On the road again!
My workshops usually involve travel. My most recent was teaching participants how to ecoprint on leather and paper and creating leather journals from our efforts :-). My car was packed and it looked like I was moving! Air travel was impractical and the drive meant I could stop over with neglected relatives enroute.
But there’s a good reason people go to Florida during the winter 🙂 I’m back now from a 2 week jaunt down there (and Georgia) and I made time to actually turn it into a working vacation! Anyone who is a self employed artist knows how hard that can be!
I have taught workshops for a long time. You can’t be a painting artist and not share tips and techniques with big and small workshops.
So when the opportunity came from my friend, Suzanne Connors, to teach my ecoprinting techniques on leather and watercolor paper at her Aya Fiber Studio in Stuart, FL, I said “sure!” I chose leather and paper because once the techniques were mastered, my students would have the skills to create beautiful art journals for friends or for sale.
Not all workshops have such exotic locations! In this case, Florida’s weather was a far cry from what was happening in NC.
The 4 day workshop kept us busy! My students learned about the leathers that worked best for my technique, the papers that worked, leather tools, end products and created some amazing journals.
Not all workshops end with finished products. But I felt it was important that they have finished pieces to refer to when back home in their own work spaces.
Additional techniques added a WOW factor to the leather and everyone had gorgeous results!
Workshops do not have to be held in inspiring places. I’ve been in dusty expo buildings, recreation halls and similar places. My North Carolina studios are in the country and I share them with my artist hubby, Stephen Filarsky. It offers a different ambience-just as inspiring-but in a totally different environment in the country!
Below is a busy workshop I held in an Expo building in Michigan. My participants were just as enthusiastic!
Below is the art studio transformed into a workshop space for my participants (we also hold painting workshops in here of course)
April and May are the time the heirloom “rescued roses” bloom at our location!
A few alpacas provide not only fiber but entertainment for little ones who often mistake them for camels lol!
As long as people wish to learn new skills and techniques and involve themselves in the beauty of art, there will always be classes and workshops :-). Embracing the unknown in the arts broadens the mind and fills that creative space in your soul that just waits for some kind of inspiration!
And as a bonus to my teaching trip to FL we took a sunset cruise recommended by the studio. I missed the manatee that swam up to the studio docks but not on the hour long cruise! I had never seen one before!
So I am off to unload my car, (which looks like I moved half of my studio!) but adding
a parting image of what is called “The Golden Hour” on the water. We were able to enjoy it from the quiet puttering of the electric boat (and also why we could silently come close to the manatees)
Until next time!-Theresa
So this should have gone out in Nov….and it did in my newsletter but not on my blog! SO here it is (after my Christmas one lol!) But Enjoy
Hi fellow artists!
So finally, Fall in the US has stopped procrastinating and has arrived! And for those of us who ecoprint or use leaves in our art, there is that slight panic that the leaves we took for granted for months will now disappear. Or will they?
My botanical printing goes back a ways and over the years I have tried all kinds of techniques to gather and store leaves. Quite frankly I look for the least labor intensive methods that make it easy for me to pull out leaves in January.
So let’s start with the basics-gathering your leaves. No need to make this a production! If you’re not on your own property you can find leaves anywhere-in piles by the side of the roads, unraked in yards or parks. I have never had anyone tell me NOT to collect leaves in public areas so go for it! Carry a rake, paper and plastic bags. The paper bags sit open easier and you can dump your leaves from there into your plastic bags.
My Honda Fit is a little workhorse and can carry whatever I put it to!
With the hatch up, the back of my Honda holds bags of leaves, rakes, snips and assorted objects for carrying and scooping. I keep the tops of the bags open or lightly tied.
In municipal areas, the leaves are yours for the taking. I often hit areas where my “magic trees” are on a Sunday when businesses are closed.
But perhaps the best part about collecting leaves is this-back roads! Unless you have experienced the fun and excitement of discovering new plants, winding roads and abandoned farms, you can’t imagine how well that interacts on a fall day! Sunny skies, chill in the air and Nature calling to you! It helps to take photos along the way-and one main reason other than recording a grand adventure, is the remember where you were when you collected certain leaves. Ones that prove to be amazing printers are ones you will want to find year after year.
It was on such an abandoned road recent;y that we stopped at several abandoned house-to collect and to take photos of the past. Forgotten stone walls with sumac beginning to enclose them.
This abandoned homestead below bears further exploration as has an old mill-somewhere back in the woods.
But down out long winding dirt road we saw what we thought was a fox or cat dart across the road and disappear into the woods.
I stopped the car and peered into the woods and realized it was a beagle. As I got out and approached her with dog biscuits in hand, her tail wagged furiously while she crouched behind bushes and peed submissively. I picked her up and that was that. Back roads-dirt or paved- are good places for people to dump their animals and this thin little thing was just a puppy-maybe 5 months old judging from a few puppy teeth left.
My husband and I are cut out of the same piece of cloth so we just put the little girl in the car and continued with our journey!
Now really! Could you have left that little face behind? Someone did. So relax, we took the puppy my husband named Tuppence to the vet that same Sunday pm, had her vaccinated, micro-chipped (we searched for a chip first), and introduced her to the other 3 dogs. Yes, she is settling in nicely!
So back to the leaves…..let’s say you have collected bushels. After all, you don’t want to be left leafless right? 🙂 Now what. Where and how to store? Take a look at a few solutions I have tried!
2 old screen doors are a good solution depending on how many you have-the advantage is that they dry flat, air circulates on both sides and the screens prevent the leaves from blowing away! But I had way too many leaves for this to work long! Also this was not very portable. If it rained you had to start over.
So here I tried screens from the thrift store. Easier to move but still I would need too many screens.
So here I got clever and made my own baskets-I could hang them in the barn or under a shed and they would air dry. Well they did but the lightweight leaves began to compact all on their own (they did not seem that heavy!) and the bottom ones might as well have been onion skins! Now you have to understand that I use a LOT of leaves. I do not have the time nor the space to systematically stack leaves encased in newspaper on coordinated and marked shelving units!-that all sounds good and looks so nice in posted photos but the reality is very different. 🙂
So my solution now for the last few years? Yep-keep them in their bags! I sit them on the ground under a shed and leave the tops open. I stack maples in one area, oak in another, etc and some are mixed anyway!
In the end-do things YOUR way. Your prints will turn out whether you toss them into bags or iron and press each one into a book!
And I’ll end this narrative with a parting image of Tuppence, the abandoned puppy. She looks like she is settling in nicely doesn’t she? No telling what you’ll find on those back roads!
Who doesn’t love the Holidays? And the optimism a new year always brings?
Regardless of how you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or whatever your Holiday, the message is the same. And my message is for Peace, Happiness, Good Health and Prosperity for all my followers (and non-followers!) and their families!
I did not initially make the decision to create and sew my own garments with my hand dyed or ecoprinted silk. The creation of the fabric designs alone is labor intensive but I enjoy the process and it is no problem to roll up my shirtsleeves and hand paint, dye, collect leaves and botanically print them onto my fabrics. But how many scarves do you need at a show? You have to offer more than one thing and clothing was perfect! My skills were adequate-I had sewn clothing off and on for years. But hiring sewers to do the construction work seemed to make sense while I concentrated on creating the fabric designs. What I had not considered was my deadlines. No one will ever work as hard as yourself and eventually I knew that in order to compete and have clothing ready for my shows, it was time for me to bite the bullet!
Thus was born my own clothing lines. No matter what it is called, my own Slow Fashion, Artisanal Clothing, Hand crafted….it fits with what I do now and what I create! Low impact dyes (both natural and synthetic)sustainable and organic designs and clothing created entirely by hand and by me 🙂
So what IS “the “Slow Fashion” movement?” In a nutshell:
“Slow Fashion (Clothing) is the antithesis of fast fashion. It considers the ethics and sustainability of garments, values provenance and artisan skills while focusing on timeless style, comfort and connection. It is about thoughtful, ethical, creative and sustainable ways to enjoy the garments we wear every day while minimizing our material footprint on the world”-from Textile Beat
It does not get much slower than how I do it! I choose certain days to collect my leaves and ecoprint my fabric. (Weather plays a part in this) I choose other days to hand paint my fabric or create designs on the silk. Then I will choose yet another day to sew. In that way I slowly but steadily work on creating my fashions for the shows I attend or for the custom orders I receive.
So the logistics of sewing with silk are simple. It’s hard, it’s slippery and I discovered that no amount of YouTube videos was going to teach me like just doing it! I dusted off my Brother CS6000i. I should add that as a self employed artist I am rich in art and poor in cash. So this very cost effective sewing machine is under $200. For most of us, whether your machine has 16 or 600 stitches starts to become irrelevant in basic, good construction. Re-homing my old skills meant a lot of practice and learning new things in new machines.
But perhaps the best bang for my buck was the Brother 1034D serger I purchased a few years ago! I was determined to master it (my earlier sewing skills never included a serger!) and how quickly you learn anything depends on how badly you want to learn it! This Brother Serger was another “under $200” super investment and I have been able to double my output with some of my garments in the time it saves! I will add that there are some great YouTube videos on using both of these machines from threading to cleaning them. The best ones I found came from Sewing Mastery. (that tip will save you getting lost for 8 hours on YouTube!)
Serging is no longer the “to do before hemming” part of sewing. (ie: serge, fold up hem, sew again) A good tight, serged edge IS the hem!
But there are a few other workhorses now in my arsenal of machines. Nothing beats an older machine-all metal and sturdiness for additional, harder sewing. For instance, the Brother CS6999i cannot handle my leather. No problem.
I bring our my 1954 Singer featherweight. These little workhorses have become expensive and the darling of the Quilting world :-). But you can find them reasonably priced if you look hard enough. With a leather needle, mine can handle basic leather trim and embellishment on my clothing. But when I move into heavier leather and my ecoprinted hides, I pull out the super workhorse! My 1908 Singer 29-4! These were built to last! A table makes it easier to work flat but with only foot power to run it, well, it can be used anywhere! This is for my heavier leather such as my shoes and handbags.
I found that with patience and practice, the silk I most worked with could be easily managed. From 8mm Habotai to 12mm charmeuse to the much heavier silk noil, all require some machine adjustments and tweaking.
But the end results are beautiful garments designed to showcase not just talent but determination, perseverance and pure hard work in an ethical, slow clothing movement. And nothing feels better than to have accomplished it all by yourself!
If you enjoy the idea or art of ecoprinting, my first suggestion for a true understanding and appreciation of this art form is to take a Walk. There is simply no other way to embrace Ecoprinting without exploring the world of the plants you use, up close and personal. The outdoor world you thought you knew unveils little secrets that lead to a better understanding of the “hows and whys” of ecoprinting. I’m not talking about being knowledgeable in “name those plants”. I’m talking about getting up close and personal with the moods of your favorite trees and plants. It’s a world of getting to know the growth cycles from early spring to fall. The imprints that plants share with the artist vary from day to day, week to week..even the time of day! get to know your walking trail.
Carry something like your camera phone and notebook and if you select leaves, photograph them and note the date and time. Become your own eco scientist! I can pretty much guarantee that you will not remember the details unless you record them 🙂
It is probably the artist in me that looks for visual harmony, details and patterns in even the smallest of plants. Look up, look down. There is something of note in your eco journal in both locations!
The additional benefits of your walk are numerous! Beyond the obvious exercise benefit, the subtle influence it has on your soul, your psyche and your mind offers a major calming influence in our lives. In a world of daily electronic bombardment embrace your time without it. I have several blog posts that spend time with traveling these roads. Take a look at them on my website and enjoy that journey with me!
What’s Happening and working with a mordant!
For centuries, dyers have known that natural dye colors are elusive on fabric unless the colors are “set” with a mordant. A “new kid on the block” is a mordant called Titanium Oxalate. And I’ll share my experiments with you!
But first, let me share what is happening! Click on the highlighted links for images and details!
Exploring Titanium Oxalate
It’s a big word huh? Well for those who may not know, the word mordant is derived from Latin and means “to bite.” It is what “fixes” dye colors to whatever fabric you are using and its uses have been recorded back to ancient Chinese and Egyptian times! The two most popular mordants in ecoprinting have been alum (potassium aluminum sulfate) and iron. Titanium Oxalate has become the new star among dyers, yet it too has been around while. Doing some basic research, I found repetitive descriptions such as “These double salts may be applied to textiles and other substances without injury to the texture or material.” and “Titanium salts are now employed in both Europe and America as mordant and dye in the manufacture of leather goods, having proved of especial value for use on chrome tanned leathers” and “Titanium salts are currently extensively developed in replacement of chromium salts for environmentally friendly titanium-tanning techniques used as an alternative mordant for use with natural dyes.” That’s a lot of information (and only the start of it!)
To further confuse things, natural dye and ecoprint Facebook groups are full of conflicting information. Through my own experiments, what I know for sure is that when combined with the tannin in leaves when ecoprinting, titanium oxalate will produce a distinct range of oranges!
So in this photo, on the left is silk with an indigo and iron water blanket applied. On the right is a titanium oxalate and indigo blanket applied. The silk on the right is actually a bit greener than shown in this image. As an artist, it makes sense for yellow and blue to mix and create green., thus the abundance of green in the silk on right.
In the image below, I simply alternated dipping maple leaves and maple seed pods into an iron or Titanium Oxalate solution. Can you see the difference?
For me, this “new kid on the block” is better in small doses. I love the control of dipping leaves where I can stagger the bold oranges in any manner that I like! That is what I did on the two examples below. For me, less is truly more 🙂
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As a long time painting artist, I know of hundreds of ways to create art on canvas and paper. I think nothing of switching from pastels to oils to alcohol inks without too much thought. Without realizing it over the course of years, I had developed an expertise in many mediums simply by using them over and over 🙂
So as I began to expand my silk painting it did not take me long to realize that there were as many methods to add color to silk as there was to canvas! I remember my early confusion at reading about dyes and paints in the big catalogues and trying to make sense out of conflicting information!
And of course I wanted to skip the learning curve and get right into the silk art! Think about it: All those methods such as steaming, not steaming, heat setting, instant set, dye paints, dyes, fabrics, types of silk……the list of what to know seemed dauntless at first!
In college I studied printmaking, so carving my own blocks to print on silk was not a problem. I mean there is a huge industry in the arts devoted to stamping but I wanted mine to be unique!
Carving 5 or 6 blocks of just horses has given me so many options for variety and I know that no one else has those images!
And then of course there was the method I use most often, drawing with resist! I love the water based resists. I am not into suffering for my art 🙂 and melting wax, using the equivalent of oils in resists just wasn’t for me.
So making stretcher bars (from canvas stretchers!) has been a solution to drawing out my designs then adding the dyes. There is something zen-like in hand painting anything and watching silk dyes flow up to the resist lines is very much like painting in watercolors…except the resist acts as a “dam” to control the flow of dye.
And then there are the dyes that required steaming and I found rice steamers at the Goodwill that worked! I went from scarves to clothes and love to work my large pieces into garments!
So in my hand painted silk, I love to experiment. I love the colors, the designs and often incorpoarte both into my ecoprinted! There is nothing more beautiful than silk drying on the clothesline!
How deep do the roots go into the personal Psyche of those people captivated by “Ecoprinting?” What nourishes their interest and fascination? On what level do they embrace it?
There is nothing quite like Nature’s artistry in her plant Kingdom. Our own personal journey in Nature determines how deeply our roots are connected to our appreciation of such beauty. There are so many ways to embrace this love of Nature.
Who has not enjoyed spectacular scenic views while driving camping or hiking? Part of what motivates the artist in me are views that take in the distance.
The play of light and shadow on acres of sunflowers captivated me off a dirt road in Virginia.
Gardens and vistas, both cultivated and wild have been celebrated and admired by people from all walks of life. Artists, poets, writers, outdoor enthusiasts and musicians have taken inspiration from Nature.
With cultivated gardens, I think initially for many it is the colors that capture their attention. And colors aren’t limited to planted gardens! I know in my long hikes through forests, it’s the wildflowers -some bright and showy and some very tiny peeking up in early spring walks.
For some it may be the significance of a particular plant discovery. My sister’s annual joy when discovering the purple crocuses pushing their way through the snow is one such vivid memory for me. Even for those of us embracing the winters in upstate New York, crocuses signaled that Spring was truly coming!
And with that knowledge came the certainty that soon it would be time to tap the sugar maple trees , carrying the frozen cans into the house for my mother to add to the sugaring pot on the stove before we caught the school bus.
In Ecoprinting, I have found delight in imprinting not just plant designs, but memories. The results are tactile, visually beautiful and a delight! Not all maple trees are the same. The ones of my childhood are not as common in the North Carolina Piedmont area. Even the ones on my own mini farm are not what I look for in my art. But I have located a few special sugar maples that take me back to my roots. And I delight in what they share with me!
In an en earlier blog I wrote about roses….and shared images of abandoned homesteads, heirloom roses and the resulting beautiful images from fallen rose leaves. More memories captured through the art of ecoprinting. But perhaps this final image says it best! And if you want to connect in my NEW Facebook group “Personal Journeys in Ecoprinting” where you can share your inspiration, happy thoughts and positive energy, join us! https://www.facebook.com/groups/532432183800670
For over half of the 150 years that the North Carolina State Fair has been in existence, the “Village of Yesteryear” has been one of the most popular exhibits to visit during the 11 day stretch! In short, “The Mission: “To encourage the development and perpetuation of heritage crafts by the display of our products and the demonstration of the skills required for their production. To share what we have learned and developed with all who may be interested.”
There are over 100 craftsmen and women displaying their goods and methods for creating what they sell and I will be there with plenty of silk and silk methods! Ecoprinted, hand painted and handmade! I will have a display board of the various silks available as well as my usual silk cocoons. I thought about live silkworms but that seemed problematic!
And here is artist hubby Stephen Filarsky with part of the set up going up from last year. The 11 days are long and tiring so being next to each other (He is the Sign Painter!) is great!
A State Fair is a Time honored tradition. To say there is something for everyone is an understatement. From 4-H displays and competitions to the midway rides to farm animals, carnival games, fair food, you name it; there is something for everyone to enjoy at their own level. Enjoy the sights, sounds and smells but be sure and come by the Village!
The Village of Yesteryear is a “working artists” village that features traditional heritage hand crafts. Demonstrations are performed using skills that, for many, have been passed down for generations. Our goal is to encourage the development and perpetuation of these skills.
The craftspeople do their best to create an exciting learning experience for the visiting public. They wear period costumes and continuously talk about and demonstrate their craft.
See you at the Fair! Oct 12-22, 2017!
(Note-see 2018 update at end)
When I was an art major in college at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC, I lived in a small place on the Tar River near my family’ s farm. Driving home late one night after an evening class, I slowed at a little home to turn into our long dirt drive and noticed my neighbor in her garden. She was silhouetted against a bright moon and was obviously at work picking pole beans. The next day I asked my parents why our neighbor was in her garden at 10:30 pm. They said that she planted and harvested by the phases of the moon. I was intrigued as no one’s garden compared to hers! She grew more in an half acre of land than anyone could and her corn grew to Iowa heights! We talked several times about her planting methods and I’ve never forgotten her or her garden.
Fast forward to the here and now and as we approach a total eclipse near our area on August 21, I found my mind turning back to my long ago neighbor harvesting from her garden. And I started thinking.
Ecoprinting on paper is something I have done since my college days. Ecoprinting on silk has been the past 5 years. But as I said in an article I wrote for the spring edition of “No Serial Number” magazine, my immersion into ecoprinting involved far more than the finished design! As incredible as the designs are, it is the “hard to explain” part of being one with Nature in her moments of giving me her bounty of design and color. I like to forage for the leaves. I like long hikes in back woods, hearing the birds, absorbing the colors. The artist in me has been involved with Nature since my teen years of solitary cross country skiing through birch forests in the Catskills and even earlier with years of horse ownership and trail rides. They are peaceful places for me.
Collecting right now, as I practice it, has been more a case of going for a drive through the countryside or on a cool enough day (it IS summer here in the south!) to collect from my own farm. But I started to wonder, just recently, what IF I harvested and processed by the phases of the moon?
I have collected enough to know that the day, the time and the maturity of the leaves and plants I collect influence my final result. The same rose bush today might give me different colors than from a week ago. I totally get that.
But what would happen if I thought about both harvesting and processing based on the ancient principles of the phases of the moon? I think it was the Mayans who had a comprehensive calendar for their crops.
What if I tried my idea for several months? Studies moon charts, kept notes on the results, collected my usual way from the same trees or plants and did a test study? Tried to make sense of something that for our forefathers was as ingrained in them as breathing? I quote from a web page called “Planting by the Signs of the Moon”
Pliny the Elder did it, and so did Benjamin Franklin and your great grandma as well! They all planted gardens by the phases of the Moon, using a method practiced in rural communities for over two thousand years. It was so well established in the first century AD that it became part of the “natural history” that Pliny wrote about in his series of the same name. A method proven successful over that length of time deserves more than a label of folklore. It warrants a trial in our gardens too.
So I’m going to start this Monday during the total eclipse that will be seen at 92% in our area and 100% in places like South Carolina, Great Smokey Mountains, Oregon and elsewhere. The small window of opportunity for me will be around 2:00 pm (EST)
I am curious to see if my free range chickens will think it’s time to roost, or if the brief twilight will have an effect on my other animals (ponies, alpaca) But what I do know is that I’ll later watch the eclipse on NASA’s station (since I don’t have proper eyewear) and concentrate on the experience while I collect my pecan, rose and maple leaves to test.
In the end, it is not as much about results. I am not a scientist. It’s about the experience. My collecting is natural, my results sustainable and beautiful. I enjoy the time it takes to create each piece as much as the time I spend communing with Nature in her environment. I have loved ones that have passed that I often talk to as I gaze up at the moon or stars (funny how it’s not during the day) and somehow I find the idea of an art form I know they would have loved, being practiced during the moon tides to be kind of appealing. So for me, it would be an additional experience added to a process I already enjoy. And what’s not to like?
Sept 3 2018 UPDATE!
I never got around to posting results from the days of the eclipse. But this year, while ecoprinting the same leaves from the same plants (pecan, maple, rose, etc.) exactly one year later, there WAS a difference! Prints in 2017 were crsiper and clearer and expecially so with the pecan leaves. As soon as I find those photos (sorry in a rush here, I will share those. Below are a few as from that period as well! But I DO have better graphics-be patient 🙂