Experiments, Paper, Studio practice

The seductive qualities of raw materials

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Dyed mulberry bark

Sometimes (well, frequently actually) I get sucked in to materials. Their various qualities zap onto something in my subconscious and I acquire them, often letting them sit in the studio for a ridiculously long time before knowing what to do with them.

Often it’s a time issue because there are occasions I know exactly what I want to do with a certain material and by the time I do get around to using the thing I’m almost salivating while handling and making with it. This exact thing happened last week with three pieces of Japanese mulberry bark paper I bought late last year.

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Boiling the avocado pieces in muslin

First, I dyed two pieces of the (very white) paper with avocado.  I wrapped about 1 kilogram of chopped avocado pips and skins in muslin and boiled the bundle in my big aluminium dye pot, with about 4 litres of water (enough to cover the bundle) for about an hour and left it overnight. Next day I heated the pot again, popped in the loose paper sheets and left them in for about 45 minutes.

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Post dye pot – Beautiful textures of the bark

The result was a lovely soft, goldy-pink colour with the beautiful surface sheen of the mulberry glowing through. I’m always amazed that you get pink out of avocado but there you have it. Note the beautiful, gnarled spiderwebbiness of the bark.

Looking for deeper colour I tried adding Spanish onion skins that I know can produce a very appealing rosy-pink. I really love the colour of these onions (and beetroot, which I understand is hopeless to dye with) … and purple carrots, by the way. With the uneven openness and quite firm body of the paper I knew the bunding method would be unlikely to work because it couldn’t be tightly rolled. However, I thought the result might be some pretty rosy blotches on the lighter background shown in the picture above.

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Mulberry bark with Spanish onion skins

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Loosely bundled for the dye pot

After bundling with rubber bands (being careful not to break the paper) I put it in the heated avocado dye pot, which now had only about two litres of dye water, simmered it for about 45 minutes, then left it to soak for a while.

The result was a richer, darker, fairly evenly distributed, dusty rose-pink with a lovely unevenness due to the bark’s construction. No rosy blotches, but a happy result nonetheless.

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The lovely deep pinky brown result

I intend to stitch with these pieces, either individually or sewn together into one larger work.

Something sculptural.

Watch this space to see what happens! And whether or not it works…

 

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Artists, Inspiration, repair, Studio practice, Textiles, Uncategorized, upcycling

The heirloom theory

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Donya Coward, Brown sitting Rabbit – photograph from her website

Do you have any artists or makers who do it for you? Are they an inspiration for your principles and practice?

I often find research addictive. One find leads to another. Before you know it you’ve got a chain of inspiration and empathic appreciation for the work of others that informs your own work and sits comfortably with your beliefs and principles.

Discarded materials, ratty old preloved garments, mending, and disparate bits & pieces often have reuse potential that goes unheeded. Memory is embedded into everything. These examples of creative work are very much aligned with my own philosophy and love of materials.

Slow work.

Hand work.

Considered.

Ethical.

I say that (ethical) because I firmly believe in the Less Is More theory.

Less consumption, more human contact, less fast-paced living. Purchase something of great quality that you love, that will last and last – and take pleasure in handing it on to others when the time comes.

Donya Coward is an artist whose work is an exquisite example of what I like to call ‘the heirloom theory’. She takes bits and pieces of very different materials and turns them into sculptures and other textile art that are brilliantly handworked treasures. You can see more of her incredibly detailed work here.

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Celia Pym, Norwegian Sweater – photograph from her website

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Celia Pym, Hope’s Sweater, 1951 – photograph from her website

Celia Pym is a UK artist whose penchant for darning and mending is a quirky and beautiful way of extending the life of garments and objects. In her hands anything textile can be preserved in a way that gives a refreshing and individual twist to its existence. You can see more of Celia’s unique projects here.

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Mayer Peace Collection – image from Instagram

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Mayer Peace Collection – image from Instagram

Berlin designer Christine Mayer’s practice is one I’ve watched for a while. She is superbly skilled at repurposing textiles in a way that’s individual and deftly structured. Her work extends to theatre costumes as well as fashion. Check out her work here. I’m happy to say I’m a proud owner of one of Christine’s pieces, bought during trip to Berlin in 2012. Timeless and beautiful.

I love finding inspiration in the efforts of like-minded creatives. There is satisfaction in finding similarities in practice, using your own resources creatively, and sharing ideas, whatever limitations might be in place.

Who are the practitioners you find inspiring? Does your list keep growing? Let’s compare notes……

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Residencies

Upcoming Gunyah Artist Residency

I’m looking forward to my upcoming artist residency at Gunyah from the middle of May. Research, play, writing and STUDIO TIME. Nature, self…and Pluto the velcro dog for company.

 

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Gunyah AIR 2015

You can find more information on the residency here:    http://www.gunyah.blogspot.com.au/

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