Saturday, July 20, 2013

Under the covers: box springs and mattress ticking

Just took a quick look around at what's under the covers around here-- it turns out that some of the fabric that's kept under wraps deserves a little exposure.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Corrosion, objects, and family ties-- an experiment in dyeing fabric with rust

Fabric left to rust

in an old iron pot

that my great-grandmother used for boiling her laundry

over a fire in this fireplace,  just outside our back door....

and 15 feet from where I do laundry indoors today-- no iron pots, hauling water, building a fire, or boiling involved-- my life in the same place, is so different.

                 Strange to think how many people in my family, some I knew,  some I never knew, touched the handle of this pot.
Exposed to the weather for 100 + years, the laundry pots, once used for washing clothes, now stain fabric with a century's accumulation of rust.
Hard to miss the irony in that.

Another rust experiment-- embossed writing on the back of an old enamel tray

a steel plate from the railroad tracks

and irregular stains from an old plant stand.

I've been thinking for awhile now about creating dye-stains with rusty "heirlooms".  I like the ideas of familial connection, decay, transformation, and particularly the idea of infusing fabric with iron ore, which for me carries all kinds of historical, literary, metaphorical and even personal references.

Humans have used iron ore as a pigment for thousands of years --  the red clay pottery of ancient Athens was prized for it's distinctive color, a result of iron ore deposits in the local clay.

In mythology, there's Vulcan, Roman god of fire and metal working.


and the amazing work of the American blacksmith  Samuel Yellin , whose work I encountered on a daily basis when I lived in New Haven, and whose original Philadelphia workshop I visited just before it closed in the early 90's.

Having said that,  the process of cultivating the rust has been pretty messy
-- the fabric gets crusty and has to be rinsed well outside and put out to dry before bringing it into the house.
I wouldn't say that I've  particularly enjoyed the process, or that I love the results so much that I feel the trouble is worth the effort.  I think I'm more enthralled by the poetic and metaphorical aspects of the idea, than by the reality of making it happen... as much an experiment in learning about what I do and don't like to do, as one of dyeing fabric.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Parts and pieces, patterns and dreams

Here is the finished top of a summer spread  (a blanket without the batting layer for warmth) made of leftover scraps and old clothes 

Interesting to compare it to the  photo below and see what I kept and what I changed in the original design.  The biggest change came about as soon as I saw the mock-up photo-- I didn't like the high-contrast, spiky design of the lower right corner, so I replaced it with the tea towel and some smaller pieces of fabric.

From the beginning I planned for the large floral rectangle to be in the upper left corner-- I sleep on that side of the bed, and I want it under my heart when I'm napping or over my heart when I'm sleeping beneath it. Coincidentally, in the process of assembling the pieces, it turned out to be a kind of hinge, the last large piece I put in place that pulled the rest together.

Another initial idea was a large, light open space

which ultimately settled not quite in the middle.

I was thinking of courtyards-- protected open spaces for contemplation and reflection.

.. like this one at Poblet, a monastery in Spain.

Aerial views of farmland came to mind

as I was cutting and sewing strips of fabric.  

I thought a lot about landscapes and sleeping and dreaming, and 

 the landscape of our dreams  (I take a lot of notes when I'm sewing) and how the random assembling of parts and pieces of fabrics, each with its own specific pattern, texture, associations, and history is a lot like dreams-- we can identify each of the parts, and even describe the order, saying "this is next to that" or "then what happened next...", but not necessarily understand why they are together in one place. They just are.


Much like dreams, the arrangement of the parts may not make sense but it somehow does function as a whole.

 ..and from construction of dreams to actual construction... between having a pretty good eye for almost straight lines, I didn't use a ruler much, but when I did, the floorboards came in handy as reference points.  Using the "order" of my immediate environment to create order in what I make, as a point of connection-- I like that.