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.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent Diane! I loved your process and the results!