Sunday, November 25, 2012

Encaustic Myths. More encaustic and stitching..

Book front cover

I showed some of my stitched encaustic pieces in a group show in October and received a lot of encouragement to continue in this direction. So I designed covers for a unique hand made book of my husband's long narrative poem about Theseus and the Minotaur. From there I created some other mythic pieces.  I used cotton muslin that had been variously dyed in compost, rust or onion skins, and added inkjet printed imagery, some of which was then stitched or embellished with copper wire, metallic thread or upholstery thread. The pieces were finished with encaustic medium. The Atalanta pieces included collaged elements. Frames were made out of birch wood boxes, painted and sealed.

2 versions of "Atalanta" . Fabric dyed with onion skins with photo transfer and encaustic collaged elements.

2 versions of "Ceres". Fabric is compost dyed. One includes hand and machine embroidery in metallic thread and upholstery thread.

Icarus. Rust dyed fabric, photo transfer and encaustic medium.

The Labyrinth, with crocheted and couched fine copper wire on compost dyed fabric, glazed with encaustic medium.

Book back cover. Rust dyed cover with couched copper wire and encaustic medium.

Front and back book covers.
 Use of images in this series in accordance with copyright of the Trustees of the British Museum.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Rust Dye plus Stitching plus Encaustic

I have a fascination with the shapes and textures I see in rural barns and outbuildings. While planning  a fabric piece called  "Mended Barns" (more about this in another post) I started researching how I might capture the distinctive rusty patterns that develop in steel roofs and siding. There are numerous online resources on rust dyeing, but I found Kimberley Baxter Packwood's website and e-book most informative.

The move from rail to road transportation has meant the demise of the railroad. Many have been converted to walking and biking trails. Over the years I've walked a rail trail near my home, every time finding some rusted treasure: bolts and spikes and all kinds of metal objects that held the rail lines together. I have a big bucket of lovely rusty objects. I must have known that I'd find a use for them one day.

Canyon Study, 2009
My first experiments didn't generate anything that I'd use with "Mended Barns" but my results brought another one of my recurring themes to mind: petroglyphs, pictographs and ancient places of power. Here are two of my 2009 collagraph prints made after a memorable trip to the Grand Canyon:

Shamans' Gallery, 2009

And here are the first rust dyed, stitched and encaustic pieces:

Rust dyed cotton muslin

"Cedar Breaks"
Hand stitched and encaustic on hardboard substrate

Rust dyed cotton muslin, partially stitched

"Spirit Boat"
Hand stitched and encaustic on hardboard substrate

This may be the start of a series!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Vegetable Board Book

A child's board book made a couple of years ago...

using photo reproductions of original collagraph prints. This iteration of the beet print is taken from one version of the print that appears in the "Beet Trials" book. Find it in an earlier post. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

FiberPhiladelphia 2012

My husband and I recently spent a long weekend in Philadelphia, timed to coincide with the opening of the FiberPhiladelphia 2012 Outside/Inside the Box show, where I had a piece selected for display. We arrived in the city mid afternoon on the Friday and, after checking in to our hotel, walked across Rittenhouse Square to the Philadelphia Art Alliance, which provides a lovely venue for exhibiting contemporary crafts and design. It is housed in the historic Wetherill Mansion, a stunning building that dates from 1906 and has retained many of its original architectural features. It’s atmosphere is reminiscent of the Arts and Letters Club in Toronto.

The main exhibition, “A sense of Place”, presents 8 female artists who explore the theme of location using materials ranging from cloth made of tree bark to expired credit cards. Each work is connected in a physical or metaphorical way to a specific locale. Wendeanne Ke’aka Stitt works in traditional Hawaiian kapi cloth made from tree bark. At the other end of the scale Amy Orr uses post consumer waste to create 3 dimensional works.

Wendeanne Ke'aka Stitt

I was particularly impressed with Barbara Lee Smith’s work. She uses stitch as a drawing tool, fusing layer upon layer of synthetic fabric with machine embroidery, creating lush rich landscapes. 

Barbara Lee Smith

Downstairs, although not a formal part of the FiberPhiladelphia show, Sandra Sherman’s “Found Subjects” was very appealing. As a book artist, I appreciated the way she works with the concept of the book as a place of concealment.

Sandra Sherman

 The final textile show at this space was the psychologist Andrea Donelly’s weavings. “Binary” consisted of beautiful semi-transparent hangings of woven materials that incorporated inkblots – all the images are left open to the viewer to interpret.

Next stop : the Galleries at the Moore School of Art and Design, where several FiberPhiladelphia shows were opening. We missed the opening ceremonies and lecture but arrived in time to enjoy some refreshments and tour the shows . Two of the shows were standouts for me: Doing Time/ Depth of Surface is an incredibly moving mixed media work based on two artists’ residency at the derelict Holmesburg Prison.

Patricia Gomez/Maria Jesus Gonzalez

 The other show at the Moore that blew me away was Shizuko Kimura’s show in the Graham Gallery. She stitches intricate, delicate drawn figures in thread on gauze.Her work is like an intimate glimpse into a personal sketchbook: astonishing, inspiring, amazing and in itself was worth the trip to Philadelphia to see.

Shizuko Kimura

 That was a lot to pack into a late afternoon/evening. We repaired to Cichetteria19, off Rittenhouse Square for a wonderful organic, locally sourced meal in the Venetian style. If I’m ever in Philadelphia again I’ll definitely return to this restaurant.

 We spent much of Saturday being tourists – we saw the Liberty Bell , Independence Hall, then visited the Edgar Allen Poe Historic site ( my husband is a big Poe afficianado) where I photographed some of the old plaster walls that struck me with their beautiful textures and took me back to the images evoked by the “Doing Time” exhibition.

 A work out at the hotel gym and a nap followed, then we set off for the Crane Arts Building for the Outside/Inside show. This building is an remarkable resource for the art community, containing not only the large Icebox gallery but also smaller display spaces, studios and office spaces.

My work at the Icebox

The show at the Icebox was almost everything I had hoped it would be; not just because I had a piece chosen for display, but because it’s a fabulous space. The diversity of peices selected in this juried show must have presented a huge challenge to the jurors and curator, but the show was well designed and displayed. It was uncrowded,so every peice had room to” breathe” and shine. I love spacious, uncluttered shows like this and congratulate Bruce Hoffman and his team for filling the Icebox so magnificently. My one disappointment was that there were no formalities or introductions made at this opening – at least while I was there. So I missed the opportunity to identify and connect with other artists, which is a pity.

Icebox Gallery

 I mentioned the diversity of offerings at this show. It’s totally a matter of personal preference, but I was pleased to see that an empasis on line and the exploration of figurative, representational work is maintaining a foothold amongst the more abstract or conceptual work. However, no matter the approach taken by the artists, I was consistently impressed by the high level of technical expertise shown, whether in exquisite stitching , weaving, dying and painting or dazzling digital applications. And the use of found and recycled materials and encaustic was a good reminder of how we can combine new approaches with time honoured techniques.

Award winner Ann Wessman's Words Unspoken Series

 Not only was Philadelphia hosting more fascinating textile related shows than we could possibly see in a short weekend, but also the Philadelphia Museum of Art was exhibiting a Van Gogh blockbuster. We were fortunate to acquire tickets for a private viewing bright and early Sunday morning. What an opportunity to get up close to these fabulous, priceless paintings without having to fight crowds. We had an excellent guide who provided helpful information and insights into each group of paintings. She pointed out many examples of the artist’s technical mastery as well as showing how his work reflected events in his life and his multiple medical problems .

The tour provided a powerful reminder of the key to Van Gogh’s greatness : his understanding of colour theory, always balancing complementary colours in a limited yet vibrant palette. This reminder brought my thoughts back to the question that always troubles fibre and textile artists. Is what I do art or craft? After this weekend, my conviction remains that it’s always art if its done with a high level of skill and if it observes the fundamentals of composition , form and colour. Or if the rules are broken it’s done knowingly and knowledgeably.

 But it’s an endless debate.... After wandering the Philadelphia Art Museum’s American contemporary and European collections we headed over to the Perlman Institute for “Secret Garden”. This provided a nice restrospective of pre-digital fabric printing and dying by some giants in the field like Lenore Tawney and Sheila Hicks. Although I didn’t get to see each and every one of the Fibre Philadelphia shows I believe we saw a good representative sample. Some of the exhibits can be found online at There’s so much great work being done, and so much inspiration and encouragement to keep exploring the limits of any media.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A book about the "Blood and Roses" quilt

Here is an edition of 3 books about Blood and Roses. It contains a short essay about the making of the quilt, photos of each of the 12 images and some additional close-ups. It is printed on Canson 90lb drawing paper, hand bound with waxed cotton thread in a hand sewn cover using fabrics left over from the quilt.

Tools, covers and signatures assembled for binding.

Making holes in cover.
Cradle with template for holes.

Signatures and covers ready to bind.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Nine books of poetry

I'm married to a poet. Over our years together I've been the subject and the recipient of many poems. I have just finished printing and binding them in 9 volumes. I won't reproduce the content here, but I will show you the cover art, including quotes from the poems that inspired the imagery of each cover.

Most of the cover papers for this series were made using a large collagraph plate that I printed in various colour combinations on my etching press. I use Charbonnel etching inks and Somerset paper.  After printing, I cut parts of the print down to size for the covers. The scraps are saved for collage or card making.

The plate was never intended to make a full sized print: just as well as it doesn't hold together as a large piece. Additional covers were made from paper saturated with water colour. Silver and gold foil was added to some covers.

Here are some images of the collagraph plate:

                                          Blind embossed collagraph plate
                                         Inked up and ready to print

Untasted Wine

in the circle
of our separate arms,

Quench metal in cool water
hammer out
the bond between us,
fashion two

Spun From Dawn

Such tenacity and singleness of purpose
Such grim love of living
The tree explored its world while anchored to it

Try the Silk

sandstone dunes and minarets
risen cathedrals carved by the wind
shadowed depths that could
swallow entire cities

Smoke Sequence

I see hundreds
of small white-bellied fish
strung motionless
upon the pebbles

Silent Heart

tonight skirts of smoke waver
with shooting ripples
above the black horizon
The passion dancer
in the centre of the sky
unfolds her shimmering drapery
in silent white swirls

Touch of Lips

love's soul
burns bright flame

 Lovers Embrace a Falling Star

                                                                               image inspired by Patterson Ewen

The meteor burnt
a star
melted space

It fled to flower
on a winter's night
with alien fire


May some turtle girl
from another myth
find him.

Wicked Face

gauze cured in moonlight,
eyes pink seashells,
cream memory.