Thursday, April 30, 2009

The History of the Thistle

The other day when I posted my newest small work - "Thistle", my friend Nancy emailed me to say it was her favorite flower and it had an interesting history - in fact, the thistle is responsible for saving Scotland. A little flower (some call a weed) responsible for an entire country - I had to know more, so here is the story of the thistle.
The beautiful and very prickly purple thistle has been Scotlands national emblem for centuries. It can grow to a height of 5 feet, has no natural enemies because of the sharp spines that cover and protect it like a porcupine. There are several stories that tell the legend but all seem to center around the events surrounding the Battle of Largs in 1263. For a long time, Scotland was part of the Kingdom of Norway and for a long time, Norway held little interest for Scotland. When King Alexander wanted to buy back the Western Isles from the Norse King Haakon IV, a new interest in Scotland was re-kindled. King Haakon of Norway was intent on conquering the Scots. He set off for the coast when a storm hit and his fleets were forced to land at Largs in Ayrshire. They wanted to surprise the Scots by attacking at night and removed their shoes to move more quietly. They came upon an area covered with thistles and upon stepping on one, screamed out in pain AND warning the Scots. With such advanced warning, the Scots were able to defeat the Norsemen at the Battle of Largs, saving Scotland from invasion.
This beautiful flower saved the day and in so doing became the national emblem of Scotland.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Small Studies - Thistle

I found this great left over silk, part of which was lining for a garment. It was dyed with mx dyes and then batiked - the first and last time for me. The wax was difficult to remove, it took forever and I finally brought it to a dry cleaner. Thanks to Rayna Gillman, I recently discovered soy wax (see her wonderful book - Create Your own Hand-printed Cloth). It is far easier to use and remove, but for the time being, the piece below was done with a mixture of bees wax and parafin. I was semi-pleased with the results. For the lining, I stamped over obvious flaws but the left-over silk was left as is. When I recently found this fabric, I decided to shibori it using clamps and plexi-glass squares to cover the flaws and add more interest. I used a navy acid dye for silk and for some reason, it turned this brownish cranberry.
The other half of this piece was to be Thistles. I found a wonderful bunch on a morning walk. I scanned them and made them into a silk screen. The only problem when using a thermofax screen, it's a larger mesh and the image can be blurry when using a discharge paste. A textile paint works well; it's thicker and doesn't migrate but discharge paste is loose and will migrate after being screened. This is the original image - I'm not happy with it, the wonderful detail of the thistle is gone.
My friend Barbara suggested I thicken the paste with sodium alginate - no set recipe, just sprinkled a little, stirred and so on and so on.  It worked and I'm so glad to find a solution to screening with discharge paste and Thermofax screens as I love the process and the way it looks. The image on the right was done using a paste thickend with alginate;  the left is the original blurry one - a big difference!
And the finished piece - "Small Studies - Thistle".

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Faces From the Past II

I'm working in a series using faces and old documents - I call the series "Faces From the Past". This piece was created using "left-overs" from the first piece of the same name. I really liked the imagery and color so I put together another smaller piece. This piece uses more faces as imagery and other techniques the first one didn't utilize. Faces II uses fabric I have created through dyeing, discharging, potato dextrose resist, screening and stamping.
The detail below shows a postcard image that's been screened on the piece. The meandering line was created by dropping ink on top of the fabric and blowing through a straw. The right side of the piece was created using potato dextrose resist, then painted over with procion mx dyes. I've had this fabric in my stash forever and it was a great "find" when I came upon it. The dark green rayon is screened with discharge paste and stamped.
The rayon background fabric for the detail below was painted with silk paint and spinkled with salt. The face is a picture my son drew and made into a silk screen.
The larger detail below shows a basket left over from another project. I liked the way it worked both color and shape wise.
A close-up of the side of the quilt and my favorite stamp/stencil. When our house was being built, the tile guy used a grid like material when working on the bathrooms - think it was used as a base for placing tiles.  It's a sticky material with square like openings and perfect for laying on fabric and stenciling with paint or discharge paste. In this case I used discharge paste.
This next detail was so fascinating - part of the potato dextrose fabric in my stash. This is how it originally appeared and as I looked at it, I began to see an "eye".  I love faces and thought it was fate to have this fabric turn up at this time. I enhanced it ever so slightly
using a Pigma pen.
It's very subtle but definitely has an eery effect - kind of like somebody watching, but I do like it.
It was an interesting piece to make and utilized many techniques I enjoy doing - hope you enjoy it too.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Slow Design Exhibit

The Asheville Arts Council is currently featuring a wonderful exhibit at the Front Gallery. The exhibit - Slow Design, features designs that look at longer cycles of human behavior, sustainability and manufacturing with local/regional materials and technologies. The workshop I took last week with Yoshiko Wada (in the same building) had the same theme - creating with recycled materials. Here is a glimpse of some of the wonderful textiles featured in the Slow Design Exhibit.
I love the reverse applique on the garment below. The entire garment was covered with hand stitching.
This garment was fantastic - so creative and definitely had the flavor of recycled materials.

In the garment below, you can see the worn lace and how it was incorporated into the garment. I love going to thrift stores to pick up second hand clothing - sometimes it's the fabric that entices me, or the buttons, or it's great for dyeing.
This jacket had the most wonderful and intricate reverse applique work.

This was a piece of fabric hanging up - loved the imagery on it.
This is a detail of a large piece of fabric hanging from the ceiling to the floor - all hand done and amazing!
Recognize this gal - it's Elisa Jimenez from Project Runway. I really enjoy that show. In younger days, I wanted to be a fashion designer. I love watching the creative process in the challenges each episode presents. Elisa was one of my favorites, she was such a sweet personality and positive force to the show. It was fun talking to her and hearing all about the show and what she is doing now. Elisa was one of the Hatch Fashion mentors for the Hatch Festival in Asheville which sponsored this show.

Monday, April 20, 2009

More on Indigo Dyeing

I love working with Indigo; it's a fascinating process. To get good color, the Indigo bath must rid itself of oxygen, making it soluble. I've heard of natural Indigo having a "flower" on top and this is an indication that the Indigo is soluble.
It's important to keep the solution as "oxygen free" as possible. To this end, the soaked fabric should be wrung out tightly before dipping as water contains oxygen. The vat should also be kept covered to prevent oxygen from entering. The fabric is dipped quickly and then hung to air dry. Oxidation occurs at this point turning the fabric from a yellow-green to Indigo. Each time you dip, the color deepens. One of the most fun parts is to fold, wrap etc. your fabric before dipping to  create a pattern. I wrapped the piece below with green beads.
I also used a gimp thread (to the left). It's 100% cotton and a good candidate for dyeing. I kept the thread continuous rather than cut small pieces for each bead. I knew I would have some interesting thread to use for stitching when done. Having 1 long piece made it easier to "undo". The beads are inexpensive plastic beads but any small shape would work such as dried beans and buttons.
Below is the wonderful thread I wound up with.
In this workshop, we also talked about rice bags. Original rice bags are patched and sewn together using a very coarse thread. They are used to collect rice in the fields and also to make Saki-rice wine. I have one - a treasure I picked up in Japan years ago. I've been waiting for the perfect time to use it. I dyed a small part with Indigo and the rest left natural. It will work into some kind of wall hanging.
We also used resists; this fabric was clamped with C clamps and plexiglass squares.

A wonderful process.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Yashiko Wada and Shibori

I had the great experience of taking a workshop from Yashiko Wada yesterday. It was packed full of knowledge and ideas from a woman who is both experienced and incredibly talented. A focus of the workshop was using worn and used items of clothing etc. to make new interesting pieces of art. Felt, water soluble materials and working with Indigo were also touched upon. I was intrigued by the piece below which uses worn pieces of Shibori to make this "new" piece.
And this piece which also used Sashiko - a form of decorative stitching done in large patterns over the surface.
The Indigo pot - the real thing. I've only used synthetic Indigo dye and have always wanted to work with real Indigo, it was great fun!

Yashiko Wada (below) an incredible artist and fantastic instructor. I look forward to taking more workshops from her in the future.
I am off and running to Gatlinburg in a few minutes and have more to add so I'll say "stay tuned for more about this wonderful technique".

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Small Studies

I've been using up scraps of fabric to do these small studies. They're a lot of fun and it's easy to try something new with not much of an investment in time or materials. I decided to mat them and back them with foamboard. The mats are a standard size (11x14) making them easy to frame. The opening is 8x10. The first one is a study in trees. The left side is a monoprint, the right side is a tree made of sheer fabric. There's a minimum amount of stitching - just enough for interest.
This next study uses one of my hand dyed fabrics on both sides, the left side being stamped. I have a wonderful leaf stamp I probably use too much. In this case, it was stamped on sheer painted organza using Lumiere paint, then cut out and the edges burned. The leaves were attached using a monofilament thread and stitching down the middle following the vein line. This last one is another study in trees using hand dyed fabric. The tree is a photograph manipulated and made into a line drawing using photoshop. From the line drawing, I was able to make a silk screen. I screened discharge paste on the fabric. The left side had me stumped until I came upon this printed tree on silk organza. I like the way you can see through to the fabric underneath.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Nuno Show and Tell

In my last blog I talked about our Nuno Felting day with Nancy Bruce. I promised more photos of her work and the results of our felting - all very exciting. This scarf made by Nancy is lined and attached to the lining with a buttonhole stitch. You can see the blue lining; it's very heavily felted and a WOW color!
These 2 scarves have a buttonhole stitch around the edge also, for an interesting effect.
This scarf - much wider, could also be used as a shawl. The edge has beading and fringe.
Martine's scarf has wonderful points coming off the edge. The center has no felting; it's much wider than the edges where the felting pulled in the sides.
Patsy worked in wonderful colors - adding a bit of hot pink to the center of some of the rovings to give it more zing.
Mary made a line of rovings down through the center as well as on each end - very cool.
I wanted a more "gossamer" look and used less rovings but placed them all over with lots of space in between. This negative space (silk gauze) becomes puckered when the felting occurs all around it - an
interesting effect.
A detail of my scarf shows the "curls" which Nancy dyed for our use. The bright yellow curls are just "plain cute" as can be, adding another dimension to the surface. I think they are my favorite part.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Nuno Felting

What a great day, my mind is still spinning. Our good friend and very accomplished fiber artist, Nancy Bruce showed a group of us how to Nuno felt. I've admired the technique for years so was thrilled to have this opportunity. Nuno felting uses small amounts of rovings which are felted into a sheer piece of fabric. The rovings and fabric become one. Pieces of thread, fiber curls etc. can be "caught" in between the rovings for more interest. This is one of Nancy's pieces - Wow!
We started on the deck outside. It was raining and windy so we moved inside very quickly. Our first step was to lay very sheer silk -  3.5mm silk gauze, on top of a bubble wrap type material. This was an old pool cover cut into strips.
Next we laid the rovings. Nancy dyed them in many beautiful colors. This part was great fun and very creative. Martine was wanting her rovings to hang off the edge. Wait til you see how interesting this turns out.
Mary is working with wonderful colors on a navy background.
After the rovings are in place, a polyester curtain like material is laid over the top. This holds the rovings in place and will not "felt" with the rovings, leaving them to felt with the silk gauze.

Next comes the water;  this little orange contraption is similar to the sprinklers our grandmothers used when ironing clothes. It brought me back in time. The entire surface is rubbed and smoothed out.
Making sure there are no air bubbles.
Then comes the rolling, and rolling, and more rolling. This is what felts the rovings to themselves and the silk gauze.

Using a bubble wrap mitt, the next step is to gently rub the scarf with hot water and soap.
The end results - I love the felted points.
Patsys' wonderful scarf - great colors!

The Nuno felters - Martine, Judy (with her scarf), Nancy, Patsy and Mary in front. What a great day-thank you Nancy, you are the best!