Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Queen Anne's Lace

I finished another weed over the weekend.  This time a Queen Anne's Lace motif.  I used a mix of Or Nué couched smooth passing (couched closer for shadows), stretched pearl purl, stretched s-ing, chipping and french knots.  All the metals were the old throwaway "weeds" so some are tarnished more than others and I stretched some more than others to experiment with creating depth that way.  On the stem, I stretched the pearl purl so that the green would show less where the highlights would be.  The thread I used is the olive green variegated Valdani sewing thread.  I may go back in and add more silver chipping or I may just redo it with more traditional goldwork techniques and only gold and silver, we'll see!

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Lake House: A Lesson in Practicing What I Preach

Ah, I say those words while also laughing at myself.  Here I have been researching the Impressionists, Post-Impressionists and Early Modern painters' use of color in their work and I neglect to put that information into practice into my own!  It also though just proves how vitally important making and the actual act of stitching is to my research and artistic development.  You can know all the theory in the world but if you do not put it into practice of what value or credibility is it!

As you can see, I have been stitching lots of "leaves" in the form of seeding and detached chain stitches.  I began by restricting myself to 1 strand of Valdani quilting and sewing thread.  The variegation in the thread colors gave a nice and subtle effect.  Then it started to feel a bit flat to me.  So I thought I would start to add multiple strands into my needle (something I am constantly telling my students to do!) and mixing colors.  I thought I would start by mixing different variegated greens (some moving green to green and some moving green to brown or green to pinky/peach) and variegated browns and blacks.  I made the cardinal mistake of which I constantly tell my students NOT to do.  I told myself "I don't want the complement to be too strong".  Now, I always tell them to avoid starting a project with "I don't want ...." because inevitably it goes that exact direction.  Well, I proved myself right!

The triple strands did add some depth but the desaturated colors and my tentative use of complements resulted in a different flatness-- a heavy flatness.  I pinned it up and "lived with it" for a couple days and then told myself to just "get on with it" and try something.  Worst case- I get to take out stitches and let's be honest, I have loads of experience taking stitches out!  

So, I picked out some different variegated Valdani threads.  "Muddy Pots" which moves from salmon pink to kind of a dusty mauve and "Melancholic Purple" which moves from a Victorian lavender to a dusty violet.  I started mixing these with my greens and browns in the needle.  The effect was still too subtle so I tried them alone.  Still too subtle.

That is actually a salmon pink mixed in there.  It does not look salmon, does it!
So, I did what I should have done probably about a dozen colors prior.  I looked back at my research and I remembered this one color that, between us, I utterly abhor that pops up in Monet and Renoir's paintings.  It is this particular rusty, brick red that they both use in a lot of their paintings that I saw in France and I am sorry but it is kind of an ugly color.  I still want to go back to see if this was a "phase" they both went through.  Regardless, I thought, maybe I should try it.  Maybe they did not actually "like" the color either but found it useful in their compositions.  
I have to admit I got annoyed with myself so I tried a brink red.  I know this looks Jessica Rabbit lipstitck red--it is not! But it was good that I went to an extreme and then was able to pull back.
I found that if I mixed the reds and the purples in the needle that it actually gave me more of the color that I wanted instead of polka dots of red and purple. 

Because I work by myself a lot at home, I found myself in need of some opinions, so I packed up my piece and some threads and asked my colleagues Susan and Kathleen what they thought.  They agreed.  I needed to be much more aggressive in my use of complements and maybe introduce some seeding (up until this point I was only using detached chain) and the texture from not using a hoop was quite interesting.  

For the last few days, I have been working in a number of different colors and threads.  I picked out some variegated reds and more vibrant purples and have been incorporating them both alone as seeding and tiny, tiny detached chains and mixed with the greens and browns.  I was afraid that it would start to look too "fall" but I actually think it is starting to go towards a more exciting place.  I have also been incorporating detached chains using an olive green Gilt Sylke Twist which seems to bridge the greens with the reds and purples in a really interesting way due to the gold metal in it- which only heightens my hypothesis that gold could be a universal complement in compositions.  

Now, to add even more leaves!

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Lake House: An Update

I have been slowly adding in stitches on my Lake House piece.  I have started to add in some stretched metals in the water and the tree.  This piece is a bit of an experiment trying out some of the ideas I have from looking at all the paintings in my other research.  As I have been wondering if I could use my metals in a similar way as I have been seeing the painters use complementary colors to create depth and visual energy to the composition. 
 I started by adding some long stitches in with different shades of water (blues, browns, and some peach in there).  I'm using the Valdani threads that I love so much so there is a nice variegation to all the colors.  I'm using a mix of their embroidery floss and their hand quilting thread.  

After I had a bit of the color added in, I started adding some stretch purls.  I'm using stretched smooth silver purl for the strong highlights and gold for the rest.  I love just looking at the lake and all the amazing colors and reflections.  Water is so incredible to study- the texture, the detail, the color, and how it can change in an instant.  I am also varying the amount that I am stretching the purls to allow different amounts of the threads to show.
 After adding in some water detailing, I felt that the top portion needed more stitching.  I started by adding in some bullion knots on the left tree to add some texture and then I felt it needed more so I added in some stretched purls.  This time I'm using overstretched smooth gold for the highlights and stretched rough black purl for the rest.  Again, varying the amount of stretch to change the amount that the thread shows through the purls. 
Most recently, I've added in a lot of leaves--tons of leaves!  I had been using only 1 strand of the Valdani quilting thread and now I have started adding multiple strands together to get a wider variety of color variation and up to 3 strands to add more dimension and texture.  

It needs more leaves and more texture, but I'm pretty exciting in the direction it's going.  I am choosing not to use a frame for this piece as I want the printed layers to shift and I want to work in the tension variations to give the piece more depth and that since of blurred memory.  It's exciting to see it bubbling a bit more as I stitch more into it.  

I think there needs to be more stitching on the water but I'm giving myself some time to reflect on that portion right now as I think it could quickly cross the line to that ever dreaded "over-worked".  For now, back to adding more leaves--lots and lots and lots of leaves!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

France: Day 2 Giverny and Monet's Gardens

I love gardens.  I love flowers.  I love the colors, the textures, the fragrance.  I love the relaxed pace that a garden gives me--that I forget time and focus on the tiny details of the buds about to bloom and the bugs crawling around.  So I set out to Giverny to see Monet's actual gardens.  I wanted to see the lighting he saw.  I wanted to immerse myself in his environment.  So, how different were his gardens to his paintings?  As the focus of the Impressionists was to capture the true essence of light, I thought experiencing "Monet's light" was an important part of the process of evaluating the colors in his paintings.   
The greatest part of the day in Giverny was the fact that the weather changed.  It started sunny, clouds moved in and it got chilly and overcast, then the sun came out and washed the clouds away bright as could be.  All these changes happened as I made my way through the gardens.  I took my time, leisurely walking through the gardens enjoying the scenery and taking copious amounts of photos, trying to soak in every detail I could and capturing the overall scene, different viewpoints and details. 

I have tried to pick my “favorite” photos from Monet’s Gardens, but trying to do that is like trying to pick just a couple macarons to eat at Laudree or Fortnum and Mason—when looking at your options your automatic answer is “I’ll take them all, thank you!” but your brain knows that you cannot actually eat the whole counter of them (or pay!).  In the same way, I would love to show you all my photos I took but alas I have had to heavily edit down which ones I share!

It was so interesting to watch how the color of the flowers changed as the clouds rolled in.  The highlights disappearing and the overall contrast from highlight to color to shadow mellowing. 

As the sun came back out, you can see the harder highlights that it gave to the flowers.  It was interesting to see which flowers popped during the different weather conditions and when photographing them (whether among other plants, against the sky or water). 
You cannot go to Monet's gardens and not pay attention to the water lilies. 

The water was so still the whole time and it was exciting to see the reflections in the water adapt to the changing weather. 
The sun had just popped out and everything looked like it had a "top coating" of sun just on the top edges of everything.
Clouds moving back in ....

I love taking photos of moss and with the interesting twisting and looping of the branch, I could not resist capturing this moss!

Haystacks (not the actual ones Monet painted)!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Common Thread Symposium: November 6-7 at NC State University

So, as you can see I have been a wee bit busy here recently.  I have another important announcement though.  Over the past few months, I have been coordinating a 2-day symposium addressing Fibers in Contemporary Art.  It's open to the public so we would LOVE to have you join us!

The Common Thread Symposium
Through the gracious support of Cotton University, Cotton Incorporated and the Department of Art+Design at NC State University's College of Design, we are excited to offer this 2-day symposium for the first time!  It will include morning lectures, afternoon workshops and a number of special activities that will address Fibers in Contemporary Art+Design.  Please see the details below and our website for more information about our guests.  I've also put a link below to our Brochure and Schedule. 

Dates:  Friday and Saturday, November 6-7, 2015 
Location: NC State University, Raleigh, North Carolina
Common Thread Symposium: Brochure and Schedule

Registration Information:
Link to Registration Website
Please notice that Friday and Saturday require separate registrations!  If you can join us both days, please register for each day.  Registration includes lectures, workshop fees and food (lunch and reception on Friday and breakfast and lunch on Saturday).  Please bring your printed registration receipt and proper student ID (if registering as a student) to the check-in table each morning.
Public:  $35 each day
Students (high school or college):  $25 each day
College of Design (or those students taking COD courses):  $12 for Friday and $6 for Saturday

Lectures:  More information about the guests and their lectures can be found HERE
Dr. Susan Kay-Williams, The Story of Colour in Textiles
Ilze Aviks,  A Reflection on Slow Textiles in a Digital Age
Precious Lovell,  King Cotton- The King is Dead, Long Live the King!
Andrea Donnelly, Art//Craft//Design: the Work and Practice of a Conceptual Weaver
Paula Kovarik, Artist Talk
Susan Kay-Williams and Katherine Diuguid, Royal School of Needlework and Study Abroad 

Workshops: More information about the guests and their workshops can be found HERE
Paula Kovarik, contemporary quilting workshop (Friday 1:30- 5:30)
Gabrielle Duggan, Webwords and Impressions workshop (Friday 1:30- 5:30)
Precious Lovell, Call and Response collaborative workshop (Friday 3:30- 5:30)
Ilze Aviks,  Altering Cloth with Hand-Stitching workshop  (Saturday 1:30- 5:30)
Mary Kircher, Journaling and Woven Collage workshop (Saturday 1:30- 3:30)
Mackenzie Bullard, Indigo Shibori Demonstration (3:30-5:30)
Kelly Kye, Folded Star Quilt Block workshop (3:30-5:30)

Special Events:
“Treasures of the Gregg” presentation at the Gregg Museum textile storage by Mary Hauser
“Faculty Show and Tell” informal pin-up of current work by faculty members of the Southeastern Fibers Educators Association with reception
Information Session for Art+Design Graduate program
Portfolio Review Session for Fibers Art+Design Seniors
Open Stitching and Review Time

Funding for the 2015 Cotton Initiative + NC State Art2Wear Project was awarded in part through a competitive grant presented to Assistant Professor Katherine Diuguid by the Importer Support Program of the Cotton Board and Cotton Incorporated.
NCSU Art2Wear is supported by the NC State University Foundation.

Exciting Announcement: UK: Stitching a Cultural Identity

I have been sitting on some super exciting news that I can now announce:

UK: Stitching a Cultural Identity Study Abroad Program for Summer 2016

Over the last couple years, I have been developing a study abroad program for NC State with the Royal School of Needlework.  It will include two courses: a course on traditional embroidery taught by RSN tutors and a course addressing the history of stitching taught by me.  Below is lots of more information about the program.  
Program Introduction:
Embroidery has served as an important aspect of British history since the early Roman times.  Secluded from the rest of mainland Europe, it saw embroidery flourish to new technical and artistic heights in the early Middle Ages producing some of the most prized pieces of ecclesiastical embroidery of the time known today as Opus Anglicanum.  Through the years as the United Kingdom established itself as a global power, British embroidery reflected the different global influences.  In modern history, it was British women that revitalized embroidery as an artistic medium.  Embroiderers such as Alice Kettle and Audrey Walker have been exhibited next to contemporary painters and sculptors in recent exhibitions.

The Royal School of Needlework (RSN) is an internationally respected authority on traditional hand embroidery.  It strives to preserve the heritage of precise and artistic stitching through teaching embroidery technique and through the many varied projects it undertakes in their working studio.  Housed at Hampton Court Palace just south of London, the RSN offers day, certificate, and undergraduate courses teaching the art and cultural significance of hand embroidery.  Their working studio on the ground floor of Hampton Court Palace restores and creates pieces for numerous Cathedrals, fashion houses, stately homes, and the royal family.  They were responsible for the embroidery on the coronation robes of HM Elizabeth II and the late Queen Mother.  In recent years, they gained much acclaim for their extensive embroidery on the wedding dress, veil and shoes of HRH the Duchess of Cambridge. 

Course Descriptions:
ADN372: Traditional Embroidery taught by Royal School of Needlework tutors at Hampton Court Palace
Students will be doing two modules (2.5 weeks each).  The modules will be Crewelwork and Goldwork.  They will develop samples experimenting with the technique and a final motif.  Each module is divided into 4 tutor days + 1 work day (with me there for help!).  The costs of each kit and scroll frame is built into the program cost. 

ADN492: History of Stitch in the British Isles
This course will introduce students to the history and development of stitching on the British Isles from the 9th Century AD to today.  It will blend cultural, historic and socio-economic factors affecting the development and importance of stitching with the design and technical characteristics of the techniques.  This course will be taught through a series of visits to museums, exhibitions and collections to see actual pieces from the time periods being studied. 

The kink:  I need 12 students for this program to run, so.....If you know any university students (they do not have to be from NC State) that may be interested, here is the link to the program and application page through our Study Abroad office.  Applications open TODAY!:

More Information about the Royal School of Needlework:
RSN website:
Playlist of Videos on YouTube:

Want to Know More About This Program?:
Come join us for the Common Thread Symposium (more on that later today too) in November where Susan Kay-Williams (the Chief Executive of the RSN) will be presenting a lecture on her research on the history of dyes and help me launch this program to our students.  She and I will be talking more about the history of the RSN and the program details for this study abroad opportunity!

Monday, September 21, 2015

France: Day 1 Auvers-sur-Oise

Our first stop (straight off the plane!) was Auvers-sur-Oise, a small town north of Paris where Van Gogh spent his last couple months before he passed away.  It is said that he created over 80 paintings in the 70 days that he spent in Auvers-sur-Oise.  Can you imagine being able to create pieces at that rate and concentration?!?

We saw a digital exhibition on the Impressionists and many painters that came to Auvers to paint at Château d'Auvers sur Oise.  We visited the Auberge Ravoux (where Van Gogh rented a room) and walked around the town.  After lunch, we drove around and took lots of photos of the town and the view down to the river.  I wish we had had more time to walk down near the river but it was off to Vernon by way of the scenic route on our GPS. 

 The Église Notre-Dame d'Auvers that was painted by Van Gogh (now at the Musee d'Orsay).

 I love an old stone walkway with moss and grass growing in the cracks!

 The poster in the bottom right shows a print of Van Gogh's painting. 

 It only felt right to photograph the beautiful sunflowers!

 And some pretty flowers too.... 

 I loved the moss on the tile roofs and the ivy invading the sides.

 The Auberge Ravoux

 Some cows on the way to Giverny and Vernon.