Bringing in a new year

I don’t usually make resolutions in January, the start of the academic year in September always feels like a more natural time to change things for me, but as the year turns and we travel back into the light this year I feel I need to set my life back in order. But what order?

The winter break is a time to hunker down for me. I don’t really enjoy winter except for the beauty of the cool north light, so it’s a good time for me to buckle down and get to work in the studio. So far this has mostly involved clearing the decks from last year, like these two books which had been partially finished on my bench since spring.

But as that weight clears I am making mental space for some new work for two back to back solo shows at the end of summer. What was I thinking? Well actually I know, I was afraid if I said no I would miss an opportunity, fear, fear answered for me. I am genuinely excited about both shows and both venues. They will each demand something different of me and give me a chance to show unique bodies of work, but seriously two shows in 9 months time, gah!

Okay, so you know there will be sewing, and I was really happy to get this book from my hubby for Christmas

And I have been slowly working my way through it using her techniques but on paper

I have been sucked into her orbit and also ordered her book of clothing designs (because I am going to have time to sew too?!)

I’m also back to my daily blackout meditations, I need to get grounded if I am going to pull this year off, so here are a couple for those who don’t see them on my Instagram feed

Im hoping to blog at least once a week about each project, mostly because that will hold my feet to the fire and hopefully keep me on track. So here’s to a brighter shiny new year.

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Heading to summer break

It has been a really crazy week, not only is it finals week, I have also been teaching a workshop at a local elementary school. Today I gave my final exam of the semester and my sculpture students presented their final portfolios. Most of them are graduating so we had a pizza celebration and talked about their future plans. I’m excited that it is almost time to disappear into my studio for the summer. I decided to take a bit of a break from marking this afternoon and play with some kozo scraps instead. 

Not exactly sure where I am going, but I have been thinking about the ghostly leaves of beech trees that hang on through the winter, the fine kozo I sew on reminds me of those leaves. 

Can’t wait to finish up my grades and dig in!

one step too far?

It’s okay, relax, this is not a political post! Instead it is about the scroll from my last post, the one I didn’t think was quite finished. 

Friday night I decided to revisit it. I had a couple of pieces of dyed and printed paper that I didn’t use, so I thought I would try giving one of them the monigami treatment. One of the things I felt wasn’t working was how stiff and heavy the paper was. So I gently kneaded the test strip with some oil, and it softened up beautifully. Additionally the organic dye (onion skins) moved around a bit creating a mellow background tone, but the monoprint pretty much remained the same. I loved how this piece looked, so I decided to go for it and do the whole scroll.

I’m going to blame my next decision on the fact it was late on a Friday after a really busy week, but truth is I could have made this awful choice any time. I decided not to take the scroll apart. This was crazy thinking. Although the paper was quite stiff and heavy, the areas that had been folded in the dye bath were seriously compromised, add to that the size of the scroll, and disaster number one happened. As I worked the paper it tore badly in many places.

Those of you who know my work will no doubt be saying, but you love torn things you can mend, and this is true, BUT, the oiling also seemed to have obliterated the really delicate monoprinted images. It was ruined. 

Saturday I hung it out on my washing line to see if evaporating some of the oil would help. My poor neighbors never know what they might see hanging out there.

When I brought it back in later that day it still looked awful.

Yesterday I decided I would try one last thing to try and save it. I took the scroll apart, and gently ironed each piece of paper between clean sheets of absorbent paper with a very hot iron to try and pull the excess oil out. It was tedious and now my studio smells like a chip shop, but I think it might have saved the day.

As I removed the oil the printing began to re-emerge! I was afraid the all the extra texture added in the monigami process would still hide the more delicate printed images, but I think enough is still there.

So now all I have to do is repair all the tears caused by being too lazy to take the scroll apart at the beginning and then sew it all back together again. 

Lesson learned. Long thread, lazy girl.

Dyed paper experiment.

Sometime in the last couple of years I tried dyeing some paper using plant materials. I put them under weights, put them in the corner of the office, and forgot about them. By the time I accidentally rediscovered them many of the pages were moldy but I could salvage a few. Then I put them in a basket of other papers and forgot about them again.
Earlier this month I came across a call for work for a 4×6 exchange exhibit. You send a work and get a random work returned. So after rediscovering them for a second time, I pulled out one of those sheets of eco-dyed paper and tore it down to size. I started sewing.

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I thought this was okay, but not really wow, so inspired by the splotchy dye on the leaves I thought I would add some french knots.

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This was an awful decision. They were too much. Having gone too far I decided there was nothing to do but keep going, so I added more stitching using a finer thread almost the color of the paper.

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This was better, but I hated the french knots so a good friend and fellow artist Elena suggested I just take them out. Duh! Brilliant! And that was much better, but still unbalanced. I posted a picture on Facebook and several other art friends weighed in. Sometimes you need another set of eyes. Another artist, Anna, suggested adding more layers to the composition. Again, brilliant.
This paper had a mirror twin from where the leaves were pressed in. So I cut out the main leaf to add on top.

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Already I was feeling happier. So I embroidered around the edges and trimmed a little more with a scalpel. Then sewed through the layers.

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So here is the final composition. Better by committee. And off on its way to the exhibit.
One of the most amazing things about the internet is that it brings other artists into my studio. Sometimes you need fresh eyes and its great to be able to reach out to people you admire and trust.

Snowflake

First time back in the studio really getting down to work. A while ago I started a series of snowflake inspired bindings. Yesterday I finally started another in the series.

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I start out drawing on graph paper. All the snowflakes are being adapted from some illustrations of black work borders.

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Next I copy that design onto a piece of graph paper mounted on some card stock.

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Then I start sewing. As I go I write out the steps. Once I have figured out how to sew the pattern I make a book block. Cutting, folding and punching the signatures always seems to take forever! This design has 21 signatures! I draw a scale pattern of the binding to help punch the right holes in the right signature.

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I bind the top and bottom to hold the tension even as I sew the design. Here I used a french link with a kettle on either side over a translucent ribbon with a little sparkle. Sometimes I use coloured thread for this stage, but I wanted to keep the focus on the snowflake for this one.

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Here’s the sewing finished.

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I have been trying to make bolder choices with my colours and patterns, to make things less “matchy”. The last step is glueing the covers and ribbons down.
About 8 hours later it is all done!
Feels good to add a new pattern to my repertoire. My goal is to draw them all up and publish them for others to use over summer break this year.

Keeping my head above water!

This semester I have a crazy teaching schedule, 5 classes at 3 different schools. It hasn’t left much studio time! I did finally wrap up the Berehinia book, I ended up hand dyeing some paper using tea and rust and making new covers.

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She shipped out this week, along with “maple” and “women’s work” for this exhibit. I am so excited to have work included in this exhibit again! Can’t wait for the opening.

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I am also working on a guest book commission, and a book for a DNA embroidery related exhibit. The binding was pretty easy to work out. But I had a crazy idea to hand stamp a human genome sequence inside. Where do these crazy ideas come from?  Why do they come to me?!

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Thankfully fall break is coming up this week at all 3 colleges, so I might get to play with some new ideas in the next few days.