Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Centering with Making

I've got to admit, I've had trouble lately with my making.
For about 20 years I've had an insatiable thirst to keep going.
I never tired of it. I never hit a road block. I never got bored.
Not in 20 years.

As my life continues to take on new shapes with raising a child, my energies of course have needed to shift. 
I've felt it most heavily. And I've been troubled by it.
I'm trying to go easy on myself as I realize my brain needs to hold space for an actual growing human, not just my creative ideas.

So as I've shifted towards allowing myself to evolve so I can do both,
I find myself here.

Mending and stitching tiny pieces of preciously plant dyed bits of fabric to larger bits of fabric.
Just so I can see the true and natural highlights of each and every test.
Both successes and failures.
The stunning magentas of my carefully attended fermented lichen solutions
and the oh  so  boring  beiges of
pine needles, ferns, petals, avocado pits, twigs, leaves..... this list could go on forever.

You see, it's not that THAT is all you get with pine cones, pine needles and various petals and leaves- just beige.
It just means that that is one way to get beige.
Weak baths, too high heat, not enough heat. Not enough time soaking. Not enough plant material. Fiber not mordanted properly. And again, this list could go on forever.

My one regret in life (ok, I have a few) is that I know I can't live long enough to test every single plant IN MY AREA ALONE with all the fiber and mordant and techniques that I ALONE know of.
And there is SO MUCH I don't know.

But it is and will be my life's work anyway.

Ok, onto what I worked on last week.
Which I admit is a little odd. Maybe will be seen as a snooze fest, but I friggin' loved it and it brought me so much needed

P   E   A   C   E

Last week while cleaning out my fiber studio, really because it was the New Year and it was the only thing that felt comforting, because I was experiencing this creative desert,
a new idea sparked.

I have a huge closet that I can stand in and it's actually one of my favorite places in our whole house. It's where I keep all sorts of things including my fleece stash.
I pulled out this pitiful bag of fabric scraps that I thought I would part with and just end the misery of being annoyed by their existence and then feeling like I certainly couldn't part with the lichen magenta or orange mushroom dyed silks.

Then I visualized this:

various "failure" plant dyes on silk

Then this:

various lichen dyes on silk
Then I started to visualize A LOT of them.
Either hanging close together to form a quilt image. 
Or actually sewing them together to form a quilt to hang. 

These bottom two, I started first. With the top one being random pieces I pulled from my basket. 
The bottom piece being all mushroom dyes. 


Working on this through the week, was SO rewarding.
It's the kind of project I can get lost in. 
That, "I can get through anything because I am working on this project" kind of project. 
I can take it with me on the boat, do during nap time, and really anytime if I have a few minutes, which... I'm laughing, I don't really ever have a "few minutes" to so anything like this. 

I have a TON more to do and it will take quite a while. 
And that's just the silks alone.
I also have a pile of cotton and a pile of linen.

Now aside from the satisfaction it gives me to work with color I helped to facilitate to transfer to the cloth, I also get this other kind of sparkly satisfaction that I'm doing something with not just the pieces I have used in my own testings in my home studio, but also those in one of my last classes where it was very clear how annoyed my students were at just dealing with these pieces. I took their unwanted pieces and added them to my pile. 

A question I am often asked, which also turns into a statement:
"You can't get a very interesting range of color from plant dyes. Can you?" You sure can. 
"Well, they always fade." They can fade if alum is not used correctly. Otherwise, no they do not fade. 
"All you get are yellows and browns." Referring to our Maine pallet. Not me personally. And, let me show you this magenta...
"Oh it's so much work." So true. 
"Using plant dyes are so toxic." Well... if you use tin and chrome (for example) as a mordant and DO NOT TAKE EXTREME CARE, yes those are very toxic. But when using alum, or working with lichens which need no mordants, and you take regular common sense measures of ventilation, 
no, using plant dyes are not toxic. 

I'm so excited to continue this long project and it reminds me more of the whole work I do. 

I hope to at some point have this shown in a space that can further educate Mainers on the color that can be unlocked from our endearing landscape. 

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