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!




















About wendyfe

I am a fibre artist working in mixed media textiles with a focus on vintage cloth reworked with stitching, natural dyeing, eco printing and rust printing . My work can be seen at www.wendyfeldberg.ca.
This entry was posted in kaleyard, painting, Paul Klee, recycled fabrics, Vassily Kandinsky and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Kaleyard Art for Story Chairs

  1. nancydas says:

    Super idea…. I love them!

  2. hippopip says:

    Brilliant concept live the zingy colour

  3. Wow, they are certainly going to make statement chairs, love the colour and pattern, got me thinking my dining chairs desperately need recovering, however much as I love Klee my favourite artist is Anselm Keifer, that would make for very bumpy seat cushions.

    • wendyfe says:

      Lumpy Anselm Keifer chairs? Priceless! O I love that challenge, Debbie!

      Next blog post, I would like to quote you and ask readers: What kind of chair cover could you make if (X) was your inspiration?
      eg. Tracy Emin: Dirty underwear as substrate, with shredded condoms appliqué
      eg. Gerhardt Richter: Hazy grey clouds you fall right through because they will not hold you up; or that put you to sleep the minute you sit on them


  4. Hi Wendy… Just a super project and result. Following the lead of the artists that inspire is always a good choice and your pieces are intuitively bold and graphic – they do absolutely resonate with the masters palettes. Great take on recreating the “suite” of chairs and cannot wait to see the final result. Love the transparency in places and changes in density of stroke and blending. Job well done!
    Bethany in Kingston,
    (this am with NO SNOW!)

    • wendyfe says:

      Thank you for your graceful critique, Bethany! I enjoyed the freedom in this project. After finishing the painting part, I found in my own work motifs and lines that that made me think of work by other artists besides Klee and Kandinsky – you know how one tends to make associations when looking at the work of other artists. I do not compare my work to anything related to their talent! But artists are always looking and absorbing…I always wonder what has entered into the unconscious level that comes out when you paint or do any kind of art. It often takes a viewer to answer that question but one only rarely can step outside oneself and answer it. My mother used to say (Scottish proverb in dialect) “Would that God the gift would gie us/To see oorsells as others see us”

  5. Cool idea. And glad to see you will repurpose the tapestry covers. Can’t wait to see your final project, too!

    • wendyfe says:

      The final schedule depends on my husband who is offering painting services for the chairs! Thus I can blame him for my procrastination…but I would like to have them done for Chanuka/Christmas!

  6. Meg Fowler says:

    Love! Love!! Love!!! I can’t say that enough!!!

  7. arlee says:

    now i have an idea for my scrounged stoodio chair 😉 these are FaBU

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