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I’m not talking about the old rope and noose kind of “hanging mechanism” here, but rather how to best display my artwork.  For several years my work has been framed. I like it; it looks neat, clean, professional.  However, as my work changes, framing no longer meets all my needs and requirements.  So I have been trying out various alternatives, with more or less success.  Usually less.

How much of our time as artists goes into tasks other than actually making art?  In my case — and I know I’m not alone — lots and lots. There always seems to be something that needs to be done other than the creative part, whether it’s attending to business, cleaning up my workspace enough to actually do something in there, or convincing myself that what I’m doing is a valuable use of my time.

As my work moves into the world of art quilting I want to be able to apply to quilt exhibits.  A quilt is expected to be hung with a sleeve and dowel — not a frame.  Sure makes it easier to ship!  That’s a real advantage.  Most quilts I’ve seen use the old sleeve and dowel method.  Ooops–I just said that.  Well, anyway, that’s the first thing I tried.  Here’s an example:

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Hmmnnn…How come quilts hang nice and flat, even at the top, when hung this way?  I don’t like the roll around the dowel that I am seeing.  I also don’t like the way the fabric above the dowel and sleeve turns out.  Finally the fact that the hanging wire shows is totally unacceptable.  Maybe if I used a flat slat of wood instead of a dowel?

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On Friday I mentioned to a friend “felting is the easy part.  It’s the display part that’s so challenging.”

This second attempt solves the roll over the dowel, but the hanging wire is still very present and I don’t seem strong enough to pull that wire so tight that it doesn’t show.  Perhaps I’m mounting the sleeve and slat too high towards the top of the piece. But if I lowered it wouldn’t that top rolling out of the fabric – which is still present in my second try — just be worse?

My felting friend, Robyn, suggested rather than attaching hanging wires to the end of the piece why not cut holes in the sleeve, drill holes in the wooden slat and skewer it onto nails in the wall. Humph…now that had possibilities.  So I tried it.  I just put the holes and nails in the ends of the slat which I extended beyond the piece.  I wanted to get an idea if it would work before I modified both sleeve and slat.

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Better…..but still not right.  There continues to be something odd going on by the lower edge of the sleeve.  A kind of lumpy, bumpy thing.

Friends of mine, the Finnish felt makers Karoliina and Rod, use an interesting technique for hanging her felts.  It’s a metal slat that’s sewn directly onto the back of her felt.  Then a piece of wire is bent to slip onto the slat and go over a hook. I did some looking around locally and the only metal I found was pretty heavy.  Too heavy, in my mind, to be carried by my lightweight fabric pieces. It also rusted or tarnished.  No good.  I didn’t want red or black gunk on the back of my pieces.  How about if I used wooden slats and sewed them right onto the back of my work?  Get rid of the intermediate step of a sleeve.  Less work (no sleeve to sew on) and maybe it would resolve some problems.  Oh, and I liked the idea of bending a wire hook to fit onto the slat and be used for hanging.  Actually I liked the idea of bending wire in general.  Perhaps I should take some kind of wire working class?  But that’s meat for the ol’ mill and another post. I believe over time wood can degrade fabric, but right now I’m most interested in finding something that works. I imagine I can finish the wood with something that will not make chemical changes to my fabric.  Have to ask my friend George, the woodworker, about that. Or a textile curator (next time I bump into one).

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So here’s the side view.  Wow! much better. And from the front:

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Yes it works!  I like it.  Now, I wonder how it will do when used on larger, heavier rugs?  Guess I need to try it and see.

Do you recognize this piece?  I wrote about a smaller version of it over a year ago.  Watch for my next blog which will contain some more info. about “Insights: Rudra” and the process of making it.

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Not long ago, while composing a proposal for a residency application [which I didn’t get  😦 ] I wrote “I want to make friends with my sewing machine”.  I was tired of fighting with it, feeling like I couldn’t get the machine to do anything I wanted it to.  Having it “break down” all the time and quite honestly, not knowing if the breakdown was a problem with the machine or the user.  I will also admit that at the time I wrote that simple statement I didn’t quite realize the profundity of the statement.

However, when the residency didn’t come through and I knew I was on my own, I decided I’d really better make friends with that machine or I’d be in big trouble. In that spirit the first thing I did was take my machine (actually both of them) to the sewing machine doctors for a check-up.  Once home again I’ve been practicing my embroidery with them daily.

 

ImageI find the more I use them the better friends we become.  When problems crop up I stay calm and slowly walk myself through possible causes.  Unlike before when I’d get frustrated and agitated, the calm methodical approach often leads me to the problem, which I can then fix.  (Sounds like I should be using these skills with my computer also.). Need I tell you “the problem” is almost invariably a user problem?

The better friends I become with my machines, the more I like being in their company.  Sounds rather like people, doesn’t it? And as long as I can remember to breathe…

 

ImageI’m actually having fun!

   For some reason claiming, or reclaiming, space always seems to involve cleaning it.  At least it does for me.  And that is exactly what I have been up to this past week.

   The stars must finally be in alignment:  and 18 months after my mother’s death (which totally stopped my creative work altogether), a few false fits and starts here and there, I am back in my studio and ready to work.  Even before I walked in I knew the first thing I had to do was create beauty and order out of the mess I’d left behind.

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As I cleaned up I also sorted through stuff.  All the stuff in the bins on the shelves, all the stuff in the cabinets, all the stuff.  I got rid of lots of it.  I sold some of it.  And I washed the shelves, the insides of the cabinets, the table tops, the floors — everything — until it all sparkled.

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Quite a difference, huh?

But the biggest difference I noticed, the one that floored me (ugh, lousy pun), that really, really surprised me, was when I was done cleaning I gave myself the reward of doing some creative work.  And what I chose to do was to sit down and sketch out 3 of the 5 new pieces that have popped into my head over the past few days.  Now why did this surprise me?  Because I NEVER sketch my pieces before hand. My usual M.O. is just to dive in and start doing.  So I had to ask myself, in cleaning and getting rid of, did I actually make space within myself, within my brain, within my creative process, to invite in a new way of approaching my work?

I’m excited about this change.  I know it will give me a different sort of edge.  Perhaps take some of the “surprise” element out of my pieces, and instead put in some of the better aspects of planning. Elements such as composition, and color.  Not that my pieces haven’t had those.  They have.  But something feels really different now.  Different and better.

I took a couple of photos to show you.  First is a picture that is part of the exhibit my feltmaking friend Robyn and I have been working on.  One photo, 2 artists’ interpretations in felt.  Along with the photo is my first “sketch” where I just traced the major lines I saw in the photo.

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I love the way my printer changed the color of the photo to have such strong blue overtones.  I may steal that idea for my actual piece!  I was also intrigued by the tracing lines.  They were so different from the way my mind’s eye had remembered the strongest lines.  So I decided to make a pencil drawing of my memory of the major lines.

ImageHmmnnn….pretty different.  We’ll see where it goes.

And then another photo and sketch, also for our exhibit-to-be. 

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This sketch is more about placement of elements in what will be a 3D piece.  Not my usual — I’m not usually a 3D kind of girl — but the idea came to me, so….And then my notes of colors and how to construct some of the elements.

I made one other sketch.  This is for a quilt challenge that I’m entering.  The challenge is to use a vintage quilt block in a wall hanging.  Here again, the sketch shows the placements of the elements I will include, not necessarily to scale or the actual elemental shape.  That’s all still to be decided, as well as the colors. And of course I will be using the quilt block in a work of felt — “they” don’t know that yet.

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 You know, I rather like this way of working.  It feels as if there is time to pause, and think, before I take another step.  Time to try it out, change it if I don’t like it.  No rush.  No hurry. Pause.  Breathe.  Maybe I will even like the work I produce better.  🙂  Well, time will show us where it leads me. Perhaps I should get rid of even more of the stuff in my studio and see what else happens inside me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have been back in my studio, felting away.  Unfortunately, though, without taking pictures.  Sometimes it’s just nice to work without interruptions of any sort.  I haven’t even been bringing a phone into the studio.  It’s a wonderful way to retreat from daily life into a totally different, totally wonderful world.

Speaking of the world, I recently mentioned to a friend that I’ve been knitting a lot. Probably the effects of winter, mild though this one has been.  I’m also trying my hand at needlepoint (needlepoint? yes-needlepoint), something I haven’t done since I was a kid.  You see, I read this book, Knitting Heaven and Earth, by Susan Gordon Lydon and got all inspired. She was a knitter and needlepointer. She talks about needle craft and spirituality. She was also one of the very early feminists and is well known for her article written in 1970, “the Politics of Orgasm”. As I talked about all this, my friend who is a younger woman (not yet even 40!), said “So what’s she doing writing about knitting?” And that got the old brain spinning.

How did it happen that needle arts, textile arts, traditional areas of women’s creativity, became “un-feminist”? Politically incorrect? Uncool? How has this idea been reflected in the greater world?  The art world? Exhibiting, marketing and appreciating textile arts of all kinds? Does this have something to do with why modern American textile art is one of the least collected art forms in this country? Devalued?

Yes, I have been doing a lot of knitting.  I’ve been making squares for my “Learn to Knit Afghan” which I started …oh…probably 3 years ago.  It’s a great project for me.  I can finish a 9″ square and then put the afghan aside for 6 months, picking it up again when the urge hits. Each square is made of a different knitting pattern.  Though I have been knitting for over 50 years I have come across patterns I’ve never tried before.  Some I like; some I don’t especially care for.

I have knit about 1/2 of the 63 squares for the afghan.  Here are some pictures I took of the squares.

 

 

Next post I’ll go back to my felt again.  I’ve some interesting new pieces to share.

Intentions are the most amazing things.  Setting an intention is to watch a miracle in progress.

This past year has been a tumultuous one for me.  Work in my studio has, at best, been in fits and starts with lots of dead time in between.  Most unsatisfying. Then a week ago it all changed.  At the moment of change I was reading a book.  “Daybook”, a journal by Anne Truitt (20th C. sculptor, painter, author).  She was talking about her daily work in the studio.  Regardless of mood, emotional turbulence, events in her outside world, every day she worked in her studio.  In doing so she found stability, groundedness, her spirit. Now how many times have we heard this?  Writers are suppose to sit down every day and write.  Painters need to put brush to canvas daily, regardless.  Julia Cameron has written books and more books about this.  Twyla Tharp has written on the topic as well. I’ve read them all. However, in this particular moment the light bulb went off for me.  What I needed to do was to work at making art absolutely every day, even if for just 15 minutes! Along with that decision came the miracle.  I have been working every day since.  I’ve been loving it.  20 minutes has turned into an hour, two hours, six hours. Am I on a roll?  Definitely.  One I intend to make last for the rest of my life.

The piece I think I’ll share with you today is a rug.  As you know from my October entry, my Finnish friends & mentors (Rod & Karoliina) visited for the month of September.  Before they left I was given a challenge: make 12 rugs during this next year using their technique — and perfect it! (Yes, that last part are Rod’s words.  He’s quite the task master. :-)). Here is my first one, which I’m quite pleased with.

I started out with a cartoon. No my usual style. I usually just dive in and see how my idea manifests. But Rod insisted and Karo agreed on its importance.  

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I laid out my base fiber, alternating chocolate brown and gray.  I am always interested in the color interaction of the fibers and this was no exception.  Honestly, however, I also didn’t have enough quantity of either color alone to form the base.

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Here is the piece as I’m laying out the top, decorative layer. You can see the bubble wrap templates I’ve used to hold the space for some of the main design elements.

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For some reason I left the detail lines off the left side.Image

Now I have added them back in.  Much better!Image

Here is it, all done.

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It’s thinner than I expected.  The edges aren’t perfectly straight, but they are pretty good.  I am satisfied.

 

 

Hello.  I believe I’m back.  Hopefully with more regular and frequent posts than the rest of 2011 has produced.  The months of August and  September were  unbelievable here in the northeast.  The land of benign weather (unless you’re talking winter snow storms) saw an earthquake, a tornado and finally Hurricane Irene. Top it off with a month of just about non-stop rain.  In the midst of it all, Finnish friends of mine, also felt makers extraordinaire, came to teach and visit.  I was lucky enough to have their company for 5 weeks. In between teaching gigs they lived and worked in my studio. Here is a not so good picture of Karoliina leaning next to a piece she’s just started.

Don’t think I managed to get any of Rod.  Or at least none where he’s visible.  But let’s give this one a try, just in case. That’s him in the right hand corner, sitting at a desk doing some computer work.  And again Karo is more in the center with an armful of wool.

Here are a couple of shots of Karoliina’s latest series.  She is such a talented artist.

And another shot, neither of which does them justice.

While Rod and Karo were here they decided to try making a rug using some Icelandic fleece I had.  It’s not a wool they’d used before and they were interested in seeing how it felted.  My dog, Wallace, quickly adopted the rug as his. Rod and Karo were generous enough to leave it behind for Wallace.

While Wallace got his rug, I got lots and lots of wonderful mentoring.  First off Rod worked with me and my rolling machine quite a bit.  I think I finally have a good idea of how to use it, and how to make it really work for me.  That alone was fantastic.  I’ve had that machine for years now and was never able to get it to do what I hoped it would.  Now it does!

I also had lessons from both Karo and Rod on how to improve my rug making.  Much of it was review; I’d forgotten so much since I first took a rug workshop from them 5 years ago.  And some of it was new to me after I’d been experimenting (often unsuccessfully).  I took a rug I’d originally laid out in April 2010 (my gosh, almost 18 months ago.  I will not feel embarrassed or ashamed.  I won’t!).  You can see the original layout in the post of April 28, 2010.  It was a piece my mother just loved.  When I asked her why, she replied, “the colors”. Here it is, modified and felted.

And another shot.  If I was a better photographer 1 picture would do.  But I’m not and I’m hoping you can get a little bit of an idea if I give you more than 1 lousy shot.

I have promised Rod I will make 12 pieces to be sure that the technique gets ingrained into the very cells of my brain.  I am working on a set of placemats at the moment.  I don’t know if those count as 1 or as 4 pieces.  I thought starting with something small would be helpful.  Size aside, it’s the same technique.  Next I’ll move on to larger rugs.  I don’t have a picture of the placemats yet.  Soon, I promise.

Hi, remember me?  I’ve been gone for so long.  Off in the land of the living.  Busier than imaginable.  Traveling, healing, and enjoying summer in the Berkshires.  And now I have begun going back to my studio.  As always, as I pant my way up three flights of stairs, thighs burning by the time I reach the top, unlock the door and then close it behind me, I find myself lost in another world.  The creative world of my inner Self.

My last post, so long ago –April 13 — mentioned the death of my mother and pieces I’d begun to make to commemorate her life and her loss. I’ve spent the past months working on healing.  I think it is a process without end for me. But now I’d like to share with you the first piece I made, a celebration of her life. It is, appropriately, called “My Mother”.  🙂

I think I’ll show you the finished, framed piece first, then take you through the steps of my process.

My mother was an alive, active,  vibrant person.  Full of life and love, & righteous indignation at the wrongs she saw in the world around her. She was generous, intelligent, thoughtful, wise. We spent lots of time laughing together. In this piece I tried to express it all, as well as the sparkles of joy she spread.

I started off by choosing a scarf and a handkerchief of hers. I wanted personal belongings of hers incorporated into the piece.  I knew I wanted the piece to be bright and colorful.  (She loved color).  So here is a picture of how I laid out the image initially.

Once I had the basic design I lifted all the fabric pieces and layed down lots of colorful wool. Then I replaced the design.

Too much empty space.  Mom’s life was never empty – always quite full, up to the day before she was taken to the hospital. It needed something more. And it needed ….balance. I added a little bit more of  the bright sparkling material from my stash.

Just one more stream and it looked good to me, so I felted it.

I knew I needed to do something with the very white, right-hand section.  It had been my intention all along to use couching on the “L” that was already embroidered on the handkerchief.  “L” for Laurette, which was my mother’s name. I wanted to make that “L” stand out, as well as bring more color into that corner. I found the perfect silk yarn in my stash.  Yarn I had hand-dyed many years ago. Here you see a close up of the couching.

And yet another.

I just love the way the ruching (scrunching and wrinkling) of the fabric and the swirl of the couched letter look together.  And the whole bright and colorful piece.  Here it is again.  A tribute to my most wonderful mother.

Life seems a whole lot less without her.

 

At the beginning of the summer I made 2 promises to myself.  One was to spend as much time as possible outside engaging in the activities I love: gardening, biking, kayaking. The other was to finish (stitch and bead) and frame as many of the 25 felted pieces that are hanging on my studio walls as I could.  I have been doing both.  I’ll post again soon with 2 more completed pieces.  In the meantime, I am going for a bike ride.