Thursday, October 30, 2014

Silver Tapestries

I'm a fiber artist, but this post, Silver Tapestries, isn't about fiber.  It's about my garden.  Because I view gardening as an alternative means of experimenting with shape and color...but with a bit of science thrown in.

 I planted a silver garden in 2007.  I chose plants that have either silvery leaves or silvery flowers.  It's a learning curve.  Not everything I originally planted has survived.  But much of it has.  This fall, I'm relishing that silver, which continues to shine out, despite the falling temperatures and waning sunlight.

Here's snow-in-summer (cerastium tomentosum) on the left and dianthus Tatra Fragrance on the right.  Silver threads and silver needles.
These two types of leaves illustrate two different types of silver foliage.  The snow-in-summer is silvery because it's felted.  The dianthus is silvery because its glaucous--a shine similar to the silvery sheen on a grape.

Of the few plants still flowering in the garden at this late date, two of them are in the silver garden.  Russian sage (perovskia filigran) blooms pale silvery lavender on the left, and on the right, October daphne (sedum Sieboldii) blooms silvery pink.

How about these cabbages, battered but glorious?

As you can see below, someone or something has been gnawing away at one of them.  I think it's my husband, Joe Rubin:

Elsewhere on our expansive grounds, another part of the garden features plants of silver and maroon foliage.  This Heuchera Silver Scrolls lives there, and it doesn't seem at all bothered by the crisp autumn temperatures:

The lamiums like the cool weather.  Look how they continue to put out frosty silvery foliage:

Lamium White Nancy (lamium maculatum) nestled among the still-dewy foliage of forget-me-not (myosotis sylvatica)

Lamium White Nancy cozying up to Lamium Beacon Silver
On the picnic table:  October Daphne with Sedum Cauticola:

So, silver tapestries.  But no fiber.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Game Changers

Today marks my second hop into blog hopping. I'm honoring--and hoping to get people to visit--the blogs of my buddies Ruth Ann Olson  and Mary Lachman.

Ruth is a friend, a prolific quilter, and a member of Sisters in Cloth, a quilters' group on the Connecticut shoreline.  Mary and is not only a quilter but a writer, having just brought out an edition of her late grandfather's poetry from the 1930s.

And I...I'm doing the blog hop with Ruth Ann and Mary, and not only that, but today I can report on a show I saw this morning:  Game Changers:  Fiber Art Masters and Innovators.

 It was at the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, MA.  I'd never heard of the place until a teacher at Snow Farm, the Williamsburg, MA art school which I've attended twice recently, mentioned it.  This particular teacher, who taught structural knitting, has an assemblage constructed of knitted of wire in the Fuller's current show.

Today I went to see that show with my Hartford buddy Linda Martin and my college roommate, Rosalie Lamontagne, who lives in Whitinsville, MA, about 45 minutes from the museum.

"From the humble beginnings of human needs to survive, fiber artists today have turned the basic necessities of the past into art of the highest quality," the Game Changers brochure reads.  "Quiltmakers are taking the grid and the crazy quilt and concentrating on color over pattern.  Embroiderers are designing elaborate wall pieces, and the sewing machine is now as important in the fiber arts as the loom has been.  Novel materials such as cantaloupe rind, wasp nests, and film strips are being used.  The world of fiber art continues to amaze with its multiple facets."

The piece below is made of cotton and wire.

Time of Ten Suns by Carol Eckert

A tapestry, like the one below, is much closer to the kind of art that comes to mind when I think of fiber art.  But look at the colors in this tapestry!  And the weird figures:

Warrior of Night in the Blue Light by Maximo Laura

Here's a nontraditional fiber art.  These figures are actually knitted with wire.

Truth to Power by Adrienne Sloane
The nontraditional fibers in Odd Pair, below,  include melon rind, cedar bark, and wasp nest fiber:

Odd Pair by Jan Hopkins

 This map of New York City is constructed with giant stitches:

New York City Map by Ruben Marroquin
These cowboy boots are constructed of twigs:
Boots Sculpture by John McQueen, with my buddy and college roommate Rosalie
My favorite piece in the show was this one:
Summer Meadow by Carol Shinn

Can you believe this one was created entirely with thread painting?

Outside, the museum's grounds bear exploring:

Linda and Rosalie
 I especially like the path traced by these three boulders:

The trip was a day worth taking.  A whole museum, just for craft!  Who knew?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Learning the Hard Way

The hard way.  Sometimes it seems as if that's the only way I learn anything.

A week ago, for example, I tried using free-motion satin stitching to depict some sand ripples.

But there was a disappointingly large chasm between the beauty of the image I was trying to depict and the method I chose to depict it.

As I said, I'm learning the hard way. 

The other day, I did it again.  This time I was trying to use needle felting on silk to create an image of hands.  I know that hands are supposed to be particularly difficult to render well.  I also know that dimensionality is created by color value, and so I carefully separated some of my silks into light, medium and dark values:

 Above are some of the lights.  Below are some of the darks:

 I got really compulsive in this process.  I brought the concept of  anal to new heights.

"The harder they come, the harder they fall."--Jimmy Cliff

Once I had the silks separated by value, I created a pattern by tracing an image onto silk habotai.  I figured that silk would felt right into silk, seeing as how they're both natural fibers.

 Unfortunately, my felting machine, also known as a Baby Lock Embellisher, was in the shop, being repaired after a fall. So I pinned the background image to a square of sponge rubber and went at it with a needle felting tool.  This was the result:

 "That's-a no good."--Chico Marx

What I learned:  the image was too small, and the silk too shreddy, for needle felting.

 But what's a whole afternoon's work down the tubes? 

I hate to spend so much time unproductively, but I'm going to put a positive face on it, chalk it up as a learning experience, and Keep On Keepin' On.  I need that image of hands for an upcoming show at the Hartford Public Library.

I got that image from Jackie Abrams,  a basketmaker whom I met at Snow Farm, a Massachusetts art school, and whose hands are on the right in the photo, and her daughter, Dani, who took the photo.  Jackie and Dani made my day when they decided to allow me to use this striking image.  I'm going to transform it into a collage-style quilt for an art quilt show with a a theme of civil rights.

My first attempt bit the dust.  But I tried again in a small-group class with quilt artist Susan Carlson ( who was in Connecticut last week.  Because Susan was in town, one of my quilt groups, the Connecticut Fiber Arts Collective, her for a private lesson just for us, and we spent a blissful day learning her collage quilting style. I tried again on the hands.

Here's Susan showing us how she fastens down tiny pieces of fabric to create a coherent whole:

Look at the art she creates with this technique!

This portrait started as a photo, then became a line drawing with areas of light, medium and dark values all mapped out.  
Isn't that splendid?

 We were an appreciative and eager audience.

Once Susan had explained her technique, she had us practice by freehand-sketching an image of a fish onto a piece of muslin, then filling in the fish with bits of fabric in light, medium and dark values.  Here's mine:

I never finished this fish because once Susan saw I knew how to work with lights, mediums, and darks, she okayed me to go ahead and work on my image of hands.

Dani Abrams took this photo in Namibia while she was serving in the  Peace Corps.  I told Jackie I would send her progress photos as I worked.

Look at the tininess of the pieces of fabric I'm using for this process!  Stll proud to say I'm bringing the concept of anal to new heights here.

Here's what I have so far.  I think this image of hands is pretty plausible.

And you know what?  Working with such precision really appeals to me.  I go into my own world.  Even more so when I listen to a book at the same time (currently, Ann Lamott's Stitches).

Proceeding by learning the hard way.  That's me.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

High School Confidential

High school.

 I bet everyone who reads this is someone who has gone, or is going, to high school.

 I went to high school at Sacred Heart Academy, in Hamden, Connecticut, which was, and is, a girls' school.  I graduated in 1967.  

Here I am, in my high school yearbook, in all the loveliness of  my loveliness.  I was 16, soon to be 17, when this photo was taken.

My sister Linda went there too, graduating in 1957.  Linda went on to become a member of the order of sisters who run the school, who were at that time called the Missionary Zelatrices of the Sacred Heart.

Have you ever heard of a zelatrice?  I've never heard the word in any other context.  My best educated guess is that a zelatrice is a female zealot.  The word comes from the Italian:  the Zelatrices (who have since changed their name to the Apostles of the Sacred Heart) were founded by an Italian woman, Mother Clelia Merloni:

Mother Clelia is said to have wrestled with the devil in her stateroom on her voyage from Italy to the United States.  In honor of Mother Clelia, the high school yearbook is called the Clelian, and the school gym/auditorium is called Clelian Hall.

Under Mother Clelia's leadership, the order was able to construct its foothold in the United States, buying an estate called Cherry Hill, in Hamden, and erecting their Provincial House there:

This  provincial house, so-called because it's the home of the Apostles' United States presence, is where my sister Linda went when she joined the convent.  My high school, Sacred Heart Academy, wasn't even built yet when this photo was taken.

Here's what it looks like now.  Sacred Heart Academy is the building on the right, and the provincial house, where the nuns live, is on the left.  See the right hand window in the top row?  That was where I studied chemistry with Sister Imelda. 

While I was in Sr. Imelda's chemistry class, from time to time, my boyfriend Kevin would drive up to the school in his Mustang, drive around the circular driveway just under the windows (you can't see it in the photo), throw out a cherry bomb (POW!), and speed away.  Yeah.  That made my day.

Yesterday, October 20,2014, I was invited back to Sacred Heart to speak to a mixed media art class about my art.  

Here's the art room before the girls showed up:
I brought several of my completed art pieces, and some hands-on supplies, like felting equipment.  I talked about myself and my journey as an artist, and I showed them some techniques.  They especially took to the felting. I'm sorry I didn't take a photo of the girls experimenting with my wool carders and needle felting.  Here's a felted piece that one of the girls created while I was talking:

This girl, whose name I did not catch, but who is on the right in the photo below, gave me this piece to take home and remember her by:

The girls liked the felting so much that their teacher, Teresa Delvecchio, decided that they would do a fiber project--possibly needle felting?--next on their agenda.  How about that?