November Studio

It is the last day of November and the day of Saint Andrew, patron of Scotland ( Greece, too) and all Scots, even those like me from Orkney! Time to report on the month's art activities, though I will not be done writing before midnight Ottawa time; still, somewhere to the west of me it will still be Saint Andrew's Day.

But first, a goodbye to the colours of autumn in The Kaleyard, last seen in the early weeks of a milder-than-expected eleventh month:

Sumac and amelanchier:

Potted amaranth and kale:

A late assortment of fall colours, some from October:

The last one is the perennial geranium, a sturdy plant, green under the snow and trusty provider of colour in the eco print pot.

Here are some papers printed this month with geranium ( and cotinus)

A smaller geranium, greened by iron/rust in the dye pot:

…and cotinus: the little flecks of pink are lovely and most likely to show up at this time of the seasons.

Cotinus: Charcoaled by iron/rust neighbours in the bundle:

Geranium, two varieties, blackened and greened with iron/rust but still holding on to yellows:

As you might notice in the work of eco printers, yellow is a frequent colour. Some despair is possible.

But take heart, Dear Dyer. A solution is available from colour theory. ( As well as from some post- print tinkering- though not discussed here today – like touching up the colour with other dyes, paints or modifiers like iron liquor or copper liquor or ammonia. And no, post-print touching-up is not a ticketable offence according to me. You are the artist, and you get to do what you like with your art, especially in the establishing of your own purposes and the safe and rationale means of achieving them. )

Thus: To get the most of my yellows from season to season ( when they change value and even hue) I like to pair them with some strongly contrasting colours that can act as foils. In these prints, the contrasts come via rusty prints and cotinus; both leaves are tannin- rich that give deep charcoal or black in the environment of iron, and also some greens. Yellow and black are pretty powerful together.

And next, some more rust prints on paper, this time with indigo and tannins from tea: also powerful contrasts.

 

Winter wools are on my list of textiles for dyeing, and this year I am trying for that famous and popular ( but non-native hereabouts) eye-popping eucalyptus red introduced to us by our DownUnder Diva of Dyes, India Flint. I have a lot of dried euca around the studio saved from supermarket bouquets and welcome those Green Immigrants to the dye plant stash. Bundled with Prunus virginiana and immersed in a walnut dye bath ( Juglans nigra) prepared in a crockpot with the heat set to “low” and left overnight, some of my wool fragements look like this:

Don't the colours look familiar?

The prunus gave the teal greens and even purple, while the euca gave ranges of reds and orange with a tad of yellow. Of course, the walnuts give rich brown on wool ( though much paler on linen) So here, we get the power of analagous colours in teams beside colour complements in the red and green.

 

My most recent project this month was with Dylan, my wee grandson, aged six. We have done lots of painting and stamping and so forth on big sheets of paper, using a very basic palette of cadmium yellow medium, cobalt blue and some kind of red (we lost control of the inventory – most likely the red was cad. red) plus a nice metallic gold. Those paintings mount up – kids are decisive and prolific painters and do not hang about obsessing over the next brushstroke as we adults might tend to do. i heartily recommend a session with a six year old to get you out of your Art Rut. Just try keep up with that kid! But what to do with all our paintings as they piled up?

I hit on a plan to keep the works but to make them easier to store and fun, too. We will make books and boxes, said I!

So we have been making books and boxes from each single sheet painting, working with origami-type folds and no glue. This is an ongoing project, so today I am sharing just a few. The first is a wee box made in the style of the compartments in the Chinese Thread And Needle Case that I completed earlier this year.

For this one, Dylan and I stamped the paper with wooden Oshiwa blocks ( also reported on my blog in the past) and carved Indian textile blocks:

Others we made from painted papers:

 

And a larger box from some of my above-described geranium-cotinus prints:

 

 

If you want to try these boxes yourself, keep the ratio of the paper three times the size of the finished box; thus, the 'Geranium' box started with an 18″ square piece of paper and folded down to six inches and a tad as a box.

Here are some pics of a box under construction, to refresh your memory for the folding sequences: as you can see, you need to fold the large square of paper into a nice grid. The centred square (fold) is the bottom of the box when all the folds are in place. Two boxes fit on top of each other to make one box with a lid.

 

 

Next time, some more art from the studio with my young apprentice, who, bye the bye, was able to anticipate the next fold in his box as we went along…so you can do it, too! And it's a good time of the year to make gift boxes!

i shall likely post again about the art- from-grandkids' paintings sooner than I might otherwise do – I am grounded this week after a wee bit of surgery to my foot! But the mind keeps travelling, Dear Reader…and the hands can still move.

The blessings of Saint Andrew's Day on ya'all!

 

Wendy

 

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Indigo blues et amaranth reds in August

A busy month so far! Art, gardens, travels, guests…

Brooklyn and Manhattan in late July, early August were HOT! Ottawa, too.

But refuge was close: The Brooklyn Botanical Garden, and in particular, the native plants garden, were ripe with goldenrod and black-eyed susan:

 

We were there In Brooklyn for these two beauties, giving the little mama a break and a bit of time for a nap – Mr. Zev is no sleeper! So a walk every day with the Grandies in the botanical garden was heaven for all concerned. Don't you love the tie Zev is wearing on top of his onesie? Smiles to light up your heart!

 

Earlier in the summer, we paid a visit to the grave of one of my dear friends at Madonna House in Combermere, Ontario. The beautiful chapel there is alive with icons, painted by a member of the community. I am making a little book in memory of Martha and her garden.

 

Not long after, West, our grandson's kitty stayed over for a few days. Here you see West taking his ease after his brave but fruitless night-long vigil at the mousehole in our kitchen floor. Dylan's mama found West (he was nine months old ) at the animal shelter and just had to take him home. West had arrived injured when about six weeks old, and most adopters were afraid to take him on – but not Dylan's mama. Looking pretty comfy, isn't he?

 

The August garden is full and lucious with colour still but, dear Reader, my “kaleyard” this year needs to be renamed the “amaranth yard”! This year, I planted the black 'Lacinato' kale in a pot along with what I thought were two dwarf red amaranth ( I got the seeds from a hippy seed seller and I forget the name of the variety) but which have turned out to be extremely ambitious and quite bumptious imposters, size-wise; they are reaching ever-skyward and thus dwarfing the usually-giant kale! OOOPs! And it is here to stay. The amaranth will self seed copiously around the whole neighbourhood- its tiny seed becomes windborne quite easily. I am growing it mainly for dye; even if it is not the famous Hopi red amaranth, it may yield some dye anyway…I did have a red amaranth (variety unkown) for many years in my other garden and it gave me a lasting pink.

Some other dye sources: this year, blue cornflower and yellow calendula. Monarda didyma “Cambridge Scarlet” , Coreopsis verticillata 'Zagreb' and 'Route 66', chartreuse smokebush and yellow black-eyed susan:

 

 

 

 

Studio time this month has been taken up with prep for the annual West End Studio Tour. Indigo and rust will be featuring large on the displays. This year, I will show rust, indigo and tannin monotypes on paper and cloth wall pieces: eco dyed and printed silk scarves, artist books and small art cards. A selection follows:

Rusted paper and cloth with indigo and tannins ( plants, too):

Indigo, rust and tannin on paper. One of six larger works.

Laying out the monotype print:

 

A stack of printed cloth and papers:

I made some cast paper dyed with indigo and painted with acrylics for my books:

 

 

Eco dyed scarves:

'

An older rusted linen work, embroidered and two-sided:

Some scarf prints:
 

Some eco prints on paper and cloth:

Off the country again tomorrow to meet up with the other grandchildren and to usher out August.

I am taking my wildfower books, my sewing kit and my hapazome hammers. Flower pounding! Kids LOVE it! Can you guess the plants Dylan and I pounded?

 

 

 

April Adieux

At the start of the month of April, the Kaleyard was not without some ragged post-winter charm:

Kaleyard_march2015

After the spring clean-up:

CleanKaleyradSpring2015Meanwhile, the indoor dye garden is growing.

First. Japanese indigo (Persicaria tinctoria). I layered the long stems to encourage rooting at the nodes of the one plant that survived the winter indoors (most of them dried out while we were away in January, no reflection on the plant’s vigorous survival mechanisms)

JapIndiogoPlantThe seedlings from last year’s crop of Japanese indigo seeds are appearing:

JapIndigoSeedlingsAnd perhaps some seeds have survived the rigours of the winter outside: on verra! After the winter the leaves have taken on that teal colour of the Japanese indigo that I harvested three times last year and dried.

JapIndiOutsideSeedlingsOther dye plants from saved seeds:

Baptisia australis:

BaptisiaSeedlingsTagetes pumila (Lemon Gem marigold):

LemonGemSeedlingsThe beloved black kale ‘Lacinato’:

KaleSeedlingsAnd the Indigo indigofera that I started from seed last year and kept as a pet in a pot:

IndigoPlantHere are some Indigo indigofera prints on paper with rust; the indigo is from the pre-reduced crystals:

IndigopapersSome old favourites of mine, the red amaranth that Hopi Indians used  for colour. I had them in my old garden where they self seeded abundantly; here, for my new garden which will be in its second summer in 2015 , I bought seeds:

RedAmaranthSeeddlingsAnd now as promised, here are some more images of the making of the Chinese Thread Book reported in my last post. First, better image of the first of Ruth Smith’s books on the Miao needle case:
RSmithBk1
And a second book by Ruth Smith (both sent to me by Kit Tyrrell in the UK, so kind!) on other structures similar:

RSmithBk2
Some of my trials before making the finished version. I tried several kinds of paper and book cloth before I made my own book cloth from mulberry paper and eco dyed and rusted linen tablecloth damask, recycled of course. I keep my “trials” in a project box so that I can refer back to the experiments as well as my instructions to myself for the completed work. (If you think you will remember…ha ha…):

ThreadBkTrialsMore trials:

TrialBoxAnd on leaving the cool and cruel month of April, let’s say goodbye to the lovely bloodroot which has begun dropping its white petals:

BloodrootApril2015Next time:

I am experimenting with eco dyeing on cheapo cotton knit from the auto parts store (sold for polishing cars). It comes in one metre lengths and in tubular form. At 99 cents a metre on sale…
CottonKnit

And perhaps I will get to finish the next in my ‘Botanica’ series of Artist’s Books. The next one is “BOTANICA: Gardenista”. The book is done, and I am planning the case or cover.

Last Word

I have updated my Tutorial Page with one on the basics of eco printing on paper and cloth.

Also, the Dye Plant Page has been updated; I will continue to update it as the plants allow me to photograph them! I am waiting for some of the bushes in my garden to leaf out. I prefer to use my own photos of plants in my garden and environs.

A la prochaine!

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

 

 

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