"We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day." Edith Lovejoy Pierce
Saturday, December 31, 2016
Sunday, December 25, 2016
Monday, November 28, 2016
Monday, November 21, 2016
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
I use winter for messing around with the ideas that have been haunting me all summer and have had no time for. The truck is all loaded up for Custer's Christmas Arts and Crafts Show at the Spokane Fair and Expo Center November 18th, 19th and 20th; I now have time to play before working this weekend.
I unearthed a book called "The Organic Artist" by Nick Neddo. Nick is a very talented artist and this is a very cool book. He generously gives instruction for all the hand made tools and supplies he uses. Making ink peaked my interest, mostly because I had some Oregon Grape berries in the fridge. Not nearly the amount he calls for in the book, but enough to see what I thought of the idea. For those not from the Northwest, Oregon Grape has leaves like a holly plant and the berries are a dusky blue instead of red. There is creeping and upright variety. I was curious to see what color the ink would end up as when you smash the berries they make a purple, but when I tried to include them in eco printing (with iron or rust mordant) they made kind of a gray splotch.
|Oregon Grape berries, partially smashed|
As per instructed I mashed them with a mortar and pestle until totally mashed. Then I worked them through a fine mesh strainer. If I had enough berries I would have also worked it through a coffee filter to get rid of the remaining bits, but since this was just a fun rainy day kind of experiment I figured I would lose too much juice. Even so, there wasn't a whole lot of solids floating in it. Nick used vinegar and salt as a preservative/mordant as he feels since you can't make alum at home it wasn't what he was interested in doing. Since my mixture seemed quite thick I added some vodka (thought it would flow better than vinegar) and a tiny amount of salt. Since vodka will kill about anything I decided vinegar wasn't necessary, although acid is used as a mordant in berry dyes without much color shifting.
|A very nice pink flamingo|
As you can see, it came out a lovely pinky purple color, which turned more purple when it dried. Not only did it have a nice flow, but I had some clean stamp pads laying around (see what happens when you clean? You find toys you forgot you had!) so I put some in one of those and it stamped pretty well, although if I were going to do this again I would do the extra strain through a coffee filter as the floaty bits did show up in the stamped image.The color seemed a bit different depending on the kind of paper used, but I could not get that change to show in the pictures, it was pretty subtle. I used watercolor paper, bristol board and Japanese calligraphy paper to paint and stamp on. Although all are probably archival, they do have different chemical make-ups so it makes sense that the color appears differently, just as it would on different types of fabric.
I got so excited I put these pictures up on Facebook and a friend commented that she could see this done on silk. Nick does state that berry inks will fade with exposure to sun, which with paintings and drawings you try to avoid anyway. So, yes I could see this done to a fine silk that was to be used in a wallhanging or art piece, being conscious of the fact that it is in no way permanent or archival. That being said, what if one was to add alum, either pretreating the fabric first or to the ink itself? Since no heat is used in this process in order to get this really vivid color, it still wouldn't be washable (probably) but might be worthwhile for other types of art or craft. I think it warrants more experimentation at any rate. When I come across berries again I will try to have suitable fabric at the ready.
Monday, November 14, 2016
Saturday, November 12, 2016
This week has been very disconcerting. When I feel this way I look to nature to remind me of the bigger picture. I have taken a very long walk each day. I see the river rising as it should at this time of the year, the leaves changing and falling, and, thanks to the incredible amount of rain, the mushrooms rising. My husband has brought home something new almost every day to identify. There was even an article in our local paper about the diversity of fruiting fungi this fall, some not seen for the last ten years.
Watching the ducks paddling around in swirling water that I would be afraid to swim in due to its force, is comforting as well as inspiring. They are completely at home no matter the tempest around them. Or, maybe to my untrained eye, they know when to dodge the churning water coming from below that I can't see from where I stand. I wish I had the same knowledge about my own world. To know how to swim into the whitewater while avoiding the deadly whirlpools would be empowering.
While my sunroom would hardly be considered a nature area, it is soothing to see my Christmas cactus doing what they normally do at this time of year. The days shorten and they bloom. With all the gray days in October, they are a bit ahead of schedule. They have adjusted to what is going on around them.
Outside is another story. Our temperatures this fall have been abnormally warm. We did have a light frost in September, so the hollyhocks and other perennials died back. The annuals died off and it looked like fall was on the way to winter. Then we had copious amounts of rain and highs in the sixties with nighttime lows in the high forties for all of October and now for the first two weeks of November. Today it is a beautiful spring day. We started out with rain and now it is sunny and breezy. Trouble is, it is not spring. The snapdragons and even some petunias have reseeded and sent up seedlings, the perennials are coming back from the roots. They don't know it yet, but all will get a rude awakening later in the week when it is supposed to freeze at night.
I feel like the outdoor plants. I had been going along thinking I had at least a notion of what was going on, and now-I don't know what to think or where to turn. Society was not what I thought it was. I went to bed one night and woke up to a very harsh reality. It would be easier to live in some sheltered, hothouse world where there was plenty of time to make decisions and adjust. Truth is, life is not that way. I stay grounded by enveloping myself in a world that remains constant by continuously changing, the real world, the natural world. The plants will freeze, go dormant and be back in the spring and their lives will go on. While I can't go dormant entirely (wish that I could) I do need to rest, pull back and conserve my energy for whatever life delivers next.
Monday, November 7, 2016
Wednesday, November 2, 2016
All I am doing these days is putting the final touches on work for the holiday shows. I can't imagine anyone wanting to see pictures of a woman doing bushels of laundry and miles of sewing. So what to write about? An article appeared in our local paper recently that was entitled something about decluttering and creativity. As it turned out the article was chock full of advise along the lines of buying lots of storage tubs and a label maker.
I have noticed a gentle push back against Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. This would be the cleaning method where you hold something in your hands and if it gives you joy you keep it, if not, out it goes. There was a meme going around not too long ago that said "I tried that Japanese cleaning method where you throw out everything that doesn't give you joy. So far all I threw out were the bills and the vegetables." Then an artistic friend of mine put up a post ranting about how she liked having all her art supplies around her, and her other stuff, and poor old Marie could buzz off (paraphrase of post). She got slightly under a zillion likes and a truly mad amount of comments on this. It struck a nerve.
Artsy-fartsy types tend to collect things. We all seem to have packrat tendencies. Although some family members may disagree, it usually doesn't amount to full blown hoarding. Just hoarding of certain things.
A few years ago, during the financial crash, I was doing some serious analysis of what we owned, why it was there and pondering how much it had cost us vs. how much it actually got used. This included the studio. The top layers of the onion were pretty easy to peel off and throw away, but then when I got into the heart of the matter it became more and more difficult to really slice into the issue. I started by simply going into each part of my studio, fabric cabinet, beading table, under the sewing tables, and on down the list. I really took a hard look at things and thought deeply about whether I would really pursue the projects for which the items were purchased. I thought about my freshly written artist statement-did this item pertain to who I said I was? With that in mind, was it practical to think this item would ever get used? If not, I thought about who might use it or enjoy having it. For instance, a mixed media artist had just joined the artist cooperative and was thrilled to receive all sorts of acrylic mediums that I had purchased that were now sitting there turning hard. She said she had a great rainy afternoon sorting through the box and figuring out how to work this new treasure trove into her work. This method of purging does make it easier to get rid of stuff, but I did finally decide that since I enjoy shopping at thrift stores it was perfectly ok to give some total stranger the gift of finding my treasures at a great price. Into the donation bag with it.
As part of this, I actually tried to get rid of all the plastic tubs or as many as possible. For starters, when things are hidden from view they are less likely to get used. It was astounding how many projects I came across, that I would have finished-if I had remembered they were lurking around to begin with. The other problem with plastic tubs is that when they get old, they seem to get weirdly sticky or get brittle and crack. If their molecular structure changes that much-are they off-gassing toxic fumes too? I decided that there were plenty of other ways to store things that were a lot prettier anyway. My studio, by the way, would never be described as beautiful or lovely, it is a practical space meant to get things done. The softer touches of baskets and old suitcases I already owned helped warm the place up a bit. My husband appreciated the tubs for hauling stuff around in the garden.
I think what turned this into a creative process was seeing all this stuff laid out together. I did think about the objects or supplies in different way than I may have when they were procured. It encouraged me to put things together in ways I had not thought of before. As it turned out, this was such a worthwhile activity that now I do it every winter when the shows are over for the year. It also provides a reminder when I am out "procuring" to think twice before buying. It helped me to actually use the stuff instead of being buried by it. The other interesting thing is that after 4 years of this, I haven't pined away for any of the things I gave away. No regrets.
Then again, there is something so intriguing about multiples.
|What is a girl to do with over a hundred gray one inch buttons?|
Monday, October 31, 2016
Monday, October 24, 2016
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
This would fall under the category of what not to do. Lesson One: Don't try to prep scarves for a class while doing nine other things. Last week I was putting scarves through the iron pot in order to prep them for my last class of the year. The cauldron I use for this is my son's Dutch oven from Boy Scout days. It holds about a gallon of water with a splash of vinegar and three scarves comfortably. I bring the water to a boil, put in the scarves let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Then I turn off the heat and let it set until it is cool. To get ten scarves done takes about a day, and since three fit at once, you can probably see where I am going with this. After 3 batches, there was one lonely little scarf left. It was time to start dinner and as I was putting the last one in I thought to myself "Remember to set the timer on your phone, or you will forget this poor little loner and boil the pot dry." Somewhere between thinking that and deciding to go get a squash out of the root cellar, the timer never got set. When I remembered this was halfway through dinner. You can imagine what came out of my mouth. My husband is used to this sort of thing and went on about finishing his meal. I, on the other hand, went flying across the yard to the studio stove. Amazingly enough the pot had not boiled completely dry, but was very close. The water that was left in the bottom was very, very rusty. The poor scarf had not actually burned yet, but for all practical purposes, might as well have. Needless to say I needed a re-do on a scarf for the class, which I had the sense to leave until the morning. I pulled the now extremely rusty scarf out and hung it up in the studio. I figured after being heated to that extent and exposed to that much rust it was probably useless. While some metal exposure is useful as a mordant, too much heat and too much metal exposure is not good for any fiber. It makes silk stiff and brittle. But, being the fugal soul I am I decided to go ahead and steam some leaves in the thing and see what happened. I used maple and filbert leaves, which you can see from the picture made wonderful black prints. I can't sell this one since I can't stand behind it from a quality standpoint, I am just going to keep it and look at it for now. Even though it feels pretty good now, in fairly short order it could develop brittle spots that would basically crack, making holes in it. I would only wear it if I were wearing a turtle neck, or use it as a belt or something as too much metal exposure is not good for us either. After enjoying the beautiful rich blacks and deep greens for a bit, I may decide to cut it up and do other things with it, we will see.
To use rusted water as a mordant in the right way, you would take some rusty objects and put them in a quart jar of water with a splash of vinegar. Put the lid on it and let it set until the water looks rusty. To mordant the fabric put about half that rusted water in a gallon of water in a neutral pot, bring to a boil, put the fabric in and simmer for about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it cool. Take a look in there every once in awhile and pull it out when you think it is "rusty enough". Proceed with eco printing and you should get similar black prints without degrading the fabric quite as much as I did.
Set the timer. ALWAYS set the timer.
Monday, October 17, 2016
Friday, October 7, 2016
Monday, September 26, 2016
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
We usually think about harvesting in terms of food, but fall is a good time of year to gather dye stuffs and wild crafting supplies as well. While out on my bike ride today it hit home that the trees are starting to change color for real and I should probably spend a bit of time each day collecting. Here is today's haul:
A lot of leaves that work when green will also work when red and some that won't work green will work when they turn. The best way to find out what does what and when it does it is to experiment. This collection includes vine maple, golden currant leaves and one mystery leaf from a scruffy little tree that grows out by the river. It is one of the first things to turn red here, has some sort of berry on it-and I have no idea what it is. I refer to it as "misc." on the tags. The acorns do make a dye, but also make a tannin for working with cotton. Which I think I should do more of.
Since the two things I have plenty of are cardboard and newsprint, I use a rather humble flower press to press and preserve the leaves. I cut up the cardboard about 12"x12", which is the size of our newspaper folded in half. The ideal time to collect the leaves is when they are red and still somewhat leathery. They press well this way and last forever. Collecting on a dry day will make life easier also, if the leaves are wet you will need to keep changing out the newspaper until they dry or they mold. I top the stack of paper and leaves with another piece of cardboard and plop a book on top of that. They sit for several weeks and then I store them in shirt boxes (my husband hasn't worn a dress shirt in years-where do all those boxes come from?).
The other items are for ideas I have had over the summer that I will now have time to work on. I have decided (sort of) that while I find whole cloth natural dyes intriguing, what people really want to buy are the eco prints so I don't intend to do much with whole cloth dyes (we will see how long that idea lasts). I brought home some elderberries (which will make a dye to my understanding) to experiment with making ink or watercolor from them. I have no idea where that will lead, but it sounded fun. I scooped up some pine cones that I may do something with at Christmas, or I may just put them in a basket and look at them-not sure.
Remember to be responsible when collecting. If picking seeds or berries only take 10% and leave the rest for our furry friends. Don't cut branches or dig stuff up unless it is part of a landscape task anyway. When in public parks it is ideal to just pick stuff up off the ground. And don't wear wool shoes when collecting, unless you just want to plant Hound's Tongue all over your yard when you get home!
Monday, September 19, 2016
Thursday, August 11, 2016
I had a lovely time in Anacortes Washington, both at the show and at the campground. I got quite a bit of work done while there, using all the lovely plants that don't grow on the eastern side of the state. The campground is right on the water's edge with a lot of untouched forest. Thimbleberry, salmonberry, ferns, and bracken all grow among the old trees and make wonderful prints.
I also walked a lot and spent time thinking and not thinking. I came across this tree one afternoon and watched the passage of time in the tides.
Monday, August 1, 2016
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Today was pretty busy, but in a good way. I steamed three silk scarves and a rayon shirt. Before you ask, I have no idea what the rayon will do, it is a cellulose fiber so I pretreated with soda ash and protein and let it sit for a few weeks, then decided to throw some steel wool on it for good measure-we will see. Since I am headed off to the Anacortes Arts Festival I decided to leave it in a bag in the fridge while I am gone and I will open it when I get back. Hopefully this will keep the mold fest in check for that length of time and the extended rest will lend to the longevity of the color. Time will tell. The scarves will dry out before I leave and I can open them up in a few days. The jars in the back are Santa Rosa plums, the tree outdid itself this year and although we are not usually fans of canned fruit, I decided to give it a shot and see, they certainly are pretty! There are more coming, so maybe plum sauce (like applesauce) next.
Thursday, July 21, 2016
My collaged neckties were selected for the "Playin' with Paint" Challenge in the August issue of Altered Couture Magazine. These are not what you think of when you hear the words "hand painted ties". I am really honored to be chosen for this. Check it out!
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
I spend an awful lot of time micromanaging rust. Since I got a question through the blog about pretreating with steel wool I thought I would do a post about it. This is a way to get iron particles onto the fabric as a pre-mordant. Remember, rust is poisonous so wear gloves and keep the dust down to a minimum. You can use any old rusty object, I have a big pile of rusted nails, but I have seen some really cool things done with all sorts of rusted objects. In the case of steel wool, it starts out fresh from the package. Start by preparing a space for the fabric to layout flat. It will need to sit for 6-8 hours. Lay out enough plastic sheeting to spread the silk out on it flat and then have enough plastic to fold over the top to hold the moisture in.
|Wet out your silk in water with a splash of vinegar in it.|
|After laying out the fabric flat, tear the steel wool pad apart and spread it evenly over the fabric. I use #3 grade as the finer stuff makes a mess.|
|You can also use rusty objects, these are nails strewn about over crinkled fabric, but you could smooth everything out and lay them in nice little rows as well, depending on your disposition.|
|After laying everything out, spray with more vinegar and water, 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water is fine. Cover everything up with the plastic and come back in six to eight hours.|
When you come to pick up the fabric you will need to remove the steel wool or rusty objects and rinse the fabric in salted water. Use plain salt (no iodine). I put a scant quarter cup in a couple of gallons of hot water and stir to dissolve. Put the rusted fabric in and let it sit for a half hour or so. Then rinse it well in clear water and it is ready to eco print. If you were using nails or other objects they will need to "re-bloom" or develop rust again before use. So give them a spritz of vinegar or set them outside over night. The steel wool is pretty much toast at this point and should be thrown away, you can stick some in a jar with water and vinegar to make rusty water mordant if you wish but for the most part it will sit there and turn to dust, which you shouldn't breath in. Steel wool is cheap, start new every time. While I do reuse the plastic sheeting, I wouldn't get carried away with that either, once it really seems to have a lot of rust on it I throw it away, again, rust dust in the lungs is not good.
For anyone keeping track, this fabric has now received a pre-mordant of vinegar, rust and salt. Remember, you can never really "un-mordant" a piece of fabric, no matter how much you rinse, tiny bits of what was applied are forever attached to the fiber. You can apply adjuncts however, but that is for another post. I used silk as that is what I work with, but there is no reason why you couldn't do this to any natural fiber.
The other thing to remember is that this procedure is not archival. Considering that iron has been used historically in natural dyeing, and there are examples the world over of tapestries and clothing that have survived for hundreds of years, I don't let this keep me up at night. I am careful to not let the objects set too long and in the case of applying acids and salt to silk, the less the better. It is a case where you can have too much of a good thing-less is more and all of that.
|This is from the nails over crinkled silk.|
|This is an example of an eco print over the steel wool rusted silk crepe de chine. Click on the picture to enlarge and you can see the bits of rust here and there. In some cases the rust turns black when it is in contact with some plant materials.|
|This is an example of the rusty nails over crinkled or folded silk and then eco printed.|
I had thought originally I would talk about doing this to paper as well, but this post got too long. Since I will be getting a class together on paper later in August, I will take pictures of what I do when I prep for the class. Almost needless to say, it is much simpler on paper, no post rinsing, so you could probably figure it out-but stay tuned for pictures in a few weeks. Sign up to receive the posts via email and "Poof!" there it will be waiting for you in your inbox!
Friday, July 15, 2016
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
When I go to art fairs that are far afield I like to try to see what is at the museums in the area. On the way to the Edmond's Arts Festival I went to the Mood Indigo show at the Asian Arts Museum in Seattle. I spotted this sleepy little family on my way back to my car.
I stayed with a friend in Portland to do Lake Oswego Art in the Park. Every time she left the house her cat tried to convince me he was hungry. Notice the curling of the tail around my toes-Bo is a shameless flirt.
I won Honorable Mention at Lake Oswego! Both shows were really good, well run and lots of great customers!
But now I am home and in my studio, I love traveling, but working in the studio is best. There were so many things waiting in the garden it was hard to figure out what to use first.
Monday, June 13, 2016
After a busy weekend (some of it good busy, some of it the bad type) not to mention that catastrophe in Florida, I was out of sorts today while trying to get normal stuff done around the house and get ready to leave for the Edmonds Arts Festival. I got the suitcases packed; heaven only knows what is in them-it is probably worth stopping by the show just to see if I am wearing pajamas out in public. Then I decided maybe what was needed was to go out for a bit. I hit the post office, the bank, the drug store and was about to go to the grocery store when the phone rang. It was my friend Juaquetta, who owns Garden Party Fibers and she said " I was going to call you earlier, but I wasn't sure this was going to work, its old dye, but it is and I wondered if you wanted to come see it-I mean come see the indigo happen!?!!" Not an exact quote but if you read it really fast and out of breath you will get the idea. Who needs groceries?
|The fiber goes in white|
|It looks all swampy and green|
|Expose it to air and the magic starts to happen! From green to blue!|
|It lays out in the shade to dry|
Saturday, June 11, 2016
Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Looking back on this blog, I see that it has been a while since I posted pictures of botanical prints. So since this is a blog about eco printing, here you go:
|Black locust, eucalyptus and rusted nails|
|Maple and knapweed|
I will be at Art Fest in Coeur d'Alene Park in Browne's Addition, Spokane this weekend, June 3rd, 4th and 5th-Booth number lucky R13.