Nov 7, 2021

The Life Of An Artist

I found a meme on Facebook last week and wanted to include it in this post detailing my 'hair wreath' project ...but realized that just because it's floating around Facebook does not mean I should use it. It was akin to seeing an iceberg (see; a piece of art) ... but what you see sticking out of the water is actually attached to a massive amount of ice (see; all the work involved in that piece of art) under the water.

Of course I knew this all along, but was very impressed by this little meme reminding me that maybe someone would be interested in the part under the water.

I think this is why I write a blog ... to document how much work is behind the scenes. Otherwise, my children/grandchildren really have no idea what I am up to all those hours in my 'room'. So, I am going to repeat a few photos ... from start to finish. Thank you in advance for bearing with me. This piece is done and a new fibre piece begins in a few days.

Hair Wreaths were a craze in the late 1800's, honouring passed loved ones and were made by gathering strands of hair and wrapping, weaving, embroidering around wire so that the petals can be manipulated to stand up in 2D. I had to revise a lot to accomplish a semblance of a Hair Wreath in fibre and threads.

The Sketch Book ... inspiration 

I happened to have a practise flower (free-motion machine embroidery on water-soluble) tucked in my sketch book, so a quick review had me inspired again with a long 'portrait mode' in my mind ... but there was a possibility that what I had in my head might be better suited to 'landscape mode' ... the finished piece would decide. Store everything in your sketch book !

1st layer: The Fabric ... a lucky accident of scrunching and dipping a 15"x42" length of unknown fibre content (cotton tho') into a tray of waste water (from a long ago forgotten acrylic paint event). 
Splotches of white did not absorb the paint !!!
A little black ink outlines those white splotches ... like faded, dying flowers ...goes with the reason for hair wreathes in the first place ... to remember loved ones that had passed.
2nd Layer: Foundation  ... This length of fabric was then basted to a cotton backing and seed stitches were applied to bind top fabric to backing fabric (cotton) ... took about 3 weeks, a few hrs most days. 

3rd Layer: The Stitching ... free-motion machine embroidery is my go-to technique.
So, pop some water-soluble into my hoop, tighten hoop untill water-soluble is drum-tight and commence sewing, free-motion. 
This time I decided to fill in the petals rather than leave them open as I had the idea of adding a 2D flower on top of each black flower motif. This also takes a few hrs. to bring to the point of 'enough' for the new piece I had in mind ... 18 motifs to sew  to my lovely grey background !

4th Layer: Product
'Enough' now.... my 2D flower isn't human hair of course, but I did find a roll of twisted newspaper yarn that was made in India... and which I have hoarded for at least 10 yrs ! It would make a great stand-in as it naturally had enough firmness (without wire) to hold up to the job I had in mind. I wrapped a length of it in blanket stitch with a variegated embroidery floss ... grey, blue,mauve and beige (yum) ... that blended beautifully with the bits of colour in the twisted newspaper and the grey background.

5th Layer: Decisions ...  how, what, why and where ?? 
Hours of more fun ! This way ? That way ? Do I have enough ? Do I need more ?
Oh, well,  s**t or get off the pot, they say !! I was able to machine stitch all the 'flats' to the background by machine without a bit of puckering, and when all were stitched in place I rinsed the whole shebang and hung it to dry. While waiting I was able to get a much firmer picture of where I was going with this. 
OK, the decision was made ... portrait mode !

pinned in place finally

here you can see the seed stitching ... every 1/4 inch  

6th Layer: Wrapping 
This is a practise I have not done in years but a necessity if putting fibre art into a frame to make sure there are no puckers or wrinkles in the finished piece. More hours of fun ... not ! But a beautiful technique. 
Once the fabric was decently dry I ironed from the back and all was smooth once more and I could commence the 'wrapping'. Some prefer to staple but the best look is with the older method of using a needle and thread from one edge of the fabric, over the fibre board to the opposite edge and gently tightening as much as the fabric, and the thread, would allow ... every 1/2" across the sides and then the ends. Mitre the corners and you have a nice smooth, tight piece to slip into a frame.

7th Layer: applying the 2D florals.
Now that the placement was decided and everything stitched down, it was time to add 5 stand-up petals ... no turning back now ;) This was not an easy chore as I had to make sure that the weight of the 2D's wouldn't drag and pull at the background. So, problem solved ! Stitch right through the fabric & board !! 
Firm as can be ! Just make sure that the stitch holes aren't too close together when you tie of the threads on the back ;)

8th Layer: Beads 
Yup, more stuff from my stash of beautiful 'will use one of these days' things. I don't use many beads in my work but these were perfect to indicate the centre of a flower. Wonky, chunky, steel black beads from a daughters bracelet, and pretty  glass orbs that only suggests a beige colour and reflects light and the other colours already in the piece. These, as well, I stitched right through the fibre board and tied off at the back. These knots will all be covered by the cardboard backing piece of my frame.

9th Layer: The Framing 
I am satisfied with the final look, now to get it framed. Normally this accounts for many more hours heading to the nearest framing place ... 45 min. away for me now. Choosing the right frame ... wood ? metal ? colour ? cost ? quite a few more hours to tack onto this project !
Lucky me, again !!! 
I had a framed piece that I was recycling and it was just the right size for my 2nd fibre piece inspired by the 'hair'wreath'.

While writing this post, a name for my piece kept popping up ... Passage ... appropriately tying, I think, this piece to the original concept of a 'hair wreath'. But, if you are reading this and can come up with a great title I'd be grateful ... sometimes this is the hardest part of any art practise.
Sorry about the blurriness of this photo which I enlarged as big as I could go .... which brings me to one of the final layers; finding a photographer that specializes in the photography of fibre. I am sure that I could have added a few more layers to the process  ... and then many more layers before this is actually in a show and then getting it to a venue !!

So, it's not that I would change anything about my particular 'art' ! 
Not at all !
I just feel, as the diagram depicts, that viewers are sometimes unaware of the hours that are lovingly put into a beautiful fibre piece that could soon grace their own wall.

Oct 25, 2021

Hello Fall !

 It's all over for this year ... yes, my Killbear Provincial Park camping trip ... well, really, 'glamping' trip ! .. a 28' trailer with AC, heat, Microwave 😆 Lots of hot days and a week of rain with a tornado warning and some tree damage in the park ... and 24 hrs. without power (glamping). Too many other glampers but still a lovely holiday.

But, Here's my journey for the last few months.

I had my 1st cataract surgery Sept 1 and left for Killbear on the 11th.  After 3 weeks in Killbear, hubby and I headed towards North Bay, leaving the trailer at #1 daughter's for the winter, then off to youngest daughters for a week encompassing Thanksgiving. I gathered all 5 grands on a Friday night and we had a sleep-over in the trailer. The kids ate junk and all played on devices of some sort. Their parents had the opportunity to go out for dinner, but not before they had gotten in all the shopping they could do before the stores closed !! I'd forgotten how hard it is to get any shopping done with kids in tow !

A few photos of a gorgeous place, Killbear Provincial Park, in the Near North of Ontario Canada.

 It is mid Oct. now and have just had my 2nd cataract surgery !! Soon I will venture out in my newish little Land Rover that I haven't driven since Covid struck and my cataracts bloomed ! Can't wait.

While camping I was able to cover a piece of work with seed stitches. I had found a lovely piece of 'waste-paint-water ' that had been in my stash for a few years and was perfect for my 2nd 'Hair Wreath' project. After basting, I used a seed stitch to hold my surface fabric tightly to the background fabric. The finished size will be 9"x 34". It will be my new, revised version of a hair wreath.

This lovely fabric of unknown content left pure white, un-dye-able 'flowers, which I talked about in my last post ... some of which I outlined in ink.
It literally covers my extra wide ironing board but the finished size will be 9"x34".
A gathering of flowers & bits to attach later.

I am happy with the placement of the flowers ... now to stitch down... by machine
A close-up of what I will be stitching down ... the black flowers will be stitched down first ... the the 2-D beige ones will be applied on top pf the black

The beige flowers are made of twisted paper yarn and I am treating them to some blanket stitch ... just as the original 'victorian hair wreath' flowers were treated ... 23 or strands of real hair were embroidered and then twisted into petals !!! The twisted paper yarn is standing in for the real hair.
Last Christmas I was given a box of gorgeous embroidery thread (again, of unknown genetics) and this skein had just the right colours of brown, beige, light to denim blue and grey ... love, love, love this colour combo !
Two flowers done ... wow, not being a 'hand-stitcher', I am surprised how long it takes to cover a stand of paper that is 40" long !!
So, now I begin the attachment of these 2-D flowers to my base .... which is washed of all water-soluble and hangs waiting my next move ... stay tuned 😁 

Aug 27, 2021


 On Tuesday last, I opened my email to a very lovely surprise ... an invitation to send my self portrait, 'The Way I See Myself', to The Knitting and Stitching Show in the UK !!

Being invited is pure gold to me and of course I will send it. Wow !

So a new hanging device, a proper signature on the front, filling out the paper work and packing her up was on the agenda for today.

Last year, 2020, I had sent this same portrait to the Online Knitting & Stitching Self Portrait Competition. Hundreds entered and it was fun and easy to do ... what could be easier than sending a jpeg ?

Now they want toes & show the actual pieces in Alexandra Palace (7-10 Oct) and at Harrogate (18-21 Nov). 

A lot of money for 6 days total ... but hey, when will I ever have this opportunity to show a new audience a piece of my work ?? 

Sooo worth it in my eyes !

piece and some packing materials on the board

I hate packing tape ! ... she's on her way !

Aug 17, 2021

So, Just Thinking Before I Leap

 This beautiful piece of waste-water painted cotton ... no history, no genetics, no brand ... has bothered me some. The longer I looked at it the more it spoke to me. Would it be a candidate for printed textiles ? Should I not cover up the focus with other stuff ? I had half the piece basted before I took the bull by the horns and phoned a local print company. At the very least I thought it might make great printed canvases for gifts ! ''Old Money Bags' that I am ... NOT !

A lovely young lady thought that If she could scan the piece of fabric, she might be able to get a good print from it. So, off I went, I unbasted the section that I wanted scanned and I ordered a canvas print ... just one, as a canvas 12"x16" costs $85 before taxes. It came back to me within the week. I wasn't struck in disbelieve at it's amazing beauty ... rather, I was amazed at how much lighter it was... more faded than the original piece of fabric ! 

I wondered if I had emailed my own photo, enhanced even, if it would have pleased me more ? When do you stop experimenting considering the cost. I'll know better next time !! 

I couldn't help myself !!! I picked up my art pen and started re-out-lining the flowery parts in black ink ... I am happy ! Subtle yet strong. It'll look great on my walls !

One good 'art' canvas from it was worth it, looking back ... the kids will have to vie for it when I'm gone.

Now I could get back to business ! This piece of acrylic waste-water 'dyed' fabric, 14"x42", is completely basted and ready for whatever I do next. I'm gong to start with a simple seed stitch, to hold top to backing fabric, that will not over-whelm the machine embroidery work that will be applied later.

Not a lot of colour here, but that's what I love most ... black & white and all shades of grey ... from paint to ink to clothing to the paint on my walls ... wonder what that says about me 😄😃😅😉😉.

I just remembered ... I have a sister piece in blue !!

In my tiny studio,/sewing room/office/spare bedroom, this extra wide ironing board makes a handy work space !

Jul 8, 2021

Watered-down Acrylic Paint & Ink

I was searching for a likely candidate amongst my 'precious fabrics' (dyed, painted, rusted, experimental, etc.) for the background of my replacement piece for The Bruce County Museum and came across a lovely grey 'paint-water/waste-not' swatch that is probably about 10 yrs old. 

In the past, when I was painting a lot of fabric for backgrounds for my 'threadpaintings', I hated to waste the remaining paint, hated washing it down the drain ... so I made a habit of scrunching up a good sized swatch of fabric (approx. 15"x45") and pushing it into the paint-water and leaving it to do 'whatever' for a few days. Some interesting designs happened and some I have used as backgrounds. The rest wait as 'precious fabrics' ;)

This particular grey was most interesting because the sizing had left splashes of fabric that would not take the paint ... ooo, lovely !  I immediately saw flowers and took up one of my ink pens and started to outline ... but 45" is a long stretch of fabric ... so it was incomplete when I found it again yesterday. But, it lent itself so well to the current project at hand that I did a bit more inking. Now it is ready. A big part of me doesn't want to use it just as a background, but it has spent enough years waiting !

A particularly beautiful section is a painting in it's own right. Maybe I will go think on this again !

Jul 1, 2021

Twilight & A Study

When all the painted swatches were dry and ironed I noticed a very interesting thing. Where I had hung the first swatch, and it depleted in colour hanging over the stove handle, was a beautiful landscape ! 

With a few brush strokes I had an acrylic painting ! It's 8"x10"... hardly saleable but it's hanging in my house !

Twilight ~ 16"x20"
The painted background is now WonderUndered and pieced ... ready for some fine acrylic detail and the machine embroidered shrubs that dominate the foreground. These will be hand sewn to the background.


Since the sale of my 'Hair Wreath'
out of our recent show, Re:Collections, I have been worrying about the fact that I wouldn't be a part of this show as it travels to the Bruce County Museum for several most in 2022.
But, that busy, busy brain of mine wouldn't let go ... so some ideas went down in my sketch book ... not firm yet, but very much a project swirling around up there ;)

Jun 21, 2021

Painted Some Fabric

 This past winter, on one of the few times that Hubby and I went for a drive during the pandemic ... isn't it amazing what you begin to appreciate once you didn't before ! ... anyway, I snapped some pics of the unbelievable beauty of snow on dormant fields. 

I call these type of pics 'drive-by shootings' and I often print off a photocopy and stack in my sketchbook 'for later' .

One in particular appealed to my sense of simplicity and my desire to get sewing ... and the colours were just right ... my favourites ... black & white ;)

Later, that very same day, my oldest daughter sent me a pic. she had just taken of a field many miles and 5 hours away ... unbelievably similar ! And beautiful ! Wow ... so similar ... were we on the same wavelength ? But hers had some lovely shrubs/bushes that were screaming 'water-soluble' ... loud and clear !

I printed hers off to compare and, when overlapped, I had more information to build a landscape. I haven't done exactly this kind of work in a very long time...painting swatches of fabric in colours that would suit, ironing them smooth, ironing on wonderUnder, building the 2 shades of snow and sky onto a muslin background matching edges, stitching down edges and  ... well, a lot of forethought and practical before I can get to stitching !

The rough sketch was simple enough and I have definitely decided to sew the shrubs on water-soluble ... then hand stitch to the canvas (prepared background stretched around a frame).
The painting of fabric was not fun ! In my new home I don't have an extra table to lay out wet fabric on while it dries, nor loads of counter space to use. I can't hang this wet fabric as the colour depletes as it drips dry. I use craft acrylic paints that are well watered. 
Well-watered painted fabrics allow for ease of stitching with machine or by hand. Concentrated paint will make a very hard/thick surface.
I wanted more twilight colours so added white, black, true blue and metallic pink together until that large sky piece was about right ... my photo does not do the colour justice with just a small lamp this morning for lighting on this very dark and rainy day ... but you get the idea !

May 31, 2021

Some Exciting News !

The other day I was watching a video on our local cable station that plays a lot of local theatres productions, and past art shows that have been held at the Wellington County Museum & Archives. I had not caught the beginning of the one I was watching so went searching for it online ... hah ... found something else quite by accident !!!! So pleasantly surprised and pleased. I hope it opens for you.


So naturally, I sent it to my fellow fibre artists. There was some comments that this piece featured should belong  to the WCM&A... a nice idea !

The next morning I got an email from the curator, saying that there was a pending sale for 'No One Left To Mourn' ! Her lips were sealed as to the buyer but she said that I would be very pleased as to 'who' !! Holey Moley !!! At about lunch time the second email said 'Sold' .. to a previous curator ! I had been over the moon, happy enough, with the video !!! I have never been as excited about a sale before, because this piece couldn't belong to a nicer person, one I've known since about 1987 ... wow. 

I am on the verge of inspired work again. Not positive which idea swirling around in my brain will be pulled out but I am excited... a new portrait ? an acrylic paint (yes ! I think I can!) ? an ink/ink wash/graphite ? and a few more.

Meanwhile I am taking all my photos and files from my old Mac and downloading everything to external harddrives. A huge new learning curve for this old lady ! So, sorting and dumping 1000's of photos has resulted in some inspiration and re-visiting a lot of past work has also been very good for new ideas.

In the process I came across a photo that I had saved a long time ago. I didn't keep the name of the artist, but it was of an old sepia photo into which the artist added some embroidery to the photo ... a vine climbing the wall in the background with deep purple flowers on it ... it was stunning. then in my purging process I found a photo of some of my kids and grand kids taken while we were all camping together quite a few years ago ... my 2 oldest granddaughters were in it ... just little girls, who are now 25 & 22 yrs old !! Unfortunately their step-dad was in the picture and he is no longer a member of my family. That found embroidered photo instantly raised an idea ... lets remove him 'cause its a shame to throw away an otherwise great photo. 

Just a variegated sewing machine thread and a small needle and my daughter looks very happy.