Friday, September 15, 2017

Practicing the Darker Arts, under pressure

Still loving being a college student again. Here are some photos of things we have are working on in Textiles 221 at NCMC.

Assigment - bring rusted metal to class.  I happen to have a box of small bike parts from Kristin in Tucson. I did a bit of research and found that you can MAKE RUST! Dunk the rust in some salty vinegar, leave for a bit, and then let it out to breathe - or oxidize. and Voila! Rusty bits.

Careful arranged on a vinegar infused cotton, above.

The next step in our case was to soak cotton rectangles in a vinegar and water solution, arrange the rust on top, and then put it all under pressure. Above you can see several student boards, and one old sewing machine. We don't get to see how it turns out until next week.

We also did a little bit of eco-printing. This time on vinegar soaked silk scarves. We placed plant materials - in my case marigolds, smoke bush leaves, oak leaves and rusty bike spokes, onto half the scarf. Folded it over, rolled it up super tight on a stick. Then we put it all in a pot with water and WALNUTS, and let it boil. for a long time. We also don't get to see these until next week. The walnuts do two amazing things. The tannin in walnuts acts like a mordant. A mordant is the thing that binds color to fiber. So walnuts help the silk retain fiber from the marigolds. For instance. Walnuts also are a powerful source of the color brown. Dark Brown.
Here are everybody's silk wrapped sticks, filled with leaves and simmering away in walnut juice.

I tied another couple of scarves for more indigo. I want a full set of 8 indigo shibori napkins to delight my dinner guests. Fair warning - if I invite you for dinner, use these napkins and you are not delighted by them - well, it could be awhile.

Last, here are a couple of pictures of next week's homework:

Still with me? On a different topic, my favorite Caribbean Island tok the brunt of Irma. They could really use some help.
I won't show you pictures of the devastated town, because I just can't look anymore. 
But here is a picture of their internet, for the whole island. A router on a ladder on a rooftop. 

And here is a way to help:

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Back to it!

Suddenly it is no longer Summer. We celebrated Labor Day weekend with backyard barbecues, boat rides, friends and family. Miami Beach Rd was busy and happy. By Tuesday morning it was Fall. Our neighborhood is eerily quiet. The average daily temperature has dropped. I no longer check my vegetable garden daily to check on what the deer and bunnies have eaten now. It's over. They can have whatever still survives. The local Farmer's Market has started to thin out, and it gets dark long before my bedtime.

Most significant is Back To School. For me! I enrolled in Textiles:Surface Design at NCMC in Petoskey. Shanna Robinson is the professor. My first day was Wednesday.

Day One: general class housekeeping - aka reviewing the syllabus, supply list and classroom procedures. We made a couple of Indigo Vats and learned about different methods and patterns  of Shibori resist. This left about 15 minutes to clamp, sew, crimp, our fabric squares, before dipping them ever so gently into the dye vat. After 5 minutes of incredible suspense, we were able to very gently remove our squares form the dye, rinse and peek inside if we wanted to.  (the reason for all the care in introducing fabric to the vat and in taking out again is because it is very important not to reintroduce and oxygen into the vat. In addition to Indigo, Pickling Lime for acidity, and Fructose for anti oxidation is in the vat).
I chose to do this on old stained napkins, pictured above. My plan here is to make some more - for a total of about 8 napkins. All different. And maybe a table cloth too. What I already love about these napkins is that the folded outside doesn't tell you what is inside. I hope my guests will be delighted as they open the napkins for their laps.

Things I learned: (aside from the obvious indigo and shibori stuff)
1. I like working fast. A time limit works to lower my expectations of the outcome, leading to more open thinking and experimentation. When I study the results I can see ideas that I can work on more intentionally. Most of my work is very slow - tapestry. Variety is good!
2. As much as I treasure my focused and solitary studio time - I also enjoy working alongside other artists. The shared energy fuels my process.

Happy Fall Friends! May you enjoy the back-to-it-ness of the season.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Turning to a new season

I have a colander sitting on my sidewalk on the chance that we have enough shadow for an eclipse to be seen through it's tiny holes. It is pretty cloudy here in Northern Michigan, we might not get much of a show - though it is getting darker, and in kind of a weird way. My neighbors are all outside, with paper plates, boxes, funny sunglasses.

Someone said to me earlier today that an Eclipse signals a new beginning. Wouldn't it be nice?
I am enjoying the last bit of Summer, but anticipating a very busy Fall season. I tried a lot of new things over the Summer, and I am eager to take them to the next steps.

 Playing around with some temporary screen printing. It is messy and fun. It is fast and intuitive. So far, the pieces I have made tend to be bright and happy.

Also, revisiting an old favorite - Theo Moorman. As much as I love pure Tapestry, Theo Moorman presents some interesting opportunities. With Tapestry, the weft covers the warp, giving you one surface for your image. With Theo Moorman, the base warp, the base weft and the pattern weft all come into play. As with the Swan image above. The warp is painted. The back ground weft is woven using some tapestry techniques - in a discontinous way. The pattern weft is the very top layer, providing image and texture. Yes - this is something for me to explore some more. 

We seemed to have missed the eclipse. Not much of a show here. That's OK - I am counting on the new beginnings that come around every Fall. Please visit my Teaching Schedule Page for more info. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

May is always a busy month. This year is no exception. I am involved with a new, fabulous, art exhibit in Elk Rapids called "Experience Art Rapids". Taking place June 10 - 24, over 100 artists will be exhibiting in over 33 venues around Elk Rapids. Venues include the local bakery, some newly remodeled warehouse space, our Walk of Art park, many local businesses, large and small. Even the Village Market grocery store will be participating, with some great art work, and generous donations.  The support and response has been overwhelming. 

I am also involved with Art Rapids as the Education Chair. We are planning some art camps for kids at the Walk of Art park, including a one day Fish Printing class on June 20. This will be great fun for kids and adults. Please visit for more. 

Many studio projects are calling my attention as well. And along with all of this - I teach! 

Class schedule

Rigid Heddle Weaving at NMC
Are you curious about handweaving, but not ready to invest in a large loom? Rigid Heddle looms are portable, less expensive and easy to use. Learn the simplest method of warping your loom. Once set up, you'll learn how to make plain weave, the most basic and versatile weave structure. You'll also become familiar with weaving vocabulary, how to finish your project and how to make design decisions for your next project. A supply list will be mailed prior to first class. You need your own rigid heddle loom. A limited number of looms are available to rent from instructor on a first come first served basis.
May 23 and 30
5:30 - 8:30 pm
University Center Rm 214
Contact NMC for more information

Rigid Heddle Weaving II
Add a pick up stick or two to the Rigid Heddle loom and explode the possibilities! Practice adding weft floats, warp floats, and combining the two for wonderful lace and textured effects. Create a sampler in class but leave knowing several patterns that can be combined for some lovely fabrics. You must have taken Beginning Rigid Heddle Weaving or have instructor permission. A supply list will be sent prior tot the first class. You need your own rigid heddle loom. A limited number of looms will be available for rent from the instructor; ask for contact info when you register. 
June 6 and 13
5:30-8:30 p.m.
University Center Rm 214
Contact NMC for more information

Rigid Heddle Exploration - at Interlochen Center for the Arts

This extended, two day class,  is perfect for beginners as well as returning students. 
On the first day beginners will put on a long two color warp, and weave a table mat. 
On the second day beginning students will embellish their second mat with pick up patterns and textures. 

Returning, or intermediate students will be able to jump right in on the first day to explore their choice of textures and patterns, color and weave or two heddle weaving. The more advanced students are encouraged to contact the instructor ahead of time to discuss their own area of interest. 

Having students weaving together at a variety of skill levels will provide everyone with a rich learning opportunity. 

Rigid Heddle loom with one or more heddles
There are some looms available from Interlochen and from the instructor for rent at $15 for the two days. 
2 Brown paper grocery bags 
measuring tape
Beginners - two hundred yards each of 2 different colors of worsted weight wool
Returning students - please consult the instructor
June 22 and 23
Contact Interlochen Adult Creative College for more information

Overshot and Inlay 
Crooked Tree Center for the Arts
Petoskey MI
Learn the traditional rules of overshot and inlay through a combination of lecture, samples and lots of play time. After learning the rules of traditional overshot, students will proceed to break them to experiment with different weights, treadling combinations, supplemental weft pick up, and inlay. Together students will explore overshot principles as it relates to shibori, collapse weave and textural effects. Students should arrive with a pre-warped 4 or 8 shaft loom. The instructor will send a weaving draft ahead of time.

Level: Advanced Beginner. Students must be able to warp a loom on their own and read a basic weaving draft.

Nancy McRay

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

As we get farther into the season of less light, and more darkness, I hope to deepen my own art practice. Many people from my part of the world leave for extended visits to warm places. Life gets both  darker and quieter. I can embrace this - or go mad. Weirdly, as I type, the sun is shining, the grass is green. My dog is curled up on the front lawn hoping for the UPS driver to bring her a cookie.

I am looking for images of kindness and beauty to inspire my weavings. I know I only have to look to see.

I have updated my class lists. Please check under the Teaching tab above, and spread the word! Thank you!

Friday, July 22, 2016

An "assemblage" of thoughts

I am just now getting around to weaving up the Ikat yarn I dyed in Mary Zicafoose's workshop a few weeks ago.  The Ikat is the red part in the center. At the workshop we learned how to block off a sample piece, and I wanted to try inserting an Ikat block in the middle of a piece. 

I have learned quite a few things!

One thing I learned; I am weaving this on a rigid heddle loom. Students of mine may have heard me say that I do not recommend weaving tapestry on a rigid heddle loom. I mostly said that because that is what many of my teachers have said. And now I know. They were right.

It is a matter of tension, especially with an unforgiving linen warp. If the threads in the top of a shed are tight, the ones below are super loose. And vice versa. I actually popped the heddle out of its frame trying to tighten the tension. It bit me, and left a  blister.  Point in favor of the Flip rigid heddle loom - the  heddle popped right back in, and is none the worse for it. This weaving is a struggle. I am making it work - but I won't put myself through this particular exercise again. The loom is simply not designed to weave tapestry.

However, this doesn't mean you can't weave substantial, rug like fabric on a rigid heddle loom. Check this out:

I call this "Stuffed Shirt". I developed this as a sample for a workshop at Interlochen during the Fiber Arts Weekend, October 14-16. The weft is a combination of Men's dress shirts and ties from the local thrift store - and yes - that is a leather belt at the top. I used a cotton warp. specifically 5/2 perle cotton, because I wanted some shine to it. This warp is somewhat stretchy. Just enough to allow the loom to hold the right tension for this project. The key is to use a warp with some give, and to space it widely - I used 4 doubled ends per inch. The fabric is quite thick - it could function as a rug - but the buttons would not be fun to walk on. At the same time that I worked on this I took a class on Assemblage. It was a ton of fun glueing a variety of objects to a canvas. It also changed my perspective on "rag" weaving. I see how this could develop into an idea of woven assemblage. 
mark your calendar for the Interlochen weekend and come play with me, and several other instructors. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Time flies

It is hard to believe that my last post was Baby Watch in Chicago. A mere 9 weeks later I am on baby watch again as I enjoy a visit from my daughter, her daughter and infant son.
Teagan (grandaughter age 2 and change) and I start the day with an odd form of partner yoga. She likes to do downward dog, under my downward dog. She loves to sit in the lap created by butterfly pose.
We are lucky enough to have unseasonably warm weather, and so we are spending most of our time in the lake.  Just the toes please - the water is still icy.


Tomorrow I will be teaching my first class at Northwestern Michigan College. It is in their adult community ed program.The class is a two week introduction to Rigid Heddle Weaving.  I can't wait to meet my students, and hopefully hook them in. A coil basketry class comes a week later.

In the meantime I am working on the planning of the ArtRapids! Art Fair on June 25. A wonderful selection of carefully juried artists, in a beautiful park, next to a beach in a charming small town in Northern Michigan. So idyllic!

Even though I have a little less time the studio these days. I have a start on an idea for my next Tapestry. The challenge is for the show Rare Threads hosted by JRAC, to make a fiber piece inspired by an heirloom. My heirloom, pictured below, hung in my Grandmothers kitchen for as long as I knew her. This was from the era of the Great Depression through WWII, and beyond. I have been researching my Grandmother, Agnes, by asking others who knew her for their memories of her. I know she was kind, loving, made great chocolate chip cookies and had a crochet hook in her hand every time she sat down. I didn't see her sitting very often or for very long - but she managed to produce many pillow edges, chair back covers and baby outfits. Sadly - I have none of those.
She had a clover patch in which to hunt for the lucky four leaf ones. She would press them in her bible, and send in letters to her sons serving their country overseas. Later she also sent one to a son who had suffered a heart attack. I remember once opening her bible, and dried four leaf clovers fell out from between the pages.

I also remember her garden, both vegetables and flowers. We would shell peas together on her front porch, watching cars go by and scoring points for each car of our chosen color. At that time,  the traffic was pretty thin - averaging about 5 per hour.


And now I find ways to quietly entertain my own grand daughter. Today we will make chocolate chip cookies together.