October Studio

September has passed in a blur of sun, studio-time and a mad race to prepare for the annual studio tour of two weekends. As I have spent most of the post-tour week cleaning up, it occurred to me that you, dear Reader, might like a peek at where I do most of my art work.

My studio is in the basement of our house and it comprises areas for sewing, cutting, painting, bookbinding, printing, dyeing, laundry, garden planning and the hoarding of art supplies, books , sewing machines, seeds and the kids' artwork, plus sentimental “bits and bobs” as the Brits say; and not to forget the occasional mouse… The floor lists dramatically to starboard ( or is it port?), the ceiling is less than eight feet (that's OK for me, though – I am nowadays less than five feet tall) and one needs the lights on at all times (daylight fluorescent bulbs). It will never be featured in that Spiffy Studio mag but it's real and it's a Place of My Own.

Especially it works for West, my studio assistant….he is grandson Dylan's marmalade kitty who stayed over a few days this week, dined on the mice, then pooed in the bathtub…When not sitting in my tool box, West was on my keyboard watching the scroll bar go up and down…

Please come in! The Ikea chest of drawers would not go up the stairs so, boo hoo, I had to keep In the studio it to store my eco dye stash…

Facing you in the above pic as you enter is the dye cupboard (half empty because the rest of th supplies are still outside at my outdoor summer dye station.)

Left of the open door at the entrance and in the foreground is the wet station (sink, dye vats and mordant baths) , printing and book binding area; straight ahead on the left at mid-ground is my cutting and general work table with the paper etc. cupboards nearby. On the back wall are the painting supplies and various new canvases etc. We sourced all the furniture and cupboards at Habitat for Humanity or at thrift stores.

A closer shot showing what's on my table this week: Some more eco prints to frame; a couple of bricks covered in paper to use as weights for flattening book pages. Plus my coffee, of course.

My sewing area with the Sacred Stash (of textiles, naturally). I like to arrange the textiles into small collections or WIP projects; I put the collections in labelled, see-through plastic boxes – easy to find and to shlep back and forth. The second chair is for the grandkids…

My toolbox: The needlecase was the VERY FIRST free motion project I did. I learned free motion stitching quite by accident one day – I somehow read the chapter on darning with the sewing machine and had an epiphany! (What If the engineer who wrote the sewing machine manual had written How to Make Art With Your Sewing Machine? In the next few posts I will be doing a little retrospective on my embroideries since I am hoping to be able to add to the older series. But that is for later.) Just now:

A box of paper and textiles offcuts, awaiting their new assignments as art material:

A mordant bath and an indigo vat ( plastic boxes work fine! )

On the Inspiration Shelf: work in progress – Artist Books that never got finished for the tour! They are to be coptic-bound.

Shlomo put up this sonnet by Shakespeare for me to read while doing the laundry:

Some other work that is still in progress and never made it to the tour:

Eco print with indigo on silk dupion

Indigo, rust and tannin prints on linen and cotton – also WIPs

A few more rust print WIPs:

 

“May Gardenista” on the work table, WIP:

My mass book “Magnificat” recycled as an altered book – almost 400 pages folded! The cover of the mass book beside it shows a work by Odilon Redon “The Flight Into Egypt” (Mary, Joseph and the Child Jesus, refugees, resting on the road). The colours in the painting are similar to the ones in “May Gardenista”” don't you think?

 

 

And now to show you some of what emerged from the studio in time for the studio tour this month:

 

 

 

The candleholders are by Shlomo who also participated in the tour with his metal art. They go well with the rust, tannin and indigo prints, I thought

 

Most of the work above is on paper or cloth dyed/printed with indigo, rust, plants and tannin.

Last pic:

I found this print when sorting stuff for the tour. I bought it many years ago and I cannot find the name of the painter. Does anyone recognise the work? It looks kind of Klee-ish. I had been in Canada only two years when I found it In the shop of the National Gallery of Canada, a repro of course. I felt it was something of a self-portrait, me wrapping myself in my British flag, missing my old home. And check her hippy headband.

 

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Autumn in the Kaleyard

Kale is another word for cabbage. I learned recently that Scottish “Kailyard” literature displeased the artspeakers of the late Victorian era who found it sentimental and cottagey, not nearly edgey enough, too sweat-blood-and-tears free, so to speak. James Barrie, author of 'Peter Pan and Wendy' was a kaleyardist author, and thus much sneered at by the critics of ' kaleyard' (or 'kailyard') lit, a genre so- named for the ordinary country-Scot of tradition who had kept a cabbage patch ( or 'kaleyard') beside his wee house to feed his family way before the potato came north…You may even have noticed 'cole' (AKA kale or cabbage) depicted in medieval MSS. showing images of jolly, contented peasants tending seasonal crops.

In growing the absurdly handsome 'Lacinato' black kale (AKA 'Dinosaur' kale) this year, I had the most innocent of intentions, just looking for some kitchen dyes and a little summer salad. I had no idea this plant would turn out to be the decorative star of the front yard, a neighbourhood conversation starter like no other and an art-political statement besides. Here it is, flanked on the left by the lovely native great blue lobelia, or Lobelia syphilitica.

Dino kale leaves (backed by natives coreopsis on the right and black-eyed susans on the left, out of focus.)

 

Kale colour and texture are foils to a chartreuse barberry, saved from severe garden editing as a Native Plant Gardening Don't, only because it was too prickly to pull out that day – but which turned out to be a Garden Designer Do (Does Glamour magazine still run pics of their fashion Do's and Don'ts? ). The sedum 'Autumn Joy' is still summer green in this photo:

And here is the much-expanded kale beside the fall rust-pink of Sedum spectabilis:

 

Pollinators love the fall-blooming Michaelmas daisy:

 

Pot-grown indigo beside the kale: this will overwinter indoors, like Japanese indigo (Persicaria tinctoria).

 

Calendulas love the cooler fall weather: and burnt orange beside kale green is eyepopping.

 

These humble, cottagey little kaleyard sparrows love their bath at ground level:

 

This is the sparrows' Birds' Eye view of the fall colours in my kaleyard. The lobelia has gone to seed. The rue (back left) is divinely thick and blue-green, lighter in tone than kale, with a lacey texture for contrast, harmony and repetition.

 

Looking up, the sparrows can see the black elder, native Sambucus nigra, in full fruit:

 

And under the bird feeder, some new garden sculptures by Shlomo, in my favourite orange and blue combo:

 

Fall means foraged wild apples for apple butter:

 

And for art this late summer and early fall, eco prints a-plenty, using mostly the native plants from my garden.

Coreopsis with Aronia melanocarpa berries and Prunus cistena leaves:

 

Prunus cistena, Aronia melanocarpa, sumac.

 

Japanese maple and grevillia (exotics!)

 

Varia:

 

Almost all native plant prints. The reds are coreopsis and bloodroot; the blues are various blue berries, e.g., aronia, elder and dogwood.

 

Iron enhanced prints from Cotinus obovatus, Baptisia tinctoria and Sanguinaria canadensis.

 

Ditto, as above; blues from red cabbage and aronia berries.

 

Plus an embroidered Artist Book or two: this one is about daisies ( o how kaleyard a topic!) and incorporates embroidered imagery along with vintage textiles (o how kaleyard an art!)

Spidey below was not the only weaver in the kaleyard:
 

 

This year, Kaleyard visitors were invited to weave fibers and plants on the garden loom (hinged like a gate to the shed and painted as near to Yves Klein blue as we could manage with Home Depot paint).

 

And finally, we began to hang up some of the art we have had stashed since we moved here a year ago: blue and orange, my faves:

 

Next time, more about Artist Books and native plants for eco printing; plus some long overdue updates to my other pages here, notably the tutorials page, the eco dye references and the plants.

I also have a set of thrifted chairs that need new seat covers and a new paint job. TBD!

 

Regards from your Kaleyardist blogger

 

Wendy

 

 

August prints from native plants: Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)

Eco dyeing and printing are seasonal activities for me, closely tied to my garden's rhythms. Late summer and early fall in AgCan/USDA zones 4/5 is a period rich in accumulated plant pigments. Even though eco printing as a technique relies on the knowledge of tradional dyeing, it does not always turn up the same pigments in the dye pot as do the traditional “whole cloth, dye bath” techniques for dyeing fibres.

Furthermore, due to the nature of the eco print processes ( bundling, stacking, steaming, composting, tying, solarizing, etc.) , more than one colour may show up from one plant on a dye printed surface. This happens when the eco print processes force pigments in the plants to separate out into constituent colours on the surface of the substrate. These colour differences can often lost be when the plants are processed to extract colours by first heating them in water in a pot to make a dye bath, then processing the fibres in the dye bath to take up the colour.

I like to approach my print surfaces as if they were abstract compostions; thus, I am concerned with the interplay among colours, forms and field. The second image (rather far below) shows silk crepe de chine eco printed with a selection of native plants from my garden last week: a background lightly coloured pale- ish yellow by just a tad of goldenrod ( a few sprigs removed from the tops), a lot of coreopsis verticillata (the whole plant in bits) to give small, varied and strong red-orange marks, the blue-black berries of Aronia melanocarpa ( black chokeberry) smooshed on to contribute blue, purple and lavender areas to the field (plus the darks and lights of analagous colours, as does the coreopsis), purple sandcherry leaves for deep teal greens (not shown), and on the right, a Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quiquefolia) leaflet in its red fall colours – but scarcely any eco print from it.

This image right below shows coreopsis (red and oranges) and red cabbage (blues) on silk. The colours and distribution of forms across the field of the textile reminded me of flower paintings by Seurat and Odilon Redon- along with the orange-blue Impressionist fave colour combos. Playing with the dye outcomes is for me the most fascinating part of contact printing with plants

Back to the Virginia creeper (VC)

VC, a native vine, is not much used in the traditional dye pot, as far as I can tell. It seems to be a kind of Bait and Switch plant, flaunting spectacular red and purple fall foliage, adorned with rich bunches of black berries that birds devour; but it appears to be a Tame, Timid and Stripeless Tiger in the trad dye pot. Adrosko, Cannon, Casselman and Dean (to mention some Big Trad Dye Names, see my References page) make no mention of VC as a dye plant. Other sources do mention it but without enthusiasm: Richards and Tyrl in their book on on North American dye plants have it classified in their chapter about plants that give little or no colour, noting only a pale yellow-cream. ( I guess that is the chapter every poor dye plant dreads to be consigned to… But take heart, Virginia creepers. Eco printing is your friend.)

Daniel Moerman (in “Native American Ethnobotany” ) writes with erudition that the Kiowa Indian tribe (in Canadian usage: “First Nations” or Kiowa native peoples) obtained pink dyes from VC berries to colour feathers used in war dances.

The notion of long-term “fastness” is not generallly addressed, other than to recommend the use of the Usual Suspects as mordants. I suspect tannins and iron might help VC colour up in an eco print process more than in the trad dye pot.

The only really hopeful discussion about potential eco print colour from the VC appears in a 1986 publication entitled “Dye Plants of Ontario” from the Burr House Spinners and Weavers Guild ( see Reference page). The guild tested the vine for dye potential, using the whole plant, having gathered it in November and noting: “This vine is not known as a dye plant.”

With alum as mordant , a 6:1 plant-to-water ratio and 45 minutes in a simmering dye bath, the colour given is “butterscotch”. Other mordants were as follows: with copper, a rich tan; with iron, a golden tan. As a modifier post-dye bath, iron gave deep bronze; ammonia, a bright golden tan. Summer foliage gave ivory with an ammonia rinse, and olive greens with a vinegar rinse. No longer recommended as mordants are tin and chrome though the Burr House dyers did report their experiments with these.

Thus, with this info In mind, I plan to experiment further with the Virginia creeper as it matures in my garden and in the environs.

And after all that “learned” text above, I expect, Dear Reader, that you will be wondering when your author will finally put up the Eye Candy.

Here it is:

 

The red leaf on the right is one leaflet of the five leaflets ( the “quinque” in quinquefolia) of the Virginia creeper. But hardly any eco print at all. The reds and purples came from coreopsis and aronia berries, though of course, one could be forgiven for hoping the VC had printed thus. But we know that what we see in a leaf is not what we necessarily get on an eco printed substrate. (And I think snails ate the holes in the VC leaflet – the vine was covered in snails. )

Next, I will mess around with tannins and iron to see if an eco print can be coaxed out of the Virginia creeper. There were no iron bits, bark or tannin rich plants in the bundle shown here. Of course, I am just guessing that we could get a print from the VC in the environment of these mordants/dye assistants. TBD.

Inspiration for this post

Thanks to the edltor of the Journal for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers who asked me about fastness of dye in the Virginia creeper. That question became my research topic for today, and led me down this most interesting rabbit hole. I have been planting lots of the native Virginia creeper this summer to attract birds, to give fall colour, to cover the tattier parts of our fence and to give privacy. Perhaps VC leaves can make an interesting eco print, or perhaps the VC berries can dye some war dance feathers pink (gonna try for those pink feathers for sure but maybe will weave them into the garden loom instead of my hair. Turn swords to ploughshares, kind of.)

Meanwhile, here is a taste of some more Eye Candy in relation to future posts about dyeing with native plants. The next post will be about eco prints on silk with other native plants from my garden. See if you can guess the plants printed here:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hints: Walnut, coreopsis, sumac, aronia berries, rose, cotinus, goldenrod, purple sandcherry.

 

Until next time

 

Wendy

 

I stART the year..

…by looking back! Small wonder the god Janus is conceived as two-faced: with one face that looks back, the other that looks forward. So to look forward, I start from the experience of my 2013 Pilgrimage of Life In Art.

My pinched nerve and rotator cuff injury in early December 2013 has forced quite a few changes of plan, art-wise, for the early winter of 2014. So without 2014 work to show you just yet, for the next while I will present some images and info about my pre-2014 work, some of which has not so far made it to these pages, plus the work of some other fave artists.

My other intention, looking forward, is to update other pages on this blog, especially the info about native dye plants and links to other artists who work with bioregional plants for contact printing, wherever they might live in the world. That will indicate to you the focus of my art direction in 2014! I am looking forward to planning a new native/bioregional/pioneer plant dye garden in my new abode this summer.

Meantime, may I show you some pics of some of my 2013 Artist Books in their clamshell cases, the latter made by my husband, Shlomo? We are both members of the Canadian Book Binders and Book Artists Guild. Our chapter, the Ottawa Valley, has an exhibit of members' Artist Books at the University of Ottawa Morriset Library for a month, starting January 13. The photos of the books were taken in last summer:

Rust and maple prints:

Now this is not an Artist Book, nor do I have his permission to show the work since the unnamed artist died several centuries ago. But the image shows inspiration for my Italian eco prints and eco dyes: Umbrian frescos, decayed over time.

Below is a collection of contact prints on paper and textiles made with blue iris, part of my summer 2013 project to discover the pigment potential in blue iris blooms and the handmade paper potential of iris leaves. These works were exhibited at Portage du Fort, Quebec, as exemplars of Renaissance artist pigments and part of the Samuel de Champlain explorer festival. The display at Portage du Fort was later set up at the Ottawa School of Art. The photo shows a printed silk panel, several iris prints on paper and Artist Books of various structures including pages made with iris leaf paper, printed with iris pigment and iris ink. Clamshell case by Shlomo, papers by Wendy:

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My artist residency work in Assisi:

More of my paper and textile fresco work, this time at the public gallery of the City of Assisi in the historic Piazza Commune. The photo shows a group exhibit of work by artists in residence 2013 at Arte Studio Ginestrelle, Assisi, Umbria:

One of my Artist Books shown at the University of Ottawa this month:

And the next series of beautiful glass mosaics was made by my daughter, Sarah, using a box of leftover glass fragments given to her by Shlomo. She took a pair of glass doors in her house and fitted the panes with glass mosaic:

Here is a work by another of my fave artists, my grandson, Dylan, now aged 4.

And a final work by an unknown artist's hand, found at the flea market in Gubbio where Saint Francis tamed the wolf: showing Assisi work, though in a less popular colour, pink. Note the beautiful damask linen weave typical of linen handtowels in that region. It is wonderful to think that once, time spent on work like this was considered time well spent:

Until the next Look Forward!

Happy new year to all my readers and a special thank you to all who have subscribed as followers.

Wendy

 

OOPS!

Dear Reader,

This post finds me typing very stiffly indeed.

Last week ( foolish me, with a mind having made appointments my body should not have kept when moving boxes in our new dwelling) I injured my Sword and Pen arm via a pinched nerve in the neck, at C5 to be exact. OOOO ….tres painful. Right now, the only way I can lift my right arm is to pick it up with my left. (It's kinda funny to see. )

I have also found, to my surprise and gratification, that many of my friends and family members now have many medical degrees between them that I had heard no previous mention of until this pinched nerve.

Readers, you will, I hope understand if I am slow to blog this month as well as last (the month of our decampment from the old house to the next one. )

Even Christmas dinner 2013 might end up Italian takeout ..(hmmm, there could be benefits to this situation…)

Needless to say, no art done but I do have pics from the ecoprinting sessions I carried out in October at Mount Subasio, Umbria.

 

No more words, just a few pics. Gonna let you guess the plants and pigment sources.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The papers became pages for some of these books:

 

Season's blessings to all my readers.

 

 

Subasio Eco Prints on Paper

 

NOTA BENE:

Due to my extreme KLUTZINESS , I have posted my November 10th blog entry today down on October 14 (see below) as an “Update”.  I am afraid to mess with it in case I lose the post…so if you would like to see pics of my work in our show in Assisi, it is down in October 14!

To recover my wits and your esteem, I am posting a second entry today also – – correctly, I hope.

Here begins a series of posts showing eco prints of European Walnut, Olive, Blackberry, Dogwood, Sloe, False Acacia, Elder, Grape, Oak and others; on watercolour papers of various types and origins; using plants foraged on the higher levels of the Subasio near Assisi in Umbria; printed at the Arte Studio Ginestrelle in my outdoor “lab” accompanied at various stages by Guardian Cats along with passing wild boars, Black Scorpions, baby vipers, large porcupines, hares,  P1120628magpies, jays, butterflies and colourful moths.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above: Elder with blackberry

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Above: Dogwood with iron.

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Above: Dogwood with iron and blackberry.

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Above: Sumac with iron.

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Above: Dogwood with sumac and iron.

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Above: European Walnut with Blackberry

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Above: Walnut with iron.

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Above: Dogwood with iron.

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Above: Dogwood, iron, Blackberry

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Above: Walnut

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Dogwood, Blackberry, iron, Fennel

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Cotinus coggygria (Smokebush).

More next time!

 

 

October prints from the Subasio

So mostly photos today showing my experiments with the regional plants of the Subasio. My printing setup is a tad on the ghetto side which is what I had predicted and had planned to cooperate with. The first few prints had way too much steam puffed at them so came out rather watery. An iron wash (ferrous sulphate painted on the wimpy bits) brought out the lines and new colours. So far, I have obtained a multitude of yellows and not a few blues (from dogwood berries and blackberries) plus pinky purples from pomegranate seed juice. Browns, tans, rusts are coming along as the days of October draw closer to the end of the month and the leaves begin to turn colour. Good old cotinus gave a tad of blue, too!

 

Here are the pics from the first two weeks of textile prints ( prints on paper coming soon – they are being worked into Artist Books. I must say I have my work cut out for me to complete the projects I had intended to do…the “distractions” are many…so let us start with a few of them before we get down to eco/enviro print buisiness:

Brunellschi's Dome (Il Duomo) in nearby Florence:

 

 

 

Mount Subasio view:

 

Assisi with pilgrims:

 

Studio visitor:

 

Fuzzy photo, sorry: Balckberry leaves and fruit, cotinus, oak and iron:

 

Detail of above:

 

Juglans regia (European walnut) on the Studio's vintage sheets:

 

Cornus sanguinea (Dogwood) leaves and berries with dried Sunflowers:

 

Cotinus coggygria (Smokebush), dogwood berries and iron on cotton:

Cotinus, pomegranate, dogwood berries and leaves on vintage cotton:

 

The cotton collection:

 

Silk organza soaking up the rust juice from the rust-printed papers; white wine vinegar at 6% acid on rusty iron bits,

 

The iron mordanted silk organza (from home) with cotinus and dogwood (berries):

Others in the silk organza collection:

 

With pomegranate and dogwood berries:

Random print: blue from dogwood berries, yellows from the leaves, browns too.

 

Next time:

Eco printed papers for Artist Books and prints on vintage handwoven linen from the monthly flea market in Assisi. Could not resist the linen…

 

Pax et Bonum to all my readers- the beautiful Franciscan blessing

 

Wendy