Tag Archive | fiber art

Mother’s Day Bird

parakeet 2as

My mother had several parakeets when I was growing up.  I don’t remember Jackie too well, but Spencer was around until I was in junior high school.  We children called him The Drib, because the TV ad on the Lawrence Welk Show for the laxative Serutan “backwards spells natures”, which we found both ridiculous and hilarious, caused a flurry of saying words backwards in our house.  I know…kids.  My mother was not particularly amused.

The parakeet above actually belonged to my older brother and sister-in-law.  They sent a photo of this perky fellow, and I made the felt applique with embroidery as a Christmas gift for them one year.  It was a rather intense project, as I recall, so I have not done anything similar since.

parakeet 1as

I miss the trips to Woolworth’s with my own children to look at the parakeets, hamsters, and fish.  I miss Woolworth’s.

And I miss my Mom.  Happy Mother’s Day to all!

Anonymous Was a Woman

plate quilt s

” I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.”
–Virginia Woolf

This is often misquoted as “For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.”

days like wheels
turning into
plates  laundry  tasks
to gather and sort and
stitch into layers  comfort
warmth symmetry  anonymous
generations completing circles

crazy quilt painting s

Collage, to me, takes its inspiration from the fiber work of generations of anonymous women.  The women in my family knitted, crocheted, embroidered, quilted; they were milliners and seamstresses.  I have a legacy.  But their work is not signed nor was it ever hung in galleries.  Like much of the fiber work of history that provides me with so many ideas, it was made for use by family and friends, made with love and beauty as a way to provide color and warmth to everyday lives.

3 quilts s

When I saw the NaPoWriMo prompt from day 3 to write a fan letter, I went through names of people in history that I admired.  But really, the largest influence on my life comes from these women who for the most part are known by one name: Anonymous.  That Virginia Woolf spoke of the writers who claim that same name adds another dimension to this inheritance.

mosai quilt collage s

still anonymous
patterning comfort  who was
hand eye  this woman

plate quilt close up s

Day 2: a quote in answer to Elusive Trope’s 3-day quote challenge.

About the artwork:
The top stitched piece and the crazy quilt painting were done for a print rep I worked with for a short time in the early 1990s.  We had an idea that we could sell print patterns based on traditional fiber arts.  The idea did not prove successful in terms of sales, but I ended up with some interesting artwork

The quilts were made by my great aunt Del, sister-in-law to my grandmother, inherited from my mother and aunt.

The collage is from a sketchbook of work based on quilts done in the early 1980s.

poetry month

Tortoise Shell

 turtle rorschach stitched s

Reading between the lines:
story or history?
Ancient tongues disguise words.

Who will translate the words?
Who will reveal the lines
inside the history?

Is the myth history?
Behind forgotten words,
shadows of missing lines.

Lines in reverse, tangle of words, unwinding history.

turtle rorschach orig sm

This is a Rorschach painting where I not only dripped the paint onto the paper, but did a little deliberate painting too before I folded it.  I thought it resembled a turtle/tortoise shell, so I embroidered an abstract one on top.

turtle rorschach stitched close up s

The poem is a tritina, from the day 7 prompt from NaPoWritMo.net.  Not too late this time.  Does it have anything to do with the illustration?  Good question.

poetry month

Beaded Skull Mask

bright beaded skull s

“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person.  Give him a mask and he will tell you the truth.”–Oscar Wilde

I know I started working on this mask well before Nina and I started this blog, so it’s been at least two years.  As usual, I wildly underestimated the time it would take me to do it, especially the beading.  This summer I vowed to finish it for Halloween.  Just under the wire!  The idea comes from Day of the Dead skulls, which can be quite colorful and elaborate.

I sewed layers of felt on a felt backing, embroidered and beaded the face, and then backed and lightly stuffed it with a loop for hanging.

And I have been working on the real “unfinished project #3“, also a mask.  However, the answer to the question, “Can I finish by the end of the summer?”, the last sentence in that post, is:  in a word, no.  But I’ll be positive.  I have completed 4 unfinished projects so far this year.

I do not realistically expect to finish the 5th one before 2016 though.

In the meantime, I have houseguests, and will be offline for awhile.  Happy Halloween, hope to be back by “Draw a Bird Day”,  (November 8), will catch up with the blogworld then.

Bauhaus Grid

bauhaus grid front s

This is another fiber piece using the Pre-Columbian wrapped embroidery technique I discovered last year (https://methodtwomadness.wordpress.com/2014/08/11/inspiration-pre-columbian-textiles/).  While the first used a grid-based design, it was more directly influenced by the Peruvian textiles I had been looking at, although the interest of Anni Albers in Peruvian weaving techniques was what led me to look more closely at how they were constructed in the first place.

bauhaus grid close up front 2s

So back to the Bauhaus.  This design more directly reflects the use of color and grids in Bauhaus design.   Of course Anni Albers and all the Bauhaus weavers, and Josef Albers and in particular the stained glass he did while at the Bauhaus, connect to this embroidery.  But the bigger influence in this case is the work of Paul Klee, especially Klee’s experiments with color value in grids.

klee comp

Once again, I also like the back of my embroidery, and would love to have the space to suspend it from the ceiling so both sides would be visible at the same time.  I like the texture that appears on the back of the wrapping, and may try something where I leave the embroidery floss ends on the front and use the “back” as the unembellished side.

bauhaus grid back s

Local weaver Matthew Yanchuk (https://www.etsy.com/shop/Jackpie) wove the base for me, as he did for the first embroidery, this time doing a black and white check to give even more dimension to the color changes.  He is currently making me two more black and white weavings so I can try out some more ideas using this interesting embroidery technique.

bauhaus grid close up back s

Endangered Species: The Sweater

4000 tigers 1s

I’ve spoken before about the show I saw at The Drawing Center with textiles as its theme (http://www.drawingcenter.org/en/drawingcenter/5/exhibitions/9/upcoming/806/thread-lines/).  It was interesting to me that a few of the artists used sweaters and sweater graphs in their work, but I was put off by the fact that they used sweaters that other people had designed, once again exploiting the creative work of those mostly anonymous and underpaid textile artists.

4000 tigers close up 3s

It occurred to me that I could exploit myself.  I’ve been re-purposing my unsold swatches from my own design work for pillows and dolls–why not make an artistic statement derived from their original purpose?  Over the 20+ years that I designed and made these miniature sweater fronts, I must have produced thousands of designs.  I have hundreds that were returned from my reps (because they didn’t sell) to choose from.

4000 tigers close up 2s

Animal skin as a motif is perennially popular; I decided to combine some of those patterned sweater designs with my concern about endangered species.   I embroidered in black and white duplicate stitch a statement–“there are less than 4000 wild tigers left in the world”–and a ghostly tiger face on top of the knit sweater front.

4000 tigers slant s

What do you think?

Unfinished Project #3 (and more masks)

#3 swatch mask close up s

One of my resolutions in January was to finish some of the projects I had started but never completed.  Most of these involve fiber, as a lot of the stitching I do is very time-consuming.  I finished #2 a few weeks ago, although I did do a #1 1/2  in the middle of #2.  So that’s 3 projects in 7 months.

#3 swatch mask s

This one has been looking at me for a long time.  I picked out the knit swatch I wanted to use and pinned it on the canvas shortly after I finished the first swatch mask I did (https://methodtwomadness.wordpress.com/2014/09/26/saturnalia/)

museum masks 4s

The masks I drew and posted yesterday form a continuous line in my museum-going life.  Even though for years I did very little drawing, I always took a sketchbook and drew masks in museums.

museum masks 2s

I drew some initial ideas for the stitching on this mask, but I’ve been reconsidering as I look through all my references.

museum masks 3s

I will probably end up taking elements from a few places, and also adding what seems to fit the face as I go along.  That’s what I did last time anyway.  Can I finish by the end of the summer?

museum masks 1s

Collaboration: A Canvas

a canvas s

a Canvas

Its motions are chary and deft.
Stitch by stitch. Right to left.
I’m a warp. You’re a weft.

Time weaves a life canvas…


© All rights reserved 2014

Tetiana Aleksina’s poem of last December proved the perfect muse for an idea I had in the back of my mind at the time.  I arranged and cross-stitched it onto one of the working graphs done during my many years as a knit designer.

I probably have several hundred of these graphs, along with knitted swatch samples, that I haven’t repurposed or discarded yet (I threw out many of the graphs and now I’m regretting it a bit…).  What to do with them?  I’ve made dolls and pillows and masks from the swatches, but haven’t done anything before with the designs on paper.

Tia (aka Unbolt) always provides vivid images in her poetry.  She also enjoys collaborations.  Her poem”A Canvas” takes fiber work and puts it into the larger human context.

i'm a warp s

My sister-in-law (a weaver) and I went to an exhibit at The Drawing Center last fall called “Thread Lines” that explored the connections between drawing and fiber.  I was familiar with some of the artists but many were new to me.  And, as always, I did not agree with the curator on the validity of all the selections.  Several of the works represented took working patterns for weaving or knitting and made them into art.  The one I had the most problem with in that situation was also the jump start to an idea about my own knitted designs.

Robert Otto Epstein

Robert Otto Epstein

Robert Otto Epstein took a graph from a knitting book and copied it “by hand” in pencil.  OK…maybe he is making a political statement about the fact that designs are not done by hand any more, but on the computer?  If so…couldn’t he even come up with his own design?  or combine it with a computer-generated one?  or make it more interesting, exciting, thoughtful, beautiful?  It didn’t resonate with me, that’s for sure.

one of my working graphs

one of my working graphs

My knit graphs (all done “by hand” and designed by me), and those of the many designers (mostly women, paid a pittance) that I worked with over the years, seemed much more suitable for framing and hanging on a wall in a gallery than something copied by a philosophy student from a knitting book.  So I began thinking:  how to present them?  What could I do to enrich the work I had already done?  I thought first of quotes that related to the design, and I may do some of those too, but Unbolt’s poem actually got me working.  I work slowly (as I have often lamented), and cross stitching on paper is also slower than on fabric, but I was pleased with the (months later) finished result.

Thank you Tia, for your inspiration!  And for those of you not yet familiar with her blog, check it out here:https://unbolt.wordpress.com/

Headline Haiku: Shall We…?

shall we overcome s

After Possible Cultural Contact

Whenever an opportunity appears to incorporate an idea I’ve been thinking about–well, I’m all for it.

Starbucks to the rescue again.

shall we s

So:  I wanted to take a crumpled paper and stitch on the folds and see what happened.  Crumple controversial Starbucks ad, smooth it out, embellish with black and white stitching.  More random art….I like it.

stitching detail s

As to the controversy:  I think the desire to talk about race is a sincere one.  And necessary.  But asking baristas to discuss tangled issues with customers already late for work who haven’t yet had their caffeine fix…hmm.  What could go wrong?

shall we bottom s

On the other hand, a coffee shop in the Bronx which was part of a Parsons thesis project somehow successfully incorporated the issues of race and class and gentrification into its reason for being.  ( http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/30/nyregion/before-starbucks-a-south-bronx-cafe-used-coffee-orders-to-talk-about-race.html?emc=edit_ur_20150330&nl=nyregion&nlid=59959181&_r=0 ) Perhaps it’s not a problem best addressed on a corporate level.

shall we top s

Race.  Where to have this conversation?  How to begin?

At least the Starbucks campaign produced one definite result:  people are talking about talking about it.

stitching detail back s

And it gave me a chance to make some art.

art:  crumpled and stitched Starbucks ad from NY times
haiku:  randomly chosen headline words from same section of newspaper

shall we back s

 “On the clear understanding
that this kind of thing can happen,
Shall we…? (at least) dance?”

invitation courtesy of Rogers and Hammerstein

Line and Color

line and color 2as

“One line plus one line results in many meanings.”
“Color deceives continuously.”
–Josef Albers

line and color close up 1s

This is a companion piece to “Zero”, the embroidery inspired by the work of Anni Albers that I finished last summer.

zero 1s

Anni’s husband Josef did not work with fiber, but he admired the same Pre-Columbian textiles as his wife, and used them in his classes as examples of good design.  As with the first embroidery, I chose quotes to stitch as the background for the rest of the composition.

line and color close up 2s

Josef was widely known and admired for his teaching as much as for his art.  Beginning at the Bauhaus, where he took over the basic design course, and continuing in the open and experimental atmosphere of Black Mountain College, Albers constantly refined an approach that emphasized “learning to see” as the basis for not only creating art, but all learning.  Most of his students at Black Mountain were not there to study art; yet they felt his class enriched everything they were experiencing.  And when he later taught at Yale, he insisted his classes be available to all students, not just those studying art or design.  He valued process over product, and learning through doing.  His assignments always looked for multiple solutions as he believed there was never only one “right” answer to any problem.

homage squares comp

The most well-known work of Josef Albers is his “Homage to the Square” series, in which color relationships are explored through different arrangements of nested squares.  Beginning in 1950 (when he was over 60–inspiration for those of us who are no longer young), he worked on the series for 25 years, producing more than 1000 paintings.  The looser color studies for those paintings are also quite beautiful.

square studies comp

For my embroidered piece, I chose 6 colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple) plus 2 shades of grey for the squares.  The text underneath the squares was done in black and white.

line and color extra close up s

The type of embroidery I used was inspired by the Siddi quilting and Kantha embroidery of India.  Siddi quilts, produced by descendants of Africans living in India, combine Indian and African components in designs reminiscent of the Gee’s Bend quilts produced by African-Americans.

siddi quilt 2s

Kantha embroidery also uses running stitch in an asymmetrical and imperfect fashion to form beautifully textured geometrical patterns.

kantha 1

The pieces together represent the importance to me of both Anni and Josef Albers as guide and inspiration for the work I do.

albers duo 1s

You can see my post on “Zero” here:  https://methodtwomadness.wordpress.com/2014/08/23/zero/

And you can find out more about Josef and Anni Albers here:  http://albersfoundation.org/

This is really “Unfinished Project 1.5” as I decided to complete it before #2…now I’ll get back to that one.