book covers




I had forgotten how much I love making these moleskine notebook covers. They are perfect for smaller pieces of fabrics, that may not find their way into larger art quilts or collages. This time I used eco prints as well as indigo dyed swatches, sometime adding stitch, sometimes leaving the print as is. The store is stocked with these books - with more to come.




I am also lining up some exciting events for this summer and fall. I am honored to be part of the group show rooted  at Lark & Key Gallery in Charlotte, North Carolina in October and this summer my work will be on display in the gallery boutique at Kunstlåven in Seljord, Norway. A few other exhibits are in the works, so it looks like busy and happy times ahead.




a creative life



For almost six months now, I have worked part time as a graphic designer with my friend Laura at Roseberries. The decision to return to design work was in part financial, but also based on a need for order and structure in my life. The experience has been wonderful. It feels good to actually get dressed in the morning, to have colleagues, to bounce ideas, and to get projects done (although still slowly...).



The flip side is that the time I have left for my art has diminished. It is hard to accomplish something or, maybe more accurate, to complete something with only a few days a week available. I am also struggling to dedicate those days entirely to work (there are still things like dishes, laundry, vet visits, and car pooling looming).



But overall it works. Rather than living an artist's life, I am now leading a creative life. My design job is creative in its own way, but it has also made me realize that creativity goes into everything I do – even in tasks like house keeping, gardening, and cooking. And it has enabled me to explore and rediscover things like knitting and sewing. I am no longer obsessing over my art, whether it is likable (or sellable) enough, or whether I produce enough. Instead I am just enjoying the process. It has been quite liberating.


And I am accomplishing things! I just finished Margaret's magnolia, a piece commissioned by a friend as a wedding gift for friends of hers. The magnolia eco prints where made with leaves from a tree growing by the bride's childhood home. I completed a functional quilt (although small...). It is made from indigo dye samples, and backed with soft flannel. And yesterday I finally started on my first tree series quilt. So life here is good, in so many creative ways.

winter whites


Powdery blue, silver, rosy taupe, celadon, winter white, blush, misty gray. The faintest of colors seem to dominate my surroundings this time of year. It happens to be my favorite palette no matter what season, but I love how the winter time somehow makes even the whitest shades of pale more vivid.


The color scheme in the landscape is influencing my work. There has been plenty of white on white stitching done (some may be altered in the dye pot at a later date) and a few older unfinished pieces has gained new life, despite being tucked away because of perceived lack of color interest.


Right after the holidays I made time for a dye pot, experimenting with only using plant materials gathered from the back yard despite the wintery weather. A combination of nandina, oak, magnolia and leatherleaf viburnum were layered between silk, cotton, and linen fabric, with a few pieces of paper thrown in for added interest.



The clamped bundle simmered with a handful of fustic wood shavings, for a couple of hours and were left to rest for another few days. The unveiling was far more thrilling than I expected. Somehow the wonderful imprints left behind mirrored the shades of the wintery cold landscape outside. In layers, and gradations, even the palest of impressions managed to stand out. Such joy...


field studies




I am fascinated by the way natural dye colors relate to each other. Regardless of plant source or origin the fabrics seem to harmonize and enhance rather than compete. This revelation is the inspiration behind my new work series – field study. These pieces have evolved by combining strips of naturally dyed fabrics, almost at random. They are machine quilted rather than hand stitched, to ensure that the color fields get center stage, without distraction. 

Meanwhile my whole neighborhood is ablaze in bright and vivid jewel tones. Even when nature is shouting at its loudest there seems to be harmony and peace rather than clashes and conflicts. Lessons to be learned.






walnut magic


The dye pot was waiting for us when we arrived to class. Three days old, filled with simmering walnuts and remnants from dye attempts past. Thick and almost sirupy, ready for the magic to begin.


The walnut pot was of course only one part of the enchantment taking place during the two day long botanical alchemy workshop in Cleveland with dye master and artist extraordinaire India Flint. The class was expertly arranged and organized by Christine Mauersberger, who besides making sure we were well fed and equipped also shared her own useful insights and beautiful stitching. All of my fellow class mates where so talented and energetic. They generously exchanged knowledge, fabric swatches, and plant materials.

My work space.

Walnut marks.

And then there was Ms. India, who made the two days whisk by with lightning speed, while still making sure all of us accomplished many, many things. We learned to wrap cloth directly around the fresh walnuts for amazing colorful patterns. We learned to play with  metal scraps, iron potions, milk paint, and tangerine juice. Her wonderful teachings were carried out with grace, patience, and a great sense of humor.

Magical hands.


The last day we were assigned to make a special piece. Starting out with white on white, layers of cloth stitched together, embellished with thread, fabric scraps, and stitches, lots of stitches, before ending up in the dye bath. The purpose was to create a personal companion piece, that would continue to be enhanced by dye and stitch over time. I am thrilled with the outcome and I will carry my piece along as a reminder of friendship, camaraderie, and the pure joy of making art.

My special piece.


While in Cleveland I also discovered the beautifully curated art museum, the botanical garden, and a great little exhibit of India Flint and Susan Gaylord's work tucked into the midst of the residential neighborhood of Cleveland Heights. And I got to reunite with a wonderful friend from the past. Happy times to be had by all.


Eco printed repurposed book pages by India Flint. © India Flint


Eco printed vintage kimono by India Flint. © India Flint


Spirit book by Susan Gaylord. © Susan Gaylord

new exhibit and other adventures



Nature prints on cloth and paper is the theme for my exhibition at Over the Moon Bookstore, in Crozet, Virginia. The show opens next weekend, and includes new leaf print collages and samples from my field study series among other things. The work will be on display from October 12 to December 5, and the opening reception is on Saturday, October 13, from 6 - 8. I hope you will join us, for an evening filled with art, treats, and book browsing!



Before then I am off on another adventure. I will be in Cleveland Ohio early next week, for a two day dye workshop with India Flint. I am giddy with excitement to meet up with old friends and to make new ones, which is inevitable at these fun events.

divulgence


My love story with pecan leaves continues. Clamped and bundled with a variety of fabrics and papers, these graceful leaves never cease to amaze me. This time I will let the pictures tell the story – and as always divulging what's within is the most magical part of the tale.





color and chemistry



I am still catching my breath and stopping my brain from spinning. I signed up for a workshop in natural dye techniques with Michel Garcia at Shakerag last week, and instead I found myself immersed in chemistry 101 and then some. Our brilliant teacher took on a group of 17 women, some of us self subscribed experts on the subject of natural dyes, and immediately turned our worlds upside down.



We started out with the indigo vat, which he in all of 30 minutes whipped up, using only indigo, fructose from boiled fruit peelings, and pickling lime. Then we moved on to resists using clay and arabic gum, and then onto mordant and discharge techniques using benign ingredients like iron, vinegar, alum, citric acid, and soda ash (no, no, not all mixed together...). 



And so the week progressed. With patience and determination, Mr. Garcia convinced most of us, that it is much better to know beforehand why something will or will not happen in the dye pot, rather than making every dye session an experiment and a guessing game. He taught us how to make clever color charts using a range of mordant solutions on one pieces of cloth, and then dipping them in different dye sources.



To be honest, it was a week of hard work. By day 5, when we finally were let loose to experiment on our own, almost all of us suffered from information overload and creative melt downs. But it was all worth it. I feel that my dye attempts from now on will be much more informed and deliberate - there will still be surprises (and maybe disappointments), but now I have the tools to figure out why and how to redeem it (should I choose to...).


Shakerag workshops are always magical (this was my third year), not only for the rigorous and wondrous teachings, but for the beauty of the place and the people who visit. Every person there, whether learning, teaching, or staffing, has something to share and contribute. This time I was lucky to meet up with many old friends (Marianna, Michelle, Ilsa, Judilee, Catherine, Christi, and Patricia) and make new ones (Lisa, Joy, Barbara, Linda, Meg, Cari, and Angela). I feel so lucky to have been there yet again.



tidbits

Some exiting news have come my way lately. Two of my pieces, forest floor and sumac study, were accepted to the World of Threads Festival exhibit, De rerum nature, in Oakville, Ontario this fall. I am still waiting for more details about the event and the other participants, but I am thrilled to be part of this exciting international exhibition. World of Threads also published an interview with me this past week. I am grateful for the chance to showcase my work and discuss my thoughts and ideas in this wonderful forum.


Next month I will have an exhibit of small works at C'ville Coffee, a local coffee shop here in Charlottesville. My sunflower series will be on display along with other things. The show stays up throughout the month of June.


My disintegration and repair pieces are coming along nicely. The printing was finished up last week, with some exciting results (see photos below). I am so pleased with how this work is progressing.



I have just listed a small selection of elegant eco-printed envelope clutches in the store. I love how these small purses highlights the delicate and unique prints. Lastly, I want to thank all of you for sticking with me here. I know my posts have been more sporadic than usual, and that follow ups on your comments and emails have been lacking. I do appreciate all of you, and the thoughtful feedback you provide!




book making

Maybe it is the small scale, the tactility of the handmade papers, or just the fact that I once again get to use my graphic design skills. I am obsessed with making small simple books using the multitude of eco prints I have achieved on paper for the past several months. The initial impressions lead to some research about the trees and plants, which lead to photo sessions to capture their leaves and flowers, and then finally some words. Just simple phrases, more like reflections. Naturally some fabric is incorporated as well, stitched in place.




Four books are completed so far. They have become starting points for a series of books celebrating native trees, and important garden plants in the region where I live. "Small book of Roses" and "Pecan book" are available here, if you are so inclined. More are in the works.








walnut and oak leaves




An incredibly stinky brew of walnut and oak leaves became my dye concoction this weekend. The mixture had soaked in an iron pot on our patio for about six months and was ripe in every sense of the word. Besides the indigo vats, this was my first dye experiment in a long time, and I had quite a few ideas I wanted to try. Loose pieces of wool and linen went into the pot, so did two bundles with dried oak leaves, and beech twigs clamped between linen squares and metal plates...


I was imagining the twigs acting as resists, while still letting the dye seep through to the surrounding cloth. It worked ok, but not quite as distinct as I imagined. The linen did not take the walnut dye as well as I had hoped. In hind sight I think I tried to do a bit too much. There was not much room to move around in the pot and the clamps holding the twigs in place were rusty, therefor leaving some rust smudges here and there. I also think I opened the bundles too soon (just could not help myself). I still had a great fun messing around with the dye pot - glad to be back in the thick of it, literally. 



oh indigo



We are about to enter week four in my online indigo workshop with Glennis Dolce, and I am having a blast. I still don't really understand the exact chemistry behind this dye process, but I love the instant gratification of dipping the cloth into the vat, pulling it out 2 minutes later and watch it turn from yellowish green to blue in an instant. Magical.






I am working with two vats - one is a pre-reduced natural indigo vat, and the other is a 1-2-3 vat originating from French indigo dyer Michel Garcia. The pre-reduced vat involves using both soda ash and thiox (color remover) and I am sure that the indigo crystals themselves has undergone some chemical treatment to become "reduced", so to call it natural is probably a stretch. But it does give a nice, nice blue color, especially after repeat dips. The 1-2-3 vat consists of nothing but natural indigo powder, powdered fructose, and powdered pickling lime. It was ready to use after just a few minutes, smells sweet and delicious, and dyes the loveliest pale shades of blue that builds up to a rich medium blue over time.




We are also working on some shibori techniques, such as clamping, and scrunching (my term). The scrunching creates the nice sky like pieces. And the folding and clamping is just fun, fun, fun... I am so happy to be messing with dye pots again.


seeing blue


Blue is on my mind. In March I will take this online class, to get a better grasp on indigo and its properties. Glennis Dolce is a renowned indigo dyer and shibori artist and you can find samples of her beautiful work in her shop. Then, come summer I will be back here, for a class with french natural dye master Michel Garcia and indigo will once again be on the agenda. I can't wait for these opportunities to learn and grow, and to unveil the mystery of dyeing blue. For further indigo adventures check out  India Flint's workshops at Long Ridge Farm in New Hampshire in August. I am thinking that may be a perfect ending for a season of blue. The rocks in the image above turned blue after being used to hold the red cabbage under the surface during our latest sauerkraut batch. Love that color.

Images courtesy of Glennis Dolce, Shibori Girl Studios. All rights reserved.

ready for the tour


It will be a perfect weekend for this years Artisans Studio Tour. Thirtyfive talented artists will display their incredible work in 19 studios in Charlottesville and surrounding areas. I will be in studio no. 10 with my dear friend Mary Beth Bellah, and furniture maker Brian Rayner. I am excited about the new work I am bringing along. My first handmade books in the tree series are finished, inspired by my recent eco dyeing on paper. I will have new small wallhangings on display, as well as notebooks, pillows, linens, sachets, and much more. The studio is open from 10 - 5 both Saturday and Sunday. The weather is supposed to be glorious and I would love to see you there!








away

I have loaded the car with all imaginable sewing supplies, including the ironing board, two large pots, two sewing machines (in case one breaks), the typewriter, yards of fabric both printed and not...

I am heading back here, to look after the critters while our friends and their beautiful daughters are zipping over to London. The few days in solitude will be used to get ready for the Artisans Studio Tour taking place next weekend. I am planning to dye, stitch, and stock up. I will report once I return.

teaching

Next month I will teach my first workshop, which leaves me feeling both rattled and excited. I was asked to do a two hour class on natural dyes as part of a short course called Gardening with Mr. Jefferson: Sustaining an independent nation with useful plantsoffered to University of Virginia students. The course will take place at Thomas Jefferson Demonstration Garden and will cover a range of topics such as plant-based textiles and dyes, year around gardening, and sustainable growing and living.


We will create a few small dyed samples in the workshop (two hours is not a long time in the natural dye world) and the colors will be extracted from plants growing in the demonstration garden. I have experimented with tansy, hops, sumac, and artemisia, so far. All with beautiful results in their own right. It will be hard to choose which ones to finally include in the class.


This will be my first teaching experience, if you don't count assisting in my son's third grade art class. I have some basic knowledge about dyeing with plants by now, but I am no expert by any means. For me natural dyeing is about achieving something beautiful by using natural resources at hand, and to appreciate the loveliness in subtleties and imperfections. These are values I learned from my teachers, India Flint, and Rowland Ricketts, and I hope I can pass some of the same ideas along to my students.

all about color

Work samples by my wonderful classmates.

Colors are not always what we perceive them to be. A piece of dyed fabric can look pale and unassuming on its own, beige and boring. But accompanied by another pale shade of cloth, both pieces may come to life. Color is on my mind, after this past week's natural dye workshop with Rowland Ricketts at Shakerag. I had a wonderful time, catching up with old friends (you know who you are), meeting new ones, and getting to know Rowland who is an amazing artist – generous, knowledgable, and fun.


Something is brewing.

Black willow bark samples hung to dry.

Towering trees everywhere.

Rowland's beautiful silk yarns.

The lovely compost pile.

My first attempt at shibori.

The focus of the class was the natural local landscape, and the colors we can gain from it. We were encouraged to collect plants that were either plentyful or invasive, and then by using japanese inspired dyeing techniques and mordants we managed to produce a wonderful range of soft (and sometimes not so soft) shades of cloth, yarn, and threads. I am much inspired and ready to fully make these natural dyes my own.

Documenting and organizing.

My finished samples. I love the range and the hues.

beach, boys, and books

We are heading east for our annual family beach vacation next week. It will be extra special this year with everybody back home, happy and healthy (thank you for all your well wishes). Can't wait to join the boys in the surf, cook, chat, sip wine, and catch up on my reading. Then the fun continues as I return to Shakerag for a week of work and learning with dye master Rowland Ricketts. So it will be a bit quiet here for the next few weeks. Happy summer!

unveiling the bundle


Eco printing is truly thrilling. Starting off with the hunt for the perfect plant materials. Sometimes they are found, discarded by wind storms, littering the street, sometimes they are carefully collected in my own yard, and sometimes they are trimmings generously donated by kind friends. The leaves are spread out on top of the strips of fabric, and my eager hands roll everything up as tight as possibly possible. Then an abundance of strings make sure everything is tight, secure, and ready for the pot. While the bundles are simmering a warm and wonderful aroma of heated vegetation fills the work space. It is a scent that is almost impossible to describe in words, it must be experienced. After lots of peaking, gentle poking, and patiently waiting for the brewing to finish up and the water to cool, the unveiling can begin... For me this is still true magic. I am easily amazed, even the slightest mark impresses me. And sometimes you achieve prints like the maples here that just leaves you with an open jaw and a fluttering heart. Enjoy.

chroma projects

This past week was spent  cleaning, painting, and furnishing my new studio/gallery space at Chroma Projects downtown Charlottesville. I am proud and excited to be part of this vibrant art gallery and its community of artists. Initially I will primarily use this space to show my current work and to meet prospective customers. Eventually I am hoping to create a working studio or at least a sacred place where I can quietly think up new ideas, away from the demands and distractions of my home studio.




I will be in place for First Friday, Charlottesville's gallery opening night, on May 6 from 5 - 8, and I would love to see you! The main gallery will show beautiful drawings by Beverly Ress,  paintings by Paula Christman, and the black box will feature the film The Alexander Veil by Lydia Moyer.

On a different note, my friend Lily pruned her Japanese maple tree this weekend. Guess who received the trimmings? I see a big dye pot brewing in the near future...