Wednesday, August 31, 2005

can this fabric be saved?

Here's the story: I starated this last night but got called away for an emergency, so I'm back with the rest of the tale. This is a piece of Helene Davis' hand-dyed fabric that really didn't fit into my palette. Since I"ve been batiking, I decided to experiment on this piece which wasn't my favorite color, to see what else I could do with it. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

last night's work

My 20 lbs of soy wax came today. A good thing, too, because I am about to run out of the stuff. Here are two chiffon scarves I waxed and dye-painted. I wasn't sure about the wax on chiffon, but I really love the effect. They are more transparent and ethereal than they look here, but I am eager to get back and make a bunch more. I have some habotai and some crepe de chine scarves waiting for me to work on them, but it's a start.

while we're on the subject

I find it endlessly fascinating to try and define what makes a piece of art or music or writing or architecture recognizeable as being created by a particular person. Sometimes it's nothing you can put your finger on; you just KNOW. Example: I can hear any piece of music by Aaron Copland and even if I've never heard it before, I know he composed it. Once in a while I might mistake a Bernstein phrase for Copland. Or a few bars of Mozart for Hayden. But while I never studied music, my ear can discern pretty well the identifying 'gestalt' of a piece. Same thing with art: the artist's DNA is there somewhere...even if the palette is different from previous work, or the style has changed. You know what I'm talking about, don't you? It's like listening to someone's voice and recognizing it even if they have a cold. The timbre and speech pattern is unique. What is it that makes your work identifiable as YOURS? What is it that makes us look at a piece and say "it's an X" and be right? Any thoughts??

on the other hand...

Yesterday's auditioned fabric, as much of an improvement as it was over the previous one, still didn't do it. 1) Helene's fabric needs another setting in which to shine, and 2) this piece just didn't look like my work. It needed a background with more complexity: the messy fingerprint that identifies it as mine. My crit group (now known as Studio 6) was here today. As I was doing show-and-tell with my recently minted batiks, one of them (the fabrics, not the people) jumped up and said "me! me!" So we tried it and lo and behold -- it works! Initial makeover is on the left. Feels better already.

Monday, August 29, 2005

back to work

Before I forget: Susan Sorrell asked whether there was a difference between Knox and 'industrial strength' gelatin. I haven't the vaguest idea: probably not. But buying it in large quantities, it is substantially less expensive. I won't bore you with another picture of my (neatened) studio; trust me, I was up till 2:am sorting, ironing, and folding hand-dyed and printed fabrics. They now reside in neat piles in the bookcase. I feel so calm and happy. While going through the chaos, I unearthed two in-process pieces and another one I had made some years ago and put on a background of cheesy fabric that I never liked. Last night I un-quilted it, ripped it off the background, and it is on the studio floor on one of Helene Davis' hand-dyed fabrics that is just the perfect background color. Now I have to live with it and decide whether it is finished. (the white dots in the large version are pins - ignore them,please.) What inspired it in the first place: I was at a chamber music concert and the piece they were playing was in a minor key. I wondered if I could find a way to express a minor key visually and this was the result. I called it "Blue Note." Tomorrow, crit group meeting here. For a change, I will have some work to share.

Friday, August 26, 2005


I'm stitching the facing on Bad Hair Day - about halfway done and am taking a break. Who can sew for that long?? Then there will be the infamous sleeve and label to do. But not tonight. Becky H asked: I'm curious where you bought the soy wax and the gelatin in quantity? You can google soy wax and find several sources on the web, but I ordered mine from a place called Gelluminations. As for the gelatin -- I just got 6 cannisters of the stuff from Great Lakes Gelatin. That's their minimum order and trust me, unless you are doing a TON of gelatin plate printing, you do not need 6 cans. I teach it, so it is easier for me to take a can with me in case somebody forgets theirs. In fact, I am taking a can of gelatin with me to England next month. I am doing a 'play day' with a group of talented textile artists in London and we will need it. When I was there last year, we could not find powdered gelatine in the market so had to make do with agar-agar or some such thing, if I remember correctly. My non-working clock is still stuck at 8:03 but my watch says 11:30 pm, so off to get my beauty sleep. I hope.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

my least favorite thing to have to make something for an exhibit when I am not in the mood. What is YOUR least favorite (art-or studio-or teaching-or exhibit-related) thing?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

like a hole in the head how I need this mouth-puckering lemon tart I carried home from Egan's Irish Pub tonight. Nevertheless, I am savoring it as I write, accompanied by a cup of fragrant, strong, St. Michael tea from Marks & Spencer. That is REAL whipped cream you are looking at and it is unsweetened - the only way to eat whipped cream. All of this is an antidote to the day I spent in the ER with my mother, who was ultimately admitted with a problem I hope they can at least begin to resolve in the next 24 hours. Food as comfort? Rarely -- but this is one of those times. On another note - my friend Helene asked me how I made those hatch marks on the green batik piece I posted a couple of days or two. I sent her a picture of the wire grid, but figure that I should post it here, as well. More appropriate, anyway, than a lemon tart. Having looked at all those wonderful post cards on other blogs, I thought for a moment I should try to make some also. But too many other things are beckoning, like workshop outlines and materials for Houston. And the soy wax batik workshop I'm putting together -- a great excuse for experimenting in my own studio! Yesterday, I ordered 20 lbs of soy wax and a huge quantity of industrial-strength gelatin to use in my gelatin printing workshops. I had to resist the temptation to order 50 lbs of soy wax because it was 20 cents less per pound in that quantity. But where on earth was I going to store FIFTY pounds of the stuff? Nowhere. If I lived alone, maybe. But it's not worth the trauma: I'll make do with 20 lbs. Now, if I could only find the time to use it. My studio is embarrassingly overrun with STUFF and I am seriously thinking of cutting some of my printed/screened/batiked fabric into pieces and packing it into grab bags to sell. But I'm not quite ready: separation anxiety, I guess. Well, enough idle chit-chat for tonight. Tomorrow morning I have to respond to a teaching inquiry and make umpteen phone calls before I go to the hospital. So, off I go...overly full of lemon tart to the point of discomfort, I might add. Is there a lesson here?

Monday, August 22, 2005

Q&A - more than you want to know

In the last comment section there were a couple of questions. Karoda asked: Are you taking the wax out with the iron and newspaper? I am. I put several layers of newspaper down under the cloth and one or two on top and iron away. The newspaper absorbs the wax and takes most of it out of the cloth. Jenni asked: Why soy wax? Is the soy wax easier to iron out than household? There are several reasons for soy wax. Most commonly, batik is done with a combination of beeswax and paraffin. It may give a better crackle than soy wax but it is much harder to get out of the fabric. Yes, it irons out...but to get all of it out you need to boil it or send it to the dry cleaner. Soy wax is non-toxic, so not such a problem with fumes. It is softer than the traditional combination so it may not crackle as well if that's what you are looking for. But it irons out almost completely and then you just wash in HOT water and synthrapol and you're done. If you are doing batik on silk scarves or garments you will want to get all of the wax out; if you're batiking fabric for quilts it doesn't matter so much: the residual stiffness is just fine. BTW - sadly, I have not had time to go to garage sales and we don't really have any thrift stores around here so I spent $20 at Target and bought a new electric frying pan that seems fine.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

weekend batik

I spent a little time yesterday and again tonight playing around with some ugly fabric, my new electric skillet, and soy wax. I love doing batik with fiber reactive dyes but since I was going to a wedding last night, I thought I should try it with paint so as not to go with blue and green hands. I added lots of water to some fluid acrylics and to some textile paints and used them both with the wax to see what the possibilities were for using them in my no-brainer batik classes instead of dyes. This piece started as a hideous acid green mistake. I put wax on it and then painted with the diluted paint. I put it between newspapers and went to work with the iron. Now it's beginning to look interesting. You can see the photos better if you click to enlarge them. What I like is that each side of the fabric looks slightly different and sometimes it's the underside that is better. I used my new tjap, which made the big blob you see. I have to work with it - I must have done something wrong. The hatch marks are made with a rusty wire grid I found and I love the effect. Here's another, totally different piece I also did yesterday. A washed out blue was the base fabric. I dipped a household utensil into the wax and stamped, then went in with the diluted paint. Then, I ironed. This is possibly my favorite part of the process: there is something comforting and zen about ironing. Here it is post-ironing. And finally, a look at the whole piece. It's pretty but I like it anyway. IMG_1470

Friday, August 19, 2005

my clock keeps stopping

I have 2 clocks in my 10'x14' studio. If you think that's a bit obsessive, you're wrong. The plugged-in one is a mickey mouse clock from the late '60's that belonged to one of my kids. I just like it. The other one, which is across the room, I can see from my chair without craning my neck backwards. Battery operated, it runs for about 10 minutes and stops every time I put it back up on the wall. Lying down on the table or the floor, it runs fine. I just bought 10 new AA batteries - to no avail. Still stops. Well, this way I can't see how late I am staying up. After I got that other piece off the wall yesterday, I was able to move ahead and put some other pieces up. One is the piece I am making for an invitational exhibit in October. Breast cancer month and the exhibit is to raise money for research. I think mine is the only textile piece in the exhibit - there are photographers, sculptors, book arts people, painters, printmakers. If I had had a piece on canvas to work on at the time, this would have been considered a painting. but it's paint on pima. I have to send it off before I leave for England in a few weeks, so I need to put a few stitches in it and get busy. Here it is, so far. BAD HAIR DAY.
The second piece is another whole-cloth piece of batik I had overprinted on a rather bad dye job.It reminds me of the view and reflections I see when I'm taking the PATH train through the gritty, industrial area of Jersey City and the Pulaski Skyway on the way into NY at night. An ephemeral impression: it could just as well be the skyline from across the Hudson. When I printed, I had absolutely nothing in mind - this is the beauty of not planning ahead.


off the wall

Finally! But not really finally. It's sewn together but bugging me because something is wrong with the proportion. Too square. It doesn't want to be wants to be a rectangle. So, playing around on photoshop last night I tried cropping it a couple of different ways to see where I should cut. Here it is as a diptych, albeit a bit far apart on the screen. Oh, did you want to see what it looks like as one piece? Hold on a minute...

The weirdest thing is that I keep thinking this looks just like Urban Nightlife, a piece I made several years ago and was sold. But when I looked again tonight, there is less of a resemblance than I thought at first. While some of the fabric is from the same piece, the palette is quite different. So what am I thinking?


I am thinking that it is time to go to bed and get ready for another day. Maybe I will have time to open my new electric frying pan and heat up some soy wax...

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

time warp

What happens when you go from the west coast to the east coast? It's 1:30 am and my body thinks it's 10:30 pm. Would that it were! The climate in San Diego is pleasant and as I walked around downtown, I took a few photos that had observers scratching their heads as I clicked. I am irresistably drawn to things like this. (Ahem - note the spa manicure on the toes to the left.) On our second trip to Balboa Park, the arboretum was open (see picture on previous post) and we were in a magical, tropical garden. I was so overwhelmed that I almost didn't take any pictures. This is Echinacea. And I have no idea what the other leaf is, but if you care, you can read the label. Apart from going to Balboa park and seeing the museums and plants, there isn't a lot to do in downtown San Diego. Even the Gas Lamp district seems to be mostly restaurants and condos. However, I did come away with two tjaps for doing batik. One is wood with copper and the other is all copper. Both are heavy. And both will wait till I have time to use them. Can I stand it till I have a spare hour? Meantime, I had better try to get back on a normal schedule and go to bed so I can wake up in time for my early morning appointment.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

on vacation

IMG_1423Am about to wind up 5 days in San Diego, mostly visiting with family while my husband attends a business conference. I need to get back into my studio! Artwork due for exhibits - and one piece not even started. Aarrgggh. Taking the red eye back tonight and will be back to real life tomorrow. IMG_1426

Monday, August 08, 2005

follow up to a photo

No, I have no idea who they are or how their image got into my computer. I don't have the photo. But I do have dozens of other photos of couples taken from the late 19th through the 1930's and some later ones. I don't know why they move me, but they do. None of them looks happy; part of it is that they were very formal and had to sit still for the camera. But it must be more than that...and I want to know their stories. Never will -- so I just imagine them. And make them part of my artwork. As I worked with them tonight, I thought I would show you how I took them from here to there. Above left, where we started. Next, I deleted the background in photoshop Elements. This is a a pain to do; if I have the actual photo I put it on the copier and take a scissors to the background. This is much faster than fooling around with the eraser tool. But here's what they look like now. After this, I go back into Photoshop and do a few more things so that I can print it out in black and white on my laser printer. Laser printer is important because I can make a thermofax screen with the carbon print; I could also use my photocopier but this works just as well. Here's the laser print. Next step requires putting it through my Thermofax machine, along with the screening material. The infared lamp burns away the plastic on the screen and I am left with a screen to print with. Here is what the screen itself looks like with the image burned through. I took the photo after I had printed with it and washed it. The paint stained it a bit but that's ok. At least you can see what it looks like. And finally, here is one of the prints I made on the drop cloth covering my print table. There were a number of them, all a little different. I just picked this one at random: the drop cloth is a great place to experiment. If you click on it, you'll see it more closely. That's it for tonight. Start to finish.

who are these people?

and why do they look so sad??

Saturday, August 06, 2005

photo as inspiration

Jen's comment about using photos as inspirations for artwork reminded me that I hadn't posted the small piece Patricia Smith made in my recent workshop. The picture of the window inspired the abstract piece next to it. What Patricia said jumped out at her was the strong line, and that's where she went with the piece -- working with line. An ideal result, giving the words 'inspired by' new meaning. The trick is to work quickly, with no time to think.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

it's getting there...

You may remember that I posted this work-in-progress in March. It sat on my design wall for more than four months; we stared at each other without speaking and I can tell you that it got pretty boring. Finally, yesterday, it spoke. It told me it wanted to be bigger. I had kind of been waiting for that statement but wasn't about to impose my wishes on it. So last night, I got to work. And after a little surgery here and a little there, we're making progress. I don't think it really looks any larger in the photograph, which is somewhat deceiving -- but trust me - it is. Nothing, of course, is set in stone. Far from it. It may have several other permutations before I am done, but I know that it is on its way. The fabric has spoken! When I taught my class last week in Jump-starting the Art Quilt, the students wanted to know what my process was. You're looking at it -- and I suspect it is not much different from yours. Or is it?

mystery plant

Sort of. I know it's a Snake Plant; I've had it for as long as I can remember. I don't even like snake plants but somehow this one reminds me of my grandmother, who had a bunch of them and who was always propagating them in little glasses of water all over the windowsills. But I digress...

These plants don't need sun or water and this one has been on the deck for a couple of months, getting some of both. You see that thing in the middle?? I have been watching it grow from the middle of the plant, and now it seems to be flowering. Any experts out there who can tell me if this is a teenage mutant plant?? It is weirding me out.


soup weather in June and a little more

DISCLAIMER: Blogger is giving me grief tonight, which you will see by the varying sizes of the type. Ye p, soup weather and it's ...