Confluence

So. I’ve been trying to write a new artist’s statement. I am finding it very tricky. I hope this is because I am sort of between things right now and not because my brain has evaporated. I have been thinking about the idea of geometry and the tether of history/the past. These ideas are flowing out of a response by a math student to my piece women hold up half the sky. I’m also drawn to the metaphors of stitch as a way of giving flat materials a shape. It always comes back around to a needle and thread.

I mention this about the writing because it seems relevant to my current studio project. The kozo group is working on a new exhibition of sculptural paper. I decided to try shaping paper with only stitch. Taking flat sheets of kozo as a starting point I have been trying to coax some interesting form from them.

Of course I started by sewing in circles. Here’s a sample of that exploration.

I tried multiple circles, but it is really chaotic, I need to think about it some more

So last night I started thinking, just as I was falling asleep, (which stopped me from getting to sleep for ages) about straight lines and smocking. So tonight I decided to try a little trial

This is easier to control, but is that a good thing? Pushing on. Stay tuned to see if I arrive anywhere at all.

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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.

Botanical inspiration

I have a show coming up in November. Trying to come up with a new body of work can be terrifying! I keep reminding myself that if I go into the studio and keep working then something will show up. So I have been trying hard to safeguard my studio time, and stop my teaching from eating up all my spare time. I have been setting a timer and when time is up I set my school work aside and get back to my “real” work. It’s working in terms of getting something done, but until this past weekend nothing terribly new or exciting was really happening. Things were feeling forced.
Then this past weekend, as part of our anniversary celebrations, hubby and I went to the Buffalo and Erie Botanical gardens. Not our usual kind of outing, but wow! First the building itself is magnificent.

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And then just a few minutes in the cactus room, I was smitten with the sculptural shapes and textures. Instant inspiration!
Yesterday I pulled out some paper I made earlier in the year with my students, a combination of hosta, day lily and abaca. It smelled fresh and green and summery. I folded half sheets into accordions and bound them using a Coptic stitch on the valley ends to make this barrel like structure.

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Then I embroidered the folded outer edges in red.

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Then I sewed the loose ends of the accordions and folded back the raw edges

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For a first crack at a cactus book, it’s not so bad! And like all interesting beginnings it just sparked many more ideas. It feels good to be working sculpturally and letting the materials speak and shape the object.

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Looking forward to playing around with these ideas some more.

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.

catching up

After being away for almost 2 weeks, there was a lot of stuff waiting when I got home (dishes, laundry, planting the garden, and flower boxes, etc.). I can finally see daylight again, and have had a little time while my hands were busy to mull over the experience at PBI.

What strikes me the most is the generosity of everyone I met; how experts were willing to share their secrets without reservation and how everyone treated me as if I belonged – even if I was an amateur by comparison.

It was the life changing experience everyone promised. I did learn some new skills, (most surprising? I made paper that looked and felt like real paper),and I will post about all the classes is detail in the next few weeks –  but the most valuable gift was that of acceptance, to feel as if I had found my “tribe”. It was a great blessing to work alongside others late, late into the night. Even though I did feel a bit overwhelmed at times by the sheer number of people, I also felt as if I belonged there.

So to everyone – a HUGE thank you. THANK YOU!