November 28, 2010

Mysore Silks, from the factory

Years ago I lived and studied in Mysore, India.  It was a transformative experience in many ways, not the least of which was the exposure to Mysore silks.  I consider them the finest in the world, and love sewing with them.  They have a sheen and a "hand" to them that is exciting and inspirational, and contributes greatly to the aesthetic of my work.  I brought some silk back with me from my student days, and my husband procured an excellent assortment of them some years back while on a business trip, but I was running low, and the type I prefer is not readily available online.  Luckily my daughter came to the rescue; while on a recent trip to Bangalore she sought out and  found a showroom stocked with Mysore style silks. 
She was such a good customer, buying on my behalf, that they took her in the back and showed her around the factory.  She got these amazing pictures of the looms, above, and the spooled threads, below:
Another picture of the fantastically complex machinery:
And a picture of one of the artisans operating the loom:
Here is some of the bounty she brought me,  in the lighter shades:
Here are the jewel tones and darker pieces. They are all a meter, or more, and the photos can't begin to capture how iridescent they are.  Many of them are woven with one color thread in the warp and another in the weft, to make a fabric commonly referred to as "shot silk".
I also received three pashmina/silk scarves, light as air and very warm:
As well as some pure silk scarves, even lighter than air, with complex woven paisley designs:
A bonus printed silk scarf:
And last but not least, an incredibly decadent red silk and gold metallic thread tablecloth. 
I've got the yardage all edge stitched, rinsed and dried --they "bled" very little, further proof of their superior quality-- pressed, folded, and stacked up in a glorious pile.  I'm doing my best to clear the decks of the usual mundane tasks that pile up in the holiday season so that I can get some serious studio time in and see where all this will lead me.....someplace good, I think!

November 15, 2010

Materials: Hard and Soft - Acceptance

I'm very happy to announce that Watt &Shand #5 has been accepted into Materials: Hard and Soft, a prestigious fine craft exhibit at the Visual Arts Center in Denton, TX, from February 4 - April 3, 2011.  This annual competition and exhibition of contemporary crafts was started in 1987 and is now in its 23rd year. This year's juror is Thomas Lauerman.

Watt &Shand #5 is from my ten piece series about the transformation of the former department store building in Lancaster, PA into a modern hotel and convention center.  The building was gutted and the site razed, but great care was taken to preserve and reuse the Beaux Arts facade of the building.  In the initial stages of construction it was supported by an elaborate steel scaffolding.  The screened images in this work are from a photograph I took one afternoon when the sun was shining through the empty windows, and the border print is a repeating image of the same photograph. 

I documented the series very thoroughly here on my blog; you can follow it back, and view lots of pictures, by clicking on "Watt and Shand" under Labels in the right sidebar, and/or visit The Structures on my website.  I wanted these works not only to serve as a historical record of this particular building and project, but to also be able to stand alone and be of interest based on their design and execution, and this acceptance, and that of #7 and #10 into Artquilts XV in Chandler, is very encouraging in that regard.

November 7, 2010

Lassen Volcanic Park Trip - Part 3

We began the day by driving along the shores of Lake Almanor, pausing for photo ops.  That's Mt. Lassen, with some stripes of snow, in the background.  Below is a panorama shot (you can click to enlarge).
We saw these signs all over the area, sometimes near ranches but also in the deep woods.  Is it possible there are feral cattle, lurking and about to leap out onto the roadway?

Another common sight was logging trucks.  Much of the area is national forest, but there are private timber company lands as well.  A log truck barreling along winding mountain roads with no guard rails is a force to be respected.
Leaving Lassen, we entered the adjacent Plumas National Forest.  After picking up sandwiches in the charming small town of Greenville, and keeping a sharp eye out, we spotted the parking lot for Indian Falls, where a short walk rewarded us with this view of the small falls on the left:
The main falls:

And the view downstream:

It was stunningly gorgeous, and so difficult to capture in photographs, but here's a panorama nonetheless:

A short video of Indian Falls:

After eating lunch while perched on the rocks, I spent some time in that most elusive and rewarding of activities, quiet contemplation:
And was rewarded by spying a coyote trotting along between the trees and the rocks on the other side.  He or she was too quick to photograph, but this bit of wildlife was easier to capture:

I could have happily built a cabin and stayed there forever, but eventually it was time to hit the road again, heading towards the wide open spaces of Nevada.

I enjoyed the interplay of light and shadow over the range lands.
We ended up back in civilization, such as it is.  I enjoyed the next day in Reno--people watching in the casino, exploring the town on foot, buying a pretty pendant in a pawn shop--but I am not of a gambling temperament and rued the $10 I lost on the slots.
All in all, an excellent adventure!

November 6, 2010

Lassen Volcanic Park Trip - Part 2

Day two of our Lassen Volcanic National Park adventure started with a drive back up the mountain to the trail head for Bumpass Hell , an active hydrothermal area.  The scenery was stunning, and seemed to change with each twist in the trail.
We made a short detour to marvel at Lake Helen, where the early morning light and calm winds provided amazing reflections and a deep indigo color to the water.  (You can click on the panorama shot, and all the pictures, to enlarge them.)
Vegetation got scarcer, and ash/rubble more prevalent, as we hiked higher.
We encountered a chipmunk who was curious about us, and wary but not timid.

We passed through a magical bit of forest and came around a bend to the first view of Bumpass Hell.  It's named for the unfortunate Kendall Bumpass who hoped to make his fortune here, but instead inadvertently stepped through the thin crust of soil into the boiling mud, and lost a leg due to the injury.  I took this parable to heart and adhered to the directives to stay on the path and the boardwalk.

It's a bit like standing on the surface of an alien planet, with bubbling mud pots, eruptions of hissing steam, and the powerful and pervasive aroma of sulfur.

Here's a short video to give you a feel for it:
Apparently, that's just the thing to make me very, very happy!
Off to one side there's an area where a mountain stream merges and mingles with the hydrothermals, and it produces a pond of the most amazing aquamarine color:

The weather was growing increasingly colder, so with a few fond farewell glances we left Bumpass and headed back down the mountain.  A squall blew up, and we hiked back down through a light snow storm that lent a magical air to the whole proceedings.
Back at the car, we headed down out of the mountain in search of warmth and sustenance.  The scenery changed again as the Cascades gave way to the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Down in Chico it was 30 degrees warmer, but the beer was nice and cold.  The Sierra Nevada Brewery is a extremely "green" operation, which made it an added pleasure to dine there.
Refreshed, we embarked on the drive back to Chester through still more amazing scenery, and the end of another very full and astonishing day.