Sunday, March 30, 2008

March of the Gingkos

This month I began 3 pieces of work using the heatset Mokume Shibori Gingko leaves. I have managed to finish one of them. The other two are much larger and remain in a roughly laid out state. I ran into some indecision as to how to attach the different elements together. I decided to try one smaller piece with the one gingko leaf I had left over from the other compositions to see how well my ideas were working before committing to a larger piece of work. I used a softer polyester materiel in a pewter color for the gingko itself and sewed it to a backing of cotton to stretch it into the shape I wanted. Then I made another simple gingko leaf shape from some golden poly (flat not heatset), heat seared the edges and used it under the heatset shape to create some differentiation between the leaf and the background. I attached them together by using selective hand stitching in metallic thread along some of the veining on the leaf. Finally I attached the entire thing to an olive colored velvet ground and top stitched in some lines reminiscent of the leaf’s veining. I will probably use some of these ideas on the other two pieces in the next month.

Project Spectrum Finished Fire

Here it is the final result of all that work. This has been quite the learning experience. At times it seemed as though I made every possible mistake there was to be made. I think the next one will go a bit smoother through both dyeing and sewing. I certainly have never dyed as large an amount of fabric before using Itajime so I now know how to approach that in a better manner (different base fabric, more color differentation between lining and outer fabric, only one dyebath). Sewing? Well being familiar with the pattern now will help me to place the pattern better and I will pay more attention to certain aspects of the construction as I sew the next in the series…Earth (green, brown, and metallics)
I’ve chosen my recipes and the method I want to try for the Itajime already. To incorporate metallics I think I will use some details to it with metallic thread.
Time for another trip to the fabric store!

Slow Cloth – Acknowledging Diversity and Multicultural History

Inspired by Elaine Lipson at Red Thread Studio (link above)
I love textiles and ornamentation, they fascinate me. If I could I would travel the world to learn more about them. Since that isn’t presently in the cards I surf the internet, and read books to learn more. I love to see the individual expressions different cultures use textiles for. I worry that in this smaller more connected modern world the differences that cultures have may be homogenized away leaving us poorer in the end. This has begun to happen to our foods and many other aspects of our cultures. I hope that my participation in learning and practicing the crafts I do will help to preserve that diversity just a little.
The piece above is a cover for a ceremonial gift (rumal) 19th century depicting episodes from the life of the God Krishna

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Slow Cloth - Contemplation

Inspired by Slow Cloth from Elaine Lipson at Red Thread Studios
Although I often find creative decision making difficult, the process of actually making things (once all those pesky decisions are settled) is meditative in nature.

I am not good at sitting still and meditating, my head is very full of to-dos. A great deal of the work I do is repetitive in nature. Stitching (especially by hand) and folding create a very soothing rhythm. When I can get out of my own way and let go of the end result, it becomes an activity that allows my brain to wander off and relax. Sometimes it feels as though I am rummaging through an old library of thoughts, ideas and memories.

This is the part of the process that has no grand ideas or investment in the end result, it is plain work. I don’t think of plain work in a negative way. I have an idea that plain work (sweeping, scrubbing, folding, digging or stitching) is something that is missing from modern life. In our quest for more leisure time we have omitted the most contemplative of activities. The absence adds to the stressed out feeling we can all fall victim to from time to time. Plain work is the sort of work that needs to be done in order to maintain an orderly life but it is repetitive, small work, no heroics involved. It can be a part of the creative process but in and of itself it isn’t creative. The repetitiveness of it allows the ever vigilant part of the brain that wants more, more, more to shut down. We are working and the dreamer in us can slip out between the stitches to catch a butterfly in our thoughts.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Tool-o-the-Week: Clamps!

I use a wide variety of clamping mechanisms for Itajime Shibori. It all depends on how thick the bundle of material I’m dyeing is once it is folded. For paper I have found folder clips to be effective. Fabric’s thicker bundle usually calls for the big boys… my faithful squeezy clamps. I even occasionally use clothespins for smaller or thinner material like silk. I’m thinking about purchasing some of those flexible strap type clamps for larger yardages of fabric sometime… maybe soon.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Slow Cloth - Joy in Process

Over at Red Thread Studio Elaine Lipson has been making the case for a slow cloth movement, based around the same idea as the slow food movement, consisting of 10 qualities…This was a new idea to me but I find I’m really connecting to it and I have been reflecting on how the principals of Slow Cloth fit into my experiences as a fiber artist.

The first quality is Joy in Process...That is one of the things that keeps me coming back! Joy can be tricky to find sometimes. Working with fibers and dye can be very unpredictable. As I’ve said before sometimes hours can be put into a piece of work for very disappointing results. However these same inexplicable unpredictable moments can just as often work in ones favor leading to wonderful new roads to explore. I think sometimes that I have chosen this medium because some of the control is out of my hands. I sort of set things up and see what happens. For me, a person who sweats nearly all decisions, there is something immensely attractive about making that roll of the creative dice.Once I’ve gotten my results I am free to see what can come of them. This medium allows me to relax my control freak impulses and luxuriate in the play of creativity. That is a joy!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Tool-o-the-Week: The Seam Ripper

Sometimes I forget to be grateful for the little things in life, in that spirit… I declare my seam ripper to be the Tool-o-the-Week.

Where would I be without you? My little redeemer with you my mistakes become do-overs. I rely upon you constantly for any number of tasks. Small and simple a hook an edge and a handle but I can’t imagine a more effective design. I can remove an ill considered seam or stitch, take out knots or tie them, pull threads through fabric or out of all those tiny crevasses my fingers are too clumsy to reach… With you I can cut, poke, pull, tuck, hook or nudge in a surgically precise manner…This is why you are the Tool-o-the-Week!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Baby Steps

This has been a busy couple of weeks, which is not to say I have anything of substance to show for it. I have been poking at three projects and not managing to really get anything finished. I have gotten about a ¼ of the way through my fire challenge piece but I would prefer to post photos of that when its complete. It took me a long time to nerve myself up to cutting up the shibori I made. This was mainly because I didn’t want to screw it up, and it has been a long time since I’ve sewn a garment. I’ve also been working on 2 pieces using the heat set shibori and again I’m not really making it over the hump. I’m too tied to the final product. I’ve spent a lot of hours doing the stitching and I really want it to come out nicely. Sometimes if I’m too invested in the outcome of a piece it really makes the creative decision making difficult to resolve…I spend a great deal of time either staring at the bits and pieces trying to figure out what to do next or actively avoiding the project entirely so I don’t have to figure it out. Another issue with the heat set pieces is an overflow of “great” ideas of how to use the bits. I can be stunned into inaction when I hit a saturation point of ideas and not enough time to realize them. Sometimes I’m amazed I get anything done at all. So I am trying to break it down into a series of baby steps and I will post more on these projects when they are a bit more resolved.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Spring is Sprung!!!!

Spring is Sprung!!!!
Originally uploaded by alsokaizen

I took a little time to investigate the garden yesterday, looking to see what was poking its way out of the ground and look what I found! This is one of the little tiny iris I planted last fall blooming away merrily what a nice surprise.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

More Pillows

Originally uploaded by alsokaizen

Here are the blue ones. I like the rectangular shape of these.


Originally uploaded by alsokaizen

I've been posting some new things at Ye Olde ETSY Store. Its tough in winter to get decent photos without freezing my patooties off (I insist on outside light) Actually getting decent photos is one of the hardest parts of the ETSY store along with writing good, compelling descriptions. I wish I were better at it stands I did manage to get my Shibori pillows listed. These are made from some fabric I dyed nearly a year ago and finally have put to some use. I really like how these gold and red ones turned out.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Keeping the Fire Burning

My work continues on the Project Spectrum Fire Challenge…and it has been challenging!
My end goal is to create a garment using two hand dyed pieces of coordinating fabric. One for the outside of the garment and a lining fabric. I’m using light weight cotton fabrics. I have in mind a darker piece for the outside and a lighter for the interior I’d like it to sort of glow from the inside like banked coals. To create my fabrics I decided to try a 2 step Itajime process
For the lining I used a bleached cotton fabric, prescoured and dried.
Step 1: folded it in a straight square stack and dyed it (using activated dyes on dry fabric) to create a stripe in pink and golden orange, then I washed it out.
Step 2: I refolded it using a triangular fold and dyed it (using activated dyes on dry fabric) using a mid range orange and a red to create a medallion like repeat pattern.
This part went pretty much as I expected it to and is reasonably successful.
The outer fabric was a different story
For the outer fabric I used an unbleached cotton muslin
I started the same way but dyed it in darker colors. The muslin resisted dyeing properly, in fact it proved to be rather water resistant in spite of the prescouring. In the first dye bath I actually opened the layers to manually expose them to the dye (usually with Itajime I let the colors leach into the fabric under their own steam). My hope was exposure to the dyes and washing process would make the fiber more receptive to the next dye bath… this was not to be the case. I washed, dried and refolded the fabric in a triangular fold and it went into the second dye bath which it resisted mightily! So I did it again however on the third try I left the fabric damp (wetting out fabric can really help with this sort of problem), the water carried the dye into the fiber much better on the third try and I got something a lot closer to what I had envisioned.
Now I’m ready to start cutting out my pattern!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Winter Walk

I treated myself to a walk in the woods with my camera yesterday. It has been awhile which is a shame since it is something I really enjoy doing. I don’t know why but making artists dates is a thing I have a terrible time doing, logically I understand that filling the well is absolutely necessary yet I still find myself extremely resistant to doing it on a consistent basis. Just another thing to work on I guess
Anyhow it was a snappy bright winter day and I’ve been wanting to try to take some pictures of winter textures so I cleaned out the camera and headed out into the woods behind my home.
I enjoy many of the aspects of the winter landscape such as the lines of tree branches and the delicate colors of lichens, branches and bark. I don’t agree that the woods become colorless and uninteresting in the winter. On the contrary I find the stark qualities are really fascinating, it becomes possible to see the personalities of trees and I enjoy the interweaving of branches in thickets. For the most part it was very enjoyable here are some of the pictures I took:
Pine Bark

ThicketsLeaves Lichen What I didn’t enjoy was seeing the damage that is being caused by ATVs.
This path didn't exist 2 years ago

I have nothing good to say about ATVs or the people who drive them, and I’m a mountain biker! I get the desire to be out in the mud. I have just never seen anyone use one of those things responsibly they are massively destructive and effortless to use which creates a situation where wanton destruction is easily distributed everywhere and deeply impacts the environment. So my Artists Date was 1/2 good and 1/2 bad, the woods were wonderful but I don’t know how long it will last if they continue to be treated this way.