Thursday, July 28, 2016

Pebble, Winter Meadow, and Summer Experiments

A close up of the Sydenham as it rushed past our campsite. Great music for sleeping. Photo by Kathy White.
Earlier this summer, Doug and I treated ourselves to a camping and hiking trip in Owen Sound, ON. It sounds odd to camp in a city but Harrison Park feels like a secret world, tucked into a tall, green forest and bordered by the Sydenham River. Hiking trails lead directly out of the campground and you can clamber over mossy rocks and little streams, all the way to Inglis Falls.

I haven't camped in awhile and I was surprised at the feeling of coming home that it gave me. Have you ever experienced that feeling - almost like remembering who you are?

The scenery made for some great, 'classic Ontario' photos and I came home motivated to do a series that pays tribute to this area. The photo above is my inspiration for the first piece, already in the works. I love the way you can trace the flow of the river in this composition.

Winter Meadow, Peruvian Wool and Beeswax on Birch Panel, 9" x 12" x 1.5"
I finally finished 'Winter Meadow', which has been my 'in between' project over the winter, spring and summer. If any of you came by my exhibition at the St. Jacobs Quilt and Fibre Art Festival, this was the piece I was working on. Thank you to the many people I consulted about sky colour.  You were right - the grey does show off the brighter grasses in the foreground.

Pebble, Aran Weight Wool and Beeswax on Birch Panel, 8" x 8" x 1.5"
Commissioned pieces force me to try something new. 'Pebble' was done by request and I had a lot of fun with it. Whenever we travel to a place I connect with (like Harrison Park), I bring home a small pebble to add to a collection that lives in my yoga space. Over time, I forget where each one is from and they become interesting objects in their variety and individuality. One of those pebbles was the model for 'Pebble'.
(Hey Diana - do you recognize some of your yarn stash? Thanks again!)

Betty's workshop piece in progress. I love the colours and the birds!
Finally, we had another great group show up for our July workshop at the EcoCafe in St. Jacobs. I've said it before and it holds true - fibre people are good people. I witness so many acts of kindness between strangers when I hover on the edges while people work on their pieces. Thanks to everyone who participated and, again, I'd love to see your finished pieces!

What a great setting for a fibre art workshop!
Special thanks to the very accommodating people at the EcoCafe for generously allowing us to use their gorgeous space for our workshop and also for the free refills!  The cafe was a cool refuge on a hot day and kept us fueled with yummy treats.

Thanks as well to the Silo Weavers for getting word out about the workshop, handling registration, and for all of the ongoing, fantastic support.

Helene's pretty workshop piece in progress.
It's been a hot summer here and I'm starting to long for cooler autumn weather with cozy hand-knit sweaters. But not right away. Give me just a little more time for Frisbee and barbecues, early morning sunshine, and afternoons too hot to do anything except find a cool spot to stretch out and read a very good book.

Happy Summer, Everyone!
Agnieszka's workshop piece in progress. The first mandala!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Grandma's Garden

Grandma's Garden, 9" x 12" x 1.5", Embroidery cotton, beeswax, fabric, and acrylic paint on birch panel.
Grandma Mitchell loved to laugh. She had a kind heart and seemed to understand that being a kid wasn't easy. After watching me in any kind of event at all, like a school play or public speaking competition, she would shove a tightly rolled up bill into my hand and tell me to buy myself something special. Later, I would unfold the unexpected five or ten dollar bill and wonder at her generosity.

Every weekday afternoon, after Grandpa's lunch was cleared away and he was either stretched out napping or headed back out to the barn, Grandma would sit down in her upholstered rocker, turn on her afternoon soaps and reach for whatever needlework was in her work basket at the moment. Often, it was something for one of her grandchildren.

Detail of Grandma's Garden.
One Christmas she gave us all crocheted snow man puppets. For one of my birthdays, she gave me a crocheted fish soap-on-a-rope with an extra fancy Avon soap inside. She also embroidered pillow cases and quilted. She made quilts for every single one of her grandchildren and even a few great grandchildren before she passed away.

When I inherited Grandma's embroidery flosses, handfuls of vivid colour kept in an exotic looking old fruit cake tin, I knew I had to do something special with them but I didn't know what. The tin sat half buried under fabrics and yarns on my highly organized (ahem) studio shelves waiting for an epiphany. And waiting. And waiting...

Grandma's Garden, 9" x 12" x 1.5", Embroidery cotton, beeswax, fabric, and acrylic paint on birch panel.
In my last workshop, I told the group about the tin of embroidery floss. We were talking about the different kinds of materials you could use in 'yarn painting', and I mentioned that I wanted to use Grandma's embroidery threads but didn't think I could do something that fine. I also mentioned that I wanted to try incorporating sections of fabric into the beeswaxed surface. After the workshop, I replayed the conversation on my head, looking at my stash of favourite fabrics and the tin half buried on the shelf.  I felt the stirrings of an idea. What if...what if...what if....Eureka!

Grandma's Garden is the first product of that epiphantic moment and combines both of the ideas I had been wanting to try. There is a layer of fabric sandwiched between layers of beeswax and I've used Grandma's embroidery cotton to accent and play with the fabric print. The overall effect reminds me of richly embroidered chinoisery textiles.  In places, the fabric's design peeks through unaltered.

Detail of Grandma's Garden - See the fabric design peeking through the main rose?
Unlike my wool pieces, sections of the beeswax surface are left uncovered. There's lots of room for experimentation with this method and I intend to return to it and complete a block of embroidery themed pieces.

Grandma Mitchell loved pretty things. She embroidered birds, butterflies, and flowers with the very same threads I've used in this piece. I think she'd like it.

There's a twinge of sadness that comes whenever I see yarns, embroidery flosses, hoops and needles in a second hand store. You just know they were someone's coveted treasures once. I wish I could rescue them all.

This is a good place to start.

Grandma's Garden, 9" x 12" x 1.5", Embroidery cotton, beeswax, fabric, and acrylic paint on birch panel.