Thursday, July 30, 2009

home terrain blanket finished!!!

So, here it is. The literal fruit of my loom. A month's worth of full time work. I love it. It needs to be washed and laid flat to dry still, but other than that, it is finished. Here's the deets: handwoven using factory spun and hand spun wool (all from Atlantic Canada), all colours are natural dyed from dyes given to me or collected from my own kitchen or backyard, inlay technique to create the graph/landscapes, it measures approximately 58"wide x 88"long. It will be the centerpiece for my "Home Terrain" exhibition at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery this November, displayed horizontally (as a blanket should) on a low platform...I'm contemplating the possibility of putting objects such as sandstone rocks underneath it to create a sort of topography, like the blanket is a skin over the surface of the earth.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hundertwasser tapestries

Freidensreich Hundertwasser has been one of my favourite artists since I was introduced to images of his work about seven years ago. Better known as an architect and a painter, I recently discovered that he also created and designed tapestries. I was very excited by this new piece of knowledge, but somehow not surprised. His work has always seemed very textily to me in his use of colour and pattern. Yesterday I found some images of his tapestries online. Like his paintings, his tapestries have a wonderful sense of play and embrace the medium without forcing a carbon copy of an image through the use of a cartoon or template. He also designed pile rugs, woven by Afghan weaver Zia Udden (second image from the top), the imagery and detail amazing.

"Hundertwasser’s first tapestry 133 Pissing Boy With Sky-Scraper was woven 1952 because of a bet in which he claimed that he could weave a tapestry freehand without a cardboard template, which means without a weaving pattern the size of the tapestry. All Hundertwasser tapestries that have been executed afterwards by weavers of Hundertwasser’s choice have been created without cardboard templates."

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

keeping 10 colours organized pays off

Today I am on my last block of landscapes on my blanket. Things are moving a little slower than expected because one of my graph/landscapes has a whopping ten different colours in it. Executing all of these colours by hand, row by row, takes much longer than a straight ahead three colour inlay composition. But I really love the result and it spurs my mind on to think of the many more possibilities available when this level of complexity is used....

Monday, July 27, 2009

beautiful indigo blue

On Friday, it was rainy rainy rainy so our field trip to McNab's Island was diverted to a bus ride to Yorke Redoubt, a nineteenth century battlement at the mouth of Halifax Harbour. There we collected plants for dyeing in the rain and ate the ripening blueberries. I collected tansy, yarrow, birch bark (from a fallen tree), and a type of thistle. They are all still sitting in the fridge and I hope to process them all this week for dyeing. In the meantime, I should be finished weaving my blanket by the end of tomorrow......and I've been enjoying looking at this beautiful skein of silk that I dyed in indigo last week in Joanna's dye class. I think eventually it will turn into a scarf for fall. Down the road, I would really love to do a line of scarves coloured with all natural dyes.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

studio visit

Today I'm getting a studio visit with one of the curators from the Confederation Centre Art Gallery in Charlottetown, PEI. Pan Wendt is coming down to see what I've been busy doing for the last year or so, the body of work that will make up my exhibition Home Terrain which will take place at the gallery in November. It's quite amazing to go through my artwork and select the pieces that have been exploring my theme, seeing where I've gone before and how that work has pointed me in the direction I'm taking now. A few of my pieces were woven with a white cotton background and still have ends unfinished. Like a sampler (pictured above) I overdyed this past winter, I would like to do the same with some of these white pieces. All in all, after ironing work that has been rolled up in a box (the sad fate of so much artwork!), I have counted approximately 16 pieces for my show - not bad at all.....

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

working away

This is my third day in a row weaving on my blanket. I should be halfway through by the end of today. I'm really enjoying seeing how it's coming along, but there is always some mystery until it's removed from the loom: as I weave, the woven cloth gets wound around the front beam of the loom and I can only actually view up to ten inch widths at a time. All the colours are from various natural dyes, some locally collected, some handed down to me, and some purchased from natural dye companies. Indigo, cocheneal, spirea, onions skins, madder root, alkanet, saffron, henna - so far! I plan on doing some more dyeing this weekend after I go MacNab's Island (in the mouth of Halifax harbour) to collect plants with my friend Joanna's natural dye class from NSCAD.

Monday, July 20, 2009

blanket started

I have started the inlay work on my blanket. The graph/landscapes are the results of correlations in the answers of the population questionnaire I asked 12 friends to fill out. Done by hand through the open shed using tapestry tools, each line of inlay is inserted on top of each toss of weft to build shapes of colours. I'm constructing the inlay composition left to right. The 12 graphs are arranged in a grid, like a textile sampler.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

reasons why I love my cranbrook loom

After tying on and beaming my warp yesterday, I was finally ready to weave. This was after a week of preparing warp, weft and inlay materials, and two days of reeding and threading my loom. And once I was ready to weave, I remembered why the Cranbrook countermarche loom is the cadillac of looms and such a pleasure to work with. Big, wide shed, even with sticky one ply wool; treadles that lock into place to hold open the shed so that I can walk from side to side which is necessary with a 60" blanket and the upcoming inlay work; a hanging beater which is very forgiving and cooperates with gravity to give the weaver more control. I am also very happy with my cloth of madder root dyed warp and onion skin dyed weft. After weaving a few inches of cloth last night, today I will take the information I gathered with my own population survey (I'm making my own statistics!) and work on creating the graph/landscapes I will work into the blanket with inlay. It is such a joy to be working on my Cranbrook loom again.....

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

my amazing mother

I know it's a little late for mother's day - but shouldn't it be mother's day everyday? So, just for the sake of it, here's an ode to my mother:

My mom Janet is amazing. She is brave, intelligent, strong, warm, compassionate and beautiful - all qualities of the person I aspire to be. She accomplishes a lot every single day and always has. She has run a health food store, coordinated conferences and research projects for the betterment of women and all society, directed a rape crisis centre, raised two happy well-adjusted children, planted thousands and thousands of garlic bulbs (maybe even tens of thousands), renovated bathrooms, started a community organic garden, sat on many non-profit boards, collected lots of eel grass for garden mulch, sewed many clothes for her children and husband, and been unconditionally enthusiastic about all of my artistic endeavors...and so much more. In August, I will be the same age my mother was when she conceived me at the age of thirty and a half. I am one who keeps track of these things - I must admit I have an attraction to numbers and proportions. The age my mother was as a single mom when she had me has always been a milestone in my head, and now that I'm almost there, it's got me thinking about the trajectory of her life and my own.

In two weeks, my younger brother is moving to California to be with his lady love. My brother, my dad and my mom will all come down to Halifax the day before his flight so we can all be together as a family before he leaves. California is far, but I am excited for him. It might take some adjusting on my parents' part as he's been an amazing support over the past year and a half while he's lived at home. I am very happy to be closer to my family and my mom now that we are living in Halifax - it is a short three and a half hour drive away and it means many more frequent visits in both directions.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

warp and weft

Yesterday I reeded my Cranbrook loom with my madder warp for my blanket project. Today, between some experimental dyeing, I am threading the warp using an altered goose eye pattern. My weft was left overnight in an onion skin dyebath and is now drying on the line. I like seeing these two images together and seeing the relationship that will develop between the two colours when they weave together in pattern. Subtle, yes, but warm and gentle and slightly vulnerable colours - perfect for blanket cloth.

Monday, July 13, 2009

July weekend

This past weekend was a big one for Halifax. Paul McCartney played an huge outdoor concert on Saturday night on the Commons, a large open area in the center of the city. Joel Plaskett, the hometown hero, opened for him. Damien and I made out way up Citadel hill to hear the music and watch all the people. It was pretty amazing to hear Joel Plaskett's music echoing off the city in the evening sunlight and watching all of those perched on the hill to catch the tunes singing along to every word. The photos above are of the intersection in the chaos before Paul started playing and the crowds starting to gather for a free listen on Citadel Hill. I think upwards of 50,000 people bought tickets (not us - they were very expensive tickets). Paul was fantastic - playing a lot of Beatles songs (this is the closest I will ever get to a Beatles concert!) and keeping everyone inside and outside the concet grounds very happy. What an amazing feeling to bike home through the crowds singing along with everyone else to songs we all know sooo well.

Aside from the hoopla and the crowds of the weekend, I did some prep work for dyeing yesterday. Collecting a flowering shrub from the back of our yard and processing it by seperating the flowers from the leaves and stems. I will let them simmer over the next couple of days and see what happens. I haven't been able to pin down what kind of plant it it yet though - but I'm sure I will get some colour for my handspun inlay yarn! I also took out more warp wool that had been sitting in a madder dyebath all weekend, and I love the fleshy salmon colour, slightly more saturated than my first madder dip last week. I saved the soaked, chopped madder root and am letting them dry on a piece of watercolour paper to see how they stain the paper.

Friday, July 10, 2009

summer is back

radishes and pea plants growing, flowers blooming.
wool drying - first quick madder dye bath dip gives a salmon pink.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

basket of yarn, basket of potential

I've been spinning wool the last two days. It's amazing to see my pile of yarn growing. I have three natural colours of fleece: white (from NL), gray (from Scotland), and dark brown (from NL). As I'm spinning, I'm thinking about colour and how I want the colour to be organized in this blanket project. Maybe have the background wool of the warp and weft dyed with the warm orange and yellow of madder and onion skins while keeping the pallette of the landscape/graphs limited, overdyeing the natural grays with acid dyes.....I will have to do some colour study sketching. And on another note: I woke up to sun today for the first time in a long time (weather has been very crappy lately in the Maritimes - frost in July!?) and it is glorious!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

surrendering to process with joy

I spent yesterday spinning wool fleece for my Home Terrain blanket project. The one-ply yarn I'm creating will be dyed and used for inlay in my graph/landscape compositions. All the wool I'm using comes from Newfoundland and PEI. I have also been experimenting with carding and spinning in bits of yarn scraps from my scarf production, inspired by the hand-spun wool of Robyn Love and Shawn O'Hagan and the desire to integrate the material flotsam and jetsam of my own (income generating) work into this project.

After a day on Monday of feeling a little panicky about diving into two months of art (exciting but scary), yesterday I realized I simply must surrender to process and let process and the contemplation that accompanies the time it takes to complete each step determine the structure of my days and the decisions that will arise. So I am spinning spinning spinning, in preparation for dyeing. And while I spin, I am imagining the possibilities that will come further down the line without having to make any quick decisions, trusting that when the time comes, a natural resolution will arise from days of repetitive action and creative contemplation. Important decisions are almost always 90% contemplation and 10% action.

For inspiration, I found this deceptively simple cloth at Value Village the other day. Probably handwoven in a Central or South American country, I love the use of inlay, a technique that is central to my art practice. In this case they used the inlay to create an amazingly effective linear, directional pattern.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


I am processing madder root for my first batch of natural dyeing for my Home Terrain blanket project. Yesterday, in my giant stone mortar and pestle, I ground the madder root that was given to me years ago by PEI weaver Christine Stanley. I've soaked it over night in water and will let it simmer for a bit today before straining off the roots from the liquid. With the little bit of natural dyeing I've done, I've learned that it is all one big experiment, with many varied results. I've seen different recipes for processing madder root for dyeing, and one even said to let it soak for a whole month. Though I am a patient person, I don't have that much time! So, I'm improvising and creating my own process.

When I was home on PEI this past weekend, my mother actually had a little madder plant seedling for me, given to her by a fellow gardener - sadly, I forgot to take it back to Halifax with me! Madder is a leafy perennial that can be grown in our climate. It takes about 2-3 years of growth before the roots can be dug up for processing as a dyestuff. It is an ancient dye material and can produce reds (rare in plant dyes), oranges, pinks and corals. I'm excited to see what I can get!

Monday, July 6, 2009

bluegrass weekend

What a lovely past week. And before I start in on switching gears from scarves to artwork in my weaving, I thought I would post some photos from the weekend's most recent adventures. Damien and I drove to PEI to visit with friends and family and spent the weekend at the PEI Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival in Rollo Bay. Damien's parents go every year, but this was our first time. Our good buddies Mille and Dan came along for the adventure too. The weather was very moody, often gray, and surprisingly chilly for the beginning of July. But when the sun did break through the clouds, it was magic.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

canada day

Yesterday I picked up a rental car that I've got for week. The first adventure was a trip out to my friends Dennis' and Melanie's house on Heckman's Island, close to Lunenburg. They hosted a big birthday/Canada Day party and potluck for friends, family and neighbors. The live in this great little cottage turned winterized house on a inlet in cottage country south of Halifax. Dennis is an old friend from when I lived in Halifax in my early twenties and Melanie is his lovely and very crafty partner. She is Quebecoise and has been making incredible hats full and part time for the last few years. She sells them at a couple of big shows in Montreal and at a selection of boutiques and shops in Nova Scotia.

Dennis and Melanie recently went on a trip to Guatamala to travel and for her to find local traditional weavers to commission to make her fabric for her hats. She paid them double or triple what they would normally charge for their work and has made a collection of beautiful hats from the handwoven cloth. My good friend Kyla chose a wonderful hat with traditionalCentral American inlay weaving - in the photo here, she's wearing her beautiful hat while Melanie is wearing the scarf she chose from the selection of Wave scarves I brought out and we did a trade (woopee!!!). The hat I chose is handwoven cloth made from handpsun cotton, grown, spun and dyed by the weaver herself and I love it. Click here to see more: Meversible (because they are made by Melanie and they are also reversible).