Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Women Who Sew for NASA

Have you seen the movie Hidden Figures? Here's a similar story.

Lien Pham arrived in America as a child refugee, fleeing South Vietnam as Saigon fell. She and her family survived by doing piece work in the fashion industry. Working in a lingerie factory by day, she attended engineering classes in the evening. And since 1994 she has brought her talents to the aerospace industry.

You can read her fascinating story here

The link will bring you to a text that is part of BBC 100 Women, an annual focus on 100 influential and inspirational women around the world. This year's series celebrates women in science.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Hand-dyeing linen

Needing to broaden the palette for my latest series, I started with some neutrals.

A satisfactory range of greys in hand-dyed, medium-weight linen

The most obvious neutral range is made with black dye, which produces a range of greys. I began with a depth-of-shade concentration of 8%, and then reduced it by half each time, to 4%, 2%, 1%, .5%, .25%, .125%, and .0625%. I should have begun with 10%, and that would have produced a stronger colour at each end, but nevertheless I'm satisfied with this range. It should prove to be useful in combination with other neutrals and as a foil to more vivid colours. A bit of a blue cast to the G&S Black dye.

Next, I did some experiments with golden yellow vs. lemon yellow, and black vs. navy. The navy produces a more green-green, but the black is more interesting and complex.

From left: 18 parts golden yellow: 1 part black (4% depth of shade)
18 golden yellow: 1 part navy (4% depth of shade)
18 lemon yellow: 1 part black (4% depth of shade)
18 lemon yellow: 1 part navy (4% depth of shade)

From left, 10 parts golden yellow: 1 part black (4% depth of shade)
10 parts golden yellow: 1 part navy (4% depth of shade)
10 parts golden yellow vs. 1 part black (2% depth of shade)
10 parts golden yellow: 1 part navy (2% depth of shade)

Finally, I wanted to create some interesting neutrals by mixing the complementary colours of orange and navy, and then orange and turquoise. When using pure-pigment MX dyes, these are the only complementaries available, because while there are a couple of reds, there is no pure green pigment. And while there are several yellows, there are no violets. Here are the results:

From left, 2 parts orange: 1 part navy (2% depth of shade)
5 parts orange: 1 part navy (2% depth of shade)
8 parts orange: 1 part navy (2% depth of shade)
2 parts orange: 1 part navy (5% depth of shade)
5 parts orange: 1 part navy (5% depth of shade)
8 parts orange: 1 part navy (5% depth of shade)
1 part orange: 1 part turquoise (2% depth of shade)
1 part orange : 1 part turquoise (5% depth of shade)

Note that I used extra-hot water when dyeing with turquoise. Also, observe how, with those last two, there is a real shift in hue, caused not by different proportions of pigment but by different intensities of pigment (depth of shade).

These colours produced by complementary pigments result in some very intriguing marbling, as seen below:

1 part orange: 1 part turquoise (2% depth of shade)

2 parts orange: 1 part navy (5% depth of shade)

An appealing complexity, no?

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Making Christmas cards

Every year I make a couple dozen Christmas postcards, and the tradition continues this year.

I love using up what I have on hand, and I have stashed away an embarrassing quantity of colourful cotton, printed with polka dots, stripes and checks. Here is the working sketch for this year's design, with scraps of cotton glued to paper, and with a black marker used to signify the stitching line. I know the colour scheme is not a traditional Christmas palette, but I like the lively, fun feeling of this combination.

I began by marking white cotton with a blue fabric marker, dividing it up into rectangles of 6" x 4",  leaving a margin of 1/4" around each postcard. You might be able to make out the blue lines in the photo below.

Then I cut out rectangular shapes from polka dot prints that had been backed with fusible web, positioned them on each rectangle, and fused them to the white muslin backing. You can see how I like to work on these in assembly-line fashion.

I had on hand some white polyester quilt batting, from Thermore, that I spray-basted to the white cotton. Because it didn't slide very nicely on the bed of the sewing machine, I added another layer of iron-on, lightweight, synthetic interfacing to the back, which gave me a stiff sandwich (cotton-batting-interfacing) that glided nicely under the needle.

Using quilting-weight (40) thread, I free-motion stitched the black outline to indicate the packages, ribbons and bows. The idea was to go for a "sketchy" effect, which gives more fun and whimsy to the design.

Then I pulled out a pad of watercolour paper, 18" x 24", and, using spray adhesive, glued the stitched sandwiches onto the sheets of paper. At this stage, I was working with units of 9 - 12 cards. Then it was a matter of trimming the paper-backed sandwiches to the 6" x 4" size, and sealing the edge using a closely-spaced zigzag stitch in white thread.

The greeting on the paper side of the postcards reads "Wishing you all the gifts of the season". They will go into the mail without further packaging, with a standard postage stamp.

I can see this design modified to make candles or houses. Will save these ideas for another year!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Scenic Provence

I may no longer be making Cityscapes, but if I were....

This photo has a fabric connection.
The waterwheels were once essential to the manufacture of cloth in Avignon.
This street, Rue des Teinturiers (Street of Dyers), is one of many
whose names relate to the textile industry.

a charming corner in Avignon

A highly textured wall, in need of repair. The building was for sale.
Note the stream in the foreground, which powered textile mills long ago.

Isn't it strange how we find disrepair "picturesque"when we travel?
A building in this state (peeling paint, crumbling stucco)
in our own neighbourhood would be the subject of disapproval.

Arles. The lavender-coloured shutters are thought
to keep the mosquitoes away.

The curves of these arches remind me of music. Vivaldi?
Les Baux, 15th-century City Hall.

Ménerbes, the town that Peter Mayle made famous with
his book "A Year in Provence"

A quiet corner in Ménerbes

A jumble of roof lines and chimney pots in Rousillion,
if you like that sort of thing

As these façades attest, Rousillon is known for
its production of ochre.

Fall foliage against ochre walls.

Wonderful textures and value contrasts

The cliffs of Roussillon where the ochre was mined.

Don't you love the tangle of buildings, roofs and
windows, punctuated with poplars and shrubs?
This is Gordes.

Line, texture, shape, value, negative space....

A Roman temple in Nimes

Provence is known for the art that it has inspired: Cézanne, Van Gogh, Picasso, among others. But very little art of that period remains in Provence for the visitor to see. We must console ourselves with homages, with in-the-steps-of-tours, with contemporary galleries, and with the beautiful scenery and village vignettes that will inspire artists for many years to come.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Current and Upcoming Shows

Just to let you know about some events I will be participating in over the next couple of months....

The Hudson Artists will stage their annual fall show November 17 - 19 at the Hudson Community Centre, 394 Main Road in Hudson, QC. The vernissage will be on the Friday evening, 7:30 - 9:30 pm; hours for Saturday and Sunday are 10 am - 5 pm. This show usually includes a good variety of media: watercolour, acrylic, oil, pastel, collage, "mixed" and fibre.

I will attend the show BUT my plan to show three of my newest pieces at this show has been waylaid. As my friend and fellow artist Helena Scheffer has said, in consolation, "Heather, you can't dance at every wedding."

The following weekend is the opening of the Small Works show at one of Hudson's new galleries, Galérie A's Secondemain at 524 Main Road. I will be one of ten artists showing small pieces, perfect for holiday gifting. I plan to exhibit some acrylic collages from my Touchstone series, and maybe some small cityscapes, and will definitely be at the opening on Friday evening, November 24.

Open Window, Cēsis, batik and hand-dyed cotton, fused and stitched
based on a photo by Lauma Cenne

I continue to have work on display at Café Mikko, 403 Main Road in Hudson. At this time, three of my Cityscapes in monochrome black-grey-and-white are showing in this lively café-boutique.

An Unlikely Confluence of Events,
showing at Stewart Hall in Pte-Claire until December 3

And let's not forget the stunning show at Stewart Hall in Pointe-Claire, QC. Titled The Art That Inhabits Us, this show features 150 works by 150 artists, and includes a wide variety of media. The entire show can be seen on-line here.

This show celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Pointe-Claire Art Rental and Sales Service. It continues at 176 Bord-du-Lac, until December 3. Hours are 1 - 5 pm seven days a week, open on Wednesdays until 9 pm.

Diaspora, an acrylic collage, is part of the Leonard Cohen show,
Rigaud Library, opening November 29

Tribute to Leonard Cohen, a group show that will be staged at the Rigaud Library, opens on November 29 and continues into January. A vernissage is planned for Saturday, December 9, 1 - 3 pm. The library is at 102 rue St-Pierre, in Rigaud, and hours can be found on their website.  

More than a dozen artists have collaborated to put together this show. Our works, in a variety of media, are inspired by the words in Cohen's Anthem, 
"There is a crack in everything. 
That's how the light gets in."

The Sum of Its Parts, hand-dyed linen, pieced and stitched

And in January I will have a solo show at Galérie Carlos, in Montreal's Old Brewery Mission, 902 Blvd. St.-Laurent. This will be an opportunity to show off more works in my new series of hand-dyed linen. Details to follow!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

"Les Eclaireurs" at the Palais des Papes

On the first day of a recent visit to Avignon, we took in an exhibition of African sculptors, "Les Eclaireurs". Most of the sculptures were on display at the Palais des Papes, but smaller groupings were being shown in other venues in the city. The show runs until January 14, 2018.

Palais des Papes, Avignon

It was the juxtaposition of modern African sculpture with the 14th-century building space that was most impressive. Normally the Palais des Papes is considered to be a must-see for visitors to Avignon, a monument to a pivotal period in the history of the region, when the seat of western Christianity was moved from Rome to Avignon. The exhibition added another dimension to the space.

With the aid of some well-considered lighting, the pieces were shown to great advantage against the ancient, crumbling walls and in the austere courtyard.

El Anatsui, Confluences, 2008
aluminum bands and copper wires

"The works of El Anatsui are recognizable among thousands: they are gigantic wall sculptures, designed so that each piece of aluminum may catch the light, and reflect it. The use of recycled materials represents among other things the habits of consumption of populations. For example, alcohol bottle stoppers, which he frequently uses, represent the history of trade between Africa and Europe, with alcohol becoming an element used in the transatlantic trade of slaves."

Nnenna Okore, Egwu Ukwu II, 2009
clay and burlap
"The works of Nnenna Okore [a student of El Anatsui] combine textures, shapes and movements. Of great fragility and fineness, they embody all the sensitivity of the artist. In working with natural materials ... [she] aims to make us aware of our waste and trash, our choices in life, and to encourage us to reflect on our environment."

Moustapha Dimé, Contemporary Dance, 1995
wood, metal, rope
"For this piece Moustapha Dimé uses driftwood, his material of predilection, which he decorates with ropes and metal plates to depict three characters dancing. Contemporary Dance, imbued with an incredibly precarious equilibrium and lightness, is emblematic of the work of the artist, a real master at balancing acts, whose delicate installations stand as if by enchantment."

Bamassi Traoré, Buffalo, 2016
recycled metal
"Bamassi Traoré grew up next to the Hann's Zoo [in Dakar]. The singular and ambivalent relation he has had since a young age with animals constitutes the essential material of his reflections which appears in his work. Reminding us of the primordial place attributed to animals in the oral African tradition, his realistic work suggests a real proximity, even a fusion between animal and human."

Ndary Lo, Espoir, 2001
"Since 1992, Ndary Lo has carried out research focused on man, with his favourite material, iron, ... slender, spindly figures, and his women with indistinct faces or stomachs full of dolls. In 2008, he was awarded the Dak'Art 2008 prize for the 'Muraille verte' (Green Wall), an impressive display symbolizing man's fight against desertification."

Ndary Lo, Egypte I and II, 2002

Ndary Lo, The Universal Prayer, 2002
melded metal

Ndary Lo, The Universal Prayer, 2002
melded metal, as seen from upper balcony
"An emblematic artist of the collection blanchère, Ndary Lo follows in the steps of Alberto Giacometti by creating long silhouettes. He initially created his silhouettes to send a message to Africa, saying she must now rise and walk. This imposing installation, composed of 60 melded metal sculptures, the artist's material of predilection, was inspired by a speech made by the Senegalese President, Abdoulary Wade. Instead of branches and leaves, the trees have human-like figures with arms outstretched towards the sky, symbolizing the desperate fight led by Man against Nature, and against deforestation at the same time."

Ighile Osaretin, Mayor's Head, 2006
paper, metal, plastic, wool

Ighile Osaretin, Mayor's Head, 2006
paper, metal, plastic, wool

This is just a small sampling of the works on display. There were several works in fibre, and more sculptures by women, as well as what I've shared with you here. The exhibition had the effect of adding a sense of humanity to the imposing architecture of the Palais des Papes.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Fifth in new series: Spheres of Influence

Number 5 departs from the subdued palette of the first four in my new series. Stitching and couched threads are used to create "scribbles", giving energy to the composition. It's a way for me to add line to shape in the design, and reinforces the impression that whatever is happening extends beyond the frame of the piece.

tentatively titled Spheres of Influence

Made of hand-dyed linen, with the shapes pieced into place, it measures 24" x 24" and is mounted on gallery canvas.

detail of couching and stitching

I'm happy to be making headway as I prepare for upcoming shows, particularly a solo show to which I have committed for January 2018, two short months away.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

John Little at the Alan Klinkhoff Gallery

Afficionados of urban street scenes will be delighted by the current exhibition of John Little paintings, staged by the Alan Klinkhoff Gallery, 1448 Sherbrooke Street West, Montreal. The show runs from November 4 - 18, and then moves to Toronto, November 23 - December 9.

John Little, born in 1928, is widely esteemed as the foremost painter of Montreal's urban landscape. These images will give you some idea of his work. His subjects are often rough-and-tumble neighbourhoods from decades past, and a favourite scene is a game of pick-up hockey, whether at a local rink or in a back alley.

Gallery hours are Tuesday - Saturday, 9 am - 5 pm. Call 514-284-9339 for more information.