What to do when you don’t want to do what you should be doing

Or how I managed to talk myself out of finishing the filing.
Soy silk  roving

Soy silk  roving

The top photos are soy silk roving. It’s really quite lovely and soft, but it’s also thin and flyaway, and quite slick. I’ve had a bag of it for several years, and apart from using it in an altered book, I’ve done nothing with it except wonder what I could do with it.

When I discovered felting I wondered if it could be felted. The photos show a piece of roving that has been vigorously poked with a felting needle for several minutes, so clearly the answer is pretty much “no” which didn’t really surprise me.

Felting experiments

Enter the idea of bonding it to other fibers with a felting needle. I grabbed a piece of crochet work that I’d abandoned and went to work. A few minutes later I realized that it was forming a bond with the crocheted piece even though the yarn I’d been using was mostly synthetic. I suspect that it’d work well as a part of a scrumbled piece of fiber work if nothing else.

Finally I did what most other people would have done to start with, I laid it over some wool roving and felted feverishly. While it took a bit longer than I expected, it did make a pretty well bonded piece of felt. It’s not what I’d call pretty, but you get the idea. I think the soy silk is going to work out nicely.

Button Bracelet

At bottom here is a photo of a crocheted bracelet I made yesterday. I love working with crochet nylon in spite of how rough it is on my hands. It works up into a glossy, old-fashioned-looking piece of work, and the addition of some vintage buttons and a piece of copper-colored cord kind of works for me.

I’m currently working on a white version, and I want to do one in thinner, ecru crochet cotton.

I was laying out pieces of broken glass on a wooden background this morning, thinking about mosaics (A friend sent me a couple of good links this morning.) and I started wondering if it would be workable to space the pieces more widely than is commonly done, over a base design, and instead of grouting in the usual way, using some sort of resin as grout. You’d get the base design through the resin, and also through some of the glass, and you’d get an awful lot of light coming through.

Does this make any sense to anyone?



I was watching Carole Duvall this afternoon, and one of her guests was Lynn Foster who made a lovely scarf which she then bleached out with some sort of gel. She said that the gel would only work on rayon or rayon blends, but never actually said what the gel was. So I checked Carole’s space on DIY and all the info they had was that all the materials were available from Lynn Foster’s website.

Okay, that’s cool, I have no problem with that. I went there, oogled some of her designs, and then went looking for the gel. Well guess what? You have to buy the whole darn kit to get the gel, and there’s still no indication of what it is. I have to say, I think this sucks. I don’t mind people marketing things under their own name, frex if I discovered that a certain fiber would felt like wool if you pressed it with an iron, but cost just a fraction of what wool does, I might consider marketing it as Dargie’s Frugal Felt, or something like that. But if I was to put it into a kit that sold for just about $100, and that was the only way you could get it? At this point I’d say it’d be time to call foul.

Needless to say I am not buying the kit, or anything else from Ms Foster.

In other news, I finally got my current issue of “Cloth, Paper, Scissors” which I’d bought over a week ago because I thought my subscription had gotten fubar’d. Is it just me, or was there a halcyon period when subscribers actually got their copies just before they hit the stands? Because I’d like to vote that we do it that way from now on.

And I got my copy of Michael de Meng’s “Secrets of Rusty Things” and I’m loving it. What really caught my attention and held it was the narrative that runs down the rightmost side of the page, describing some part of the process for each piece. He’s a darn good writer as well as an intriguing artist.

I spent about an hour painting my studio window sill red today. I like it, but it’s not the right red. It’s not lipstick red. I think I’m going to be painting the walls a lot of interesting colors. The original mistake I made was in pairing that dull, grayed-out mauve with the dark, dark purple. It made the whole room dull. And the white curtains? Also boring to me now. Nice curtains, but not what I want.

There should be about 36 hours to a day.

Suddenly it’s summer!

garden 052807 025 I’ve been madly busy the last couple of weeks, trying to pull together life, the universe and everything. I have several rooms to paint, new furniture to buy, a partial kitchen re-do, a garage sale to organize, and a mini-garden to tend. But today, after I watered, I took some photos because I really wanted to share the pretty.

This is a pink calla lily. When I first planted the callas (the other is red-orange) someone asked why I had artificial flowers in the pots along with the real ones. The callas are so perfect they look fake.

Just this morning I noticed that the peonies were finally beginning to open. I’ve watched the buds grow bigger and bigger for the last few weeks, impatient to see what the flowers would look like. Now I know. They’re huge, creamy white blooms with just the lightest touch of pink at the base of each petal. While I was taking the photos of them, there was a heavenly scent hanging over their pot which also houses lavender and Russian sage plants.

garden 052807 016

Most things in my garden have some sort of pronounced scent, though many of them are herb-y, like the bergamot and basil, or deep, gorgeous green, like the geraniums which are blooming like mad things. The larkspur, columbine and clematis are easing towards blooms, but haven’t yet made any firm committment to color, and the Virginia creeper looks as if it wants to take over the world.
garden 052807 032

But the roses are my greatest pleasure, I think. Year after year I cut away the deadwood and watch them burst into bloom again and again. Unlike the cut roses you buy from florists and supermarkets, these are sweetly scented. Surprisingly simple flowers to grow, they seem to thrive on sunshine and benign neglect. And the rewards are amazing.

If you took away everything else and left me my roses, I could still be happy.
garden 052807 004

More of my garden here.

Ernst Haeckel

Haeckel hummers I’ve been wanting to blog about Ernst Haeckel for the last few days and it seems as if every time I sit down to try, something comes up. Okay, well this morning it was finding that there was a going-out-of-business sale going on at the local Hancock fabric store, about which more later, and no one would expect me to pass that up just to blog, would they?

I thought not.

So, a bit late but still interesting (to me anyway) here is my post about biologist, naturalist, philosopher, physicial, professor and artist, Ernst Haeckel who was born about thirty years before Karl Blossfeldt and whose work both anticipates Blossfeldts’ and overlaps it.

Haeckel is perhaps best known for coining the phrase “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.” (My intention isn’t to blind you with science, but it’s rather important to the man’s career.) In other words, the stages of progress of each individual within the womb recapitulates the stages of progress of the evolution of the species. This principle is central to his recapitulation theory which has been discredited in its absolute form even though it is understood that there are strong ties between ontogeny and phylogeny. (Almost done here, I promise.)

Radiolaria 51 This mistake has overshadowed Haeckel’s work for decades, in part because the theory has been used in aid of the worst sort of social Darwinism, and partly because Haeckel fudged his embryo drawings to prove his theory. And unfortunately the rejection of the idea of strong capitulation by the biological community gives aid and comfort to many creationists who insist that it proves that evolution has less support within the scientific community.

Haeckel was one of those towering Victorian-era figures whose interests ran wide and deep, and whose abilities did the same. His illustrations not only shed light on biological forms, but they do so with an artist’s eye. In 1904 he published “Art Forms in Nature” a collection of 100 color and b&w plates which are breathtaking in their beauty and bridge the gap between art and nature. His work was a direct influence on Blossfeldt and highly influential in the art and design of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The illustrations in Artforms in particular are arranged not only for maximum visual effect, but show the symmetry and organization of his subjects quite clearly. From both artistic and scientific perspectives they are brilliantly done, and provide a great deal of inspiration for any working artist or crafter.

Karl Blossfeldt and the Art of Nature

Blossfeldt2 I was sketching some over-the-hill tulips last night, and thinking about natural forms. Nature inspires. It is ubiquitous in the art world as both subject and detail. The recording of nature inspires. Often, renderings of natural forms work as both science and art, and produce offspring such as the “New Botanicals” profiled on the Domino website.

Karl Blossfeldt
photographed natural forms primarily for use as reference for his sculpture, or as teaching aids, but he is remembered as a photographer.

His work is deceptively straightforward at first glance. Plain, black and white photos of botanicals taken head-on would seem to leave no room for interpretation. And yet in each plate, the painstaking arrangements Blossfeldt created reveal far more than a simple record of plant material. His work shows us much about the essential connection between nature and art, the geometry of design and the inspiration for artistic styles.

Blossfeldt3 Blossfeldt’s first book, published first in 1928, created a sensation in photographic circles, and became an international best-seller. It was particularly well received in Germany where his crisp, directly lit images helped inspire a post-impressionistic movement of “New Objectivity.” Abstract and geometric, his images display much the same principles as the work of László Moholy-Nagy who believed that “photography could create a whole new way of seeing the outside world that the human eye could not.”

Blossfeldt published again in 1932, the year of his death, and his work remains influential and well-loved. In all, he produced around 6000 images in his lifetime, though only a few hundred are well known, and the process of cataloging them continues on his archive.

Blossfeldt3 detail Blossfeldt1

Top to bottom: Grey thistle, Maidenhair fern, Maidenhair fern detail, Monkshood, young shoot.

If the links provided here aren’t enough for you, there are plenty of books available on Blossfeldt’s work. The two I own are “Art Forms in the Plant World” and “Taschen Icons: Karl Blossfeldt” both quite reasonably priced and immensely inspirational.

Mother’s Day

Mom and Brownie This is my mother in the early 1920s, with her cat, Brownie. She told me her knees were always scuffed and her socks were always falling down. She was a happy little girl and her father, who died when she was five, called her “Mary Sunshine.”

Mom and Dad
These are my parents about the time they married in 1937. They looked like they just stepped out of a screen magazine, don’t they? Mom looked just like her mother, who looked just like her mother.
Four Generations 02 Here are four generations of the women in my mother’s family. The woman in the back is my great-great grandmother who was born around 1840. She always wore that lace cap and lived to be 100.

Mom, Dad and Me 1952

This is my parents and me in 1952.

Mom 12707 001a This is the last photo I ever took of Mom, on January 27th. She died five days later.

Mother’s Day always meant a lot to us. Mom and I were very close. Tell your mother you love her while you still have time.

My latest eBay find

1951 Sears wallpaper catalog, front coverAt the left is my latest eBay find, and it just tickled me to look through the catalog and imagine rooms papered with some of these designs. There’s a small section on wall oilcloth (Does anyone else remember oilcloth with fondness? Even today, the smell of it can make me feel all cozy.) which explains the advantages of using it in kitchens and bathrooms. Mainly, it’s water-resistant which means it’s washable. That alone would justify the huge difference in price between most papers and oilcloth which ran about $2.25 a roll. The papers in the catalog are not, and for anyone who wanted to improve the durability of their wallpaper, and ensure that it could be washed down in the event of a disaster, there’s a resin coating that can be applied over the paper.

The prices made me gape. A single roll of paper could run you a whopping 20 cents! And the homeowners are advised that doing the work themselves will save them the $5 or $10 labor costs alone. This is a year before I was born. My parents were living in an apartment which cost about $50 a month in rent. It’s hard to believe that times have changed so much. 1951 Sears wallpaper catalog, kitchen wallpaper

This pattern is a 20 cent a roll kitchen pattern, and for me it’s like a trip in the Wayback machine. I remember walls papered like this. There are also complimentary ceiling papers, plastic-coated papers which are washable for about 54 cents a roll, and pre-pasted papers that run to about 70 cents a roll. But of course that’s a frivolous expense that could add as much as $10 to a project! Looking through catalogs like this is amusing, but for many of us old farts, it’s also a real nostalgia trip. It makes me think about home and family, and my childhood which always seems like such a golden time.

What are your nostalgia triggers? What reminds you of your golden time?