Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Needlepoint Project Process Pics

I love process pics when others post them, but I get too excited about the work and usually don't want to interrupt to take pictures. With the needlepoint project, though, because I looked at it so much and worked so slowly, I managed to take pictures fairly regularly. You'll notice the orientation vary; it's because as with when I work on paper, I kept turning the canvas around and looked at it from all directions.
After Day (or Evening) 1, and I already had stitches in two different directions.
Saturday morning, after three sitting from memory, late June.
Sunday morning
Monday morning
 Tuesday morning
 Tuesday afternoon
Thursday morning; I wished I had another pic before this as I worked quite a bit each night this week.
Friday morning
Monday morning
Thursday morning
Saturday morning
A few Tuesdays and one sitting later. I've grown super eager to finish this quickly and wash, wash, wash. Late July.
Wednesday afternoon. I see two distinct styles, the multi-layers in my mixed-media/screen print mode vs. the curvy but flat areas in my weaving mode.
Saturday morning, August 4
Thursday morning; it's starting to look "messy" as a whole, with some earlier focal points disappearing, (more so in person,) while I can't stop adding saturated, "fussy" areas to create interest, which makes the whole messier. I blame this on working more and quickly, and looking less.  When I look, I'm seeing, deciding, and confirming, without realizing I do these. And I've learned about each color so much, how they look during day/night, how they react to each other.
Friday afternoon, from memory. The distortion of the overall fabric, caused by stitching in different directions, is more evident. I can't wait to wash this; I wonder if it will improve the shape.
Monday morning. Larger color patches offset the overly fussy patches. I like the way they look even though they are boring to work. Oh, but how I've completely drowned out the simplicity I aimed for in the early days.
Wednesday morning; I think it's safe to say I've done more than half, maybe closer to two-thirds. For the first time I took out a whole patch, too, because the simultaneous contrast is so different between day and artificial lights.
Friday morning.
A few Mondays later.
Tuesday morning. I feel as though I'm now filling in the gaps rather than connecting areas of interest or even trying to create focus/background areas. This is where an overall plan would work better to create an attractive piece as a whole. Funny how it looks more finished in real life; I'm already thinking of a plan for the next project.
A couple of Mondays later, almost mid-September. There are many places where the two different directions meet, which makes some corners not clean/sharp and parts of the canvas warped. Also, colors are selected to avoid adjacent patches being the same, rather than for their own merit or better combination.
The next Tuesday morning. Interesting how, in picture, some areas look bigger than in real life.
Wednesday morning. The top left quadrant in this photo is very warped because of the two directions. I wonder if it will wash out.
Thursday morning. Two more evenings to go?
Tuesday morning, and more like three or four evenings to go.
Sunday afternoon. Stitching was done on Wednesday, and I eagerly weaver-finished it. The problem was, the glue on the masking tape spread all over the surface and back in that finishing, so I solicited help on Facebook and consulted the dry cleaners and the pharmacy. Though giving it to the dry cleaner would have been the easiest, because much weft in the canvas came out, I resorted to soaking it in white spirits, (dry cleaning fluid,) in a plastic bag. Because it had "spirits" in the name, I thought it was alcohol so I hosed it down. (it didn't; these are oily spirits,) and now it sits in the shade drying.
After hanging to dry overnight, on Monday morning, the fabric felt dry enough, no portion sticky to the touch, not as stiff as I imagined, and not smelly, so I put it through a gentle vinegar bath one last time. I saw one spot where a little bit of what looked like glue appeared in a small clump on A-side, none on B, so I gently wiped it off with a paper towel. After the vinegar bath, it smelled like dry cleaning inside a plastic bag and vinegar, but hanging outside it's not too bad. There is virtually no margin on the horizontal sides as wefts keep coming unravelling. 
Tuesday. Steam pressed one last time. It has a slight smell of dry cleaning, (like dust?), slight whiff of vinegar at times; the texture is not as stiff as I imagined but limp compared to regular needle point. The starch in the canvas be completely washed out by now. There is so little "margin" my option for  use is limited. And it's very warped in every direction. Most definitely not the last project, but in future I shall work with greater margin and just cut off the darned masking tape.

It's been an interesting and unpredictable three months plus, not always fun but usually exhilarating, and an experiment in heck of a lot of looking and so much less working.  

The end.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Heyho from Planet Meg

Still here, and I still sound like I have a terrible cold, but I've been doing OK most days.
I've been needlepointing. I started casually connecting interesting bits with uninteresting filler shapes, didn't like it one bit, so I'm back to trying to fill the gaps with equally interesting shapes, which takes longer but is more satisfying.  I've also started thinking of a next piece, slightly larger, similar, maybe in the same colors give or take a couple, but with a somewhat more ordered/planned bent.
I've been knitting some nights, but it's getting longer and harder to manage; I have to fold it to shove it under the coffee table afterwards.
And look, the weaver has been weaving. I got so tired of not weaving, I threaded simply and resurrect some of my Nirvana drafts in different skinny merinos. Rather than bother with the pebbles/snow flake/night sky shenanigan. This weft is my very precious super skinny undyed merino with scale, probably the second or third last piece to be woven with this yarn as I'm really running out.
But not a lot happening here; it's hard on the body and I can't afford to work on this one halfheartedly. I have been having so much problems finding the sweet spot on my glasses, I went in for an eye check, and my lovely optometrist Julie told me although the lens prescriptions haven't changed much, both my glasses are old and one frame in particular has had it. So I'm going to look for frames in Japan suitable for a nose with no perceptible bridge; these are hard to come by here, as you can imagine, and a couple of times they had "Asian models" sent from overseas, once from Vienna, but there's not much choices. Jim can fit the correct lens here later.

The follow-up screen print workshop scheduled for last weekend got moved to early October due to low interest, but I keep fiddling with prints I made, one's I started but haven't finished, and also making new backgrounds.

Bigger accomplishment has been tidying the hellebore patch, which looked good 11 days ago, and has been satisfying. The cold wet winter did them a favor and I have more flowers than last year, but still find the infant mortality rate too high. It's getting warmer, we have more sun, and it keeps raining every now and then, so weeding the patch, not to mention the rest of the place, is pure Kafka. Power tools, little people, dogs and balls are definitely coming back outside. I miss winter already; I hadn't appreciated the quiet enough.

I culled my books, had friends over to have a look and take them away, which was successful considering many of my books were much older than I imagined, and in the end I held on to most of the art books and exhibition catalogues. I even put back "some" language-related books on the shelves, and put some weaving and somewhat-related books up for adoption here. The stash room feels roomier, but that's mostly due to stuff off the floor. Even after I redistribute all books and magazines by any means possible, about a shelf's worth of van Gogh books still need a shelf, books are still too tightly fitted sometimes many fall out when I pull out one, and at least one big box of wool need to come up from downstairs.

Answer: weave.

The best part of book purge has been the company of friends; I've been in touch with many and have seen some I hadn't for some time. Sally wanted to see the looms so we moseyed on downstairs and I went far beyond the usual "this is how a loom works" spiel. And we had some lovely book and art talk upstairs; Alain de Botton got more than a few mention but I missed the start of the conversation and was never quite sure what it was about.

I also love that we had a really good cleaning session a while back; Ben was scheduled to work that weekend so his only duty was cheesecake, but work was cancelled so we cleaned the house with gusto, which he didn't enjoy. It might even have been the first time we had many friends over at once since... Christmas Eve 2004??? We had gotten rid of many chairs for me to reclaim the floor so it was humorous at times; Ben wanted to buy  a love seat or a couch for the gathering but I'm glad we didn't. (We still might because the current love seat is too short for Ben to lie down on.)

What else? All the weight Ben and I lost in 2017, we've found and then some. I've been saying we need to get back on board with the virtually-no-carbo diet, but it's up to me, and I haven't. It's harder in the cold winter; carbo is comforting.

Ben and I are taking Mom to Matsuyama, close to Grandpa's home town, in Shikoku, and my favorite cousin the senior is coming with us; her dad was mom's older brother but passed away at a ridiculously young age. I'm the short-tempered travel agent, and I should not consult Mom on everything because the trip is shaping up to be what Ben and I envisioned would be easiest and most pleasurable at the start, in Feb, i.e. to stay put and operate from a hub. Instead, because I try to please everybody, I'm perpetually looking things up and changing bookings and boy, can Mom change her mind!!

I should know by now not to deal with Mom the way I did with Dad. (Textbook control-freak but decisive.) I try not to take to heart her every casual whim but I'm not composed enough while Ben's and my cousin have built-in, hardcore laid-back-ness. Thank goodness. Nevertheless, I'm aware this could be Mom's last long trip, and I do so desperately want to make it as memorable and pleasurable to her as I can, so it's a balancing act between asking/listening and using my judgement, which turns out to be right more often than I give myself credit for.

Except yesterday. I made the wrong call. Skype day today, and time to correct it, and I'll pay the cancellation fees.

I think I'll go weave some before that.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

And Then...

I started knitting straight away after posting on Monday. But about an hour later...
Yikes! I feel sad because all my needles are Mom's so this baby might have predated me. This is the second go for Rosie. Better proportion, right?  

Before I went to the print workshop, I looked at a lot of images on Pinterest and arrived at a British artist Helen Terry's these two images side by side. And I can't stop thinking if there is a way to weave this on 16; perhaps a diluted facsimile if I'm very vigilant, but I can't think right away. Still, I want to get a start. I've been really eager to weave on the big loom, but not the old style fancy twill. At least not at the moment. 

I'm trying to look at my print stuff every day so I don't have to think hard but a few good ideas might/could/would surface gradually. I've dome to really like this style of "thinking".

Right. As you were. 

Monday, July 23, 2018

Screen Print with Judith

I went to a three-day screen print workshop with Judith. It's my third time, but the first two were in '02 and '04 and this was the first I attended that included printing on paper. (This is why I wanted to go!)

I wanted to do something loose and manual/analog, so I dug into my gesture drawing. I seem to fall in love all over again with the Friday home time drawings in Feb, '12. Finally these two pages had to come off the sketchbook so I can scan. (Apologies for the bad pics, it didn't rain today but was dark all afternoon.)
Based on the four best, I prepared four screens, and also prepared some sheets with acrylic wash. (Note to self: I must practice wash to make them more attractive.)
Background (We'll call this B): first layer; wax resist was applied to the part of the screen where the four figures would be printed. Unfortunately I had too little space between the screen frame and the print area, and the tape I used to define the print area was icky, so none of the test prints printed nicely, which turned out to be a good thing.
Stencil 1 (S1): second layer; this "stencil" was printed on to emulsion and exposed like photograph using a mylar as a negative. When the screen is washed, the emulsion on the unexposed part, (clothes, hats,) washed off.
Stencil 2 (S2): third layer; I cut out some clothes, hats and shoes from an architect's film. The film is then taped to a screen with no prepared design.
Pencil Line (P): top layer; the photographic or keyline technique mentioned in S1 is really for these fine, nuanced lines, drawings/designs and photographs. I was thinking of a more manual method for the outline, but Judith and Kath, a classmate with lots of experience, both convinced me I'd be happier with photographic method which maintains the pencil lines faithfully. I'm glad I followed their advice.

Throughout the preparation I was mindful I didn't want the different layers to go on top of each other precisely, so I varied the shapes in B, S1 and S2 slightly. None match each other or fit precisely inside P. There was an element of working this blind, (without test prints,) but I'm happy with the results. 
Very old house paint sample wash, S1, S2, P. So, pretty much to plan.
Same as above but S1 did not print evenly and I love it.
S1 and P with P going on faintly. I could paint this in and finish if I like.
Acrylic wash, S1, P; unlike the one above, two layers printed evenly.
 Very old house paint sample wash, uneven S1, P. One of my favs.
Very bad job of B, then P. My fav; the background is very varied and interesting from the middle to the right.
Acrylic wash, S1, S2. I could try to draw the outline, but I see P as the finishing touch and prefer to print it.

By masking areas, I could have used multiple colors for clothes and accessories using the two stencil screen, but I was short of time. I also didn't meant to print as many as I did, but Judith kept telling me to push down harder so I don't get the "orange skin" effect, (apparently undesirable, but I actually love it; it suits the clothes, hats and shoes; might try to shoot with Ben's camera,) so I kept printing. I so wonder if it has to do with my cheap acrylic paints, too.

Too often I sacrifice making colors I like for expediency, and regret later. This weekend I paid attention and took time to mix carefully, another reason why I don't have many colors on the prints. But I love my colors. 

* * * * *

I first met Judith sometime between '00 and '02 when she ran a mixed media drawing workshop in the days when there weren't mixed media "products", so she introduced us to what are now seen as traditional material, but how to use them together, and to use everyday items in innovative ways to manipulate them. Many of which I still use in my mixed medias but can also be used as backgrounds for prints. I love that my various interests are converging.

Judith is such a terrific teacher at the completion of the first workshop I was compelled to write to the polytech congratulating them for having such an employee. I went to my first screen print workshop only because that was her next evening workshop and never imagined I'd enjoy it this many years later. I'm tempted to invest in a small setup (A4? Smaller?) for paper printing when I get back from Japan, but for now I hope Judith will continue to hold these workshops, which are more like retreats where equipment/material and her knowledge are available, but we do more or less our own things. Because, among other things, I have so many half-done sheets!

* * * * *

Tuesday to Thursday last week I was so worried I wouldn't be well enough for the workshop I took drastic measures. I started the day with a litter of very thick  grated ginger/turmeric/galangal/honey/lime or lemon/pepper hot drink, then soaked in a hot bath, and went back to bed until lunch time. Wednesday I added hot, diluted ginger wine to the mix, hoping the alcohol might kill germs. By Thursday I was desperate and dipped into Ben's single molt throughout the day and stayed in bed longer. (I remembered about this friend who is very healthy but when she gets a cold she hunkers down with a large bottle of Scotch!)

I wondered if I should not go to the workshop at all, but I had planned and prepared so I decided to leave early if I didn't feel great. Well, there is no time to feel sick in Judith's workshop, the mind keeps churning out ideas! I did leave about half an hour early on Day 1 to buy paint because I was completely out of reds and blues, but otherwise I was all in, then a fair bit of Scotch every night.

I haven't worked on the needlepoint for a while, but I undid Rosie's scarf Option 1 a week ago Sunday and started on Option 2. I love the new color and proportion, but it doesn't have the heavenly soft feel, but it's good start. I can make her another later. I'll show you a picture in the near future, but I knitted a little last night.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Segway / Day Job

Annabelle and Sam and I had a second, much longer lunch last Thursday. We studied and discussed their recent paintings, and then looked at the mixed media Letter Journals I've done collaboratively last year. I also told I'm enjoying knitting, which is 3D experiments to me, (still can't increase/decrease, still don't do gauges, don't do purling well, so still making rectangles and tubes with whatever yarns that fit one of the two sets of needles I have;) and needlepoint. And that I miss the figure drawing class but I can't afford it.

I find it intriguing all these different methods/media appear to be gelling in some way, though not exactly clear how yet, that they no longer feel unrelated/separate crafts. I've also signed up for 3-day screen printing workshop this weekend. This is my third time with the same teacher, and I'm looking forward to it, trying not to overthink it, (which is what I did the second round, and sort of ruined the experience,) but mulling over a few ideas. One fun one is to recreate my gesture or blind drawings in screen print; the other is to go completely abstract. Either on cloth or on paper. We'll see how it goes.

* * * * *

I really didn't think much of what I've been knitting for Rosie so I completely unraveled it. I could change one of the three colors and knit a cowl/crawl, or a flat rectangle; I could knit with the darker brown, mom's handspun, which doesn't feel as soft but is a lovely color. I also have mom's handspun cashmeres, but they're more cream than brown, and I have less of that than this lovely walnut-dyed Australian merino. Soooo... We'll see how it goes.

* * * * *

With about a third of Japan being flooded, mom and we decided, if things don't get worse, it's probably better to travel north rather than south. Which is interesting because I really haven't seen north. And fish could be better. It's just that we want to avoid the Fukushima area so it'll be way up north. And I think I've got all the presents we need. I hope.

* * * * *

I want to finish weaving at least Esther's warp, which includes a present for my cousin's husband; the gray warp, and another one that's not Syrie before I go to Japan. So time to get a little serious. Air NZ cancelled our flight home so we have to leave two days earlier. I've got, oh, yikes, 96 days left.

Busy, busy, busy.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

This is Now

Last Friday afternoon I got sick of not tidying/decluttering in spite of good intentions each morning, so I went in and tidied art supplies. There was nothing to cull, except almost all collage material, (I find myself holding on to art supplies in the event my body gets too old to weave,) but I reorganized them in different boxes. Overall volume didn't decrease as I imagined. Sad face.

On Monday I continued with fabric and unsold work; all dye experiment swatches went out, but not much else. I wasn't concerned with "completed" things, but again I held on to raw material with which I could experiment and maybe make things. But that was the end of tidying for the whole week. I now have only books and bookshelves to face, but boy, it's a biggie. And in all this tidying, I can't find the two little packets of dye I bought a few weeks ago. LOL face.

Rosie saw some of the cable knitting I've been posting on Facebook and I offered to make her a tube scarf. Grays are the only cashmere I have plenty of, but she likes brown, and you know me and browns! I dug up browns I have, and found one beautiful darkish brown, mom's handspun, that would look delicious in cable but feels not exactly feather-soft; a few balls of devastatingly lovely Australian merino I dyed with Blenheim walnut husks/shells but there may not be enough of, (yeah, ending a clause with a preposition!); and some of Mom's handspun cashmere and mixes of which there is definitely not enough. Because Blenheim is a meaningful place for Rosie, I started with that.  
Except three lovely colors mixed together came out a murky... old-man's-undershirt color, so there is a chance I might overdye this once done. As well, I quickly learned there is no way I have enough to get a descent length in tube form, but for some reason I have kept going. I might change my mind later, or just make a very short tube scarf. We shall see!  
Needlepoint is progressing, sometimes quite fast and sometimes not at all. Some days I've completely lost the plot and just keep filling space, but weirdly I am enjoying not knowing what it's going to look like in the end. I need to get heaps more yarns but I think I'd like to stay with these 12 colors, (11 really, because I don't like one at all,) unless I can find one or two more very light colors that fit the scheme. 

I had an interesting conversation with a young jewelry maker Tom about making. We agreed on a whole lot, but I look forward to pick his brains again; he has strong art education background and is now rebelling and turned to craft. My takeaway, though, is it's OK that I don't feel guilty not weaving at the moment; I can't sell and I am interested in making really lovely things, so I'll wait until I have a splendid idea or a gushing enthusiasm, whichever comes first. 

We're six and a half months into this year, and I've had a cold for three and a half of it. My airplane ear is better but not gone, and my system is still congested. Last weekend I woke up breathing through my nose and what a strange sensation that was; my brain felt drafty and cold! I'm back to new-normal mouth-breathing, again. Can't even tell if it's good or bad. I found out both coughing-endlessly and congestion-induced-ear-infection colds have both been going around Nelson; folks have had or know folks who have had them. But so far it's just me with both.

Ben works in IT; his office has half a dozen people squished into not that big of a space; it's fully air-conditioned; it's been cold this winter; and he and colleagues don't open the window every so often for ventilation. And some of his colleagues have small children. So, the perfect germ incubator. I'm off meds, ready to get off "temporary" supplements, ready to reclaim life. But it's going to take a little while longer, maybe one more visit to the doctor. Grrrr, I'm so ready to move on.

What have you been making? 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

High Maintenance

The needlepoint project has become all-consuming. It's as if I have a new puppy whom I can't leave alone; I keep popping back into if not staying entirely in the living room, looking at it, turning it around and running my hand over it. A puppy would smell better and is oh-so-much nicer to cuddle, but you get the idea. Two days this week I was all ready to tackle everything but the books in the stash room after breakfast, stopped to fill in just one tiny area, and wham, it's 4 in the afternoon!

I look at it more often and much longer than work on it. The time I spent on mixed media prepared me for this. In fact, the project feels like me putting down colors in yarns, although it takes much longer to paint, say, a 3cm2 area.
This was this morning. It looks a little different now, but I have a few problems. Which is why I changed this post's title from "Besotted". :-D

I like the appearance of patches marked A. I start with a darker, saturated "highlight" color, and make a rectangle with tiny bits "torn off". Then surround it with increasing less saturated colors so the appearance is similar to collage using paper with cut and torn edges, with the highlight "on top". I also like smaller, more saturated highlights like B, even though in areas C, the shapes were blurred due to lack of contrast with the colors around it. I'm not sure what's going on at C in bottom right.

D started with paler highlight colors, so surrounding with other colors didn't make the highlights stand out, and the area looks flat and uneven. This is a familiar "patchwork" look I make often in needlepoint. I'm at a loss as to what to do with D. E had the same problem but I added more saturated highlights which made it slightly better, but I worked some more here tonight, and it's looking as flat as D. (And the coloring is so 1970's!)

A more organic look in F feels more familiar, even though like A, it started with squares and rectangles with bits "torn off" but I didn't like the dark brown's shape and I kept adding. It's wee corner is attractive, but if I were to make something again/bigger, I need to learn the characteristics of different styles and plan the overall look better.
I also treated my past project a little more vigorously; not quite wet-finishing, but I left these in warm vinegar water for a while then rinsed a few times in warm water. The canvas is slightly softer, and the color yarns look ever so slightly "together". This finishing doesn't feel necessary, but when the current project is finished, I might try even hotter vinegar bath. I'm aiming for the more worn look, closer to the texture of a crossed stitched piece.
The big ooopsie was, I'd forgotten I used a run of the mill pen to mark my areas in one, and it bled. These are meant to be small bags, so the sides won't matter, I hope I can just adjust the bag width, but why on earth did I put that blotch in the yellow area, (inside the circle,) I don't know!

I've been spending some time on Sarah Swett's blog, trying to soak up the apparently relaxed attitude towards making. She doesn't speak too much about weaving her more "serious" tapestries, at least that I picked up, but most of her posts read like a mental retreat and is so pleasurable. I'm up to October of last year.

She reminded me that years ago I wanted to weave my own fabric for cross stitching; now I might weave needlepoint canvas with wool, although I might have culled some perfect yarns for this. :-D I've also been looking at my past drawings and abstract pieces for future needlepoint ideas.

It's not just the needlepoint taking up all my time. I've been spending/wasting quite a lot of time searching for weaving and needlepoint images on Pinterest. Quite a lot. While enjoyable, I keep telling myself, this is not the time to slack off; Japan trip is approaching quicker than I think. Goodness, it's July already, and I've been sick nearly three months this year with stupid colds. I must reprioritize. Soon.