Monday, March 28, 2011

Untangling

I have been absent for a while, I know, but the days are just zipping by and my energy seems low. Happens every year - I think this is what spring fever really is.

Most people would find my current project extremely tedious - I am using it as an opportunity to practise patience and mindfulness. I have been replacing 216 roman blind rings for a neighbour - with the blinds in situ. I'm averaging about five minutes per ring, and am just over halfway done. Yup.

But I did learn something really useful recently, which I want to share with the yarn-y folks amongst you. I dyed over two miles of fine cotton yarn yesterday, and even though I put on lots of ties, it still got impossibly tangled. But I was able to de-snarl it all pretty quickly, simply by grabbing one end of the skein and THWACKing it smartly against a hard surface. Flip it around and THWACK the other end - amazing. Thwack it a couple more times and the skein will be smooth and snarl-free.
(I'm thinking this might just work when the yarn is still damp. More experimentation may be needed.)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sun and Stars


I've been embroidering by day, taking advantage of the good light, then quilting at night. You can see how the 'Back to the Garden" quilt is coming along.

I'm going to apply opalescent beads on the crests of the waves.

This is the companion piece to Emma Goldman's handkerchief. The quote belongs to Delores Ibarruri, ardent communist and one of the leaders of the Spanish Civil War. She was an eloquent speaker, known as "La Pasionaria" (passion flower) in her Spanish homeland. She often quoted Zapata's famous line: "I would rather die on my feet than live on my knees." The words attributed to her in this embroidery refer to that statement.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Evelyn Roth and Textile Art in the 1970's


Here's a blast from the past! In my weird, arty teen years in the remote outpost of Vancouver, British Columbia there was an artist, Evelyn Roth, who did wild and crazy work with used videotape, dance and performance. Her work really captured the zeitgeist of that era, and was a source of encouragement and inspiration for me. She now lives in Australia and, in her own 70's, still makes art.

Check out this video as she talks about working with crocheted videotape. Or this one where she discusses the early years of wearable art.

And, like the loops of crochet, life can circle back on itself in surprising ways. Yesterday, my friend Sam was looking at one of my weaving books and marveling at the mysterious language and technical intricacy involved in weaving. He mentioned attending an exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery back in the early '70's that featured fibre art, and said it really opened his eyes about what could be made with textiles. That tweaked a memory in me, as I had visited what was probably the same exhibit as a young teenager. I asked him if he remembered anything in particular from the show, and all he could say was, "It was fuzzy." (So much for the indelible impression it made, but then again he is more interested in guitars and car engines than cloth.)

But when I found the above picture, and showed it to him, he said, "Yes, I remember being amazed at how many miles of videotape it must have taken her to make that." It might be just a coincidence, but who knows how seeing that exhibit may have shaped his thinking and attitude and ended up with him sitting in my living room reading a book on weaving forty years later. So thanks, Evelyn, for your work and how the threads and connections you have made extend through time and continue to be relevant today.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Emma Goldman's Handkerchief


I've finished one of the more difficult sewing projects of my life. Embroidering on handkerchief linen was a challenge. Microscopic, widely spaced threads combined with 50-year-old eyeballs meant I was stitching by feel more than vision. Still, I'm happy with the results.

The linen being almost transparent didn't help either. It worked best if I sat by the window, with a white backgound so I could see my penciled lines.

I had considered dyeing the cloth black and working black-on-black, thinking of the cloth as an anarchist flag, but that would have been truly insane.

The quote belongs to Emma Goldman, the charismatic and brilliant anarchist leader. She was also a seamstress, supporting herself at various times through her sewing. In her autobiography, she describes arriving in New York City with her sewing machine in one hand, and five dollars in the other.

This piece is part of an ongoing series of embroidered quotes from women, famous and not. I think of them as samplers, occupying a space between function and concept.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Prayers


News this morning of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Amongst all the grief and misery in the world, one disaster shouldn't stand out above others, but I loved Japan so much on my visit three years ago, and my heart goes out to the people of that beautiful country.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Swamped

The incredibly well-made, huge loom arrived on the weekend. It is the size of a Volkswagon. And apparently quite versatile, at least it has already proved useful as a clothes drying rack, coat rack, and pet gymnasium. Just wait til I get a warp on! My first project is to weave four 26" x 60" rag rugs for Flora, who gave me the loom. She also gave me six boxes of fabric that she has collected over the years to cut up and use as weft for those rugs. My hope of reducing clutter through weaving was ridiculously short-lived.

When I'm not tripping over the loom, I am also embroidering furiously to meet a deadline. Also being distracted by the oh-so-fun Sam and Skye quilt, and trying to keep up with all the mending and alterations that are brought my way. Somehow I still manage to find time to walk with Gracie on the beach (my meditation/exercise/restoration time), make wine from last fall's kiwis, and start seeds for the garden. Lounging around practising the accordion and doing blog postings seems to have fallen by the wayside.

Luckily my friend Jennifer Brant has posted an interview with me over at Cosa Verde, which will hopefully fill the gap until I can get back to regular posting.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Thrilled


That's what I am. The lovely, the talented, the brilliant Drucilla Pettibone has conceived a group show Gay for Eagles, of new work that explores issues of war and peace, gender and sexuality. And some of my work will be included. Check out that lineup - I am humbled to be in a group that includes so many people that I admire. (The image above is of Alexandra J. Walter's piece that inspired the show.)

This will be the first time I have exhibited (off island) since 2008, when I was in a group show at the Kohler Arts Centre in Sheboygan, WI. My life took a significant shift away from career after that, but I continue to create, so it is indeed a good kick in the pants to have an exhibit to work towards.

And speaking of kicks, Drucilla is funding the show through Kickstarter, a very interesting way to raise money. Unfortunately I can't contribute from Canada, but if any of my American friends would like to help out, there are rewards to be had, beyond the good karma. Check it out.

The show will open April 15, 2011 at the Hotel Hadley studios in Siler City, NC.

Hotel Hadley Studios is an artists' collective, gallery and studios housed in a Victorian hotel and located in the historic town of Siler City. North Carolina has a rich history of fiber art, and Siler City is a former mill town, and yet very little contemporary stitching has been exhibited in this area.