Wednesday, April 18, 2018

This just happened

There is so much snow that my iron table couldn't even take it any more. Sums up my feelings about the weather perfectly. In ten days I will be traveling to someplace much warmer. Scotland.
Scotland is not normally seen as a warm weather destination, but there we are. I am packing a rain coat, some sweaters, long sleeves and long pants - but not a parka, wool hat and mittens.
I am going to look for patterns in unusual places, maybe to turn them in to fabric designs. I am going to find the very stained glass window that inspired my parents to make one for my house - 35 years ago. I know it was a design by Charles Rennie MacIntosh, and it was located at a very famous Tea House in Glasgow. I hope to find castle MacLean and Ilean Donan - the McRay castle. I hope to be inspired by traveling to the land where my ancestors grew. If there is such a thing as genetic memory, I may feel a sense of recognition.

In the meantime I am blessedly busy here. Art Rapids is deep into the process of selecting artists and matching them with venues for the Second Experience Art Rapids. The event takes place June 9-22.  I wonder if the snow will be gone by then?

In addition to helping with EAR, I am also planning my Summer and Fall teaching schedule, looking for shows to enter, making new work and journaling about why I am an artist and what inspires me. I don't have complete answers to that yet. I know that it is partly about finding and expressing my unique self. Non verbally and mostly in private. In code.  But I am sure there is more to it than that.

Tonight is my last class session with a group of wonderful students at  NMC. I just added my next classes here on this blog - look under class schedule. I want to share with you a project by Nicole. She has taken a few classes from me - and is using her knowledge to design her own beautiful projects.




Nicole is using a technique called clasped weft to create her design. The yarn is alpaca. She has taken the clasped weft technique a bit further, and added a 3rd color in the center. So incredibly cool. The shawl is about 20 inches wide, and super soft. It will have a lovely drape once it comes off the loom - in part due to the doubled weft shot. I impressed with how carefully she has placed the weft threads to keep them parallel. I am proud. 

Monday, April 9, 2018

Homework


My daughter Kelly is a brave and talented artist - with a focus on ceramics and printmaking. If you are on Instagram you can see her work  @ kelr4y.  Visit her website: kellymcray.com




This year we started a fun new practice of giving each other art assignments. The first assignment she gave me was to (while on vacation) draw patterns based on what I saw. The sketch above is the result of looking at palm trees by the swimming pool. I liked this enough that I had a stamp made, and have been using it a lot on fabric.

I added some embroidery - this is destined to become a pillow.

I made some cards! These are available at Grove Gallery. Now I want to make more patterns, more stamps, and do some more stitching. Clearly Kelly's assignment paid off for me. 

My assignment for April is to write in a journal about why I am an artist, why I make fiber art and what inspires me. YUK.  That sounds hard - but I know she's right. I don't have a lot of clarity on these questions - more just a deep knowledge that this is who I am and this is what I do - but pretty sketchy on why. 
So, I will do the assignment, maybe even share a little bit here. 

The kid should teach art - she's a natural. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

April snow showers are for ... experimentation!


Remember last September? 90 degree days, shorts and flip flops, kayaking and sailing? G&T's on the dock? 

Well, it's payback time. Today was basically canceled in my town. This gives me an excellent opportunity to do a little experimentation on my rigid heddle loom - I try to keep one or three steps ahead of my students, so they will stay inspired. 

This week's experiment: Three Thread Twill using two heddles


Can you see the twill diamond? The area just above the diamond is the result of playing around with other "treading" or other lift orders for the heddles. I am very very excited about this - as everybody loves twill, and it is super easy with two heddles.  Here is how it goes: 

Three End Twill on a Rigid Heddle Loom

You need two heddles
Plan to sett the yarn at 1.5 x dents per heddle. For example - if you are using 8 dent heddles, your sett will be 12 ends per inch. 

Use the direct warping method. 

Sley the back heddle at *2 in a slot, 4 in a slot, repeat from * end with 2 in the last slot. 

Thread the back heddle. 
In the slot that has four threads, move one thread to the hole to the left, and one thread to the hole to the right. You will have 2 threads in each slot and one thread in each hole. 

Thread front heddle
  1. slot to hole
  2. slot to slot
  3. hole to slot

At this point both heddles should have two threads in each slot and one in each hole.

Twill pattern
  1. heddle 1 (nearest you) up
  2. heddle 2 (back) up
  3. heddles 1 and 2 down

Reverse Twill 
  1. heddle 1 +2 down
  2. heddle 2 up
  3. heddle 1 up

note: to reverse twill direction in the THREADING, place 3 threads  ( a slot thread, a hole thread and a slot thread) in the front slot at the point where you want a reversal 


Enjoy! Let me know if you have questions. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Its Slippery out there!





I can feel it! I can feel new energy and inspiration that often comes my way each Spring. It sure doesn't look like Spring today - the little tapestry here is pretty much what it does look like - except the lake is solid white, covered with a snowy layer on top of the ice. Just like my road. The new layer of snow gave me enough confidence to take my dog for a walk. It seemed fine until Lucy slipped and fell. I thanked her for the warning, and proceeded a little more carefully, only to fall on my bum ten steps later.  Twenty steps past that I fell again - and then gave up on the idea of a good long workout.

March! This is the month that confuses me the most. I am feeling Spring - I can hear the birds singing about it. Now and then we enjoy a warm, sunny day, and I start the hunt for green sprouts, or buds on trees. And then, sure enough, another blizzard or ice storm. It can try one's patience.

Anyway, I am inspired enough to update my blog today - I added several weaving to the tapestries page, and updated my teaching schedule. I hope you will visit the Tapestry Page to see what I have been working on - the ones closer to the bottom are the newest pieces. I have entered 3 of them in to Experience Art Rapids - which is this big, beautiful two week show in June. Art Rapids takes over the town of Elk Rapids, while many businesses give us space for wall art or sculpture. Last year was the first, and the response was fantastic. There are awards - both peoples choice and professionally juried. My work won't be eligible to win any award, but I will be thrilled just to be part of the show.

One source of my new creative energy may be from a cooking class G and I took last Saturday at The Cooks House in Traverse City. We made Bo Ssam. Actually, we watched while they made bo spam, and then we ate bo ssam. So tasty. Such an explosion of flavor, texture and color. I am confident that we can do this at home - and we will!

Experiences like that help to inspire my artwork, and boost my creativity, just by exposing me to something new. If you are feeling a case of the Winter Blues - challenge yourself to do something completely different sometime in your day tomorrow. And then you can pour your self your favorite warming beverage and curl up under the quilt.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

2017 was, well, the prelude to 2018. Maybe we learned something.






























I live and work in a magical place. This is my studio, from the outside. Inside I have a tapestry, and a Theo Moorman, and some screen print experiments in process. Rib are in the oven, and my butt hurts from snowshoeing earlier today. Who could ask for anything more?

I found 2017 to be stressful. Mainly from politics. As you all know - Trump took office, and proceeded to scare the daylights out of me (hello North Korea!) or piss me off royally (good bye Paris Agreement). Following this daily mess has been bad for my mood and bad for my health.

Other aspects of 2017 were just jolly! Art Rapids! launched an exciting new event called Experience Art Rapids! I was able to teach more, and enjoy my family a lot - especially over the last week. I took a surface design class from Shanna Robinson at NCMC, and picked up some fun new tricks, and some fun new friends.

2018 is in two days - an artificial turning point - but I will hang my hat on it anyway. I don't really buy into the whole New Years resolution thing. Too much pressure and potential for feeling guilty. I prefer to enumerate intentions - things I would like to see happen in 2018.  I won't share the whole list with you - but here are a few:

To be represented by a new gallery in my region
Teach more people
Teach at Blackbird Arts
Make more and better art
Participate in Experience Art Rapids! as an artist.
Participate in "Spaces Uncharted" at JRAC
(note - as I am part of the organizing committee for both of the above, this should be a shoe in.)
Sell some art work
Gain a commission
Weigh Less
Draw way more
Play guitar more
Be good to my friends
Do something spectacular with screen printing, stamping and other surface design tricks
Take a class at Blackbird
Laugh a lot
Visit Tucson - maybe do something with rust while I am there
Take great  care of my health. More yoga, more miles. More fruits and veggies. More mindful of alcohol. Wine is not water.
Continue the volunteer work I am already doing
Be a good wife, partner, companion, and cheerleader for Gary
Attend church a little more often, and become involved with a committee - for real this year.
Grow a regional (national?) reputation as an accomplished and relevant fiber artist
Do my part to help build NW Michigan as an Arts destination
Snow shoe again
Get enough rest,
and best for last; Back away from Facebook, and instead knit more and read more.

Did I mention I live in a magical place? Here is my parting gift to you this year.




Lucky shot.








I live and work in a magical place.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Always Learning

Process - it will come together somehow!


It is near the end of the semester at NCMC. I enjoyed returning as an adult student!  Even though I am auditing this class, and am not motivated by a grade,  I still care to complete assignments, and do my best at them. And I really enjoy the other students. Most are also returning adult students. One is a painting professor. Another is a doctor, another a business consultant. Following and completing the assignments is great for  trying  a new way, and discovering  a different direction. Seeing how my fellow students address the same assignments has been  a great broadening experience. No matter how restricted an assignment, a group of 10 art students will come up with 10 different results. It is magic.

I did a little printing in my home studio. I made all the mistakes. I used a Thermofax screen, made at NMMC, of this drawing of a swan. I attached the Thermo fax to a silk screen, one that is stretched on a frame. 
I opened up the container of black procion dye, and mixed it into the release paste (alginate and chemical water). It looked brown. Yet I proceeded. The first couple of pulls went really well, even though they were a nice rusty brown instead of the black I intended. Then things started to get sloppy. I kept going, because - well sloppy is part of life, and sometimes it gets better. Not this time. I realized ink was getting trapped between the Thermofax and the silk. Pooh. I let the 6 towels I had printed "cure" for a couple of days.  Next step is washing out all the soda ( I prepared the fabric with a soda soak previous to printing), by tossing them into the washing machine. 

All the color washed out. Almost all - there was a pale yellow line left.  Now I really wonder about that dye? Was it something else in the wrong container? Was it actually Lanaset instead of Procion? The good news is that the towels were like new, so I started over. 

I pulled the Thermofax away from the framed silk screen.  This time, instead of soaking the fabric in soda ash, I decided to add the soda directly to my black ink paste. I also tested my black, visually - and yes, THIS jar looks black.  I pulled another series of prints. They were clean, sharp and black. I put them on a rack over a heater to batch. 
After two days, I thought they must be "done", so , as a test, I decided to dry some dishes with one. Black ink everywhere! Big Mistake. Huge.  I threw them all in the washer once again, hoping that the color didn't all go away. And it didn't

 

Final picture, below, some stamping fun:


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

It's another class day!

Leaves on silk
Today is picture day at school. Here are a smattering of projects and process photos from my Surface Design Textile Class at NCMC with Shanna Robinson, professor of art. 

She assigns homework! 

Research homework! I couldn't be happier. Not that I have written my report, but I have started on the research. And not that I have made a final project plan - but it is going to be really really cool. 

This week we will be painting on a soy wax resisted piece of cloth with natural dyes, and also experimenting with repeat stamps. So, more picture later!
Turmeric and Beet Greens after
Tumeric and beet greens before
maple leaves, hydrangea and rust
Clamping