Monday, August 27, 2012

She who hesitates misses out

The Australian Tapestry Workshop (ATW) is offering some classes later this year and early next year.  I thought I would see how I was going time-wise, closer to the date, and see if I could get into the class.  But, alas, I found out today that the masterclass is already full and has a waiting list.  They are advertising that there could be another class mid-year in 2013 but that seems to be even harder to plan for.  I'll just have to risk waiting again.

I called in to the ATW today to get some wool for weaving and then headed on to the National Gallery Victoria (NGV) to see the Napoleon exhibition.  It was wonderful - it also made me realise that I don't really know my Napoleonic history, I got quite confused about the different periods of government in France and how he got to be Consul, Emperor, etc. (There are some interesting links at the NGV site.) I was also surprised at how much of Europe he had under his control.  Part of the exhibition was a history lesson for me.

There were various artworks, pieces of furniture, porcelains, jewellery and wonderful books of maps and botanical drawings on show.  The botanical drawings were of flora of Australia, done during the 18th century, at about the same time the English were exploring the area. There were also drawings of the indigenous people and some of the animals.
It is not like now, when we can take a digital image and work on the drawings in the comfort of our studios - they must have been working away in rather primitive conditions.  The works are wonderful to see.
It is amazing to think how close south-east Australia came to being a French colony.

It was also amazing to see the map of Australia that had part of the coast missing - it had not been drawn yet.  The map was recognisably Australia.  I cannot understand how they could draw such accurate maps simply by sailing around the country. I've always been mystified by how sailors navigated so accurately by the stars too.

There were a few tapestries that had been woven at the Gobelins workshop, which I was lucky enough to visit last year.  That trip is being run again this year, almost the same, and I am going to follow their progress here, at a travel blog.  I am already jealous, they are going to Stirling Castle to see the tapestries that are replicas of the Hunt of the Unicorn, which is housed at The Cloisters in New York, USA, and the Dovecot Studios in Scotland, something we didn't do last year.

Black swans, just like Josephine had at Malmaison.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Visiting artist

I have dipped my toe into the school system again - a friend is an art teacher in a primary school and invited me to work with small groups of grade 3/4 children to teach them silk painting. I have the grand title of Visiting Textile Artist.
My previous experience has been as a generalist teacher but I had done some silk painting with some of my classes and with multi-age groups on theme days.  However, it is several years since I have ventured back into a school, so I was feeling rather nervous.
It is also quite a few years since I have done silk painting.  Dare I admit that it could well be 15-20 years?  We did do a little in my Textiles and Design course but that was using a screen and Manutex, not the way I was used to and not the way we did it this time.
I had forgotten how much time is spent in preparation and cleaning up - and how little time there is between classes.  Actually, I have not had to cope with that latter problem very often, it is more relevant to specialist teachers and now I have a much greater appreciation of how hard it is.
So far the lessons have been a success.  The children have produced some lovely work, using limited resources.  Really, all you need is the silk, the dye and some embroidery hoops - and a space.
Here are pictures of some of the pieces as I have been ironing them.
I am not sure why I call it silk painting when we use dye, not paint.  Maybe because we use a brush to put the dye onto the silk.We used heat set dyes from Kraft Kolour, very easy to use.

I decided to limit the colours to red, blue and yellow and the dyes mixed on the silk to produce the other lovely colours.
We also used table and rock salt to produce some of the patterning you see.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Tapestry at Alice Springs

I have been away for a week, having a lovely holiday.  We went to Alice Springs and visited the National Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame.  It is an amazing place, with lots to see and read.
There were displays about the earliest European women in Alice Springs and the Northern Territory - I don't know how they survived, it must have been so hard.  (Not that it would have been easy for the men either.)  As white women haven't been in the area for that long, most of the things were recorded in writing or photographs, lots of historical records.
There were two things of particular interest for me. The first was a tapestry of women aviatrix (I can't find a link to it on the site).

The second was a quilt commemorating women who were the first to do something significant in Australia.  (You can read more about this here.)

The quilt was done by having the famous woman sign a piece of calico, with a quote or message, and then a piece of fabric relevant to the area that the woman was significant in was added.  It is very big and very interesting.
There was a lot of interesting information at the museum, which is housed in the old Alice Springs gaol.
Well worth the visit.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Off the Loom

I have just turned the computer on for the first time today - I was trying to have a computer-free day.  Then I noticed the lovely date 4/8/12 and just had to blog!
So here are some pictures of my possible cocoon (not sure what else it could be) off the loom.  I actually rather like the long, trailing warps but can't just leave it like that I suppose.

Fortunately I am aiming for an organic shape and feel, so the wonky edge doesn't matter.

I sought some advice on how to finish off a shaped piece securely and then diligently did double half hitches all around the edge with cotton.  I also did the insides of the parts that are going to be holes.
Not a great idea - I can't pull the warp through.
So now I have diligently cut all the double half hitches and can pull the warps through so that I can have enough in the holes to then sew them in.  This is a slow process!!
And pulling the warp through does change the sit of the weaving, especially when you have to tug really hard because you have sewn it so securely.
Red circle - hole successfully sewn in.
Pink circle - holes waiting to be done, warp needs to be much longer for sewing.

I haven't cut off all the hanging threads at the back yet, I might want to leave them there for cushioning, once I decide how I want to present this piece.  It is still very much an experimental work at the moment.  I haven't decided how to put it together, how to mount it, if I do, or what I will use inside if I decide that something needs to go inside - if it ends up being at all 3D.
And I have these holes, so why did I put them there?  Will it be possible to look inside or behind?  What will we see?  Decisions, decisions.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Inspired by Others - and doing it all at once.

I seem to remember reading that someone whose blog I visit (I can't remember who) was weaving a tapestry and just developing it as she went.  I was very admiring of that.
Then I saw Misha's blog and was inspired - he mentioned an assignment in which one of the things to try was distressing the work - a change from getting distressed myself when weaving. (Actually, I can't find where I thought he said that but he did talk about using man-made yarns.)
Anyway, I had played around with some Tyvek, painted it, covered it with PVA and then embedded some words from the newspaper. This was one of the ideas in Mixed Media Explorations by Beryl Taylor. I was thinking of developing some fabric for an art quilt or wall hanging, or something.

I took it along to a group I am working with, with a view to having our own show later in the year (stress, stress!! - my very first group show that is not part of the textiles course). It was suggested that I could cut the Tyvek up and weave with it.  Blank look from me - then, oh yes, possibly.

Tyvek responds to heat - I am always thinking of doing some heat distressed art quilt work and have the supplies, just haven't done much with it yet.
So ...
I decided to combine these ideas.  I am using fabrics that will react to heat - I hope.  I am designing it as I go.

The not very detailed cartoon - I took the large shapes out when I began.

Some of the painted Tyvek in the top left corner, unpainted Tyvek, synthetic fabrics and wool.

It seemed that I might be well advised to put in some wool with the Tyvek and synthetic fabrics so that not all the work will disintegrate - if it does anything at all.  I am a bit worried about the feathery bits of yarn, I might have to cover them and see if I can keep the heat away from them, I don't trust them not to actually burn.

Then I remembered that I have wanted to do a tapestry with holes in it, woven deliberately.
I'll take out the cardboard when I am finished, hope it doesn't fall apart.
Note the painted Tyvek, the weft shows very clearly.

So now it is all in the same piece.  It is supposed to be some sort of cocoon but I haven't done my maths properly and there is no way it will close (if I decide to make it 3D, yet another thing this is an experiment for).  I will worry about that at a later date, if it actually works. I am not sure if I want to heat all the fabrics, I am quite pleased with it as it is at the moment.
Maybe I'll have to do some more samples with the various fabrics and just see what happens, not put them into a design at all - if I can bring myself to do that.
Hmm, this all sounds a bit ad hoc - which it is. But it is also fun.