Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Summer Idylls

Sun and shade find each other.

An amicable standoff.

The first tiger lily.

Who needs lawn ornaments when we have a live pushmepullyou?

Under the gunnera.

One More to Go

This piece is now completed. I added a lot of invisible understitching, and embroidered a wheel of life at the top of the text and a weaving draft underneath. I love to use coded patterns and symbols in my work, and I intend the weaving draft as a wink to other weavers and to underscore the "clothiness" of the whole piece. A computer scientist who saw it instantly interpreted it as a binary code, which I found interesting as looms were the inspiration for early computers.

I also liked how it looked underwater when I was gently washing it prior to blocking.

The underwater motif will persist in the final panel of the series. I wanted to use a goldwork net/lattice as a background, and serendipitiously found an old fishing net at the dump, which I laid out on my lawn to untangle. Even though it was made from nylon, it was hand-knotted and mended, retaining both a textile quality and the motion of the sea.

I like the caligraphic quality of the mending stitch.

Hide-A-Bed Re-do

From this...

... to this!

I was given this couch by a woman who was moving off the island after being here for 25 years. In fairness, I took the before picture halfway through the dismantling process, when I realized a major transformation was about to take place. But it was truly the skankiest piece of furniture I had seen in a long time, and the only reason I took it was otherwise it would end up in the dump.

I had re-upholstered a couple of things in the past, and I had a roll of heavy cloth that I had been dragging around for the last 5 years, and I had a staple gun. I was ready to go!

12 hours and about a kazillion staples later, I had a groovy new hide-a-bed, that, thanks to the 1970's North American workmanship that underpinned the whole thing, was comfortable and opened and closed smoothly.

Angus, the resident comfort tester, gives it a 10.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Illusion of Stability (In Progress)

I did say that I was trying to work in a more spontaneous way with this piece. Easier said than done, give my pathological desire for control. My big scary leap here is not turning the edges under. In Japanese boro cloth they don't turn edges under on the patches, neither does the brilliant Jude Hill. Those cloths don't seem to be in any danger of disintegrating into a pile of thread overnight, so, since my cloth isn't functional and is unlikely to be washed on a regular basis, I tore my already tattered scraps of natural dyed, handwoven fabric into pieces for a nine patch.

I really like the soft edge created by the fraying. And I think it works conceptually, as the text references a loom and the composition of the piece is strongly vertical, as a threaded loom appears when the weaver is seated in front of it.

The text is deliberately ambiguous - the writer, Dag Hammarskold was referring to God's presence in his life, but I think it can hold a number of interpretions.

I debated about putting in lots of handquilting - there is definitely still more stitching to come but I want the focus to be on the textures and threads of the cloth, not the stitching. Even though my intention is for the piece to be soft and open, my inner dominatrix wants the cloth to have stability, so I found myself adding almost invisible stitches to hold the layers together.

Which I think actually reinforces the theme of the work: that no matter how one chooses to weave the cloth of one's life, there will be an invisible structure that gives it form and meaning.

I May Have Triffids

The garden is growing unbelievably fast, in spite of the lack of rain. We have had several weeks of warm, sunny weather, which of course is a blessing, but our water tanks are being depleted a little too quickly.

Ooh, quick, look, is that a garden gnome? Awfully cute in that straw hat...

I fear these are triffids, not the tomatoes that were promised on the seed package. Any day now they will unroot and start roaming the countryside, hanging out at malls and terrorizing seniors. Oh right, that would make them teenagers, not extraterrestrial beings. Maybe I just need to prune.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Looking Closely

I finally finished the text portion of this piece and now am deciding on thread colours for the hand quilted border. I am trying to let this stage of the process be more spontaneous - I've had enough (for now) of the niggly tiny stitches of satin stitch.

This butterfly (I believe a Western Swallowtail)touched down on the rhododendron for a moment. There have been a lot of them around. I was able to study one very closely for a few minutes this morning as it was resting on the leaves of an apple tree.

This blue flowered tree (I wish I knew what it was) is absolutely alive with bees. I find it fascinating to watch them work the blossoms.

I took a bit of time to lie on my back on the deck and look up at the kiwi vine. It's a stunner!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Fishin' With Rob

Sometimes I compare our arrival on this island to Peter Mayles's Year in Provence. Other than being in a beautiful place, with quirky neighbours and a bit of cultural dissonance, our life is really much different.

Check for instance, the above picture. My brother is demonstrating extreme resourcefulness in a desperate situation. The hole in front of him is the old septic tank, full, yes, of what we will gracefully call "sludge". In the course of trying to pump it out with a rented, under-powered waste pump, the filtering end of the intake device, er, "came off". And dropped into the "sludge".

After a well-deserved episode of colourful language, Rob decided the best way to retrieve the metal end would be with a powerful magnet. But here, you can't just run down to the hardware store and pick one up. Or jet back to London, a la the Mayles, and return after some good meals and shopping to find that your quirky neighbours have fixed things for you.

So, here is where the Free Store triumphs again. We had a pair of stereo speakers that we had picked up from the Free Store, thinking they might be useful if we ever had a party. Now, they were our best and most convenient source of MAGNETS. A few bold cuts with the utility knife, some duct tape and a length of twine, and Rob had the perfect retrieval device. He got the filter out on his first cast into the murky depths.

And, far less dramatically, here I am in the garden, picking lettuce for a salad.