This sabbatical was much longer than expected, some due to Covid and some due to relocating to the United Kingdom. I am finally back to the real world with more art tucked under my arm and a new medium: collage! Painting has been ongoing all the while too. Here are a few tidbits to look at while I setup the New Studio at 19a Bell Street in Reigate.
I’ve often likened myself to a border collie, perhaps you might be one too. You are likely familiar with the legendary dogs, relentlessly working a herd or driving themselves in sporting competition until they have to flop into cool water because of the stress. I also think its possible to have a border collie mind–one darting to and around–herding thoughts and driving oneself to work. This work helps my border collieness by giving me an activity of both mind and hand.
Saturn Series red section
Couching – Saturn series
Maybe 100 stitches fit into a square inch..although I don’t sew every square inch of the quilt there will be thousands of stitches in a piece that so far is about 48″. No surprise then that my thumb and fingers are a bit sore. A clean sharp needle makes the work much easier, but sharp needles cause more injuries. The accidental and infrequent stabbing of my own hands mostly happens with slight notice. Five or six hours of hand sewing leave my hands tired and fingertips delicately bruised. I have tried different types of thimbles and hand protectors. Not one style has really worked for me yet. Right now I am trying the Thimble-It which is a small plastic oval with adhesive that sticks to the fingertips. So far, the thread has caught on the sticky edge almost every time through and that has slowed me down considerably which makes me cringe more than being injured!
I know what draws me to this work, the repetitiveness I think is the most desirable part of the process for me. Analytical thinking while maintaining awareness of my surroundings are paramount to the final product–until I get to that part of the process–which then becomes an apparent necessity of design. Being able to listen to books and podcasts is vital to the operation–and the focus is intensified and I can retain so much more information when my hands are delicately engaged in repetitive work. I have favorite audio books that I have ‘read’ over a dozen times while sewing. I am convinced that my retention level increases while stitching and time slows while it also leaves me with the perception that there is no time. That trickster reveal, that there is no time, but simply a construct that we choose to abide by much like other constructs of our civilization.
Hastily searching for a sketchbook last week, I found a 4×6 booklet behind my leopard fabric covered chair where I sit and draw. Leafing through it, I found some fun sketches I did in February 2016. With few art tools and being winter house-bound I turned to sketching between stitching to keep my mind open. Little did I know that my purple pen drawings would be found around the same time as the passing of Prince.
Prince left us in the spring of 2016. I’m lamenting the loss of this talented artist for several reasons. He and I were of the same generation. His talent and kind nature are legendary and I admire him. His legacy will continue. Enjoy the sketches!
Painting the last swipe on the canvas I’m exhausted. overtired. Eyes are dry from staring for so long, resisting blinking, absorbing the colors in front of me beyond the feeling of almost madness.
The large square canvas must cure overnight. I shirk off my robe and wash up. Looking down at my hands every finger tip on my right hand is a pale turquoise mixed with white. Brushes clean up easily, reshaped, they are left to dry.
Outside my eyes adjust and my mind enters the parking lot, I begin to see reality again. Looking at my hand holding the key….a splotch of bright red has dried on the back of the palm. A little paint is evident.
The paint colors and shapes in my brain is still there. Lingering. Stroking the nerves barely sheathed with the silence of the drive home. Walking in my home I’m greeted by dogs and my mom. Adjusting to normalcy is what I need. I hit my bed to let the flow of shapes run out of my ears. I rise and make dinner.
I don’t recall the last time I have been so motivated about a piece of art!!
16 months ago I started asking for Peace in my life. At the time I didn’t know exactly what I was asking for. Life answered with a culmination of events that changed my life.
Peace arrived with eating plants. This little seed is germinating the sign of peace inside. I’ve found peace with my body and the animals around me…and it has continued to wind it’s tendrils around other areas of my life. Peace is not found in every moment, but it is continuous, gradual and more meaningful. The multitude of feathers are a symbol of healing prayers.
Completed and ready for sale–contact me if you’re ready to collect an original Bessesdotter.
Peace: for all, for animals, for us. This work contains seed of peace–tucked in the details–safely swaddled and with a bold headdress.
I started regularly asking for peace about five years ago. It eludes me still. Maybe I don’t know in what form peace can enter my life. Until it becomes clear, I’ll make peace in my art. The reflection of peace in the art can shine it’s reflection boldly back out into the world.
Several new series were born as a result of doing small studies this winter. The studies are being shown this weekend as a part of exhibition containing a few watercolors and some significant works in fiber that are eco-dyed, handprinted and hand embroidered. I am an irreverent quilter and don’t follow many rules. Sometimes I experiment with fusible, battings and surface design before I quilt. The purpose of it all is to find the look, I am searching many traditional techniques and then bending them to my own style to get a texture and quality that I am not ready to define yet. I’ll know it when I see it.
Cutting on the bias, using my sewing machine, or working by hand, washing, ripping, tearing, machine thread painting, hand embroidery, framing, binding, not binding, giving structure on wood panels, using bamboo to hang work, vintage silk, found objects, eco-dyeing, tea dyeing and over-dyeing, mono-printing, heliotypes, and beading are a few of the ways I am working with fabric now.
Emerging are what I call Spirit Cloth’s…they are worked in a meditative state and result in a pure form of hand and mind being one and the same, a positive flow of the spirit of the artist.
There are also images born out of my love for the earthiness of tilling and gentle farming of grains and vegetables. The works include deep night skies and are simply stitched by hand.
Its a great time for me and my need to explore what is available to me in fiber and art. Today I am scaling up one of the series and am excited to find new ways to bring the color and stitching to life…
Textiles have memory and can also take on new memory and shape. How we handle textiles, stitching by hand or machine, cutting straight, curvilinear or on the bias (diagonal), sewing curves, surface embroidery, and quilting all disrupt the weave of fabric.
This particular quilt began with a piece of white cotton fabric hand dyed and backed with cotton batting and a muslin quilt back. If I’m not hand sewing, the cotton batting works fine for machine sewing.
I quilted an overall pattern in a medium teal Metrosene thread and then began to add thread painting with shades of silver, graphite, burnt sienna, gold, black and bronze rayon embroidery threads. I added the top grey and bottom rust sections after the majority of the thread painting was underway.
Then the final quilting helped to flatten out the lumpy bumpy hillocks and creases left from heavy but uneven thread painting. Still wonky and now only a series of gentle rolling bumps and lumps the last step is to block before finishing. Photo below shows some of the warping that happens to fabrics that are stressed.
Before binding, the quilt will be dampened and blocked to de-stress the fibers and give it the shape I want it to have.
The blocks are an interlocking grid that can be used many times over. 9 foam blocks come in a pack and can be put together in many configurations. You can purchase double or triple sets if you need them for larger projects. These have a small footprint for storage and last for years. I know you can use large inexpensive insulation board or even a carpet. The insulation board comes in 8′ sheets and a carpet would need to be rolled up for storage. I don’t have that kind of extra room to store bulky objects in my studio. At $24.99 they are a good deal and they store on a shelf.
You’ll need the following:
Blocking grid or mat
T-pins (rust proof stainless)
Spray bottle filled with fresh clean water
I put enough blocks together to make the grid fit the quilt in this case 4 sections work.
Placing the quilt face down I spray generously with water and smooth it out with my hands. I flip the quilt over squarely in the center of the grid and spray the top with water. It should be damp but not soaking wet.
Next the pinning begins. Starting at the center of the top, taking a t-pin, I press it at an angle through the quilt edge into the foam block.
I continue to place a t-pin at each center point along each side–while gently stretching the quilt and smoothing it. Then push a t-pin 3″-4″ apart on each side of the center pins. Again, I gently smooth and stretch the fabric as I go. Repeat on each side until the quilt is fully but gently stretched. See the photo below – pins evenly spaced and sides of quilt look wonky. They will be trimmed after drying.
My home is very dry and if I do this at night by morning the quilt will be dry and flat. The next step will be to trim to the size I like and bind if desired.
Below is the next day – flat and free from ripples:
Note: I do not use an iron or steam unless it is absolutely necessary. I use a mixture of fibers and a hot iron could negatively affect delicate threads or fabrics with a hot iron set on cotton and would flatten the beautiful quilting textures. I also don’t use measuring guides. These are handmade, work of art and meant to meander and have shape and texture. I am not looking for perfection, but want it to hang crisply and neatly.
Valentine’s Day 2016.
This day marks the time when my love for making art results in the Spirit Cloths that are in my hands most days.
Several hours daily are going to embroidery and hand stitching. The machine comes in to do some laborious tasks. There is less quiet time, but the movement of my hands is slow and there is a zen to it nonetheless.
Once the embroidery was completed, the batting and backing attached, the machine quilting is being completed.
Needles breaking. Threads breaking. Again and again. Adjusting tension and trying little tricks to keep everything running smoothly.
It happens with hand stitching too. Knotting up, catching a thread on the back, tangling. Sometimes it’s that kind of stitching: tangling and knotting.
Learning to wrestle wrought threads.
This is the nature of thread work. It teaches me to allow anger in and out—no withholding of breath. Letting it be its own nature. Turn off power and tidy the sewing room. Go to relax and read a bit
morning. opening the sewing desk and do my morning ritual of preparing the machine with basic maintenance. Open the bobbin case. Get the dust remover, brush and oil. Ahah! The culprit exposed in the sunlight streaming through the window. A tiny speck of shredded rayon thread is barely visible under the auto cutter. Another fine long strand is found at the bottom of the case
I remove the threads, flush with air, brush well, oil bobbin and put it all back together.
Last night I did that twice. But I couldn’t see the small specks of thread. Even with my Ott Light.
Under light of day everything is exposed and seen with clarity.
Learning balance and timing, during fatigue and frustration was not the time to problem solve. Bernina sews like herself again.