Friday, May 13, 2011

Artistic Growth

Our members must demonstrate mastery of at least one fiber technique––knitting, weaving, quilting, etc.––to be juried into the Gallery. Sometimes members may want to learn something new, whether as a change of pace from their primary area or as an expansion of something they already do. This new road helps us grow as artists and broadens the range of work available in our Gallery. Today I'll showcase three members who have taken this artistic journey.

Anne Sanderoff-Walker is a weaver, but recently she has added felted, embroidered pins to her repertoire. When I asked what led her to this new endeavor, Anne said:

Every once in a while I take a workshop that is totally different from my primary art form, which is weaving. The Potomac Fiber Arts Guild’s February three-day workshop was on hand dyeing, stitching and beading on felt, making pins and books. I find that learning new techniques helps me tap into unexplored reserves of creativity. I have recently been exploring dyeing and I was looking forward to expanding this exploration with the added dimension of felting. Chad Alice Hagen, the instructor of the workshop, encouraged us to make one decision at a time as we stitched patterns onto the hand dyed felt, adding buttons and beads as the whim struck. This is drastically different from the planning and executing of my woven pieces which require color and structure decisions to be made very early in the creative process. I have always enjoyed hand work and the embellishment of my new pins has brought me back to a loved technique. The addition of this new fashion accessory line to my work has also provided pieces at a lower price point, providing the opportunity for customers to make a differently affordable purchase of my art.

Below are photos of three of Anne's pins:

Anne's work shows the wide range of color, texture, and composition she can achieve with this technique.

Another member who has taken this road to artistic growth is Roz Houseknecht. Here is an example of Roz's felted shibori scarves:

Roz says that "combining textile techniques has always been intriguing to me. For several years I have been dyeing silk using a variety of shibori techniques."

Shibori is a resist process that creates patterns in cloth by blocking the flow of dye to certain areas of the cloth. For example, if one clamps rectangular blocks of plexiglass to both sides of a folded length of fabric, a pattern of repeating rectangles will result because the dye hasn't reach those areas, but has colored the rest of the fabric. You can see this in the center scarf above, where the first dye bath of paler blue forms rectangles outlined by the purple applied after the fabric has been clamped. Another shibori technique that Roz uses involves wrapping the fabric around a length of PVC pipe, tightly wrapping string in a spiral up the length of the pipe, then compressing the cloth so that the cord blocks access to the dye. This results in a more linear pattern of light and dark area. You can see this in the closeup below.

Roz makes the surface complex by using 2 different tying methods. "I clamp or wrap the silk and put it in a dye bath. After I rinse the project and dry it, I then tie or clamp the silk in a different way and drop it in a second color. This multi step process adds depth and interest to the surface. After the cloth is dyed, I add fine merino wool to the silk to highlight different sections of the cloth. The felting process adds additional texture when the wool shrinks and silk pleats."

Another process that Roz has been working on with felt is to collage onto the silk with shapes that have been pre-felted, creating a complex surface pattern. Below is an example of a garment Roz made that uses this technique:

A third Gallery member who has developed a new body of work is Janet Stollnitz, another of our master weavers. Here's how Janet describes her journey:

What is old is new. A number of years ago I took workshops in both wet- and needle-felting. Although I enjoyed the results of the wet felting, I was more intrigued by the details created using needle-felting techniques. In the needle-felting workshop we created heads; each head had a unique personality. The next step was to create a body. My enjoyment was in making the heads, not a full body sculpture. That ended my needle-felting endeavors. However, seeing the various pins produced by Gallery members reminded me that I had enjoyed making heads, especially the faces––face pins!

Each face is created individually starting with a basic background followed by a nose and ears. With the addition of the eyes and the mouth, the personality appears. Some hair-- many seem to have a “bad hair day” --and of course, beaded earrings complete most pieces.

The base or background starts with a hamburger roll sized mound of carded wool fleece. Using a needle that is specially designed for needle-felting, the fleece is pierced repeatedly to form the desired shape and density. The nose and ears are shaped separately using the felting needle and attached to the base shape. All facial features, such as eyes, eyebrows, and lips, also are made of carded wool fleece and applied using the felting needle. Curly, wool locks are most often used for hair. The beaded earrings are attached using a needle and thread.

I hope you've enjoyed learning about these artistic journeys as much as I did. Our new show will be juried on Monday. Please visit the Gallery to see the latest places our artistic paths have led.

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