Mar 17, 2011

Last June, Connections Fibre Artists ( had a retreat and while we enjoyed visiting with each other, sharing needlework books and eating we also 'played' with various techniques. We decided to dye using a boiling pot of potassium permanganate. We had various fabrics and even driftwood and sea shells ... each of us coming home with a small treasure trove of gorgeous shades of brown.
These were the things that I decided to use for an upcoming show while I was house-sitting in January.
I have been thinking for years that doing an abstract piece would be nice ... if I only knew how and liked abstracts ! As well, my group is planning a show in British Columbia in the fall and the theme is 'Pentimento'. Pentimento being a term applied to the technique of old masters who painted a new painting over an existing one ... and the previous one can still be seen underlying the new one !  ... if I had done that, it would have been called a stupid mistake and I would have been called on it.
So now it has become a challenge to deliberately put one idea on the canvas, change my mind and add another idea on top of it and make it to be seen underneath a little !! So with determination I plowed ahead.
Starting with a piece of fabric that had been folded over some wet, dyed bits and pieces and which now had a mirror image on it, I stared and started to see the possibilities of a face. Some India ink here and there, defining what was already there, brought out a stronger image. I continued to draw and was surprised when the face started to look like one I had seen of my Robert Currie in an old photo in a museum in Wingham, Ontario, Canada. I have been doing a genealogy search for a few years now and this man was someone I truly admired and wished I had known.

I now had my underlying painting.
Finding a way to bring all of this together was the next chore. In my stash of these dyed fabrics was an old linen napkin ... it was a single, was soiled and had a hole in it ... it was a good choice to experiment on  with dye. The colour it took on was almost the same as the colour of an old map of Huron County that I had found on the internet. Huron County, Wawanosh Township, being the place where Robert Currie and 3 brothers had settled after coming to Canada from Scotland in 1849 ... along with 2 sisters and their mother !
I drew a small part of this map on the linen with my India ink pen including lots, concessions, acreages and who settled them. Nearby were other names of Gr.Gr. and Gr.Gr.Gr. Grandparents on both sides of my parents lines as well. Now I was getting very excited and attached to this piece. I, then machine stitched the whole linen napkin in a similar colour to bind it to my backing fabric ... I was pleased with the way it looked ... ancient and worn. To bring in the idea of another painting (pentimento) on top I began to play with bits of fabrics in an abstract, kind of quiltery way ... it didn't work for me ...

... but trying to be more realistic helped me achieve a piece that I was happier looking at. With the dyed raw wool acting as the branches of a pine tree (Robert and his brothers would have cleared their land of thousands of these trees) I was able to push the drawing into the background. Some of the other colours from this pile became very small ink drawings of Robert's original farm (taken from a thumbnail that I found on the internet), his silo which still stands, a field that he would have plowed, a fence line and a small map of the actual lot that he settled. The smaller rectangles of black and orange were from the only scrap that hadn't been dyed with the potassium permanganate and, to me, added some interest... it also worked very well as the trunk of the tree. The final touch was a piece of cotton netting that had taken the dye very well. I tacked it in place making sure that I achieved the wonky way these farm fences tend to look as the years went on.
For me this piece is a stretch from the way I usually work ... it's a little bit abstract, it's a little quiltery and isn't completely covered in stitch. It is now hanging in a show in Oakville, ON, and a profession photographer is taking a pic for me while it is there ... which I will show soon.


  1. I love this piece you have created. The steps involved and how it came together was interesting. Thank you for sharing. Megan

  2. Thank you Megan. I have succeeded when I have received comments such as yours.