I like trees. They sound nice, feel nice, smell nice, act nice. They help me imagine nice things, like a world where all constructs are as self-sufficient and sturdy. A lot of my thoughts lately surround trees and their penchant for enlightening people.
Last weekend was Harvest Jazz and Blues time in my city. The whole downtown turns into a festival. I spent the weekend silk painting and quilting in the midst of torrential rain, happy music-goers, and fire juggling performers.
The piece I created was the first designed in my new shared warehouse studio, Fredericton Makerspace. There I feel full of gumption and efficiency. I tacked paper to the walls and swayed to Crystal Castles, conjuring up these dancing trees.
I’ve found the computer to be a swell friend where decision-making is concerned. I was looking to arrive at the purple/green/gray/brown tones of the bark on scaley spruce trees. I settled my colours, traced the piece onto silk, and then off to Harvest my skills.
Some kindly photographers caught me working away. Talking to the passersby gave me a very romantic view of busking. A surprise to me, many felt my work spoke of female empowerment. That is not such a bad thing to have bleed from my art when I’m not looking. James Walsh Photography
The musical brouhaha added rhythm to my brush strokes, the painted silk sparkled under incandescence. I already thought it a magical medium but my little alcove of light amplified this. Emily Elizabeth Photography
The next day was full of warmth and mud-scent while I quilted bark and ripples. Complete, I am pleased. It is my city at Harvest time; giant trees by the water, compelled to movement by the downtown vibrations.
“Timber Timbre” will be up for silent auction at Isaac’s Way from Sept 22nd. Much of the proceeds will go to children’s music lessons. I hope it finds its way to a home full of song.
Somewhere along my journey I realized glee and wonder are not merely childish, but the mark of a well-nourished adult. In fact, the word “silly” originally meant happy or blessed. In our world of logic and profound detachment, this is a fact we would do well to remember. But fear not, it is plenty easy to turn up the wonder in your life. Paying attention, shutting up for a while in your head and just paying attention, that’s all it takes. Bright clothing helps too. In honour of silliness, and also dinosaurs (which fill me full of wonder every time), I have created a spring jumper. It started with a line sketch, and then a tesselation. These are very fun very meticulous patterns where all the negative space is filled with motif, no spaces between them. Think Escher with his birds and fish.
Then I sent it off to Spoonflower and they printed me a couple yards on cotton. Nothing more satisfying than having something you made on a computer arrive in the mail. Talk about the future.
I designed this little dress jumper, half inspired by Margaery’s dress, and half inspired by tattered caveman clothing. Mocked it up first, which I can’t recommend enough, especially in the case of special fabric. I’m not supposed to use pretty fabric on a sample but I couldn’t help myself. Everything was mostly okay but there were some changes to be made to the hip shape.
I sewed it all up with a co-ordinating cotton lining. It was a little tricky figuring out how to sew this up correctly. A lot of pinning and unpinning, and stogging of pieces inside other pieces. But it all came together nicely and I will never again forget how to line a jumper. If you need help let me know! Along the bottom I followed the line of the pattern to get that jaggedy caveman feel. Boning was fed in all along the collar so it would have some substance. The result is pretty pleasing and even a little joyous.
And, suprise! It’s completely reversible. The inside looks like one of them rocket pops from my childhood.
Spring fashion advice: find yourself a pretty dress, and don’t listen to anyone else’s idea of pretty.
A couple of weeks back I completed a set of thin, elegant quilts. They were an experiment in a number of different techniques, mainly the idea of letting the stitches do the talking. I started out by dyeing my silk with a mottled silvery colour. Using two pictures of a transformer tower taken in uptown Fredericton, I traced the image on with disappearing ink. I then stitched over the lines, mostly with shades of purple. The plan was to use dense zigzag stitches as a sort of satin stitch for the really heavy lines. After I had started I just didn’t think it would look right on the whole piece. Perhaps in the future when some kind soul gifts me an embroidery machine (hint hint). Instead I did some experiments in painting after it was quilted. I knew I didn’t want to put anything on there that would run with water or humidity, because that would make the piece a pain to care for. I discovered that black ink with a little textile medium could be gingerly painted on and then be washed without incident. Eureka! (Look familiar? I used a similar photo for Astral Ink)
One problem I ran into was that the disappearing ink did not want to disappear when dabbed with water. I think the difference is that I usually immerse my silk paintings and soap them up good. I didn’t want to dunk the entire quilt so I just wet it out with a cloth until the blue finally stayed away. Anyone have experience with the kind of marker that goes away with air and time alone? Some minor tribulations, but I learned a lot and I really like the outcome here. I am especially fond of how the ink looks when painted in stripes one on top of the other (see bottom right). I find it reminiscent of metal. For simplicity’s sake I tried binding the quilts by rolling the backing over the edge and stitching in place. I actually found it much more difficult than using bias binding from a separate cloth. Because of the way the cloth draws in when quilted, it effectively gathered my backing fabric in certain areas. The effect is nice but it was not the timesaver I was hoping for. My favourite is the full length Electric Tree on the left because it required almost no ink to get the point across. Really they are a pair and meant to be consumed as such. I think the up-the-skirt view on the right gains a lot by being partnered. Its content is more obvious by association.
Whoever said you need to relax over March break has never spent any time in the window of M&T Deli. A week on a sidewalk in the sun, getting comfy with a space heater and dye all over my hands; that was the only refresher I needed. I love the waving patrons and the confused children. “Why is she up there Mommy? Is she famous?” They really know how to make a girl feel special.
Not famous just yet, but really starting to get a feel for my art, and that’s even better. I began the week cross-legged on the floor with a huge silk painting. I was concerned it wouldn’t fit (and really it just barely did). The painting had to be almost a foot larger than the 4′ x 3′ mounted piece, just to accommodate the stitchwork and to wrap it around the frame. I wanted a curvilinear composition this time around to work on my free-motion quilting chops. I came up with the design by messing around in Illustrator with this photo of ink and textile medium: It made me think of space, and the fluidity of time. It made me think of eclipses and magnetism. I ran with that concept. And after all, hasn’t space been on everyone’s mind? Hats off to Chris Hadfield and that stealthy Russian meteor. By Wednesday I had finished painting, and with a little salt for texture, I dried out and steamed the piece. Steaming really sets those Procion dyes into the silk. Then it can be washed out to see what the colours really look like. I was pleasantly surprised that my black came out a purpley tone. Stitching went along remarkably quickly, considering I am a notoriously slow poke. With Silk Circuit, I had to lift my presser foot to go around corners. With free-motion sewing, you use a presser foot that allows your cloth to move to and fro. You don’t have to stop until you run out of string. In fact, the faster you go the smoother your curves are. I try to concentrate on my breath and let the hands do the work. Pay too much attention and your randomized stitchwork starts looking too orderly. I used this surreal design as a chance to try out a bunch of different stitching patterns. Stippling for the dark green of space, circles for the red planet, squiggled lines for jupiter and the moon. My favourite of the bunch would be the “ripples in liquid” look for the purple area below. I think this technique has real potential for clothing.
I decided to build my own frame this time around. It was a whole half as cheap as buying a prefab canvas, and this purchase included a bunch of tools and glue that I will only have to buy once. My mitred corners weren’t what you would call perfect but it’s a whole lot sturdier than the store-bought variety.
The completed “Astral Ink” is hanging happily in the window, to find its temporary home inside the restaurant very soon. It will be available there for viewing or purchase. I am also now accepting commissions for custom quilts.Thanks to everyone who came out this week, and to M&T Deli for again putting up with the whirring of my sewing machine.