July 31, 2013
The next step in my textile explorations of the Jack in the Pulpit plant was to make some prints directly from the plant. I have an ongoing love affair with the cyanotype process and use it quite frequently. It’s basically rudimentary photography, where a natural fiber material, in this case a silk-cotton blend, is pre-treated with light-reactive chemicals. I arranged my specimens on the fabric and took it out into the bright sunshine for a timed exposure. The fabric darkened in response to the ultraviolet radiation.
Afterwards, I remove the plants and rinse out the fabric, and viola! Just like magic, a print appears. They are always wonderful, and always a bit of a surprise. Due to a variety of factors, these prints came out with a medium tones and medium contrast (they are often much darker and crisper), which is just what I wanted for this work.
Above is a cyanotype print after layering and stitching, with echo quilting extending the lines of the leaves and spathe.
I also made some heliographic prints, or monoprints. I used textile paints on white cotton sateen, laid a leaf on as a mask, and put it out in the bright sun. As it dried, the paint wicked out from under the leaf, leaving an image. The silvery tones on the leaves in this picture are partly from their whitish undersides, and partly from some silver paint I splattered on the print as it was drying.
And here’s the print, layered and stitched. I used a combination of echo quilting and pebbled stitching to create layers of transparency. I’m working towards that combination of sunshine and flickering shadows I observed on my plants in the garden.
At this point I was two years into the project. I didn’t want to stress the plant by harvesting too many leaves at once, so I did the cyanotype prints one summer, and the heliographic prints the next. I’ve said it before--art making is not a linear process. It often takes time to develop thematic elements. I wasn’t thinking about Jack in the Pulpit continuously during this time, obviously, but the idea was percolating and taking shape in my subconscious in the odd moment here and there.
It doesn’t always work this way. I’ve done projects where the entire thing from concept to completion was done in a few weeks. And I’m exceedingly good about meeting deadlines when need be. But sometimes it’s good to proceed at a mellow pace.
July 29, 2013
A volunteer Jack in the Pulpit, Arisaema triphyllum, has been growing in my black currant bed for many years. It’s a native plant here in Pennsylvania, although not a very common one in my experience. At a guess, it got its start in my bed courtesy of a bird that was raiding the currant berries. Over time, it has grown into a large specimen. It’s an interesting plant, in that it’s unisexual--as it matures, it has the resources to produce more and more female flowers.
Here’s another view of it, including Mojo, the neighborhood photobombing cat, to give a sense of perspective.
The flowers, actually spathes, are often green, but in this specimen they developed a wonderful deep maroon coloration with distinctive white stripes. The spathe is the “pulpit”, and the spadix, which is covered with the tiny actual flowers, is the “Jack”. You need to duck under the leaves, where it’s shady and a bit mysterious, to see the spathes and photograph them, which I did quite extensively.
When I decided to make an art quilt celebrating this plant, I started by editing down my photos to a few which I felt would work well as textile prints.
Here is the photograph printed onto cotton sateen, layered with batting, and stitched.
There’s lots more to come; stay tuned!
July 12, 2013
One of the perks of the artist’s life is meeting other artists. I volunteer a bit of my time and talents for the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen, an excellent organization, and I’m convinced that I get as much or more out of the relationship than I give. Through the Guild I’ve come to know Wendy Edsall-Kerwin, a jewelry and metals artist. She is doing a series of interviews with artists who were included in this year’s Art of the State Exhibition at the State Museum in Harrisburg, PA, USA, and she has done me the honor of a feature on her blog today. You can read all about it here, or follow the short link: http://wp.me/pdz32-1Dw
Wendy’s entry in the exhibit is her bronze, nickel and brass riveted bowl, Ebb and Flow, part of her Super Bowl Series.
Also be sure to check out the wonderful jewelry at Wendy’s Etsy shop
July 8, 2013
I am very happy to report that I have won the prestigious Purchase Award at Art of the State 2013, at the Pennsylvania State Museum in Harrisburg, PA. My Silk Mill #3 is now part of the permanent fine art collection of the Museum. It is quite a significant honor, and you can see in the picture from opening night just how happy I am to receive it!
The organizers hold an awards ceremony just before the opening of the exhibit in the museum auditorium. Here is the List of Winners. The purchase award was announced by Pennsylvania First Lady Susan Corbett, who is a supporter of the museum and of the arts. You can watch a YouTube video of her presentation here:
The award was selected by the First Lady, Museum Director David Dunn, and PMHC Executive Director James Vaughn. Their procedure was to tour the exhibit once it was installed, then each wrote down their top three potential picks. Remarkably, they unanimously chose Silk Mill #3 as their top pick.
The Museum was packed on opening night. I spent most of the evening standing by my work and talking with people. It was very exciting and a bit surreal. I greatly appreciated all the good wishes and congratulations that flowed my way, and it was fun to explain a bit about my process and my subject matter to those who had questions. And about that process--I am so glad that I am such a careful craftswoman, and always take great care to use only the best materials and practices in my work. Had I know in advance that this quilt was going to be a museum piece, I would not have changed a thing.
I did take some time to tour about and admire and enjoy the work on view. This is an extremely competitive show--this year about 7% of the work submitted was accepted, and I can attest to its diversity and quality. It’s an excellent show and well worth a visit if you find yourself in the area. You can view it online in this Flickr album. The Museum also has a Facebook Page.
I hope you can join me on Friday, July 19th, at 6:30 p.m., when The State Museum will host a casual insider’s tour of “Art of the State” with myself and State Museum Director David Dunn. The program is free and open to the public as part of “3rd in the Burg”, a monthly celebration of Harrisburg’s art and entertainment.
A few more good links--here’s my friend Wendy Edsall-Kerwin’s blog post about the Art of the State 2013 Opening, including her fabulous Ebb and Flow bowl. And the Lancaster Sunday News had a nice article about the award and the exhibit.
The prizes for this exhibit are not announced until the awards ceremony on opening night, but they do phone up the award winners to let them know so they can make plans to attend. I was on vacation in Minnesota, on a hiking trail with sketchy cell service at Gooseberry Falls State Park, when I got a voicemail with the news. This was my view as I learned of my good fortune:
To read more about Silk Mill #3, the other quilts in the series, and the building they are based on, click the Silk Mill tab at the top or follow this link.
And now, after all that excitement, it’s back to work in the studio for me! This is my mantra: do the work, do the work, do the work. It all flows from there.