Saturday, July 26, 2014

A tactile life

I am re-establishing a disciplined rhythm of work and life.
Stitching at least six hours a day, during breaks I harvest the plentiful wild plants along our road and in our property in order to process dye baths.
I visit my father.
Top: the two quilts that cover me in bed
Bottom: one of the new hand embroidered/quilted pieces in progress

"Our eyes, our ears, all of our senses are simply the indications of a veritable reality that ultimately resolves itself in our sense of touch."   Mark Rothko 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Learning about Saint John's Wort for dyeing

saint john's wort plant dyed wool skeins, indigo and muslin hand stitched patchwork on studio wall
Mid summer is the time to process wild Saint John's Wort for dye colour.  These flowers were gathered from our beach and weeded from drive way and juniper bushes. 
Hypericum perforatum.  Identified by the row of little black dots along the edges of the petal.
Jenny Dean advises that one can get four different shades on wool if just the flower heads are used.  This is my first time trying Saint John's Wort as a dye plant, and next time I will try to gather many more flower heads.  I only had about 3 oz. 

The recipe says to simmer the flowers until the dye liquid turns deep red and then strain it.  At first the liquid is a clear golden colour that looks red from above, but isn't.
It took about two hours to get the colour below and by then it was so concentrated that I had to add 3 cups of water and re-heat the strained colour to get enough liquid. 
I dyed three different pieces of wool along with skeins of about 2 oz each.  
The first one is the darker piece in the photo below.  Alum mordanted, simmered 15-20 minutes. (Jenny Dean advised that I would get a green colour).  
The middle piece of wool in photo above was UN mordanted wool, simmered one hour. (This was supposed to turn red..but didn't.  In fact, it looks greenish don't you think?).  
Finally, the pale piece was steeped overnight.  It was mordanted with alum and cream of tarter first.

Even though I did not get the promised colours this time, I am pleased to be learning more about using plants from my local area to dye fabric and threads with.  Experience is the best teacher.  
I'm still working on dyeing a good amount of blanket weight wool to create a new piece with.  Above is the onion skin dyed piece from way back in May- more than 90 inches long, 50 inches wide. 

Two books were my guide for Saint John's Wort...both by Jenny Dean.
Wild Color: revised and updated  and A Heritage of Colour: Natural Dyes Past and Present

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Land Use History Project Exhibition

Thought lines  2014
Heather Thoma
cotton twill, embroidery floss
each about 5 inches square

The images and text in this post refer to the Bonnie Blink Project in Land Use History carried out on Manitoulin Island under the leadership of 4elements living arts.  The project brought together twenty two 4th year geography students, 3 academic geographers, 7 artists, community members and local historians.

The project provided an opportunity for physical and human geographers to work together, realizing in the process that the full story was not learned and is a continually unfolding one.

The Bonnie Blink House, meaning "beautiful view", is a settler site in Sheguiandah, Manitoulin Island.  It was the site of Manitoulin Gardens until the mid 1980s and housed migrant workers, several families, and provided employment for large numbers of Islanders over the last 100 years. 
Heather's work explores the challenges and possibilities of working with both scientific and artistic approaches to research.  Throughout the Bonnie Blink project, she was struck by the shifts in perception needed to engage in comprehensive, relevant research and work between different approaches.

Her body of work for the exhibition encourages viewers to ask: can the elements of landscape help us to see how we see and how we move between ways of thinking. 
These leaf lines - the inward and outward shapes of leaf patterns, work as a metaphor for human thought and processes used in varying approaches to landscape research:  academic, artistic, community based, scientific and intuitive.
Oak Leaf Thought line (detail)  2014
Heather Thoma
238 cedar stakes, nylon rope
32 feet by 22 feet
Vile  2014
Ruta Tribinevicius
glass, silver wire, found objects
Part of her statement is below:

Less than 60 years ago, Manitoulin Gardens of Sheguiandah grew an array of vegetables and fruits, supplying much of the Island with its produce.  Today the trend to support grocery stores rather than local producers has left market gardeners struggling and dinner plates relying on imported foods.  The greenhouses, which formerly sat within view of my kitchen windows, are long gone, replaced now by meticulously cared for grounds.  

I draw parallels to how we interact with each other and the land.  This installation includes a chandelier, made from broken glass I've found around the property.  It's an item of beauty and opulence, and reflects the light around it, yet is made of garbage and discards.  It's my ode to the greenhouses, no longer, and the cultivated gardens, no longer, and a reminder of the communities that took root here long before these constructs, which will all inevitably fall apart.   Ruta Tribinevicius
These Old Chains  2014
Danielle Bourgault
knitted yarn, 3 inch chains, 14 feet long
first installed around the property boundary as a performance
Part of her statement is below

On October 6th 1862, William McDougal, the commissioner of Crown Lands, ordered an exploratory survey of Mnidoo Mnis/Manitoulin Island.  These surveys commenced based on the inaccurate premise that Anishnaabeg people were only using small parts of the land and that potential settler communities were welcome. 
I thought about the context of the first official survey, the desire to declare ownership and draw definitive lines, the social and environmental impacts, the future these drawn lines preceded.  Upon the surveyor's return in the spring of 1863, they were met with opposition from the Anishnaabeg peoples who declared the Treaties illegal and demanded the work cease.  The results of these surveys continue to foster complicated relationships and boundaries.  Danielle Bourgault
outcropping  2014
Michael Belmore
stone, copper leaf
25" x 15" x 9"

His statement below:

Outcropping consists of carved and fitted stones coming together to offer a feeling of warmth.  Copper is inlayed, giving the illusion of the shimmer and glow of a dying campfire.

My first carved stone sculpture was done in Dawson City back in 2003.  The work consisted of stones gathered downstream from placer mine tailing piles.  It is impossible to miss these piles driving into Dawson.  Placer mining is a technique by which gold is removed from gravel using water and gravity.  The dredging of the riverbeds creates barren wastelands.  It was this waste material that I wanted to reutilize into art, so I decided to carve and fit together a collection of stones into a square format. 
From that I started to look at mining from my home territory.  I looked at the treaties that were signed on the north shores of Lake Superior, such as the Robinson-Superior Treaty 1850, within which I found this excerpt:  "nor will they at any time hinder or prevent persons from exploring or searching for mineral or other valuable productions in any part of the territory hereby ceded to Her Majesty".  The copper is about the value that is inherent and often hidden in the land.   Michael Belmore

All text in this post is from the very informative catalog. Contact 4elements to purchase.
All photos are by Judy Martin with permission from the artists and the Centennial Museum of Sheguiandah.  I'm very glad that I was able to view the exhibit before it came down.  (July 3 - July 23 2014).

Congratulations to Sophie Edwards, the executive director of 4 elements.  She has been tireless in working hard to bring art and culture of all kinds to Manitoulin Island.  This project, Sophie!!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

zen circle

Originally this design was called ‘zen circle’ because it was so very simple and quiet.  All of the fabrics in this panel are donated or thrift shop table linens.

The technique used throughout the Mended World panel is string piecing.  Using a sewing machine, four or five long narrow strips of a variety of textured damasks are sewn along their long edges into a new striped fabric.  This fabric is then re-cut several times and sewn back together to make a wide stretch of striped fabric about four inches high.
Colour choice is very subtle in Mended World.  The damasks used in the central circle are off-white or pale beige with some blue and yellow while the damasks in the surrounding square are all pure white.  The circle was hand pieced onto light-weight foundations, the square was machine pieced.  
The other technique is the use of foundation cloth with a flip and stitch construction method. Several people hand-sewed sections of the circle at the same time.  They used two threaded needles, one to sew the seam and the other to mend all the little string pieces as they went along.
The thick linen thread is used occasionally in the circle in a back stitch and also a quilting stitch

Sewing on this panel began in mid 2010.  In May 2011 the hand quilting began on the frame.  Mended World was installed in the sanctuary in June 2012 after two years of work.

The Manitoulin Circle Project is part of the Manitoulin Art Tour.
It starts tomorrow at 10 am.
On Sunday, the four panels are being dedicated to the Little Current United church .

Monday, July 14, 2014

water stitching

 grand child with snorkel
six weeks of family
mish mash of emotions
settled with horizontal in and out breathing stitch

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Thursday, July 03, 2014

wabi sabi wedding

This post is about some of April and Andrew's wedding decor
The couple made gifts for their guests - ceramic salt and pepper bowls by the bride, a wooden tray to hold them by the groom
April used cyanotype to print ferns and wild-flower silhouettes on the boxes that held those gifts.
The bride also made thirty of these dotted pots to hold lavender plants.  The pots were carried by (and gifted to) her friends and the lavender has since been planted in our rock garden at the cottage.
Live plants were used for the centrepieces - above maiden hair fern, below, juniper.
Each plant was carefully planted and arranged with moss or rocks in glass bowls, the whole grounded with a flat porcelain plate made by the bride
April made other blue and white plates for the wedding. The ones in the above photo were used to hold the seating name-tags (little gift boxes full of candy made for the couple by the groom's co-workers, seen at the back of the table).
A denim aesthetic.
She made blue and white birds as gifts for children who attended.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

artist's coat

White linen coat, made from one long piece of fabric half of which was slit vertically, then sides seamed, edges hemmed.  Pocketed, a sash instead of buttons, I plan to dye it indigo.
Created for April who described it from a coat she tried on in New York city last May.
 sewing machine in our sleeping cabin
 sweet grass braids
my darlings on Laddie's rock

Garments are for our outsides but they reflect our insides.

Sunday, June 29, 2014


I don't have to say much.  I enjoy just looking and listening.
I forget what it's like to do art every day.