Escape to Create Residency #1 – Falling in Love with Paper

January found me in mostly sunny Florida, in the community that spawned the architectural genre of “New Urbanism” and in the presence of beaches that can compete with any in the world (really). However, I was not on vacation. I was there to work and research and develop and yes, okay, then take a walk along the beach to mull things over. I was taking part in my first artist residency at Escape to Create in Seaside, Florida.

My residency project was founded on the research and development of casting lace techniques that I had begun in the summer at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Colorado. My research began not in fabric, but in paper. Working towards complex forms, I started from the beginning, learning how to fold lengths, widths and any angle into equal divisions without measuring or marking. This image is from the first week.

The table eventually became so layered with mounds of folded paper to the point it became hard to find what I was looking for!

I also worked with exercises to design folded structures using the principles of symmetry. Here is an early and simple example of linear reflection symmetry.

And here are samples using rotational symmetry and their inverted forms.

And then came the more complicated glide reflection, which can result in what I like to call “the sexy paper.” Oh yeah.


Super fun and flexible, but not necessarily something achievable in the type of lace I make currently. Something to think about though…

If you are interested in paper folding forms, I basically used Folding Techniques for Designers – From Sheet to Form by artist and teacher Paul Jackson like a textbook. It looks like he’s coming out with a new publication this month as well! Paul Jackson was also one of the featured origami artists in Between the Folds (available on Netflix), a beautiful and fascinating documentary on paper folding. Watch it. I promise you, you will not be disappointed. I’ve watched it multiple times. Really, I could go on and on, but I’ll stop there!

In the next post, I’ll share some my first attempts of casting lace fabric at the residency. Oh, and after our blizzards here in the Midwest, you can sure bet I miss that Florida weather (not to mention the great folks I met down there)!

Anderson Ranch Arts Center – Soft (and not so soft) Sculpture

I have been so busy that it’s hard to even decide what to write for this post. I should backtrack…

The Kickstarter Campaign was successful. Wooo!! After finding that out, I immediately had to race out to Aspen, CO and The Anderson Ranch Arts Center for my course in Soft Sculpture.

Aspen…yes. Beautiful, amazing, and of course, depressing to leave. Time flew. While it did fit in a smidge of site-seeing and one good hike, most of that time was spent in the studio – a beautiful and well-lit loft space.

A few of my studio cohorts! Such a wonderful crew!

Our teacher, Lynn Richardson was (and I’m sure still is) fantastic. She had the great attitude of, “Yeah! Let’s make this!” Exploration and invention was definitely encouraged. Here’s some of her fabric sculpture…

Red State by Lynn Richardson
2005
vinyl, nylon, steel, lights
20′ x 20′ x 18′

On that note, I’ll just start posting some of my experiments of combining casting resins and lace or other fabrics.

 Cast paper lace.  This was a tricky little mold to make, but I enjoyed the crystalline results when backlit. So much so, a studio cohort even helped me shoot a few videos of it spinning in light. There’s no thread in it (just bits of paper), but hey, it’s definitely lace! I am currently making a series of these in black. Small individually, they could fill a wall and look delicious.

 This is a hanging onion orb, if you will, using only red organza. I recently tried casting one in my own lace, but learned the hard way that I must use clear tints when using my lace – ope!

I donated this little piece to the Art Center’s Auctionette, where I heard it was happily snapped up. This is 100% cotton cast in red-tinted resin.       I am currently trying my hand at this technique to make a lace bowl. I hope to get it cast this weekend (fingers crossed).

Here are a few more studio shots of building the molds and mother molds.     

And finally here I am examining my experiments. I suspended all my little tests so by the end of the week I had a curtain of randomness behind me. I also cast a few fishing bobbers and had some fun little results (the intent is to work with the media on a larger scale, but for the workshop I worked on a small scale to conserve materials and make as many experiments as possible). But I’ll save that for later!

New Work and Process: Seeing the Signs

Seeing the Signs
cotton (Gütermann) thread, hand dyed Shetland & Angora wool
49 x 36 x 1/16″

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This technically is quilting. Will it keep you warm at night? Nope. Well, maybe you could wrap each one around various limbs, but that wouldn’t get my vote. But still, it’s basically quilting, promise. Using free-motion embroidery on a quilt “sandwich” is the basic formula for a quilt.  I’ve even used the traditional wool batting, or meat layer of the sandwich if you will, that they would have used in olden days. Granted, my Shetland wool is hand dyed hot pink and ok, a little non-traditionally, I’ve thrown in some angora (uber fluffy bunny fur) for accent. To top it off, the pieces are lightly hand-felted.

And here’s how…

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After felting and rinsing, they are left to drip-dry overnight or until we need to take a shower. 🙂

Oh, and why hot pink, you say? Why not hot pink, I say. I see these as sign posts or markers or some kind so a color that says “pay attention” was needed. Also. there are tons of little eyes one each one (at least, that’s what I see). This piece has something to do with the ability or inability to really see what’s in front of you and what’s coming, not just visually but psychologically, emotionally, etc.

In process – “Boomers” (working title) & completed “Patriarch”

This is basically as early as I can bring you into the process. Here are are the first conceptual sketches in a little notebook I carry around, followed by thumbnail compositional sketches where I’m working out more exact spacing, followed by the first chalk outline on a 30×30 canvas .

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Visually, this series loosely references the celosia, or coxcomb flower. My father, an avid if not zealous gardener, gave me seeds from a particular large, beautiful hybrid he had grown and I was able to grow them in my first city-garden and collect seeds for the next year.

So this gives way to the budding conceptual basis of this series, which at this point, is just thinking about some different phrases:  knowledge handed down through generations, the impact of one generation on the next, or generation(in the family context) upon generation (in a creative or generative concext). Concept becomes more defined as I work on a piece, usually.

Boomers is the working title for a few reasons. This may be my version of  a portrait of my parents. I don’t really know that for sure yet, but they are baby boomers. But it may also be one generation and its subsequent offspring, not sure…  However, at a particularly long meeting at work, I was drawing some of these forms over and over. A co-worker noticed and wrote “Boom!”  I guess they looked like mushroom clouds…

Also, I realized I never posted the finished version of an acrylic painting, which I’ve titled Patriarch, so here it is. I consider it a stand alone piece now, rather than part of a diptych.

In process – Mandala #2

So this piece is still pretty rough and a little difficult even to show, but that’s how everything starts out. This mandala will almost exclusively be made by needle felting. This process mechanically forces the fibers to tangle. The first mandala was about the melding of world views, this one is more reflective of world views forced on us by birth or environment. I’ll go into more detail when it’s completed, which might be a while. This will require many, many more hours at the felting machine.

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Here I’m working on the second layer, the lace layer. Some bits have been felted down already, but many are still just pinned (the ones you more defined edges)

Learn New Tricks & Finished Work, “Kitchen Sink Mandala”

I felted a wall hanging in January. It’s been hanging on my kitchen wall, supposedly done. But it just…needed…something, some sort of edging to go around the piece. I’ve had a hankering to learn hand-heaving techniques lately and had seen a book on the glorious inter-web called 200 Braids, which is really more than just braids. After over-experimenting and way too much deliberating, I selected a knotting structure, technically known as “double opposite half-hitches over a core.” Fun stuff. I could do it all day. And I did.

Thus, introducing the finished piece, “Kitchen Sink Mandala.” I intend this as the first in a series of three. Most often used in reference to Buddhist spiritual practices, mandala are images or patterns that symbolically represents the cosmos, as interpreted by the human perspective. The psychoanalyst Carl Jung also saw the mandala as “a representation of the unconscious self.”  The lotus-like shape I’ve chosen is not the usual shape for a Buddhist mandala, but is seen in Hindu yantras, and also in Christianity (rose windows). This was an idea of meshing worldviews, reflected in the form and use of numerous materials that blend overall. While the other pieces in the series will consist of one piece, this mandals uses two elements that hang separately, a sort of “existing independently, but working together” idea.

Kitchen Sink Mandala 36 x 36 x 3/4″

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Here’s a detail of that knotted edging.

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I threw a lot into this thing, yes, everything but the….

I try to reflect the meaning of a piece not only in the visual language, but also through the materials. And…it was just a lot of fun throwing all sorts of things into the felting process. The main element is natural white Shetland wool. Then there is angora wool(goat), silk fabric, silk fiber, hemp fiber, various synthetic yarns, and ceramic beads.

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My first attempt at felting it in the washing machine didn’t exactly work out, as I didn’t have the room or setup to do some things that, in the end, you really just can’t skip. Here are some pics from the initial layout, after wetting it down, and then rolled up and tied,  ready for felting. I basically took over the living room for a day. For scale, the sheet is about four feet across.

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But I worked it out in the end. Live, learn.

Technology – I have thwarted thee.

My sewing machine did not come with free motion capabilities. But it has it now!! A little advice read, a random machine foot bought, and a little jerry rigging done and ta-da!

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So what, you say? So HUGE, I say. Free motion is exactly what it sounds like. Otherwise, the machine feeds the fabric forwards and backwards and that’s it. To change direction, you have to lift a lever and turn the fabric for every little thing, which makes detailed or “drawing-like” sewing unfeasable. The work I want to do on that silk textured fabric I made (you can see a little bit of it in the corner of the above pic) will be made easier as I can now move the fabric any which way, how, and time I please. I have been thinking about how to rig this for weeks. The biggest problem was that the machine is so basic, the manufactuer doesn’t make any sort of free motion feet for it. I had to buy a “generic” foot and hope it worked.

And for the record, the way most people react when their ‘sports ball’ team scores a goal, yeah, that is exactly how I reacted last night when I put this all together and it worked. Not kidding. I have a witness.

Work in progress update – mixing felt, silk, & acrylic

Here’s another background texture I’ve been working on. This time with acrylic paint on the panel for the silk yoyos and tendrils. Still a few layers to go. I think this has about 4-5 on it now, but it’s hard to keep track.

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Here’s what the final composition is leaning towards. Hope to have the piece finished in a week.

Process – Using Embellisher to Texturize Silk

A toy on loan from the farm that I’m just now really getting to use, an embellisher is a needle felting machine. It looks just like a sewing machine, except instead of sewing needles, you guessed it, there are felting needles. I played around with some samples and here is the configuration I’m using for the base fabric created below. Like any quilter would do, I am using a “sandwich.” My sandwich consists of: base layer of commercial felt, low loft fusible batting (fused only to felt layer), and silk (from Dharma Trading Co.)

Running the fabric in parallel vertical rows, I keep a somewhat slow, steady pace as it’s easy to over do it.

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This a sample I was playing with with some of the stitched details added.

Here is somewhat of a detail of the texturized fabric. It’s very difficult to photograph this shiny silk, but the texture is wonderful in person! This is now the base fabric for an all-white piece that may or may not complement the acrylic painting in progress. Won’t know til everything is done and I can see how it all looks. They might not work together at all!

Process – fun with felt and oil sticks!

 In the first post for this piece, I showed a picture of a test with tendrils that were felted with natural white and black wool, but didn’t feel that the white of the silk worked with that.  Just for fun, my mom and I took an Art Institute class in October that used oil sticks (Shiva is a common brand) to create pattern on silk. I had seen oil sticks before, but had never thought of them outside of the realm of painting. Oddly enough, the teacher of the class had never heard of them used on anything else than fabric. I, of course, wanted to try them out on felt.

Luckily for me, the store was out of titanium white, which is what I would have gravitated to, because the antique white is just the right color.

I sort of  roll the oil on, which keeps the felt smooth. I then blend the color and work a bit of the color up the tendril to get a smooth transition.

 

 

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Repeat, repeat, repeat.

 

 After letting these dry out for a couple of days, I’ll wrap each tendril in parchment paper and heat set the oil with an iron.

And this is where they’re headed…