This combination of fabrics has been through several transformations over the past months. I've cut it from quite a large rectangle into smaller squares. Several of those squares have been dipped in wax (that piece is still in progress). Several more got rolled into tubular shapes and then unrolled because they just didn't feel right.
After several weeks of tinkering, tampering, pondering, even placating, this wool and silk combination has finally found its home. Simple 'pillows' eased gently next to one another.
Perhaps after all the fuss what was needed was simply a place to rest one's head.
I recently collected a sculpting stone while on Orkney last month. It's exactly the size, weight, and shape I have imagined working with -- oval, but not perfect, heavy, but not so much that I can't pick it up in one hand. It's just large enough for my fingers to gently curve over the top. It feels good to hold.
I've been sculpting with it each day for the last six days. One piece of washed and torn silk chiffon at a time is laid softly over the stone. The silk is then coated in matte gel medium and while the medium is still wet it gets loosely drawn upon with a graphite pencil.
The silk dries overnight and each morning I pull it off the stone. It is a fragile vessel, just stiff enough to hold a shape when sitting upon the table, but it curls gently when pinned to the wall. I now have six such vessels -- one for each day I've been working with the stone.
I suppose I could have collected dozens of stones so that I could 'produce' more sculptured pieces each day, but I've chosen to use only one. I enjoy the daily process of laying on the silk, then coating and drawing on it, and the next day slowly peeling it off.
This morning, for some reason, I've chosen to rummage through what I like to call the 'information box' --a storage container in which I keep projects that didn't quite go anywhere and pieces of textiles I've used to test out new techniques which were less than successful.
Some of these bits I throw away immediately but many of them I keep because sometimes they provide interesting information. I don't look through the box very often but when I do it's sort of a strange trip down memory lane. I see the ways I innocently and earnestly tried something new, and even though they didn't quite work out at the time, I can see now how I've more masterfully incorporated the techniques into my practice.
It's a visual representation of humility and I think that's an important box to look in every once in a while.
Like many artists, I would imagine, when I travel I bring along a small 'stash' of art supplies. In my case, small scraps of fabrics, various colours of thread, some beads and bits of high-quality art paper.
Before I leave my studio, I choose my materials swiftly so as to not over think the process. Several medium size zip-lock plastic baggies do the trick.
Each morning while I'm away (these few weeks in Norway) I sit with my bags of goodies before me and gently let a meditative 'sketch' guide itself. They're quite simple - no need for complexities - and as I continue to create them they are reminding me of a child's scrapbook of small creatures collected while on holiday.
They feel like a lovely conversation between what I have brought to this beautiful place and what this beautiful place has inspired me to bring back home.
This past month I've spent quite a lot of time finishing things up. Textile projects that have been on the brink of completion finally made it across the finish line, and after what feels like years of sorting within my own head, I've finally created a website. It's simple, which I like, and more importantly, it's up! Please stop by and take a look --the link is now in the 'Find Me Here' section on the blog.
I'm still getting the hang of photographing my work using some new studio lighting --hotspots, shadows, and general 'flatness' of the textile pieces will continue to be my 'creative problem' for a while, but what artist shies away from a creative problem? Tips from those of you photographically inclined are welcomed!
I like the fact that I've finally found a a way that I can create a website myself. It's taken me longer than I might have liked, but as I consistently try tell myself about many things in life.......
Oh, the rhythm of creativity is an interesting phenomenon. Things can sit on a shelf for months, like the pink silk 'blossoms' I began many moons ago, and then, BOOM! Like a match being struck (literally in this case) the eureka moment occurs.
I can't pinpoint what made me think to set light to this work, but when it hit, I knew it must happen immediately. Where are the matches?!Will the lighter we use to start the gas cooker work better?! I know, walk around the corner to B&Q and buy a fire lighter, NOW!
Standing over the kitchen sink with flames bursting from my small silk pieces was the most fun I've had with my work in a while. Perhaps it was because there was a slight element of danger involved or maybe it was the thrill of the burst of a new idea in action.
Whatever. It was a combustible, creative combination. :)
My husband and I just returned from a week in Italy, where we, along with my brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew, helped my parents celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. It was a special week. I was able to spend time with my husband and my family in a beautiful setting in the Tuscan hillside outside of Florence where we ate amazing food, drank lovely wines, and enjoyed sultry warm weather which we were able to indulge in poolside.
I'm now having a bit of trouble 're-entering the atmosphere' of creative life. Yesterday was spent in the studio trying to get started again, without much luck, I must confess. Today a slight, yet persistent feeling of doubt is lingering in the air. I'm always a bit fearful when I'm in this state --fearful it will last forever and my life will be lived in the smallness of my own mind, where it is dark and really unpleasant.
I find that there is a fine balance of moving forward - experimenting with little bits of cloth, etc. and just being in the studio. Sitting. Observing. Relaxing. Being with the doubt and the fear and finding a way to simply befriend it and let it naturally move away.
No tug of war, no cursing at the dark. Just a gentle conversation with the Muse and then the patience and the courage to continue in the face of what sometimes feels like walking through fire.
Those of you who follow this blog will have noticed that I started a new blog last week - Places We Call Home. As I wrote on the first post, this phrase has been running through my head for a while and imploring me to explore its possibilities. I'd begun to write several draft blog posts and for some reason I wasn't able to complete a single one. Too much thinking about the topic, and trying too hard for the new blog to be unique.
So, I've decided, for now, to delete Places We Call Home because it isn't feeling quite right as a separate blog. I'll continue to follow the theme but will just do it here on Following the Silver Thread.
These past few weeks, my mind has been a whirlwind of anxiety while I've been engrossed in studying for the Life in the United Kingdom - A Journey to Citizenship test. I needed to pass this in order to apply for my 'settlement visa' to live, permanently, in the UK.
Most of my creative work, and frankly, most of my general sanity and inner-peace flew out the window while I filled my head with a random selection of facts about Britain and worried whether or not I would know enough of them to pass the test, which I did, I'm happy to report, yesterday.
I'm not sure how my mind took over so much the last few weeks, and it's pointless, really, to speculate. Regardless, today I am granting myself my own personal 'settlement visa' - permission for my mind to surrender and my spirit to renew so that I can, as we are all truly able to do in each moment - begin again.
As is often the case with me and my work, I've stumbled into something. I wasn't looking and fell right into it. My favourite process, really. It's a simple start, but as I quite often contest, those simple steps, when walked consistently, can lead you into interesting new territories.
Last year, I created a machine and hand embellished cotton gauze rectangle. After it sat around for a quite a while I cut it up into 8 squar-ish pieces. Those pieces have been hanging around for months, waiting patiently, with me giving them intermittent attention but no real action.
Last week, I noticed them, and they got dipped in encaustic medium and have been sitting around as waxed squares -- a little dazed and confused. Today they got stuck on the wall in a messy grouping because I've just been desperately trying to get out of 'square' mode. Then, not sure how it happened (kind of like a cavewoman rubbing two sticks together to create fire) I took a square off the wall and rolled it up (ugga!). I took the rest of the squares off the wall and rolled them up (ugga! ugga!).
So here they are, rolled up and ready for the next step.
They're still a little dazed and confused, but at least they're helping me realise that the world isn't flat.
I know the title of this post may sound like a nightmare to many people, but to me, it continues to be the grounding force of my work. I certainly get excited when I discover new tools, new materials, and interesting techniques that bring forth a burst of energy, and I'll continue to work in this way. There is, however, nothing more gratifyingthan returning to the quiet act of the simple stitch over and over again and the simple manipulation of a beautiful textile.
I say gratifying because it reminds me to be grateful; to be appreciative of the small, often less than noticeable things, moments, and people, in this life. This way of working reminds me to pay heed to the fact that it is the small, repetitive gestures that build the large and the lasting, whether it be a work of art, a marriage, a home, a garden, a community.
Things are getting interesting around here. I had a surge of 'mad scientist' yesterday and decided to get really experimental.
What was originally one of my silk neckpieces has now become a small relief sculpture on paper.
After needle punching and ripping areas of the silk, I dipped random sections in hot beeswax. Once that dried I then dipped other random sections in tea.
The tea stained sections turned out too to be too dark so I gently poured strong bleach over those. I wasn't sure what the outcome would be. As it turns out strong bleach eats away silk - a very interesting visual result (just pay heed if you try this on a favorite blouse).
I've been longing to go deeper into what I can do with the textiles but have felt a certain trepidation about how to go about it. For some reason I've not given myself permission and have been clinging on to some old ways of being, of working. Or, perhaps I'm just slow.
Whatever the reason, I'm so glad I found a fearless moment and took the plunge.
I used to work much differently than I do now. I would, more often than not, see an idea finished in my head. Boom. I would usually sketch it out, pick my fabrics accordingly, and merrily sew my way to the end of a project.
I'm not sure what happened, but I can't work like that anymore. I just can't. It's sort of the feeling you get when you're in a relationship with a person who you know is a wonderful human being but just not your wonderful human being. It's painful, this ending of the relationship, but you know you have to go.
This means that I've basically started over. I'm a beginner in how I now work. I don't see finished projects in my head. I get glimpses of how to start - vision bursts - and then I begin. One foot in front of the other --usually very slowly. Experimental moment begets experimental moment.
Sometimes it's excruciating not to know the ending while in the middle (like I used to be able to do). It takes much more patience and much more trust. It's slower, and it feels incredibly vulnerable, like I'm wearing my insides on the outside. Ultimately, however, it's more satisfying.
Like my penchant for long, solitary walks, I get to wander deeply through my own creative process.
I have a penchant for long, solitary, walks. Not just walks to exercise my body but walks to relax and open my powers of observation, to strengthen my awareness, and to satisfy my heartfelt need to wander.
I was in Bergen, Norway, the past few days. It's a lovely city. Perfect for wandering.
As I meandered through the historic streets and the nearby hills I continued to encounter randomly lost textiles.
I began to feel a strange resonance with these items. It was as though being lost enabled them to experience life on their own after having been separated from what they were supposed to be.
I really like this notion --that if we allow ourselves to be lost in this way we're then able to experience our own path -- and perhaps receive a bit of surprising guidance along the way.
I write frequently on this blog about simplicity, silence and letting go. For me, these themes permeate my process. Who am I in this multi-media world of noise and speed? What happens to my mind and my spirit when I disconnect from the television, the telephone, the radio, the internet? How do I handle all that empty space?
I'm interested in exploring what happens when I honestly come to terms with the fact that I don't know and each step into that unknown is a pure moment of discovery -- a simple step by step joy at uncovering what is underneath the surface of the noise.
Shaun McNiff writes in his book Trust the Process: An Artist's Guide to Letting Go:
Getting to the core involves a realization that we are in a process that is much bigger than ourselves and that all we can do is make contributions and connections between things, one day at a time, one instant to the next. Trying too hard to find the essence tends to keep us on the periphery. The most vital expressions emerge when we are most relaxed, when we simply immerse ourselves in the immediate environment and trust that something significant will appear.
So, I continue to try to relax and trust the process and I invite you to try and do the same. Who knows what we'll uncover?
This week I'm travelling and I've brought along with me a random (and easily packable) selection of small scraps of fabrics, art paper, coloured markers -- as well as a needle and several different colours of thread. Each morning I plan to do one piece as part of a daily creative practice.
I find that these are often my favourites -- simple little meditations that aren't over-thought and aren't trying to get anywhere.
Where they'll go, however, remains part of the mystery and the adventure.