Saturday, February 17, 2024


colour preferences seem to follow me across the spectrum of whatever I have my fingers in at any given time...

what can I say?

I like what I like

right now it appears what I like is grey and some form of khaki... maybe a hint of black-brown or a light smear of grey-tinged blue 

it's followed me from watercolour to pigment-painting cloth

yesterday I used Roman Black and layered the cloth over dried and pressed leaves and carrot flowers

the resulting prints aren't all clearly defined but it's still an interesting surface

a second cloth was painted with Light Sienna and Indigo

pinch-pleated tall grasses/leaves
(yep, still on that theme!)

it was interesting how the pigments settled on the edges of some of the pleats, especially the left side

I have to wait four weeks before taking an iron to the cloth to allow the colour to cure but you can see the effect peeking out from under a few of the pleats

the reverse, or underside is shown below

the pigments settle through the cloth and the extent to which they do that depends on their individual weight

I find it an interesting consideration though I  haven't taken it too seriously yet

once the wait is over and I can press this I'll decide if I'm keeping it as is, ready to work into with stitch perhaps, or if I should add more paint

it's a slow process with a lot of time for considering and reflection and I quite like that

no rush, no attachment to any outcomes (at least not yet), just a finding a way forward and learning as I go

Sunday, February 11, 2024

playing in the dirt

well, "pigments" I suppose, would be the correct term but nevertheless, I've been getting my hands dirty and having a good time 

results have been mixed but right now it's about learning how, not making great

last week I prepped and then coloured a variety of cloth-types with Cyprus Umber Dark and Cyprus Green with mixed results

mixing the pigments with the soy milk needs to be done well and with care

I missed on the "well" part and so my paint was rather grainy and the resulting cloth was uneven in colour with a fair few splotchy areas so the other day I painted other colours on in different ways

I got some interesting results and learned a lot about the opacity of some of the pigments as well as how they sit on and work their way down into and often through the cloth

here's a selection of some of the more interesting results

(I've had trouble photographing this first one - it looks a bit less grainy in real life as opposed to the photo and the white areas pop a little more but these images are pretty close)

I like it well enough that I'll post-size this one with soy milk to seal it, let it cure for the prescribed 28 days and then add stitch

I don't mind at all that they have to cure for this long as it will give me a lot of time to let the ideas settle

I'm quite intrigued with this one... I had in mind some of the atmospheric paintings by Turner and so I lightly washed the Cyprus Green areas with a light yellow ochre before softening in a pale grey followed by titanium white

the Cyprus Umber Dark on the right hand side got dabbed with the greys but the blotchy areas have come through so I'm going to add a little more to this one in the hopes of sorting some of that out

whether that will fix things or not I think I'm getting somewhere with the soft glowing area

this next one was also both Cyprus Green and  Cyprus Umber Dark and also uneven so I added the yellow ochre along with dark grey, light grey and a bit of white

and finally Dark Red Ochre layered on top of Cyprus Green and then folded a couple of times with the creases well pressed

the strong diagonal lines are intriguing with one area looking quite like a leaf

I'm using random pieces of cotton and linen from my scrap box and most of them are ones I didn't care too much...  makes it easier to be experimental and not get too worked up over making beautiful pieces of painted cloth 

when (and if) I do get the process figured out I'll invest in several metres of a good quality linen and paint with purpose but for now I'm just having fun, getting my hands dirty and trying out some different ideas

it's as good as being three, playing in the mud

Saturday, February 3, 2024


having some fun in the studio today

several years ago I joined the local spinners & weavers guild

weaving is something I've been keen to do since I was young and I finally got tired of "wanting" to do it so I paid my dues and wove my first towel within a few a months

since then I've woven a couple more towels, two lap-sized blankets, and a small square tablecloth

my mom and I bought a second-hand counterbalance floor loom a few years later but because of Covid and my step-father's dementia along with a few other life events we have only just got around to getting it set up and for the past week we've been working on winding a warp and sleying it through the reed and heddles

although I've done said weaving the only warp I've wound and loaded was for coasters and that was on a small table loom; this latest weaving adventure has been more than a bit of a challenge but thanks to YouTube and a very good book we're getting there

to give my brain a break from that but still keep in the game I started working on a small woven piece to take to the guild meeting this Monday evening for show & tell

many members bring beautiful, inspiring work to share but as it is with most guilds of any kind it's usually the same people that are doing all the inspiring so I decided it was time for a little "participAction" from me

("participAction" was the name given to a Government of Canada initiative during the 1970s to get Canada active and hopefully more fit - I use to get myself involved in things like this)

since I have a hand in a lot of things these days I thought I would weave something small and nature-inspired on a piece of heavy watercolour paper (I think 600gsm?) that I dribbled plant dye on a few years back

a piece of graph paper glued to the back so I could poke the warp holes through neatly got me started

my inspiration comes from an iris leaf I picked a couple of years ago in the fall when it developed a beautiful variegated colour - gold, brown and dark purple

today I gathered yarns in colours drawn from the leaf as well some daylily leaf twine I had made

I'm hoping to incorporate a leaf from a Yukon flower as well as strips of the iris leaf
(it's rather fragile so it may not work)

I'm also thinking of a band of "drawn-thread" work, perhaps herringbone, or a knot stitch through an open area instead

I've only woven on paper twice before but never on heavy watercolour and already I'm smitten

I'm seeing so many design possibilities with using watercolour paper as a base - I can splash colour here and there to enhance the colours of the weaving adding another layer of colour and interest... feels like I'm teetering on the edge of another rabbit hole full of sparkling and shiny bright ideas

might be time to get out the dark glasses again, and just get through this first piece

Sunday, January 28, 2024


it's been a thinky kind of week

a lot of time reflecting on my work, what I have been doing, and the direction I want to be going

several years ago I wrote a list of the qualities I was drawn to in creative work: colour, style, texture, design

they all still hold true for me today but I think what I am examining more now is quality

not quality in terms of construction or materials - quality in terms of the nature of it, and specifically in terms of simplicity

I have always liked my work to be on the simpler side of things, not too much embellishment, a more muted, quieter palette, subtle in texture

last year I learned about the principles of the zen aesthetic and whilst most of them resonated,  "kanso" stood out most of all

"simplicity, beauty and visual elegance are achieved by elimination and omission"

the description implies a taking away, removal and though I looked at it as a form of distillation, a process I love, it felt almost as if I needed to build the work up and then take away all that was unnecessary - a bit confusing, not necessarily what was meant, but I couldn't shake it

I found this quote not long after and it seemed a better fit, in meaning as well as approach

"Things wabi sabi are understated and unassuming, yet not without presence or quiet authority"
(- Leonard Koren, Wabi Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers)

That would be work I could aspire to create... but then "quiet authority" implied confidence and the belief in the completeness of the work - definitely not something I had an abundance of 

and then came this:

"we favour simple expression of the complex thought"

- Rothko/Gottlieb Manifesto 1943

and that was a "put-the-book-down-and take-this-in" moment

very simple and straightforward and something I could understand at a much deeper level than any of the others

taken all together though, each of the three contributing their own unique slant, they brought me to a place where I felt comfortable enough in my choices to say 

"this is all there needs to be and it is enough to say what needs to be said"

and then I was finally able to deal with the two samples that have been floating on my work deskfor more than a week as I fumbled to figure out what to do next with them

the creased silk that started me on my latest explorations laid on a creased page in my sketchbook
(thank you for that suggestion Karen Ruane, creasing the pages was a brilliant idea)

I did think briefly of adding drawn stitches such as French knots along some of the creases of the paper and whilst they may look better than good I like this page this way - it's only about the creases and so they on their own are enough

the brown silk piece inspired by the neckline of Martha's dress  nagged at me for days and two nights ago I cut off all the French knots

the chain stitch references the embroidery of her dress - I don't need to include all of the other embroidery to tell it's story

and then after all that came this:

"looking for the essence in the essential"
-Mark Rothko

and my oh my

there it was and here it is

the answer to the question and a way forward

I feel as though I've been a given a license to follow my instincts,  to let my desire spareness have it's day; for so long I've questioned if my work isn't too simple, or at least my desire for it

that a viewer wouldn't necessarily think it either wasn't finished or was a half-hearted effort at best

interestingly though, what I like about this thinking is that it isn't necessarily advocating for a design aesthetic that is spare or minimal rather, it's calling for there to be nothing present that isn't required

only what is essential must be present BUT everything that is essential must be

it's not just a matter of stripping things away and making plain 

"the whole truth and nothing but the truth"

as I go back to the sketchbook pages above I delight in the look of them - all I want them to say is there and all the possibilities that stem from them are also there, none are crowded out nor overwhelmed

it's a reference of a place to begin

Saturday, January 20, 2024

elements of style

slowly moving forward with the wildflowers, but I don't think I have given the whole story behind it

let me rectify that now...

last year whilst in the Yukon from the end of January to mid-April I began thinking about working with the wildflowers I had picked the previous summer

as I did some random searching online I learned that Martha Black, a prominent figure in Yukon history had been an avid collector of wildflowers in the Yukon and had worked with them for much of her life

at one point her, and her husband George worked on a project together -as she gathered wildflowers from Dawson City and the surrounding area George photographed them and together they published a small book

"Yukon Wildflowers"

It's a charming book with the photographs, written descriptions, and the background of each page is watercolour paintings of Miles Canyon, near Whitehorse

I managed to locate a copy of it and it's on it's way to me... cannot wait

As well, when I was in the Yukon this past November I visited the museum and they had a dress of Martha's from almost 100 years ago as well as a few of her pressed flower works, mounted on paper with a watercolored background

the plant's colours have faded over the years but the composition remains, the painted shadows along the leaves and stems a beautiful addition

Martha's work has inspired me greatly but it is not my intention to copy it...  for mine I'm thinking of time passing, colours fading, lives lived and what remains

how that will translate into my work I have no idea but for now it's looking like this

the small photo in the above image is an off-colour print of her dress which is quite white with grey and beige beadwork and white embroidery

today, i'm using golden brown silk along with dark blue silk chiffon layered on another piece of the brown... I like the way the brown comes through in the light

(the photo has a blue cast to it and that's my inspiration)

stitching the neckline detail on the brown rather than beading it though I'm sure beadwork will end up in the mix before too long - not sure what if anything I'll put on the blue folds - I rather like them as they are

thoughts on the project as a whole are still loose, perhaps even a bit vague

I'm not ready to choose one path just yet - I'd rather meander here and there, keeping an eye out for what may be, much as Martha may have done as she wandered the hills and valleys of the Klondike searching for wildflowers

seems fitting

Saturday, January 13, 2024

back to work

it's been an odd week, snow, snow and more snow

now cold

shoveling upended most of my creative plans but I did get the drawing in circles page finished

all the marks were inspired by lines, patterns and/or textures in the objects shown a few posts back

from the top, left to right:

driftwood lines
beaded detail of the bracelet
bracket punctuation from newspaper clipping
florets from Queen Anne's lace flower
opening in key handle
leaves of Queen Anne's Lace flower
"crackle" design of hat pin 
marks on the silver oval bracelet clasp
gold nugget on large napkin ring
circles traced with liqueur glass
curlicue from etching on wine glass
outline of silver Mexican medal

I've made a start on the coloured version but not enough to show yet

in the meanwhile, there has been some progress on the wildflower investigations

finally a couple of decent photos to work with

when I took the photos for the last post I noticed some interesting fold lines in the grey silk - one of you noticed their potential too

this week after a discussion in the Zoom meeting with my classmates in Karen Ruane's Alchemy class I started making samples of them - a lot of ideas were generated in that discussion but I haven't made it past the first one 

I've done four versions of it though!

using a fine sewing thread and lightweight linen fabric, a crease is formed and then stitched one fabric thread down from the fold

and this one on the grey silk, trying out incomplete lines

I like them very much

and here are the four pieces laid out together

the sample in the upper left has two pin-tucks that are raised (top and bottom) and the one in the middle goes the other way

I like that effect too

next is try a no-sew method suggested by one of my classmates

and tomorrow explorations with the flowers begin

it does feel good to finally be back to work

Saturday, January 6, 2024

a fresh start

it's been such a long time since I've been able to spend any amount of time on creative pursuits but I'm ready to to get back at it... being away from my work these past two months has left me a tad disconnected from it so rather than try to force it I'm pivoting to something else for now

I've mentioned a few times wanting to work with some wildflowers I collected in the yukon during the summer of 2022 so I'll begin there

today I pulled some small collages I did a while back, chose a couple that really interested me and then began gathering various fabrics that might work well with them... for now I'm working with a two  different palettes

not at the point yet for making decisions about an actual layout, more a case wanting to get a sense of the possibilities

the grand plan is to incorporate imagery of the flowers using print, paint and/or stitch, most likely all three - choosing the fabrics and paper for the base gives me a start point for colour

today I played with layouts

this is one way


and yet another version - this time with a flower laid on

next is to pull larger pieces of the fabrics, find papers that could be interesting, play with more layouts and start some sketching - looking at the leaves and petals and seeing what can be done with them, as a whole, but also fragmented

a true representation, or the essence of it?

another option...

and another...

I like this one - the snowy piece on the left is golden fibre paste medium on scrim that I tried to print on but no luck - I got the scattered black marks and that was it

tomorrow I'll get into the drawers and cupboards in search of other fabrics and papers - these are still in the "let's see what the possibilities are" stage and I've yet to settle on a size for the finished pieces though I'm thinking somewhere around 11" x 14" or so

it's really going to depend on what I come up with for the flowers - that more than anything is going to dictate the required size

below is a sampling of some of the varieties of flowers I picked and pressed

lots of interesting shapes in these to work with

tomorrow is the first day in I don't know how long that there isn't anything at all that I have to do so I'll be in the studio for the whole of it

and so the new year begins