Sunday, September 16, 2012

Acorns keep falling on my head! Time to move the fibers studio indoors!!

What a glorious summer to dye fiber outside! Heat and sunshine! Dreadful for our gardens, but rust printing, eco-printing, and indigo dyeing on fabric and handmade paper was excellent! Back in August, as a way of showing my appreciation to Pat Vivod for teaching me how to rust print, I invited her for a day in my garden studio to indigo dye.  What a grand time we had. See more about our adventure on her August 13, 2012 blog post, Sentimental Pentimento: Fun in the Shade

The summer indigo studio, hammock ready and waiting.  Now, just a memory.

Pat Vivod indigo dying

Pat Vivod resist clamping pre-rusted silk before dying in indigo vat

Shibori and clamp resist cloth hydrating before dying in indigo
Pat Vivod's indigo on pre-rusted silk
Indigo oxidizing on cotton
Indigo on pre-rusted cotton

You may remember from my posts, or Pat's posts about my rusting the above fabric at her studio.

Because of the drought, the grass really was this color
Here it is on my clothesline (and in the photo above) after two rounds of shibori resist dyeing in the indigo vat. Looking forward to using it at the beach the next time I visit my daughter, Betsy, at her condo in Florida!

But now that fall is upon us, and the acorns are falling from the tree over the vat, it was time to say farewell to fair weather dyeing by moving the vat inside to the basement studio ... until next year!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Rust Printing with Pat Vivod

What does one do for excitement in Illinois when the summer +100F temps continue to soar, play in water of course. Not in a sparkling cool pool, oh no! But with a garden hose, a few boxes of tea, and rust!!

Pat and I met at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville  while she was working on her MFA in Printmaking and Textiles and I was completing my BFA in Art & Design/Textiles and BS in K-12 Art Education.  For the next few years, we exhibited together during Art East, Madison County's annual art tour. Pat would be displaying the most beautiful silk scarfs and large wall hangings, all dyed and printed with rust, tea, berries and walnuts, while my art focused on handmade paper from plant fiber and book arts. At the time, I had just started teaching art at Oakville Middle School while working on my first masters degree. During each exhibition, I listened intently to Pat's newest discovery, and even managed to write a few notes on rust dying in my journal, but didn't have the time, or brain space, to take on another art form. Yet in July of 2012, I finished my second masters on a Friday and planted myself in Pat's garden studio bright and early the next Monday morning. What a glorious way to celebrate!!

Silk scarf folded and wrapped on metal pipe
Leaf resist pattern exposed as scarf was unwrapped
My first silk scarf - Pattern made from leaf resist, tea, vinegar, and rust

At Pat's suggestion, I had purchased and read India Flint's Eco Colour, as well as Jenny Dean's Wild Colour. As an avid gardener for many years, many of the plants used in dying were already in my garden. Pat had been experimenting with Eco Dyeing after she had taken a workshop with India in 2011. While we were waiting for the silk to rust, we also Eco Dyed a few bundles of silk, wool and cotton. Those bundles were put aside for three weeks to cure and will be opened on a future blog post. 

With a basic understanding of chemistry and experience with an indigo vat, I scribbled down notes as Pat shared her expertise. For more information about Pat's beautiful artwork, read her blog, Sentimental Pentimento.

My second silk scarf - Pattern from leaf resist, tea, vinegar and rust on indigo dyed silk scarf

There are many variants when rust printing. I am just a novice, but did learn that no two pieces will be the same and the overall design depends on: the type of fiber; how the silk is folded; where the leaves or other materials are placed inside or on top as a resist; the various types of tea used; where the tea is sprinkled on the silk; how the folded silk is wrapped on the metal; the amount of rust on the metal; the humidity; the day/night temperature; the length of time the silk is wrapped in plastic on the metal; and any other berries or plant fiber used in the design that may add their own colors.

Pat Vivod washing tea and leaf fiber from one of her silk scarfs

I brought along a hemp blend cloth given to me by my English sister-in-law, Wendy Evans, who picked it up on one of her around-the-world adventures. It probably came from Africa. Pat allowed me to pick out any rusted metal I wanted to use and I chose five of the sun bursts seen below. 

Farm equipment used to make sunbursts on hemp blend cloth
Layers: plastic - metal sunbursts - hemp blend cloth soaked in vinegar - tea - salt - more vinegar - plastic - bricks and walnuts to hold down plastic
Bricks and walnuts hold down plastic overnight
Tea and rust print on cloth uncovered and placed on table to hose off with water
Final print on hemp blend cloth from Africa (turtles pre-printed on cloth)

After three days in Pat's garden studio, I took my supplies, cloth and notes back home and set up my own garden studio out of a few make-shift crates, a skid, a few bricks and a bit of plastic.

Although I don't have the cool rusted gadgets that Pat owns, I found a few things sitting around that had plenty of rust - our burn barrel, the grill found on big trash day, the four claw foot tub feet from a yard sale, and bits of pipe and chain from who knows where. I began with a piece of pale yellow silk from my stash. It was smooth on one side and bumpy on the other.  

I soaked the silk in vinegar and folded it lengthwise as I attempted to make a few designs with used Earl Grey tea leaves, unused Lipton Tea leaves, fresh sassafras leaves, and boiled down walnut "tea" before I clipped it shut with clothespins long enough to tie it to the burn barrel. Once it was tied in place, I covered the barrel with plastic and waited about five hours. The temps were well over 100F. 

Silk cloth soaked in vinegar, folded with tea  and leaves then wrapped in plastic for about 5 hours in 100F+ sunshine
Removing the hemp twine 
Twine marks and rust
Before it was opened
My husband, Peter, helping to open the folds and remove the leaves
Leaf resist, black tea and rust print
Opened cloth before rinsing
Cloth rinsed with water to remove tea and leaves
Silk washed and dried on the line. 

Pat was a wonderful, patient teacher. I was so excited by the success of rust printing on silk, I decided to spend the next few days testing rust on paper. But that just have to wait for the next blog post.

[context] TEXTURE - Interview of an Artist

Recently, Jacqueline Klene, with Art St. Louis, interviewed me about my art juried into the [context] TEXTURE show opening Saturday, August 11, 6-8pm at Art St. Louis, as well as my thoughts on being an artist. You can read the edited responses and see the artwork of the four artists interviewed on the August 7th post of the Art St. Louis Blog.

Below is my full response to Jacqueline's questions:

1. How do you feel that your work relates to the theme and exhibit of "[context] Texture"?

My work, Sun Pans and Mica Drags, was constructed with embossed, dyed, pigmented, painted and stitched handmade papers that I made from various plant fibers. Cornwall, UK, the land of my husband’s birth, has a mining history dating back more than 3000 years.  Women, known as Bal Maidens, worked primarily above ground; but during the World Wars, they were often assigned mining duties previously reserved for men. My intent in Sun Pans and Mica Drags was to capture the essence and remnants of the 19th century china clay mines as seen still today from the air, through the earth and across the moors. 

2. What subjects and/or artistic movements influence you the most?

Having been an illustrator, art educator, and an avid gardener for many years, I have always been drawn to aerial views of land, maps, rivers, soil, and organic systems. Experimenting with handmade plant fiber paper is a culmination of that attraction to texture and natural materials. By combining my papers with ephemera collected along the way, my work layers history, meaning, and place into objects that are no longer lost or misplaced, but reconstructed and transformed.

3. Do you find that your work is easy to relate to?

While the history, meaning and place represented by this body of work is significant to me, the viewer who is drawn to the work will bring their own aesthetic preferences and layers of meaning to the work.  Their perceptions, connected to their own memories, are equally valid.

 4. What do you strive for as an artist?

For more than 25 years, I was an illustrator. Every piece of artwork was a literal representation of a person, place or event that had to be easily “read” by the art director, the editor and the intended audience. The medium, colors, subjects, and styles of illustration were selected by the client, not me. Thus, I eventually burnt out. Now, I no longer take commissions. My work is driven by natural materials connected to place, making and meaning with focus on craftsmanship.

5. What is your process?

During the summers, when I am not teaching, my husband and I travel back to Cornwall. His family nurtures us as we wander through working fishing villages and along cliff top paths; down narrow hedgerows onto pebbled beaches and tidal pools; through disused mines and pre-Christian churches; and finally across the moors filled with wild ponies and herds of sheep. Every step is filled with layers of ancient history, place, people, texture, industry, work, survival, beauty and faith.  My process is to read, record, draw, paint, listen, smell, taste, collect memories, and stash bits of ephemera to the point of exhaustion. Back in my garden/studio in Illinois, I distill, clarify and make the handmade paper used in my constructions. The textures and colors are a collection of memories, the essence of Cornwall’s natural beauty and industrial history, non-specific to an exact mine or village. As the constructions are developed, the materials inform and challenge the process of simultaneously layering and abstracting multiple vantage points within the landscapes.

6. When did you decide to become an artist?

As a child, I lived with my father’s parents. They taught the next generations how to make what was used and what was needed. Craftsmanship was important whether we were making a dress on a treadle sewing machine, planting the vegetable garden, or building a cabinet. They didn’t realize they were artists.  They just “made do.” In 1974, I decided to go to St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley to become a commercial artist after my second knee surgery for rheumatoid arthritis in high school squelched my plans to become a physical therapist. My grandma didn’t think commercial art was “real art,” but I could make a living. When I was offered a job by an advertising agency before I finished my degree, grandma thought I should have stayed in school to finish the Associate Degree. Twenty years later, after working as a successful illustrator for publishers all across the country, she still thought I should finish my degree; and that I still wasn’t a real artist.  Funny how things stick in the back of your mind. When I returned to school in 2002 to earn a teaching degree, I thought of her. And now that I have a BA in K-12 Art Education, a BFA in Art & Design, a MSEd in Secondary Education/Art, and a MA in K-12 Education with an Emphasis in Character Education, with artwork in public and private collections in the United States and England, I still hear her voice in my head and wonder if I have done enough, or would ever do enough, to be a “real artist.”

I am an artist, a teacher, a wife, a mother, a friend, and a woman of faith.  Looking back on the past 56 years of life through the knowledge and understanding of an art educator, I realize that I have always been an artist.  I have always been creative. I have always thought of multiple ways of solving problems. I have always asked, why? It just took 36 years in the field, four degrees, and the faith in oneself that comes with hard work … and age … for me to come to accept, and be proud, of who I am – A R T I S T.

Friday, August 3, 2012

[context] TEXTURE at Art St. Louis

I am pleased to announce that my handmade paper construction, Sun Pans and Mica Drags, has been juried into the exhibition [context] TEXTURE at Art. St. Louis, August 13 - October 4, 2012. Jurors, Joe Chelsa and Jo Stealy, selected 58 works in all media by 44 regional artists from the 208 artworks submitted by 109 artists.

Cornwall, UK, the land of my husband’s birth, has a mining history dating back more than 3000 years.  Women, known as Bal Maidens, worked primarily above ground; but during the World Wars, they were often assigned mining duties previously reserved for men. My intent in Sun Pans and Mica Drags was to capture the essence and remnants of the 19th century china clay mines as seen still today from the air, through the earth and across the moors.

Opening reception is Saturday, August 11, 6-8pm.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Illinois Artists Head "Westward Bound"

The Old Brown Cow and Other Moosings
Seven of my hand-bound books (five blank journals and two artists books) have been included in the "Westward Bound" exhibition at The Centre in Rolla, Missouri, sponsored by Art St. Louis and Arts Rolla. The exhibition runs July 3-30, 2012. Art St. Louis has exhibited at The Centre every summer since 2003. This year's exhibit highlights artworks by eleven Art St. Louis members who live in the Metro East Illinois towns just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Missouri. 

 Art works by C. Alana Tibbets, Ashley Drissell, Elizabeth Adams-Marks. Photo by Robin Hirsch.
Art works by C. Alana Tibbets, Ashley Drissell, Elizabeth Adams-Marks. Photo by Robin Hirsch.

The Centre. Photo by Robin Hirsch.
The other ten artists are: Lon Brauer, Dennis DeToye, Ashley Drissell, Kathy Gomric, Jim Hutsler, Wendy Reitz, C. Alana Tibbets, Russell Vanecek, Ron Vivod and David M. Yates. For more information, contact Robin Hirsch at Art St. Louis.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Visit with Yuli Somme - Felt Maker - at Her Studio Workshop, Bellacouche, near Dartmoor

Tucked behind a large stone wall, in a 15th c barn at the edge of Dartmoor in Chagford, Devon is the studio workshop of Yuli Somme, felt maker.  Trained as a weaver, she worked at Coldharbour Mill Working Wool Museum as a researcher until, in 1988, Yuli had the opportunity to see an exhibition of contemporary felt making that altered her focus in fiber arts. With a MA in Textiles, her work concentrates on sustainability while holistically educating and reconnecting men, women and children to their environment.

Felt Feet and The Wool Stack

When my dear friend, Jackie Bone, who is also my husband's niece, first emailed me to see if I knew of  Yuli Somme's work, I admitted that I had not, so I did a bit of online research.  Jackie had seen a program on Yuli on television and hoped we might be able to arrange a visit. First I watched a short video tour of Yuli's studio workshop, Bellacouche.

Entrance to Bellacouche in Chagford, Devon, UK

A second joy filled video highlighted her Felt Feet project with teachers and children.  

And a third video, filmed by Devon Open Studios in 2011, demonstrated Yuli's gentle presence, as well as another collaboration project, a felted tree of life, that she has created at various times with children, as well as adults, this time with staff and patients for new hospital wing for patients with dementia.  As Yuli described to us, she works on location with the project's participants felting the naturally dyed wool into birds, flowers, leaves, etc. Back in her studio workshop, she sews and needle felts the colorful bits into one solid piece, ready to be hung and displayed. When working with children, she also deconstructs colorful fibers for the children to apply to their artwork to emphasize the importance and possibilities of repurposing materials that usually go into landfills. For more information about the Felt Feet, or Yuli's other felt projects to make with children or adults, titled The Wool Stack, or to buy educational videos and wool kits, check out her website, Bellacouche.

Jackie and Yuli discussing wool

Since Jackie owned a farm with a variety of animals, including sheep, she and Yuli had a very interesting discussion about the current wool market in the UK.  Taking time from her busy schedule, Yuli graciously offered tea or coffee before she gave us a tour of her studio workshop. What a wonderful space! Much was the same from the video, except now, her husband also has his pottery studio on the ground floor in the area she had stored her bolts of wool. Yuli described how she picks the wool that she personally oversees as it is lightly felted into massive bolts that she now stores in the open rafters above her work space.

View down onto Yuli's work table from the storage rafters and skylight above
Yuli explaining a felted cloak that now hangs from a rafter
Wonderful projects and bits of felt stored overhead
A felted chest of drawers filled with treasures for sale
Lovely things to touch and open 
You may see me wearing one of these hats next winter

Leaf Cocoon

Although I found the Felt Feet and other educational projects interesting, it was Yuli's current work, Leafshrouds, that intrigued me. What began as an invitational exhibition in 1999 called Treading Lightly that focused on the ethical and environmental practices within craft, the experience caused Yuli to reconsider how we humans are disconnected from the cycle of life. Many people have never seen a dead body, although most of us have been touched by the death of a loved one. Yuli researched the history of natural fibers used for burials in the UK, and wrote a paper about her research that was published by Plymouth College of Art.  

Since I teach about the artist, Joseph Beuys, in my classroom, I was taken by a Beuys' quote from Yuli's paper, "People today no longer have a sense of the essence of things, be the meaning of life or the meaning of relationships in the world." Our bodies were made to be biodegradable, yet we do all we can to preserve (why?) and protect the remains. Where I live in Madison County, Illinois, for example, the body is embalmed by chemicals, sealed in a metal coffin, and buried within a concrete bunker.  Or the body is cremated, in which the overall process is also not good for the environment. 

A shroud in process

A sample shroud stuffed with blankets. We were allowed to examine the construction.

Today at Bellacouche, which means beautiful resting place, Yuli makes felted burial shrouds to order, for adults and children, used to wrap the body in strong, but softly padded felt for woodland or natural burials that are legal in the UK.  The large bats of wool used for the main parts of the shrouds come from local sheep farmers and are industrially felted in the UK under Yuli's personal direction. The pieces of felted wool used for details are naturally dyed before Yuli hand sews and needle felts the details. Finally, local tree limbs are cut into small pieces and attached as "buttons" for closure. For more information about the construction of the shrouds, view Leafshrouds, on the Bellacouche website. For more information about the sustainability of wool and the development of the locally felted wool fiber used by Bellacouche, read Yuli's paper mentioned above. 

Jackie watching Yuli work

I want to once again thank Yuli for allowing us to watch her work, and for giving us a tour of her studio workshop. We not only purchased a few wooly things to take along, we also took her advice and visited, Proper Job, the community recycling center outside of Chagford. 

In a cluster of buildings, sheds and compost bins that make up Proper Job, filled with furniture, clothing, ceramic fixtures and textiles, Jackie found some lovely mix-matched china. In another building, I discovered six pieces of handwoven Malian cotton "mud cloth" (for the price of a latte) that someone had donated to the center. Even more reason to return to Dartmoor!

One more thing to go in the suitcase