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

Thursday, September 28, 2017

water and inspiration

Take a deep breath. Can you find the petoskey stone? Feel better yet?

This week in Shanna's Textile Surface Design Class we worked with mono printing and design exercises. This photo is of everyone's work put together. Unexpected inspiration!

Using a square viewfinder to help find a design that could make sense, repeated. I like this one, but I think I will keep looking - mostly because - fun!

Next week we will be working with resists - such as soy wax batiks, potato dextrin textures, and more. I will be missing class, to instead teach weaving at NMC in Traverse City for two weeks. So, instead, I will take the opportunity to pull out my old "Surface Design for Fabric" by Proctor and Lew. I have so many books on my shelf that contain treasures of information.

It's the weather. It's the water. It's a return to the class room - on both sides of that equation. All these are working together for me now, filling my with new inspiration and a craving for work.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Getting Rusty

I am going back to school, and I am enrolled in a Textile Design Class at NCMC. Rather than getting rusty myself, I actually feel I am kicking any rustiness to the curb. Shanna's design exercises are great brain teasers. And the studio work is just a blast. Here are some images from this past week:

Rusty Bike Parts on a vinegar soaked piece of cotton.

We folded the fabric, compressed and waited a week, and this: 

hmmmmm. I love it - but it's not done yet. What else do I do to this piece? 

We also got to open our silk scarves. We soaked the scarves in a vinegar solution, placed leaves and plants - in my case smoke busk leaves and marigolds - inside, rolled it up super tight on a stick, and boiled it for hours in water with a bit of iron and many walnuts. Just before wrapping up, I stuck in a few bicycle spokes. Because they were there. On the table right next to me. 
Above is a close up of what it looked like after unwrapping, and before picking all the leaves out. Below is the final product. See those great dark horizontal stripes? Bike spokes. Turns things dark.

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