Saturday, October 3, 2009

A piece of work in progress!

In a previous post I promised to post something 'soon' about the third project which Viktoria and I launched into earlier this summer.
I had fully expected to write about it before now, but.... there are times when life just keeps running and finding writing spaces doesn't seem like a viable option.
In these early morning hours where my brain has reached back to the wonders which grabbed me when I started work on the AWAKENINGS project with my SEVEN group it is time to get impressions and thoughts on this project down, if not on paper, then at least on the screen.
AWAKENINGS – I awake to the morning sun on my blue bedroom wall every day. In the spring and summer the colours on the wall have a special intensity and pungency which makes my face smile and my day go well when I have had the time to observe the whole process before getting into gear and getting the day started.
Since I first set up Viktoria in my living-room 3 years ago I knew that one day I would be weaving some very fine cloth on her, fine as in light, delicate, with lots of ends per inch/centimeter.

The morning colours got my brain going on the silk which I had in long looped warp chains in the box of treasures for Viktoria and ..... the time had come to get some of these chains out.

The silk was a beautiful delicate eggshell, not exactly the colour of the morning light I had been enjoying so much. That however could be fixed since I was in possession of 4 little jars of fabric dye of Japanese descent which a friend's husband had found in the dump one day when he was doing a job delivery of garbage. This man has magnificent eyes for finding valuables where ever he goes and thus brought home several boxes of these dye powder jars to his beloved fuzzy (woolly) wife, who of course went straight to the basement to explore the usability of said powder for dyeing her favorite wools and other fibres.
I was fortunate to be there during one of those dye experiments and was given the 4 little jars which I had taken home and dutifully moved around, without loosing them – miracle of miracles!
When I decided to weave the panels for a shoji screen or a dress screen with the silk which Viktoria had been dressed in when she first moved to my house I also knew that using these dyes or at least trying them out on the silk would be step #1 in the whole process.
And so on a beautiful sunny day I made up several smallish skeins of silk, put them in warm synthrapol water and got the dyes and the newspaper coverings for the kitchen table organized and the water heated up.

It was a very methodical process, I had to get both the old yogurt containers out, the Q-tips and the jar of citric acid. The kettle was filled and plugged in to provide ample amounts of hot water.
It was fun and exciting and very gratifying to see the intense colours which appeared on the pale silk when it was immersed in the boiling hot water in the yogurt containers. I was pleased and decided on the blue and one of the fuchsia dyes.
Next it was time for the whole 16meter silk chain to soak in water and Synthrapol and I was frowning whilst figuring out how to hold the chain looped over a boom handle above the pot on the stove for the length it would take for the dyes to be absorbed into the silk. It took more than two seconds and in the end I had a big grin on my face, not a frown, I remembered an old pant hanger in the closet which would be the absolutely right thing for this fab project. I emptied it from pants and brought it down to measure it across the dyepot. It was a perfect fit.

Then the wet chain was looped back and forth across the hanger and the pot was filled with fuchsia dye and boiling water right up to the half point on the warp chain. I placed the hanger with the loops across the top of steaming pot and .... within a very short period of time all dye had been set in the chain and I was tickled pink.

I took the chain and pot outside to cool off a bit and when I could handle the fibre I turned all the pink parts up to hang across the hanger and the white parts which were previously up were now down and could be immersed in the blue dye when I once again placed the hanger across the top of the dyepot.

I was immensely excited, this was so...... exciting, I was fully awake and very, very happy.
Along the way I realized that due to the density of the chain the dye hadn't penetrated all the way to the center of the chain. For a few seconds I was worrying about it, but then I decided that it was part of the awakening and so I let it go.

The chain was rinsed in clean water and then I unchained the whole 16 meters and hung it in the shade over the laundry line to air dry for the rest of the day. Hanging there it looked positively blotchy and once again I had to close my eyes and just trust that it would work out fine.

Then Viktoria had to be dressed with her new silk gown, I applied the trapeze method which I had learned at Vavstuga in June with great success.

Rolled it on with my own two hands, slowly but surely and my eyes were celebrating the sensations of looking at waves of aurora borealis moving across the warp as it got rolled on. Suddenly the blotches from the drying warp chain was changed into something much more beautiful and organic.

When the weaving finally started and the little eyes turned up in the pattern like I had hoped they would I was over the moon with joy and although it takes a very long time to weave with fine silk at 45 epi I had the chance to listen to several books while weaving and watching the panels unfold.

A two meter sample was the first piece to come off and get washed and pressed – this made me realize that it was time for me to employ the tricks I had learned years earlier from Laura Fry when we were fortunate enough to have her come to teach several workshops here in the Maritimes. Laura Fry wrote her very excellent thesis on wet finishing fabrics which really, really is very, very important.

First though I had to weave the other 4 panels of 2 meters to cover each of the four sections on the oak shoji frame which I was working on in my head and my husband was working on in the barn.

Cold mangling is one way of finishing fine fibres like linen, cotton or silk this meant I needed to get hold of a marble rolling pin and a big marble slap. The rolling pins I finally found with the help from a good friend with sharp eyes and the slap of marble was at a good fibre and writer friend's house ( ) . This meant that I had to get organized to go down and do an overnight – one cannot possibly cold mangle 8 meters of cloth and drive 200km in a day. Naps, food and good company all need to be enjoyed without rushing around.

Elly's house got turned slightly upside down when I entered, used her bathtub for washing and her towels for pressing most of the water out of the panels, her marble slab was moved by the two strong women in the house to the top of the dining table

and then .... I was on a roll for a while, both in the afternoon and the next morning for a second spree, bit by bit and little by little the silk got shinier and shinier and my delight and amazement grew.

Well returned to my own green pastures it was time to apply my seamstressy skills which had been fairly dormant for several years. I did however manage to hem all four pieces and even added a little something along the hems on one side. Some freshwater beads and little pieces of rose-quarts seemed to be the right choice to decorate the screen.
And then it all came together and finally I could bring the whole creature down to the Gallery where it is exhibited amongst all the other AWAKENINGS pieces which the SEVEN group has created this time around. The Exhibit is up at the Harvest Gallery in Wolfville until Oct. 18th.
Oh, I am off to get warped!