Thanks for checking in. I am a fiber artist. My current emphasis is on eco printing and other wildcraft with a touch of up-cycling thrown in. You can also catch up with me on Facebook at Drye Goods Studio.
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.
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.
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?