Thursday, August 15, 2013

It's Hip to Be Square!

Today I went to Independence, Missouri, which is about thirty minutes east of where I live. It is also the location of the nearest Joanne, Guitar Center, Orange Julius, mall, AMC theater and Barnes & Noble (and that statement pretty much sums up my junior and senior years of high school!). There is a lot more to the city than all the "glitz and glamor" of the chain stores though. Independence, like most cities, has a city square and it is here were all the cute locally ran businesses are located. To promote buying local and for the sake of a good time with friends, Krystle, Morgan and I decided to explore the historic Independence Square.
Independence Square
First stop on our tour, since everyone was starving, was the Court House Exchange. A pub located in the basement of an old building, this place has a great atmosphere right when you walk through the door. I ordered a Ruben and fries, and let me tell you the fries were awesome!!!!! I ate all of mine AND half of Krystle's. The sandwich itself was all right, the bread and toppings were fresh and the sandwich was tasty. However, I must admit, ever since I had a ruben at Cafe Sebastienne, every time I order a ruben elsewhere no sandwich has ever compared and therefor I am always a little let down. I probably should just go back to Cafe Sebastienne soon and stop ordering rubens outside of that cafe.
Court House Exchange Menu
Next we went to this adorable shop called Be Here Now. It had tons of clever home decorations and design ideas. The selection of beautifully handcrafted lamps and chandeliers were my favorite. The prices of the items there also reflected the unique and handmade nature of the objects...aka $$$. I must also inform you that I am a part-time Starbucks barista, so most things are overly expensive for me. If I ever find that amazing money making job all of my teachers told me I would find, I would decorate my whole life with items from Be Here Now!
Be Here Now shop. Look at the lighting selection!!!
As we continued to walk, we stumbled upon a great specialty kitchen store called Gilbert, Whitney & Co. It had a wide variety of cooking utensils and supplies, cheeses, meats, specialty sodas, coffees and teas. It's hard to not leave without buying something from here! I bought a can of vanilla chai latte mix, so good!
Gilbert, Whitney & Co. outside the store.

Inside Gilbert, Whitney & Co.
Last, but certainly not least we visited Knitcraft! Knitcraft is a local yarn store with loads of hand and machine knitting yarn. It's a fairly decent yarn store with a great selection. If you ever catch yourself in a situation where you need alpaca silk blend yarn while traveling through Independence, MO and don't have time to order online, go here! Please note that one or two of the employees here are very snobby or just have bitchface syndrome (for those of you unaware of this reference watch the video here), so when entering pretend you own an organic alpaca farm and hand spin and naturally dye everything you have ever knit with or just scowl, and you should blend right on in. Again, this is a great local craft store, but the customer service is lacking. 
Knitcraft store front
Once 5pm rolled around, most of the shops were closing for the day, so we headed back to Krystle's house, busted out the vanilla chia mix, played this really great board game called Pandemic and I knitted a bit.
Me...knitting enthusiastically. Any time someone says hey smile,
I immediately make this really annoying face, enjoy!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Natural Dyeing With Starbucks Tazo Teas

Tea dyeing is probably the most common and familiar natural dye process. The teas ability to almost immediately dye fabric, is one of the winning traits of tea dyeing. The reason for tea color taking to fabric so quickly is because teas, especially green and black, are full of natural tannins. Tannin can be found in many plant species, and it is this biomolecule that naturally mordants the fabric. A mordant, for those of us who are not as familiar with natural dyeing, "is a substance that has the affinity with both the materials to be dyed and the natural plant dyestuff. Acting as a bond between the two, a mordant helps the dye to become permanently fixed to the fibers."(Jenny Dean, Wild Color:The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes (New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, 2010), 36.)

Fun fact! Tannin is also found in cattle dung and urine, so early dyers would often "animalize" their fabric by soaking the fabric in these tannin rich materials.

Okay now that I have slightly grossed you out, let's move back to dyeing with lovely smelling tea! You can dye using unused tea bags or you can dye with the used tea after a nice cuppa (look at me being so british), the latter of course takes much longer. There are so many different varieties of tea, which means that there are as many dye colors as there are tea brands and flavors, and if you can get into the realm of mixing various teas, the possibilities become endless! For my tea dying experiments I used the common Tazo tea brand. Tazo tea is a division of Starbucks, and as you can only imagine, Starbucks goes through tons of Tazo tea! Being a Starbucks employee, I was able to get my hands on large amounts of used tea bags, and I have been saving them up for these tea dyeing experiments. Below is a bit about the tea itself, from my old Tazo tea Starbucks passport.
Select pages from the Tazo Tea Passport for Starbucks baristas.
I was able to dye using the English Awake Black tea, Zen Green tea, Vanilla Rooibos Tea and Passion Herbal tea. To get the deep colors, I mordanted the silk and wool with Alum and the cotton samples with Alum Acetate. I then prepared a dye bath with the tea. I placed about a cup of dry tea in a nude stocking and submerged it in the pot with enough water to cover the dye stuff. I then simmered the dye and dye stuff for a good hour. I was dying a silk scarf and small samples, so you may want to adjust the amount of tea for the dye bath based on the about of dye stuff you have. In the chart below, you can see how you can get a variety of natural colors ranging from pinks, browns and olive greens from these four teas. As usual, these colors achieved from natural dyeing methods are much more vibrant and have much more depth to them when compared to commercial dyes. 

I made quite a few scarves using these beautiful natural colors as the base to my scarf designs, and then I painted with natural colors on top of the silk scarves. I will post some photos of the finished scarves, once I locate my sister and get her to sit still for more than an hour to be a model for a photo shoot. This may be too difficult so you guys may have to deal with scarves on the mannequin. 

Helpful Natural Tea Dyeing Sources:


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Arrowmont Summer 2013: The End

Today I left Arrowmont. It was bittersweet. When I was away from home, I miss my dog, my bed and my studio. However, I am really going to miss Arrowmont's artistic community. I am going to miss meals while discussing artwork with fellow crafters and artists. I am going to miss listening to Charles Gandy's wonderful tales of travel. This trip has made it very clear to me, that the arts and crafts community is very strong. I would even go as far to say that it is stronger than the fine arts community. There's just a sense of needing to share information and knowledge in the craft community that is lacking in the fine arts community, which maybe a result of fine art's competitive nature. But overall, It was such an amazing experience and definitely makes me want to keep an eye out on other workshop venues for future classes. Though I may already have an BFA, there is no need to ever stop learning new craft techniques.

As I drove home I took some travel photos of the Smokey Mountain area. I wish I could have gotten some photos of the Pigeon Forge area, a very odd touristy area that has attractions geared towards families, but the traffic was a little too heavy this morning for me to get any. You will just have to take my word for it, that Pigeon Forge is visually stimulating and a curious place.
Leaving Arrowmont

"On the road again!"
While driving along the long I-24 through Tennessee to Kentucky, you can't help but notice all the obnoxious billboards! There was one billboard that kept catching my eye, and it was a billboard for The National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky. Needing a break to walk around and stretch I decided that this museum would be a perfect spot!
The National Quilt Museum!
The museum is housed in a simple brick building. Admission was $11 and I was free to roam. The exhibitions that were up, besides the selection from their wonderful permanent quilts collection, was the 11th Quilt Japan display and the Civil War Period Quilts display. The permanent National Quilt museum collection includes 50-60 contemporary and traditional quilts using both hand and machine processes.
A panoramic view of The National Quilt Museum Collection from the website.
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The 11th Quilt Japan exhibit displayed highlights from the 11th Quilt Japan competition. This contest gives the viewer a glimpse into how Japan and the surrounding countries have taken the tradition of quilting, and put their own spin on it.
A view from the 11th Quilt Japan display at the National Quilt museum from the website {link to}
The exhibition From the Pieces of a Nation: Civil War Period Quilts was a wonderful mixture of classic quilts that displayed the essence of quilt making during a time when the country was torn apart. Wedding quilts and friendship quilts were all apart of the exhibit, showing the strong bond that these pieces formed among family and friends, during such a turbulent stage in american history. It was impressive how many of the quilts in this display contained the colors turkey red, white, green, gold and madder brown. It seems that these colors must have been the most easily accessible during this time. I would really like to research quilting tradition a bit more eventually. The whole Idea of quilts has always been fascinating to be, but never have I realized how much history a quilt can reflect till I saw this exhibit. A trip to the library is in order, now that I am home! Overall, the spontaneous trip to the National Quilt Museum was incredible inspiring.
A postcard I took with me from the museum displaying some of the Civil War
period quilts.
Once I left Paducah, Kentucky I drove...forever! I did get a chance to take a quick photo of the St. Louis Arch though as I passed through the city.
I probably shouldn't have been driving and taking photos...
Now that I am home I have to return to the real world. My job at Starbucks awaits me, as does the other million different things I take for granted not doing while on vacation! However, this trip to Arrowmont has completely influenced me to keep exploring knitting, innovating new knitted accessories and to keep learning new craft skills, even if it is hard after a 7 hour shift.


Friday, August 2, 2013

Arrowmont Summer 2013: Day 6

The last day of class. We started the day by continuing to knit the work we had started the day previous. So I continued to knit with wire and sewing thread, turning my initially flat experiment into a lantern shaped veil.
The knit lantern veil. The phrase victorian gothic comes to mind.
After I finished knitting the lantern, I decided to move to some regular worsted weight yarn and try to tackle knitting a plush cartoon I had created a few years ago, a wumble. Previous to this class I would have never have even dreamt of tackeling this project in knit. I probably would have just settled for a sewn plushy or crochet my way to a finished product. Thanks to Adrienne's class Knitting a Life, I feel so much more confident and not as restricted to the knitting needles. EVERY THING MAKES SENSE! These wumbles are very bulbous so knitting using my newly discovered techniques of short rowing and protrusion creation, should give me the effect that I am wanting.
An image of a wumble among my "fine art" sketches.
After knitting till 5pm, it was time to pack up our studio spaces. The room seemed so empty after everything was removed! However, Adrienne left one small message (made out of wire of course!).
Adrienne's message, and a perfect phrase to describe this past week.
I sure am going to miss my knitting buddies! However, we all exchanged contact info so we could keep in touch. 
The mandatory (jk) knitting class photo!
(from left to right: Jane Merriott, Braxton Congrove,
Adrienne Sloane, Thien-Kieu Lam, Me and Charles Gandy)
Following dinner there was a showing of the film In Search of Lost Colour: The Story of Natural Dyes (Maiwa Productions 2007). It was in indepth look at natural color throughout history, how the dye is harvested and used today, and a peak at the future of natural dye. It was a very inspiring film. If you are interested in natural dye at all, this is a must see!


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Arrowmont Summer 2013: Day 5

Another rainy morning today, which upset our plans to knit outside before lunch for our plein air assignment. If you haven't read the previous post, the assignment consists of us choosing a natural texture (bark, grass, mold, etc.) to try to replicate with the new dimensional techniques. I chose to replicate a branch with white lichen on it. At first I was a little bored with the assignment, but as I began mixing yarn and adding ruffles and bumps to the knitting, I really got into it! It is like sculpting and painting all at once.
My wire knitted sculpture, my image of lichen on a
twig, and my replication of the lichen in knitting.

Charles Gandy's replication of a leaf.
After we all finished our plein air knitting, we had a small critique then we were able to start experimenting on a project of our own. I decided to work with sewing thread and metal wire and create a delicate structure, while also creating tension by using such different materials.
My thread and wire project.
During this time my classmates also explored with various materials. During this time of sample making and creation Adrienne recommended some really great books for inspiration to experimental/sculptural knitters. A few of the books I had actually heard of before, but it's always good to look back at the old and get inspired again.

My favorites from Adrienne's book list:

-The Culture of Knitting by Joanne Turney
-In the Loop: Knitting Now by Jessica Hemmings
-Knitting New Scarves by Lynne Barr

For a break we all walked down to Arrowcraft, a store near campus that showcases the work done at Arrowmont. There was a bunch of interesting locally made items. Woven coasters, knit shawls, loads of local hand spun and dyed yarn (even more that the Smoky Mountain Spinnery), unique metal jewelry, and wooden handicrafts are to name just some of the items you can find in Arrowcraft. 
Arrowcraft Shop

After a hard days work of knitting, I went to the auditorium for a presentation by the Bill Griffith Art Educators Fellowship recipient Eric Rempe, a very accomplished ceramicist who works mostly with black and teaches high school ceramics in California. Following the presentation it was time for STUDIO VISITS! All the students were able to walk around to all the classrooms and see what the other classes were up to. First stop was the glass studio. In this class the students were learning how to create life-like glass beads.
Check out these ladies and their awesome shades while they make beads!
I then headed to the fiber studio to see the natural dye samples all laid out for display. 
Some of Pauline Verbeek-Cowart's naturally dyed
felted weavings. Beautiful!
Next was the metal studio where the students created automatons, which are small sculptures that move when the gears are turned.
Some automatons including artist and teacher Michael Croft
I went to the ceramics/clay building next. The ceramists sure do have a nice space to work in and the students work is so impressive. I will always be impressed with ceramics.
Pretty spacious studio!
Finally I made it to the wood studio, I didn't get to see much work but the studio area was well equipped with big intimidating machinery. I am obviously not well versed with wood working terminology.
Wood studio!
As I was typing this I realized I didn't get to see the collage classes work. That will be a trip for tomorrow! Now it's on to sleep and dreams about knitting with thread and wire.


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Arrowmont Summer 2013: Day 4

 Again, today has seemed incredibly long! It was kinda dreary here, but weather like that always makes me want to knit, so I guess it is a good thing. I can barely remember half the stuff I did today, but I will give it a shot.
Foggy mountain.....breakdown?
This morning I (again!) skipped breakfast and headed straight to class. I finished my knitted globe structure during class, and the class was able to stiffen the globes with fab-brick stiffener. The way we did this was by saturating our limp knit globes in the stiffener, then we inserted a regular ol' deflated party balloon into the globe. Once the balloon was in, we carefully blew up the balloon and hung the globes on a wire to dry.
Here are our globes stiffening.
The next type of knitting we got to focus on was circular knitting. Instead of beginning with teaching the class how to knit in the round, which most of us already knew, Adrienne introduced us to spool knitting and I cord knitting. We were even then given supplies to make our own spool knitters! This way, we were able to technically see how knitting in a circle works.
Adrienne teaching us how to spool knit on her handmade spool knitter.
Some of Adrienne's spool knitters. I would love to collect these!
While we were knitting away on our newly made spool knitters, Adrienne talked to us about some great publications for knitters to keep on their radar.

The list of publications:

-Fiber Art Now magazine This is the magazine that replaced Fiber Arts magazine once it went out of business.
-Surface Design Association journal An overall great fiber arts magazine, not just about surface design.
-Textile Forum magazine The European fiber arts magazine.
-The Australian Forum for Textile Arts (TAFTA) A magazine that highlights Australian fiber art.
Great fiber arts publications...on my messy table.
Following our discussion on the great recommended magazines we then moved onto knitting with wire. Very intimidating, but really not that bad once you get started. We worked with 20 gauge annealed iron wire to make out sample sculptures. The most surprising thing about knitting with wire is that you really don't use knitting needles, all you do is make loops and create the structure. Wire is so stiff it holds the knit stitches shape, therefore relieving you of having to use needles. Crazy right? This type of wire was very messy to work with so by the end of the day all of our hands were black.
My wire sculpture in progress.
Kieu knitting a wire vessel. Note her very black fingers!
After a bit of wire knitting we all took a field trip to the local Gatlinburg knitting shop, called the Smokey Mountain Spinnery! I of course forgot my camera when I went, but the shop had all the great things any knitter, spinner or weaver could ever want! I will probably go back before the week is up for some much needed yarn therapy, and perhaps I will do a review of the shop for the blog later.

Tonight was the artists in residence studio visit, so after class all the students went to see what the artists in residence were working on. The studios were decently sized, I wouldn't mind trying to apply in the future!
Tomorrow my class will begin plein air knitting, which means we will go out into nature to knit natural textures with all of our newly learned techniques! It should be very challenging, but in a fun way. Hopefully it is a little drier though!


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Arrowmont Summer 2013: Day 3

Today seemed very long! I think it's because I was able to learn and knit so much in one day that it doesn't seem possible!

We began class by starting another sampler, but this time we explored short-rowing. For those of you who don't know the technique of short-rowing, it is the process of knitting stitches back and forth across the needles while decreasing or increasing the amount of active stitches on the needles. This technique is often used in forming the heel of hand knit socks. We began with basic short rowing back and forth across the needles, but then explored making peaks, flaps and bulges in the fabric with this technique. 
My short row sampler, in a kind of PB&J color way.
Our wall of samples is getting bigger by the day!

Following this sampler, we went to lunch for taco Tuesday (!!!!!!) and then headed to the auditorium for a slideshow Adrienne put together of some inspiring knit, crochet and all around neat-o fiber artists.

Some artists from the presentation that I was most drawn to were:

-Helen Pynor (Delicate knits using actual human hair as the medium)
-Pharmacopoeia (A group of knitters who machine knit a lifetime supply of perscription drugs into a knitted piece) 
-Susie Freeman (A machine knitter who helped with Pharmacopoeia and focuses on the knitted pocket)
-Debbie New (A more traditional knitter, but who puts a spin on knitting both traditionally and as an art form)
-Itoamika Jung Jung (Crochet artist who uses arugami to realistically portray vegetables)
(more to come)
-Ruth Asawa (Wire knit sculptural artist)
-Ruth Marshall (Mimics the skin of animals with knitting)
-Tania Spencer (Another wire sculpture)
-Yvette Kaiser Smith (Works with crochet and hardened fiberglass) 
-Laura Kamian (created beautiful hand knit samples for "The Sampler Series")
-Jeung-Hwa Park (Utilizes felting and machine knitting together)

Once the slide show was over we began disecting various 2-D shapes like the square and the circle. We then used the idea of short rows to construct our own globes/spheres! Let me just say making a globe from scratch is much harder than it seams (pun intended). 
My notes on knitting squares, circles and spheres.
I was able to move outside to knit for a while and I took advantage of the great weather out here in Gatlinburg, TN. Just look at how nice it is out here!
MOUNTAINS!!! This Missouri girl doesn't get to see them very often...
After class, I got to have dinner. The knitting class has started sitting together for meal time which is a nice way to swap knitting ideas and stories. All I know is that I need to become more familiar with ravelry and pattern design! Then it was on to the Auditorium where we got to hear lectures from Debra Fritts (a ceramists who uses the figure to tell stories by adding various textures) , Holly Roberts (a collage artist, painter and Teal Wilson's mom), and Adrienne Sloane (the awesome sculptural knitting teacher and artist). After the lectures I peaked in on the natural dye workshop and it looks like they are really making some headway!
Natural dye samples just hanging out. Vicki is down at the end indigo dying.
So tomorrow we will get to use our finished spheres with our fabric stiffener, we may do some more plein air knitting (if weather permits), and finally begin to knit with wire. Now I need to finish knitting this ugly beige colored sphere for tomorrow!


Monday, July 29, 2013

Arrowmont Summer 2013: Day 2

Today we started our first official full day of sculptural knitting class with Adrienne Sloane! Breakfast was scheduled from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., which I skipped for an extra hour of sleep. I really like my sleep, just so you know. Breakfast, or sleep in my case, was then followed by class at 9 a.m. Below is the main building and the building where my knitting class is in this week.

Main Building at Arrwomont, and the building my knitting class is in.

We began class, by experimenting with abnormal linear elements while knitting a sampler. I decided to begin with knitting fabric strips with large knitting needles, then using two different sized knitting needles to knit with. I then experimented with plastic tape, wire, 8-track tape, jute string, toilet paper and much more to get the final sampler below.

Unusual material sampler 1

Here are all the "wacko" samplers from the entire class. So cool right?!?!?!
wacko samplers

After we did samplers with the unusual materials and ate lunch at noon, we then moved on to doing more traditional samplers using worsted weight yarn. We first looked at the structure of knitting at a larger level, and dissected the stitches. A sample of this exercise is below. 

Knit structure sample

Then, we learned how to make a scalloped edges, protrusions, pockets, (intentional) holes, tassels, and ruffles. My textural and semi-broccoli like sample is below. These experiments gave me so many new and fresh ideas of how to create new innovative products for my brand, Collective Individual.

Protrusion Sampler
After dinner at 6 p.m., we all headed to the Auditorium in the main building to hear lectures from the faculty. Tonight's speakers were Sunshine Cobb, a ceramicist who mostly deals with functional objects while working with new textural and design applications on her pots, and Catherine Ellis, who is an unbelievably knowledgeable woman on all things naturally dyed!  The current artists in residence then gave a quick preview on their path leading to their current body of work. The recent (as of Summer 2013) artists in residence are  HP Bloomer (ceramics), Lynn Batchelder (metal), Rachel Garceau (ceramics/sculpture), Tally Locke (wood), and Rena Wood (fiber).

Once the lectures were done, I stopped by the fiber studio to see what the natural dyers were up to. Catherine had a bunch of natural dye books out on a table, so I got to peak through her stash of great books and her personal dye sample! Here is a list of some of the natural dye books I need to get my hands on once I get back home.

- A Dyer's Garden by Rita Buchanan
- Natural Dyes by Cardon Dominique

A page from Block Printing and Dyeing of Bagru, Rajasthan by Bijoy Chandra Mohanty
Tomorrow I have more knitting in store for me, as well as a presentation about current and past inspirational artist in the knit and crochet community. Super excited as always, but I should probably get some sleep...or drift off into pinterest land... :)