Thursday, June 25, 2015

Fibre Art Voices

I consider myself fortunate in belonging to a local group of fibre artists known as Fibre Art Voices. We are fairly diverse in our backgrounds and in the ways we like to work, but we come together regularly to share what we've learned, to experiment with new techniques, and to challenge ourselves in our creative endeavours. We have just put together an exhibit called "Oceans", and are now applying to various venues in order that the public can see what we're up to. Each of us created one large piece and two or more supporting pieces, and here are a couple of photos of them on display in the context of the recent mid-Island garden show. (Thanks to Marcy's parents for inviting us to hang them in their Ladysmith garden house!) The benefits of being part of a small group like this are enormous - lots of encouragement, opportunities for critique, challenges as to "what if . . .?", and the camaraderie of like-minded friends. Oh yes, and good food and drink shared along with lots of stories and laughter.

Yesterday we had an indigo dyeing day in the backyard of one of our members. Hands-on help, the ability to ask pertinent questions, and the sharing of resources resulted in some wonderful indigo pieces being created. The magic of watching a green piece of fabric gradually change to indigo as it's exposed to the air always amazes. And experiments with tie-dyeing, folding and clamping, scrunching pole-wrapping yielded such a variety of results. The challenge now will be incorporating some of these gems into the pieces we make. Hey, maybe that should be our next group challenge? A collection of work based on our indigo fabrics . . .
Margaret with a piece of fabric freshly dipped in the indigo vat.

Some of the first pieces made. In no time at all the washing line was full.

So then we spread the pieces on the grass.

June preparing a piece of shibori.

Marcy looks on as June and Margaret work their magic.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Collecting of Treasures

I have been thinking a lot lately about why we collect things. I have been an intrepid collector for most of my life - gathering bits of beach or forest, or artifacts from travelling, not to mention textiles, wherever I go. I have stones from all sorts of places - mostly rounded, weathered stones - in bowls and little piles all over my house. And sticks and leaves from trees, and beads and carved bone from Africa. And I'm wondering why they're so important to me. I think it has something to do with remembering, and about guarding against the loss of that memory. But also something to do with touching and holding what I experience, thus making it a part of me. Below are a few photos of recent gatherings:

Often the things we want to hold onto cannot be kept - like the seaweed in the middle picture. This "collection" is one that occurred naturally, in this case the assortment washed up on a nearby shore after a week of high winds. A photo is all that can be retained, which is a "keeping" of a different sort, but still serves as an aid to remembering. Recently I have been looking at ways to incorporate some of these found objects and treasures into my work. The small African pieces I've previously shown you are examples of this. The two small works I made as companion pieces to "Swiftsure" are attempts to do the same thing. In these I used the strip pieced sea and beach as a background for a piece of dark green silk, and then mounted shells and a piece of driftwood on these. I like the juxtaposition of the finish of the fabric and the rawness of the objects. I called them "Beach Treasures".

Each measures only 12" X 12". They're mounted on a painted canvas, to aid in hanging them on the wall. I have a feeling there will be more of these in days and weeks to come.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Reflections on Human Mark-Making with Dorothy Caldwell

Attending a workshop this last week was a gift. It was a week-long workshop with Dorothy Caldwell, renowned textile artist from Hastings, Ontario. I have long admired Dorothy's work, but to be privy to guided explorations into some of the ways marks can be made, to editing these images until they become their own story, and then collecting them together in a small book, was a remarkable journey. We made marks with finger and thumb prints, with extended paintbrushes, with smoke and with burning incense, with batik and bleach resist dyeing. We came to know our materials and how they might be altered and collected, in pursuing a particular way of interpreting our world. And yet it was not a "how-to" workshop, but more of a process workshop. I'm home now, and still mulling it all over, and will be for some time to come.

These are a few of the things I came away with. First of all, the importance of working with your own found materials. For example, in making a piece about leaves, it would be important that I collect the leaves, and that I experiment with how leaves interact with the materials with which I choose to record those leaves. Photos, even those that I have taken, remove me from the rawness and immediacy of the very thing I want to get close to. For Dorothy, that has meant walking the land, in places like Australia and Baffin Island, with the work coming much later. Next, I am confirmed in my love of collecting things. And when I collect, I needn't know how these materials will be used. It's enough to begin with gathering those things that are peculiar to my own travels. And thirdly there is being open to exploration and where it takes me. Not needing to know the end at the beginning. Enjoying the journey. One quote she gave us was particularly apt  for me:
     "Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You see only as far as your headlights but you can        make the whole trip that way." E. L. Doctorow
I have come home from this entire experience profoundly thankful, feeling that I have had the honour of spending time with a remarkable woman, not to mention a number of gifted fellow travellers. Sometimes life gives you something so unexpectedly grand, that's all you can do - give thanks.