Fiber Book and my Very Fine Hat

May 2nd, 2019

Spring has come, all of a sudden everything is green… and magenta and yellow and violet—Philadelphia has a very wild burst of color when spring arrives. I’ve been busy working on a new set of paintings but I spell it with stitching.

My latest “rabbit hole” is a fiber book based on my grandmother, her mother, and her mother. Using many bits and pieces from their collections of saved fabric, lace and trims—my grandmother was the youngest and as all this was passed down it ended up with her and then to me—I descend from savers or some might say pack rats. All three women sewed so there is a wealth of scraps.

Slowly the pages have been taking shape as things are rearranged and reassembled. I learned to print photo’s on fabric—that was a big break through… my dyed fabrics make an appearance as does my stitching. And finally I made a commitment on a cover. So here is the cover and the pages for each woman.

Image of book cover tied shut Image of book cover untied

The cover is piece of canvas dyed with tea and rusty bits. It is stitched and has self ties. When untied it reveals a pocket with a photo of me with what I thought was a most wonderful hat when I was four years old.

Image of my grandmother Image of my grandmother's mother Image of my grandmother's mother's mother

Three generations of women, all “Stitchers”, although I don’t think they would have used that title.
Other pages and spreads consist of fabric and buttons and feathers and prints and lace and … some are still in the works…

These women have inspired this book but it isn’t necessarily about them but rather about women in general, things that were important to them in their time and that belonged to them in their time.

Explorations

April 2nd, 2019

Been exploring mixed media (currently oil pastels, charcoal, ink and acrylic) on paper. Trying hard not to begin with a direction but rather prepare my state of mind by reading or a walk for example, and see where it leads me. It’s difficult for me once I see a direction not let my thinking mind take over and to become literal. I am also trying with this work, to not dwell on the dark forces that occupy the world today as they take up too much of my life as it is but rather use these explorations to examine hope. Here are two recent results. Different days- different images.

Image of Mixed Media Exploration
Untitled #4

Image of Mixed Media Exploration
Untitled #1

I’m interested to see how these studies affect my other work.

Ireland Paintings

March 29th, 2019

I said I’d post some of the paintings from studies I did several years ago in Ireland. Took a while but here they are. I’m still working with the idea of time and the landscape. The ancientness of this land and it’s history is overwhelming to me. Ceide Fields are bogs covering settlements over 5500 years old. I’ve done several more in this series, but this gives you an idea.

Image of Ceide Fields and the North Sea
Ceide Fields and the North Sea
Down Patrick Head in the distance with Sea Stack, Dún Briste
Image of River and mountains, Co. Mayo

The impact that people make on the land and how people and our civilizations with all our grand ideas pass on and the land has remained is haunting to me. Nature reclaims—so far…

Travel Sketchbooks

March 24th, 2019

Artist, Susan Abbott, is teaching a “Traveling with your Sketchbook” workshop in DC and posted about it. I took a workshop with Susan in VT this past summer and I can attest that one gets their money’s worth from her. She covers so much and caters it to each person’s level. Susan’s blog post asked for comments/thoughts on personal experiences and I wrote the folllowing”

“For years I took new sketchbooks on trips and returned with them as new as when I left. All the things you mention in the post. Then one year friends gave us some tulips at the airport on a trip to France and the French let me take them with me… So I sketched them in our room once each morning until they dropped and then I kept sketching on that day. I realized I had given myself permission to sketch. After that I started making one quick sketch from my window each am on trips – sometimes an incredible view, some times a parking lot… but once I did that I would continue to sketch for the rest of the trip. Now I can’t imagine travel with out sketching. Perhaps the favorite thing to do in my life.”

It got me thinking about how important sketching is to me and I thought I’d share my thoughts here. I dug out that old sketchbook and below are some of my sketches from that trip”

Image of first quick sketch of tulips
First quick sketch of tulips – I was tired but wanted a record for our friends

After this I warmed to the task.

Image of drawing from hotel window Image of Niki de Saint-Phalle Image of schloss in Baden Baden, GR
from left: hotel window, Saint Malo, FR; Stravinsky Fountain, Paris, FR; Schloss, Baden Baden, GR

…and finally, I just sat down and drew. This sketch book became a wonderful journal of out trip – drawings, ephemera, notes.

Image of first quick sketch of tulips

Unfortunately, I used a pen with ink that bled through the page to the image on the other side. Didn’t do that again!

As I said in my comment, once I make that first sketch on a trip it is as though I have given myself permission to continue. Don’t know if this works for everyone but it sure works for me. Sketching when traveling has become one of my favorite experiences. It allows me to slow down and see things that I would have missed and gives me wonderful sources of memories – how I felt when I saw these things and as I sketched.

Learning to spin a fine yarn!

February 12th, 2019

WOW—haven’t posted since mid Dec. The holidays came and went. Cards were made and sent. Friends and family came and returned home. Gifts were given and received. Decorations went up and down. and then it was Jan and now it’s Feb.
A lasting allergy/cold/general malaise hung around for a long time, get better and then here it came again, BUT… now it seems to be under control—I hope—and I’m getting back to work. Have worked on the paintings of Ireland but they are still a work in progress, so I turned to fibers. My painting and my fiber work help each other.

Late summer/early fall I bought some carded/dyed fleece from Flying Fibers in Landisville, PA and have been trying to spin a finer yarn. I bought small amounts so I could see how things went. Previously I mainly spun for the joy of it and was happy to get a bulky, lumpy yard with which I could knit/weave bulky, lumpy fabric. I could get a rough control if need be but it was still anything but fine. and I wanted to spin a fine tight yarn to use as weft for small tapestries.

Image of Original roving with pre drafted fiber ready to spin
Original roving with pre drafted fiber ready to spin.

At first I tried just spinning from the roving as purchased but that didn’t work. Next I tried hand carding which defeated the use of the ready made rovings. Sooo, I did some research, lots of tests, and ended up pre drafting by hand—slow but I mainly want small amounts for small tapestries—and I find it very calming to sit and pull the fibers by hand.

Once my fibers were predrafted, I began spinning. I have an original Louet Wheel and was trying to gain some control of the twist. Before I would just spin away and my mood determined how tight the twist was. Now I’m trying to be conscious of the revolutions in each release of fiber. I’ve gotten better but have a long way to go!

Image of Samples of testing
Samples of my testing. Got better with practice. Some are finer than others.
Still working on it.

Image of handspun used in my test. Image of my finished test,.

After spinning, I washed the results, blocked them as they dried and wound them into little balls. You can see my earlier (thicker) yarns and the newer (finer) ones.

My spinning was getting better but I still wasn’t sure how this would weave. I warped my 6 dent Hokett loom at 12 epi and worked up a simple test design that could show a number of yarns. I’m pleased—some worked, some need work! I still want to get more control before doing a series of small weavings. Guess I’ll be heading back to Flying Fibers for more!!!

In addition to my fiber work I’ve been sketching, making marks with charcoal from my fireplace, and drawing my hands. All posts for another day. In the mean time my painting is calling!

Tidewater

December 17th, 2018

Been a while. I did get back to painting. Fall has been busy and I’ve been working on landscapes. I’ve been trying to capture a sense of timelessness in my work. It’s a continuation of some of the work I did this summer with my blue images. This was the first of this session but the rest so far have been studies of images I took years ago in Ireland.

Image of Tidewater trees in VA
Tidewater Trees and Marshland.

I’ll post the Ireland images soon but they also contain marshland. That area between the land and the sea—so threatened right now— is magic to me.