Friday, July 28, 2006

Why carpet in the studio is a bad idea

And this is after I scooped up the excess. The jar of paint flew out of my hands as I was trying to pry the lid off. It sort of floated down in slow motion and landed on its side. If I had been a little quicker on the uptake, I could have uprighted it and prevented alot of the paint from flowing out. But it's not like it's the first paint mark on the rug.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Leftover dyes

I dyed all the silk but still had dyes left, so I pulled out the cotton and dyed that. I had to mix up more yellow - I always run out of yellow even though I mix up extra right off the bat. It seems that everything needs some yellow.

The bottom piece (not the white but the pinky-mauvy one) was dyed with the remains of the dyes. I rinsed out the bottle and dumped it on the fabric. Amazing that so little dye still has an effect. It's mostly reddish because I had already rinsed out the yellow and blue bottles and added that to other colors.

I've mixed up some gelatin for a plate and tomorrow the plan is to print on some of these fabrics. They need more visual texture for the piece that I have planned. I altered some photos that I took while in Oregon, changing their colors and applying some other Photoshop filters to make them abstract and these will be the idea behind the next few pieces. At least that's the plan for now.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Silk dyeing

I've dyed the 13 yards of silk, which I cut into fat quarters. Used the same method as for dyeing cottons, with somewhat different results. The colors were different, although I'm never truly certain what I'm going to get with cotton, so how can I tell?

These first three piles are charmeuse, habatoi, and crepe de chine, but not necessarily in that order. I think some of these are going to be difficult to work with, being that they're very slippery and soft. This is no surprise to those who have worked with silk before, but up to this point, I have spoken cotton pretty exclusively.

This fourth picture is of raw silk. This required the most adjustments. The fabric was difficult to wet, it's very nappy, and it needs alot more dye than a similar length of the other fabrics. I got some of the weirdest colors in the raw silk.

This last picture isn't silk, it's the cotton broadcloth that I normally use. I cut off a half yard piece from the bolt and used it as a mop up cloth and put it into the slop bucket. Since I was only batching the silk for an hour, I knew there would be enough dye power left to get some good color and design. I purposely left out most of the reds since in the past when I have done this and included the reds the end result was an overpowering ugly red. By the time I added all the dyes to the slop bucket it was very dark brown. I dumped in some more soda ash and let it sit. Even when I rinsed it out it was still dark brown and I thought maybe I had overdone it. But here is the result, it's yummy.

Friday, July 21, 2006


Yesterday a group of us got together for an extended chitchat. From the left: Martha, Joanie, Mary Beth, Linda, and Rayna. This little room we took over for 4 hours is at Wegman's, a grocery store that not only fabulous groceries, but just about anything else you might want that relates to food. They have this great eating area, with little rooms, ... but I digress.

Linda is visiting from Belgium, Mary Beth drove up from Charlottesville, VA, Joanie and Rayna drove down from New Jersey, and Martha and I are local. We talked and talked, showed work (oh my!), ate, walked around, talked some more, and generally had a great time. Such a talented group, and the work is so diverse. Mary Beth put us all to shame as her hands were always busy doing something with a needle and thread. Is it any wonder she is so prolific even though most of her work is hand and not machine? Of course, we could have all brought our machines, I'm sure the people walking by would have been fascinated. As it was, there were some interested eyes glancing our way as we showed our work.

Now I have to get back to work - it seems I have let a lot of the business end of the art fall by the wayside. Photography, entries, updates -- doesn't leave much time for the actual art.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Wow Factor

In my class at QSDS with Michael James, he said this about my work (paraphrasing): all of the elements of design are there and they're all good; the composition is good; but there is no Wow, nothing that made him go breathless. He went through my portfolio and picked out a few things that he really liked. And he wanted me to use other colors besides red. Well, maybe he just doesn't like red. Or maybe he was just trying to challenge me for the rest of the week.

It's too bad there is no formula for getting the Wow; but then I guess it wouldn't be Wow-ish if it were too easy and could be gotten just by following the steps.

Anyhow, in the interest of seeking the Wow factor, I've ordered some silk fabric from Dharma: some heavy crepe de chine, sand washed charmeuse, habotai, and raw silk. I wanted dupion also, but they were out so I may hit the local fabric stores.

I've been doing some research on dyeing silk with Procion MX dyes and that's what I'm going to try first. There is so much different advice out there about this process that it is just plain confusing. But rather than invest in silk dyes and have to steam set, I'm going for what I already have and see how that works.

This little celosia (at least I think that's what it is) is my model for perserverance. It's growing out of the crack between the pavement and the curb. It's a volunteer from some seeds left over from a previous summer, but not last summer because I didn't plant any. So they've bided their time, waiting for just the right conditions, although this location seems less than ideal. I thought about replanting it in the garden, but I couldn't get it out of the crack without ripping it apart. So it is making the best of the situation and working with what's available. Sounds like a good lesson.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Back from class

Last week I taught at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio at their Craft Summer Program. This is a wonderful program that offers a variety of credit classes in such crafts as glass, metal, jewelry, photography, basketry, and of course, fiber. In my class we dyed and painted fabric. I had 15 students and they were either art teachers or art students. Such enthusiasm and creativity! They could hardly wait for the next exercise.

Here you can see half of the classroom. We were slightly hampered by the tiny sinks, which we constantly clogged up, but as long as everybody wasn't trying to rinse out at the same time, it worked out okay.

The other half of the classroom. Each student had her own table, but that's never enough room because everything gets so spread out.

The really wonderful thing was the student assistants. They would do anything or get anything that I needed. They must have done 15 loads of laundry, washing out the dyed fabrics. Then transferred the fabric to the dryer. And because the fabric ravelled and produced voluminous amounts of stringie thingies which tangled up all the fabrics, they spent lots of time cutting the snarl apart, and then folding the fabric. I think they just liked touching all of it.

On campus were some sculptures of giant insects that I thought were really cool.

And on the walk from the guest house to class I passed two houses next door to each other that have planted tons of flowers. It looks like an English garden that goes from one lot to the next. I love these coneflowers.

I ordered 7 yards of fabric per student and could have ordered a lot more. They really got into the dyeing and after the first day went out and bought their own fabric and also brought in t-shirts, tote bags, aprons, and clothes. They were sort of reluctant to give up the dyeing and move to fabric paint, but once they began making their own stamps, using the gelatin plate and the silkscreen, and doing sun and salt prints, they were happy again. A fun time was had by all.