Sunday, October 31, 2010

What is Mastery?

Our gallery has six blog editors and we each take a month to do the blog. Today is the end of my month and I hope you enjoyed the posts on weaving. I’ll leave you with one final thought – what is a master craftsperson (for the time, ignoring what I think is a bogus distinction between the terms “artist” and “craftsperson”)?

Back in the 1950’s there was a wonderful weaving newsletter published called the Master Weaver. One of the interesting essays in that newsletter was about what makes a master weaver. If you’re not a weaver, substitute your (art or craft) below.

It is quite thought provoking. I think most of us think a master weaver is someone who has a broad knowledge of the entire spectrum of the craft of weaving. Zielinski, the author, argues otherwise. He says that a master weaver is someone who specializes in one branch of weaving, sometimes using only one type of yarn and a very limited number of weave structures. His claim is that it takes a long time, sometimes years, to become intimately familiar with all aspects of a weave structure and that it is hopeless to know “all about weaving.” To quote from his last paragraph: “In my opinion everybody who knows his line of weaving is a master. If you know just one thing so well that you do not fear competition in this particular field, you are a master. If you know all the patterns of the Colonial period, ..., even if you never heard about honeysuckle – you are still a master. A master in your own line.”

See you in May – Larry

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Elephant Family–Artist’s Statement

The last of our three featured pieces is another silk painting, The Elephant Family, by Kay Collins. This is what she says about her technique:


“Using special pins, I stretched white China silk tightly over a wooden frame, much like canvas is stretched over a similar frame when oil painting. I used the combination of imported French silk dyes and a resist called gutta. The purpose of a resist is to stop the flow of dye to create a barrier which makes the outline of an image. Silk painting begins by drawing the outlines of the design with the gutta liquid. When the liquid lines are dry, the silk dye is allowed to flow within each segment of the picture. The result can be uniform fields of color.
”In painting The Elephant Family, there were places where I didn't complete the line drawing with gutta so as to allow the dyes to flow into one another, mixing and creating additional colors and a more fluid, rhythmic design rather than one constricted with rigid lines. This is where you "let go" and allow your imagination to help with the design.
”Silk painters use some of the same techniques as watercolorists to create designs... use of salt, rubbing alcohol, wet-on-wet, and wet-on-dry brush strokes are common in silk painting.
“After the painting was completed, I steamed the silk to set the dye, which increased the intensity of the color and made the painting permanent and durable.
“Before framing, I attached the silk painting to a piece of red foam core that I had spray painted with gold paint allowing more dimension. When you look closely at the work, you see glimmers of gold and red that come through the silk.
“I had the painting professionally framed as I felt that was part of the entire presentation. I didn't want to have it look like an "after-thought" in submitting the piece to the jury committee for review. If the painting "called for" a plain black frame, that would have been appropriate, but this painting needed to be enhanced with the choice of earth tones. “

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Party Animals–Artist’s Statement

Patti Koreski has this to say about her fun silk painting, “Party Animals:”

“Many years ago Mary Wells asked me to make a ruana for an art opening of her paintings.  She had a painting of rabbits in a tea pot.  I have always enjoyed giving teas and decided to make a wall hanging where lions, tigers, bears, rabbits, mice, and hedge hogs met for high tea.”


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Monday, October 25, 2010

Don’t Be Koi–Artist’s Statement

Over the next few days I’ll be posting some information from the featured artists in this month’s gallery show.

Today, Marla Rudnick, who made the wonderful knitted metal fish titled, “Don’t Be Koi,” has this to say about how this piece came about:


“In the beginning I wanted to make a fish that would sit on a surface or swim through the air. I have two photos of Koi at my house and I love to look at their shapes swarming around.

“I thought that they would be my inspiration for the fish. I wanted to make a large fish and I wanted it to have attitude. I knitted the fish from the tail to the mouth using lace stitches for the tail and dorsal fin. I fashioned the eyes by sawing them out of sheet copper and then forming the bulge of the pupil with a hammer and stake. I curled the eyelashes and used liver of sulphur to patina the eye.

“For the mouth I searched for the right color ‘Lips’ to make the fish cute. The title came to me as I was thinking about the lips.”

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Animals, Animals–Artist’s Judge’s Recognition

Last Monday was Jury Day at the gallery. That’s when everything that was in the gallery comes out and a whole new set of creations goes in.

This month’s judges noted, “This was a great theme. It appealed to many members and resulted in a creative and colorful show. Animals appeared in items of almost every technique, but we especially like the silk paintings (Party Animal and the Elephant) and the wire sculpture (Don't be Koi). Some artists were very overt in their use of animals while some only referred to animals by using animal skin prints. Leopard prints were particularly popular. We think the show is exciting and fun.”

This month the theme was “Carnival of Animals,” and three pieces received special recognition from the judges. I hope the artists will give me some material to post later in the week, but for now, here the three special pieces:

Marla Rudnick’s “Don’t be Koi,” a knit copper wire sculpture:


Kay Collins wonderful hand-painted silk hanging, "The Elephant."


And another hand-painted silk hanging by Patti Koreski, “Party Animals,”


Stop by if you get a chance, to see these and all the other wonderful creations in this month’s show.

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

More About Weaving

A few days ago I did a post that talked about the beginning steps of weaving. Today I’ll continue that post.

After the warp yarn is on the loom, each individual thread had to be threaded through the eye of a “heddle” – in this photo the long metal rods.


These heddles are arranged on wooden frames called shafts and the way these are threaded, in part, determines the pattern of the woven textile.

Next, each thread is again threaded through a reed that has slots spaced evenly across its width.


This helps keep the threads spaced evenly across the width of the textile. Then, the threads are tied to a rod at the front of the loom.


This keeps the yarn under tension when we weave. Finally, some scrap yarn is put in to space the threads evenly and then we can finally start weaving that scarf.


So, you see, there is a lot of work that has to be done to set up the loom before any weaving actually starts. It can often take just as long to set up the loom as to weave the scarf. And we’re still not done – after the scarf comes off the loom it has to be “finished” – fringe has to be twisted and the scarf needs to be washed so that all the intersecting threads settle into position. Often when a scarf comes off the loom is it stiffer than you would want when you wear it. The finishing process also helps soften the fabric and makes it drape better when you wear the scarf.

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Show Ending; New One Starts Tuesday

We change out everything in our gallery approximately once every month. Sunday is the last day of our current show, “The Child Within,” and on Monday everything that is now in the gallery will be removed. Monday is jury day when the items for the new show, “Carnival of Animals,” will be installed. Every item in the gallery is juried (but they don’t all need to reflect the current theme) to ensure the highest quality. If you’ve seen something in the gallery recently that interests you Sunday will be the last day that you can purchase it.

Next week, after jury day, I’ll post some information from the artists that received special recognition for theme pieces. It should be fun – Carnival of Animals, wild, domestic and imaginary.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

How Much Yarn is in My Scarf?

Some of the more popular items in our gallery are handwoven scarves. Can you guess how much yarn is in a typical scarf? Before you read down, see if you can guess (in feet or yards or meters).

Those of us who weave scarves usually buy our yarn by the cone and by the pound. Here are a few of the cones in my stash:


To weave a scarf (or anything else) we first wind what is called the warp, which is the set of threads that are put on the loom. There are several techniques for doing this but a warping board is often used, as shown below:


This ensures all of the threads are the same length. Next, the warp goes on the loom. The photo below shows a wider warp for a set of towels being put on the loom. To stop these threads from becoming a tangled mess we use several techniques to control the threads.


I’ll show more steps later in the week. But now, the answer to the question. A typical scarf is about 72” in length plus fringe and is about 7” or 8” wide. To weave that width, depending on the type of yarn, we may need over 200 threads in the warp. This means the warp would use almost 500 yards of yarn. The weft (the other set of threads that make up the fabric) would use an equivalent amount. So, that pretty scarf you have might have almost 1,000 yards of yarn, or over 1/2 mile!

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How to Make Silk Paper

Eileen Doughty shares her process of making silk paper. Each colorful paper is embellished with dried flower blossoms, sequins, gilding chips, or other fibers such as metallic threads. They are sold in the gallery as sheets - or as Eileen's wearable art such as necklaces.

First, set out the gorgeous silk fibers; mine are already hand-dyed by Robin Russo of Vermont.

I cover my work table with a drop cloth and a sheet of plexiglas, as this will get a little messy. Choose a few colors to blend together. On a piece of netting, layer tufts of the fibers.

Fold the netting over the silk fibers to make a sandwich, to hold them in place.

Thoroughly dampen the fibers with water and a little synthrapol, to flatten the piles.

Choose embellishments for each paper. I have a collection of flower petals, seeds and leaves that I organize in envelopes; plus threads, chips, sequins... fun things that will be flat enough for inclusion in paper.

Some of the embellishments, such as threads and sequins, can be added before the first wetting. I gently pull up the netting and add flower blossoms after that step.

A glue medium is brushed on both sides of the paper, which is how everything sticks together. Lots of thinned mediums may be used: textile medium, acrylic varnish, PVA glue, Stiffy, Modge Podge, GAC...

Hang the papers to dry. Newspapers underneath catch the drips. A warm sunny day is ideal, but they can also be dried inside on a line.

When completely dry, gently pull away the netting. It's almost magical!

The papers are stiff enough to use for a variety of purposes. Here's a sneak peak at a necklace Eileen will submit to the next gallery show:

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