Archive for April, 2010

After several gorgeous, warm, sunny days our weather turned cool again.  I escaped for several days out to Sedona, Az.  There the sun shone (both the inner sun and the external one) and the temperatures, which started out in the 40’s rose to about 80 before I had to leave.  Yum, yum. Here are a couple of shots of scenery to wet your appetite.

And another of the red rocks.

Even better were the desert flowers all in bloom.  Wild flowers, cactus.  I love seeing cactus flowers.  They’re not an easterner’s idea of a “flower”.  So exotic.  So beautiful.

I’m sure these will turn up in my work sometime soon, so keep your eye out.

In the meantime, back in the studio……..

I’ve laid out my next rug.  It was easy because there wasn’t any imagery, which means no pre-felts to be made.  Instead I’m experimenting with different kinds of fibers, once again. When will I ever learn?  This is what always gets me into trouble.  Anyway, I’ve covered the top of a beautiful grey Karakul/Shetland blend with some dyed mohair locks.  I didn’t card the mohair, just gently picked them so as to allow much of the curl to remain.  Hopefully when I felt all this the mohair will stick.

Here’s what it looks like lying on my table:

And at a slightly earlier stage:

I’m also working on a smaller piece.  It was suppose to be part of a small series I want to make, motivated by felt-art postcards exchanged by my felting guild at each meeting. (www.northeastfeltmakersguild.com). This one grew a bit and is not exactly postcard size — not even an oversized postcard. I’m using a photo of some tree roots I took for inspiration and the starting point.

I was a bit concerned that with just gray, brown and greens in the photo the piece would be boring.  You’d think I’d know better by now.  When can I ever keep color out of my work?  Here’s the wool background laid out.

There really is brown and green and gray in it.  Promise!

Here it is with the silk on top:

And finally, wet down and under plastic:

It’s been massaged a bit and then allowed to dry out while I was gone.  Just waiting ’til this weekend when I can get back to it.

That’s it ’til next week.  I should be posting on Monday again.


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Another week’s gone by.  Hard to believe.  This past week was a week of color.  After unseasonably warm weather the leaves and spring flowers just popped!  Color reappeared everywhere around us here in the Berkshire Mountains.  Now the cooler temperatures are keeping all those flowers fresh for a nice long time.

In my studio work has mirrored Spring’s creation of color. Last week saw another dye marathon with my friend (and partner in crime) Dawna, as well as a dye job of 60 silk scarves for my web designer. I’ve got a few pictures of the dye studio. Here’s our production line with pots enough to dye 6 lbs. of fiber (1 lb./pot) at a time.

And our table for chemicals.  (In the background you can see my 2 new felting tables!!)

This final picture shows Dawna at work at 7 AM!! She’d already been at it for an hour.  Really there’s no stopping that woman.

Here’s a picture of most of the fleece I dyed.  Only the bright red is missing.

I also have some lovely pictures of my shibori dyed silks.  Remember I showed you an example of the stitching in my last post?  I am so happy with the results.  Here they are.

I’m quite taken with this method of resist dyeing.  I love the way it looks like texture in the fabric but it’s actually the lines of dye and resist caused by different stitching patterns. Keep a lookout for more of these wonderful creations.  There definitely will be more.

And here is a picture of some of the sixty silks scarves hanging from the rafters, all of which were dyed red.

In addition to all the dyeing I finished the rug I’d called “Cardinals”.  After all the trouble it gave me, and all the angst, it turned out beautifully. For that I must thank my friend and teacher Rod Welch (of Finland) who suggested I just keep rolling it and see how hard I could get it.  The rug is now as hard as industrial felt.  I know it will wear fabulously well. It looks good too.

I worked on my 2nd maze piece.  I created another crisis/disaster there.  Often times when I need to heat up my felt I throw it into the microwave.  It’s easier and neater than using hot water.  So that’s what I did with my maze piece.  But, ooops…..I forgot that it contained fabric from an Indian Sari with gold metallic thread.  I just couldn’t figure out where the burnt smell was coming from until I pulled the piece out of the microwave.  Yep, I’d set fire to the metallic threads.  So now I’ve got charred places and holes. Can you see that burnt spot right in the middle of this photo?

And what about here?

What to do now?  Well I got out my trusty scizzors and cut out a bunch of the burnt parts, but not all.  I may want to incorporate some of them somehow.  The piece is now just sitting, as I am, waiting for the muse to strike.

I’m going away for the rest of the week.  I’ll have another post next week, but probably not until Weds. or Thurs.  Talk to you then.

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I spent much of last week in New York visiting with my mother.  We went to Storm King Art Center.  What a fantastic place!  I’d not been there in about 30 years.  Need I say it’s changed a lot?  If you’re not familiar with Storm King it is a 500 acre outdoor sculpture garden.  The work there is awesome.  I came home very inspired.  I strongly encourage each of you to make the trip.  It’s well worth it.

I always take hand work with me when I go visiting and I got lots done.  I stitched 4 pieces of silk cloth with different patterns for shibori dye-ing.  They’ll go into the dye pot at the end of this week.  Once upon a time I only did shibori clamping and tie-ing.  Stitching seemed so involved and such slow preparation.  Then in December I saw the results of a small shibori stitching project my friend Joei made.  That was it.  I was in love. I bought the “definitive” book on Shibori and I’ve gone to town.  Here are a couple of pictures of pieces of silk with the stitching in place.This is the back side and it shows the pattern well.

Here’s the front side.  You can see there is a knot at one end of each line of stitching.  The other end is loose.The final step in the preparation is to gently pull the loose ends of each thread until the stitches (and fabric) are pulled tightly together.  Here’s an example.Rather like smocking only much tighter. All ready for the dye pot.  We get to see the results next weekend.

I also finished the bead embroidery on the piece I previously referred to as “Swirls”.  I think I’ll change the name to “Sea Shells” ’cause that’s what it reminds me of. The piece obviously needed something more, but I couldn’t figure out what.  So when a friend, Marta, (who is also a marvelous artist) came over to visit I asked her.  She suggested some additional stitching in a darker colored thread.  Here’s the end result, which I’m quite pleased with.And here are a few detail shots.

I continue to be fascinated with and thrilled by the addition of stitching to my work. I just love the emphasis and movement it adds while remaining somewhat subtle. Viewed from a distance it’s just a “feeling”, not quite visible until you get closer.

To that end I worked on my landscape piece today.  I put thread painting on a waterfall area only to realize I don’t like it.  Many layers of thread covers the felt fabric and flattens it.  The puffy, wrinkle-y nuno felt is what I adore.  So why am I covering it up with thread?  Won’t do that again.  However, this piece is a learning lab, so onward and upward.  I did some other stitching on the stream to imitate how water moves down river.  I think that was more successful.  I’ll be continuing to try out other techniques on this piece.  I promise to show it to you when I’m done.

Truthfully, I can’t wait to start stitching on the other landscape I did.  I think I’ve learned enough to have a better idea of how I’d like to use the stitching.  But that’s a couple of weeks away yet.

I also cut out some pieces of silk for my next (the 3rd) maze piece.  I got the idea for it while meditating this morning. I’m not sure if I want to dye the silk first or not.  I’ll think on that one for awhile. And while I’m thinking I can actually felt the second maze piece which has been sitting on my felting table for a week.

All told it has been a productive week.

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I can’t believe it’s been 3 weeks since I last posted.  Not an indication of down time in the studio at all. Thus, this will be a long post, since I’ve really done quite a bit and want to report on it all.

I’ve been working on framing Maze 1 – and ran into a few difficulties.  Back on track today.  I’ve also been stitching a bit on my landscape.  That may take forever to finish.

As I was going through photos I realized I hadn’t written anything about my last felt-a-thon.  Friend Robyn came out the third weekend in March.  She had a big piece to work on and also wanted to try out my rolling machine.  (We had technical difficulties with the machine, so she didn’t get to do that. 😦 ). But here she is working on her piece.

I worked on a new rug that weekend.  Here it is, layed out and ready to be wet down.

It turned out to be something of a disaster.  Everything that could have gone wrong did.  My biggest problem were the red areas.  I had carved into the white batt, creating a kind of a well.  Into that well I put a red prefelt, then red fiber, then topped it off with another prefelt.  I was trying to prevent “bleed through” of the white and get a nice pure red area.  Well, somehow those red areas were much, much thicker than the surrounding white areas.  When I rolled the felt I couldn’t get to the surrounding areas and they stayed soft and unfelted, while everything else hardened up. In a desperate move I pulled off the top layer of prefelt.  It helped a bit, but not enough.  So I just rolled the piece forever.  And now I must admit, it’s just sitting in the studio, cast aside, until I can get up the energy to see what I can do to save it.  I haven’t checked it to see what state it’s in.  I was too disheartened. The good news is I spoke to Rod in Finland and found out how to prevent that in the future.

Feeling somewhat subdued by my rug failure I moved on to an assignment for my yoga/meditation course.  Our “Pine Forest Recognitions” are due at the retreat at the end of April.  I’ve decided to do mine in felt instead of using the written word.  Here is the first one, entitled “The Starting Point”.  Unfortunately the stitching and beading gets lost in my lousy photo.  Those are the elements that bring it all together.  Oh well. I am quite pleased with it.

I’ve also almost finished the second in this series called, “The First Year”.  I have just a bit of beading to do.

I’m really enjoying the dimensions that the stitching adds.  It is very time intensive, but worth it. Now, if I could just stop holding my breath while I’m sewing!

Last week I got the spring cleaning bug and attacked my studio. I emptied out the main room, getting rid of some stuff I no longer wanted as I went.  I am having a smaller table modified for myself.  Since I am no longer making yardage I don’t need that huge 5 ft X 14 ft. thing.  The new one will feature a cool drain so when I make rugs I won’t spend half my time with the wet/dry vac.  After cleaning, I re-arranged, bringing my dye table in (closer to the water source and on the waterproof flooring — what a concept!) and leaving space for my new felt table.  I also have created a nice seating area so I can comfortably entertain.  So, for a week my studio was my canvas.  It looks great, feels great and is so much more funcitonal.  I’m on a roll so soon I’ll move on to the back room, then the storage area, doing the same thing to each of them.

This week I went back to making art.  I got this idea for a second maze piece.  I laid it out thus:

And though I intend to do some complicated thread painting on it, it seemed a bit boring as it was.  Then I found some scraps of one of the fabrics around and they were pretty cool so first I added one:

And then I added the second:

So now it is layered upon layers, with merino wool glue-ing it all together.  It’s quite different from what I thought I was going to do.  I’m not at all sure of how it will look when felted, but I’m eager to find out! It may not need the threadpainting as I originally imagined. I may need to try again with something more simple for the thread painting.  We shall see. Stay tuned…..

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