Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Hats Off to Spiders Everywhere

Did you ever watch a spider build a web? I am in the stitching phase of this new piece and I've completed the first set of anchoring lines across the 118" or so length of it, so the straight pins are history, thank goodness, and I'm now cruising through the second set of horizontal lines, this time between the little rectangles of fabric, just through the water soluble film. I keep getting these metaphors in my mind as I work -- a spider building a web, repeating similar motions over and over again almost hypnotically,or a fat caterpillar spinning thin threads around and around itself into a cocoon. Periodically I yearn for the appearance of the round, cheery fairy godmother in Cinderella and a wave of her magic wand. Just one bibbity, bobbity, boo and this pumpkin would be a coach!

But alas, it's the spider way for me, one thread at a time. I had to add two more layers of soluble fabric to this piece because the wonderfully wide topping I bought is just what it says it is -- topping. Non-negotiable. It's too thin to use as any kind of a base layer because it stretches and distorts on the bottom, although it's perfect as a top layer. I had to rip out my first 10 or so rows because the distortion grew with each row of stitching.

So here's what I ended up with -- a layer of the wide topping, a middle layer of 20" strips of Sulky Solvy with the little fabric pieces glued on, a layer of topping beneath those to position them as a whole, then strips of Solvy beneath that running in the opposite direction to provide a stable surface under that bottom layer of topping. Add to this the pinning and repinning that happens with each additional layer. Confusing? Absolutely.

I have to definitely work on streamlining this process with all this layering for the next one. I can barely see the little pages pieces at this stage, especially because the values are lighter and less contrasting on this piece than the last one -- back to the cocoon image. By the time I complete the stitching, add the letter forms and rinse away all the Solvy, this bundle of entombed silk pieces (aka caterpillar) will be transformed into an airy, fluid construction (aka beautiful butterfly) -- or so I hope!

Yet the imagination is free to roam during hours and hours of The Stitching Process. I even plugged in my ipod and listened to two hours of Ira Glass and "This American Life" while I spun more strands in this web. What an amazingly talented group of people create that program.

Best of all, the repetitive activity spurred my creative side and I ended up with not one but TWO new ideas for future pieces in this series. I rough- sketched the bones of them with some notes in my sketchbook. That, along with my black and white composition notebook, go with me everywhere. New artist popped onto my radar while I was clearing away older art magazines this morning from the bedside stack that was nearing tower height -- Gail Resen, whose wonderful piece "The Unlearned Lesson" appeared on the back cover of the most recent Surface Design Association newsletter. There will be an article about her in the Winter 08 Surface Design Journal. I googled her of course and found a delightful window display of her work in a department store in Greenwich, CT. The piece I responded to is called "Lightplay";it is composed of 36 different 12" x 12" wrapped canvas units with wonderfully Louise Nevelson reminiscent cut-canvas constructions on each one. Exciting to me to respond so positively because as part of the Pages exhibit, I just ordered 25 wrapped 12" x 12" canvas frames a few days ago (yes expensive) to hang together. I wanted each piece to be different but relate to the whole and Gail's grouping hit my "YES" button. Check out the whole display at

Gail's theme in these works is light and shadow and my greyscale works are about depth and texture and text as shapes, but seeing her work along with Karen Jacobs "bokusho" pieces -- thank you Mary Ann for suggesting I look at her website -- --inspired more variations to incorporate into my already hefty stew of ideas. Love to keep stirring it up!

For those of you who actually read this blog, I had planned to spend yesterday at my studio, but some paperwork for my mother's estate intervened. I decided to use the time left in the day to get more stitching done on this construction, which I want to finish this week. I can then do back-to-back days in my studio making new cloth while I also plan and prep for my residency and class at the University of Rochester next Wednesday through Friday. I am getting very excited already about spending three days with art students and watching how they will respond to working with new materials. U of R doesn't have a fiber program or surface design classes.

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