Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Trying to be Productive

It has been a little painful here in blogland. I'm sorry for posting so irregularly, my last five readers are going to give up on me I'm sure. But take heart, January is almost over, the fog that has been smothering Vancouver has lifted, and Heather has started a new piece.

I thought I should document my process, such as it is. I work with quotes quite often. This is not simply a post-modernist strategy lingering from my art school days. I actually trained originally in graphic design, back in the days when it was hands on cut and paste. (Sample interview question circa 1982: Can you render 4 pt type with a brush?) I worked in the fields of advertising and publishing, so I can say I come by my love of typography honestly.

I started here with a quote from Dag Hammerskjold, the first secretary general of the UN. I treat it like a bit of poetry, where the breaking of the lines is important to the rhythm of the piece. I use the word processor function of the computer to try various fonts until I find the one that seems right. I print it out to use as a template.

My choice of fabric involves, at the moment (since all my stuff is in boxes), going through my half dozen bins of cloth searching for "the one". I will often audition several pieces, always including my first choice and a sure fire loser so that it will feel like I am making a decision. Here, I ended up with a lovely chunk of cloth from a quilting store in Nara, Japan. This piece is not old, but has a handwoven quality and mellowness that helps it read subconsciously (I hope) as "cloth", not "pattern" or "1990's". I like working with materials that seem timeless, that embody an emotional or sensory affect.

Usually,I trace the text onto the cloth by taping the computer printout onto a brightly lit window, then taping the cloth over it. This time, I found that I had given myself a problem with the handwoven-ness of the cloth - it was so loosely woven, and had two different weights of thread, that reading the text through it was impossible. I ended up using dressmaker's tracing paper to trace it off in the usual way, then went over it with a Pigma Micron pen to render the image permanently. (The chalk would have dusted off in no time.)

Then, I actually tried mounting it on a roller frame, following the instructions from Needle and Thread (find it over on the links sidebar). Once I had done so, however, I found that my cloth was too fine and needed a backing, so I had to cut it off and baste on some fine muslin. At that point I didn't feel remounting it on the frame was worth the time, so I have started stitching just using a hoop. I am using a very pale yellow DMC floss, and satin stitch for the letters. I have a vague vision of adding areas of netting stitch after, or maybe something pictoral. This is my concession to spontaneity!

You can tell from this process that I am quite a control freak. I adore the work of people who can work more freely and intuitively, and I recognise that my need to control this 18x20 inch scrap of cloth is probably pathological. My rationale is that this will be the third piece in the series I am doing, and it's now apparent that I have backed myself into a bit of a corner, stylewise. Text, of a solemn and poetic nature; cloth, muted, natural and handmade.

I would love to say that I anticipate whipping this one off in a matter of weeks - and I just might. But I have several other projects on the go: Knitty's Frankensocks, a pair of curling sweaters, a batch of pillows, a counted cross stitch. I'll just be juggling quietly over in the corner, and let you know how things are progressing on a regular basis. I promise!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Art is Everywhere

I spotted this beautifully arranged pile of discarded tires at the back of the garage on the corner. I love how they look woven together. (Or maybe this is the way old tires are always stacked and I never noticed before.)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Anna Torma

It may be that I'm just out of the loop, here on the remote Northwest coast, but I only recently became aware of artist Anna Torma. Ms. Torma, a Canadian originally from Hungary, works in a visually dense and evocative style of embroidery and indeed, at first glance I mistook her work for that of Tilleke Schwartz. Although Torma has exhibited internationally and won numerous grants and awards, I don't think she has gained the recognition in the broader craft community that she deserves.

Torma has been been a practising artist since the 1970's, and uses printmaking, quilting, felting and drawing in her work as well as embroidery. I particularly like her use of layered vintage textile fragments as well as her dense Kantha-style stitching. The above photo of the piece "Draw Me a Monster" is from her beautiful website, which is well worth a visit.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Book Review: Knitting for Good

The subtitle of Betsy Greer's book is "A Guide to Creating Personal, Social and Political Change, Stitch by Stitch." As someone who has long believed that knitting (as well as most other fibre arts) is healing and life affirming (and, it must be admitted, a contributor to the book) I give "Knitting for Good" a heartfelt recommendation.

Betsy ( of "Craftivism" fame) offers lots of personal testimony, some easily digestible political rhetoric, and, at the end of every chapter, some suggestions for actions that help integrate the positive power of knitting into their lives. As well, the patterns in it are fun to knit and have quite a bit of style, a nice improvement on the basic patterns that are usually offered to those who are knitting for charity. There are lots of references included to make it easy for the reader to follow up with their own research.

I particularly like the discussion around knitting for personal expression and the therapeutic aspects of knitting, as well as the use of knitting as a political tool.

Betsy has an articulate and fresh voice that makes this book a pleasure to read. It may appeal slightly more to a younger audience than the somewhat similar volume "Knitting for Peace" by Betty Christiansen that came out a couple of years ago. Even if you have that book, though, "Knitting for Good" is valuable for the way it expand the possibilities of mindful knitting. And on the practical side, its smaller size makes it ideal for slipping into the knitting bag.

Dream Interpretation Anyone?

I have a recurring dream. I hope that some of my fellow threadheads may help shed some light on the meaning of it. Perhaps fabric features prominently in your dreams as well?

In my dream, I visit a large hall (museum, fabric shop, market) that is filled with glorious textiles. (I am amazed that my brain can conjure up such beauty.) I am told that I can take as much as I wish. Invariably, when I go to leave the fabrics in my arms turn to rags, disappear, or are not the ones I thought I had chosen.

This dream sometimes happens with food instead of cloth.

I think this dream has something to do with how I view life, but am I really that pessimistic and sad? Some times this dream is so upsetting that it turns into a nightmare.

Friday, January 02, 2009

This Bread Goes to 11

I made some healthy bread to start the New Year. Eleven different grains went into it.
* In answer to Lisa's question, the grains were: Oat flakes, wheat flakes, rye, triticale, soy, spelt, barley, quinoa, millet, polish wheat, white flour. If I'd had sunflower seeds on hand I would have thrown some of those in too.

The taste tester approves! (He did put Marmite on it though, which makes my North American tastebuds recoil in horror.)