Monday, January 2, 2017

The Propaganda of Color

As if I didn't need another reminder of how we misread or just miss so much of the world and misuse the words we rely on for communication, I was startled by a missed fiber-art-related connection the other day. I am deep into reading H Is for Hawk, a fascinating journal of Helen Macdonald's training of a goshawk as she mourns her father's death. At one point she mentions that hawks can see so much more and so much more clearly than we can, partly because they can see into the ultraviolet range on the color spectrum.

I had just finished mixing two new dyes from Dharma Trading Company and, I am assuming, named by them. One was Jet Black, the other Ultraviolet, colors I had used many times before.  Now naming colors is a difficult--and sometimes silly--business, as any trip to a hardware store to buy paint can attest. But thanks to Macdonald, I realized that, if this dye was indeed ultraviolet, it would not be the beautiful deep purple it is, but would be colorless, completely invisible to our eyes.

So it is a strange name indeed to name a color. But the namers may have been counting on our not really thinking about the name, just being drawn to this shade (and buying it!) as some kind of ultra purple, and we all know that, if purple is good, ultra purple must be fantastic.

This is a fairly trivial realization--much ado about nothing (or nothing visible), you might say--but how often do we miss these connections? And if I miss the small stuff, how much of the important stuff am I just not seeing? I am also amazed at how serendipitous our understanding of situations is. If my reading had not coincided with this dyeing session, I might never have thought about the name.

Jet Black, by the way, is an absolutely appropriate name since it refers to a very black rock that is a precursor to coal. 

And of course I am quietly delighting in the fact that a color that is unseen was the cause of my seeing all this. 

Happy New Year! And may we all come to see some important truths that are sitting right in front of us this year.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Visions and Changes Therein

It was a few days before Christmas and all through the house preparations were making me tired and cranky. So when snow was predicted Thursday I envisioned a change of focus with part of a morning dedicated to a quiet session of snow dyeing.

While my newly mixed dyes cooled, I made the mistake of making what was supposed to be a quick call. On Monday night the oven refused to light in our range that is still new enough to be under a warranty and that night I was assured someone would call me back promptly to schedule repairs. Thursday I was checking why my definition of "promptly" seemed to differ from theirs. Two hours later I was still on the phone as the agent, who gets A for persistence but D for solving the problem, searched for a repair person--and as the threat of the snow turning to rain was closing my window of opportunity for enough snow to dye with.

With my stress level rising I took a deep breath and changed my vision. My quiet time all to myself changed to sharing, with the phone call becoming an annoyance instead of a destroyer. I discovered the cordless phone signal reached to the patio as one of the long pauses on hold gave me time enough to cover the fabric with snow, and, to soft strains of generic jazz (they couldn't even play Christmas music!), I poured dye on the snow mounds.

And today I have two pieces of snow-dyed fabric drying in the wind. Now snow dyeing always has an experimental zing and there is a puzzling part to this session: you will notice, above, that one of the bins is basically purple, the other black and those are the two dyes I mixed. But there is no black in either piece of fabric hanging on the line.

It simply washed away, leaving the tiny bit of purple I added to dominate and warning me that perhaps the black dye powder has lost its strength--or perhaps it was something else. They were both in the same soda ash so that is not the problem since the purple made a beautiful strongly colored piece of fabric. Something more to investigate--on a day when I can focus only on dyeing! 

(The oven is still not fixed and it may not be for at least another week.)

Merry Christmas to all of you who are looking for some focused time this busy season. May you find it--or something close enough!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


I have been feeling overwhelmed lately--by endless reports of disturbing situations and decisions that will have repercussions that may ripple down the years, impacting my grandchildren's lives--and by trying to decide what I, in my seeming powerlessness, can do about them. So I turned to doing what was in front of me. I stitched on one of my current projects.

And at lunch I picked up the latest SAQA Journal that often leaves me inspired and motivated but today I read about how mastering the art of online video helps connect you with the world and then another article on new opportunities provided by the SAQA seminar, where we can watch videos of master fiber artists, interact with other fiber artists, and even join a stitch session and the list goes on. These are all good things, things that many people have spent much time on and that make a contribution to the arts community. But I am overwhelmed again--not too much bad news but too many opportunities.

And so I asked my spouse and animal companion if they would like to go for a walk on the beach. And both thought that was a great idea.

And seeing the actual waves, instead of the metaphorical ones that threatened to crash upon me, cleared my mind and gave me my perspective back. I cannot do everything but I can do something.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Golden Thread

Outside my window the maples glow

as I add yellow stitches to yellow silk.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

A New Leaf

One of my latest works began as a small piece of fabric that I had done some experimental printing on. I so liked the results of the leaf print on top of several textures that I hung it on my design wall and there it stayed for months as I focused on other larger works. Finally I decided to applique it down on a neutral background and add other colors. I had a design worked out and had chosen just the right tones to create a meaningful composition. I am being vague about what that composition would look like because the of-course-I-will-remember-this-because-it-is-so-obvious became I-haven't-a-clue-what-I-had-in-mind, after six months of working on still other projects. Even the small pile of carefully chosen fabric had disappeared as I borrowed one piece after another for those other projects and they never found their way back.

So, having hit a snag on one of those big projects one day I decided to solve the problem--again--of what to do with that fascinating but neglected little leaf. And here is what I came up with:

It's small--12 x 14 1/2"-- and it's done! Is this a better design than my original? I have no idea. It's name is Harmony, a little signature of coherence in this incoherent time.

And someday I will learn that notes and sketches are worth the effort. . . but then again maybe they are not.

Thanks for the company!

I'm linking this week with Nina's Off the Wall Friday.

Sunday, September 11, 2016


Anyone who knows me well knows that on the introvert/extrovert scale, I fairly consistently fall toward the introvert end, but there are times when I do appreciate a good crowd, and the Abstract Artists Group of New England certainly had one last Saturday at the reception for their exhibit Edge. The Newburyport Art Association was just about filled wall to wall and that meant there were a lot of folks looking at the art, including the five pieces I had in the show.
One of those pieces Seascape is above, second from right. Once again I was pleased with how well the fiber art fit with the oils, watercolors, acrylics, and pastels. I also heard many compliments on the quality of the hanging. Twenty-one members participated so there was a wide variety of styles and mediums, but I was willing to accept one-sixth of those positive comments since there were six of us who worked very hard to create a coordinated show. And look at the sight lines that were created! Things moved easily from wall to wall. Here's a bigger view of the downstairs gallery from one perspective:
On another wall the very strong, very large piece by Jane Coder connects with Ethel Hills' and Ted Leigh's small collages:
So the six of us managed to create another work of art by committee. 

And here is a quieter wall with another of my pieces In Possibility on the far right.

Upstairs were more walls to fill, where my piece Dancing with Shadows paired nicely with one of Anika Savage's

And we had plenty of space to give some of the many small pieces our members created some breathing room:

As all exhibits must, this show comes down this afternoon. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

My Favorite Color

Cardinal Flower

Usually I just let these photos speak for themselves but there is a story behind this one. I have always loved cardinal flowers and found what I thought was the perfect spot for one when we moved to our new house. The backyard gets wetter as the tiers get closer to the pond and cardinal flowers love moist earth so I planted one. It didn't grow much the first year--as a matter of fact, it didn't grow at all, but it didn't die. It just sat there all summer but somehow over the winter it gave up and I declared it dead in the spring. 

While visiting a local plant farm, I could not resist the cardinal flower again. But when I got home and looked around, my original choice still looked like the best spot. So I decided not to learn from experience and planted it right there. What seemed to be a foolish decision was rewarded with a plant that grew two feet high and produced three catch-your-eye flower heads that give focus to all the wild vegetation around them. 

If something doesn't work out the first time, that alone does not mean it will not work if you try again. This will be helpful as I embark on yet another new experiment in fiber.