Sunday, July 20, 2014

Rift : A SHIFT dress

  The layouts in this series of dress sculptures were so complex. There were often multiple layers of resists, or else multiple layers of patterning. The designs had to be thought through in that reverse thinking way required when working with resists, and also with transparencies, opacities, and inclusions.  My brain was burning with keeping it all held in order to get to the end result. Thinking through on what will show on which side of the garment and where, and what will happen if it is overdyed. Where would each design element fall on the body when shaped into the 3 dimensional and worn. Left and right, front and back, inside and outside....all parts were relevant...all at one time. 

 The lightest layers of wool roving made me think of skin tissue healing. So relevant to this dress full of (beautiful) scars and my intentions. 

   This dress is made of shadowy shards. Like flakes of obsidian. But cradled within a softer surface....Black and white forming shades of grey over time.  Geology is just so prominent in many of the SHIFT dresses. This piece has elements of all rock formations, sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic; tectonic shifting, escarpments...  It is hard, sharp and cut, but softened around the edges in overall dress form, like a tumbled stone.  Geode like inclusions; seams of precious earth....scars, dreams, in general. Not simple.
 They are pushed up and out of the base textile; carved and twisted through the fulling.  Complicated, (if you chose to think about it) like the shadowy base.

  This dress is sinuous and feminine on the wearer, and full of tactile metaphors.  I like that it can be just a beautiful dress, and can also hang as a sculptural form filled with intention.  

  The techniques used in this piece will be part of the Fall felting retreat in Quebec this October. I'm trying to get the details posted about this as soon as possible....there's lots going on right now...lots of big events vying for my attention...but this is up next! 

  It's not all serious thoughts and introspection! I've got lots of plant dyeing lined up for the next few days...some summer lightness...warmth, sunshine and flowers; folly and experimentation!
Warm wishes, 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Greater than the sum of the parts...

Migration with Day Tripper and Night Dance in the background

 The SHIFT exhibition opening was a wonderful night! The show was very well attended by an enthusiastic audience.  To open the show, only Barbra Edwards's dramatic paintings were in the exhibition space.

Beautiful World and Form Speaks to Form
both 54 x 48" oil / wax on panel
Grey Rhythm 48 x 72"
oil on canvas
with  Confluence in foreground

  My pieces came out individually on models, bringing each piece to life with sculpture. After each model walked though the gathered crowd, she took her position in the exhibition, as the pieces would be displayed for the duration of the show.  Then everyone had the opportunity to move into the exhibition space to interact with and view in detail the paintings and felt pieces.  It was a fantastic evening!

  Barbra and I worked separately on our pieces through the spring/early summer and only shared hints of our directions in our work. We had never met before being paired for this exhibition and only met twice throughout the process, each working in our separate studios, on our separate islands. In our occasional conversations though, the most amazing relationships in our work began to become apparent, as well as  commonalities in life experiences.  Barbra's palette is bold, but always has an earthy base. My use of plant dyes is the same. This guaranteed some cohesion in our exhibition. But the degree of cohesion could not have been foretold or expected to be as amazing as it is here.

L to R
SHIFT #3 with Rift
Creature Love (48 x 60" oil on canvas) with Stratum in foreground
Day Tripper
60 x 43"
mixed media with oil

Rift with SHIFT #1 (diptych)16 x 32"  oil/with wax
  What was the most remarkable surprise and continues to give me such great pleasure is just how strong and beautiful the relationships our pieces have with one another.  Each of Barbra's pieces has a unique connection with one of mine, through form, line and colour. 

Beautiful World 54 x 48" oil /wax on panel with Hegira (right)

 Great and insightful reviews in the newspaper today, and two of my pieces sold!  I feel very fortunate to have had this opportunity to get to know Barbra and her work. And to the Salt Spring Arts Council for pairing us in this exhibition.  I'll be etching out some quiet moments at the gallery over the next week to soak up the relationship of these pieces. Together, greater than the sum of the parts...

You can read our artists statements here.

And see more of Barbra's work here.

Warm wishes,

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Last Dress

Yesterday I finished the last piece for my exhibition...a little background for you, written as I worked. 
Here I am....on the day of the photo shoot of my most recent work. One day before the installation, and two days before the big opening and fashion show.

And I'm taking a slow day to finish the last dress. This dress was actually the first one I started as I prepared for this exhibition. I got it all laid up on my table and then realized it was going to take me weeks to make all the parts. I needed my work table in that time, so the first dress was carefully rolled up and set aside...until now.

I like the way this dress has been in process throughout the creation of all of the pieces for this exhibition. It is the dress that is the most time intensive, with lots of handfelting and slow plant dyeing.

Each "wishbone" takes about 15 minutes to make and there about 60 of them on the dress.  Each of the three ends needs to be carefully hand worked to attach it to the body.

Once fully felted the surface result is a little wild, very sculptural. Interlaced and overlapping, crawling, leaping, edging their way up and around the dress surface. In my mind these are wishbones, and they are also tracks. They cast shadows, changing with the angle of the viewers perception.  They're a little ugly...and also beautiful.

This dress was dyed with iron and tansy that I collected this morning while walking up the hill and looking out over a gorgeous sea, with mountains beyond. I am so happy to have the time to work through this slow completion process today, at the end of a long journey of thinking, and planning and felting. 

 And this evening, a group of beautiful women joined me and brilliant photographer Amy Melious, for a photo shoot of the finished pieces. It was wonderful to see these brought to life, so very different from standing on mannequins in my studio. I very much appreciate the time and effort put in by everyone for this shoot. What a setting and company to end the day...and the work for this exhibition.

The last dress....a full cycle of creative process as well as of story and place.

I'll try to fill you in on the other SHIFT dresses in between in the next few weeks!
Warm wishes, 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

SHIFT : exploring layers of perception

SHIFT : exploring layers of perspective
July 11- August 1
ArtCraft Gallery, 114 Rainbow Road Salt Spring Island

A joint exhibition of work by Barbra Edwards, visual artist, and Fiona Duthie, fibre artist, at Salt Spring Island's ArtCraft Gallery.

Fiona's work in this exhibition features new sculptural felt garments that use geological surfaces created through fabric manipulation, stratified textiles and mapping imagery to explore biography. Barbra’s current work explores how form speaks to form. Line is used to suggest something of substance, layers of perspective; what existed before or what might be. Other paintings use obvious line separation as a statement on how each of us observe things differently.

There is a natural flow and relationship between what both artists are creatively saying in their respective art forms.

The exhibition opening is on July 11th, 6:00-8:00pm.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Emerging and Retreating

a treasured gift from my friend els @ fiber rainbow

Like Spring Bulbs and New Leaves....

As the Surface Design Online class ends, and my teaching schedule for the season closes, I find myself in an interesting transitional space. One that has been more challenging to move through than I had thought when I planned my calender for the year.

I'm retreating from being online in my capacity as teacher, and emerging into my summer island world.   Lots more time for long walks in the forest, evenings at the beach and book reading under the tree.  Family time and coffee with friends. It's an interesting challenge to switch gears mentally... I've gotten used to long hours in front of the computer, and have to remind myself that I don't actually need to be doing that right now...and sign out.

In this time I am reacquainting myself with my studio space....I worked in the studio alot over the spring, but mostly in relation to developing teaching materials, and it became more of a messy production/holding/impersonal/disaster space...It took some initial perseverance this last week or so to remind myself to be out there...It was actually difficult to go out there and start making something! I would have loved to have cleaned and re-organized completely to reflect new creative directions and spaces, but that just wasn't in addition to making new work, I adjust and sort for an hour a day....and slowly but surely the studio is emerging as my true space again.  The more this happens, the more I retreat into this space and love the quiet and authentic reflection.

This season in my working life is all about new explorations and creations. I retreat from the everydayness into my space and fall in love with my materials, like renewing vows in life long relationship! Ideas constantly emerging, and sometimes fear also...What if I can't actually do what my mind sees and my pencil creates on paper. What if I am just not good enough to realize these ideas.  There's a lot of that right now. The next few weeks will tell! The piece below is part of a series that uses the dress and therefore the human form as a canvas. Waiting to be dyed and stitched....

As I spend more time in this creative space, I am eager to share my explorations online on my blog or on Facebook.....full circle but in a different space. 

I am absolutely intrigued with how retreating and emerging can be one and the same thing. Retreating from or into one aspect of life brings us into emergence in another. They are each a side of the same door.

I have to say how grateful I am to have met so many wonderful people through felting this Winter into Spring...some in person and some only online. But the connections are so good and whole....the emergence of such a gift!

A special thank you to my far away fiber friend, Els, who sent me the beautiful gift above...a little bit of each of our countries, and of herself. I love having these little touchstones in my studio, warming and thoughtful, from friends also making in their own spaces...
Warm wishes, 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Experimental Garment Construction Workshop

  I'm really looking forward to this workshop. We have a great space- very large, open airy and bright. Lots of room to move and work and think.  Plus it takes place at the same time as the opening of my upcoming exhibition at ArtCraft.  This exhibition is a collection of sculptural garments, accessories and small sculpture. The elements I am working with now in creating these pieces, will be those we'll view and explore in creating interesting shaping in our garments in the workshop. 

  Here's the workshop description:

  Sculpture for the Body explores the manipulation of the surface of a garment; building up organic shaping that alters the structural lines, beautifully, dynamically and unexpectedly.  We’ll create highly wearable art pieces exploring architectural and sculptural design in wool. Layers and shaping will be created with prefelts, cords and gathers, shibori, folding, cutting and stitching. We’ll cover seamless garment construction while making a garment design of the student’s choice-dress, jacket, vest or skirt.

  I am most excited about the range of possibilities in this class. You could come just for the basic garment construction and learn how to make a fit-to-you jacket, dress, skirt, vest, or....
  And then as much and deeply as you want to, we will cut and shape and manipulate to add new form and architecture to the garment. Clean, wild or elegant... 3 days of creative feltmaking.

  I'm so looking forward to sharing this time with some of you!
Dates: July 10, 11, 12
Location : ArtSpring, 100 Jackson Ave, Salt Spring Island
Fee:  $325.00 plus materials fee: $65.00

For more information and to register:

Warm wishes, 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Wool Roving vs. Wool Batting

Comparing wool roving and wool batting was once one of the foundations of the Surface Design class, but that exploration felt most possible for in person classes.   I include the fibers in the online Surface Design class, as I think it's a benefit for everyone to experience working with fibres in their different forms.  In working through the class materials, I decided to do a little test to see what differences I would find when working with roving and batting, in a documentated study! I used 16 grams/ 0.5 ounce of extra fine merino roving, and the same amount of extra fine merino batting both from the wonderful DHG. 
(see sources at the end!)

 Wool batting has been scoured, dyed and carded. It comes in big sheets or rolls. The wool fibres are not directional, or straightened.  When we are felting we want to have our fibres laid out in different directions to allow for the greatest connection of the fibres and their scales as they integrate to become felt.  With batting we don't need to pay any attention to the direction we lay out the fibres as they are already blended.

 Batting is fantastic for quick layouts. The batting can be spread out to your desired shape and size, and layers can be built up to reach your desired thickness.  To layout the batting, spread your wool out on your work surface. To remove extra fibre, use one hand as a clamp, held flat and firm on top of your fibres, and use the other hand to pull away the excess fibre-image left. Increase your layout size by laying on more batting, overlapping by about 1 inch (2.5cm) -image centre.  If you have any thin spots or holes, fill in with wisps of the wool batting- image right. Very fast and easy.

Wool batting is especially useful for quick layouts for all flat feltmaking projects, like wall pieces, playmats, or making your own prefelt. It is also excellent as a base for vessels, hats and bags.
Wool batting is generally not as readily available of wool rovings, sliver or tops.  Several breeds can be purchased in wool batting form, including Merino, Merino blends, Corriedale/Coopworth, Bergschaf, Norwegian C1, and Norwegian C1-Pelsull, Finnish and Icelandic. (resources below!)

Wool roving has been scoured, dyed and carded, and combed, so the fibres are all straight and aligned in a single direction. It comes in long lengths, sometimes rolled up into balls. We can layout one layer of roving if we want to create a very fine light felt, but most often we will lay out multiple layers, with each new layer perpendicular to the last.  This creates the greatest potential connection of the fibres and their scales as they integrate to become felt. The fibres will shrink more along the length of the fibre and we can use this to influence the size and shaping of our felt work during layout. In general though, we want consistent, even, perpendicular layers.

There are several ways to layout your wool roving. The most common form is called shingling. We use one hand as a clamp and pull away a staple length of wool fibre. Each shingle overlaps the previous one by one third -image left. After laying out all the fibres in one direction, we'll lay out the second layer of wool shingles, with the fibre direction perpendicular to the previous layer- image right. Two layers will create a lightweight consistent felt. More layers may be used either depending on the thickness of each shingle, or the desired thickness of your finished felt.

If I use the same weight of wool fibres, and start with the same size of layout, my end result should be the same with either wool roving or batting.   I used exactly the same felting techniques for the same durations in both samples. The batting was faster to layout. The roving developed a more strong felted skin more quickly. The batting felt more cohesive and started to full or shrink sooner in the process. They were both finished in the same amount of time, and the finished size was the same in both samples, with equal shrinkage in the width and the length.


My batting sample was more even in finished density overall. If I had of been a little more attentive in my layout of the roving, I think it would have been as consistent, if not more than the batting. But I was working quite quickly, so in this case the batting had a slightly better end result. 

After fulling completely, rinsing and laying flat to dry, both samples are tight and evenly finished. The batting appears just a little more smooth and flat.

So... no dramatic results! The same amount and size of sample produced a similar end result, as happens when an experiment goes exactly as you think it will!

I chose between roving and batting based on two main criteria. The first is availability. What fibre form  is available to me in the  particular wool breed I want.  I love C-1/pelsull for bags, and that is most readily available in a batting form. But I also make most of my bags in white and then dye them after, and for those I use Finnish wool, that is most readily available as a roving. The second  criteria is the density of the finished felt. When I am making the lightest weight, structural felt garments, I will use an extra fine merino roving. I feel I have the most control over the density of my felt (when I don't rush!) using the wool in a roving form.

It is valuable to touch and work with the different forms. Laying out with locks alone is another great experience. Exploring and using the different wools informs our felting sensibilities and understanding of the fibre qualities, as well as deepening our physical appreciation and hand recognition of the wools.

Here are some sources for you:
Merino: Dyeing House Gallery (Italy) 
distributed in the US by Opulent Fibers
distributed in Canada by ArtGus Studio 

Merino: New England Felting Supply

Merino Cross: Living Felt

Norwegian C1, C1-Pelsull Blend, and Pelsull: New England Felting Supply
Bergschaf:  Dyeing House Gallery (Italy) 

distributed in the US by Opulent Fibers
distributed in Canada by ArtGus Studio 

Finnish: Piiku (Finland)
Icelandic: Alafoss (Iceland)

Rovings or Tops are much easier to come by, and there are many wonderful online sources, including most of those above.  Too many to list here, but I do purchase most of the coarse wool breed rovings from:

Lots of felt with!
Warm wishes,