of-area shows a year completely solo
        • baked biscotti for all the local coffeehouses
        • vacuumed a 1000 square foot 2-storey cabin weekly
        • stacked and managed four cords of wood each year, schlepping wood through the snow in wintertime, keeping the stacks covered with humongous tarps, that kept the often not-as-dry-as-desired wood slightly moldy yet continuously got chewed up by wood rats and voles
        • regularly changed the oil in my 1979 Honda Civic
        • kept the brush away from the house in summertime by weed whacking, to the point where I could barely open my hands for a week to ten days because of the repetitive gripping action on the whacker

        ...well I could go on and on. What amazes me today is that I was able to do all these things back then, that I had that much energy. And I didn't seem to feel guilty, I just did everything that needed to get done. As I'm writing this, I'm feeling guilty that I'm not doing whatever it is that I REALLY set out to do, I'm sitting on my backporch enjoying the sun's heat and the mild air, nursing my lower back.

        I'm just wondering why it seems so imperative for me to do so many things. When I lived in the country I kind of didn't give a hoot if I kept up with the outside world. Now I feel impelled to, in my own way. I think I feel that if I'm not doing everything I can in every moment (darn near), that I'm not doing "it" right or well enough. I keep saying I just want to make art, but artmaking absorbs very little of my life, in reality.

        Perhaps this is what being on the edge of a breakdown feels like. But I think it's more like a "break open." I've been thinking recently that I want to do my life differently now, but it keeps showing up the same because I don't yet have those new habits or behaviors or thinking that will usher in a change in my outward reality. This is what I've been wrestling with lately, and I'm thinking maybe this deep unrest is what's been driving my sense of overwhelm for the past couple months. I don't know for sure. I need to meditate on it. But not right now.