Friday, May 30, 2008

Flame of Inspiration

Bearded iris bud

This bearded iris bud, just on the verge of opening, provided ample inspiration for me yesterday. Aren't the colors just magnificent?

10/2 Silk Noil dyed yarn

So I have 1000 yards, now, of this dyed 10/2 bombyx silk noil yarn for a knitted piece of art cloth. And I'm looking forward to starting in on it...although I may (or may not) hold off just a bit...

Because I'm trying to get six rows a week done on my crocheted afghan so it's pretty close to the 6 ft. by 6 ft. size I'm hoping for to enter in the Humboldt County Fair this year. The afghan isn't quite 5 ft. by 5 ft. yet, and it takes longer and longer to do a row!

Anyway, I'm awash with cool projects again, and for an artist, this is a good thing!

I read a really interesting post this morning on Lisa Call's blog about her kids' Expeditionary Learning school and what they are being taught in the way of Design Principles for life. I just lifted this paragraph from her blog -- check it out for yourself to learn more about it and read what Lisa will have to say about it in the coming days.

"Learning happens best with emotion, challenge and the requisite support. People discover their abilities, values, "grand passions," and responsibilities in situations that offer adventure and the unexpected. They must have tasks that require perseverance, fitness, craftsmanship, imagination, self-discipline and significant achievement. A primary job of the educator is to help students overcome their fear and discover they have more in them than they think."

Very inspiring, and it gives me a sense of the larger scale of my art, as it relates to my life and how I see myself in my life.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Decisions, Decisions

Wow, this is my 100th blog post!

What I've been thinking about today, is that much of art making is about decision making. There are times in my life when it feels difficult to be decisive, to actually take steps in a particular direction, leaving behind, at least momentarily, the myriad other options that I've been considering.

Part of the discomfiture of making a decision is thinking that it might be the wrong one, and I've certainly done a lot of this particular type of thinking throughout my life. Life management via cognitive dissonance! Always looking in the rearview mirror at what might have been had I made a different decision. That's because I haven't always been happy with my decisions once I've made them. Consequently over the years I've become a little less flexible about life in general and the unforeseen things that happen as a result of the choices I've made.

So I try to have some degree of control over how things turn out, and in art making that means having a good working knowledge of materials and what they're likely to do under different conditions and circumstances. And I also try to get as much information as possible, within financial and time constraints, to help me negotiate amongst options.

But sooner or later I've just got to make the decisions that are right in front of me to make, and get on with it. Despite the fact that I'm already four or five projects down the road, in my mind, before actually executing even the first one. I do get ahead of myself!

So today I decided on a pattern for my forthcoming woven fabric cum art cloth. The first woven one, anyway. And I dyed some 10/2 silk noil yarn for a piece of knitted fabric cum art cloth.

I mentally tinker around with a multitude of ideas, considering lots of variables and options, and then some momentary inspiration will drive the decision I ultimately make.

Just thinking about all this, here and now, makes me feel a tad bit more comfortable with the art-making decision-making process. I can begin to let go of my fear of making the wrong decision, because in fact, I have MADE a decision and what will follow that will be many more decisions along the way as I explore the process of making. I've embarked on a path. It's likely somewhat different than the path would be had I made a different initial decision. But there's no right or wrong. It will get me where I'm headed for now. The point of power in all this is in actually making that initial decision. It might be downhill from here.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Good Relations

Finally I've completed these two related weavings! They are a turned taquete on the left and an echo weave on the right, both woven on the same warp of lizard green and Pompeii red tencel. The pattern drafts are by Bonnie Inouye, a recently-featured project in Handwoven magazine. Bonnie is one of a handful of weavers whose work I absolutely love, someone I'd love to take a class from someday. Although we have some terrific weavers and fiber artists in Humboldt County, it's extremely rare that we have someone of Bonnie's calibre travel to these parts to teach a class. Guess I'll have to go elsewhere for that.

Turned taquete weaving in tencelEcho weave in tencel

The heft and drape of these two pieces are wonderful -- I suspect that's partly due to the 40 epi warp sett. Also the hand of the tencel, which is naturally soft and somewhat heavy.

I've decided to show off these two pieces together, and here's how I've got them arranged, hanging on the wall by my loom...

Tencel weavings displayed with jewelry

I love showcasing my textiles and my jewelry together. All very ethnic, don't you think?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Fur Coat

BeeGee's fur coat

This is my darling BeeGee's fur coat. They call these markings Tiger Tabby, as I'm sure you all know, but interestingly enough, it's a dead ringer for ocelot. Tigers, in reality, don't look anything like this. I really love the brindle quality of the coloration -- white on the tips, dark brown underneath, all on the same hair shaft.

Animal "prints" have featured large in my life for many years. They are one of my sources of inspiration -- the natural colors, the striations and stripes, the splotchy or blotchy character of many domestic cats' coats like parts of them have been dipped in paint. I find it endlessly fascinating.

I expect to see even more references to my animal familiars in future work.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Little Beauties, Part Two

Alright, I finished 9 pairs of this style, which I used to call "Babies," because they were such cute little babies. The group shot of them didn't turn out too well, and I've got to get a move on here, so I'll only upload these two photos, closeups of two pair. These two are pretty remarkable, anyway. Gorgeous turquoise stones and the beads work really well with them.

Beautiful little earrings

Beautiful little earrings

I'm not sure how I used to sit and bead for days and weeks straight, but I did it ten years ago. I must have been's totally hard on my body.

But now I'm on to the weekend and whatever comes next!

Little Beauties, Part One

When I make jewelry, I do mini production runs of maybe 8 to 12 pairs of one style. Here are two photos of the style I made 9 pairs of this week. I'm working on another style and will upload photos in a couple days when that batch is complete.

Beaded earrings with Chinese turquoiseClose up of earrings

Each of these uses Chinese turquoise but you'll see each pair is different from the rest. I always select beads that match the stones as nearly as possible. That makes the overall feeling of each piece more organic.

If anyone is interested, these pairs sell for $49 US each, plus shipping. If you'd like, I can send you close ups of any of them (there are more options available, as well). And I take PayPal. These will not be listed at my Etsy site -- that hasn't been a good venue for my jewelry, nearly all of which I sell out of my studio anyway.

If you're in the US and celebrating a holiday weekend, have a good one. If you're not, have a lovely weekend anyway!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

To Bead or Not To Bead

I'm busy fleshing out my collection of beaded jewelry, in anticipation of North Coast Open Studios in a couple of weeks. I make jewelry in spurts these days, usually in conjunction with Open Studios or some other event. I seem to work better, at many things, under pressure of a deadline. Here's a shot of my studio table this morning...

Studio workbench

I am particularly fond of greens, as I think I've mentioned numerous times, and Chinese turquoise, becoming ever rarer, is my absolute favorite stone to work with. The cabochons I'm using now are all from my inventory of stones purchased several years ago. I'm going to have to travel out of the area when I need more as they're impossible to find in these parts. Cabochons are cut, polished stones that are flat on one side, so they can be mounted in or on various materials.

Display of jewelry from 1998

This second photo was a display of some of my work, from about 10 years ago. Although all these pieces sold long ago, I still have one or two neckpieces available, plus earrings in other styles, a couple of wrist cuffs, and several brooches.

I still enjoy making jewelry and glad to have a reason to do it every so often.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Graduation Day

I had a Trunk Show last Saturday evening at Art of Wine, a delightful wine bar/art gallery here in Eureka. The venue was lovely, the ambiance warm and friendly, and had Saturday not been graduation day at both Humboldt State University and College of the Redwoods, I'm quite sure we would have had a crowd. Unfortunately, though, very few people came to see the show and Old Town Eureka was virtually deserted.

Textiles on display at Art of Wine

It was good to get out of my studio, however, and set up a show. I'll be hanging a few pieces in the gallery in the near future, and I did make a couple of contacts for possible sales during North Coast Open Studios, May 31-June 1 and June 7-8. So that's a good thing.

Today I've been reorganizing my studio for Open Studios, moving things around, giving it a bit of a new look. This week I'll finish the two turned taquete weavings, still on the loom from week before last. If I hadn't been sick last week, they would have been finished. But all good things in their time.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Snow On Heat

We're having a heat wave in my neck of the woods, breaking records for high temps here on the North Coast. I'm melting...

Carded noil and bombyx silk yarn

But here's some snowy silk yarn I just finished -- 430 yards of carded silk noil plied with a very fine strand of bombyx. The texture of this yarn is slightly nubby, which is wonderful.

I'm gathering quite a collection of handspun white yarns that I'm planning on using in upcoming projects. There's something that's really been attracting me to basic white, also basic black. As much as I am a color devotee, in my mind's eye I keep seeing white or black fabrics that I have done any number of exciting things to. Stay tuned.

The Way I See It

Check out my current life story in a nutshell, today at Six Sentences (6S). Short and sweet!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Here's That Blog...

The blog I was looking for yesterday is called Textile Arts Resource Guide and it's really amazing! Check it out here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

New Directions

Last night I posted four small watercolor paintings on Etsy, pieces I did several years ago. I have quite a few more of them, but only four framed, so those are the ones I posted. They're done with a variety of water media -- not watercolor paints, per se, but watercolor pencils, watercolor crayons, metallic paints, inks, and glitter glue. What I love about these pieces are the textured areas, the interstices between colors -- those elements I've been talking about here on my blog pretty much since I began it.

I am aiming to do similar work, soon, on fabric I have woven. I'm hoping to raise the bar on art cloth by weaving my own textiles to paint, dye, print on, bead and sew on, distress, whatever. I've found a whole new community of surface design folks at the Surface Design Association, which I recently joined, as well as two new-to-me Yahoo groups I've started participating in: complex cloth and surfacing. And my God, there are so many people doing outrageous things these days with fabrics and surface design. There's just tons of inspiration out there.

I'm trying to find the URL for a blog I've been reading that has lists of other blogs and postings related to an enormous number of cool resources and information, all textile related. As soon as I find it and/or get the next FeedBlitz from them, I'll post the link here.

I feel like a new world is opening up to me and I can't wait to see what I do with it all. I have numerous ideas in mind to launch into this summer.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Dyed silk yarn in Kelp colorway

This is a very small skein of commercially spun 10/2 bombyx silk noil yarn that I dyed at my class over the weekend. It reminds me of kelp, so I'm calling the colorway Kelp. Believe it or not, I have virtually no experience dyeing yarn! I've always dyed my fiber first and then spun it. So with my success here, I now have ideas in mind for dyeing yarn that I've already spun.

You get a very different end product when you dye first, then spin than you do when you spin first, then dye. In the first case, the colors tend to be spread more evenly throughout the yarn resulting in a more heathered look. This can be avoided, depending on how you strip the dyed roving or top before it's spun. But that seems to add a level of regimentation to the spinning that I don't care for.

When you spin first, then dye, you get more distinct color areas on the yarn. Most sock yarns are dyed this way, so when they're knit up, you get chunks of colors throughout the finished piece rather than an overall heathery look.

I'm still under the weather today, headachy and low energy, but I had to have a burst of color to brighten up my spirits.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Colorful Weekend

I taught my last class (of a series of three) this weekend, called Colors to Dye For. This class was essentially about the technology of using and mixing acid dyes on protein fibers. I'm planning to upload more photos from the different dyeing methods we used, but not right now -- I'm a bit under the weather as I write this and will write more when I'm feeling better.

For now, though, here's a photo of color swatches each person made with Sabraset dyes (Pro Chemical's Lanaset dyes) on raw silk fabric. Enjoy the colors!

Acid dyes on raw silk fabric

Friday, May 9, 2008

My Love Affair...With Silk

I think silk is THE wonder fiber. It's lightweight, warm, hypoallergenic, it dyes magnificently, spins easily, you get a lot of spun yardage per pound of silk, there are nearly countless varieties of silk to spin and silk fabrics to work with, it feels wonderful, requires minimum care and upkeep, and I don't think there's a fiber to compare with it, all these things considered.

So I'm kind of in love with the stuff. I just finished up four ounces of bombyx silk top I dyed last week, which yielded close to 1000 single-ply yards. Here's the just-dyed silk and the finished yarn...

Dyed bombyx silk topSpun bombyx silk top

Now I'm spinning some carded silk and plying it with a very fine bombyx. I just started on it this morning and made this sample...

Carded and Bombyx Silk Yarn

And I have a silk piece in a new show at The Ink People Center for the Arts in Eureka, that opened last weekend. The theme of the show is "Gold," and my piece is called Silk Into Gold. I actually wear this piece in the's 100% bombyx silk, hand dyed, handspun, handwoven. It's quite warm and it has heft, even though the warp sett is 30 epi (ends per inch -- which means how closely set the warp ends are -- finer threads, more ends per inch).

Silk Into Gold handwoven scarf

A reminder to my silk-spinning readers that I have many varieties of silks to spin at my Etsy site, such as:

  • bombyx top
  • tussah top
  • bombyx hankies and caps
  • merino/bombyx 50/50
  • merino/tussah 80/20
  • alpaca/merino/tussah 50/30/20
  • silk/bamboo 60/40
  • silk/cotton 55/45
  • tussah/baby camel 50/50

And for the spinners among you who haven't tried silk, you really need to. IMHO, you haven't really spun 'til you've spun silk!

Happy Spinning, and happy weekend all!

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Crazy Quilt, 2007I did this quilt last year, right after I bought myself a new sewing machine. I love the juxtaposition of black & white fabrics with colors, also love the squares made up of trapazoidal pieces inside, as well as the collage quality of it. I've been hankering to do more sewing, quilting actually, but don't have anything in mind at this moment. Some of the new art cloth I'm working on in my mental studio has quilting, but I'm not sure yet whether it will be hand or machine quilted.

Sewing was the first fiber art form I took up, back when I was in junior high school. It was a requirement in the 7th Grade (Foods was the other requirement) and I did well at it. Sewing ran in my family -- my mother had been quite a seamstress, and my father also knew how to sew. In fact, he had worked for dress manufacturers in Los Angeles, and although he was a salesman for them, he knew quite a bit about garment construction. So I learned it easily.

I used to sew all my own clothes, back in the late 1960s-early 1970s, when it was less expensive to sew your own. These days nice fabrics are so costly, that it hardly pays to do it yourself.

I haven't really done much quilting but I do enjoy it and have been collecting fat quarters for the past few years. I'll see what develops out of my idea to include quilting in my new textile work.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Reading My Life

I'm reading a really terrific little book that I think I got turned on to from someone's blog recently...Art & Fear, by David Bayles and Ted Orland, originally published in 1993. If you're an artist, or think you're an artist, or feel like an artist, or want to be an artist, READ THIS BOOK! It completely gives one permission to be a human being along with being an artist, as well as putting the focus on the making of art, the actual process we each need to go through in creating our own art. Highly recommended.

And while I'm at it, I have a lot of other books and magazines open or close at hand, so I thought I'd let you in on where I'm "living" these days, in my head:

  • Tricycle, The Buddhist Review, Spring 2008 issue
  • Shibori, Creating Color & Texture on Silk, Karren Brito
  • Woven Shibori, Catharine Ellis
  • Mixed Media Nature Journals, L.K. Ludwig
  • The Surface Designer's Handbook, Holly Brackmann
  • I'd Rather Be In The Studio, Alyson Stanfield
  • Color in Spinning, Deb Menz
  • Surface Design Journal, Spring 2008 issue
  • 40 Day Mind Fast Soul Feast, Michael Beckwith
  • 365 Science of Mind, Ernest Holmes
  • 365 Days of Richer Living, Ernest Holmes & Raymond Charles Barker
  • Spirit is Calling, Chris Michaels & Edward Viljoen
  • Practicing the Presence, Joel Goldsmith
  • Shambhala Sun, March 2008 issue
  • Treat Yourself to Life, Raymond Charles Barker
  • The Impersonal Life, Joseph Benner
  • Elderwoman, Marian Van Eyk McCain
  • A Thousand Days in Tuscany, Marlena De Blasi

I should probably put the Tuscany book back on the shelf, it's been beside my bed since I was actually in Tuscany, last October. Mostly, these days, I'm reading art books and spiritual materials. Shows you where my head's at!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Wind Driven Rain

I've read that arashi is the Japanese word for "wind driven rain," or "storm." Both of those descriptions are apt for the effects on fabric created by the process. These photos are from my very first go at arashi shibori.

I really loved this process. I also appreciated that I could start with a piece that didn't turn out well at all, overdye it, then do arashi on it, and get something I love. If that isn't transformation, I don't know what is.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

A Keeper

Woven ShiboriWoven Shibori Shawl

Here's the piece I finished yesterday -- 100% silk woven shibori, 20/2 bombyx warp and carded silk weft. I'm quite happy with the way it turned out. In fact, I'm increasingly satisfied with the work I've been producing. The happier I am the more I want to do. The arashi piece is drying now, I'll finish it off today and post it tomorrow. Both these two pieces will be keepers, ones I do not want to sell.

I'm feeling a sort of groundswell of artistic energy, moving my vision forward into this gestalt of my creativity that I can't articulate verbally yet. But words and images are swimming around in my head as a bigger picture is forming of where I am going and what I want to do.

Thanks for coming along on the ride with me!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Arashi BeeGee

BeeGee assisting with arashi shiboriHere's my assistant, last night helping me wrap the pole with my first arashi shibori. BeeGee is a total thread freak. From out of nowhere, he magically appears whenever I'm knitting or crocheting, or plying yarns, or hand sewing, or warping -- wherever thread or yarn is moving, that's where BeeGee is!

Arashi shibori on pole

I'm really excited about this project. What finally encouraged me to try it was an article I read somewhere online about how you don't have to get the entire pole into a steamer in order to do this -- you can let the dye dry on the fabric on the pole, then remove it, wrap it in plastic, and steam that. Which is what I intend to do.

All the art I've done -- all the dyeing, etc. -- has been right here in my kitchen, with formerly-used-for-food pots and tools. I would love to have a big studio with all the right equipment and tools...same as I am lusting for a 16-32 shaft jacquard loom. But at this point in my life, neither space nor money enable me to buy new and bigger toys. So I'm committed to pushing the edges of what I can do on my 8 shaft loom and in my kitchen.

I sometimes think of myself as a "samurai" artist. I took on that moniker after John Belushi played samurai characters on SNL, years ago. He went for whatever he was up to, like a warrior, and I often feel that way about how I do things that I do. Like minor carpentry (samurai carpenter, I was), using my kitchen sink and counters on which to lay things I cut with a hacksaw. Maybe I'm more like Rube Goldberg -- improvising! That's it!

Thursday, May 1, 2008


I'm an interstitial kind of gal...a cuspal person, living on the middle ground, in the gray area between one thing and another thing, hanging out in that segue where one thing gradually becomes something else. Interstices are those very places, the "between" areas.

Seriously, I am on two cusps with my natal astrological chart -- 5 minutes of a degree a Pisces, fresh out of Aquarius with my sun sign, and mere minutes of a degree a Virgo, moving out of Leo with my rising sign. I've always felt like I was standing in two worlds, one foot in each. I've always been able to see things clearly from both sides of an issue, and oftentimes have difficulty choosing which I'm more closely aligned with.

Latest woven shibori

Usually the most interesting colors for me, in fiber that I've dyed and am spinning, are those where two other colors come together to make something else entirely. Same for my dyed handwovens.

I also really like watercolor paintings, especially those places where the color and water interact with the paper. Usually it's at the edges of a color area or brush stroke. You can see the water on the page, the color carried in it.

In music I really love the genre that are between more marked or notable genre -- like rockabilly, between swing and rock, or bluegrass.

Maybe there's something comforting about being mid way, not here nor there, but just where I am, here and now.

Is this making any sense to anyone? Does it really matter to me one way or the other?