My piece combines ombre-dyed cotton scrim and felt, because my place – where I feel most at home – is by the indigo vat.
The colour indigo is traditionally thought to stimulate right brain or creative activity, but for me it is more of a meditative experience, disrupting the coppery sheen of the surface as I dip the fabric, and watching the magical alchemy as it turns from green to blue before my eyes. The white clouds in the sky above are mirrored by the clumps of foam, or indigo “flower”, floating on the surface of the vat.
My Place runs from 7 to 12 July at Brixton East 1871, 100 Barrington Road, London SW9 7JF, 11am-6pm daily.
The private view is on Friday 7 July, 6-9pm – everyone welcome!
There’s a wonderful exhibition of Georgia O’Keeffe’s work at Tate Modern at the moment. She is best known for her flower paintings, which are indeed wonderful – you can almost feel the blossoms unfurling before your eyes, the strong lines offset by gorgeously subtle colour gradations.
(Interestingly, O’Keeffe always denied the interpretation that her flowers were representations of the female body. This idea came from her husband, photographer and gallerist Alfred Stieglitz, who tellingly wrote: “Woman feels the World differently than Man feels it….The Woman receives the World through her Womb. That is her deepest feeling. Mind comes second.” OK, this was written in 1919, but some might say that attitudes towards women artists (or indeed women in general) haven’t changed much since then. 🙂 )
But I digress. One of the new discoveries for me in this exhibition was her charcoal work. Two early pieces, Special No 9 (1915) and No 15 Special (1916-17) seemed to glow on the wall, while her Eagle Claw and Bean Necklace from 1934 just blew me away with its precision.
There are lots of other great works, but in the last room Sky Above the Clouds III (1963) made me think of ombre indigo, which inspired me to try making a nuno felt piece.
I started by making a small sample using ombre indigo dyed cotton scrim topped with natural merino. After making this I wondered how it would look in reverse, so I made another sample with the scrim on top.
I then did a small straw poll on Twitter and Instagram, asking people which version they preferred. As so often happens, opinion was divided! There was probably a small majority in favour of scrim on top – but then one person said that they liked them both and couldn’t I join them together?
So after a bit of re-engineering, here is the final work in progress.
On a larger scale in a portrait format I didn’t think the elliptical shapes would work, so I went for a repeating grid of circles instead, despite misgivings about being able to make them regular enough.
I also added some white tussah silk to the plain white circles for a bit of extra texture, which you can just about see in the detail shot below.
When I received the materials list for the workshop with Violette Amendola, it included “200g of Walliser Schwarznasenschaf”. So first I had to translate it – and Google came up with “Valais Blacknose sheep”.
Well, this has to be a strong contender for cutest sheep on the planet! 🙂 I’d never heard of the breed and my usual wool suppliers didn’t stock any.
Vrou Wolle said that they we could buy the wool at the workshop, but I decided to see if it was available in the UK. The Valais Blacknose Sheep Society UK had links to breeders in the UK, few of which seemed to have websites or fleece (as opposed to sheep) for sale.
Whitehall then put some up on their website so I was able to buy some. Renee in Oxfordshire very kindly sent me a sample with a request that I send her a photo of what I made. She makes beautiful rugs with the fleece – you can see some photos on her Facebook page – but had not felted with it otherwise.
Both sets of fleece arrived in the raw state, unwashed, but surprisingly clean compared with other raw fleece I’ve worked with. It had a lovely long crimp.
So I scoured it and carded it with my dog brushes and used it to make the husks in Violette’s class.
It’s fantastic for the type of structural felting I enjoy – it felts quickly and requires only a couple of layers to create a firm yet airy felt, perfect for these seed husks.
Since coming home I’ve experimented a bit more with making small vessels, in this case combined with merino.
With the weather warming up, I’ve also revitalised the indigo vat and done some ombre dyeing on these pieces.
Talking of ombre dyeing, I’m really excited that some of my work is to appear in a new book coming out next month.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks – I’ve been trying to build up my stock of indigo-dyed scarves for Christmas, and also preparing for the big Makerhood event Making Uncovered, where I was showing people how to dye eggs with onion skins.
While I had the indigo vat out I did some ombre dyeing (dip dyeing) with unbleached cotton muslin, with the vague idea that I might felt with it. A couple of years ago I made a lot of indigo nuno-felted vessels, but this time I wanted to try something different.
So I made a simple flat panel or hanging, incorporating some flat beach pebbles. The bottom layers were made using white merino batting from World of Wool, which has just started stocking wool batts, though their merino is 23 micron compared with Norwegian Wool‘s 21 micron (short fibre merino). It does make laying out so much quicker!
Even ESP liked this, which is saying something given that a) he’s usually pretty sniffy about my felt and b) he always moans about having to lug home all the pebbles and shells I pick up on beaches when on holiday. Result! 😉
The loss adjuster came yesterday and said that he would be sending a company round to install some heaters and dehumidifiers to help speed up the drying process (the walls of the hall are still sopping and the kitchen floor is still damp 10 days after the flood). The wall and ceiling paper in the dining room (aka my studio) have been the worst affected, so it looks as if there will be considerable disruption there over the next few weeks.
In the meantime I plough on – what else is there to do? Yesterday I ombre dyed my latest vessel. It’s not as even as I intended, but the unevenness adds extra texture, like a ceramic glaze, so I’m happy with it.
I’ve also made some smaller nuno pots, again dyed with indigo. The first used silk chiffon, the second crocheted yarn that had been ombre dyed.