The Colors

Imagining a “garden at dusk” led me to paint several layers of dusky colors in a very light value on the entire surface of the cloth, using soy milk and natural pigments. I would never have used the vintage white damask formal linen tablecloth for dining purposes. My cloth is long enough for two instances of the stencil, which was created from a full sheet of stencil paper. The finished image will be approximately 16” x 30.” Placing my stencil on the cloth before pasting allows me to see where the background colors fall within the stencil design. Before pasting the design (rice paste through the stencil), the stencil and the bamboo stretching sticks–“shinshi,”–soak in water.

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Repeat Design Learning

This week I began pasting two table runner designs, as I had planned. Frustrations and learning followed. Designing repeats is a fascinating challenge, as is pasting them. One of the designs I created contains too much open area. It’s the one in the lower area of the photo below, a minnow repeat. I wanted to design something that would be fairly quick, as well as fun, to dye, and not too fussy to line up (register). It fits these criteria but has other problems. I struggled with the consistency of the paste, and the stencil pulled away from the netting while lifting the stencil due to the narrow curved areas and perhaps problems with the lacquering. At the very least I will need to re-lacquer it, and probably re-design it.

Runner close-up
Runner close-up

With the other repeat, which I designed as a four-way repeat based upon my little garden species Tulips, I am trying simple graduated stripes of indigo and teal as well as a three color treatment. As I test the marketplace with some of these katazome works in a couple of weeks, I realize that the runners will most likely not be ready to show. The physical results of my efforts this week may become samples, quilt bits, or journal material. Oh well — this is necessary learning and practice. I often bite off more than I can chew when I begin a creative project, but made a promise to myself that I would say “yes” to showing work more often. I am learning to celebrate all the stages of completion within the creative process.

Pasted runners
Pasted runners

Mother Nature makes it look so easy.

Species Tulips May 1st 2009
Species Tulips May 1st 2009

Rehearsing

Today’s Writer’s Almanac included a quote from playwright Sean O’Casey, which rings a bell for me this week: “All the world’s a stage, and most of us are desperately unrehearsed.”

Last week and this week I am getting a feel for the process, the rhythm, the dyes and the brushes, and playing with colors. So far, I’ve made rice paste that was too thick, applied too many colors of a too-bright palette, and was too careful brushing on the dyes. I’ll be selecting a better color palette this week, and playing with a looser grip on the brush. The stencils are obsessive enough. I want the dyeing process to be less so!

The photo below shows work on the pasting table. I can’t avoid the reflection on the wet paste, due to overhead lighting. The surface under the work is indoor/outdoor carpeting, the cheap kind. It must be smooth, i.e. you don’t want the kind with a ribbing-like texture. This provides a bit of a cushion and prevents the fabric from slipping.

Pasting stencils
Pasting stencils

The detail below illustrates a common problem, most likely due to rice paste that is too thick. You can see the places where the paste did not adhere to the fabric, leaving traces of the texture of netting that protects the stencil. It takes practice to learn the best consistency for the paste, sort of like learning to cook. The paste RESISTS the dye application. It’s like a really strong, water-soluble glue. This will all be washed away after dying (and curing) is complete.

Thick rice paste problem, part 1
Thick rice paste problem, part 1

The natural pigments come in powder format. You add a small amount to a mortar and pestle (inexpensive porcelain), then a bit of water, and grind to a smooth consistency. A small amount of this is added to a dish along with soy milk, and then you are ready to paint.

Natural pigments
Natural pigments

The next photo illustrates Part 2 of my rice paste problem. Remember where the paste pulled up from the ground? This leaves the fabric exposed to dyes where you don’t want it to be. So there will be little dots of dye where the paste did not cover the fiber completely. Click the photo and look at the area in lower right near my thumb.

Thick rice paste problem, part 2
Thick rice paste problem, part 2

So far I’ve put 2 coats of dye on the Heron pillow. I loosened up quite a bit with the 2nd coat, applying without too much regard for the edges of the various forms in the image. I want colors to blend more smoothly.

After 2nd coat of dye has been applied
After 2nd coat of dye has been applied