Thursday, July 31, 2008

Working In The Studio

Now that I have a studio to use, I'm actually working in it! These are some of the things I've done since early this week...

  • I've carved several more lino stamps and experimented with them on paper
  • Torn or cut small pieces of fabrics to experiment with (1/2 yard or less, sometimes quite small)
  • Paint dyed a piece and experimented with salt on the dye
  • Made sure all my fabric paints are of appropriate consistency and actually exit the squeeze bottles as they should
  • Started experimenting with the paints and fabric pens and glittery stuff
  • Woven some on the current piece on the loom
  • Tried different methods of applying dye to fabric

Now I'm laying in bed but I couldn't sleep, so I'm blogging. My mind is busy with creative ideas and I can't wait to get back into the studio. Except I'm tired and really need to call it a night!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Another Acceptance!

Another exhibit acceptance arrived in today's mail! I'll have five pieces on exhibit and for sale at ArtWear Fashion Week at the Lincoln Center for the Arts in Fort Collins, Colorado. Exhibit dates are September 5 - 12.

This is SO exciting...I'm loving putting my work out there and being invited to exhibit in front of captive audiences, as it were. In other words, patrons going to specific events to find unusual work to buy. What a concept! Selling art is such a non-starter in my neck of the woods, that sometimes it's hard to believe people really DO buy art.

My out of area sales are just beginning, but "Showing My Work Elsewhere" has been my mantra and my plan of action recently. I'm definitely feeling emboldened by this new invitation.

My New Studio

New studio 1
New studio 2
New studio 3
New studio 4
New studio 5 Sunday and yesterday I got my "new" studio together. Actually, I moved a lot of stuff around in the downstairs bedroom I've been using as a working studio (the other downstairs bedroom is in front facing the street and serves as my sales studio) and switched tables, the one from here going in the kitchen and that one coming into the studio. I put up a drapery rod, as you can see, pretty high on the wall so I can hang cloth there that I'm working on -- kind of like a gallery wall. I'm liking the studio more and more each day. I just love rearranging space.

Now that I have the space, today I'm planning and scheduling in time to do experiments I've been hankering to do for months, now. Will I actually get to any of the artmaking?? Good question! But the answer is a resounding YES!

Friday, July 25, 2008

I've Been Weaving

As this week has progressed, I've been feeling better. I've had two chiropractic adjustments, a terrific massage, and have been religious about icing/heating and stretching. Sitting is still the worst offender of my back...

But I did find that sitting at my loom wasn't all that bad! So I finished the painted warp piece I've been working on and am now on the second piece on that warp. Here it is...

Silk twill fabric

The warp here is 20/2 bombyx silk, and the weft is a lovely dupioni silk singles, about a 10 in weight. It'll make up into a lovely piece of twill fabric which I'll be shibori-ing it too, as you can see.

I'm hoping to get to that studio reconfiguration this weekend, with a lot of help from Scotty. I'll post photos of it when it's complete. The main goal is to get my large worktable out of the kitchen and into the studio, and make it even bigger with the addition of two "leaves" I use when I need 36" x 96" to work on. The leaves spend most of their time in a closet because they're too big to have out all the time. Hopefully not any more. Although the access to my kitchen sink will be less than optimal, so we'll see how this whole affair works out!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sketchbooks, Part 2

That last post generated some feedback, so I thought I'd let you in on what I DO do, rather than sketchbooks, per se...

I make 3-ring binders or notebooks for various things. I have a binder with raw silk swatches and tons of info on acid dyes, primarily ProChem Sabraset dyes. I refer to this extensively whenever I use acid dyes. Included in this notebook are pages of colorways I've downloaded from numerous places, magazine photos, catalog photos of available colors of towels, for instance, art postcards I've painted with water media that I've thought I wanted to replicate with dyes, etc.

I actually have two acid dye binders -- the one listed above is the one currently in use. The first one I did had samples of every formula Deb Menz mentions in Color in Spinning, which I followed methodically when I first started using Sabraset dyes, and before I took a dyeing class from Nancy Finn of Chasing Rainbows Dyeworks here in California. For this binder, I actually dyed weighed clumps of white romney in all the colors, and after putting together a swatch book with formulas noted on the back of each (I used sheets of slide protectors), I had a lot of dyed wool left over that I subsequently used to make carded color blends for other color theory projects Deb Menz suggested in her book.

I also keep spiral notebooks of dyeing info whenever I dye -- fabric or fiber dyed, quantity, DOS, number of milliliters dyestock needed for each color, color formulas, amount of acid used, etc. Usually I keep a bit of dyed fiber, taping it on the page with the info for that dye project. I'm on my second or third dyeing spiral notebook.

I have a separate notebook for natural dyes -- color swatches, info from various sources, etc.

I have a notebook for Woven Shibori -- photos of each piece I've done with the draft on the back. I annotate the photo with the warp sett, type of yarn used, etc.

I have a notebook for woven items I've done -- although I stopped keeping it up to date because I didn't have time when I was weaving so much stuff at one point. Each page has several photos of the finished piece, small samples of the yarns used, date completed, warp sett, etc.

I have a binder for my early work with the many types of silk to spin. The more recent pages of that book, again slide protectors, have spun lengths of silks I've dyed prior to spinning. I've got bombyx, tussah, hankies and caps here. It's a bit out of date. It's been hard to keep up with all the documentation over the last year or two.

I also had a notebook that I started 30 years ago when I first got into fiber arts, that I finally finished off not long ago, with notes for each woven piece I did -- warp and weft yards needed, sett, yarn used, pattern or design, etc.

Recently I started a spiral notebook for art cloth and all that I'm starting to do toward that end. I guess you could call it a sketch book although most of the info in it at this point is narrative ideas. We'll see what develops here!

Monday, July 21, 2008

To Sketch or Not

Meg asked me whether I was using my "down" time to sketch ideas to make later, so I've been thinking about my idea generation process. I know lots of artists use sketch books and I think it's a wonderful idea. My problem is that I want the sketch book to look like its own finished product (is that being a perfectionist, or what?)! When I think of sketch books I think of all the wonderful collage books I've seen, or books with really cool drawings by people who can actually draw, or beautiful little watercolor paintings of ideas, or whatever. And mine never look like that. Which is one reason I don't do them.

The other reason is that I've realized that I prefer to have a big picture vision of what I want to do, the techniques I want to use, a general idea of what will go where...but then I just like to let the finished product become what it will in the process of creating it. And not try to have too much control over it. It's true that I oftentimes don't, at first, like what I've produced, but I think there's something else at work in that regard -- like thinking that what I do is never good enough.

But if I plan something out in too much detail, then there isn't a lot of room for serendipity. And I often like to change things as I go. This happens for me with weaving much of the time. I'll have one thing in mind when I'm designing the piece, then other things will come into play while I'm in the process, and I'll end up doing something else. I keep reminding myself that there are no mistakes! What finally gets created must have been what was supposed to happen, or it wouldn't have.

At any rate, I AM thinking about things to come even though I'm only working mentally at the moment. Taking that summer vacation, now, that I never even imagined I'd have this year!

Standing Tall

Those of you following my personal blog know that I've been out of commission lately with a bad back. I've been in a heckuva lot of pain for the past several days. It's been nearly impossible for me to sit for more than a few minutes (I'm standing at my kitchen counter as I write this but even now, my back is aching), consequently I've been laying down reading most of the weekend. In other words, no weaving, very little knitting, very little spinning. And I haven't even been reading my art books because I know I'd only want to get up and do stuff I can't do at the moment.

However, I did get word this weekend that one of the pieces I submitted to Woman Made Gallery's Object of Desire exhibition was selected! WomanMade is in Chicago, so I am especially stoked to have one of my pieces going there. The exhibition dates are October 10 - November 13. I'll post another link as the show opens. But here's an image of the piece that I'll be showing there.

Woven Shibori 2007

Anyway, I gotta go, I'm in pain and have to go lay down on the floor!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

On The Block

Granny square crocheted afghan of handspun yarns Whew! This was an enormous project, but here's my new afghan, doubled and blocking, completely obliterating the 3' x 6' blocking board underneath it. One hundred percent handspun yarns here, probably about 70% wool and 30% silk. From an acorn grows a mighty oak!

Gee, I hope I don't succumb to PPD - post project depression -- now that this baby has been birthed. No, I'm thinking of all the other stuff I can get to now!

Which reminds me that the light is on over my loom, awaiting my return.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Waxing & Waning

Lino block cut in shibori designI just finished cutting this linoleum block which I intend to use to stamp on fabric. I did try it out with ink, hence the turquoise color. The design is from a macro photo I took of one of my recent woven shiboris, which I then transferred -- albeit roughly -- onto the lino block. I really enjoyed cutting it. When I first started college and was an art major, I totally loved my printmaking class. So it was fun to do this again after all these years. I only wish, now, that I hadn't let go of my brayer and baren -- printmaking tools for the uninitiated. How many times have I gotten rid of stuff over the years, thinking I'd never use it again, only to need it not long after I finally got rid of it! I guess that's kind of a dumb question, unless one never moves and never lets go of anything for their entire life. Not I!

Anyhow, I feel like I've hardly been doing any art lately! I was out of town last weekend, and it always seems to take far longer to reclaim my daily routine after being away, than the number of days I was away for. A two day trip might require upwards of a week to get back into the groove. Yikes!

I haven't woven since late last week...but I've got less than two rows to complete on the afghan and I'm hoping to finish that up tonight! Today I put in final hours on a part-time job I've had for the last four months, that had become fairly intense over the past ten days or so -- so a lot of my energy has gone to that recently. Guess I'm feeling like I need to make excuses for why I haven't done much art lately, at least to myself.

The bigger issue is that I can so easily fall out of inspiration for my artistic vision. I suppose the vision just moves off to the side as I focus on something else temporarily. Tomorrow is a new day, I have most of the rest of the week to get back on track, and next week is wide open. Once I get back into my artistic groove, I'm rolling. Wednesday evening my monthly Art Salon is meeting, and I hope to use my time at bat to refocus on art and creativity. I'm likely in better shape than it feels like I am, right now.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Getting Organized

Today I set about organizing the new art supplies I bought recently, and gathering stuff I've had for a while that I want to work with now. I also reorganized all my dyes and assists, by dye class (acid, natural, fiber reactive), have all my discharge and thickening supplies in one place now, and can pretty much lay my hands on whatever I'll need to do what I want to do. This evening I started tinkering around with stamps that I'm creating to use on fabric.

Yesterday I bought some beautiful natural fiber yardage on sale -- a wonderful natural colored cotton, black linen, two different pieces of linen/rayon, and some black cotton gauze. Although I'm wanting to do surface design on my own handwoven fabrics, I just can't weave it fast enough. So I'll practice and hone techniques on store-bought stuff.

I've been getting a lot done and it feels good. I submitted a proposal today for an exhibition at a local gallery, sometime next year. I submitted images to three national competitions in the past week. I entered five finished pieces and 26 skeins of yarn to the Humboldt County Fair, which will be held from August 7th through the 17th. I've only got three or four more rows on my crocheted afghan, and it'll be finished (!), in time to deliver it to the Fair on August 1. I haven't let myself spin all week so I can invest all that time in completing this project. I'll definitely post a photo when it's done. And yes, it will be six feet by six feet square!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Spinners' Delight!

Sunflower Multi-Merino Top This is "Sunflower" multi-colored merino top, one of the many spinning fibers -- some brand new -- now listed at my Etsy shop. I just received a huge shipment today and everything is good to go.

Hope you'll stop by. Spin the fiber this summer, knit it up this fall!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Weave On

The weaving on this new piece is coming along fine, despite my anticipatory concerns. Here's a photo of the first 20 or so inches.

Painted warp being wovenThe photo is at kind of a weird angle because I took it of the finished cloth on its way onto the cloth beam. The weaving space where I'm working is fairly shallow for this width of warp because I'm winding onto the cloth beam every couple inches or so. So it doesn't look like there's very much done up top.

I also finished spinning the tussah silk today, that "matches" this weaving, and have close to 400 yards of singles -- now one of many skeins of hand dyed, handspun silk I'm entering into the Humboldt County Fair this year.

Hand dyed, handspun tussah silk

I'm calling this colorway Tortiseshell and hopefully I'll get back around to more of it someday!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Thirty Inches

I redyed my weft yesterday -- overdyed the apple green with an off-black -- and it turned out just right. I have about two inches woven thus far, and yes, my arms and back already hurt from the 30" weaving width.

One thing that I know doesn't work for me is using a long shuttle. In my weaving history, I've rarely used one. Holding this long shuttle in my hand and drawing out more weft and maneuvering the thing within the Schacht's short depth of space between the front beam and the beater is like adding insult to injury for me. So I'm using my trusty shorter shuttle with 4" bobbins, and scooting the thing along through the shed from on top of the lifted warp threads when I must. Seems to be working just fine.

But my upper back is already feeling the pinch. Plus shifting from side to side with each pick to check the selvedge tension. I'm wondering how other weavers manage wide warps without using flyshuttles. If you're one of these folks, please let me know.

I really want to be able to weave wide(r) pieces although I realize weaving narrow panels and sewing them together would be an excellent alternative. I'm just thinking about those cases where one has a wide design or pattern in mind, particularly with a painted warp piece. Perhaps the key is to paint the warp at one time, then divide it in two sections and weave each separately. I might try that the next time.

Meanwhile, I've got six yards of 30" cloth -- two different pieces of fabric -- to manage before moving onto the next project. I am quite happy, though, with the painting and the way it is working up. I'll upload a photo on my next post.

Friday, July 4, 2008

When In Doubt, Rip It Out

So I started weaving this morning, and with close to an inch done up, I realized that I much preferred the color of the waste yarn header as weft, than the apple green silk I dyed the other day. So I ripped it out, reskeined a bobbin's worth of weft yarn, and now have the weft skeins soaking for a dyeing do-over. Which I'll do this morning.

I've learned recently that if something isn't really right now, it won't be really right later. And I'll just hem and haw internally until I take the time to go back and correct what I don't like. This has happened a couple of times with the afghan I'm crocheting (and nearly finished with, in the nick of time to enter in this year's county fair)...there have been yarns I've used that were too fine for my purposes, and I've actually put on inches all around the afghan, concerned about that yarn, watching how it handled itself once additional yarns were added...then finally decided, days of work later, to rip it out and double or treble the yarn in question. Or put it with another fine-ish yarn.

So to actually see something I don't like and change the situation NOW, this is a good thing. And weaving is far more difficult to change, once you're into a piece, than crochet or knitting is. So now was the time for corrective action.

Which reminds me of a beautiful shawl I knit a few years ago, of hand dyed, handspun tussah silk in a variegated plum and rust colorway. I designed it to be panels of my favorite lace pattern, but after completing it and wearing it once or twice, I realized that it was too narrow and too long. So, one day I completely ripped out the whole thing down to scratch, and started over knitting it about twice as wide. Now I like it better. Although I don't wear it often, if at all, because it's not really my color. I suppose I could redye it...but I added beads along the bottom edges a few years ago that match the yarn color, so I suspect redyeing it is out of the question.

I guess I've just got to let things be as they are, at some point. I had a brief conversation with myself recently about perhaps adding surface design elements to the woven shibori scarves that I haven't sold yet. But I quickly changed direction to focus on new work, rather than forever tinkering with work that is already finished.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Warped & Beamed

Painted silk warp on loomI beamed up this morning at warp speed -- compared to the last 20/2 silk warp I worked with, which was the warp from hell -- and I'm almost ready to start weaving. I'm just waiting for my dyed-last-night 2000 yard silk weft to dry.

Dyed silk weft, dryingMeanwhile, with the dye I had left over from painting this warp, I dyed 2 ounces of tussah silk the other day, and I'm spinning that up now.

Dyed tussah silk

I also just finished a second 350-yard skein of the merino/alpaca top plied with hand dyed silk hankies. I'll probably get a third 350-yard skein out of what I have left to spin up.

Enjoy the day...I know I will!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

No Frills

As I've been threading my 720-end warp, I've been thinking about the fact that I'm a no frills weaver...

I use a basic 8-shaft 10-treadle Schacht Mighty Wolf loom without any of the accoutrements that many, if not most, weavers use these days -- a raddle, a sectional warp beam, computer dobby, jacquard loom with numerous shafts (up to 32 or more), temples, fancy apron setups, whatever else. The only thing I've changed on my loom since I've had it is that I replaced the slick rectangular apron rods with slightly-rough-to-the-touch dowels, which do a much better job of preventing the warp from slipping on the rod thereby affecting the warp tension -- despite the fact that these are round. Go figure! I also use WeaveIt Pro 6 weaving software, but I've hardly put a dent (pun intended) in its capabilities.

This no frills orientation of mine is a result of two separate but related threads that have run through my life...

One, I've always preferred to do things from scratch. I don't even know if that phrase is used any longer, so for those of you who may not know what it means, it refers to making things from the ground up, as it were. For example, once I learned how to bake, nearly 40 years ago, I never bought a cake mix, and I still wouldn't. When I was baking bread, I mixed the dough by hand in a big bowl, let it rise, punched it down, etc. etc. -- I wouldn't think of using a breadmaker. Once I started sewing my own clothes, eons ago, I rarely bought anything off a store rack (although I stopped sewing clothes a very long time ago). So making things without the benefit of technology has been a big part of my life. I like to do it myself. It's done better that way, anyway. I trust my capabilities, don't like to or need to rely on things being done for me that I know I can do for myself.

Two, I've been making art on a shoestring for as long as I can remember. Although I do purchase materials as often as I'm able to, expensive, more technologically-advanced tools have always been out of the question for me. I've operated on a do what you can with what you have basis forever, it seems, even though a part of me wants more-better-different. But do I really need bigger, better, more advanced tools? Will they make me a better weaver? or just create more chaos for me because of the exponential increase in design options available?

So I've been thinking that perhaps, at least in my own schema, I'm a sort of folk hero. Creating what I create against financial and modern-day technological odds. Which makes me feel like I'm an old school kind of gal. I wonder how many of us remain in this quickened-pace world we live in?