Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What happened to winter?

There was an article in the newspaper today about the warmer weather we have been having.  I was just commenting to some people last night that I don't think we have had much of a winter - we have some cold nights and mornings but the days are usually in the mid-teens.  I am sure I remember doing yard duty in below 10degrees.  Of course, that was in Lalor, where the flat land allows the wind to whistle through.  Some days doing PE was a real penance, especially as the teacher doesn't get to run around!

One of the things that has amazed me is the hollyhocks.  I posted about dyeing fabric, using the flowers, on Christmas day - and I was wondering if there would still be flowers left. Well ... a couple of weeks ago I took a photo of the hollyhocks flowering in another part of the garden.  They are still flowering!!!  The ones I used for the dyeing haven't had flowers for ages but the ones near the glasshouse (but outside, in the weather) have flowers and have had all year so far.  It is strange, the flowers bloom and seem to stay on the stem, drying out very slowly. I didn't bother taking another photo today, the same flowers are on the stem.

The jonquils and daffodils are out, the decorative blossom trees in the streets are starting to bloom.  I saw crows taking sticks to a nest in the city about a month ago.

Yesterday I went for a walk and took some photos of one of the gum trees and the various stages of its blossom, from buds to dry gumnuts.   It really seems like spring already.

I know there are a lot of winter flowers, it just feels like spring.

Oh, there was a rosella there too.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Why blog?

I haven't blogged for over a week now.  I have been in a bit of a creative slump, in terms of doing my textiles and in terms of blogging.
It is not as if I haven't had inspiration, in the last two weeks I have been to the Bendigo Wool Show, the Craft and Quilt Fair and the Monet exhibition at the NGV.  All interesting and inspiring, in different ways.
Here are some pictures of one of the challenges at the Quilt show, it was based on a plate.  There were many lovely and interesting ones.  These are just two I took photos of.  The first one reminds me of crockery my mother had and I felt a twinge of quilting interest reviving.

Judith Williams

The second one is quite humorous while commenting on the pest that rabbits are in Australia. 
Anne Sushames

I have been dilly dallying about getting the final part of my current assignment done - it is supposed to be a machine embroidery 3D object with some hand embroidery included. I had been working away very happily on experimenting with the samples required, including hand embroidery.  That latter requirement slowed me down but I have got it almost done.

But making a 3D object has been preying on my mind - with no good ideas developing.  I have finally decided to just do something and hope I can make it into a 3D object.  More on that later, when I eventually get it made (I hope!).

After I decided on an idea, based on something I had done in the past, I was very pleased to be able to find images and ideas about it quite easily - because I had blogged about it!!  I have lots of visual diaries on the shelf but I had no idea where some of my images and articles are.  It was daunting to think of going through them all, looking for particular ideas I know I played around with.  But the blog is searchable - what a bonus.

I have often thought of my blog as a visual diary and now it has proven to be very good in that respect.  I read another blog where the person was wondering why she keeps a blog and I was beginning to wonder if I should keep going. Now I am feeling inspired to continue.  Finally being back experimenting and creating is good too, I feel more likely to post. Blogging makes me look at things around me slightly differently - so I hope the inspiration continues to revive.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Wet felting small pieces

As I posted earlier, I am going to be working with some young children, teaching them wet felting.
To make life simple, we are going to do small pieces, they will end up about drink coaster size.
The theme of the art program is about how food is often depicted in art and so we are going to be working on a fruit theme.
Let me tell you, my samples are not great art!

I have tried various methods of getting the image onto the felt.  This is the one I think I will use with the children.  Most of it is from Feltmaking and Wool Magic, by Jorie Johnson.  Other books I used are Uniquely Felt, by Christine White and Felt Inlays, by Nancy Hoerner.

I have adapted the technique slightly to suit me and the supplies I will need for a full class.

At first, I thought the children could make the background and then lay out the fruit shape on top.  It worked ok, but if the image wasn't quite right, it was a little fiddly to pick up again.

But the technique in Feltmaking and Wool Magic has you drawing the image on a piece of paper, then laying out the wool, then putting on the background.  It seemed to work much better.  It does mean that the image will have to be worked in reverse but I am not envisaging any great detail in the work, so it shouldn't matter.

Here is what I hope will work:
Fold a piece of A4 paper to make a square, it will be approximately 21cm square.  Draw the image.

Put bubble wrap down, smooth side up.
Lay out the coloured wool over the drawing.

Lay the background over the fruit image.  Work carefully from one edge to the other of the paper, trying not to have too many wispy bits.
Turn the bubble wrap 90 degrees, lay out more wool.
Turn the bubble wrap 90 degrees and lay out wool again.

I made two samples, in one I laid out 4 layers for the background, it was very thick by the end. In the second sample, I only laid out 3 layers.
I think I will see how quickly the children can do the laying out before I tell them how many layers to do.  The 3 layered piece was fine.

Lay netting over it all and sprinkle warm soapy water over it all.  I used a small drink bottle which had holes in the lid and baby shampoo (I thought it would be less likely to damage skin).

Rub the netting to make sure all the water goes through the wool.  One of the books suggested using plastic bags to put your hands in, this worked quite well and might be good if any of the students have reactions to the soap.

When you have made sure it is all thoroughly wet, you can lift off the netting and make sure all the wispy ends are folded over.  Gently rub or tap them with your fingers so make them adhere.

Using a sturdy rod of some sort (I am going to get some dowelling cut), roll the bubble wrap around the rod, with the wool inside.  In this trying out period, I used a larger sized knitting needle.
Roll the wool back and forth, counting to 100.  Open it out, turn it 90 degrees and roll again for 100 times.  The work will shrink in the direction you are rolling, so you need to turn it regularly. It will need to be rolled at least 6 times.
Many of the books suggest putting elastic bands on the ends of the bubble wrap so that it stays tightly rolled. I didn't do that as I can't imagine trying to do that for all the children, especially as it will have to be turned so many times.

 As the work felts, the edges may become wrinkled. You can stretch them out into a relatively square shape while you are working and while it is still wet.
 Finally, you can throw the felt onto the table top, or the floor, to continue the felting process. I did this for a further 100 times.
As you can see, it shrinks quite a bit.
 The final step is to rinse out the soap with cold water, then immerse it in warm to hot water. This final  shock also helps the felting process.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Opening of Mountain to Sea travelling tapestry exhibition

We had our 'opening' of the exhibition at the Handweavers and Spinners Guild rooms in Carlton North today.  It was so much fun!
There were people there with whom I studied the textiles and design course, people from our tapestry group, people from the online group which called the challenge, people from our smaller, local online group, people from the guild and complete strangers.  Quite a good crowd.
Marie Williams, one of the guild's vice presidents, gave a welcoming speech and Cresside Collette, one of our past tapestry teachers, officially opened the exhibition for us.  She commented on how good it is for her, as a tapestry teacher, to see past students making the effort to keep practising and encouraging each other, and how the online group that mounts the challenge gives us added impetus to keep weaving. It is true, it really helps to have a theme to work towards, with specific size limitations. It is also great to know that we will have a chance to see how others have tackled the challenge and get the opportunity to look closely at all the works.

The tapestries are wonderful. I have seen them several times now and see something new each time I look.  It is amazing how different they can look up close and then from further away.  Sometimes you wonder why the weaver did a certain thing and then you move away and it all makes much better sense.  It is such a chance to see how people attempt the same theme and how they manage to achieve very different effects.  It is a great learning experience to participate but it is also a great learning experience to just look closely at all the works.
We are very grateful to the guild for allowing us to to use their gallery for several weeks.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Mountains to Sea tapestries on display

Today a few of us put up the tapestries from the AuNZ online tapestry group at the Handweavers and Spinners Guild.  The tapestries drew many admiring comments from the many guild members present.  I must admit, I was overjoyed to be able to see them in actuality when they arrived last week.

There were more this year, so we had to arrange them differently.  As usual, it was great to see the different interpretations people had on the theme. The colours are wonderful too.

We laid them out how we thought they would look best together, pinned the names on them and then pinned them on the boards, making many decisions about how to put them up as we went.

Despite them being on display already, the official 'opening' is at midday next Saturday.  I look forward to catching up with some of the weavers.

Our small group that meets at the guild rooms on a monthly basis has its own challenge - Buildings.  The last board in the gallery has our responses to that as well as a 'work in progress' - partly to show how tapestry weaving is done, partly because I didn't get it done in time.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Thread Vase Thingy

The next assignment for my Machine Embroidery as an Art Form course is asking us to use 3D techniques.
I have been playing around with some ideas in this category already so am very happy to be trying more techniques.

We were given notes about a way to make a template from an existing object that I tried.  I chose a vase that I like as the template.  The vase has a narrower top than middle, so it was good to play around with, it is not one that you could mould the fabric onto and then slide the vase out.

I covered the vase with masking tape, each layer perpendicular to the previous.  I think I did about 5 layers. Then I got out some sharp embroidery scissors and cut through the tape.  I was a bit worried about scratching the vase, so I used a seam ripper to cut through the tape.

It wasn't a very exact template as I just ripped it away.  I am sure I could do a more symmetrical one if I concentrated.  But perfection isn't my goal, so the one I ended up with is fine.

Then I took an old paper bag that I had saved and used it to stick the template onto - it was a good size, bigger than the normal paper size, and sturdy.

I then laid out the soluble fabric on top and traced the template.  I used a permanent marker but it didn't all wash out properly, so I will try a different marker next time.  I think I may have had this problem previously but my most recent 3D works were in black, white and grey and it didn't show up.

Then I free motion sewed over the arms of the template, and the circular bottom.  I tried to make them all similar density as that can affect the shrinkage rate.  I wasn't entirely successful with this, some bits are shorter than others after washing out and drying.

I laid it out over the vase to dry, in hopes of getting a flat bottom.  As it had shrunk, it wouldn't fit on the vase very well.

When it dried, the bottom seemed much softer than the rest.  I'm not sure if I didn't sew it as thickly or if I had used a different fibre for the lighter pink that went up the sides.  Or I might have rinsed it out unevenly.

I hand sewed the arms together.  At first I used the embroidery thread but, after a very frustrating time, I changed to cotton that doesn't just slip straight out again!!!!  And it would't stand up at all.

The next morning I could see that there were little bits that the soluble fabric had left and they were looking shiny and annoying.  So I ran it under the water again and found a flat container that I could dry it on.  Lo and behold, it stands up now!  And doesn't have the annoying shiny bits.

I'm not sure what I will do with it, it is an experiment at this stage - really, a sample for the course.  It is suggesting a floral theme to me, maybe a bell-shaped flower.  I might follow that up, I might not.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Setting up Winter Delights

As I posted earlier, The Alcove Art Shop is having its winter exhibition/sale.  We set up last Monday.  There was quite a lot of work to put out and it took a few hours but not as many as in the past, apparently. Just shows how efficient a focussed group can be.

When I left, it was looking ok.

When I returned, the plinths were much more artistically arranged.

The opening went well and the exhibition is on for another couple of weeks.