Monday, December 3, 2012

Textile and Wood - an "hors pair" combination

Speaking of the Crawl, it's been a pleasure for a second time around to display some of my weaving along with Stu's work at Beatty Street Woodworkers. We both enjoy playing with the characters of our chosen medium to create one-of-a-kind pieces.

One of Stu's recent design is this wonderful functional piece that hangs scarves beautifully.  Dressing up the claro and black walnut piece are some of my personal favourites - a marvel of burnt orange,  a delightful scarf knitted with alpaca, the cool cross scarf and a recent sculptural woven addition.

This year, Stu also displayed some benches - all of them made of re-purposed timber but offering different lines, shapes, lengths and types of wood.  Each one is unique and combines ingenuity in design and craftsmanship.

The bench below my scarves is made of red and yellow cedar as well as ebony, whereas the bench on the right is made of douglas-fir and ebony. Designed as a low bench,  its main feature is the cast iron legs salvaged from an old window weight pulley system.

The "grand" bench of them all is made of western red cedar.  The legs - offset and angled forwards - capture the attention as a design element, while the claro and black walnut bring contrast to the bench (details on left photo).

Monday, November 26, 2012

Mixed Media Painting on Linen Canvas

While on the topic of linen,  I'd like to share with you the work of Karen Bagayama whose paintings are done on hand made linen canvas.

Upon discovering Karen's paintings a couple years ago, I fell in love with the stunning colours and texture of her work, but little did I know that Karen's paintings involve the lengthy process of weaving her own canvas with unbleached linen.

A visit to Karen's studio during the recent Eastside Culture Crawl captivated me as she shared her weaving and painting process while we walked around her creative space. Here's a window into the richness of her work! 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Flax to Linen to Threads in the Garden

Linen has to be my favourite plant fibre for zillions of reasons and for years I have been in awe with this wonderful bast fibre.  The tiny flax seeds will grow into long stalks of up to 1.5 meters with beautiful blue, violet or white flowers that will follow the sun's direction and close up at night. What I revere the most though is the devotion one gives to the processing by hand of such fibre before it can be spun into linen threads.

When ready, the plants need to be collected and hung to dry.  Next the seeds are removed - a step called "rippling" - and saved for next year's crop. After the stalks are rippled, they are bundled and prepared for "retting" - a rotting process that breaks the outer coating of the plants.

Once the retting is done the fibres are dried again before the stalks are first broken to separate the bast fibres from the inner core of the plants, and then scraped to remove the remaining straw off the stalks - a process called "scutching".  The breaking can be done by hand, though a tool such as the "flax brake" quickly becomes handy, while the scutching is done with a wooden knife and scraper.  One last step before the fibres are spinnable and that is "hackling" - the combing of the fibres through finer and finer hackles (different sizes of comb). The hackling process releases the spinnable fibres and it usually takes several passes to produce a good spinning fibre.

I don't know too many people who grow flax themselves - let alone spin it into linen.  A few years ago, I came across The Linen Project - a regional initiative in Victoria - now regrouped under Flax to Linen. It was then that I scutched and hackled some fibres while getting a better understanding of what it really means to process bast fibres.

More recently, I was delighted to meet Julia Ostertag, PhD candidate at UBC. As part of her research project, Julia grew flax this past season, processed it into striks and learned to spin her own linen. Julia's devotion to her bast fibre is inspirational and I am pleased that she invited me to assist her with her spinning and workshop.  It is not every day that one gets to spin local flax into linen - it is rather an honour!

The spinning is part of Julia's research - "an art and garden-based exploration into the history and contemporary practices of school gardening to better understand the relationships between land and teaching".

The public is invited to view Julia's installation and participate in her research process. To read more about Julia's project visit The Orchard Garden.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Socks on the Mend

Back in August, I sat down with Penny at The Urban Weaver Studio and she helped me refresh my skills on darning socks.

My first sock had the "classic" hole in the heel - too much friction from the good ol' boots I wear all the time.  Originally knitted with a sports weight yarn,  I used a similar weight and colour to construct a weave across the hole.  First by creating a "warp" section in one direction and then by weaving over and under all the warp threads.

My second sock - an all time favourite - wasn't too damaged, but the stitches over the heel were running super thin.  Since I wanted to keep the pattern along the heel cup, Penny suggested that I cut right through the heel - something she's done a lot for toe repairs.  A first for me ... it is with due diligence and trust in her experience that I cut a hole in my favourite sock!  Afterwards, we brainstormed the best way to knit the heel back together and figured that short rows was going to do the trick.

I have one more sock to repair and it's been long time coming for this one.  This pair was purchased in Kamchatka years ago and each stitch pretty much has a story ... so have the holes!

Starting October 1st, you can join Penny at the Urban Weaver Studio for a series of Woolley Workshops and rejoice at wearing your "new" mended socks.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Opportunity for contemplation

The Little Green Dress Projekt by local artist Nicole Dextras is a stunning creation. Nicole happened to be at the garden when I visited the exhibition - allowing for a fortuitous conversation on the project, the process and the materials.

The aim of Nicole's project is to promote awareness on the enormous impact the clothing industry has on our environment and the need for change. For these reasons, the dresses are entirely created with organic materials. By the end of September, The Little Green Dress Projekt will feature 21 dresses all made of botanical material left to decompose back into nature.

If you are in Vancouver, don't miss the Earth Art 2012 exhibition at the VanDusen Botanical Garden - only 10 days left.  And if living far away, take a detour to Nicole's dresses online.  There's much to contemplate!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

An abundance of sage for colouring

Inspiration from the Garden

Salvia Officinalis
Salvia officinalis - our culinary sage bush of 7 years

Solar Dye Magic

Solar Dye Concoctions
 Three concoctions (left to right) - sage dye liquid, sage dye liquid with
old copper mesh (previously used to repel slugs in the veggie patch) and 
sage dye liquid with rusty bits of iron found in the garden's soil

Colour Wonders

Sage Colours
Dye colour liquid only on all fibres - no mordant
dye with copper (top left), dye on its own (top right)
dye with iron (bottom)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Weaving Beyond Cloth

For a few months now, I've been taking part in The Urban Weaver Project - an environmental art project led by artist-weavers Todd DeVries and Sharon Kallis.  Sharon and I met three years ago - when attending her Autumn shade retreat workshop at MOPARCC - and she introduced me to blackberry vine as a weaving material.  Since then Sharon has been working on some amazing projects in our local communities and abroad - and the Himalayan Blackberry is only but one of several species on her list of invasive plants for weaving.

The Urban Weaver Project has been a great opportunity for me to learn more about "invasive" species and to get involved in the harvest and preparation of these plants for weaving.  I have learned a tremendous amount from Sharon and Todd's teachings on traditional weaving techniques using English Ivy, Himalayan Blackberry, Flag Iris and Miscanthus giganteus.  The Stanley Park Ecology Society offers a great guide with the descriptive of these "invasive" plants.  As a permaculturist, I rather label them as  "opportunistic" species, but that's a different post all together.

The Urban Weaver Project also included Master Class Technique Exchanges with other local artists.  I feel very privilege to have learned new skills from Haida weaver Giihlgiigaa (cedar),  Squamish spinner and weaver Sesemiya Tracy Williams (cedar and fibre), and traditional wheat weaver Brian Jones.

Since June, the field-house at Maclean Park has been a second studio space and to be part of a new community of weavers has invigorated my own practice.  The Urban Weaver Project is soon coming to an end with our final celebration this week, but the field-house at Maclean Park will continue to offer community projects.

To all these wonderful people,  I dedicate this page "At The Urban Weaver Studio".