Writing Eggs for Easter

EggCollection1
I was reminded recently about pisanky, a craft I first tried years ago, taught by Martha Shepherd of Madonna House Catholic lay apostolate in Combermere, Ontario. The founder of Madonna House, Catherine Doherty, came from Russia, bringing with her a love of Baltic, Eastern European and Russian art forms, one of which is the decoration of eggs for Easter. As a pre-Easter Lenten meditation, Martha used to make pisanky, or wax batik eggs,”written” with Christian symbols. Deep into my stash I went looking…

I remembered one of the books we used and a selection of the wax application tools named ‘kistky’. The Ukranian tradition is to say we ‘write’ an egg, not decorate it, because many of the symbols and colours tell aspects of the story of Christ. A kistka is a little brass or copper cup attached to a long handle. You heat the bowl of the cup in a candle flame then dig the hot metal into a block of natural beeswax to scoop up the wax that liquefies instantly at the touch of the hot metal. If you use an electric kystka, the bowl is heated by the electricity.  The hot wax runs out of a wee pipe sticking out of the bottom of the cup.

Next, you begin to ‘write’ (draw) your design on the egg by trailing the wax in the kystka across a hollow egg.  The egg is first emptied of its contents by blowing them out through wee holes made with a fat needle at the top and bottom of the egg. You use a typical batik process to colour the egg in several layers: apply the wax designs successively to cover areas you wish to reserve in your chosen colour.  After applying each layer of the design in wax, you dip the egg into dyes (synthetic these days), one colour at a time. The first dip is the lightest colour (yellow) and the last dip is the darkest (black) – in other words, the undercolour must always be hidden by the subsequent layer of dye. When the design is done, you hold the waxed egg to the candle flame and melt off the wax.

BooksKystky

A close up of the kistky and beeswax blocks:

KistkyMy first egg: you will see how crude it looks compared to the others done by friends who are experts:

FirstEggAnd this:

FirstEgg2

Here are the dyes: not sure what kind. NOT natural dyes, anyway.

EggDyes

This next pattern is a traditional design for a “fish” egg, symbolic of the Resurrection of Christ. It is one of my favourites. It is usually done on a brown egg with yellow, rust, red and black dyes:

EggpatternThe egg I made in the fish design unfortunately broke (along with a couple of others in other colours):

BrokenEggsHere it is with other eggshell fragments (blue would be a modern dye)

BrokenEggs4I saved the broken shells thinking to inlude them on day in a mixed media work…intentions, intentions…It is traditional also to give the eggs as gifts at Easter so I do not have many left – I kept the ones I thought were no so good.

Here are some eggs written by a friend from Lithuania who has made these all her life:

EggCollection2As you can see, my egg was truly a beginner work but I loved doing it anyway! In fact, I love the ‘fish’ pattern so much that I have tried it in other media, also.

Below are some examples of my heavy handmade paper (in whites and yellows) that I embossed with the fish design and some that I painted with paper pulp. To emboss the paper, I made the fish design with hot glue trails (using the hot glue gun) on a large sheet of soft thick pellon that became my embossing plate. (This  is a great technique for making  embossing plates, BTW… and you could use mat board, also): No picture until I find that plate! BrownEggpaper2

The full repeat: BrownEggPaper

Pulp paper painting:Eggpaper3

WhiteFishEmbossLast look at the wax applicator tools: Electric, (left), modern plastic handle with brass bowl(centre) and traditional copper bowl(right). Various sizes of little pipes trail thin, medium or thick lines of wax, as needed.

Kistky2Cristos anesti! Christ is risen!

Next post:  Some extras about the Chinese Thread Books that I showed you last time; and the indoor indigo garden

Wendy

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Rust and Indigo For A Chinese Thread Book

Thanks to the delightful kindness of Kit Tyrrell, one of my blog readers in the UK, I have received two booklets by Ruth Smith about folded books that can contain many compartments. One such book is the Chinese Thread Book (AKA the Miao Dong thread-and-needle case) that I mentioned in my last post. Kit had found the booklets at a textile show in the UK and had made the needle case using soft Japanese paper. She was so generous in sending them to me to have a go, too.

One of Ruth Smith's instruction books:

(You can see the thread book on the far right of the cover pic)

The traditional Miao thread and needle cases can have up to thirteen folded 'containers' stacked on top of each other and enclosed within covers that shut like a pocketbook. Miao embroiderers kept thread, needles, patterns, etc, in these “pockets”

For the annual CBBAG (bookbinding) swap ( themed “Envelope” this year) I was looking for an interesting way to bind and/or contain a collection of 20 artistically-made 'envelopes' containing creative enclosures.

We were encouraged to explore the 'Conceal-Reveal' concept inherent in the theme. I had in mind to make a multi-pouch container based on the traditional needle-and-thread cases made by the Miao people of South West China. Their needle-and-thread cases are usually made from paper, often handmade, and decorated with symbols and designs of cultural significance. (In fact, the Miao designs are a principal means of handing down their history since until recently, the Miao people were 94% illiterate, having no written records, relying instead on oral and graphic-image storytelling and record-keeping to transmit and preserve their ancient culture)

Instead of paper, however, I decided to use my (pre-reduced) indigo and rust dyed fabrics (stashed from last year) because of an indigo connection: the Miao people are famous for growing indigo (three species) and for indigo-dyeing their handwoven hemp clothing that they later applique with exquisitely skilful embroideries.

In addition, I thought that placing the CBBAG Swap envelopes inside still other 'envelopes' that also 'conceal' then 'reveal' seemed another appropriate and enriching concept to explore, and one that links to the curiosity, excitement and mystery we might experience in turning the pages of a book.

This is what my Chinese Thread Book looked like when it was done: I needed four larger compartments each topped with one smaller 'box' or 'envelope'; the eight compartments are mounted on cloth-bound book board covers. Each of the larger 'boxes' contains five art envelopes (about 5″ square) with an enclosure; the smaller box on top contains small cards bearing the name of each participant in the project.


But first, there was many a trial and much mess and often, confusion…More books of instruction and also You Tubes were gratefully consulted…

After the confidence-building reading and video-watching, on to the trials – playtime!

On the studio table is some rust and indigo dyed cloth laid out for auditioning as book cloth (cloth backed with paper to use in bookbinding)

Some trials with paper – origami folds to make a box:

 

The vintage linen (below) dyed with rust and indigo was successfully backed with thin mulberry paper to make book cloth. I adhered the cloth and paper together with Heat 'N Bond and Steam-a-Seam; no wet paste or glue for this application, though I have used it very successfully before. But wet glue had been a mistake in a previous trial with another kind of cloth). Lessons learned from paper trials and the cloth-wet glue trial led to success with the first of the four folded cloth 'envelopes' AKA origami-fold boxes:

Smaller boxes are stacked (glued with PVA) on top of the larger ones and open up to reveal their contents:

The paper layer of the bookcloth of which the wee boxes are made is painted with indigo; the cloth side is rust printed cotton. Some of the thin mulberry paper tore but I fixed that easily with acrylic glazing liquid – in fact, giving the whole mulberry paper layer a thin coat of glaze which serves both to enhance the indigo blue colour and to strengthen the paper. (The Miao people varnish their paper). One has to give some thought to the colour of the paper that lines the cloth before adhering cloth and paper together and folding it – something I failed to do! The result: a lot of unwanted white showing! So I made a wash from the indigo and CAREFULLY painted it on the white paper/outside of the boxes…though after the thread case was finished, not before, which would have been safer.

Inside the wee box, a little card for each artist with their name:

 

Inside the larger folded boxes five 'envelopes' with their enclosures:

 

On top of each of the five 'envelopes' inside the larger box I placed a lid made from my hand made and hand dyed indigo and rust paper. I intended the 'lid' to conceal the contents briefly even after the box is opened…you lift the lid by a wee loop.Each of the four lids is different:
 
 

 

 

This box shows my own CBBAG 'Envelope' inside:

 

The case for the folded boxes is covered with rust-printed linen and furnished with ribbon ties: It looks like a hard-cover book.

 

The covers fold flat to keep the folded boxes flat inside, and they are wrapped around with a ribbon:

 

And a final protective 'envelope' : one to slip the ” Envelope” case inside, made of indigo and rust printed cotton and linen; free motion stitched label.

 

Next time: A look at some of the envelopes and their enclosures!

And maybe some Philip Taafe ( I must stop making that promise…the truth is that I took some photos at the gallery where his show took place but have not received permission to use them…so until I do….I did write and ask for permissiom at the gallery but the answer I received was not clearly a YES or a NO…so I have to clarify…I do believe an artist has the right to the work being represented by images that he or she wants so I cannot go barging ahead to publish my own little snapshots without a clear OK…But if I cannot use my own photos, I know I can use theirs)

And thank you once again to Kit Tyrrell who, through her amazing kindness, provided me with the necessary instructions for this interesting and challenging bookbinding project

Wendy

 

Posted in book arts, bookbinding, Chinese Thread Book, Indigo dyeing, Miao people, Miao thread and needle case, Rust dyeing, Rust Printing, Ruth Smith booklets, Shereen Laplantz folded books | Tagged , , , , , | 21 Comments

March Means…

…Gardening indoors and thinking plants! The Kaleyard is still under deep snow…so this is a quick little post to remind us all that spring is on the way- no matter how wintery it looks here:

IMG_0834

Undeterred by the white stuff (and the hungry bunnies eating the shrubs I planted last year – they have severely “pruned” the serviceberry and the purple sand cherry – will I any have eco dye materials left? ), I have been updating my dye plant page (see sidebar) knowing that readers are ‘thinking gardens’ also and have begun checking on other gardener-eco dye enthusiasts’ experiments.

I am adding native plants to the current list; and even though I garden in Zone 3-4 USDA, gardeners in other zones, higher and lower, can safely try many of the plants that give pigments for me in this neck of the North American woods. (I was very interested to read in “The Founding Gardeners” by Andrea Wulf that Jefferson, Adams and Franklin, the U.S. Founding Fathers,  found inspiration for native American plantings when they saw how well North American natives were growing in British gardens.)

In other biz: Bookbinding experiments! CBBAG gave a workshop last weekend.

We learned the caterpillar stitch. It’s a little tricky to start out with – I found it best to practice making the ‘head’ of the critter a few times before moving on to the body; using waxed thread and two colours helped a lot,  too, and so did YouTube!

IMG_0814 I tried out the body of the critter on some fragments of painted canvas ( from my chair project, reported here): not very neat wrapping of the caterpillar body…but I like the long antennae and tail.

IMG_0818

 

The final effort came out like this: I used traditional book cloth to cover the boards and black waxed lined thread to sew the caterpillar. We punched holes in the boards to make the shape of the critter. Then we stitched across the signatures with a chain stitch first, top and bottom. to hold the cover boards in place; then stitched across the signatures using the caterpillar body stitch.

IMG_0858A close-up of the wrapping: I knotted the thread so that a ridge would form on the caterpillar’s back:

IMG_0861Our awesome teacher, Mary McIntyre, is the Pres of CBBAG and a conservator at the national archives. Needless to say, her caterpillars rock:

IMG_0826Next time, Philip Taafe ands his patterns (I promise)…plus a report on how I am binding the envelopes with enclosures that we made for the annual CBBAG swap last month.

I am experimenting with the Chinese Thread Book style. I have twenty envelopes to bind and I was thinking some kind of interesting container would be nice. I found a lovely blog at http://www.barleybooks.com whose author mentioned this binding and so I went looking for how-to ‘s. (Not many available…) The structure is actually a needle and thread case devised by the Miao and Dong peoples of China, both famous for their embroideries. Their needle- thread cases held pattern pieces, also, in a series of ingenious folded pockets made in paper and textile.

Meantime, welcome to all the new readers and thank you for joining us.

Wendy

 

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Back from Brooklyn

February in Ottawa is Winterlude, AKA The Deep Freeze at minus 35…

The Kaleyard looks lovely, though, with dye plants snug under the snow billows:

Can't help thinking about what will have survived its first year in The Kaleyard, and if, come spring, it will look like this again:
While we were in Brooklyn/NYC, I found some lovely areas of winter beauty, and in some unexpected places. E.g. : A gentrified part of Redhook outside a big supermarket, giving me my only view of the Statue of Liberty on this trip:
And at the icy waters near Riverside Park on the Upper West Side of Manhattan:

The High Line is my favourite NYC park to visit in the great city. Over the years, some abandoned railroad tracks raised above city streets became informal host to wildflowers and wildlife when left to wind and weather and wild critter. When the railroad was threatened with demolition, the local community rallied to save it; now it is an artfully landscaped haven of natural native plantings among the skyscrapers. Native plantings and sculptures, boardwalks and benches make the High Line endlessly interesting in every season.

Sumacs and the Flag on the High Line:

Grasses and milkweed: i love the winter colours and forms of the plants.

Mahonia and winterberry. There are many berry-bearing bushes and trees on the High Line to feed the wildlife and aid propogation.

The recent High Line extension landscaping has allowed plants to volunteer and to selfseed without specialist planning:

Sculptures along the extension: impermanent, weather-susceptible, fleeting, temporary…this one is formed by soil, rock and rags:

A city profile, from the High Line

And after the park, a hot lunch in a NY deli:

…plus a game of Deli Tic-Tac-To with grandson Dylan (aged 5) :

Iconic NYC views nearby:

 

Views served up with art advice:

And a history book to read on the subway. Now that I have an American grandson, I owe it to him to learn his history- why not from a gardening perspective? (And we watched some episodes of the West Wing on Netflix, too..plus noticed cracks made about dorky Canadians, too…)!The author of The Founding Gardeners shows how the Founding Fathers used native plants on their properties as statements not only about the natural beauty of the American landscape but as symbols of a necessary attachment to the principles of hard work, self-sufficiency and political independence in the new country. A fascinating perspective on the use of native plants in ones's garden!

NYC has some great doorways and I was checking them for colour.

The Brooklyn Flea (market) doorway. I noticed a lot of blue and blue-grey paint paired with Brooklyn red brick…I am enjoying that combo…Thinking I might try it for my house this spring…This doorway was of The C-l-e-a-r-i-n-g Gallery in Bushwick, where “Green Calvin”, a show of green ceramic chicken faces on identical green canvases by Calvin Marcus took place. I loved the doorway.

And inside our rented walk-up apartment (VRBO) near the Brooklyn Museum, a charming old interior dec:

 

As for the weather: you may have heard about the snowstorm that grounded the flights in and out of NYC in January: Here, Dylan and Shlomo are walking home from the subway at rhe Brooklyn Museum. I liked the colour combos here.

 

 

And for the art I have come back to in my studio, here is a quick peek: Some painted canvas to cover a chair.

This month, my project was to create art envelopes with enclosures for the annual book arts swap at CBBAG. I used a basic palette of primary red-blue-yellow to decorate paste papers, mixing colours on the surface; then used vintage textile fragments in secondary colours as envelope inserts:

A collection of envelopes

A couple of envelope examples:

 

More next post about art in NYC (e.g, at the Luhring Augustine Gallery in Bushwick for the Philip Taafe exhibit – Philip Taafe is one of my faves and a master of pattern and colour; plus Al Loving and Sam Gilliam at the MOMA who have worked in textiles to create abstract art and who are being brought out of mothballs basically by the current in-crowd of art curators at the MOMA. (Mothballs and textiles, you say…?)

…and some of my ongoing art projects in the studio.

Hello and welcome to all the new followers of Threadborne. And to all vistors, old and new, thank you for stopping by and for your comments.

Wendy

 

 

Posted in artist books, Brooklyn, kaleyard, NYC, paste paper, The Highline, NYC | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

January in Brooklyn

So we are in Brooklyn for January because…

… As the image shows, one bun is out of the oven and we are waiting for the other one…the Bride of 2012 (whose wedding chuppah was reported here) is soon to be a mama…

While waiting, the Grandies have been soaking up the local NYC culture. For example:

Lower Manhattan by Kirk Bauer – a work of art, a photo

Just around the corner from our apartment.

Cool plywood bench in the library entrance.

Inside the library display cases:

The snows blow in Brooklyn:

Some of our local subway stations:

 

At the Brooklyn Museum : “Killer Heels” – designer shoes. Very disturbing show. The movie still below captures a woman imprisoned by fashion, in hideous subjection to torture, willingly undergone

 

 

Too bad they had no shoes we could try on and take selfies of, to ridicule ourselves in…

…but there were African textiles we could pet:

 

 

 

 

 

 

And in true Quilt Police style, I looked at the back:

Then there was the Brooklyn Flea, open at weekends, with antiques, collectibles and delectables, too:

The coold red pipes are to code:

 

And in Manhattan:

The Frick Collection on Fifth Avenue : some El Grecos and other treasures from Scotland but no photos allowed except here in the indoor garden courtyard. A luxurious mansion filled with art. Pretty astonishing that one collector could afford all of it.

The view across from the Frick to Central Park:

Until next time!

Wendy

 

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International artist retreats 2015-2016, Mount Subasio, Assisi

wendyfe:

Check out Arte Studio Ginestrelle on Mount Subasio, Umbria, near Assisi, Italy. This was my choice for art residency in October, 2013. It’s a wonderful place.

Originally posted on artestudioginestrelle:

artestudioginestrelle, landscape

We will be glad to send you all the complete information and materials regarding how to apply for the International residency programs, cultural events and International exhibitions 2015-2016.

Please, contact us:
artestudioginestrelle@gmail.com

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Mary Had a Little Book

wendyfe:

Merry Christmas to all! For your edification, research by Eric Kwakkel on ancient books as depicted in paintings of The Annunciation. One of my favourite sites.

Originally posted on medievalbooks:

For the book historian Christmas is a great season. It means that a lot of so-called “Annunciation” scenes make their rounds on social media, the biblical story in which the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will give birth to God’s son, Christ. There is something very attractive about these scenes for lovers of medieval books. Especially in the later Middle Ages, Mary is shown to be reading when Gabriel breaks the news. The idea was to show her in a holy place engaged in prayer, studies explain (here and here), and to make this connection to the beholder, she was shown with a book.

While this alone tells you a lot about the role of the book in medieval times, the Annunciation scenes have an even more interesting story to tell. They invited medieval decorators to depict a book and a reader engaged with it, life-like and to the best of their abilities. This implies that…

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