testing new waters

At the old house (and i mean where we lived before *and* the fact that the house was 100+ years), i knew what the water would do to my natural dyes. Turns out it’s a new ballgame in the new place, a totally different ballgame.

A. There’s a LOT of chlorine in our water in this location. We noticed the smell when we moved in, but stoopidly, i forgot that if i want to use it as hard water (’cause hard water is good for certain natural dyes like madder, weld, logwood and brazilwood, and we get hard water because our water is from the mountains) *and* there’s chlorine, you have to let the water sit for awhile so the chlorine off gases (dissipates). Didn’t have to do that at the old house.

Did you know that if you add ferrous sulphate to water with chlorine in it, that it turns the water PINK? Pretty, but the iron didn’t want to do what it was supposed to because the chlorine was being all busybody and getting in the way.

B. I use our filtered osmosis system for a lot of my dyeing. But it doesn’t work well, when apparently the tank membrane broke and is letting things into the tank, like iron and gawdzknows what else…..this also doesn’t work well for natural dyeing. There are a lot of minerals in our water too, but i’m not sure what else there is that isn’t supposed to be “is”…..

On the 14th and 15th i tested some of the Ugandan marigold my son brought back for me. I was shocked at the amount of green instead of yellow i got. My tannin was green as well, not a good sign, but a sure sign that there was a fair amount of what shouldn’t be in there, in there. I *did* get some pretty colours so that’s okay, but.

This means i now have to test all the dyes i work with, checking the new parameters and verifying my normal practices as still viable. It’s a good thing then that with the rhubarb root and quebracho rojo work i did last week i made lots of notes, and because of that, the marigold was documented as well! BUT it’s also weird that the RR and the QR gave me close to the results i was used to, even though i had used the (broken) filtered water.

Interestingly enough, in several natural dye groups, this was posted. I mean, i KNEW water affects the dyes, but wow, what a lesson in my own space.

So, i begin again.

planning the plans to plan

I don’t know how other full time artists handle the tasks associated with making a living in the studio, but i’ve decided i have to treat this like a “job”. I don’t mean cut and dried “you MUST do this today” or “from 211:315AM to 32:3719 PM, you will be weaving gnats hair into celestial robes” kind of job, but being serious about what i want to do, need to do and would like to do. It’s too easy to get side tracked when the studio is “in home”! There’s always a dog to walk, a dish to wash and “Oh look! Cat barf! Goody! Gotta scrub that.”

Hours, how do we manage this? It’s easy to say it could be a 9-5 job (Oops better write this fast as it’s now 10 minutes to 9!), but i think a *little* flexibility could work ๐Ÿ™‚ย  I wrote a post last year (gah, last year seems so far and so close away already…) touching on the subject (3rd paragraph) and parts of it will work, but as i mentioned: tangents! possibilities! potential! As a natural dyer, there *are* certain things that *must* be done; scouring, mordanting, dyeing, the winding of thread skeins (running really low on those to use), the labelling and storage of, and the decision on what to sell and what to use.

On my work blog (private, neener neener neener) i have draft posts with each week’s dates, but not so neurotic that any but the first are lists of what the plans are. Sample, this week Jan 6-10:

  • mordanting! (some are pre-tannined already: linen, chenille scarf, get them in alum)
  • new indigo vat needs startingย  DONE ON WEEKEND! โˆš
  • dye with indigo, madder and weld: velvet, linen, trims
  • trees for moon piecesโ€“smaller than done before, and larger
  • ORGANIZE studio better…… UN-ENDING JOB!!!
  • wind threads, scour, mordant, dye, combination colours
  • chair cushions-indigo (there has to be personal things made too)
  • finish chenille scarf (a test, post about that later)

I also realized through December that while i can work in front of the tubage, and don’t need to concentrate fully on what i’m doing in the stitching corner, that it *does* slow me down, just enough that i start feeling pressured IF i feel i have set a deadline. I can wind threads, but not embroider with them with “Stumptown” or whatever onย  …… Instead, i talk to the DogFaced Girl……

But, not all studio work is Work either. There has to be time to make the art, the pieces that are in our hearts, that are sketched out excitedly and that the stash is culled for. Play it by ear: this week is that list above, but the week after can be the Art Part, because those listed things HAVE to be done or nothing gets done.

I do also stop for lunch, coffee refills, bathroom breaks and skritches for assorted animals. ๐Ÿ™‚ I have too, lately, cleaned up the work space every night–not cleared completely of course, but at least organized and tidy for a fresh start the next day. *We’ll see how long that lasts, as i usually end up with “inspiration” and “possibility” piles everywhere! Sometimes there are going to be days when i just go in and “WOWZERS what happened, it was a GREAT DAY” without even noticing what time it was. Sometimes those days are like this:

See the teeeeeny little green buds on the stems? I cut these raspberry canes two weeks ago, thinking it was a futile exercise to save some of the raspberry bushes from the old place. (Remember i live in Alberta and it’s ^%$#ing cold and snowy in the winter. I never managed during the move to dig up even a small piece.) Last night, we noticed GREEN. That’s sometimes how things go in the studio, indeed in life also: hopeful, life affirming, chance, luck, caring.

 

How do you deal with time management? Any tips?

 

sort of a recap

These are why i believe natural dyes in textile arts are important to me and to others with this passion, no matter their “technique” or Practice. Ixchel Suarez had asked about this in a post on FB, in a natural dye group, about the importance of natural dyes to tapestry, *almost* intimating that it was the one use of the medium/material where it was so important, but i know there are other embroiderers, knitters, weavers of all the sorts, twiners, basket makers, rug hookers, book makers, fabric designers etc. who also use exclusively natural dyes. I can’t imagine using commercially dyed threads on anything now! There are nuances to natural colour that can never be replicated in synthetic dyes, and everything always “goes together”.

I know a lot of people can’t tell the difference between synthetic and natural dyes, just to look at them. I’m at a point though myself that when i look at photos of other natural dyers work, i can usually tell what dye they used, whether it’s tried and true historically accurate natural dyes, or “food waste” S**T. Really, i can. Really! There’s something warm and poetic about madder in all its antique hues, indigo and finding beauty in the palest to darkest, no โ€œwrongโ€ blue as a result, clear as the golds and leaf russets of osage, the aureate luminosity of rhubarb root (as prosaic as that one sounds…), the terra cotta nobility of cochineal and cutch, the royal richness of purples from lac, cochineal and logwood. SIGH.

I haven’t done any dyeing since before we moved to our new home, too much going on, too many other projects, but i’m starting to run out of threads especially. I’m planning for 2020 (i can’t believe that at all, that it’s going to BE 2020), and trying to figure out a schedule of sorts with flexibility for making the materials i use, and then making from/with *that* making ๐Ÿ™‚ The best i can figure is to devote a week every 2 months (as needed, because surely i won’t have to do it EVERY month) to the dyeing, a week for paperwork, putzing and planning, and two for making. That still isn’t written in stone of course: part of this whole thing is the spontaneity generated by excitement, discovery, tangent, possibility!

I’m not making Grand Art right now (with the exception maybe of the patient Samara, and hopefully others like her), but i am making art that other people enjoy, and that *I* enjoy making. I see all these together and i get excited all over again, knowing that i, me did this from “scratch”–i may not have grown the sheep or cotton plant or moth cocoon, or woven or spun the cloth and thread, but i still “made” these fabrics and fibres, i coloured them and that’s pretty damn satisfying.

Would i be as rapturous if it was the “old days” and i was using commercially bought, commercially made, commercially dyed materials? Not sure, don’t care: i am where i am, and where i need to be now, now.

 

 

I also have in mind to if not REPLICATE, but to redux, remake, re-interpret a few older works in natural dyes:

Too, there are also old techniques i favoured, themes i loved, and mediums, and i’m testing some for the use of natural dyes in them. So many ideas! Piles, heaps, hills, masses, oodles and multitudes, stacks and torrents! Good thing it’s not 2020 yet ๐Ÿ™‚

 

no scrap left behind

I come from a long line of Sensible Savers and Scroungers. While most of my line put the scraps in the ragbag, and none were really stitchers, small pieces came in handy for cleaning with or patching. I learned to sew on a machine when i was 5, creating barbie clothes (of course) (though my Barbie wasn’t a true Barbie, just a knock off) with scraps saved from Mom’s making of our pyjamas and shirts. In my early early teens, my uncle Ron did window dressing for big department stores as part of his Arts program, and brought me bags of bits i didn’t even know existed: pink sparklies and gold lame and screenprinted trees and red fake fur. (Shoulda seen the hotpants i made from those!)

When i became a single mother, i scrounged old clothes from the Free Box at Gordon House, a neighbourhood community organization in the west end of Vancouver–BLISS! (And wow, it’s still around, in a shinier location now, with a thrift store instead.) There were barkcloth muu-muu’s, “old lady suits” of metallic brocades, Hawaiian print shirts and plenty of odd 70’s cast offs that no one would be caught dead wearing in the 80’s ๐Ÿ™‚ I STILL HAVE SOME PIECES!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I made a LOT of patchwork then, having discovered quilt magazines too. That was a skill no one had in the family either, with the exception of ONE quilt made in the 30’s by my Great Grandmother, which i still have.

Now these velvets, these natural dyes, oh my. Seems such a waste to toss the little bits, and realizing as i was cutting more moons, that there were still “useable” bits. So iย  made *more* moons *from* them, and i have a list of other little things i’d like to make too.

That was the first batch above, but then i started really piecing, using some of the off cuts from them:

(Two of the three from the “Thorntree” series, still in progress, these will go on backgrounds as well.)

Of course, with velvet’s slurki-ness, some scraps are too small, so they will either be stitched raw edge on something else, or (becoming a neurotic masochist), i will hand stitch. There IS a limit though ๐Ÿ™‚

But then i remembered these from 2012, which became the “juice moon” series:

OMG how would these look in VELVET????????????????????????

I think there’s at least one more series with that idea, and then i must rest–and get back to some Samara stitching–lots of ideas for *her* background. (No bling though ๐Ÿ™‚ )

 

 

in praise of scraps

Tomorrow is the LAST day of this messy, chaotic, stressful move, the last bits and pieces of 10 years in an old house (and almost 16 years together of collecting..) that honestly made it easy to “accumulate” things. Funny though, the new place is bigger, has better storage and is more organized in layout, but we want less Stuff now… Another dump run, another donation run and the last bits and pieces from odd corners is by midnight’s goal……

The studio is slowly slowly taking shape, though one thing that is needed is MORE LIGHT. I discovered how bad it is down there when i realized the white thread i was using was actually a soft yellow……..

I’ve been itching to do *something* down there that doesn’t involve going through every bin and box, and then strewing things around because i get sidetracked. Found a bag of velvet scraps–they still got strewed ๐Ÿ™‚ย  —and spent some time digging through and fondlesorting, ending up with this gorgeous indigo piece. Close by also was the box of jewellry findings, so:

I made a Thing! A second Thing will join it, and maybe they will be worn at a company christmas party.

But oh to get back to the projects, especially Samara! And i need to find a new canvas for her—the one delegated disappeared on one of the truck runs……..

the new digs

It’s been a very tough 1 month and 22 days since MIL’s passing. Stress, grieving, anger, logistics, managing 2 houses for clearing, cleaning and moving, official paperwork, semi-serious health issues (yeah no cancer in bowels or gastric system!), family dramas (resolved), and just the day to day stuff of a normal life means i have lost 12 pounds (it’s a start…..) and am physically and emotionally depleted. There is light at the end of the tunnel though.

I now have a studio space that is bigger physically, a room that ironically started me on a serious look at textile art (as much as i hated being there with MIL constantly disrespecting boundaries and privacy), and that i have returned to after 10 1/2 years! I *will* miss my big studio window, and have to photograph things in the master bedroom because of the light ๐Ÿ™‚ , and no more easy access to plant materials as DogFaced Girl and i got our exercise in lots of green space, (this area is very residential), but i have more wall space, better storage options and even room for a table and 2 chairs should any one ever drop by for a cup of whatever. It’s not a magazine pretty place, but it’s out of the way (basement) and a definite, defined, definitive work area and that’s what i need, especially with the paucity of creativity for the last year or so. (I have never had a “pretty” studio and don’t give a shit about that anyways, so a moot point:) )

 

HA. I haven’t done anything creative since the end of September, unless digging up rhubarb roots for natural dyeing counts, so i’m itching to get this organized. There are two more of those big wall units to move in here, and a large 4×8′ table to set up. The Rubbermaidsย  still have to be sorted as to garbage, donate or keep, (with 8 more still at the old place! SORTED! Only 5 full, 3 empty!) but what is left will be stored under the stairs out of the way. I got rid of 4 large plastic bin towers, but somehow “inherited” 2 from MIL that didn’t get tossed, so they will probably go against the same wall. Mostly useless as i found along the way–drawers too small, too many drawers for same thing because of the size, not very stable, not really stackable as the weight presses down and prevents easy opening of drawers below. Fine for small studios with less stuff to store, but ultimately not good for my purposes, and practice! Two though are manageable and will have the tiny stuff no doubt. Or i may just toss/sell after all. The walls have to be patched and repainted, and more lights put in, but it will be functional very soon.

 

 

Once the washing machine and TV are out of the way! The space is about 20 x15 in main area, with a little 8×4 alcove.

 

OOOO, i’ve found a LOT of spruce cones in the immediate area, so i’ll have to give those a go for dyeing with. Might only get tannin results, but wth ๐Ÿ™‚ And i have to amend that crossed out line in the first paragraph: we’re within a 25 minute walk to one of the largest urban provincial parks in Canada! Fish Creek Park here i come! I have to respectful though (as i always am when gathering) as it is a protected area, both for plants and wildlife, which means gathering only windfall and invasives. DogFaced Girl will have to stay on leash, not quite as enjoyable for her, but we follow the rules in this regard–and sometimes there are not only deer, porcupines, rabbits, skunks and snakes, but cougars and bears!!! And considering that when i stop to”harvest” she usually (and sometimes annoyingly) lies at my feet, it doesn’t matter that she’ll only be leashed ๐Ÿ™‚ (If i could just get her to hold the bags open for my collecting, or carry them after….)

In the flurry of tossing and donating my MIL’s “stuff” (i am SO tired of this), i did exhume some treasure, hidden under enough household linens to wash, dry and bed 5 households (i swear):

 

 

Gorgeous pristine white cotton crocheted tablecloths, embroidered and cutwork pieces, battenburg lace, filet lace, small pieces of crochet, needlelace, a few machine embroidered bits, these will be scoured, mordanted and treated to spa days in various dye pots. I’m thinking too of wearable art again as it would be a shame to cut up some of the larger pieces! (Note, these had been “collected” by Jane, as she sadly had neither the talent nor the will to do such work.)

Since i have a rather mundane sewing task today, sewing up privacy curtains for the old house (doing the landlord a favour, because we still love that place!), i’ll be starting the switcheroos down there today. Dig me out in a couple of weeks, would ya?

uprooting

Change is afoot. Big change, big afoot.

2.26 k of fresh rhubarb root, ready to be chopped and dried for winter dyeing. I still have probably 8k to dig but am hoping my big strong son can help with that next week before we have more than a dusting of S $#@ . Rhubarb root gives gorgeous metallic yellows to greeny golds through to corals and pinks depending on fibre type and mordants and modifiers use.

Roots coming up, roots going down.