The Fresh Goods: New Cast Lace Work

Putting my Anderson Ranch Studies to the test, I have been busy making the first new lace works and I want to share them with you! These are the first mid-sized works on the way to working larger in scale.

These works use three main techniques. This first vessel uses what I call gravity casting, which allows for free form shaping.

Gravity Vessel #1
12 x 10.75 x 7.75″

In the Memory Records below, I cast resin in a highly detailed mold, which was made at Anderson Ranch. Learning a technique used by my teacher, Lynn Richardson, I carefully remove the piece before it has finished curing, allowing it to deviate from its initially flat existence (I do leave some flat though). While from the same mold, no one piece is exactly alike.

each 8 x 8 x variable depth (1/8 – 1 7/8″)

For an installation, they would hang in concert, but be available individually. This is the one examples where physical lace or thread is not used, but represented as subject matter.

For the following works, I’m working with two casting techniques. The lace is initially cast over a form and then I use gravity casting to build additional layers and texture. Mm, mm, MMM. I do love texture.

Pillar of… (#1)
23.5 x 6.5 x 2.5″

Pillar of… (#2)
24 x 6.5 x 2.5″

Parabolic Triptych
each approx 11 3/4 x 11 7/8 x 3/8″; overall 11 3/4 x 40 x 2 1/2″

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
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!

Lace Sculpture Test

Last weekend, I dabbled in 3-D lace sculpture. This is to one, be able to show the artist I’ll be studying under in Colorado the type of 3D forms I am thinking of and two, I am starting work on yet another proposal for a potential residency in 2013 and need to show examples of my thought process.  Here’s the result of the first attempt. It’s a wee thing, around seven inches in length, five inches high.

Finished Work – Inextricable (wall hanging vessel)



I do like this fella. He was certainly a pain before I got smart enough to build a stand so I could leave it in one position while I worked. A pain like this (and worse).


The next version, which I just started Friday morning, should go more smoothly.

The process itself was simple, but pretty time-consuming. Also, found a good use for some of my half-podbaby pit-fired shells I have laying around.

 The meaning is pretty self-explanatory. The farther we go, the more tangled things become, for better or worse, until you wake up and can’t figure out where, when, how something started or ended and you can’t seem to do much about it. I suppose that’s not a very optimistic outlook, just thoughts in my head as I made all these tangled paths of thread.

Materials: Slip cast earthenware, rayon (Sulky) thread, glass beads


To see images of the piece in progress, check out this earlier post.

Glacial – Felt/Ceramic Wall Hanging

I finished this in October, but I’ve been bad at blogging lately. I’ve been having problems getting accurate photographs of the fiber work.

The main section of Glacial features natural colored fleeces from the farm, wet-felted. The “buttons” are pit-fired earthenware with amorphous, needle-felted wool attached to each. It is backed with a commercial felt fabric (ie., not craft felt) to hang on a wall. It’s about 18-20″ across.

Glacial wall hanging
Natural colors in Shetland wool
Glacial wallhanging detail
Pit-fired buttons with amorphous wool "nubs" (I don't really know what to call them).

Pit Firing Process

On May 29th I tried pit firing ceramics for the first time down at the family farm. It was during an annual family celebration, so we made a thing of it. A few of the cleaned-up, waxed pieces can be seen in the next blog below.

Casting "shells" for pit firing. After sitting for a while, the plaster absorbs water from the slip. The longer it sits, the thicker the piece. The excess slip is then poured into a bucket. After some handwork to clean and smooth the pieces, they are left to dry and then fired in an electric kiln. This will prevent breaking during the eventual pit firing.
Slip casting shells – slip is just a liquid clay body formulated for casting. After sitting for a while, the plaster absorbs water from the slip. The longer it sits, the thicker the piece. The excess slip is then poured into a bucket. After some handwork to clean and smooth the pieces, they are left to dry and then fired in an electric kiln. This will prevent breaking during the eventual pit firing.
After all the hard work of digging the pit (I had massive help there; no way I could have gotten through all that ridiculous bedrock), it’s time to load the pit with various materials while a nephew supervises.
The bed of the pit has been lined with sawdust, newspaper and straw. Some of the straw had been previously soaked in salt brine and then dried. You can see that a few of the pieces have been wrapped in burlap (also soaked in salt and dried) and copper wire. Different chemicals and techniques have different results in term of color, so I’m just experimenting with different things.
Before filling up the pit with the rest of the filler materials, I spread a few chemicals around. Here I’m sprinkling red iron oxide – for reds obviously, copper carbonate for green, cobalt oxide for blue, and manganese dioxide for purple. Rock salt was sprinkeld throughout as well as my nephew tracks my progress.
Finally time to get the party started.
Everyone loves fire.
You let the fire burn out, and hope things go well as you have to wait overnight or longer until the work is cool enough to pull out. I was initially disappointed as we had a ventilation problem, but some pieces still came out really well after being cleaned up and polished. The next round of pit firing was immediately scheduled for July 4th so we could try a change in the design.

See this post for the initial results polished up:

Work in Progress: Results of First Pit Firing


Pit-fired shell form
work in progress - pit-fired shell form - felting will be used to complete piece

Here are a few of my favorite results from my first attempt at pit firing ceramics. As experiments, they are all fairly small, the longest of these is about six inches. Not everything came out on the first try, but the best ones almost look like stones. I hope to have some images of the pit firing event itself soonish. For context, these “shells” (they are hollow or cup-like) are intended to be the bases of sorts for felting sculpture. Or so the idea currently stands…

Process: All pieces are slip-cast earthenware. Various surface techniques, such as burnishing, buffing, oiling, and terra siglatta were used in the greenware stage. They were then bisque fired in an electric kiln. Some pieces then received additional surface work. For the pit firing, various chemicals were added on and near the pieces for coloration, including rock salt, red iron oxide, copper carbonate, manganese dioxide, and cobalt oxide. The speckling in these pieces are a result of the various chemicals.

pit-fired shell form
work in progress - ceramic pit-fired shell form
one of my favorites - slip cast pit-fired earthenware
the other side of image above - "shellhorn"


pit-fired "onion shell"
I call these Onion Shells

New Work – Translation: I will never understand.

Hand-dyed and needle-felted Shetland wool. 10’L x 12″H x 1.75″D  This piece covers an entire wall, so sizeable length makes it difficult to show online. Thus, the detail shot and I will put a higher resolution shot on the website. Individual “letters” are three-dimensional felted objects, each pinned to the wall. Each shade of blue was dyed separately and color gradations were carefully created in the needle felting process.

The “letters” do not have direct meanings or pronunciations, though the phrasing was carefully chosen through extensive writing /sketching. Though I am usually Google Image-happy, I purposefully avoided researching languages, as I wanted to let the shapes be influenced only by my  pre-existing references, subconscious or otherwise. Frankly, I’m not certain why that was so important, but it was. I guess a thought would be that I should make another after taking a look at world languages and see how the additional visual references get assimilated.

See website for larger image.

Translation: I will never understand.
Translation: I will never understand.

Translation Detail

Detail of Translation: I will never understand.


Here’s a fun little new guy. This was made by needle felting. It’s a very simple process. You take loose bits of fleece, lay it on something like a pillow or foam, and stab at it with a felting needle, which is rather large, barbed, and extremely sharp. You really just stab things into shape. How often can you say that?

needle felted peapod
needle felted peapod
needle felted peapod of hand dyed fleece
needle felted peapod of hand dyed fleece
for a sense of scale
for a sense of scale

Fleece courtesy of my mother, which she hand dyed, naturally.  🙂