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!

The idea of a waterlily.

My time at the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design is winding down. I’ve spent the last four years there: working, playing, becoming. It took me in, an emotional wreck, and spit me out a productive, contributing member of the community. Not to mention happy.

As a sort of homage, my first piece in our Graduate Studies show explores the idea of creativity. How we build it inside of us, like a little embryo. Not alone though, with lots of help from people who have practice.

A Green [Artist] Lily Pattern Design 3D Print

This piece began life as a 3D model, then was printed in plastic. To make a pattern for the full-size textile version, I covered one of the petals with masking tape to steal the form, then blew up the resulting shape.

A Green [Artist] Lily Flower Petals Pattern Sewing

The petals were all sewn up in digitally printed cotton (see Nymph for details)

A Green [Artist] Waterlily Centerpiece Cutaway Sculpture Petals

They were then attached together. When it came time to make the center, I photographed the 3D model and blew it up to the correct proportions…

A Green [Artist] Lily Petals Stamen Design

…and made a flat pattern by tracing it, adding a couple inches for shrinkage, and coating the whole thing in packing tape (my favourite).A Green [Artist] Lily Stamen Felt Flat Pattern

This protects it from the water when wet felting, so it doesn’t all fall apart before you get it sorted.

A Green [Artist] Lily Flower Felt Stamen Rain

Wet felting outside on a rainy day seemed appropriate. You end up soaked anyway. Wool was added to both sides of the flat pattern so that it acts as a resist. When finished you get this:

A Green [Artist] Stamen Felt Vessel

When the felting was finished, the resulting vessel was dyed with acid wash dyes. While it was drying I blew up a balloon in there to produce the rounded shape.

The flower itself is inspired by the water lily. Our college sits right along the river, and our culture is greatly influenced by that connection.

A Green [Artist] Waterlily Flower Idea Cutaway Centerpiece Sculpture

Inside is a tiny green Marimo moss ball in his aquatic terrarium. You may remember these guys from Nesting.

Around him are the protective and encouraging petals of my teachers and fellow students. He is the little embryo, the idea inside the lightbulb. For him this piece is named, Idea.

If you would like to meet him in person stop by the Graduate Studies show, Super Bees. It’s opening 5-7pm on Friday the 13th in The Gallery at NBCCD. Look forward to seeing you there!

Nesting

Insect Lifecycle Sculptures_1_1

Nesting
Felt, reed, river stones, fibrefill, lightbulbs, Marimo moss, water.
24″ x 24″ x 30″ © Allison Green 2013.

The fourth piece in the Time Flies Collection, this is the insect with child. Her pregnant form contains eggs filled with a spark of life.

See how it was constructed, and the other items in the series: Nascent, Nymph, and Nubile.
Exhibited with Foundation at the Saint John Arts Centre, Saint John, NB.
Pricing available upon request.

StonePlantTextile Process 3 010 Insect Lifecycle Sculptures_2_1

Here be monsters.

There have been many a thing on my plate as of late. To begin with I’d like to talk a little about my time at the M&T Deli. There I spent the last couple weeks sitting pretty in the window, picking away at a painted art quilt. It was a wonderful experience, and I even got fed delicious soups and sandwiches. Wish it were my day-job :)
I thought I would feel tension at being watched while at work, but on the contrary it relieved pressure. I was not tempted to become distracted, to have a nap, to stare blankly at the piece, waiting for inspiration to come.  I just kept plugging away with a smile on my face until the whole thing came together. There was plenty of people-watching to occupy that part of my brain which likes to blabber in my ear, and I met a lot of interesting and interested people. Someday I will find my very own downtown window studio.

I would have to say this is the largest piece I have every accomplished, 48 x 36″. I decided spur of the moment to create a giant map. I’ve always wanted a giant map, and I love pouring over old ones. I ran down to the Owl’s Nest book store, a trip which never disappoints, and picked up some books.

After some deliberation I chose an area in Cape Breton. I have a lot of roots there, but truly I chose the particular spot only because of the composition and the little islands to the right. I blew up the map with the photocopier, and believe me when I say this was the hardest part of the project. I can’t get on the computers at school again until next year, so I had to blow it up in a number of steps to get it as large as needed.

Once I had printed it off I followed essentially the same steps as my train bridge quilt. I transferred the photocopy onto cotton muslin:

Mixed my colours (inspired by another map in a very beautiful french map book, seen here ripped out mercilessly onto the floor):

Mixed with textile medium and painted onto the cloth:

Stuck with spray-baste to some extra-loft quilt batting (which I will forever use henceforth, despite the moderate price increase), and quilted with a variety of threads:

This is where the main differences lie with this project. While the train bridge piece was from a photo, and therefore required much less decision-making, the details of this piece are mostly from my head. It took me a little time to decide on a quilting scheme. It is also entirely curvilinear and thus I had to use the free-motion presser foot. This form of quilting was best described to me in a how-to video; it is just like drawing but you have to learn to move the paper, not the pencil. This was a bit daunting at first but I quickly came around and will never shy from curves again.

First I sewed a line around all of the landmasses. Then I began on the waves, only because I had an easier time deciding what to do with them. I made repetitive wave forms in a variety of directions, sizes, and colours, mostly trying not to overlap. I am most happy with how they turned out. This dense quilting had the effect of tamping down the batting where the water is so that the landmasses rise above it. And so very undulate-y.

I used quite a bit of metallic thread to make the water sparkle. I found out very quickly that a special needle is necessary. Not sure exactly what it was that I used but it had a groove all the way up and a decent hole. This put an end to all the breakage.

I decided to split up the land along intuitive lines that vaguely followed the splotches of colour. This protected the raised quality of the land but added some interest.

At this point I had finished the quilting and flipped the piece over to take some extra stuffing.  I put little slits in some of the land segments and squished in some fiberfill. A sort of barbaric trapunto.

This makes for little mountains of land when the whole thing is stapled onto MDF. If I had it to do over though I would rub glue over the entire back of the quilt so that the water would stay totally flat. Very pleased with the outcome at any rate.

I thought I would be finished here but looking at the piece I felt it lacked a narrative element. The boy had recommended giant squid and I now thought more seriously about the idea. I love the old maps with their pictorial warnings.

I made little sepia ink drawings on muslin and sewed them on here and there. The piece may have benefited from additional little drawings but I thought it looked crowded when I tested them out. I didn’t want them to be the entire focus. I was originally going to apply them as a folded-edge appliqué but time was running thin and they were looking a little too prominent. So I cut them right to the edge and whipstitched them on with transparent nylon thread (my best friend).

I love the fray around the edge, and how they lie completely flat. The boy commented that it seemed like the map had been made first and then as monsters were discovered they were tacked on in the appropriate places. I like the idea of a map as a work in progress.

In my first day of art history we made a map of our initial understanding of the subject. One could as easily make a map of their internal environment, or their life experiences. You could tack on little drawings as events occurred, or sew on whole new continents as time passed. I think I might start one today.

Burning of the HMS Iapetus.

This acrylic painting is currently hanging at the Isaac’s Way art auction. It was made by the boy that I like to call mine. I am quite fond of it and wish we didn’t have to send it away. Ah well, there will be more. In fact his father told us the other day that there is an un-built model ship with his name on it, from when he was a kid. Can’t wait to see that. Hope he doesn’t set it on fire…

For your interest, Iapetus is the Titan of Mortal Life. He is father to Epimetheus (meaning hindsight), Prometheus (meaning foresight), and Menoetius (who died in a flash of lightning).

You are the grand HMS Iapetus and your main sail is aflame.
You think about the hundreds of men you carry in your belly and the scores of cannon you hold on your flanks.
You ponder your terrible might as a proud ship of the line and all you can think is what it would be like to be a whale. For even just one minute.
To slip beneath the infinite ocean.

-Warren Steeves

Stone-faced.

We took off on our second trip to another of the NB Nature Preserves on Saturday morning. We had made a number of attempts to reach Sugar Island, but couldn’t seem to find the road that was supposed to lead us there. In fact, at the end of the road where we expected to find the turn-off, we instead found the driveway of a very disgruntled homeowner. And so we quit chasing after that one.
Instead, we set off to the Minister’s Face Preserve,  just outside Saint John, NB. This trip was arranged by my school and the NB Nature Trust, so there were a number of us that went. I’d say around twenty, counting the Trust volunteers and guides and their children. We were also accompanied by a musician and what I guess I would call his producer. They filmed a takeaway show at the preserve.
This place was really cool. You can only reach the island by boat, and it is quite sizeable once you get there. It is not entirely owned by the Trust. There were several little cabins along its coast, which made me drool over the woodsman lifestyle. What is part of the Preserve has marked trails which made it a little easier to dig our way around.
We started off by piling into an old fishing boat. It was about an hour’s ride to the island. The view was pretty intense, between the little wooded mountains and the glassy water.
It took about an hour before we were approaching the island. We came around the corner and suddenly the preserve’s namesake was in view. A massive sheer rock wall, granite rising straight up out of the water. It had a massive crack right through the middle of it, and a whole host of intrepid hover-trees.
We came around to this beached area where we were supposed to dock. Unfortunately the dock was gone or never there at all (it was a matter of some contention), so we had to continue on in search of a way to shore.
A little further on we met a private dock outside a little cabin. Desperate, we set down. They didn’t appear to be home, so we ducked ashore with all our gear and set out into the woods to try and meet up with our trails. On the way we ran into a vast array of moss and other plant life.
At the main trail we split into groups and went off in search of art, music, and new trails, respectively. The hike was probably one the most difficult I’ve been on, very steep in spots and wetlandish in others. Most of where we put our feet was sopping wood.
Really enthralling actually, you had to always be paying mind to your next step. The first trail we took led us to a little grove, perfect for chowing our sandwiches. There I saw my first lady slipper. And it was a white one, which I didn’t even know existed. Very solitary and beautiful.
We headed back down and took a side path which was to lead us to the very top of the island. On the way we met some pitcher plants. They were quite violently purple on the inside.
Just past that area we came to a stand of what I believe we were told was brush maple. They only had leaves right up at the top. Really haunting in comparison to the lush greenery right beside.
At the bottom of this hill was the first and only stream we saw, cut right into the valley. We headed straight up from there, I nearly fell out of my boots it was such steep going. Huffing and puffing we reached the top and met up with the trailblazer group.
While I had been hoping to reach closer to the outer cliff’s edge, this was certainly a sight. So high up, and right next to us was a massive drop off. We amused ourselves while we rested by throwing off rocks and waiting for the thump.
Then we trucked back through the paths, taking in a number of sights we had missed on the first go ’round, including man-sized ferns and gorgeous stumps. We ended up back on the dock, this time meeting the homeowner. He seemed not too perturbed, I think we’re probably a pretty wholesome-looking bunch. He simply sat on his porch and kept an eye out.
While we dipped our feet and waited for the boat, I snapped some pictures of this rust-eaten chain. Possibly my favourite capture of the bunch. As you may or may not have noticed I have a thing for oxidizing metal.
The boat was quite late. When it arrived it had been gunning its engines to try and make up the time and was steaming to high heavens. We heard him call in a rescue request, but eventually with much pouring of water they got it in forward motion. I was frankly shocked that we got off the island judging by the worried face on the captain. For all its faults, at least the boat was neat to look at.
After working the night before and the four-hour hike, I was mostly comatose at this point. The boat ride and drive home was sort of a blur. It was a really beautiful day, perfect weather, a healthy amount of exertion, good company, and great sights. My only regret was the efficiency with which we traversed the trails. I am one for slow-poking through nature, and I would love to spend a couple days in that place. I think that was a one-time trip though, it’s so secluded. So glad that we decided to go, I judge harshly all the kids at my school who chose to miss out.