Now that summer is almost over and school’s back in session I need to wrap up my experience at Penland. I’ve been writing for the last few weeks about my whole experience but haven’t really posted much about what I made personally. There was more experimentation than finished product but I’ll be sharing some of my creations. I took with me my sewing machine and, several bins of materials (paper, fabric, threads, inks, brushes and more) even though I knew I wouldn’t use it all. I wanted to have enough variety for whatever we ended up doing since I wasn’t quite sure other than “mixed media” surface design.
Lets begin with some of the more informal exercises. As I mentioned in my previous post here, we began working on black museum board in an 8″ x 8″ format. We started with limited supplies, gesso, inks and colored pencils. Here are a few of them in progress on my large almost 10′ x 3′ (fabulous!) work space. Man I loved having all that room to spread out! I was able to get messy and still have room to work! I’m going to start talking more about this subject here on my blog because I became a little obsessed with observing how other artists work, are they neat and orderly or totally messy? At what point do you stop and clean up your space because it’s too messy? These are some of the questions I started asking fellow artists…but getting back to the class:)
Some of the pieces above came home with me unfinished and I’m continuing to work on them a little at a time but below are some details of completed pieces.
I loved how expressive, spontaneous and painterly these exercises were. I found working on the black background both challenging (seeing colors in a new way) and liberating (leaving my “typical” color combinations behind). I thought that the square format would be good for me (i.e. challenge me even more) because one of the things I really wanted to explore at Penland was my understanding of composition. Sure, I’ve got degree’s in art but my past 12 years as a designer of repeat patterns has stunted my ability to create artwork with “proper” composition. I found this out as I began to explore photography. As a designer I tend to center or repeat things out in a certain manner so I wanted to throw that aside while there and focus on understanding composition better.
Another very fun and liberating part of the class were the quick 15-30 min exercises we spent each morning exploring a certain mood, idea or expressing a feeling (these were centered around the discussions of various Astrological signs). I had gone with certain expectations of this class (I tried not to but inevitably there were some) and I didn’t realize how much expressive drawing and painting we would be doing. Some of these exercises were quite large in scale (compared to 8″ squares) and I enjoyed the movement involved in creating these! Sometimes you’ve got to get your body MOVING to make ART!
We continued to work on these quick exercises at the beginning of each class almost to the end. Sometime after the first few days we began to explore other ideas and expand beyond the small format and black background. That’s when we started (not the whole class but some of us) experimenting with rust dying on fabrics.
We did a whole batch of scraps to see what kind of results we liked and from there I decided to create a silk scarf using the rust dying technique and some shibori pleating. I had particularly liked the results of a couple of pieces of metal from our experiments so I used them to wrap my pleated scarf around.
Since this was quite a large scarf I used 2 pieces of metal and pleated and rolled from both ends to create different effects on both sides. Then I used a wire that would rust to secure the whole bundle.
This is what the bundle looked like after 24 hours and before I unwrapped it. Promising but a little un-nerving. There’s something exciting about the juxtaposition of using these industrial rusty, dirty metal pieces to “Dye” this beautiful delicate, “precious”, pure white organza silk!
I’m so glad I photo documented this unwrapping process! I love the swirly shapes created by one particular piece of metal and once this was un-pleated and unrolled completely it would never look exactly like this again.
This is how it looked completely unfolded. I love the results and it’s got me hooked on rust dyeing. But wait, I wasn’t finished yet! I decided to take this another step and I over dyed part of this with a coffee/tea stain using a bound shibori process to resist a large portion of the scarf from being dyed.
I let it dry and in the meantime spent some time trying to learn how to create a rolled hem with the appropriate presser foot. I wasn’t pleased with the results so I decided to bring it home with me and create a hand rolled hem to finish it. When I got home though, I decided to do a little more experimenting with the machine rolled hem and to my surprise I was able to find a great tutorial and with a little experimentation I was confident it would turn out successful so I bravely finished the two ends (the sides are selvedge edges).
I am totally happy with the results of the finished scarf and I have plans to create more, similar pieces in the future! I’ve always loved shibori and dying but have been hesitant to continue to use chemical dyes as I get older. I’ve experimented enough with them over the years but I don’t want to prolong my exposure to them. The process of rust dying opened my eyes to a whole new medium to explore, along with other natural dying processes.
The finished piece has been over dyed with the coffee/tea stain on one side which created a beautiful grey which occurs naturally as the tannins in the tea react to the rust. The neutral colors of this scarf are so versatile and sophisticated!
I may finish this piece off with a few beads at the ends to give it a little extra pizzaz but nothing flashy. I love the simple beauty of it. As you can see there was a lot of exploration and self expression that came out of this class for me. I’ve got some other bits I worked on as well that I’ll probably share down the road but this give you a good idea of the amount and kind of work we did within the two week class. It was fabulous!