Mixing media

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A little piece I’m working on in between preparing for spring and summer craft fairs, based on a tracing from an old photograph of a friend. I call it “Maggie, Conjuring.” It’s very geometric right now, but likely won’t stay that way, and will become more lacy and needleweave-y as I incorporate more threads and yarns.  The figure of Maggie is drawn in Micron pen on one of those canvas panels; I poked holes with an awl for the initial threads you see here. I don’t know how far I’ll take this particular one- it’s basically a study for a larger piece using a different picture- but I like the way it looks now.

Taking my art in a new direction

I’m in! I’ve officially heard back from the post-baccalaureate Artisanry program I applied to, and I was accepted! I had finally resigned myself to potentially having to wait a long while for their response- and of course, as soon as I did that, the notification email landed in my inbox. :)

I’ve officially accepted my acceptance, so barring any unforeseen events, I’ll be starting my program in September. It’s roughly a half-time program, but between that, my Etsy and craft-fair work, and my personal projects, I’ll be working on art full-time, with the important additions of mentorship and an art-intensive environment in which to develop my skills. This program may not be full-scale “art school,” but for me, I think this will be the boost I need to take my art to the next level and figure out what direction it might take in the future, whether that might be an MFA, a personal art practice of one kind or another, and/or a focus on textiles from a more commercial and home-decor perspective.

For this “perpetual amateur,” that is a lot to take in, even overwhelming to think about. I’m used to art being something that I do on my own, in my own space and time, without either the benefit of artistic community or the challenge of assignments and critiques. In some ways, I like being an outsider, and I think it gives me a unique and valuable perspective that enhances my creativity. But on the other hand, structure and direction are really what I need right now to keep carrying this momentum forward- to continue the process I started nearly a year ago, when I decided to leave my job and focus on my artistic pursuits. I need feedback and critique to get better and to help me figure out my own perspective; I need the community of other artists and art students to help me figure out where I fit into the larger scheme of things.

Identity has been a big question for me lately in a lot of different areas of my life. I’m struggling with how to define myself as I transition from the life expectations I had a few years ago into the very different life I actually live now. The life I’m living now is a better one for me, to be sure, and I’m pleased with the direction it’s pointing even as it’s had its share of disappointments. But it’s still a big adjustment- I never expected making art to be a real thing that I could do, but here I am, surprising myself by the things I’m able to create, contemplating whether labels like “artist” or “artisan” apply to me, building a future for myself where I give art a chance as a serious part of my life. It’s a little scary, even, but at the same time, I am so, so lucky that I have the opportunity to make this real and make this mine.

Artist or not, whoever I am, in five months, I’ll be starting on a new adventure in the world of art, and I want to make the most of it. I have a lot to think about as I approach that new opportunity, and I hope that the coming months can be a fruitful time of transition.

New scarves!

Nine new scarves, a whole batch just waiting to be washed and finished! These are being posted in my Etsy shop as I finish them up- four new scarves are posted now and there are more to come! Remember, people, as much as we might not want to admit it, it’s still scarf weather. :)

Progress, and a new name

This piece has come a long way in the last few days! Another layer of gathered tulle, and more importantly, lacework beginning to take shape in the large central gap. I think I’m going to call this piece Seed- the central area reminds me of a seed pod, and the enveloping tulle of dandelion or milkweed silk.

One of the things I like most about creating lace is the exploration of tension and negative space that is an intrinsic part of its structure. To start this project, I created a hole; but what does that even mean? A hole is a negative space, an absence; how can an absence be created? Within that hole, I’m manipulating threads, pulling and knotting against the tension created by the wood frame and support threads hidden behind the tulle, again to create holes.

As a little bonus, here’s a progress shot of putting on the second layer of gathered tulle. I took my husband seriously when he suggested my project looked like I’d hunted and mounted a ballerina’s tutu! For this layer, I essentially created a plain tutu that would fit around the central hole; the in-between space will be getting some special treatment from my needle. I then wrapped the tulle to the back and stapled it to the frame, and I’ll probably sew down the extra to prevent it getting in the way. I’m not sure if I’ll do overall stitching on this one as I did with Winter Cauls- I’m thinking a more selective, tendril-like approach.

Trypophilia

Did you know that there’s such a thing as fear of holes? It’s called trypophobia, and it seems to manifest most with people having a phobic reaction to small, clustered holes, like you might find in many natural surfaces. I find it really interesting that some people have this reaction, because my own reaction to holes and clusters and networks of holes is so  much the opposite. I’m deeply fascinated by textures like that- honeycombs, seed pods, leaf veins, cross-sections of cells building up plant material- to the extent that I might be called a trypophile, someone with a deep affinity for holes. If you’ve been following me for long, you know how much these shapes pop up in my work. (And if you have trypophobia, I’m sorry that my work isn’t really accessible to you!)

After finishing my Winter Cauls piece, I’ve been a bit slow in moving on to a new large piece of work, but now I think I have a good thing figured out.

It doesn’t look like much right now- an armature of crochet thread wrapped and covered in layered ivory tulle, built around that large central hole. Here it’s propped up on my loom for the photo- when I had it sitting on the floor, the cats would casually stroll through the hole like it was nothing. :)

My husband says that it looks like I’ve hunted down and mounted a ballerina’s tutu, and I suppose it does! Fortunately, that suggestion actually inspired me to explore helpful ways of attaching more gathered tulle by literally making a small tutu and sewing and stapling it on.

Right now, that one big hole is just staring at me, but I have plans for it. The hole will be filled with a web of needlewoven lace, threads coming together to create a networked form somewhere in between geometric and organic. I’m going to add more tulle to create more opacity in the background, but what I haven’t decided is how exactly I’ll carry over the shapes of the needlewoven lace into embroidery on the tulle. I’m thinking tendrils and cells, delicate vines studded with leaves and bubbles like seaweed. But whatever happens, I’m sure it’ll continue to reflect my love for- some might say obsession with- those networks and clusters of holes that create intriguing textures.

Say yes to neon

While my scrap-yarn yardage works up on the large floor loom, here’s what’s happening on the little Ashford SampleIt: a basketweave pattern in black and neon yellow, which is coming out looking fantastic, if I do say so myself.

This particular warp is, unfortunately, rather a mess- I did it myself and didn’t add in enough warp sticks to even things out. I really need to get some better sticks than the flimsy cardboard things that came with the loom. Hopefully it won’t be so bad that the scarf itself comes out warped, a problem I’ve had in the past. If it does, I suppose I can still use the fabric for something, but I’ll be a little sad.

Yes, I’ve been doing a lot of rather plain weaving recently. I have another embroidery project going as well, but I want to wait until that’s a little more developed before I post it here.

Yardage

Weaving up some fun fabric out of hand-tied cotton scrap yarn in bright colors; it’s meant to be turned into pillow covers and similar. It’ll be interesting to see how it washes up- I’m going to try to intentionally shrink it a bit to fill in some of those holes, and the different yarns I’m using are of different weights, so I bet it’ll be a little nubbly. And even though winter still feels like it’s never going to end, the bright summery colors are helping me keep my mind on spring.

Recent weaving

Aren’t those colors amazing? I wove this little scarf as a gift for my mother-in-law’s birthday, from gorgeous handspun, hand-dyed yarn I bought from Wren House Yarns. (I encourage you to check them out- they’re especially good for awesome colorful sock yarns!)

That weft is wool, and the warp is a fine white alpaca yarn spun by my husband on his wheel- the first time we’ve used his own handspun as a warp! It was a bit difficult to manage its fuzziness, but it held up pretty well in terms of strength.

Outdoor light is always best for photos like these, but unfortunately, it also reveals that we’re still buried in snow. Sigh. At least today it’s finally made it all the way up to 55, so melting is happening- but we just had so much accumulation that it’s taking forever.

I’ve been doing a lot of scarves recently, building up my inventory for future craft fairs- I’ve applied to two coming up in May!- and I’m beginning to explore twisted fringes and other finishing techniques besides plain hems. This is my first attempt at twisted fringes, done by hand, but I’ve also bought a fringe twister to make things easier.

Weaving away

Two more simple scarves from the loom! On the top, super-soft alpaca in shades of bright blue, with a thick-and-thin, uneven texture. That one will eventually be available in my Etsy shop. On the bottom, gorgeous handspun, hand-dyed wool yarn by Wren House Yarns, with white alpaca warp spun up by my husband- a birthday gift for my mother-in-law.

Recently on the loom

I’ve been feeling rather creatively congested this month. I guess that’s a funny way of putting it, but that’s what it feels like- I am full of ideas, but struggling to decide what to do, and low on energy to carry it out. Now that my application is turned in and I’m in the waiting stage, I wanted to start on another large-scale project, and I have- another large piece in various fibers stitched on tulle stretched on a frame- but I’m not finding it inspiring right now.

So, for the moment, I’m weaving scarves again, even though I had wanted to take some time away from being commercially focused. Simple scarves let me play with color and texture, and they’re super easy to put together on the Sample-It loom, though I’m hoping to do some more complex patterns on the full-size loom as well. Though I usually work in wool blends, I’m also preparing materials for a few scarves in cotton and synthetic fibers for those who are allergic to wool or prefer to have something that’s more machine-washable- a need that was pointed out to me by a helpful patron at one of the holiday craft fairs I attended.

At least I know that I can set these pieces aside and have them in stock for when craft-fair season comes around in the summer and fall. I guess that’s the nature of the craft-fair circuit- it’s a seasonal opportunity, and I might as well get some making done while I have the time, even if right now isn’t the biggest time for selling.

Here are a couple of my recent projects! They’ll be posted on my Etsy shop as soon as I finish hemming and finishing them.

Currently on the loom: softly variegated greys in Debbie Bliss Riva yarn, a particularly soft and fluffy wool blend.

Experimenting with color blending! The warp is heathered lavender wool and blue-green wool blend; the weft is a chunky ocean-blue wool.

This one came out particularly fun- I wanted to try for an especially textured effect, so I used acrylic roving yarn, bamboo-cotton yarn, and heathered silk-wool yarn plus a wool-blend weft, all in different shades of green.