May 1, 2017

Threads, Exercises & Art

I decided to further dye the cotton twine I used to wrap the gauze bundles in last week's dye experiment. I mixed up vinegar, salt, and water; put a few rusty bits in the jar; and added the twine. What you see of rust color on the twine in the picture above is the transfer that occurred last week.

Anyone out there know, does rust dyeing only occur through contact? From what I found (after setting up the "dye" bath), contact dyeing is the way rust dyeing is done. The fiber item to be dyed is first saturated with a vinegar water, salt water, or vinegar and salt water solution. Then the fiber is placed in contact with the rusty object, either by wrapping the fiber around the rusty object or by placing the rusty object on top of the fiber to make a traditional contact print. I couldn't find any information about making a dye bath with rusty objects. 

With that in mind, I fished the twine out of the jar and wrapped it around bolts, a block (I call it the kit kat), and a sizable washer.
And because I had morning coffee left over, I set up another color experiment. Claire Wellesley-Smith describes an overdyeing process using tea or coffee in her book Slow Stitch: Mindful and Contemplative Textile Art. Tannin and heat will soften the brightness and darken the color of commercially dyed fiber. I'm steeping a couple lengths of cotton embroidery floss in coffee, along with a bundle of spent grounds.
Because these dyeing experiments will be utilized in the Year of Yoni pieces, I find the process much more engaging than simply experimenting for the sake of learning a new technique. When I have an art piece - a conceptual project - as the impetus, trying new techniques is a natural part of the creative process. When I try new techniques without a project in mind, when experimenting is simply going through the motions of a task to build a skill, I lose interest and inevitably abandon the exercise. Such as these stitch samplers, these thread varieties, and more stitch samplers.

Certainly, the weekly yoni pieces are serving as stitch samplers, fiber combination experiments, a means for testing a variety of threads, and a venue for playing with dyes. More importantly to me, however, they are also engaging the thinking, researching, questioning, expressing, obsessive, conceptual artist part of me. I don't think I'm describing this very well, but it's essentially the difference I perceive between art and craft. For me, art is about something more than the object itself while craft is the sum of its parts, its engineering and techniques. With this distinction I'm not making a value judgement. I don't place one above the other. Simply, art engages all of me, craft alone does not. I'm grateful to have stumbled upon yoni as a subject, a concept, a celebration, an obsession. And I'm grateful that I can use it as a vehicle to explore art making beyond the color darkroom. Being engaged by more than new techniques themselves is a good place to be back to after so long away.

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