I'm super fortunate to have a roof top deck overlooking the forest. When the hot weather finally arrives where I live, it’s time for me to start dyeing and painting cloth!
This process means hauling cloth, buckets, various chemicals, and dyes up to the roof top. Not only does the deck have ample space for me to work, but when I’ve finished making my marks, or simply mixing the dye into containers, the extended sun exposure means the heat works to activate the chemical bonding reaction needed to fix dye particles to the cloth.
This year, I want to explore different types of marks, and to do more layering of colour and texture. I’m also trying to expand my palette beyond blue, grey, and more blue! We’ll see at the end of the season how successful I was, but on my initial session, I managed to create two green pieces of cloth (the proof is on my Instagram feed)!
The last few months have brought quite a few changes for me. I started the year by changing tracks at my corporate employment from working as a software engineer to working as a Business Systems Analyst. Even though I’m still working on the same team, the role is so different that I’ve basically had to deconstruct the way I’ve worked for the last 35 years and build myself a completely new framework. The pace is frantic, and most of the time I feel like I’m on the edge of control. I love my new team, I like learning new things and I like to be busy so it’s very satisfying.
I’m about to leave the beautiful co-working studio/gallery space I’ve been at for the last 18 months. I love my studio, and the community there, but for a number of reasons, it’s time for me to move on. This weekend I’m moving to Studio Southwynde, my home studio. It will be easier for me in many ways as being out in the world is a challenge for me in terms of managing my physical balance. I’m a little leary as my tendency to overdo it is always ready to overtake my logical reasoning of when to stop. On the other hand, I will need to find new ways for my art to be seen in the world.
Lastly, my eldest son is moving home at the end of his university semester. His younger brother and I will welcome him here of course, and we’ll work through the adjustments of three sharing our cozy home. So much for his bedroom becoming my studio!! Through it all I will continue to make the art which has become central to my being in so very many ways. I suspect you will be seeing quite a few new pieces in my Balance series!
photo credit Michele Mateus Photography
Before I begin a new textile painting, I have some sense of what I want to try to say in the piece. Sometimes I draw a rough sketch of the idea, or use my watercolour pencils to try out colours.
As I compose and construct the piece, I work intuitively, letting my eye and brain work together to tell me what colour and what texture to choose next. When I cut the pieces of cotton fabric, I let my hand guide the rotary cutter in gentle curving lines, each piece an organically shaped thin rectangle.
Often times I’ll reach a point in the piece where I think to myself – this piece is terrible, it’s not going to come together, it’s a mish mash of nothingness. When I fall into that state of mind, I take myself out of my studio, out into the main gallery area, where I can look in thru the windows to my studio, but with the long perspective. From this place, I can usually see the redeeming qualities of the piece, and gather up the courage to go back to the studio, and keep making.
Like so many things in life, looking at the situation from a different perspective makes all the difference!
I’ve just started working on Balance #21, after choosing a palette of pale greens, blues and greys for the background, and turquoise, teal, and deep blue fabrics for the foreground pieces. I have an idea of what the final composition will look like, but the piece is created row by row, responding intuitively to what is on the design wall before me. Each piece is individually cut by hand, each piece an organically shaped rectangle, custom shaped to the pieces around it. A variable number of these pieces make up each row. Each row is sewn to the previous row until finally the surface layer of the piece is complete.
After the surface layer is completed, a piece of cotton fabric is taped to a flat surface, then a piece of bamboo and cotton batting is laid on the cotton, and finally, the surface layer of the artwork is laid on top of the previous two layers. These three layers are then pinned together with safety pins so no shifting occurs during the next step. Once the layers are together, thread colours are chosen to suit the artwork and the work of stitching in the texture begins.
After the texture stitching is completed, there are several hundred thread ends to pull thru to the back of the artwork, knot, and pull thru into the batting layer to secure the thread. Next, facings, hanging sleeves and a label are added. Finally a piece of wood slat is cut to fit the hanging sleeve for the piece.