Oooh, they're here!
Well, I thought it would be "Avocado, Lemon, Lime" but sometimes names evolve while you're working on a piece. The yellow isn't bright enough for lemon, the blue-green is too blue for lime, whatever. But it's coming clear: the pale, approaching neutral colors and the freeform quilting are producing a different idea. It will be "Wandering/Oasis." Now if the threads I ordered will just come (maybe today) so I can do more hand work on the brownish and rust dyed areas with several variegated brown/beige ones, and attack the yellow parts with one called "Honey"--multiple shades of yellow and gold. Wandering around the desert, retracing your steps or going in circles, sometimes coming upon a greeny spot. Brief pause here, while I go check the mailbox.
Oooh, they're here!
Now I do need to sit back down and stitch. Fortunately I also received a new DVD from Netflix, so I can enjoy the afternoon with multiple senses. Into the desert I go.
I may not be precise, but when on a roll I CAN get things going. I cut, pieced, and put these blocks together Monday and Tuesday, assembled the layers and today I'm ready to start handwork. The pinkish-brown piece is avocado-dyed. The bluish-green is bois d'arc and indigo. There's a lot of light yellow hopsack-type linen, and linen damask dyed with rust.. Also some madder, and I think, some cutch.
Looking for threads to use in the stash, I found a bunch of pinks, a blue-gray mélange with green, and some reddish brown. Not enough, I say, so I visited Laura Wasilowski's website artfabrik.com to order handpainted threads. This stuff is so beautiful and tempting! I had bought a little at the International Quilt Festival several years ago ("rhubarb" and "burnt marshmallow"), but browsing through the goodies, I clearly needed more. Now I can't wait till it comes. Getting stuff in the mail that you've ordered online is like getting presents; always seems a little unexpected and delightful, and because the bill comes later, it doesn't feel expensive somehow. Now, I understand that this can be a dangerous self-delusion, susceptible to exploitation by online vendors. But I've met Laura, and she doesn't seem all that rapacious to me. Plus, her website has great embroidery instructions.
I had backing fabric, but it was just a bit too small, so I bordered it with strips torn from one of our old dyeing dropcloths. This one was mostly pinkish with splotches of blue and brown. Perfect for this quilt! I'm beginning to think I have found a voice, and it has to do with innate messiness. Wabi-sabi if you will. Enjoying the unexpected, things that aren't quite the right size or don't come out the way they were planned. Life is like that, isn't it? Mine is, anyway.
When my dyeing friend Pam visited, we chopped up a bunch of avocado pits and put them in glass jars with water and ammonia and some bunched up white cloth. We had tried avocado a couple of times before with disappointing results, obtaining only a wimpy apricot color on cotton, but this time we were determined to give it our best try. I made sure to fold the cloth around the pit pieces, figuring that would give some nice darker blotches, and the jars sat on my patio for over a month. I'd go out and shake them, roll them around, set them upside down every few days. Pam said we might get good results if part of the cloth was exposed to the air, not always submerged in the dyebath, so I made sure that happened. Today I emptied the jars and hung the cloth to dry without rinsing. Here it is on the lines outside my garage.
Here's a closeup of the lower right piece, with some of the avocado crumbs still on it. I was pretty hopeful that most of the color would remain after washing. It took only an hour or so to dry (we're having a lovely fall day), and then I washed it all by hand, rinsed till the water was clear, and hung it out to dry again. Of course, quite a lot of pigment washed out, but it retained a nice earthy pinky brown color. So now, what to do?
I've finished "Luna y Tierra," the yellow and blue piece, and I'm pleased with it. Plus, doing the handwork was just a joy. I've been reading Helen Parrott's book Mark Making, which shows a lot of interesting ways to use hand stitching as well as machine work--so I think I'll use this avocado-dyed cotton with some of my greens and maybe some of the lemon-yellow linen I found in the Goodwill in Portland (2.5 yards of 60" fabric for $6.00!) and make a bunch of fruity-toned blocks, and then just go nuts with thread and some of the yarn I bought in Tillamook. Sounds like a plan!
I came home yesterday from a week traveling with my sisters, visiting a brother in Vancouver. It was so very pleasant to enjoy cooler weather and see the trees beginning to change color. We enjoyed a lot of good food, caught up on all our kids and grandkids, reminisced a lot, celebrated birthdays. It seems strange that my siblings should be getting older (of course, I forget that I am, too); somehow I have them all mentally preserved as if in amber, at the age when I left home.
One highlight was a harbor cruise out through Indian Arm, which included a buffet lunch. It was a cloudy, misty day which added to the atmosphere of mystery. We went by all the huge cranes and industrial shipping, then out into the Arm where people have built beautiful houses inaccessible except by seaplane or boat. Of course, we all chose our favorites, even while acknowledging that we'd have trouble climbing up the cliff to get to the houses.
Only one shopping highlight in Vancouver: a visit to the Maiwa shops on Granville Island. So many beautiful handwoven fabrics and dye colors. All I needed was a can of whipped cream and I'd have eaten them right up.
As I'm working on "Luna y Tierra" I'm rediscovering the power of parallel lines. That may sound stupid or even self-evident, but I'm fascinated with how very strong this element is. It's so simple--and yet, think about: picket fences, rows of gravestones in a veterans cemetery, railroad tracks, lines of waves at the seashore, vineyards, pencils or crayons in a box, orchards, rows of corn, soldiers or bands marching. Your eyes return again and again, and never find it boring.
You can see how compelling the lines are. I'm finding that the piece needs lots of stitching, both large hand stitches, and complimentary machine texturing. It's very satisfying work.
The golden brown area was our hand-wiping cloth while we were dyeing the other pieces. It became so beautiful that I had to use it here--reminds me of the lunar or martian landscape. I painted the little flowers because they just looked smudgy on their own; this was a commercial black on white print that I dyed with two different yellow pigments.
Here is a corner, with the parallel lines reflecting the curve. I filled in an empty space with French knots for texture. Maybe they're trees seen from above.
It's funny how often you can hear or read about the elements of an art piece (composition, line, texture, color, contrast, focal point, blah blah blah) and take notes and recognize their use in famous art--but it doesn't really have meaning until you feel the pull of its power. Or perhaps I just don't like being told what to do until I discover it for myself.
Back to sewing lines now.
"They were here before us" 2013 Copyright Bobbe Shapiro Nolan
At last, here's the photo of the rust-dyed piece, "They were here before us." I bought a new digital camera to be able to upload photos; now I'm trying to learn the program. The two most difficult parts: opening the clamshell plastic to extricate the darned thing, and figuring out how to open the battery compartment. Well, and also reading the tiny print!
In any case, I'm happy with the piece. It was just pleasure to make, imagining myself creating rock paintings or decorating a cave. There's something about the way rust works on fabric that feels very primal--a bit shadowy, amorphous, undefined shapes that you can make into something or leave alone. I have a wonderful book of petroglyph photos that I consulted for guidance on the background painting.
Eagle Lake is celebrating its 125th birthday next weekend with costumes, a 5K run, dutch oven cooking, a beard-growing contest, old cars and tractors and art exhibits. I have a few pieces in the adult art exhibit--"It's All Good," "Faded Sanctuaries " (which includes the ruin of a building in Eagle Lake), and "Pillar of cloud/Pillar of fire," my 9/11 quilt. No prizes in this one, just a chance to show off to my new neighbors.
Pillar of cloud/Pillar of fire/Grounded on stone/We are still standing. (detail) 2001 Copyright Bobbe Shapiro Nolan
This is a detail from "Pillar of cloud." Because the celebration occurs in the same week as the anniversary of 9/11, it seemed like an appropriate piece to display.
You can find "It's All Good" on the website.
"Faded Sanctuaries" 2011 Copyright Bobbe Shapiro Nolan
The ruined Baptist Church in Eagle Lake is at the lower left and center right. It's been torn down since the photo was taken--and rightly so; it was a dangerous ruin. But very evocative!
Now I'm working on a piece made frpm all the natural dyes in indigo and yellow that Pam and I dyed a few weeks ago. Handwork is done and I'm adding machine quilting. Not quite ready for photography, but I'll post when it's ready.
Bobbe Shapiro Nolan, Fiber Artist in Eagle Lake, TX. Trying to learn to call the sewing room my studio, and myself an artist. I retired after 15 years in hospice nursing--so now I have the time!.