Friday, May 30, 2008

Wow! I'm Done

I am pleased as punch with May's project results.  I confess it was a struggle to come up with a design that expressed my feelings about being an artist, but the whole thing turned out way better than I had hoped for.  Here's the front of the piece.  I used the two shell beads to hide the holes I had deliberately made to allow the page to fit into the book I started last month.  It was just as well that I added an embellishment to each side of "Fear."  Had I put the page in the book as it was originally designed, some of the page's detail would have been obscured as other pages were added.  I will pick up some stitches along the top of the page and knit an edge to accommodate the book binding, so the piece will ultimately be about 1.5" longer than it is now.  But when it is inserted into the book, the entire design will be visible.

I incorporated a selvedge into the knitted piece, so I was able to make a hem which framed the fabric backing nicely.  I wasn't able to work the accent yarns I selected last Saturday into the piece - a tassel just didn't work right on the piece.  So even though I love dangly thingies, and even though I had plenty of beads available to hang about, I did not use them this time except to embellish the fabric backing, as you can see from the following photo.  The color palette in this photo by the way is truer to the actual work than some of the other photos where the fibers are grayer.

And here's a close-up of the fuschia on the fabric backing,

the shell beads, 

and the appliqued fabric on the front of the work.

If I had a do-over for any part of this challenge, I'd have thought through the size of the piece better, so that I wouldn't have to go back and add a section to bind the work.  And I'd have used the same color palette for the shells.  In my defense, the shells were not meant to be attached to the page, but were supposed to be used to weight the tassels on either side of the page.

Onward to June.  I hope I can keep up next month.  I will be very busy at my paying job for the next sixty days so the challenge really will be a challenge in more ways than one.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Got It Together (Sort Of)

I decided that all I needed to complete the project were some gently contrasting fibers to make a tassel or two and maybe edge the page, and some additional beads to embellish the tassel and fill in blank spaces on the page.

So I stopped at the bead store and did some more shopping with the help of the proprietor and her assistant, who both have a good eye for color.   We chose beads in neutral tones to avoid a jarring effect.  The following photo shows the beads, but the depth of the darker shades captured by the camera is greater than what the eye actually sees.  I will not use all the beads for the embellishments, so the darker beads will mainly be for accent.

Next, I selected fiber from my stash to make the tassels.  Several of the fibers were samples I picked up at knitting conventions or "yarn tastings"  given by my LYS (local yarn shop).  I always wondered what I'd do with a two yard sample of fiber other than cram it into a bag with all the other unlabeled samples.  Well, now I know.   Anyway, I chose subtle (for me) colors, which believe it or not were hard to find in my stash.  The yarns looked good not only with the beads, but also with the semi-completed page and the fabric backing.  Here's the fiber:

And here are the beads and fibers together.  I have everything now to finish the page, I think.  I'll try to get the results posted by Saturday.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Halfway There

I'd like to say that once I had selected a course of action, my plan would have gone smoothly.  Not so, but perhaps that is characteristic of plans in general.  Anyway, here's what I wanted to do and what really happened:

Plan: I had the lampwork bead I loved, so I selected some 30 year old wool to work a fabric page.   Actual:  I completed the knitted page as planned and gently felted it to remove some of the stitch definition.  Since I don't feel I've made a complete transition to fabric from fiber, I wanted to retain some of the knit definition.  Plus, I wanted to give the page some stability - knitted fabric is floppy.

Plan:  I wanted to embellish the page, and had bought, in addition to the lampwork bead, two bags of glass seed beads and some fabric to back the page.  Actual:  The lampwork bead and the coordinating seed beads were definitely not a go.  The lampwork bead was too heavy for the knitted fabric, even though it was felted to give it more body.  The two colors of seed beads were not enough to carry off a design on the page.  And I didn't know what design I wanted to embellish.

Plan: No design ideas for the page.  Actual:  I spent three nights drawing out geometric and floral designs and scouring books for apt quotations.  I have a small volume called "Art and Fear".  A very good text for "artists" like me.  One of the chapters addresses all the reasons why artists don't produce work.  One of them is fear of pretending.  I read that section several times before I decided an appropriate phrase might be "Fear of pretending I am what I am not."

Plan: use the materials on hand.  Actual:  One of the seed beads I purchased for the project was in my opinion perfect to use for the saying.  The bead was almost the same color as the background page, but stood out just enough so that a reader could make out the phrase.  And it expressed perfectly how I felt in both words and color.  When I'm afraid, I want to fade into the background and not be noticed.  I want the challenge or whatever I'm afraid of to go away.

Anyway, here is the page as it stands at this point (forgive me for not rotating the photos):

(Note:  The holes in the fabric on either side of "Fear" were intentional.  I inserted them in case I wanted to put the page in the fabric book I started last month.)

Plan:  Use the fabulous fabric I purchased at my local quilt shop to coordinate with the lampwork bead as the backing for the page.  Actual:  When the page was worked to the stage it is at now, the fabric was much too lively.  So, I went to the fabric store in the capitol right across from my office building to search for something else.  The store is in the artsy district and they always have the most embellished, outrageous-in-a-good-way fabrics.   And sure enough I found the neatest fabric.  It is an embroidered  taffeta.

Here is the wrong side of the fabric.

The right side has furry fuschias!  Perfect!!!

Plan: Back the page with the fabric and fussy-cut some of the fuschias to embellish the empty spots on the felted page.   Actual:  I hope to work on completing the page this weekend and maybe surf the Web to see what everyone else is doing on this month's challenge.  I haven't visited sites for almost two months now, so it would be good to get back into the community of TIF-fers and see what's going on.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

More Questions Than Answers

Over the last three weeks, I have had the chance to ponder this month's challenge: "How do you define yourself as an artist?" I have actually given it quite a lot of thought.  My initial response was that I was not an artist.  And after three weeks, although I have occasionally wavered and tried to justify calling myself an artist, I am still unable to do so.

Here's why.  I define an artist as someone who does at least three of the following:
  1. Spends a significant part of each day working in a chosen medium;
  2. Has developed a portfolio of items in the chosen medium;
  3. Has received some formal training in technique in the chosen medium;
  4. Has had items in the portfolio displayed in juried shows;
  5. Earns a living or part of a living by selling items produced in the chosen medium;
  6. Produces original work that advances techniques in the chosen medium;
  7. Is recognized by peers as being an artist.
By these standards, I am not an artist.  

I am also not a quitter.  I decided sometime on day four or five that I would complete this challenge even though I could not define myself as an artist by my own standards.  I decided that somehow I'd make my project satisfy me and the challenge.  So, here is what I came up with:

Since I am trying transition this year to a new medium, I decided I'd do a page for the book I started as part of last month's challenge.  I'd knit a sampler of stitch patterns on the page and then felt the knitted fabric to demonstrate the transition from fiber to fabric.  But I thought the stitch pattern definition would get lost in the felting process, so I opted for a felted page in stockinette stitch with surface embellishment to be added after the felting process.

Then, I went in search of question marks.  It is not as easy to find ready-made question marks as it is to come up with questions.  It wasn't long before I knew I'd have to make my own - question marks, that is, since I already have as many questions as I need right now.  Before I left on an out-of-town vacation to visit my mother on Mother's Day, I stopped by our town's bead store.  It was my first visit to the shop and I'm definitely going back because the proprietor was a huge help.  I discussed my project with her and she suggested some wire that could be fashioned into question marks and then sewn to the surface of the page.  But I wanted more than just wire question marks.  I found a lovely lampwork bead (the design is red, green and metallic gold on a beige background) and some glass seed beads in the same color palette.  I broke my budget limit of $10, but I will have wire and seed beads left over from the project, so I think it's okay.

For the knitted page, I selected some wool from a lot I had purchased 30 years ago.  It is a good neutral color that will gently contrast the wire and beads.  I didn't want a screaming, in-your-face palette for this challenge because I think I am neutral about how I define myself as an artist.  I am willing to say that I am not now an artist, but I am not willing to say that I will never be one.  So, I think neutral works well for that attitude.

I will post some photos shortly.  I am still trying to get caught up at work and at home after my vacation.  But I think I will be able to complete the challenge on time, as I've got 6 inches of the 8 inch page knitted.  If I can finish the page and felt it tonight, I can start the embellishment process next week in the evening.