Biostrata Residency Week Two: Undersea Adventure

This past week at Biostrata: Cutaway Ecologies, Mr. Shark got his coat of many colours. One of the many wonderful things about working at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre is that they have day camps, so this week little dancers came out to visit and learn on their lunch breaks.

I started off by finishing up my form with cotton:
Biostrata Week Two - shark skin, octopus stone_3

The pieces are all ripped instead of cut so they have a frayed edge. That is one of my favourite attributes of this method, it gives it topology. This is really important when it comes time to paint. Blank canvas has never been my thing, better to have landmarks to work within.

spider, squirrel, shark_wm

When I dug out my paints (I’ve really missed painting with gouache) I discovered this dried up old tub had turned into these beautiful cell patterns. I think I will use it to model the painting on the inside.

Biostrata Week Two - shark skin, octopus stone_1

So the patterns were loosely drawn, and colours chosen. Mixing and matching colour chips (like you get for house paint) is a great way to figure it out. That way you know what you’re looking for before you start trying to mix, and you can check the combinations ahead of time.

Shark Painting WM

Funny thing I noticed, when I am paint mixing, and arrive at the colour I’m looking for, it takes on a sort of velvety look like melted chocolate. That’s how I know when to stop. I’m sure it’s just an illusion my brain uses to let me know. Same thing happens when I get the right amount of water in there.

This week there was plentiful rainwater to work with, which made it extra lovely. Working in a rain storm even made me feel a little like a shark.

Biostrata Week Two - shark skin, octopus stone

The octopus carving was also refined. Here it is wet by the rain to show you the colour it will be when polished. I learned from a visitor that he looks like an infant from this angle. I can certainly see that now, and it adds a different dimension to these nested sculptures.

Biostrata Week Two - shark skin, octopus stone_2
So I have a little left to do on this piece this coming week, which is okay because he will be the largest one.

Also exciting on Monday, I had my first live radio interview. It gives a good overview of the project and it’s motivations, I will leave you guys a link when it’s up as a podcast. Thank you to Mark Kilfoil @ CHSR 97.9!

Shark painting_1 copy

Looking forward to finishing the first sculpture up this week, and starting the silk painting workshops. Last chance to sign up, it’s going to be a really fun month of Thursdays!

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.