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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art, Blather, fiber art

Saturday morning coffee pot post

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I’ve been in my busiest time at work in the last two weeks, leaving me little desire to get on my laptop at home. I need to do taxes this weekend, I have sworn to myself that I will get the taxes done this weekend, I WILL GET THE TAXES DONE THIS WEEKEND. I will do it today.

Much thought has gone into how I can make my art a sustainable practice. I ditched the tapestry diary for over a week now. This studio is much too crowded. Past experience finally whispered in my ear and asked, “What are you doing right now just because you feel like you should be doing it, and what are you doing that you enjoy? What is it that you think you want to do, but when you do it you feel unhappy about the reality of doing it? What is it about that activity that bugs you?”

I put aside the idea of making any money from my artwork a few years ago. That by itself made a huge difference. It wasn’t doing anything to sustain me financially and my artwork suffered for it. At best, the money I made covered my membership fee in the co-op I exhibited in and bought a few art supplies. But now, I have an extensive palette of tapestry yarn, a huge stash of fabric and recycled garments, my mother’s thread and sewing supplies and paints and inks and plenty of paper and bookboard for bookmaking. My main focus has been to reuse and recycle what I have instead of buying anything unnecessary, and even though I have broken that vow three times this year, it’s been for small things.

So I got down to thinking about the answers to those questions. I am not enjoying the tapestry diary any more. But I made the rules for it, so I get to change or ditch them altogether. Nobody is making me do this. It is an obligation I set for myself. Some would call it discipline. I’m calling it a pain in my ass right now and setting it aside.

I am enjoying stitching the projects for India Flint’s class the most I have enjoyed anything for a long time. Sewing is very satisfying to me. Jude Hill is starting another online class soon and I’ll participate in that. However, I have to be aware of my physical problems because the pain usually shows up after the activity that causes it. I’d like to get back to sewing my patchwork t-shirt blanket too. That won’t be so hard on my arms and hands, but I need to make room in here and set up a design board.

I want to set up my Macomber loom for that double weave rug project. The warp is measured and chained. Again, I need to make room in the studio because I have boxes stacked around it.

Finally, “what is it that you think you want to do, but when you do it you feel unhappy about the reality of doing it? What is it about that activity that bugs you?”

This same question came up when I was doing ceramics. I loved the idea of doing ceramics, but finally I had to admit that having my hands in the clay for hours drove me crazy. Same with paint – I can only tolerate so much before my OCD kicks in. Collage is intellectually fascinating to me, and I love doing it to a certain extent, but I fucking HATE GLUE, and that is a problem. Fiber and fabric art, for the most part, present me with little to set off my anxiety about sticky and difficult messes. My head says, “you should have no problem with this. What’s wrong with you?” But that is not the kind of inner criticism I need right now.

So the solution that I see is that I am going to get rid of my collage stash. I’ll keep the handmade paper because I enjoy that activity. But the boxes of travel materials, maps, old music books, dictionaries…to Reconsidered Goods they will go. I’ll have a bit more room to maneuver in the studio and if I want to do collage I’d do it with fabric. If any of my local friends want to come by the house and get some of this, you are welcome to do so. Just do it soon, okay?

I will feel better once this hoard is gone. I know that I will.

There will be another post about my current project. I have a lot more to write about. AFTER I DO THE TAXES. Which I will do. I will do the taxes TODAY. In the meantime, here are some photos from the front shade garden.

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art, Back Forty, Bagstories, Rebel stitching, Slow cloth, tapestry, weaving

Sunday update

I don’t have much to say today, because HEADACHE, but I wanted to document that I planted Green Arrow peas in planters, Sugar Ann snap peas in the raised bed with the pineberries, and sprouted chunks of Yukon Gold potatoes in another planter. Now for another day of rest and stitching while the rain comes down.

Detail of Boro fabric, lots more stitching to do

Vegetable beef soup was made yesterday, so cooking is off the list today.

I have one goal today that I keep putting off – take the backing off the tiny tapestry “Pacific Pines,” square it up, and sew the backing back on. This is the one that I’m sending to the ATA unjuried small format show.

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Before photo of the Back Forty. My hope is that it will look much prettier in coming weeks. The formerly screened gazebo in the back is going to be stripped of its fabric soon. I can’t buy a fabric roof and screening that stands up to the limbs and vines coming at it from the back. We may move the metal structure out into the sunnier part of the yard and screen it with metal screening. Sandy wants to do some wattle vine and stick weaving around it, which I think is a great idea. It would make an excellent structure for growing mushrooms inside if we did that. But I can’t even think about that now. Maybe next year.

Late winter in the Back Forty.

art, Back Forty, Bagstories, coffee pot posts, fiber art, Slow cloth, tapestry, Tapestry Diary 2018, Upcycling, weaving

Saturday morning coffee pot post

I’m sure that most people in the world would rather be doing something else full-time than what they do to earn a paycheck. I am grateful for and appreciate my job very much, not in the least part because I have had some really shitty jobs in the past and worked with some awful people, and my job is wonderful compared to them. I know what a good thing is because I’ve experienced the bad. But I’m going through a period when I ache to be in this studio, weaving or stitching. I alternate between being fearful and anticipatory about my retirement, which, if I’m lucky, is ten years away. I want to leave this country, this state, this city, and then I think that I could be happy here for the rest of my life if I could only ignore politics.

Greensboro is a great small city, really. It’s just that I haven’t lived anywhere else but here and Marietta.

Okay, so this week was very stressful and it wasn’t supposed to be. By the end it all calmed down but only because we all needed to make mind adjustments. Everybody’s stress was rubbing off on everybody else and once we all saw it, we could acknowledge it and work on it. I’m not going to talk any more about work here but I need the artwork more than ever. Stitching on this boro fabric is particularly good for lowering the blood pressure:

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Midweek, I stopped on my walk to work to look around when my crow friends were behaving oddly. Sure enough, there was the red-tailed hawk in the tree nearby. The crows were flying around him.

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He flew away to the top of the art building, when I noticed his mate was perched nearby. She joined him, and the crows continued to hassle him. I was excited because I had not seen the female before. The male flew away and the crows followed, then he returned and everything seemed peaceful. I put my camera away. Then he hopped on the female and mated! I got to see two hawks getting it on! No photo, it was over quickly when the crows came back to annoy them.

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I tried to capture the hawk in my tapestry diary this week. I am a bit frustrated with the limits that I set for this project sometimes, although I think that they are good ones. Using just the cotton and linen thrums on an 8 epi warp and a daily format across the frame for each week is starting to feel a bit oppressive. I think that it is a good exercise, but if it was a closer warp and I used wool, I could weave some beautiful images. This is a bit like weaving emojis from the 90s. However, this is not supposed to be a work of art, it is supposed to keep me weaving on a regular basis, try out a few ideas, and use up these thrums that would otherwise be used for ties or take up space or be thrown in the garbage or compost pile.

Tapestry diary 2018

One way for me to get through this busy time of the semester at work is to consider all the lovely plans ahead of me. I will be taking online classes from both Jude Hill and India Flint. In May, I’m going to the Tapestry Weavers South retreat on St. Simons Island in Georgia. That’s an area where I’ve never been. It is possible but doubtful that I’ll go to Tommye Scanlin’s tapestry class at John C. Campbell Folk School the week of Memorial Day. The last I checked I was third on the wait list. Susanne and I are going to Leslie Marsh’s Chinese thread book workshop at Topsail Beach one weekend in mid-June. Mid-July, we are spending a week at Lake Waccamaw and my cousin and aunt from Colorado are coming to join us. Then in September, the plan is to take a week to see Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. That’s what the tax return will go to, most likely.

Really, I have such a good life.

Lenten roses are loving the front yard, and the grape hyacinths that I transplanted last year are beginning to peep up. I’ll plant some peas today before the rain begins again.

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