Monday, August 17, 2015

Those Pesky Plant Fibers

I need some help!!! Lots of fun last week with our mushroom dye experiments. I'm buying more raw silk - I love its texture and it took the dyes beautifully.

BUT. As you can see from this photo, the cottons (top left and bottom right) did not. And I thought I had prepared them (as well as some linen) by soaking overnight in a soda ash solution then drying them before the dye process.  Even in the colorful lobster mushroom dye with added soda ash, the plant fibers didn't color much.

Yep, I know the plant fibers need to be mordanted with various substances. And I've spent a couple of days reading about how to do that. I think I understand the chemistry.

But I guess the how-tos of mordanting are so basic that most articles don't discuss the actual step by step process. Or the processes conflict with something else I read.

Can any of you talented Dye Queens (or Kings) tell me exactly how to mordant my cottons and linens for natural dying? Do I boil the fabric in the mordant solution? Dry them before dying? Soak and dry 3 times? Use alum acetate? Wave a dried indigo stalk over the dye pot while chanting a specific incantation?

I'd love to hear about the specifics of your method, and I'll compile them in a post to share. Thanks a bunch!

Friday, August 14, 2015

My New Studio in Service!

On Saturday, my studio was the site of a wonderful silk painting workshop that followed an opening of art by Lynne Taylor and me, including many of her beautiful paintings on silk. Lynne taught the workshop, I assisted, and we had five enthusiastic students.
Lynne is on the right, showing us how to stretch the fabric on a frame.
Some wonderful work resulted.
Susan and Joey working on their gorgeous flowers.
Then, last evening three friends showed up in the studio to start our informal fiber arts group. Tonight's experiment involved mushrooms, fabrics, the little stove in my little kitchen, and a couple of mordants. Here are the mushrooms I collected.
A coral mushroom and some lobster mushrooms.
Stephanie, Karen, and Roseanne loving the results.
We used three different mushroom species, brews with no added mordants, and brews with either vinegar or soda ash as mordants. Also, we tried several types of wool and silk, some linens, and some cottons. I'll post more photos somewhere else for our group, but here is our array laid out to dry.
It was well worth the experiment! The lobster mushrooms performed  beautifully. We had three very distinct colors from the three different pH mixtures. I imagine there are several women scouring the Adirondack woods at this very moment for more lobster mushrooms!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

I am OPEN!

Yes, philosophically I try to stay open. But now my Pink House Gallery is open too, as of last week's Art Walk. I'm the shorty above with my friends Janice and Gail that evening. We're standing in front of the work of my friends Pat Pauly (the 5 large pieces) and Deborah McDonald (the small piece outlined in black on the left). There is also work of friends Carol Boyer and Lynne Taylor, as well as some of my own. Isn't it fabulous to have such friends?!!!

I promised to show a sneak preview of a current project in my recent email blast about Saturday's Studio Tour and the exhibit "Reflections and Exchanges" that opens August 7th at the Pink House Gallery. For this exhibit, Lynne Taylor, the above-mentioned friend, and I exchanged some of our dyed and printed fabrics. Now we're busy using the other's fabrics to make some small pieces with our own techniques. Here are three of mine in the very early stages:

And if you're near Saranac Lake on Saturday, check out our July Studio Tour! I'll be OPEN!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Collaging My Life

 Shuffling all my old sketchbooks around as I moved and organized my new studio got me thinking about what was happening in my life when I was making all those notes and drawings.
I thought about how much space they took up too. So I started tearing out some drawings and some of the more enlightening notes. Once I had nice assortment, I began collaging the pieces of paper onto an old mirror frame. And I'm adding colored papers from my stash.

When I have time to sit for a few minutes, I enjoy looking back. And it will be fun to see the present me in the mirror framed by my past interests and passions.

Now I'm looking for more old mirrors. So much material!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


Nope, I haven't taken up wine or sauerkraut making. Just lots of fermentation going on inside me. The "sabbatical" I have been on for the past several months is nearly over. The final stage consists of moving my studio from my little seasonal cabin in the woods to my Pink House right in downtown Saranac Lake. With much help from strong, kind friends, that process began a couple of weeks ago. My wonderful (incredibly heavy!) work table, my sewing machine and its cabinet, my flat files of papers, an impressive stack of boxes, and more stuff are sitting in their new home now.

Besides the sheer volume of art supplies I've accumulated, there are folders and boxes full of drawings, watercolors, prints, and doodles resulting from years of studying and experimenting with a huge range of mediums and techniques. And there are a surprising number of journals from my days in graduate school when I was studying the reproduction ecology of native orchids, with loads of handwritten notes and sketches. I'm going to take some pages to make into some "history" collage work. I see that this stage of my adventure must include a long look back and a refining of the images and techniques that speak strongly to me now. There's not much time for going through all of this detritus. I have to get my personal stuff moved in this week, along with my Self. But it's worth spending some time to pull out the gems that still grab me and to toss them into this fermentation vessel I've been tending.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Chaos Reigns!

This space is the only tidy spot in my new studio right now. The movers made me promise I would never move this huge wooden cabinet again! But it's from my mom, it holds tons of stuff, and it's beautiful. Not sure I can keep that promise but it will be parked here for quite a while.

The rest of my studio looks more like this. Do you remember that game in which you had to move several squares in the plastic frame to move the one key square into its place? That's what my whole life feels like right now!

One of these days ...
I'm getting used to it. Certainty and control are WAY over rated, right?!

In the meantime, I'm working on my blog posts for "... And Then We Set It on Fire" as Resident Artist for the whole month of June, on the topic of Fabric Collage. I am so honored to be part of this stellar group of artists!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

My Big Adventure

Since early last autumn, I have been on a very personal journey to find a new home and a new life. My marriage came to an end, by mutual and amicable agreement. And I saw that I had a huge opportunity to find my ideal life. Not a small undertaking.

Then I found this little Pink House. Once I found it, it was clear that it was mine. All that journaling, thinking, talking I had done for months told me it was the obvious choice. So I leaped.

It took awhile for it to become truly (and legally) mine. While I waited, I made this fabric collage. The peeling paint, old carpets, and scary basement don't show here. Only the magic and the dream.

Now I'm spending my days with helpful contractors, cans of beautiful paint, and wonderful friends who are helping make it all come true. In a few weeks, I'll be living and working there.

In the meantime, lovely things are showing up!
Thanks so much, Dear Friend!