many moons to go

A rough week with a bad cold, the first of the year–hopefully the last as summer colds are abysmmal!—-i spent 37 hours of the first two days ASLEEP. Rest does help, as do copious gallons of water and watered juice. I dreamed a lot, rivers and moons and blue lady figures.

I remember a recurring dream i had as a child, a storied tall blue ghostly woman who glided down the hill, no feet, fast, no ripples from the wind in her gown, just swooping down the highway section i could see from my bedroom window. She would stop at the edge of the yard for a second or two, then vanish. Never threatening, but always making me a little uneasy. Every once in awhile i remember her again and wonder what my child brain was processing.

moon parts

From the last of my indigo bits, there are 4 moons ready to stitch. The Leighton Art Centre wants smaller pieces for the attached gift shop, so these grouped, should be fun.

L moon 4



I’ve been doing a lot of writing also lately, the last few lessons in Jane Dunnewold’s “Creative Strength Training” course. Winnowing down themes, and what’s important, what really deeply draws me, has new horizon lines opening up. Looking at a new series that builds on previous work is a distinct possibility now. I can’t seem to escape the lure of hand embroidery, and indeed don’t want to, but i do want to build more meaning in, more depth visually and in concept/meaning. That Blue Lady may figure prominently, and maybe then i’ll understand what she was trying to tell me.


Ice, ice, Baby

Part of my “training for creative strength” over the past three months, is to try things i haven’t done, or at least haven’t done successfully :). I signed up for Susan Purney Mark‘s ice dyeing class, thinking i’d like to add some more colour fabrics to the arsenal.

Good thing it is ice dyeing, because Calgary this winter has had a great dearth of snow. It’s been the brownest one i’ve ever seen. And OH MY, what a difference having proper instruction makes!

ice 1

ice 2

ice 3

I know now that my previous results were extremely wasteful of dye powder—another reason i gave up at that time. Though i know it’s not the last available, any i have is hoarded until i periodically slap myself and wonder what the use is of just storing them 🙂


I also am tired of trying to re-ecoprint failures, as they have never worked for me. Once done, they seem to be done, and most of the time if they DO ecoprint again, i end up with a muddy dark ugly mess of a cloth…….This means i have more than a few boxes of fabric that is uninspiring, horrific, embarrassing and with a face like a can of smashed ass****s. Cloth of course should NOT be thrown out regardless, and can always be overdyed. Naturals weren’t cutting it either, so for this next little while, i’ll be winnowing out the deformed and grotesque, and whacking some ice and Procion over it. There’s no rule book that says you can’t combine natural and chemical. And i LOVED the golden yellow and violet Procions bits added to the indigo overdyed grevillea ecoprint in previous posts :).

This is the last week of Jane‘s class as well. I admit to falling behind and must spend the coming weekend catching up—no point in not pushing myself to the limit, and hopefully beyond. I’ve learned more than a few things about myself, the way i work, and why i work the way i do, valuable.

16 car pile-up, more mumbling and grumbling

My Leighton exhibit work is turning into a 16 car pile-up on my worktable. There may even be blood under the wreckage, because there sure are tears and sweat….. It’s not that this piece is the be-all and end-all for my work, it is however a part of the process i haven’t gone through before.

evolving haYesterday morning the above was my own arrogant assumption that everything belonged together, albeit with some judicious spacing.

BAh. Poop. Damn. Poop.

16 car pile up leightonThe small piece on top is planned and is going to be just a small piece, slated for the Centre’s gallery shop. The other three Things have started fighting and yelling at each other, resulting in distracted driving and the afore-mentioned 16 car pile-up. I’m trying too hard to marry these elements: as much as they reflect each other, i think they are now going to have to stand on their own.

Because, who said it has to be ONE piece? There’s no set requirement for this exhibit that says i have to show only one work–so do a diptych, a triptych, hell, an 11tybilliontych if that’s what it takes. We do logistically have a bit of space restriction, but three pieces is not going to take much more space than the one i had started envisioning. I said to myself yesterday that this one was evolving–so let each one evolve on its own!

Practical considerations: i have enough of the indigo dyed silk to work the figure, but do i have enough of the rhubarb root dyed silk and cotton threads to finish all the accent stitching on 3 pieces? (Did inventory–probably have JUST enough.) What fabric do i have to set the figure on for background since she will now be standing alone? (Damn, nuttin’.) Do i need to revive the indigo vat? (Obviously.) How can i present the narrow river and roots strip? (Scroll?) (Answer the question, damn it.) Have i added more time to the project by splitting it like this? (Not at this point, as i still have slightly over 4 months before set up.)

Wandering off now, bruised and bleeding, but not completely battered.





other colours

Well, there’s still blue in it 🙂

In doing Jane Dunnewold’s Creative Strength Training course online, i’ve been looking at a LOT of old work. I do this regularly actually, but this time am looking at it with purpose, rather than just waxing nostalgic for the days when i was “free-er”, had no expectations and no expertise!

Back in 2008, i had started a specific sketchbook that was just “markmaking”. Not the kind that involves puddles of paint dragged through with various implements, or charcoal done with feathers, or sticks and mud swooped around (i hated those exercises in my textile art program in the 90’s, and i still do), but conscious use of line, shape and colour. I did use various media from metallic magic markers to pastels and watercolours, and thoroughly enjoyed the process and results.

Now i’m looking at this one in particular. The shapes and variations excite my thready expectations, and the colours are rich. I played with my photo editing program (basic Irfanview, free and easy to use) at the time too, and came up with all these variations.

The original:
markmaking1 CA change of orientation:

markmaking1 orientationSpecial effects, mirroring:

markmaking 1 splitHalf of the design is lost on that one, but oh well. Didn’t notice at the time, don’t care 🙂


markmaking kaleidoscopeVERY Zandra Rhodes-ish!

A circular effect:

markmarking 1 circular

What about in greyscale?

Hmm, maybe in more extreme contrasts.

Sepia, ie the “bland, beige and boring” naturals and neutrals i use with fabrics from rust processes and ecoprints:

markmaking1 tonalSo many possibilities! I’m going to be doing some small samples and mockups, though i’m leaning to those brighter colours—if my natural dyes don’t co-operate fully, then i’ll add in some procion as well.

I’m realizing too as i go through Jane’s course, that for me, it’s more what the thread can do and how it’s used, rather than any colour combinations specifically. From using it as line, creating shaped voids, manipulating the fabric to building extreme texture, that’s what makes me excited about sticking pointy things with threads all adanglish through cloth.

editing, and residency plans again

I imagine painters go through this too: “if i cover this area again with white, and start again, i can focus what i want to say, i can change the feel, i can refocus the focus”.

Because i see a big fail here, as i worked on the mountain zigzag area! I want all of these elements to be strong, not strong in that they fight each other and there is no main voice, but i don’t want the story trailing off in a little falsetto either.

The centrepiece of this is of course the moon. (Background central stitching still be worked.)

moon lines

moon lines 2The roots work.

moon roots

The mountains i have started are NOT, how embarrassing. Because this area was to be cut out and backed, i tried a “colouring” in my photo editing program–i DON’T LIKE IT.

mountain edge maybe

Actually it’s not the intended deep blue i don’t like, it’s those icky mountains. They’re weak, childish, less than what i can do and intended. I think they need to be somewhat similar to the moon fabric i used, a crackly indigo overdyed grevillea ecoprint. Fortunately there is JUST enough of that chunk left, and with fewer light areas–because they do need to be darker than the moon—so i’ll actually be covering that stitching now.


Is art/something/anything better because of the size? Can big be as intimate as the smaller work, the microcosm? Is it scale or portrayal that makes something demand to be large? Can small and dainty be transumed by changing scale and still be a communing with the subject?

go big or go home

One also has to define what “big” means to themselves though: is it actual size, the complexity of the technique used on it, or the point being made using this medium as the voice? Some may even question *my* “big”, but when each element may take 15-41 hours to create, and there are 15 of them to work, well, it FEELS big!

Most of my work to 2011 had been a “comfortable” size, usually within the 20-28″ range. It fit my worktable, it was easily portable, and it was finishable. I started questioning why i didn’t get “expansive and gestural”, feeling limited by the zone where it was easy to fit everything in, almost in a numbered fashion.

Subsequently most of my work since then has been much larger, not only in inches, but in complexity and duration of process. (Pieces have ranged from 30×40 to 36×43 to 40×54) I’ve come to realize i must find a happy medium, both in size and in practice, due to the fact that my work is extensively hand embroidered. I know there is no race or prize for having a certain number of pieces done per year, but when i see only 3 things done over 12 months, i wonder how a body of work can be completed in a reasonable time for exhibits.

I’ve tried doing small exercises that could later be incorporated into larger work, i’ve deliberately set sizes, but in the end, the background fabric determines, literally, the size of the finished piece. Because i was intentionally creating these fabrics for future work, they were larger than the previous comfort zone sizes. This summer i will again be doing a residency to make more of these fabrics, and this time will cut down consciously a few in motif and area so that i have a stockpile of possibilities that are within my zone! This isn’t a limit really, as pieces can always be incorporated into each other if i *do* want to go bigger again.

These are fabrics from past residencies, inspiration and jump off points this year.




line-dance-june-29 C



naked naked–NOT.

Why did i title this one that? Because prurience makes for good blog hit numbers, as evidenced in my stats in the previous post……..Seriously, will you read this ONLY because it mentions nudity?

To the 28th of Feb, the blue moon for the Leighton inspired work looked like this:

moon to feb 28 diff orientation

I also decided i like this orientation better, on the vertical, rather than the horizontal. (Actually the original inspiration is also vertical.) I was also fortunate that the thread i had dyed at the same time as Christine’s hand spun, is almost identical in appearance and weight– even i can barely tell where one ends and the other begins.

As of March 1st, it looks like this. The final stitching in the last arc will be done this evening, and then onto the background. And i have to say that sometimes until i see a photo like this, with all the attendant texture and shadow, i wonder why i am doing things all by hand and so slowly. Well, obviously THIS is why.

moon march 1

I’m quite pleased at how the areas of grevillea ecoprint are accented, but not overwhelmed by the embroidery. And i love that almost granular texture, and am thinking of how that could be strengthened even more, used in other depictions, and wonder how it would be in a contrasting colour. This result is also why i never use a hoop! I feel the fabric is tortured and forced to remain still, unbreathing and static, a condition i cannot see or feel is truly loved. Do we not use fabric precisely because it is alive and soft?

I’m also thinking it might be an interesting experiment to try different weights or weaves of fabric this way—-the stitches may sit higher, or sink the cloth deeper. Scale could be thrown in there as well–how well would this work for large pieces?

And the(yellow/orange) colour added to the indigo overdyed ecoprint–i used to “paint” fabrics to use: why am i not doing more of this? Who cares that one is “Natural”, one “Synthetic”? Would you know if i didn’t tell you? While i doubt i will ever lose my love for the natural processes of rust, ecoprint and natural dye, small doses of colour i can’t do “naturally” (for whatever reason, from cost of material to expertise to conditional recipe), there’s no law that says i can’t mix. I AM a purist about natural dyes–the science behind it IS important to me—but no other art medium is so fraught with “you must not use synthetic/commercial with the natural—it commodifies, bastardizes, cheapens–” and the myriad other Rules set by close minded individuals.


The Dye Police can go to hell. Follow your own rules. I’ll make my own, because in the end, the “average” audience doesn’t give a flying you know what at the moon, what the medium was, as long as they like the whole. And i never understood that “recipe” thing we have to do when we describe our textile work : “hand embroidered with gnat hair, naturally dyed with snipe leaves on organically grown banana skin silk and bathed in a seaside stream, while chanting/channelling Rumi.” On one leg in six feet of snow, uphill facing.

AHEM. There i go again, “defending” myself. But no, i’m not actually: we all have parameters we work within, and these are mine, trying to stretch and fly. WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!




I’m in week seven of the Jane Dunnewold Creative Strength Training class, and have much to think about. Jane’s gentle but insistent style of guidance is the impetus i needed to really look and think about what i do, and why, and how.

Usually i am the student who rushes through things because i know it all already :), but i find now that i am taking time to do the writing, the analyzing (not that angsty kind i’m semi-famous for, though i’m pretty sure that will still come into play once in awhile, truthfully……….) and the internal debate without harsh self criticism. This is not to say intuition doesn’t still come into play: there is no way anyone worth their salt who spends time with cloth seriously, can tell me that Step A must lead to Step B must follow Step A, rinse and repeat. Nope, nuh uh, ain’t gonna work. This isn’t about “giving oneself Permission” either—who died and made Permission the Queen of the Universe? I/we do what i/we do because i/we must–there’s no allowance paid, or diploma handed out for toeing the line—- because Permission is Concession. Either do it or don’t.



On a side note, the body painters almost completely changed their designs. I’m not doing more damned sketches for it: my time is valuable too, and again within defined parameters of the changes, you’ll get what you get. This ain’t no damn game.

stretched, and done


Prima Vera Moon

Prima Vera Moon in handNot that happy with either photo–i need mid afternoon light to do it justice–that’s when the true colours and texture are best! Will probably repost then.

So. What did i learn? Colour didn’t kill me. Even though the last few years have alternated between colour pieces and naturals, the colours were usually monochromatic (with the exception of “All the Gardens Dreaming”) . I can use what i have and not have to buy more–not that i have deliberately bought any fabrics other than white in a long long long time. I can work a background, then turn it into something without a lot of pre-planning. Hand embroidery CAN be cut up. Scale can become an inspiration or an issue–i’d be happier to see these figures *much* larger–and in neutrals 🙂

Though i am not as pleased as usual when i’ve finished something, i’m still quite happy with it, as an exercise and as a finished piece. I have no emotional attachment to this one, and THAT is what means to me that something is meaningful art. I’m sure however, that i could do something this way, in colour or not, that would be psychically linked. And i think *i* stretched a bit with this as well: colour, “story/subject”, time line. (15 days from initial idea and layout to completion.)

I have a lot of ideas in the sketch/notebook about how and where i can do this type of work in my more “serious” work. It definitely WAS a break for my brain though, not worrying about concept, what fit with what design wise, and no size or theme limitations.

Along with Jane Dunnewold’s current class, i have been reading other “thinking” blogs. I may not agree with all said there but this particularly bitey fangy post made me laugh and nod my head.

And now it’s time to get back to the other stuff: Leighton plans, translations of current lessons learned, and yes, still more “Screwing Around, With Intent”.


colour prompts

We can all agree that usually FB is a colossal waste of time, gets our blood boiling with some postings, or makes us want to puke with the schmaltzy canigetanamendreaminspirethislittlegirlwillamazeyouhavethepowerchangetheuniverseyouarethequeenoftheuniverse memes, but i do find it handy as a prompt also! I think of the old history programs, when FB kindly reminds me that “on this day, you posted this” and shows you what happened each year on that date–assuming anything did happen 😉

On Feb 8 of 2009 i posted this:

metal and lace 2009

WOWZERS, look at that colour saturation and look at that texture! Now WHY am i not still doing this? I have the tulle, i have the metal (remember those stacks of things in the stoodio that rarely get used???)–what am i saving them for? (I’m NOT getting rid of stuff like this i admit, in the interests of honesty and Purge.) And you know what else? I COULD, CAN, WILL do this with the naturals and neutrals too.

The recent lessons with Jane Dunnewold’s Creative Strength Training class are paying dividends: colour, new designs, deep thinking, writing exercises, i’m getting it all.

A playful piece, the colour of this is rich and saturated. There are ideas here that will go into more “serious” work. I still can’t merge fun and “serious work” from those labels, these colours and techniques……Working on it! I DO believe you can do serious concepty work and still have fun—pleasure is subjective (metaphorically maybe!)

prima vera figuresAnd there is still scissor work slated for this one.



I’ve been immersed in lessons and trying things out from Jane Dunnewold’s “Creative Strength Training” classes. I can’t share what i’m doing really, except in the vaguest of terms, but looking at shape and colour has been quite invigorating. The exercises have me looking again at old work, refiguring how i did things, how i illustrated and interpreted concepts, developed ideas. That’s a good boot in the bazotski.

I have also re-realized (!) that my biggest obstacle to getting in there and DOING something is my ever present mess. No matter how many times i tidy, i can’t find what i’m looking for. It’s time to get mean and clean out the debris. There are things in that chaos that are never going to get used. It takes up work space, storage space and head space. There’s a BIG BIG BIG purge coming. EDIT: when this was written, i hadn’t gone through the bins and drawers yet–now you can reap 😉 But i did dredge out fabrics i had forgotten about and the colour is juicy, so why not?

Cleaning out also means cleaning out thoughts that say “you can’t do that, because it’s too pretty, too common, a compromise.” I’m not talking about following trends, making the same things others are, toeing the line with fitting in (forget THAT) –let’s just do those things that seem counter-intuitive to what i have been doing, and see what happens. A test if you will, to see what i can do that is still me. It’s NOT going to kill me after all. This might be a year of just, well, just “screwing around”. As much as i want to be taken seriously, make serious work, maybe it’s not going to happen for me. Am i trying too hard? Maybe that is the problem.

Then again, maybe there can be TWO of me. I think of a certain friend who is known for her gorgeous hand stitched, very colourful nature/floral work–who secretly used to make the most amazing quirky monstery looking rude dolls, with few realizing the two very different approaches were from the same person. As she posted: “With these creatures, i explore the darker side of my creativity.” Maybe i need to do the brighter side!

Colour. Colour. Colour. We all react different ways to certain hues. I’m afraid i’m afraid of it lately. Deliberately then, i have thrown this together.

meet me in the middle 1

It’s an “abstract”, something else i’m not terribly fond of, but it may become story-ish. BUT it doesn’t have to be “story-ish” either, BUT i don’t want to just do 11tybajillion pieces of running stitch attached boro ripped frayed edge cloth…..   but let’s see where it will go.  😦   😉   🙂


meet me in the middle 1bI made an oopsie with the flannelette i always use for depth and stability, but most of it is not visible anyways! (Usually when there’s a print, i put the white side against the fabric.)


And the thread choices. I tried not to be too matchy-matchy, but i don’t want to be contrasting harshly either. The purple bothers me but i’ll just have to work with it. I don’t want splotches that draw the eye, but i think i have figured out a way to prevent that, or at least make it integrate. I LIKE the purple in the fabric, but the thread choice is a bit problematic, as i’m not sure which shade will work. Will probably do that last then so i have time to think about it and see what happens with everything else.

meet me in the middle threads

Since this is an exercise in colour for me, rather than just shape, its working title is “Meet Me In the Middle”. Part of the goal is to add “layers”, not in the sense of applying more fabrics to the top, but to build them with different thread treatments and pattern. Complex cloth, slow cloth, whatever it is, it will be as it is.

I can always cut it up or incorporate it later in something else! Nothing is set in stone right now, just “Screwing Around With Intent”. 🙂