Thursday, January 30, 2014

The story of creation: My Winter Survival or The WORK of art.

I am so far behind on posting it is too overwhelming for me to try to catch up today. I will try to do it eventually since this blog is how I remember what I have done and when I have done it! I wanted to share my latest piece so I decided to write a post about how it was created with all the little details as it is a very detailed piece. And at the risk of giving away my secrets and giving the copiers out there a bit of help I will show the materials I used as well. (As an aside, I don't find copying a form of flattery unless I am somehow credited). I hope this will also show how much WORK goes into creating something like this. This post will also be part of my clean up from this project. I will photograph the things I used as I put them away! This is what PART of the mess looks like. When I am really into a piece and/or rushed I make a huge mess.

I created this piece specifically for the West Hartford Art League's Out of the Loop fiber art show. The deadline for delivery was 1/28/2014 and I began on 1/18/2014. I had another deadline to meet before I could start on this piece. I was thinking spring and getting through my usual (although a bit deeper this year) winter season depression. It was also inspired by many other things: the workshop with Silvia Watt at Wiawaka, Van Gogh's Almond Branches, classic Asian depictions of cherry trees in bloom, a trip to Delectable Mountain Cloth, and a closing Jo-Ann's store. I think it was also a way for me to justify all my recent purchases of fabric, beads, threads, etc... a way of saying "see I do use them"!  Here is my haul from Delectable Mountain....

 and a little bit of what I bought at Jo-Ann's.

I have been doing too much buying (not all of it shown here) and that is bad not only because I can not afford it but it can be a symptom of a mixed state of mania and depression;either way judgement and impulse control are out of whack. Even with all my stash I still NEEDED to go buy some more threads...
at JoAnn again...

 and the special thread store; Thistle Needleworks.

Some of those threads are a gift for my friend though so they don't count, right?

Now to the process: I began with a layer of cotton gauze and white prefelt and then added a bit of naturally dyed (Indigo, I think) roving.

I then covered the wool with a piece of silk chiffon naturally dyed with black beans. On top of that base I cut bits of silk that I had eco-dyed, naturally vat dyed, marbled, and one bit of nuno prefelt....

bits of commercial silks...

and bits of yarn and naturally dyed roving...

till the layout looked like this.

After it was wet felted I decided that I needed to add a bit of pop, an accent, and a bird seemed so fitting. That involved some research, although I had drawn over 30 birds for the dictionary I wanted to find a perfect pose though the bird would be figurative. Then I did some rough sketches on paper and fabric for a backing for the embroidery that was the next step.

After cutting out my fabric sketch and attaching it to the felt I started stitching...

a LOT of stitching...

 in the car, in waiting rooms, at home listening to audio books...on and on. Sometimes unstitching and restitching to make 'improvements' from 'ick' to 'good enough', as the deadline loomed.

 During all this toting of the piece t around I accidentally spilled some water on the piece. This would not have been a problem except that the water had a slice of lemon in it. Lemon (acid) + black bean dye = a change from blue to pink. ( I knew this from my experiments with post mordants). Happily the pink worked well with the piece.

Once I got to 'good enough' with the bird (although I pulled some stitches too tight and puckered the felt I hoped I could smooth them out)...

it was time to get to developing the flowers on the tree. Adding more embroidery, beads, bits of fabric and lace.  Using some of the threads and ribbons I had naturally dyed in months past.

This work went on right until the day of delivery...thankfully they had evening hours for that!
I had also planned on adding some Chinese characters as is often seen on the classic paintings and so I had to do more research...thank goodness for the internet! At first I thought I would just do my initials but during my research I discovered that would be difficult so I looked for something else that would be appropriate; maybe something that could be the title. I found a phrase on a website that I thought was appropriate to the piece, my emotional state, and the recent extremely cold weather that has gripped the nation. The problem was that the image was so small I was not sure that I could clearly see the characters. That meant trying to decode what each character meant and finding a clear picture of each stroke. Next I had to try out differnent fabric paints and markers to see what would work...

(Thankfully I didn't have time to shop for the 'perfect thing.)
 and I had to practice the strokes on different fabrics.


I had every intention of having all of the day before delivery day to mount the piece which can be a lot of work sometimes, and I did start but still wound up finishing in a rush. And that was with the help of my wonderful father and eldest son.  The process:

assemble and glue the stretcher frame
 (purchased along with the decorative frame on an earlier trip to Jerry's Artarama)
stretch and staple muslin (thanks to son for help with this)
stretch and staple linen after a search for the right color
Pin and stretch the felt to the linen
stitch around the tree trunk and branches and stuff them so they project off the surface of the felt
stitch and stuff the bird
embroider my initials
sign the back and attach my card
attach the decorative frame (Dad is getting to be a wiz at figuring this stuff out)
attach screw eyes and hanging wire
Now rush to finish filling out the forms, which involves two difficult things; coming up with a title and PRICE! and then drive half an hour to deliver the final product.

All this work is why it is a bit irritating to be asked "how long did that take you to make?. Do I include the hours of driving-shopping-learning-dyeing-sewing-practicing-felting-thinking-imagining-beading-painting-getting materials out-putting materials away-ad infinitum, that applies to this one project? Or do I include all the work, learning, and practicing from all the years and projects that came before since that too is part of this piece?  Somehow it seems to leave a lot to be said when all of this is reduced to Name of Artist, Title, Medium, Size, and Price.  How DO you put a price on all that work not to mention that this is not just an object but in a way a piece of me? I will say that most artists do not make minimum wage even if just actual working time is considered. And though we do it because we have a NEED to create, for some of us it is our only WORK and there is also a NEED to make money. 

If only to buy more craft supplies.