Sunday, February 28

Text/ Textile(?) Final Roundup

The closing reception for Text/Textile was held this afternoon at DaVinci Art Alliance. It's been a fantastic month, with a gathering for the exhibition every weekend throughout February despite the brutal weather we've been having here in Philadelphia. I thank Kathryn Pannepacker (the curator) and David Foss (the current director at DaVinci) for spending so many hours sitting the gallery and for making this show a success!

So, I thought I'd do a final roundup and share some of the pieces I haven't yet spoken in depth about. This group of artists really push the concept of "Textile" by using materials not normally associated with fiber arts. The field of Fiber Art is an expansive and inclusive one, and we cannot limit our notion of fiber to thread or fabric.Both of these works by Caroline J. Maw-Deis explore quilt patterns but use commercial packaging (above) and soda can aluminum (below) instead of fabric as the material. Instead of stitches, glue and nails hold the pieces together. These pieces descend from quilt traditions, but are no longer textiles.. they are text tiles. I think it's interesting how Caroline's choice of material reflects our current consumer culture, which drowns out our past traditions and values. I first met Caroline at a Philadelphia Handweaver's Guild workshop I taught on Color Theory in Textiles last Spring. Based on her website (click link above) and the evidence in these pieces, color is an important aspect of her artistic exploration.Speaking of quilt traditions, Francine Strauss is another artist who spins quiltmaking in her piece "Pondering the Possibilities". I'm not sure exactly what possibilities she's pondering, but it certainly seems like she's pushing the possibilities of the quilt. Her piece is dense in both physical and visual layers: fabrics, applique, painting, stitching, found object, print text, pattern, and color. When does a quilt become a painting? When does a painting become a quilt? You might look at Lesley Haas' work and question- "Textile"? For those of you who don't know, paper IS a fiber, and therefore falls under the great Fiber Arts umbrella. The fiberness of paper is more evident in Lesley's alphabet piece, above. I assume this piece was created by laying a freshly pulled sheet of handmade paper over a mold, creating interesting contrast between the hard edged mold areas and the drapey natural border. By choosing the alphabet, traditional samplers are referenced. Below is Lesley's "Text" collage, a compendium of scrolled found papers with various found objects like keys hanging from the frame. The scrolled papers create a sense of mystery- glimpses of text and color lure the eye, but remain hidden within the scroll. Instead of handmade paper, this piece uses recycled/found paper and links it to the many other pieces in the show that included found objects.
I've written about Lesley's work before, but today was the first time I'd ever met her. It's great to finally meet the personality behind the work.
Patricia Doran's work was one that explored the art of the found object. Her 2 quilt/object pieces were chock-full of the ephemera and detritus of life. The image above with detail below, "Thoughts Assault My Peaceful Sleep", shares how she feels about the accumulating stuff that litters our lives. I'm intrigued by her use of the netting to physically trap all the objects, but to also represent a mental filter for all the stuff.Patricia's piece "City Sidewalk" was more literal and gritty, filled with the unaltered litter of the streets in a sort of trompe l'oeil. The objects do not transcend their place, but bring the textile down to join them.My own work in the show explored the found object, but my attempt was to transform the objects I found glittering in the gutter to appreciate their forms and incorporate them with thread and fabric much like a beaded embroidery would be.
By using the objects found along my path, the images become connected to place and time... for me anyway.

I hope you've enjoyed my descriptions and experience of the Text/Textile exhibit. Although the works no longer grace the walls of DaVinci Art Alliance, there will be another chance to see them assembled in a May exhibit that will be held at Some Things Looming, a brand new fiber-focused gallery in Reading, PA. They are launching the gallery with a grand opening on the weekend of March 13-14th. If you're in the Reading area, check it out!

Saturday, February 27

Working in the Night Studio

It's been a lovely rare day when all three of us had a day off, no classes, no work, no school thanks to a snow storm. The snow storm was so mild it didn't prevent us from going out, so I persuaded my not-so-artsy family to come with me to the Fabric Workshop Museum to see the Cai Guo Qiang exhibit before it disappeared. Check it out.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed our time spent en famille, I'm also happy to spend time in the studio. So when everyone's off to bed, I get to be creative. I decided to try out a snow-dye experiment that was introduced to us in class the other day. We were told to lay a screen over a catch-bucket, crumple some pre-soda-soaked fabric over the screen, pile snow on top of the fabric, and then pour dye concentrate over the snow like a giant snow-cone. I used lemon yellow and jet black MX dye on a piece of cotton and a piece of silk, both prepared beforehand in a soda ash bath and dried. Hopefully I'll get some interesting greens in this too. Mother nature so wonderfully provided the snow within reach of my basement studio window, and I didn't even have to go outside!
That whole process will be allowed to melt over night, and I'll show you the results later. The rest of the night has been spent on french knots! I love french knots.

Friday, February 26

More Kantha

You may remember I posted about the Kantha exhibit at the PMA back in January. Well Hand-Eye just wrote a wonderful article about it as well. Check it out!

Thanks to Donna for the link!

Wednesday, February 24

I don't want to write a paper, I just want to stitch

Why is it I have plenty to say on the topic of embroidery but my brain is so unwilling to focus on Human Development? And I'd much rather have a needle in my fingers right now and am avoiding the pencil. Such a procrastinator I am.
Check out today's endeavors:In Stitch and Surface I had my students start a fabric collage project using the fabrics they had monoprinted last week. First I had them do a magazine collage to get into the rhythm. They all filled an 8x10, which we critiqued, and then horror of horrors! I made them cut up their magazine collage into a tighter composition. It was daring but an excellent move. It really pushed their design skills and I believe their fabric projects will be much better as a result.
The photo above shows my demo piece. I showed them various applique styles: kantha, raw edge, turned edge, fused, and reverse. This sample illustrates the reverse applique technique. There's a lovely stash of fabrics in my classroom from which I grabbed the pink sprigged and the black&white print for my fabric sandwich. I've got the first ring turned and need to clip and turn the second ring.
I had a mixed substrate and handsewing project assigned for this Thursday in my digital print class. Handpiecing and sewing through plastic is not very fun, and I have the callouses to prove it. I really need to pull out a thimble, it's getting ridiculous. I think this piece is done, but I may go back into the image and pick out some of the maplines for a more quilted effect. There's a little bit of embroidery in this one, black stitched over the word "Kensington". Apparently this area used to be humming with textile industry. There's an old building nearby with the faded painted words "Ribbon Factory" near my house. This piece is sort of nostalgic for the old industrial production of my neighborhood- lost to technology.
All my work on the binding tonight might be in vain, though. We're bracing for another massive snowstorm here. They've already announced public school closings, but not a word from the university yet. Maybe I won't have to have this finished by tomorrow after all! Or write that blasted paper!

Sunday, February 21

framing a piece quick-like

Last night I completed an embroidery piece that I had to drop off for an exhibition this afternoon. I've always done my own framing, and there are a variety of ways I do it. I thought I'd share one method with you. I went to AC Moore (my local chain of art and craft supply stores) and purchased a plain black 10x10 wood frame for about $15, and came home to frame as fast I could to meet my deadline.

Supplies: my artwork (wrinkle-free!), a frame with glass removed, a piece of foamcore cut to fit, backing board, quilt batting, needle, and strong thread (I used heavy-duty polyester all-purpose).

First, I cut my batting with one piece slightly smaller than the other and created a sandwich of foamcore, small batting piece, large batting piece.

Second I flipped the batting/foamcore sandwich over onto the back of my artwork, arranging it to fit within the borders of the image.

Third I cut a long length of thread, threaded my needle and began lacing two of the edges of my fabric together. I take a small stitch parallel to the edge about 1/2 an inch from the edge. If the stitch is too close to the edge and your fabric is loosely woven, it may pull the warp and weft fibers apart. You need to go far enough into the fabric to have some pull. When I reached the end, I went back and plucked each zigzag stitch tighter, just like lacing a corset. I went back and plucked 4-5 times to ensure even tension before securing the last stitch, and I checked the face of the artwork to make sure there were no off bubbles or distortion.
Fourth I zig-zag laced the other two sides, slightly folding in the corners like giftwrap so they wouldn't hang over the edge. After stitching all the way down the row, I again went back to pluck and tighten each crossover stitch several times to ensure even tension.

I doublechecked the face of the artwork to see if it was smooth enough before knotting the last stitch. At this point you can slightly adjust the edges of the image to match the edges of the foamcore in case it slipped out of place.

Now the bound artwork/foamcore sandwich can be popped into your glass-less frame. If you want your work behind glass you should have at the very least a matboard frame to prevent your fabric from touching the glass, as moisture can build up behind the glass and ruin your artwork. I wanted my fabric exposed and without glass this time (oh it's a huge debate and so hard to decide how to frame a textile. For you purists, I know this is not the absolutely ideal way to do it, but I have a lifespan and so will my art.).
Next the card backing that came with the frame gets inserted into the back and the metal tabs are folded back down to keep everything together.
Next get a package of wire & eyescrews to wire your picture. I bought this little package from the supermarket for less than $2. The frame came with a sawtooth hanger and little nails, but most galleries won't accept artwork with sawtooth hangers. The eyescrews are a bit tricky to maneuver, and it helps to get the hole started by tapping the screw with a hammer. You want your wire to be at about 1/4 to 1/3 of the distance from the top. If it's too far down, the piece will hang forward from the wall. Also keep the wire pretty tight, not too much slack, also to prevent forward tilt when hung.

The last step is to sign, title, and date the work on the back. I also like to include a medium description. Sometimes I tape a business card on the back (but I'm out of those!). I like this style of framing because the batting causes the image to puff up slightly from the frame. Part of me feels like textiles should be presented to allow people to appreciate their tactile nature and for the light to interact with the surface. Although having a piece behind glass helps protect it from air and dust, it also removes the piece from the viewer a bit. I will always be torn.
This image is a digital print on cotton of a scanned watercolor self-portrait appliqued to linen with additional applique of a crocheted doily. The text and details in the hair and scarf are embroidered in whipped chain, chain, backstitch, and running stitch.

The text is taken from Psalm 139, my very favorite psalm, which matches the contemplative look of the portrait. There's some subtext too- the crocheted doily comes from my inlaws and the contrast of the doily and the text represents the conflict of being in an interfaith marriage.
This piece will be on display at International House, 3701 Chestnut street opening March 8th, 7pm.
Here are the details:
Philadelphia Women's Caucus for Art Chapter exhibition sponsored by International House Philadelphia, CARE USA, Women’s Campaign International, United Nations Association of Greater Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania’s African Studies Center, Center for East Asia Studies, South Asia Center, Middle East Center, Penn Women’s Center. Event is part of One Book, One Philadelphia (Persepolis).

Friday, February 19

Studio update

My first dye project is due on Monday, so I've been pretty busy in the studio this week. I'm really enjoying the stitch-resist shibori. Below is my silk piece which used machine stitching for the loops up top, handstitching along the border between top and bottom, and bound resist for the lower circles. This one used acid dye and thiox discharge on silk.I'm not quite done with the one below. I've been struggling with it because the thiox discharged my avocado green to an unsightly yellow. It has wood-grain mokume resist at the top, bound resist in the bottom green circles, and stitch resist shapes for the dark splotches. I think it needs one more dark splotch crossing into the woodgrain texture. This piece uses MC Procion dye and thiox discharge on cotton.In digital printing I have to come up with some way to combine the 4 prints below. Hmm... embroidery anyone?

Wednesday, February 17

Sixteen Candles x2 + some shibori!

Today is my birthday! It's been a lovely day and I don't want to ruin it with too many words. First the long awaited results of my arashi piece that was getting clamped and overdyed:
It's okay, but I decided on something different for my official project.

Next, the wonderful news that I passed my Praxis I exams and am now one step closer to being a certified teacher!

And third, the breathtakingly beautiful process which is sculptural shibori... Enjoy:Silk organza was pleated, stitched down the sides and then origami folded. Each fold got stitched down as well, as organza is a tricky thing to work with.The resulting stack of triangles was clamped between 2 wooden blocks a bit larger than the package and acid dyed in navy with the temperature raised above 200 degrees (thus causing the silk to hold the shape memory)The clamp dyeing caused only the edges of the triangle stack to get dyed. I liked how the folds created a little "book".The fabric dried still in its clamped/folded shape. When dry, I removed the binding threads, which left behind the slight needle pricks in the edges.
When unfolded it revealed...this lovely, trellised, geometric, angular, delicate...
sculptural shibori piece which will forever hold it's shape. This satisfies every aesthetic bone in my body. It's been a great day. And I'm happy.

Monday, February 15

Text/Textile Whimsy

Being involved in art education coursework means I spend a lot of time talking about children's artwork. Today the big debate was whether the artistic efforts of children were really art or not and how children's art and adults' art differed. It seems especially relevant when adults use a child-like aesthetic in their artwork. So today, it seems right to look at 2 works in the Text/Textile show that dance with child-like themes or aesthetics and yet hold adult meanings.Beverly Godfrey's "Tic-tac-toe" takes me back to all the times I had to pass the time with my sisters while my parents were in some meeting or other. It also makes me think about the moment when you figure out that the game is incredibly simple and will usually result in a draw. (Unless you're playing against someone younger and/or stupider than you.) It was probably tic-tac-toe that gave me an insatiable competitiveness when game-playing. I prefer strategy over chance. I like the contrast between the very fast/simple game and the incredibly long tapestry process. The game is deceivingly simple. Check here for some more images of Beverly's handiwork (scroll down to 2nd article) These knitted postcards by Nora Renick Rinehart entitled "Knit Communications" remind me of days long ago when I'd try to squeeze as much writing onto a postcard as I could to save a few cents on postage. Now we write emails and text messages instead. Nora's knit pieces at first appear like cartoons of postcards with their bold colors and zigzag "addresses" and start out with traditional "Wish you were here" sentiments. But then they lure you into their quiet desperation, the writer never receiving a response. Now I question, are they on display on the part of the recipient practically getting stalked? Or are they postcards never sent because the author knows how desperate they sound? Now I also wonder if there is an image on the other side... my good gallery-visitor training told me not to pick them up. Like Beverly's time contrast of quick game vs. tedious tapestry, Nora's postcards appear to be swift missives, but must have taken hours and hours to complete. Aha! I just found her blog with a related post.

I've recovered my USB cord, so I envision lots of posting in my future....

Sunday, February 14

Embroidery at Text/Textile

Since the Text/Textile show is an exhibit of fiber art, there are many techniques on display. Of course, as an embroidery artist myself, I'm always drawn to the stitched work. Today I'll share 3 artists whose embroidered work was impressive.
Maryann Laverty's work "Pre-Text", above, combines handwoven silk, nuno felting, and embroidery. I saw this work in an earlier incarnation during a Philadelphia Handweaver's Guild meeting. At that point it was just the woven white silk with areas of black patterned weaving and long float areas of raw warp. Leaving the unwoven sections allowed for a more cohesive felt process, and her use of the earthy wool color cut the high black/white contrast of the weaving. It was a surprise, then to see that this piece had shifted away from "scarfness" and become cut, embroidered, and mounted like artifacts onto stretched black fabric. The upper sections of branch elements and the lower section's dotted lines are embroidered and create the impression of mapped terrain, rivers, and routes to follow, such as pre-literate societies might have made on cave walls or leather hides. It's been several years since Maryann took an embroidery class of mine, and I'm excited to see where she has taken her skills!
The embroideries of Pat DiPaula Klein are sampler-like in format, but contain a symbology that is a mystery to me. I feel like we've moved up a few millenia from Maryann's cave wall maps to see registers of Sumerian Cuneiform... According to her artist statement, the work was inspired by a college drawing professor years ago who told her that "the work in the margins is better", and the forms are inspired by a highschool shorthand study. I feel like I could look at these for a long time and remain entranced, puzzling meanings and creating interpretations. For more of her work look here. Jeannie Moberly's "Replaced Involving We" is a triptych of papier-mache framed embroideries (I only have shots of 2 of the 3 though). I mentioned before that the frames bother me, but I think it's because they create a very deep shadow that overwhelms and obscures the delicate stitching. Once I get to the stitching, though, I fall in love. Jeannie has a distinctive mark and way of building texture. Her color is subtle and makes you follow texture in order to decipher and discover form. Perhaps I'm being impatient with the work and need to take more time to absorb how the text and imagery inform each other. For more of her work look here. Text/Textile is not the only fiber event in town right now. Check out FiberArt Philadelphia for more listings.

Saturday, February 13

closer look at Text/Textile

I stopped by DaVinci Art Alliance this afternoon after teaching my Fleisher class to take a closer look at some of the pieces in Text/Textile. For those who missed the opening last Sunday, a second reception will be held tomorrow, Sunday the 14th from 1-5. Today I'd like to share 2 artists whose work hits you over the head with the "Text" theme, but which also had unusual use of materials.
Janelle Adamska's piece "4th Generation" is the first piece you see when entering the gallery. The text is screenprinted onto some sort of scrim and then negative areas surrounding the letters have been selectively burned away, leaving behind a lacy, shadowy piece. The edges curl in, hugging the area before it, and the light shines through the words casting shadows. The combination of material and light creates a sculptural effect one doesn't normally associate with screenprinted works. It reminds me a bit of Piper Shepard's work. Unfortunately Janelle did not have an artist's statement available, but I believe she is either a student or an alumna of Moore College of Art and Design (my alma mater).

The other artist I'd like to share today is Constance Old, who created these rug-hooked works out of plastic bags and other ephemera. I believe her "Floats" piece refers to the plastic material, and possibly to the plastic island that's building in the Pacific Ocean. I like these pieces for their bright colors, dense surfaces, and innovative use of rug-hooking. This may be the first time I've really seen a truly contemporary rug-hooked work of art. A nice surprise was to come home and find this feature on Constance's work on Hand-Eye. So I'll let them do the heavy writing and let you click on over for a good read and more pictures of her work.
I hope to share more throughout the week. I'd better go do some stitching or I may succumb to snow-induced cabin fever. Thank God I got out for a little while today...