Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Third Time's The Charm

Discharged and overdyed raw silkThis is the piece of black raw silk I started fooling around with yesterday...this morning I retied it and stuck it in a pot of thiox for about an hour. After unwrapping it and neutralizing it in vinegar, I didn't like it that much -- there was still too much black in it! So I dunked the whole piece in the thiox and let it sit for a few minutes, neutralized and finished it off, and then I REALLY didn't like it! The whole piece was those undercolors you see above -- light denim blue and tan. Not what I was trying to do, at all.

So -- this afternoon I overpainted it with black acid dye, steamed it, washed and dryed it, and now I love it! In fact, I like it better than the front side of the little quilt!

Anyway, the moral of the story is: Keep working it...if you don't like it, work it til you do!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Performance Anxiety

Bomaki shibori cottonI'm just getting started with fiber reactive dyes. I've become very intimate with acid dyes over the years but fiber reactives are new to me. Although fiber reactive dyes will also dye silk, they're about the only thing to use with cellulose fibers -- cotton, linen, rayon, tencel -- other than natural dyes. There's so much to learn -- different categories of fiber reactives (MX, H, F), which are best on which fiber, which most easily produce the intended results.

The sample above was dyed black! There are 4 black dyes in the Procion MX line, and this one, believe it or not, was Jet Black. Looks more like indigo to me. I wrapped a piece of off-white cotton for bomaki shibori, and painted it. It was really black at that point. Rather than batch process the piece for 24-48 hours, I left it overnight on the pole to dry, then steamed it for 20 minutes. Apparently this particular black dye is not great for shibori. I'm thinking about getting all 4of the Procion blacks...but I may decide instead to focus on Cibacron F fiber reactives because they have some dye characteristics that sound like they might work better for the kind of work I do. I'll keep you posted on what I learn.

That indigo-looking cotton was meant to be backing for a small quilt piece I am working on. A few weeks ago I posted an image of a handwoven silk/tencel scarf that I'd overpainted, which I then decided to make into something else. After trying a variety of possible solutions, I fell into a vein of inspiration and am taking small steps daily to complete the piece. At any rate, that backing won't work, so I decided to discharge a piece of black silk for backing instead. As it turned out, again that black silk from Dharma Trading presented major discharge problems and I wasn't able to get any of the color out of it with thiox paste. I know a pot of thiox will work on the fabric, although apparently nothing else will. So tomorrow I'll retie it and toss it into a cauldron of thiox.

The two samples below are from other experiments I did today with thiox paste, that did work.

Thioxed black cotton T-shirtThe first piece is an old black T-shirt, unfortunately not the whole thing, just the front or back. The color discharged very easily.

Thioxed linen/rayon This last piece I really like -- it's linen/rayon and I applied thiox paste over a stencil-like thing (actually one of those gizmos you lay in the kitchen sink). I steamed the fabric then did the process again with the same template, because I don't think I had enough soda ash in the first batch of paste. The redder places are from the first go-round.

Anyhow, I labeled this post Performance Anxiety, because trying new things and building a base of working knowledge in new areas tend to make me very anxious. It's always a challenge for me to hang out in the uncontrollable and not-knowing place. I've been thinking today about my former life as a "working person," and in retrospect I think that rather than push myself to embrace these creative challenges and move through them, I was never before up to the task, consequently I always gave up and went back to work at a job.

The interesting thing about where I am in life now, is that I can't get a job anymore! Besides the fact that I feel unemployable because I've never fit into the requisite roles and regulations of "real work," at a much deeper and much higher level I am quite sure the Universe wants me to finally get a grip on the creative challenge/anxiety thing so that I can grow as the artist I really am -- kind of come hell or high water. This is where I am, this is what I'm doing, my lessons are here, now.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Small Silk Skein

Hand dyed silk skeinI just spun up this small skein of silk, 190 yards, that I dyed last weekend during my class. One ply is tussah and the other is bombyx. I spun it quite a bit heavier than usual; the weight of this is between sport and worsted. There's not much but I'm thinking I'll knit up a little something. I almost never knit my hand dyed, handspun silks, probably because most of them have been too fine to do anything with except knit gossamer lace. Anyhow, this was a joy to spin.

In other news, I was the recipient today of two pieces of wide diameter PVC, gratefully donated to the cause by the Humboldt Community Services District -- and cut to spec as well! I also "liberated" two pieces of construction fencing from a road project a few miles from home. Now my backporch is starting to look like a lumberyard!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Prep Time

I've spent a considerable amount of time recently, trying to run down stuff I want to use in my art making. Stuff like construction fencing, wide diameter PVC or poly pipe, odd tools and objects for various processes, cool rusty junk, etc.

In my neck of the woods industrial strength stuff is hard to come by for the average citizen. We don't have a Home Depot here (yet)...you can't believe how many calls I've made in the past few days trying to run down 2 - 3 foot PVC or other pipe segments in 8", 10", 12" and 14" diameter. I've called every lumberyard in the area, plumbing contractors, commercial building contractors, well drillers, and city water and sewer departments. Most haven't even gotten back to me, they must think I'm a crackpot. I've listed what I'm looking for at craigslist Humboldt County, as well as the local Freecycle Yahoo Group. I've gone by a couple of construction sites, and there aren't that many here these days, but haven't yet located what I'm looking for.

It feels like a major part of art making is really about preparing to actually make art -- all those things you need to do and stuff you need to obtain just to get to that point in time at which you can actually be creative. Although definitely, finding the stuff I need is exercising my creativity in its own way.

Perhaps the actual making of tangible art is more like slow performance art. You get everything together that you'll need -- paints, dyes, discharge materials, tools, pots, pans, fabrics, brushes, squeeze bottles, stamps, stencils, work surfaces, ad infinitum -- and then the moment comes when you get to put the stuff together in some perhaps predetermined way, or better, it evolves moment by moment over time to become the finished piece.

I'm trying to get to the point where I have everything I can imagine I'll need for a good spell of art making. I know there'll always be more stuff to try out, but I am working toward an initial critical mass. Actually I think I'm almost there. And meanwhile I'm continuing to weave fabrics, tweak ideas in my head, move stuff around in my studio to accommodate more stuff (!), etc. And trying not to succumb to overwhelm by imagining all the creative possibilities!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Next In Line

Undulating twillI wove 45" on the pumpkin undulating twill piece from a couple posts ago, then changed the tie-up and the treadling and am weaving this up now. The weft is a natural colored 8/2 silk noil yarn. It looks in the photo like there are shibori wefts but there aren't. This one is working up to have a nubby texture and I'm thinking about some surface design ideas as I'm working on it.

Today is the First Day of Fall! I'm always happy when fall gets here. I'm in the mood for it, besides. Today was kind of a pivot day. I taught a 2-day class over the weekend, which, as much as I enjoy that, is always a distraction from thinking about and making art. So today I took care of some business and did little chores around the place. Tomorrow I'm hoping to refocus and get back on track, start completing projects that have been in process for a while, etc. I have few responsibilities for the next little while and I want to devote this "free" time to art.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Brilliant Colors

Dyed silk hankiesI taught another silk dyeing class today, and these are the hankies I painted. The colors are absolutely brilliant, better in reality than my camera could capture. We also dyed tussah and bombyx top, and tomorrow we'll be spinning them up!

Local Politics

This post probably could be on my personal blog, but since it has to do with guild politics, I suppose it's appropos here. The bottom line is that the older I get, the less time and inclination I have to be involved in groups that inevitably wind up being about one or a few people wielding their egos over the group, blatantly OR subtly. And calling that a democracy.

I've been in and out of my local spinning and weaving guild since about 2000, mostly in, and on the board for all of that time. That's because I have a lot of the business skills that boards, art-related or not, love and always need. What I've been doing here is editing the newsletter, which is actually something I enjoy doing. But I'm finding it increasingly difficult to participate in board meetings because one person (formerly) or another (currently) always rises to some self-inflated level to where they begin to take the guild for granted in some way or treat other members in a mildly condescencing way.

I think it also has to do with my DEcreasing ability to unceasingly support other people in their climbs upward. I wonder what failure it is on my part, if any, to enjoy the success of others. In sorting through this I'm thinking the whole thing has more to do with the other person's attitude than anything else. If that person remains humble, then fine. But as soon as they start to take on airs, then my support goes out the window.

And while I'm on this train of thought, I do not like having my work judged. I know many of you will likely chime in here. I have no problem sending my work to galleries and art centers to be juried, but I dislike having it judged at the local county fair. My concerns are two-fold here...first off, the person who judges handspun yarn always holds it up to a machine-spun standard, dinging you if there are slubs or unevenly plied areas anywhere in the skein. I mean, come on, it's HANDSPUN!

The other concern is that the person who judges finished work inevitably makes some negative comment based on the fact that in their opinion the entrant made some creative choice that they wouldn't have made. I'm not talking about technical errors or finishing or presentation boo-boos. One of the pieces I entered this year in my county fair was knocked down a few points because the judge didn't think the shibori pattern I wove into the fabric was quite to her liking.Unreal!

Anyway, I'm going to try to go back to sleep now that I've gotten all my issues off my mind!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Far Afield

Sometimes you just have to get out of the way and let a project evolve into what it wants to become. I finished warping my loom this morning, at 16.3 inches wide, intending to use the 20/2 silk I handpainted recently for what I thought would be a painted weft piece. For the life of me, I just couldn't get the color areas to line up correctly. So after weaving a couple of inches, I ripped it all out and started again. This being my second or third unsuccessful attempt to use that silk yarn in a weaving, I decided I would knit it up sometime in the future.

So what to do with this undulating twill warp, 6 yards of it?

Cotton and tencel undulating twill fabric

Part of it will be woven up as in this photo, a pumpkin colored cotton on black tencel warp. It's making up a hefty fabric, with a lot of texture and diagonal cords, and I have no idea what I'll do with it in the end. At this point it's just being a lovely piece of cloth. Even though I'm not beating the weft picks in tightly, because of the long float length the weft is packing in at far more picks per inch than I would have imagined, so this piece might take a few days to weave up. But I am liking it, and I love the color.

Another lesson in letting go of expectations!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Second Generation

My work on commercial black fabrics with various discharge techniques continues...

Sample 1 above is Bomaki Shibori, a variation of pole-wrapped arashi. In this case the fabric was sewn into a sleeve that fit over the PVC cylinder, scrunched down horizontally, then painted with thickened bleach. The fabric is linen/rayon.

Sample 2 above is Itajime Shibori, pleated and folded cotton gauze resisted with small circular clamps, put in a 15-20% bleach pot.

Sample 3 above is a piece of linen/rayon pleated and folded several times, the bundle then tied in four places with raffia, put in a 15-20% bleach pot for just a few minutes.

Sample 4 above is a piece of cotton folded several times and held together with large binder clips, put in a 15-20% bleach pot for a bit.

Sample 5 above is Komasu Shibori (squares), big this time, on raw silk. This sample and the one below were soaked for a bit in the bleach solution mentioned above (although you're not supposed to put silk in bleach!), then discharged with thiox paste and steamed for about 15 minutes.

Sample 6 above was tied up for Midori Shibori (willow leaf) and soaked for a while in bleach, then overdischarged with thiox paste that was applied to the raw silk with a stamp.

Some comments about some of the materials I've been using -- the black raw silk was purchased from Dharma Trading and the only thing that will remove color from it is thiox. I tried discharging these two samples and several other fiber samples with Jacquard Discharge Paste, but that stuff really doesn't work on commercial black fabric, even though the instructions say it will. Apparently Discharge Paste really only works on Procion dyes.

Although it is highly recommended NOT to use bleach on silk, I tried it anyway and had something interesting happen. The brownish areas on the silk samples above are a bit like burnout because this is where the bleach contacted the silk and it began to thin the fabric a bit. If you hold these up to the light, you can see that the fabric is less dense where the bleach was. Quite interesting. Makes me want to try devore (burnout) now. For the non-fabric folks reading this, burnout is a process done on fabric that is woven with both a synthetic and a natural fiber -- like silk and rayon -- and painting or stamping designs on the fabric with a chemical that burns out the rayon, leaving just the silk. Think "cut velvet."

This is all very interesting stuff and I'm enjoying it. The spontaneity and serendipity of the results are terrific!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

In Process

I talked about my resistance, last night, with dear friend and artist Joan Gold, and became enlightened to the idea that I am working up to being ready to use my handwoven fabrics. I am in the process of getting to where I want to be...working things out along the way...getting ideas out of my system, as it were...making the marks on cloth that I have envisioned, as I find out what I really grabs my attention and holds it.

I have already discovered that I am far more intrigued with organic, seemingly uncontrolled designs than I had previously imagined. I am drawn to and want to focus on letting the dye and paint go where they want to go instead of imposing structure and boundaries.

Actually, I had an experience of this back in the early 1990s, when I "tried" to paint silk -- I was hoping to be able to do painterly work with gutta (resist goo) that was popular then and now. For me, it was fraught with technical difficulties, until I finally let go of what I thought I wanted to do, and just painted dyes on silk without expectation.

Dye painted silk scarf from 1992This image is of a silk scarf that I dyed in 1992. I have it and two others hanging in my studio now, thinking I'll probably go further with them, finally. They feel unfinished. But they do capture what still excites me about dye on fabric, and so the feeling elicited here is what I am still aiming to achieve, now on handwoven fabric, and now with dye, paint and discharge.

Friday, September 12, 2008

New Fabric

Two shots of my brand new fabric to play with -- off the loom yesterday, laundered, pressed and ready to use. The discharge warp piece is all mercerized cotton, and the other two pieces are tencel on cotton. The last of the three is small, about 30" in length and for that one I went back to the original treadling that produced the circles motif.

Handwoven fabricsHandwoven fabrics

Now this piece of peachy silk has been in my collection since the mid-1980s, when a girlfriend and I were in Hong Kong enroute to Bali. We picked up two yards of this beautiful silk, a yard for each of us (the price back then seemed prohibitive), and I never did anything with my yard.

So today I dyed it! And now it's sumptuous pea green, my favorite color. Here's hoping I use it in a project before another 24 years passes!

It seems like I've hardly gotten anything done today and the day is half gone or better. I'm in one of those places where it seems like I've got more things I want to do and try out than I'll ever have time for.

I'm also in a place where it feels like I'm resisting moving forward in some areas, and I think it has to do with fear of actually using all this newly-woven fabric to go crazy on with discharge-dye-stamps-stencils-paints-etc. Worst case scenario: I can't live with the results of what I've done and I've "wasted" time and materials. Seems like a foolish consideration when I put it like that, given how much time and money I've wasted over the years on any number of people and things, artistic and otherwise. (I'm giving myself a little pep talk, here.) What if I don't like any of it? Maybe I'll discover something startlingly new in the process, about myself and/or the materials. I can't take any of it with me when "I go" anyway, so who really gives a hoot?!

Just do it!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Discharge Blues

Here are the results of another multi-purpose experiment I finished off this morning. The tasks were to:

  • learn a few handstitched shibori techniques
  • use black fabrics and discharge rather than dye the samples
  • compare different fabrics so I'd know which ones would be worth exploring further and which to drop from consideration for future projects
Handstitched shibori samples waiting to be discharged So here are the stitched, bound, and/or folded samples, which I prepared over the last 10 days or so.

Sample 1, above: Ori-nui Shibori (undulating lines) on black rayon that used to be a CP Shades top that I hadn't worn in 7 or 8 years.

Sample 2, above: Hinode Shibori (sunrise pattern) on black raw silk.

Sample 3, above: Midori Shibori (willow leaf) on black raw silk.

Sample 4, above: Arashi Shibori (wind driven rain) on black raw silk, hand gathered rather than pole wrapped.

Sample 5, above: Kumo Shibori (spiderweb) on black silk gauze.

Sample 6, above: Black silk gauze folded into a very small triangle, bound with two medium binder clips.

Sample 7, above: Itajime Shibori (board clamping) on black linen/rayon.

Sample 8, above: detail of Komasu Shibori (squares) on black linen/rayon.

I also tied up two samples using black cotton gauze but they didn't discharge at all. And a piece of old black cotton jersey T-shirt didn't turn out great, although a different pattern, I'm sure, would have worked better on that fabric.

I immersion discharged with thiox, and some interesting things happened. Although the samples looked in the pot under the liquid like all the color had discharged out, when exposed to air, they oxidized and the colors got dark again. I did the entire process twice, and a bit more black came out but still the samples darkened after coming out of the pot. In this way it was much like dyeing with indigo -- thiox and soda ash are major components of the indigo process anyway -- when you lift your fiber, yarn or fabric out of the pot and it's a pale green, then it turns blue with oxidation.

I was surprised that the black raw silk didn't discharge more. I also found it very interesting that the areas that discharged most completely were ones that were inside the bindings, pleats or gathers, less exposed to the chemicals.

At any rate, I loved the process, glad I finally learned some shibori techniques, and have a ton of ideas to try out on my handwoven fabrics. So I'd say it was a great success!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Thank You Very Much!

And another award, just bestowed on me this morning by Peg in South Carolina -- thank you so much, Peg, for your ongoing support and kudos!

And with that, I'll pass the award on to:

Sue Doodles, bringing us lively doodles as fine art...
Unravelling, Meg's weaving voyage in the Southern Hemisphere...
Artmixter, glorious mixed fiber art from Norfolk, UK (love that she's a Scot!)...
Purple Missus, more fabulous mixed fiber art from Essex, UK.

Here are the "responsibilities" that go along with receiving this award:
1. Post this award on your blog.
2. Add a link to the person who awarded you.
3. Nominate at least 4 other bloggers, and add their links as well.
4. Leave a comment at the new recipients' blogs, so they can pass it on.

Congrats to everybody, and thanks again, Peg!

More Awards & Exhibitions

If you're a regular reader here you may have noticed that I recently added two new exhibitions to my list, just to the right here, of upcoming events where my work can be seen and purchased. The two newly added ones are the Blue Ridge Handweaving Show, October 6 - 31 in Asheville, North Carolina, and the Southern Appalachian Artist Guild National Juried Show, October 18 - November 14 in Blue Ridge, Georgia. I'm totally stoked -- one show happening as we speak and three more coming up in the next two months. I'm really glad to have opportunities to get my work to audiences around the country, in the flesh so to speak. And especially delighted to have two pieces going to Asheville, because it is such a hotbed of artistic talent in the U.S.

I also received a phone call yesterday informing me that I am one of the recipients this year of a local, Humboldt County grant for women artists. Wow!

I can't tell you how happy this makes me. All this acknowledgement lets me know I'm on the right path, doing what I'm supposed to be doing. It's very encouraging. I definitely need to update my artist resume!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Black After All

Black cotton and black tencel, network twill patternSo the second piece on this warp turns out to be black on black, after all. That's black cotton warp and black tencel weft. It's weaving up quickly and I'm enjoying it.

In painting that 18 inch weft I'd intended to use on this 18 inch warp, I completely forgot about take up! To the uninitiated, what that means is that it takes more than 18 inches of weft to lay in a pick 18 inches wide. That's because of the take up that occurs as the weft yarn goes over some threads and under others. It actually requires about 10 percent more than the weaving width, which would be close to 20 inches per each pick of weft. In other words, that 18 inch weft I painted needs a warp of 16.3 inches to work! Rude awakening here. I usually have more than enough weft yarn so I don't really consider take up in my calculations. But this time I should have.

So, the NEXT piece I warp will be 16.3 inches wide to accommodate that painted weft. Yes, I am determined to get it woven up, and the next piece will do it!

Thursday, September 4, 2008


Fabric stamped with metallic paintI have been working diligently at my art, some days without ever having to leave the house to go anywhere or do anything. Which I totally love. I've begun to covet my working time. I remember myself at this time last year, how frazzled and unfocused I was, and am grateful that I am where I am now.

As soon as I awake in the morning, I am at it in the studio, stamping samples, trying out stencils, hand stitching shibori samples, looking at different pieces in the works and imagining possible next steps for each. I've also been looking at a lot of inspiring materials, formulating thoughts for ideas to bring to fruition, planning series of pieces.

I have a stretch goal for myself of 20 finished art cloth pieces by the end of this year. I already have seven pieces in various stages of development. There are so many weaving ideas I have that I'm trying to spend at least a couple of hours at the loom each day. Of course, this doesn't always happen. But I want to keep moving, keep producing.

Through one of the Yahoo Groups I belong to I got turned on to Clarissa Pinkola Estes' CD program called The Creative Fire, and I've been listening to it these past few days. It's a wonderful exploration of the ebb and flow of the creative life, how the dark places we all experience are vital parts of the process of rebirth and renewal. Highly recommended.

What I'm finding so intriguing is that there is the making-art part of being an artist, and then there is the psychic/emotional/inner dynamic part of living a creative life. Both aspects need attending to regularly. There are moments when I feel like I have this all in hand, but those clarifying jolts are fleeting. It's definitely a life process, being on these two tracks at once which are really just different manifestations of one journey. Very interesting.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Time For a Sale

I have an End of Summer Sale going on now at my Etsy store. All spinning fibers and weaving yarns are 20% off, now through the autumn equinox, September 22. Place your order, as usual, at Etsy, then I will send you an invoice through PayPal with the discounted prices. After payment, I'll ship immediately.

Prepared For Dyeing (PFD) fibers include merino/tencel, tencel, tussah silk, bombyx silk, yak, bamboo, bamboo/silk, silk hankies, and cotton. I've also got some really beautiful solid and multi colored merino tops, and multi colored corriedale/colonial tops. There's also Angelina in several colors. The two silk yarns I have available are an ecru 20/2 bombyx and a white 10/1 dupioni -- both dye magnificently and weave up wonderfully.

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Next Steps

Silk woven shiboriI took the next step today on the dyed/discharged silk piece from a week or so ago. I'd gathered up the shibori threads over the weekend, and this morning I dyed the piece again, dried and ironed it. I planned for those very subtle colors that were just slightly darker than the piece was before the shibori dyeing. Now I'm thinking about what's next on this.

Silk/tencel painted warp scarfThe second piece is a silk and tencel scarf I did a while back. The white silk warp was painted with black, then I used handspun black tencel for the weft. It was in my personal collection, and I liked it but always felt it needed something else. Today I applied some metallic paint, and now I've decided to cut the piece in half, hand stitch the two halves together, and make a wall piece out of it.

This was the first handwoven piece that I've applied paint to and I wanted to see what that was like. I felt dispassionate about it, which is a good thing. I suppose one needs to have somewhat of a thick skin to do what I'm doing on dear-to-my-heart handwoven fabric. The fact that for years now I've let go of my attachment to handspun weaving thrums (loom waste) and thrown them away if I didn't have a really good use for them, has prepared me for this bigger step.