Saturday, December 22, 2018

That was a Very Long/Short Fortnight

I haven't done any weaving. A commission piece has to go on the big loom, and the piece needs to be in harmony with a fabric swatch that's making its way to Nelson. I thought I'd leave the loom free until I work on that piece, but, hey, it's the festive season, and I'm not sure if the client is in a hurry, so I'll wind the orange warp, maybe this afternoon. And weave it in the hellebore draft. Or something else.

I've been so eager to start the needlepoint project, but I can't decide if I want the design to be more or less the same as the previous as I intended, or something new. I did, though, panic-buy a whole bunch of yellow-to-orange threads a fortnight ago when I saw the business-for-sale sign in the window, second time in two years, of the only shop selling DMC needlepoint wool in Nelson. Not sure if I have quite enough, not sure if I need a few beiges/taupes, but I'm good with yellows for now.

It's been too hot and sunny or raining most days since I've come back. At least that's the story I'm sticking to. The few cloudy, cool days we've had, I really wanted to do something else... Like print-making. (And now I have to learn a bunch of print-making words. Lordy.)
First woodblock print in decades, using tools my parents bought me when I was around 10. I saw identical sets online last year, so they must be good enough. I couldn't decide on a theme or design, so I just made up designs as I worked using as many of the knives/chisels/thingies in the kit as I could.  
Linocut. This I know I've done several times since I left school. I tried to mix blue and black to create indigo, but it looks more like soft black. Ditto re. design.
I love cutting both wood and lino, but don't have the control I think I used to have, and hoped sharpening the blades would help. I first used the waterstone that came with the kit, then my big kitchen knife one. I learned these blades are made of soft metal, (i.e. cheap,) and if I were too vigorous the tips changed shapes easily. Oh, dear. So in addition to controlling the cutting of the medium, I need to learn to control my sharpening. (Both the wood and lino are maximum three-five years old, so it can't be that bad?)

I used inexpensive "print" ink I bought in Japan, which for all intents and purposes behaved like acrylic; printed on cheap, (110gsm?) drawing paper; spread the ink with a hard rubber brayer; and rubbed the back of the paper with a tiny baren. I don't have a piece of glass on which to spread the ink, so I taped a big plastic bag on my cutting board.

1) I can't control the depth of the carving (?) like I know I used to be able to. Ditto with curves, especially on lino. Improvement is much needed. I also need to learn better sharpening skills; Larry the woodworker sent me some links to YouTube vids.
2) I can do the leaving-slivers-in-space thing, (you know, as if I didn't cut as cleanly as I should have in bigger spaces, especially in woodcut,) but I opted for cleaner shapes/lines as much as I could. I'm fine with either, but don't like big, fat slivers.
3) I need a descent-size piece of glass. Spreading ink and applying thinly on the brayer is hard; spreading ink evenly on the wood/lino is harder. With some practice I could see how I could improve re. woodcut, (I had too much this round.) but lino is slippery and at least this ink is not at all suitable. I could use acrylic and add an medium, of which they are plenty around, but this time I switched to using an old waffle-weave dish towel. This was harder in spreading the ink evenly as parts of the towel spread while other picked up the ink, but there is also the possibility of creating unpredictable/uncontrolled background patterns.
4) I'm sure there is more to come, but for now I'm enjoying my own enthusiasm.

I want to work next on the top drawing of Ben sleeping on the bullet train in woodcut. The outline is easy enough, but I've been looking at one Renee Gouin's monotype prints to learn about color planes without outlines. And her colors are lovely, too. So much possibilities! I was also reminded, while looking up print-related stuff, that when we were in school, we used to cut cardboard in positive, to-be-inked, shapes and pasted them on another cardboard and made prints this way. I'm keen to give that a go, too.
I also started four pots of lovely-smelling geraniums this winter, but could find only very old plastic pots that were big enough for my idea. I painted the pots last week I can gift these next week. With the cats-dogs-and-monkeys rain I've almost given up the idea, but today I can apply a clear coat to try and protect the paint work, even though, as they are from sample pots, they won't last forever.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Projected Projects

I'm still in a mental coma, but that is not to say I'm not scheming... 

1) As soon as I boarded my return flight 11 days ago, I've had in mind another needlepoint project, so this piece has been sitting in the middle of the living room floor and I am looking at it all the time. I'll stick to colors around rusty yellows because I like them and I learned how to match them in pleasing and disruptive ways. Although I'd still like a bigger piece to hang inside my front door, I'll do another biggish sample to experiment more.

2) There is a new pattern emerging, and that is, the last few times I've returned from Japan, whether I sought them or not, I come home super interested in making prints; woodcut and lino in particular, because they don't require a press and suit the naive look I like. I brought back a few postcard-size wood and lino, super keen to get stuck in, but had no idea what of, so I vaguely thought perhaps repeats of shuttles, inspired by thin Japanese cotton "towels" that often use everyday motifs.

Maureen posted pics of prints made by kids in her gallery, and I mentioned my predicament, to which she suggested weaving patterns. Well, I never thought of that, and I don't know where to start, but it would make a terrific abstract if nothing else. I don't know where to start but most definitely a good idea.

Just as well, too, because after two, (or was it three?) cancelled workshops, (although she kept teaching small groups in her studio,) Judith has taken on a multi-year contract to teach art on the Cook Islands! All the very best to her, but my guys will have to be put on hold.

3) I had to keep reminding myself to draw while in Japan; it's still not a natural activity to me, not in the way needlepoint is, and I run out of patience very quickly. But I had a couple of good experiences. 
On the bullet train down south, Ben sat on the window seat, me in the middle, mom on the isle seat with the best chance to see Mt Fuji. I was so close to Ben I couldn't figure out how to fit as much of him on a postcard-sized page for a long time. This was my first attempt.
This was my second, with colors added later. This makes more sense, with his big camera bag between his knees, nodding off after a very early morning, but I like the first much better.
This pic of lovely high school boys was taken on a slow, tiny local train down south. 
It was much later I thought to draw them, and though I worked quickly, all too soon they got off and in came co-ed school students, who were visually not interesting. (Sorry, very white pages, pale pencil lines; the pic was manipulated as much as I could, but...)

I also did some travel journal collages, including in my seat on the bullet train, (I am kicking myself for not photographing that,) but I have to wait to finish it as I posted it by sea mail. This one started out well, but I've gave into my compulsion to paste everything, maps, whole pamphlets and even small posters, so the journal lost the curated feel, and spaces to write/draw. I've run out of pages anyway so I've made a simple one of the same size and will combine the two at the end. I also hope to have some handwritten elements, including Best Meal, (we had so much good sashimi and sushi,) and the list of exhibitions.

I'm also doing a tiny bit of Letter Journaling again; they're the perfect vehicle to keep dipping in and out of designing, color experiments, and visual problem solving; unlike solo projects, I need to post them on, so I do get things done, pretty or otherwise.

4) Ben bought one and I bought two cotton T-shirts for me to tie-dye. I'm thrilled about the project but am not sure what kind of designs I want. 

With regards to weaving, I haven't had any compelling ideas or projects but:

1) I'd like to finish the achromatic warp, and the current three-weft project in particular. I've been working on it for too long.

2) There is that red Syrie warp, and the need to make space for the tapestry loom. There is also another double-with commission, so I must prioritize wisely. 

3) I want to do a few warps in cotton, with a focus on colors. 

4) I keep telling myself I am interested in double weave as a design tool. :-D Also, in dyeing.

5) I fancy exploring fabulous/shocking/unexpected look based on Davidson's green four-shaft book.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Hellebore Love

Hello, again. I've been home for ten days but in an existential coma. As I get older, flights gets longer, luggage gets heavier, and airplane meals hideous-er. Just as well we can't travel too often, (I have no idea how my parents did most of their travels in their 70's!) and the reason I like to stay a while once I get to wherever I get to.

In time I'm hoping to tell you about, (unless I change my mind, have more interesting news, or slack off):
  • our trip to the south of Japan;
  • exhibitions;
  • projected projects; and
  • family, if I can collect my thoughts.
But first, something I'm pretty proud of. Or at least I was until I came home. The very last week before we left, instead of weaving or finishing items on my To Do list, I went whole hog taking care of my hellebore patch. It looked kind of like this before:
But in six days/33.5 hours, (including two hours on the day we left,) it looked like this, with all the seedlings planted and marked either with sticks or shells.
 The right edge of not-purple area, weeded a little; this extends a little further left.
The left end of the not-purple area and the approach to the purple area.
The purple area I started some years ago; I've taken out not-hellebores, (except one small chrysanthemum,) and extended the patch further back.
 The left end of former old purple area, with a few more planted closer to the boundary.
The extension is almost as wide as the old purple area, but not nearly as deep. This is where most of the new seedlings went in. There is some space for extension where old branches and leaves are piled up by the boundary; I didn't have time to move them. I'll have plenty of self-seeding babies from the older plants to fill that space eventually, although we stand there while removing the ivy, too, ergo the rubbish being more convenient there. The rubbish bags are still there; again, ran out of time, but then, not high priority. :-D

Looking at the photos, I am genuinely proud, even if you can't see much. :-D It was very hard work under a scorching sun, but I was determined to get it done, and for once I did. While we were away, neighbor Barbara offered to water the pots and this patch, but she messaged me to say there was quite a lot of rain in Nelson and... well, the "before" photo above, that was actually taken today. See the rubbish bags? :->
We bought chili and parsley/coriander seedlings on the weekend, so yesterday, along with a bunch of old (some expired but not all) seed packs, I took care of them. It's been raining more than usual for this time of year, but it's warm, so great for purchased plants, just peachy for weeds, and white flies have come back with a vengeance; in other words, Kafka's Garden as usual. But I intend to keep going outside on cooler, cloudier days.

There, I said it.
And for another pic that doesn't show much, I need to spray the patio for green growth, weed the pots, rearrange them for the summer sun, and bring up all the tiny ones I filled yesterday. There are a few pots that can be emptied, (for more old seeds, ahem,) and the hinterland, (pity you can't see the lavender and carnation that went in during that same week;) most propagation have been successful but they've been obscured, too.

Today, we have thunder storm forecast, but pffffft, the sun's been in and out. Typical.