Connect/Collect.

Starting out, I wasn’t always very good at taking care of myself. I’m sure everyone can relate, it took me a while to get good at making meals, sleeping right, keeping up in school, making time for exercise and fun. Keeping my head above water seemed like more than I could muster, let alone trying to be active in my community.

Have you ever heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? It says that when your selfish needs are met, you will begin including the needs of others into the equation. In high school I thought that was ridiculous, I could never imagine myself feeling that way.

Maslow Hierarchy of Needs

But now I’ve got me covered. Mostly. I feel I have a hold on my habits, my mental state. And you know what? Miraculously, I want to connect. I want to help and share and teach and collaborate and create community. Communities of people on a common quest. Because what’s the point of questing if you haven’t got your homies?

This week I’d like to talk a little about some groups I’ve become a part of. They are really great.

fredericton makerspace

Fredericton Makerspace. Facebook followers may have heard me mention this before. While the first building we had turned out to be unsuitable, work has continued behind the scenes. We were chosen for the Pond Deshpande Centre’s B4Change Social Enterprise Accelerator. Our fearless leader, Philip LeBlanc, has been learning a great deal about how best to move us forward.

We are gathering a growing number of makers: artists, designers, programmers, carpenters, engineers, and many others. The plan is to open up shop in the spring, a membership-based workspace for collaborative learning and creation. We’ll have equipment for a whole slew of disciplines.

If this sounds interesting to you, there will be an information/brainstorming session later in the month at the The Station (attached to the liquor store on York St). If you have ideas about what would be useful to you in a space like this, it is a good chance to have them heard. Check the facebook page or group more info.
indigo 063 (1280x960)

The second group is in it’s very early stages, because it is not quite that time of year yet. What time of year, you ask? Planting season! We are a group of textiles students, alumni, and teachers from the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design, and we are going to plant a community dye garden! I have so little experience with natural dyes but I am very certain I want to learn. Nothing could be better than moving away from harsh synthetics and into complex natural shades. Expect to hear lots more about this when the ground finally thaws!

emerge
Photo credit: Mark Cameron

I have also become a juried member of Emerge Artists Collective, a group of eight Fredericton artists dedicated to creating experimental new works. I had my first meeting with them a couple Sundays past, it was a great vibe and lots of cool ideas. In the works is a show at Government House in October, and we will be occupying both windows at M&T Deli for the month of August. That collection will incorporate the work of local poets. I have a happy history of working with text so this will be a fun project for me. I can’t wait for my Triny Finlay books to arrive!

A Brief History of Written Communication (Detail)

If you would like more information on any of these groups or events, please feel free to contact me any time.

Scrappy neck cuffs

Scrappy Woven Neck Cuffs- Allison Green_19


Scrappy Neck
Cuffs

Silk, cotton, and wool. Collection of three.
© Allison Green 2012

Strips of various fabrics were dyed with natural indigo and handwoven with wool. The colours bring to mind the durable denim of the working class. Scrappy has a double meaning, both for the scraps of fabric and the protective nature of the cloth. The vulnerable throat is protected no matter what scraps you get into.
Scrappy Woven Neck Cuffs- Allison Green_22

Scrappy Woven Neck Cuffs- Allison Green_14

Scrappy Woven Neck Cuffs- Allison Green_7Scrappy Woven Neck Cuffs- Allison Green_11

Glacial rust.

Sometimes things go horribly wrong but in such an intriguing way that you have to share it. That was my experience with this whole rust endeavour.

I set out to dye cloth to use as part of my pieced train bridge quilt, but ended up changing my mind. Since I chose to paint instead of piece the quilt, I had no more immediate use for the cloth I had dyed with rust. At any rate it turned out quite lovely and will be used in the future. Especially fond of this thin piece of grey cotton shirting. It would make a nice summer top or bag interior.
It was all a little more yellow than I had anticipated. Maybe it was the acidity. Love the big red blotches on the linen (left). The canvas was pretty dark khaki already and didn’t change much (right)

The little chunk of silk organza (on the right) took the colour really well. Strangely, this little sample of charcoal polyester (on the left) was actually discharged by the rust. Definitely going to have to try that one with a bigger swatch.

Now I was left with a bunch of very very rusty-red vinegar that I had been using for dyeing.

I got to thinking that maybe I could use it as fabric paint. I tried painting it on there as was but it just washed right out. So I thought maybe I could reduce it on the stove and thicken it up…

Success! (I thought). It darkened right up and got far thicker than I expected. It was literally as slow as cold molasses in January.

While I was congratulating myself on making this beautiful rust paint, I turned away for maybe 30 seconds to clean my pot. When I turned back, something curious was happening…
The liquid was crusting over at an alarming rate! In less than a minute it was a rock solid crystal.

Neato, huh? Not what I was going for by a long shot but much more interesting. Metals naturally form into crystals so it was probably the iron’s fault. I assume I oversaturated the solution through heating, and then the metal crystallized out as it cooled.  Apparently though, pure vinegar is called “glacial acetic acid” because it forms ice-like crystals just below room temperature. Hard to say, since there was no liquid left in the bowl, I guess it all crystallized. Any thoughts?

Trying to think up some use for this weird substance. I tried crushing it into the textile medium but it broke off in shards rather than forming a powder so it just got adhered to the surface of the cloth. Maybe in future I could try boiling the textile medium with the rusty vinegar, and not for nearly so long.
I love experiments. They seldom go as you plan but that’s what they’re for. And now I have this strange crystal recipe to put in my memory banks and pull out for some future project.

Relinquishing grip.

I miraculously forgot about my rust buckets for a couple of days. Guess I was too busy worrying about the piece overall. When I came back to it today the chain bucket looked like this:

For some reason it only dyed in the areas that were out of the liquid, where the rusty vinegar had wicked up into the cloth. I’m hoping those parts were just exposed to more oxygen. I dumped the liquid into the other bucket (which had done nothing) and with a little luck the iron on the cloth will oxidize.

What a pretty colour though! A much stronger red than anticipated.

While that was working away, I was stressing big time. Today I was cutting up my bridge pattern. Gradually then suddenly I was overcome with bleary-eyed frustration. And no, it had nothing to do with the act of cutting. I couldn’t decide whether to piece the fabric bits together with sewing machine or appliqué them onto one big sheet by hand. Piecing would be more difficult in keeping the bits lined up while hand-stitching would take more time.

I have been consumed by this question for several days, with no headway. Might seem silly, but it’s not like I could progress further without answering that question. Of a sudden I realized I couldn’t choose because neither seemed doable by Friday.

I am never a fan of quitting, but sometimes you need to accept your own limitations and move in a slightly different direction. Once I allowed myself to think of different choices, one came along very quickly, like it was waiting in the rafters. So I put away the cloth I had dyed for the occasion and moved on.

I am going to paint the train bridge image onto one single piece of linen with gouache, then quilt and stitch it afterwards. I won’t have to worry about piecing at all and can focus on  colour and finishing. This flash of inspiration has me excited about this project all over again. Me and gouache are best friends, and so I am a very happy camper.

I gleefully dug out my paints and started sampling. The top row here has half and half Sonja’s textile medium and Holbein gouache, with varying amounts of water. The second row is simply gouache and water. The third was a photo transfer using blending pen (more about this later) with gouache/textile medium painted over.

I stuck them in the wash with regular detergent to see if the textile medium would soften up (it had developped a displeasing sort of acrylic look). It did a bit, but still too cakey on the heavy areas. Interestingly, the gouache alone weathered the wash just fine. Little bit came off, but nothing like you would expect.

I don’t intend this piece to be washed after it is sold, it will be stapled to MDF and hung on someone’s wall. I was just a little worried about running unwashed paint through my sewing machine. In light of this development with the unmixed gouache, I think I’m just going to use it straight.

Today will be a play day, with lots and lots of painting.

Praying to the rust fairy.

Today I discovered that ferrous sulphate is nowhere to be found in Fredericton. Garden stores, hardware stores, grocery stores, pharmacies; all came up empty. My only hit was in the “online only” section of Home Depot website. No time to be ordering away, the bridge piece needs finishing in the next week.

So for experiment #1 I settled for a big ol’ piece of chain, which unfortunately is galvanized. I put in the fabric, weighed it down with the chain, and poured in about 2 L of vinegar.

It immediately began to fizz. I suspect it is the zinc coating coming off. At any rate, I took it out to the shed for safety’s sake. Who knows what all is toxic these days. Don’t want to be breathing anything in.

When I was at the pharmacy I looked for iron sulphate but found only iron bisglycinate. I bought a bottle anyhow.

So for experiment #2, I followed the instructions here but with the whole bottle of iron supplement. It really seemed to have no effect at all (fabric was already cream-tinted). However you are supposed to let it dry before washing out so maybe if will oxidize overnight.

For Experiment #3, I grabbed the bucket of iron tablets/4 L of water that I had used above and threw in about a cup of vinegar. I put some fabric in, weighed it down with a wine bottle, and put it in the shed.

This was maybe an hour after Experiment #1 got started, and check out the foaming action now! Neato!

It looks like most of the shiny coating has come off the chain, so hopefully the next step is rust. Or it could all go horribly wrong and I’ll have to suck it up and use synthetics.

Cross your fingers for me!

Daffodils, bladder cherries, tea, and indigo

Last evening I received a bundle of daffodils. They look so pretty with the indigo yarn and cloth scraps I’ve been amassing.

We have a group indigo vat going on at school right now. So interesting. If you don’t know about this amazing plant, check it out. Think blue jeans. Basically, when you pull your cloth out, it’s light green. Then as it oxidizes it magically turns blue.

Very rich. A little too royal blue for my liking so I decided to over-dye it with tea. Yup, regular old tea is a pretty sweet colourant.

It turned out pretty well. The silk strips came out with a beautiful goldy tinge, and so with the wool, but the cotton didn’t take the tea as readily. Perhaps another dip tomorrow.

So silvery : )

All of this indigo business is headed toward a line of three scarves. I’ve decided to make woven neck cuffs (or cowls, or scarflettes, whatever you like to call them) that contain a whole collection of different yarns, strings and cloth strips. They are going to let me use a loom for a few weeks although I am not a fibre arts student (I am in textile design, little different). Anyway, very excited. I love weaving so. You would too if you tried it.

Other than indigo-ing I’ve been picking out nursery rhymes for my mixed media textured pieces. I think I’ve decided on Peter Pumpkin Eater, Hickory Dickory Dock, Ladybug Ladybug, and Sing a Song of Six Pence. But don’t hold me to that.

And I made these pretty t-shirts for digital class. They are called “Bladder Cherry”, which is a most amusing term for Chinese Lanterns. The original design (seen on the black shirt) was for a set of “art blinds”. It was drawn in Illustrator. These are just iron-on transfers, but I think after seeing the results I will make up a couple of screen prints with similar motifs. Little more permanent that way.