art, art retreats, Art-is-You, book arts

Talk Story – Eat Cake Create – Art Is You Movement – Stamford, CT

There are so many different names for this collection of superb art retreats organized by Sallianne McClelland. I tend to still call all of them Art Is You because I’m a stubborn old gal, but this particular one was called Talk Story in Stamford, Connecticut. When I saw that Sharon Payne Bolton was teaching and her class was scheduled over our two day fall break at the university where I work, I busted out my tired old credit card and headed north. Here’s a link to the blog post about my previous class with Sharon.

I did not take many photos of the class or the event itself, and that for me is a good sign, because my brain is totally in the present moment and focused on what makes me happy. And God knows we women needed a lot of that last week. Another great feature of Sallianne’s retreats is that she feeds us well. The Sheraton hotel food was excellent. Most importantly, though, is that these retreats are welcoming communities. Many of the attendees have taken classes with the Art Is You family (and they do seem like a family) for years and have developed lasting friendships across the states. This was my first AIY retreat on the East Coast, and Sallianne had pronounced it the last one in this location. There was such sadness and outcry over this that she decided to schedule another one in Stamford in 2020. In the meantime, she has other West Coast and midwest locations in play, and I hear that she might do one in the south.

This art retreat addiction, especially for Art is You and Focus on Book Arts, is the only thing that makes me regret not being rich.

Anyway, the class that I took from Sharon Payne Bolton was called HERTEL, based on a box structure that she designed. One of the boxes had a piece of book cover with the word HERTEL on it and she has a story about someone buying it from her for a good friend of his with the last name Hertel. It was a two day class and she had not taught it before so she was nervous. She is SO dedicated to providing everything you needed, right down to tools and aprons, so that you can come to her class and not bring anything at all if you wish, which is super great when you are flying. I was able to fly with only carry-on luggage. Plus, instead of having us cut all those little pieces of bookboard and paper text blocks for little books, she did it.

I told her that if I could swing it financially, I would be her groupie and follow her around like a stray puppy.

We built the box on the first day, and spent the second day further embellishing it and building little books to go inside. She had Apoxie Sculpt (which I immediately ordered online after the class was over) and encaustic medium and moldmaking materials for us to use. There was a plethora of gorgeous papers, leather scraps, ephemera, and baubles to attach. She taught us coptic stitch for single sheets on the second day, which I have done before but I needed a refresher.

Work space:

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In progress. The “Inspire” pin is a gift from Maria. It might go in another book.

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My book, outside and inside:

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Reva and Kathy’s books:

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A better shot of Reva’s book:

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David’s book:

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Maria’s book:

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I think that this is Eileen’s book:

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Four people had to leave before we took photos. I wish I had taken photos of everybody’s books because they were all so different, especially some of the ones that left early.

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Circle of Power

I will add more photos later. My box is at my office this weekend, but I want to show you more of the little book with the key embedded in the cover.

Once again, I came away with not only tons of inspiration, but many new friends that I hope to keep up with at future art retreats and on social media. And five “new” cigar boxes for the studio!

art, book arts, dyeing, Nature printing, North Carolina, North Carolina beaches

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

This past weekend, Susanne and I went to a wonderful Zhen Xian Bao book class at Topsail Beach, NC, taught by Leslie Marsh and Kim Beller. The first day we spent natural dyeing with plant materials and indigo on paper and fabric. The next day was spent constructing the book, which is made with glue, scissors, and folding. The book structure is a traditional Chinese thread book made for the purpose of holding embroidery threads, needles, and the odd bits that might be kept for different projects. Ruth Smith researched this extensively and published books about it, and it is being taught by artists in the United States now. I took a class on this structure at Focus on Book Arts last summer, which I absolutely loved. Kim and Leslie put their own spin on it by adding more layers and the natural dye/shibori element. Of course, Leslie acknowledged the instruction of India Flint in her teaching of eco-printing techniques.

The big dilemma in making this book is that you have to sacrifice some images that you might love to be on the side that is glued down. The biggest one for me was the big box that makes the base and the cover. Both sides had their charms, but I had to pick one. The other can be seen on the bottom of the lowest box when the book is opened. I thought about embellishing the cover further, but I think that I will leave it alone other than brushing some Dorland’s wax medium on it to make it a little stronger and more weatherproof.

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

above: unbundling, trying out cover sides and the finished cover

I added the 70% silk/30% cotton thread to every bundle. I now have some dark and bright indigo threads to add to my tapestry, once I get them untangled. One groups of the threads I laid inside a bundle made a portrait of two humans. Fortunately I was able to preserve this image in the bottom of one of the boxes near the top.

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

More photos of the dyeing/bundling process:

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Update: I don’t do Pinterest too much – too overwhelming and I don’t need another rabbit hole. If you are into it, here’s a great board on the Zhen Xian Bao book structure.

art, art retreats, dyeing, fiber art, Georgia, Lake Waccamaw, National Parks and Monuments, tapestry, weaving

Tapestry Weavers South Retreat

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I’m taking a personal day to recharge after a particularly sweet and inspiring art retreat weekend with members of Tapestry Weavers South at Epworth-by-the-Sea on St. Simons Island.

It is a lovely venue and the price was very reasonable for three nights and all meals. We were lucky that even though most of the Southeast US was getting pummeled by thunderstorms and flooding, we only had a few light showers and the temperature was perfect. On the last night we enjoyed the veranda next to the river and it was lovely – not muggy at all and I didn’t notice any bugs. The sunsets were nice too:

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^^^Just outside my window

The greatest value of this retreat was the talent and encouragement of my fellow tapestry weavers. I’m not kidding – if you are a tapestry weaver in the southern U.S., I recommend that you join this group.

I left for the retreat with just a vague idea of what I might do, and a fairly neurotic state of mind about my weaving break. I was also worried about sitting for the long drive and the workshop in general, but I met April Price near Charlotte and she drove the rest of the way, so I was able to adjust a rolled-up towel under my legs, hips, and back frequently. That helped so much, and I am grateful for her willingness to drive! April organized the retreat and did a wonderful job.

I left the retreat with a warm feeling of making new friends, and the beginning of a small tapestry on the loom that I am excited about. Some of my artist crushes were there and we got to know each other. I was encouraged to continue my tapestry diary that I dropped at the end of March and was given a few suggestions on how I might proceed from here.

You are likely to see more from me on the subject of Tapestry Weavers South, because I suspect that I’m going to break my vow of getting involved in group leadership and help out with this one. Just in a minor role that I’m comfortable with, though.

Jennifer Sargent was our featured artist and she shared a slideshow of her work and critiqued the pieces that other weavers brought. She gave me very positive feedback on my own work.

We honored Tommye Scanlin with a lifetime membership and an emotional celebration on the last night. She was my first teacher that was an actual tapestry artist. We figured it out that was in 1991! She is loved by so many people.

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Holly Wilkes and MJ Lord allowed me to photograph their hands in action.

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I decided to work with the abstraction of a favorite photograph of rain on Lake Waccamaw, using my naturally dyed silk/cotton threads from India’s online class. It’s interesting that I return so often to this family place at Lake Waccamaw for art inspiration. Even the threads are wound on driftwood sticks that I picked up on this shore.

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April was kind enough to go with me to Fort Frederica National Monument so that I could get a stamp for my National Park Passport book. The deerflies were pretty bad and we were short on time so we decided not to walk to the actual fort, but it was a lovely park. The 42d Regiment of Foot battled with Spanish forces there in 1742 so I was especially interested in visiting. That was our regiment when we were 18th century re-enactors. We drove around St. Simons Island, then we stopped in Savannah and ate Crabcakes Benedict at Bar-Food, which I highly recommend. Just as we were driving into Charlotte, the bottom fell out and I have rarely seen such a hard rain. I thought that I might have to spend the night at April’s house but we looked at the radar and I made a good decision to drive home. I wonder how many inches fell in that half-hour?

art, fiber art, tapestry, Tapestry Weavers South, weaving

Tapestry Weavers South: “A Strand, A Shape, A Story”

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I broke all the rules and took photos at the closing reception of the Tapestry Weavers South exhibit, “A Strand, A Shape, A Story,” that ran in the upper gallery of the North Carolina Folk Art Center from January to April 2018.

Many of these tapestries have moved on to Yadkinville, where they will reappear in an exhibition at the Yadkin Arts Center in June.

You can see the rest of the photos in my Flickr album. Some photos were blurry or had reflections from glass, and they won’t be there. It is worth clicking through to see the album, because this is a very fine show and I finally stopped loading them on this page because it was so hard to pick.

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Alchemist's Apron, art, dyeing, fiber art, Lake Waccamaw, Nature printing, North Carolina, Slow cloth, Upcycling

Alchemist’s Apron project

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Last weekend Sandy and I went to Lake Waccamaw and I gathered materials to dye my project for India Flint’s online class, “The Alchemist’s Apron.” I’ve experimented with natural dyes down there before without a whole lot of luck. This time, using a good mordant and bundling the plant materials directly in contact with the cloth did the trick.

In this project we cut apart a shirt in a particular way to make an apron. This is a lightweight denim shirt that Sandy discarded a long time ago. I saved it, paint stains and all. I have a few other white thrift store shirts that I could use, but I wanted to experiment on this one first. Blue is my favorite color, unless you bring up any of my other favorite colors, like orange, purple, yellow, brown, black, red, and green.

I made a mordant from iron scraps, white vinegar and water in a pickle bucket that is safe to use but turned out to be almost scary powerful. The chemical reaction creates a billowing orange foam much like the toupee on Dear Leader’s head. I have a lifetime supply of iron mordant now because I have to dilute it so much. This mordant developed over about eight days.

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Even after diluting it with rain water it had a weird metallic sheen on top which cracked when touched. I ended up straining it through a piece of thick cloth to get out most of the rust, poured in hot tap water to dilute it more, and even then I got a lot of brown/orange color on the shirt. I soaked the shirt for two days and a half in this mordant solution.

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Then I bundled it tightly with swamp bay leaves, common privet leaves, red tip photinia leaves, dried live oak leaves, dried bald cypress needles, dried sweet gum leaves and balls, and some dark blue berries that could have been from the swamp bay or Chinese privet. They were growing beside each other and I identified the Chinese privet after dyeing, which was a no-no. The leaves and berries of Chinese privet are toxic to ingest. My guess is that they are not dangerous to the skin since I saw nothing that mentioned it and this will be going on over other clothes. I cleaned up all the berries and washed the apron well. Also, I could be wrong on the ID.

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The swamp bay leaves smelled heavenly in the dye bath. Some leaves didn’t leave a print but made a negative print where they blocked the dye from the leaves on top on them (a resist) and had a black edge around them. Looking at it today, I wonder if the black leaf prints are actually the dried live oak leaves and the leaf prints with the black edges are the swamp bay leaves. Unwrapping these bundles is such a joy – you just don’t know what you will get. I knew that it would be mostly black prints because of the mordant and the tannins, but that was about it.

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Here it is after rinsing it in the bathtub. It has since been washed and dried and lost none of its color. I’m pleased,, because early spring is not the best season to do natural dyeing.

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The next step in the class is to dye threads for stitching and sewing on pockets. Many pockets. I needed some more thread dyed with broom sedge to finish an old project anyway and I saw some down the street on the old train tracks, so I’m going down there to gather it now. It makes a lovely yellow.

I also stuffed a garbage bag full of Spanish moss that covered some tree branches piled on the side of the road for pickup. That will be mulch for my container garden. The birdies love to line their nests with it too. I’m sure that conservative crowd living at the lake thinks I’m bananas walking along the canal road, plucking up Spanish moss and leaves and branches from their yard trash piles, wild graying hair, braless, and no make-up, with my Bernie 2016 bumper sticker on my car in the yard. Ha!

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