Embroidery

A Good Challenge

September is in full swing. Bea is back in school and I have survived my first week of the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge. I really do mean survived. 

 My wall of designs completed.

My wall of designs completed.

Going into the challenge I had a lot of grand ideas about the quality of work that I would be producing. An hour and a half or two hours is a drop in bucket in the world of embroidery. Which is really all the extra time that I might have on a given day. But stitching is just so slow that I'm almost not able to finish well thought out pieces. The works are just going to be ideas for material combinations and forms. However, I'm still sticking to ideas about quantum entanglement, which is manifesting as a bunch of circles. Who doesn't like circles?

Creating on consistently the spot is another challenging factor in this endeavor. There's a lot of pressure to get something out that is at least semi-formed. Granted all the pressure is coming from myself, and I'm working a day in advance to have some wiggle room, but I'm learning to always be thinking of combinations and ideas throughout the day in order to lessen the planning phase. I've also lowered my standards. You can't make a master piece every day. But I'm learning how to mentally put myself in a creative place at the drop of a hat which is important.

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This weekend we got out for a little end of season fire works at Powell Gardens and some plain old medieval fun at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival. I love the Ren Fair and swear every year that next year I will come in costume and then it always sneaks up on me again. There's nothing better than all the costumes, both terrible and epic. This year we actually got to see jousting. We also visited all our favorites from last year, like the fairy houses, the merman, the juggling booth, the wooden spinning ride powered by shirtless teenagers, the washing wenches....ah those washing wenches. 

BurgFest is happening on Friday the 23rd and Saturday the 24th in Warrensburg. My work will be installed in the windows of the Old Drum Coffee House; I might even have the progression of my works from the 30 in 30 challenge displayed even though the challenge won't be complete until the end of September. So if you make it to the 'Burg this weekend stop in and see some fiber art.

Reading: The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual by Barbara Pleasant - I'm learning so much and will re-pot my lovelies soon. Now what to do with the plants that have mealy bugs and spider mites?

Listening to: The Myths and Legends Podcast. A Chinese Cinderella whose mother is reincarnated as a yellow cow that can puke up parallel straw. What's not to love? 

Cooking: We can't get through this second wave of tomatoes fast enough, so I made sauce.  

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The Big 30

Monday was my 30th birthday and I spent all of it in the car driving back from our epic summer vacation in Wyoming. Which means, I had plenty of time to contemplate being 30, art, and what the rest of our life is going to look like. I can't help but remember being 20 and telling everyone that I would take over the world by 25. And then the exhilaration and trepidation of celebrating my 25th birthday in Japan, just after the earthquake, newly married, and new to the military. This life feels like mountain climbing with all it's ups and downs; bravely soldiering on.

My goal for 30 and the next ten years will be to care less about other people's opinions about what you are supposed to do, how you live life, etc. I'm going to try and be brave enough to make choices that work for me and stick to them. My goal is to be my authentic. I'm not sure what that is going to look like yet but I'm excited to find out.

As for art, I still want to keep creating art now more than ever. I want to make work that interests me and that I'm proud of. I want to work with other artists and create a community. Most importantly I want to keep traveling, learning, and creating a beautiful life.

While I was thread painting at the beginning on our vacation, Bea pulled all the paper sleeves off my DMC floss. I realized that I needed to do a complete over haul of how I stored my threads. For too long they have been stuffed into a plastic sheet container or my metal ice skate box.

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Inspired by the thread organization which Penny has at her shop, Ewe Count in Cheyenne Wyoming, I set out with Bea to buy rings and some curtain rod brackets. Voila!

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Now Bea thinks that we own a thread store, which makes me laugh because I sure do have a lot of thread. Everything that has a hole for a ring is displayed on the curtain rod and everything else is placed in a little Floss A Way bag and hung on the hanger too. I'm going to go back and sort things a little bit better by color once I have more rings. The thing that concerns me is light fastness and dust accumulation because they are hanging out in the air. 

Look at all the browns and greys I have? Look at how little red I have. Maybe I need to do more shopping. And this isn't even all the threads I own!

In big news, I'm in a show in Kansas City! Wahoo! Stop by Gallery Eight One Five to check out my collages. I'm bummed I can't make the opening tonight as I'm sure it'll be a blast.

 The giant burrito that I mistakenly ordered on my birthday.

The giant burrito that I mistakenly ordered on my birthday.

Listening: Bea singing Rainbow Rocks songs for hours in the car on the trip back to Missouri

Reading: Marrying Winterborne by Lisa Klepas; I blame my mother for my romance book obsession. 

Cooking: Kombucha! The sister-in-law gave us a skoby and we've started our first batch.

 The alien creature that came home with us and will make us a delicious fermented beverage.

The alien creature that came home with us and will make us a delicious fermented beverage.

Plein Air Stitching

Creating your artwork outdoors is both a wonderful and challenging experience. When we spend so much time creating from images on screens we lose the ability to translate the experience of life in three dimensions. I think that it's vital to an artist's skills. My drawing from life skills needs serious improvement but that's why I do things to stretch my abilities. 

 My view in Amy's Garden

My view in Amy's Garden

This year I worked in embroidery for Get Out! Paint Out! at McKendree University. Stitching is less exact than painting.; it's more about manipulating textures and direction of the threads to create space than about how well drawn out your work is. Because I was unable to fill in large patches of color in the back ground and then build up the details like I would in painting, I used the direction of the threads and softened the color choices in order to create space and atmosphere.

 Distracting myself with selfies that try and make stitching look cool

Distracting myself with selfies that try and make stitching look cool

The key challenge of plein air embroidery is time. It took me nine hours to stitch a 5" diameter circle and I'm a relatively quick stitcher and decision maker. The beauty of working outside is that your really begin to understand how light and the position of the sun affects the colors and the shapes within your composition. Because of the slowness of stitching I couldn't keep up with the light. I memorized colors and gave an approximation of what I saw when the light was at it's best.

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The first four hours are a meditative process and you are in the flow of the work. But then as the it gets closer to noon and the sun gets higher and hotter, the body starts to get cramped up from sitting on the ground, and your legs are on fire from all the bug bites. Plein air becomes an exercise in endurance. You start taking longer breaks to stretch, because you're cramped but also because you're just so sick of looking at it and the huge mental check list of stitches that should be fixed. You start to get lonely because you've chosen a spot where no other living human has been for the last five hours. Your fingers itch to be checking Facebook. "Should I post that progress photo to Instagram?" It's an act of supreme will to keep yourself focused on the task at hand, maybe get that cup of coffee about 2:30. It's after the shot of caffeine that you realize that you only have three hours left to get this inspiration looking like a finished work and not just a mess of stitches. Diligently  working as other artists set up for the supper party around you,  you've placed that last stitch. Relief and accomplishment allow  you to finally stretch out your cramped body on the ground and take a moment to relax.

 I had to bring a little crazy to my embroidery because it was looking a little too tidy and realistic.

I had to bring a little crazy to my embroidery because it was looking a little too tidy and realistic.

It's such a worthwhile experience; create art outdoors! 

 9 hours later and I'm finished.

9 hours later and I'm finished.

How a Fiber Artist Packs for Plein Air

The words "Plein Air" are usually accompanied by the word "Painting", but who follows tradition. Last summer, I embarked on an artistic adventure at McKendree University to create Plein Air Embroidery. Embroidery can be called painting with thread, after all. My professor, Amy MacLennan, invited me knowing I don't paint;  I didn't disappoint in bringing the fiber or the crazy. 

We are going again this year but we are going to be a little crunched for time. I get one whole day of embroidering/painting in the ridiculous Illinois heat while the mister and kiddo go sight seeing in St. Louis. I've decided to approach this a little differently this year and just do straight stitching and I might even try to do a little watercolor. 

So what does a fiber artist bring for plein air embroidery?

  • Table cloth or plastic sheet - you've got to sit on something. I'd really love a collapsible stool but I don't have the room in the car this year. 
  • Water bottle - It's gonna be the surface of the sun out there. Stay Hydrated!
  • Floppy hat 
  • Good pair of thread scissors - I have mine on a string around my neck. 
  • Hoop - Stretches and frames the work instantly. 
  • All the threads - You never know what color you will need
  • Small fabric selection 
  • Palette - Because I might actually watercolor
  • Small selection of brushes
  • Watercolors
  • Water Container! 
  • Paper - To stretch or not to stretch?
  • Rag?
  • Pastels - Because... why not?
  • Travel case

I'm pretty excited. Maybe I'll go down town and and sit in a shady spot and work on some perspective. There's all kinds of crazy things I could try:  incorporating found textiles or thread into my embroidery, stitching into the watercolors. The ideas are flying!

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Work continues on the mural. It's beginning to look a little bit more polished with those brush strokes disappearing. My theory is to start in the upper left corner and work my way down and to the right. No palms smearing paint. 

Farm Report: Yet another batch of dill pickles canned and we have decided to experiment with left over brine and make refrigerator pickles. We'll see how they taste in four days. I'm really looking forward to the baby eggplant. 

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Toys! Miniatures!

Saturday we took a little jaunt out to Kansas City for some barbecue and some museum action. It warms the cockles of my heart when Bea gets excited for museums. We tried out Jack Stack in Lees Summit. Fabulous. My first encounter with smoked lamb and I'm never going back. It's my humble opinion that American's don't eat enough lamb and they are missing out. Talk about a meat packed with excellent flavor.

Our museum for the day was so amazing, the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures. I've heard rave reviews and it's so true. All the tiny things! The miniatures are fascinating and the artistry! It makes you want to work in small scale.

On Monday I had a group of ladies from Fiber Guild over for food and fiber fun. In reality I just wanted to know if I was spinning on my wheel correctly. Turns out all my thoughts about the wheel are true! It is backwards! Can wheels be left handed? Spinning on my wheel wasn't going the greatest but I broke out my new drop spindle and the difference was amazing! I could spin so tiny. So in love with spinning right now.

On Tuesday I gave a program on ikebana for the Grow and Glow Garden Club in Sedalia. It's so much fun to have an attentive group that asks great questions. But then I just love talking about ikebana and want everyone to do it. I arranged Irises and Heather for them. They aren't really plants that can be found in the same season together but the colors and textures go so well.

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P.s. We've been working on cleaning and decluttering the house. New living room arrangement! I'm reading KonMari again just in time for Chinese New Year.

Finally stopped making excuses and finished up my sashiko piece. Turns out nothing in the house needs to be cleaned half as much as I need to make art. This origami pattern is the Japanese Horned Beetle. I learned a lot with this piece. Made a ton of mistakes. Don't cut the fabric to the edge of your embroidery? Things will always fray! At least I don't have to go through all that again!

So many things happened this week it's been a bit of a blur. Let's hope we can keep up this pace! Getting things done in the new year!

Reading: Frida Kahlo: The Paintings by Hayden Herrera

Listening to: The British History podcast and how terrible life as a princess really is. No choice in anything, people hate you without knowing you, being married off to old men..... #Traditionalmarriage.

Cooking: Chili, Beer and Flautas.

 

Threads!

We are half way through our sojourn to Wyoming and I've made an excursion to my friendly local thread store, Ewe Count, in Cheyenne. I love love love Penny and her collections of all things stitching and knitting. I concentrated on bright saturated colors and even decided to try out what Penny calls Barbie panty hose. Quite tropical actually. I also got to snoop around the newest yarn store in Cheyenne, Meadowlark Yarns. Where I got a much needed drop spindle. I'm really digging their yarn collection (roving!) and clean chic atmosphere.  

 The haul 

The haul 

Finished my Sashiko project for Kei. A little polish and it'll be in the mail soon!  

 Japanese Horned Beetle

Japanese Horned Beetle

Moving forward on my koginzashi table runner. I'm giving a program at the Greater Kansas Fiber Guild in May so I should have one finished piece right? 

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Reading: Sock Knitting Master Class by Ann Bud. A Chrismas present from my SIL, another knitting enthusiast.  

Listening to: The grinding of a small motor in my daughters Loopin Chewie game. Her new favorite past time. 

Eating: Lumpia from the Philipino restaurant on F. E. Warren. So delicious! 

Happy New Years!