Kaleyard Art for Story Chairs

I recently became owner of six small, pretty wood dining chairs with hand-made wool tapestry seat-covers in a charming rose-sprig pattern. They are perfect in size for our new and smaller dining room. But in style – unadventurous. Farewell, twee tapestry. Time for some upcycling fun, I thought…maybe something outsider-arty and a more than a tad outrageous? So more than a bit pretentious, since for this project, I am invoking real art by real painters.

I was thinking Kandinsky and Klee, two of my favourite painters, because of how they used vibrant colours in geometric and organic forms…I have two images of their work on the wall in my studio as constant companions. The ‘Kandinsky’ is one I painted myself many, many years ago…I like to experiment with painting from time to time and try to copy, just for the exercise, work by my favourite artists. (I think one can learn a lot this way. One learns especially fast that one sucks at painting and should likely not blog about one’s paintings except to encourage ‘schadenfreude’ …

The only thing I have in common with Kandinsky is that I, like him, experience synesthesia, which for me means that when I hear music, especially opera, I see colours. But that doesn’t get me my painter license…

The Klee on my studio wall is poster of a work in the MOMA.

Here is my Kaleyard ‘Kandinsky’ (Be kind, dear Reader):

I was pretty into it when painting the figures but then got really bored with the bits top right and top centre… O those muddy lumps…Thus, copying art has limits as an educational pastime…

The Klee:

For my chair upcycling project, I made a giant sacrifice in deciding to use up a precious hoard of thrifted canvas from my Hallowed Stash. The Lofty Eco Idea was not to buy anything but to use what was at hand. The fabric, about 60″ long and 36″ wide, was enough to make six new chair seat covers, painted and stitched. I gessoed the canvas with some very ancient stuff, barely liquid, found in the drawer where I go to practice my archaeological digging now and then.

For colours, I elected to go for bright and bold, not realizing right away that the Kandinsky and the Klee had pretty much formed my choice without my conscious awareness. (Shall I credit or blame in this case? ) I chose seven colours; Dark blue (ultramarine), cobalt blue, cadmium orange, nickel azo gold, green gold. quinacridone crimson and Hansa yellow. Straight out of the tube. Squeezed straight onto the brush. And a quirky move to start me off on that big, white, scary canvas: I used up the rest of my indigo ‘vat’ (left over from the indigo-dyed papers I showed you last post), sloshing it on and letting it drip down the canvas in squiggly stripes with dribbles and blobs. I decided to layer on the warm colour layers first, with the result the the indigo dribbles turned green under nickel azo gold and Hansa yellow.

The large canvas was eventually to be cut up into six equal portions, so no single ‘focal points’ were in my mind. No points at all, in fact. I simply laid down a layer of dye or paint each day for a week when I came down to the basement to do the laundry. No thinking, just moving the brush, following the first impulse for markmaking, no second guessing: “Trust your beginnings”, as Julia Caprara, my esteemed teacher, used to say. Loud and chaotic colour, n’est-ce pas? COMMIT TO FUN! And NOT to the surface…Paint it out, paint it over, paint it and let it go…No obsessing…

Black and white layers will be stitched on layer when the acrylic paint has dried sufficiently. And the wood chairs will be painted, each one a different colour in the Kandisky Kaleyard Why not?

This is the canvas part-way through the project:

Here are the smaller portions after the canvas was cut up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As for the old tapestry seat covers, so lovingly stitched by an unknown hand: they will get a dunk or two in the indigo dye vat, ready for inclusion in a wall piece – switching roles with the painted canvas, therefore.

I think Klee might feel it proper to plop his derriere on my paintings..And he painted on what what he found at hand, too, even corrugated cardboard – I saw that in the MOMA.

Next post about the Kaleyard Art Chairs will show the finished suite!

Best

Wendy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Snow Comes To The Kaleyard

Winter means art indoors and the studio is my refuge. For natural dyeing and eco printing, I use my stash of dried plants, dye powders and whatever fresh plant materials I can find in the fridge or a florist bouquet. The first snow in the kaleyard this year sent me scuttling about to bring in one of my Potted Plant Pets that, forgetful gardener that I am, I had neglected all summer and fall. Out of sight, out of mind: it was hidden, pot and all, by the huge foliage of that Monster Kale. Si when the vernight temperature fell to about two degrees, that was curtains for the leaves on the indigo (Indigofera tinctoria).

I had started the seeds indoors in March and set out the largest plant In a pot after the last frost in late May.The indigo looked like this (below) in June beside the Kale Monster; by November, it was hidden completely by the dinosaur kale.

Let us see if the now-leafless indigo pet will revive. More below on this indigo and its gifts to the dyer.

Meantime, I did manage to bring in the Japanese indigo (Persicaria tinctoria) and pot it up for overwintering. This type of indigo also yields blue pigment so I have dried several batches of leaves to try winter vat-making. In the past, I have found that the plants will set seed in their pots and produce seedlings in late winter. But for good measure I have saved seeds this year. One of my dyer friends here in Ottawa says she even finds seedlings in her compost in spring! That is a plant with a huge will to survive, even if with a reputation for short seed viability.

Here are the leaves of Japanese indigo, dried after the first of three harvests this year:

 

And here are some dye results on silk velvet, post-dyeing and pre-eco printing ( Those little brown pebbley things that look like critter poo are, in fact, dried tansy buttons.)

The blues I obtained (above) from my first-ever Japanese indigo vat are, as you can see, on the turquoise side of blue.

Later in the year ( when I am back from January in Brooklyn where our youngest is about to have her first baby) I will have a go with a vat using dried the Persicaria tinctoria but likely not before February.

On to dyeing with other indigo now – the Indigofera tinctorIa. I am chiefly interested in using this indigo for my Artist Books. My current focus is, as you might know by now, Artist Books made with and about native plants, the Medium being the Message in my approach to the work.

But I am not so granola that I shun non-native plants like European kale, Japanese indigo and indigo (probably) from India. We are all strangers and sojourners on this earth, are we not? And we likely come from somewhere else, and will end up somewhere else again, more than likely. I am from Orkney, as it happens, but live now in Ottawa, Canada, via Liverpool in England. Green Immigrants have a valued place in my garden; potted, they are Plant Pets; they will always find a place in my repertoire as a dye artist even if native plants are my garden focus. We have transplantation, translation and removal in common, and the search for where to put down roots, scatter seeds and lay one's head.

Indigo paper has an interesting history in the book and paper arts, too. ( A discourse on that topic will follow at another time, dear Reader! ) Indigo papers will be a fine little Rabbit Hole for me to disappear down with my pre-reduced indigo, taking along rust and black tea leaves as companions, plus some others (like beeswax) to sustain and surprise us on the journey.

Feeling connections to the traditional use of indigo for colouring papers of various qualities and types, especially for the express purpose of hiding imperfections, I have begun to accumulate indigo-and-rust dyed materials to create a series of Artist Books, with tea leaves for tannins to blacken the rust. And some beeswax to trap the rust, like insects in amber. And dye and wax to cover over many things, like the mold on paper left too long soaking in alum water…And, O that divine blue and orange combo, the Impressionist painter's expressive colour gift to humanity and art history.

To get the blue markings, I dipped, painted, sprinkled, splashed the dye and scattered crystal before eco printing it with the rust and tea on watercolour paper. I dissolved pre- reduced indigo crystals in water (no chemicals added) and also scattered crystals on the pages to be eco printed as usual by steaming. To get the rust, I laid on flat bits of metals and soaked the metals and the paper in white vinegar befor steaming. (You can skip the steaming step if you are OK waiting a day or so for the rust to print. The hot steam simply accelerates the process. And the indigo needs no steaming, either. But if you want tannins to react with the rust, and you'd like marks from the tea leaves, then steam the stack or bundle as I did with tea leaves scattered on) Some examples:

Here is a batch of indigo, rust and tea prints on paper:

 

 

 

The dark marks in this one are from molds on composted papers:

 

 

 

And here is some linen printed with indigo, rust and tea: this will become book cloth.

 

 

This (below) is what happens when you scatter the indigo crystals on top of paper and plants for eco printing; logwood and madder powders are scattered in there, too, on top of mold marks and rust. I showed my friend, Gayle, how to do this and this was her result at my studio:

 

Finally for this post: some Artist Books, including work from a bookbinding workshop offered by the generous Genevieve Samson, medieval book conservator at Archives Canada and CBBAG member. Longstitch binding: the white one is mine, the next two are Gen's demo books, the coptic binding is by Gayle Quick of CBBAG and the blue and white on the bottom of the stack is a canvas wrapper I painted with acrylics.

 

Next time: more books, more indigo and some painted chair covers

 

Blessings on your day, dear Reader. Thank you and welcome to all the new folks who have joined the blog since last post.

 

Wendy