Thursday, May 29, 2008

What To Do With All Those Kimonos?

I returned from my trip to Japan in March with way too many old kimonos. Not that I consider it a problem in any way, but my studio shelves are now bulging with silk and wool loveliness. I thought I might destash a bit, and had fun putting together assortments in different colourways. I will be offering them for sale on my Etsy shop.

Here's the first two bundles: (more to come)

An array of subtle golds and taupes, spiked with an eggplant stripe.

Some sophisticated pastels - two of the silk brocades have a metallic thread in them for a bit of sparkle.

The fabrics are all about 15" wide and at least 1 yard in length. I took apart all the kimonos by hand (an education in itself!) and washed and pressed the fabrics. The silks and wools are at least medium weight - mostly from winter kimono - suitable for patchwork, toys, bags and other small projects.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Exploring Infinity


(You will have to click on the image to see it better, sorry. The actual piece measures 15" high and 52" long.)
So this is the new piece I have been working on. It began with the strip of blue and white checked fabric that I found in the temple market in Kyoto. Apparently it has a silk warp and cotton weft, is very old, and a type of cloth that is no longer made. I knew it to be a treasure, but wasn't sure what to do with it until I was re-reading a book on Middle Eastern rug motifs, and this line of text jumped out at me. "Perhaps the most practical way to deal with infinity is to break it into finite and useable pieces." The line was referring to the design convention of framing motifs in Islamic rug weaving, but to me it seemed a succinct description of dealing with time, space and life on this planet.

I always appreciate the practical, as well as such gems of profundity that are cloaked in simple language. (Another favourite: "Doors will close soon after melody ends." found posted on Toyko subway platforms.) It seems like I am thinking more about the arbitrariness of life and death these days, probably a result of my accident of last summer.

The fabric is quite worn and fragile. It had already been mended a bit, and I added a collage of fabric fragments (all Japanese) and a small lace doily from my Aunt Margie's collection. It reminded me of a fractal, and I guess if I was to describe the universe, a fractal is one way to look at it.

I prepared the text on the computer, using Futura Italic, tweaked the letter spacing, printed it out and traced it onto the cloth using dressmaker's carbon. I then embroidered the letters by hand, quickly finding that the slant of the font was tricky to accomplish smoothly on the relatively coarse fabric. But I persevered - the embroidery took about 5 minutes per letter, so it wasn't too bad. I worked on it at the coffee bar, while waiting for the ferry to Gambier Island, and at Gretchen's dinner table on Sunday night.

Today I mounted it on linen in preparation for framing. I'll ponder this step for awhile - usually I don't put my work under glass, but this old cloth seems to call for special treatment.


And finally, here's the only picture I got from Gambier: Keiko meeting Lela, Gretchen's goat. Lela gracefully put up with Keiko's pestering.
And silly me, I didn't take any pictures of our dyepots! We did cutch, cochineal and madder, producing some lovely colours. But I forgot to bring the thioreua dioxide, so we couldn't do the much anticipated indigo pot. Oh well, I'll just have to go back to Gambier for another weekend!!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bits and Bobs

I feel the need to be posting, but my life is in so much turmoil if I was to go into all the details we would be on the couch for days. Instead I'll just list a few random thoughts and events.
(My Mom says "Heather, you always sound so positive on your blog." Is that her way of saying I moan and groan to her too much?)

First of all, here's a link to Amber Wolf's Flickr site and some wonderful photos of the Swap at Maker Faire.

All my recent and upcoming work with Swap-O-Rama-Rama has led me to believe that there is a real need for ways to remake the older woman's wardrobe. And I guess I put myself in that category, even though it sounds like I'm steps from the crypt. I see so much wonderful reuse design out there, but most of it is more suitable for young women with either fewer curves or more attitude than someone like me possesses. If any of you can direct me to clothing reuse artists who cater to the more "mature" demographic, let me know. Gretchen Elsner tells me that most of her customers are actually older women, so maybe I'm just lacking in the style department (cue eye-rolling by stepdaughter).

I am busy embroidering my mysterious new work - should be able to show it off by next week. And this weekend I hope to do an indigo pot - have been looking forward to this one for ages.

I am very pleased to be part of Lisa Anne Auerbach's Tract House opening at the end of May in Baltimore. Lisa and I will also be crossing paths in Sheboygan this June, as we are both exhibiting works at the Kohler Arts Center (different exhibits, but same GPS location). I really hope one day to actually meet Lisa, I love her work.

And looking ahead to the fall, I plan a Vancouver Swap-O-Rama-Rama for the last weekend of September (details to be announced shortly). For my birthday present to myself, I'm going to take Lexy Boeger's spinning workshop, and learn to spin fat and chunky again! And there's the Eastside Culture Crawl, where the many artists of East Vancouver throw open the doors of their studios for a weekend long exhibition. I'll be both showing my work and feeding the masses that descend on 1000 Parker.

But there's a summer to be had in the meantime... so far it looks cold and wet, here in Vancouver, but I'm sure we'll get at least a few warm sunny days.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

It's All About Pacing


I’m back in Vancouver after 6 days in San Francisco – a pretty good gig, huh?
And although of course being in one of the hippest, balmiest North American cities was fantastic, and Maker Faire was awesome, and the Swap-O-Rama-Rama was a great success, I’m still a little exhausted. (Well, quite a lot exhausted, actually.)
I was so busy I barely had time to take pictures. Here’s a few pics I managed to grab and some from the fashion show that my brother Rob took.

I’m estimating we had a couple of thousand people through the Swap. There were 20 sewing machines going non-stop (machines generously provided by the awesome Ken Gresham, of Ray’s Sewing Machines in San Jose.)

The brilliant team of silksceeners (Patchwerk Press and Remade in America) led by Trinity Cross and Charity Romero were worked off their feet (gotta do something about that for next time.) Emiko Oye and Shana Astrachan led a jewelry making workshop that was packed from beginning to end. Tiffany and Raquel of Homeygrown were really buzzing with kids of all ages making “Trashlings” toys from scraps – some super cute and fun creations.


Scatha Allison (aka Miss Velvet Cream) helped Make Magazine’s Terrie Miller turn her treasured 80’s punk rock leather jacket into an awesome bag.

Ashley Foster, Velvet Valentine, Jill Pillot and Jarett Young were our sewing experts who helped lots of people get going on the machines.

The fashion show was led off by the humorous and wickedly cool creations of Ashley Foster (Fiberqueen),

followed by Trinity Cross and her label Field Day Wearables, featuring eco-friendly fabrics and her trademark screenprints.

Tiffany and Raquel were next with Homeygrown’s witty, bright and imaginative clothes for the whole family.

Remade in America strutted their distinctive, arty-cool clothes, then Gretchen Elsner amazed the crowd by singing an acapella ballad from the hills of Georgia as her models walked the stage.

Here's my co-producer and brilliant science educator, the lovely, the fabulous, Mina Leibitz.

( I was one of Gretchen's models, a last minute decision that I only took on because I was in fireman mode. Here I am in the backless to the waist dress which required that I tape up my boobs in lieu of bra – worked like a charm – wish I had done that for my wedding.)

Finally, Velvet Valentine closed the show with her elegant gothic evening wear. And all these designers are working with re-used and recycled materials. Do explore their websites and/or Etsy shops to see more.

P.S. We were all very proud of Gretchen, who won a blue Editor's Choice ribbon from Craft magazine.