Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer

It was a great week on Washington Island with my Local Color students! It was a special treat to have Carolyn Foss of Sievers photograph the class working in the studio and posting our progress through the week — Day 1, Day 2, and Days 3 and 4. We concentrated on photographing the island, altering images, eating out, and making fiber art.

We found a special treat this year on our first shoot. The Ridges at Jackson Harbor was carpeted with bladderwort.

I’d never before seen these small, spurred yellow flowers, which turns out to be carnivorous.

I used an image I shot at The Ridges that day for a demo piece.

The image was printed without alteration on inkjet silk. I used pastel dye sticks to abstract the figure, add definition to some of the line elements, and darken the verge. Then I cropped the fabric.

My demo piece used dyed fabric from the pile I took for students to use, but after the first day or so most of my students were painting their own background and accent fabrics. I got a couple rows of stitching done to secure layers so I could demonstrate a rough version of reverse applique, which reveals the inkjet silk and a small inkjet heat transfer cropped to show the bladderwort close up.

My students did a great job of sampling — better than I did. If I’d had time to sample, I’d have added a bit more clear extender to the blue Inkodye I used to print the sumac leaf. The color is darker than I intended, so I may use a lighter color thread for the stitching to shift it.

As usual, I get wrapped up in teaching and forget to take photos of what goes on in the studio. It’s nice to see Carolyn’s posts and pictures. For the rest, you’ll have to use your imagination.

The frozen Siberian iris blossoms I took didn’t do much for the simmered silk bundles. I think in my haste to get the pot going I used more water than needed for the amount of fabric. And I suspect they would print better on something heavier than the 5mm habotai we used. I’m not ready to give up on them yet, but it will be next summer before I have blossoms and can try again. I’ll have to be patient.

We didn’t have to be patient with our plastic bag bundles. After sitting on the deck for four hot, sunny days, we opened them on Thursday afternoon. The copper-wrapped bundles could have gone longer, but what was wrapped with steel wire was just right.

The weather was also perfect for heliographic printing with Setacolor and Dye-na-Flow. Everyone sampled the technique, and several students printed elements for pieces they’ll complete on their own. I can’t wait to see their finished pieces!

I’ll chip away at my own UFOs this week, but also have other dyeing to do. So much plant material is ready to use now or dry for later. Summer is short. UFOs will keep.

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Location Location Location

Over the years, I’ve taken and taught workshops in all kinds of environments — from big city conference centers to remote rustic camps, from fiber art schools where every need is anticipated to hotel meeting rooms where you can’t even change the temperature. For the most part, I believe you can create an environment conducive to learning just about anywhere. But some settings are definitely more equal than others.

Leopold Center (through the screen from Home Range Hall)

Yesterday I got to teach in a setting that still has me smiling. Located near Baraboo, Wisconsin, the Aldo Leopold Foundation is headquartered less than a mile from the shack and farm celebrated in A Sand County Almanac. The Leopold Center was built in 2007 using pines the Leopold family planted in the 1930’s and 40’s, and 21st century green building practices and technologies.

My class for a group of early childhood educators was held in the Home Range Hall, a freestanding screened three-season meeting space surrounded by lovely gardens and birdsong. 

Students remained relaxed and focused through a fast-paced morning session. With the slower pace of the afternoon, I was finally able to take a few photographs while students worked. Sorry, I didn’t think to take pictures while students were outside sketching in the garden using fabric transfer crayons.

I’m home for a week, then off to another of my favorite teaching locations — Sievers School of Fiber Arts on Washington Island. It’s my Local Color class, a combination of field trips and studio work where we create “landscape fabric” using digital photography and surface design techniques. It’s a 5-day celebration of island flora, fauna and culture.

Before I leave again, my plan is to do a few field trips close to home. I was gone most of June, so it feels like summer snuck up on me. Time to go capture some memories. Have a great weekend!

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Diamond Meshes Are A Girl’s Best Friend

Marilyn Monroe, eat your heart out. This is my friend Lisa wearing a Civil War-style hairnet she made herself from diamond mesh netting. Priceless and timeless!

Two years ago when the Midwest Weavers Conference was held in Grinnell, Iowa, Lisa took a one-day class I taught on diamond mesh netting in the round. She told me at the time of her interest in Civil War reenactments, and her plan for further study of the technique so she could make hair nets.

As I was loading to teach the same workshop at the 2011 Conference in June, I hoped I would get to see a hairnet on Lisa. And I did. She wore it the evening of the fashion show, and I got to admire it during the after-show reception. It was every bit as beautiful as I expected.

Another student in that class two years ago told me she made a hairnet for the wedding of a young woman who does reenactments from another era. As happens with many weddings, things got busy and Collyer didn’t get a photo before the piece left her hands. But she promised to send me a picture if she gets one. I can’t wait to see it.

If this piques your interest in hair nets, you might enjoy this collection of medieval hairnet images from the blogger known as Alys In Wonder Land. We had some fun with this in early May on the New Age Looping Study Group on Facebook. My favorite is #14. What’s yours?

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Drive Time

Drive time is when I get some of my best ideas. My daily commute is just a few steps between the house and the studio, so I only get a serious drive-time groove on about once a week (it’s a 52-mile round trip to the supermarket and library). So when a teaching gig is within driving distance, I actually kind of look forward to that time in the car.

To be more specific, I look forward to the drive home. On my way to a workshop, I’m still running through mental checklists and watching the clock. But after the job is done and those obligations are fading in my rear-view mirror, I’m glad to have time for some quiet reflection.

My first thoughts are usually about the class and the students. The drive home gives me a chance to ponder the great ideas students come up with. Thank you, Lona, for the oilcloth inspiration! I’ll be testing it this week.

On the drive home, I have time to savor conversations and connections made with my hosts. My Fargo host sent me home with ideas about applying millinery techniques to vessel construction, a loaner copy of The Tarim Mummies, and a new-found fascination with chemistry inspired by the group’s current project, The Elements: The Periodic Table in Fabric. And it it weren’t for Kim, I probably wouldn’t have taken a single picture during the workshop.

As the miles and the hours pass, my thoughts shift from what’s done to what’s next. This time, my homeward bound thoughts sorted through work in progress for an upcoming show. After some time away and a chance to reflect, I’m content to move forward with a boro-influenced celebration of renewal. There are stories I want to tell.

It’s possible that a few images sowed in my brain on the Fargo trip will be translated into this work.

There are times when my head feels like a grain elevator that’s overfull. A nice long drive gives me some time to shift ideas around.

How does drive time fit into your design process?

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Using Your Noodle

Packing for a teaching trip is always a bit of an adventure. But before I get to that, here’s a heads up: I have a wacky request for help at the end of this post, so please keep reading!

Back to packing. For some classes, especially at venues I can drive to, I tend to pack everything plus the kitchen sink. That way my students don’t have to bring tons of stuff. (Sorting through stuff can be a dangerous stall tactic for a student who’s reluctant to take the next scary step in a class.)

Whether I’m driving or flying, I generally try to make things roll in and out as simply as possible. This plan has backfired a couple of times, when I found myself teaching in facilities with steps and no elevator.

I’ve seen other traveling teachers elevate packing to an art form in itself. You really have to use your noodle to keep your checked luggage under the normal weight restrictions, have everything you need for teaching, and find room for a second pair of shoes.

Speaking of noodles, while packing for this trip I had to move a box of wacky noodles to get to the rolling duffel.

I use sections cut from these foam pool toys for all kinds of things — stamping dye on fabric, padding shipping containers, shibori, even as a jig for teaching a willow lashing technique.

How many other ways might you use a wacky noodle in fiber art? Since I won’t be able to post again for a few days, I’m asking you all to help out. Please post your suggestions in the comments below this post. Nothing is too wacky, when you’re using your noodle.

I can’t wait to read what you all come up with. Thanks for helping out!

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Fairy Godmother Makes An Offer

Do you ever get those blinding moments of clarity that only come in the shower? Yesterday I had a mini ah-ha moment while rinsing more indigo-dyed fabric. I wasn’t looking for it. Truly, I was just wanting the water to run clear.

On Reflection by Donna Kallner

Water and its power to reflect has been much on my mind lately. Here’s what was in my head while I was working on a piece called On Reflection for a show called A Woman’s Perspective On The Elements:

Once upon a time, a girl might gaze into a pool of water to glimpse some bright possibility. Nowadays, girls are surrounded by mirrors that seem to reflect only flaws. No evil enchantment could lock them more completely into a shining lie. A fairy godmother might be able to reveal hidden beauty with the wave of a wand. Lacking that implement, I use another ancient tool of transformation: With my needle, I try to mend the world by stitching layers of fabric and praying that some girl will see magic trickling along a crease, puddled in a corner.

So yesterday while I was rinsing it hit me: I need a new wardrobe. Does this make me sound shallow? No, don’t answer that.

Last weekend I had a student coming for a studio weekend. On Friday afternoon, I went to put on my going-to-town jeans, which, besides my going-to-teach jeans are were the only ones I had without patches or stains. I’m hard on clothes, and hate to put much time or money into something that will soon be stained with dye or paint. But my wardrobe is used up. It’s time to be my own fairy godmother and transform myself into someone who doesn’t have to scramble at the last minute to find something decent to wear. I have a needle and I know how to use it. Heaven knows I have plenty of fabric on hand. This is feeling like the kind of “godfather” offer you can’t refuse.

So it’s time to put making a new wardrobe at the top of the list for a while. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

My Monday Morning Rinse & Revelation came about because I refreshed the indigo vat over the weekend. Judy has taken classes with me for more than 10 years. She was the only student for the weekend (having graciously changed dates to accommodate a private group), so we could do whatever we wanted. As I listed options, her eyes lit up on indigo and we had a plan.

On Friday night we painted fabric and made fiber phyllo to use on Saturday. On Saturday, she worked through the Constructed Vessels class.

On Sunday, we played with the indigo vat.

We also pulled out the Colorhue dyes and put color on silk in a very different way from what we did on Friday.

While the Colorhue dyes were out, I did some sampling on silk velvet.

On the left you see velvets with Colorhue dip-dyeing. Since the colors were already pretty dark (shown unaltered on the right), the results aren’t dramatic. But I like the possibilities.

Yesterday seemed like a good day for task that weren’t tasking. So I finally got a huge skein of cotton yarn I inherited rewound and ready for dyeing.

The last of a bunch of quilt blocks I inherited last summer got altered with indigo as well. Not that all of that stuff has been transformed, it’s time to work on transforming my wardrobe. Much of it, I suspect, will be blue.

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Winter Studio Classes

Thanks for your patience, those of you who have been waiting for me to set the schedule for winter studio classes. I just posted them on the Workshops Page, which you can find on the right end of the tabs under the Two Red Threads header.

I love going other places to teach, but teaching in my own studio is a special treat. Within arm’s reach I have my entire fiber stash, samples galore, and extra tools and materials I may not want to schlep in and out of another venue. Best of all, these are really small classes. With a maximum of four students per session and all those materials at hand, it’s easy to say, “Good idea: Let’s sample that now.”

My studio is located near the village of White Lake in northeastern Wisconsin. Driving time is just over an hour from Green Bay, and about the same from Wausau. It’s a beautiful area in any season.

Here a list of classes I’ve scheduled for the new year. For complete descriptions go here.

There are two full-day classes scheduled for Martin Luther King Day weekend.
Medium At Large — Saturday, January 15, 2011 — 9 am to 5 pm
ABCs of Fabric Printing — Sunday, January 16, 2011 — 9 am to 5 pm

Transfer Dye-o-rama — Saturday, January 29, 2011 — 9 am to 5 pm*
Sticky Fingers Design — Sunday, January 30, 2011 — 9 am to 1 pm

New Age Looping — Saturday-Sunday, February 12-13, 2011 — 9am to 5 pm Saturday, 9 am to 1 pm Sunday

There are two full-day classes scheduled for Presidents’ Day weekend.
Constructed Vessels — Saturday, February 19, 2011 — 9 am to 5 pm
Fiber Mojo — Sunday, February 20, 2011 —  9 am to 5 pm

Intro To Inkodye — Saturday, April 9, 2011 — 9 am to 5 pm
Solar Printing With Fabric Paint — Sunday, April 10, 2011 — 9 am to 1 pm

I’m also booking dates for private groups in my studio, and dates for groups that have me travel to their location instead of the other way around. To discuss possibilities or to book your slot in the scheduled studio classes, email me at donnastitches [at] gmail [dot] com.

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Re: Schedule, Re: Vision

Last week when I wrote this, I was feeling pretty light on my feet. When I hit the ground, it wasn’t pretty.

The cough and laryngitis I tracked home from a teaching gig the first of August came back with a vengeance. This time it went straight to pleurisy and bronchitis. In the battle between the codeine cough syrup coma vs. the anti-inflammatory steroidal insomnia, I call it a draw. The conflict in my head was even more heated than the one in my chest, but turned out to be easier to resolve.

I called the Textile Center yesterday. They were sweet, supportive and flexible, and they are rescheduling my classes for March 18 and March 19-20. My sincere apologies to those who registered for the classes for the change in plans. I do hope to see you in March!

One other time, I had to cancel a teaching gig on short notice. That was when my mother-in-law passed away. I know it inconvenienced people. But I knew they understood.

Back to that conflict in my head. In the battle between the Work Ethic of the Self Employed (WESE — pronounced wheeze) vs. Flexible Thinker (FT — pronounced phhhtt), I’ll let you guess who usually wins. It’s hard to hear FT over WESE, and I’d much rather be flexible on someone else’s behalf than make them scramble on mine. But sometimes the revision of a plan leads to Re-Vision of a different kind. Today, I’m trying to see myself as both “hard-working and dependable” and “realistic and flexible.” 

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Next Stop — The Textile Center

Marge Dancing by Donna Kallner

Still floating on the fun of my week taking a spinning class at Sievers, I’m feeling pretty light on my feet as I prepare for upcoming classes at The Textile Center. This Minneapolis venue is one of my favorite places to teach. It’s always exciting to see the work students do there.

This time I’m teaching Breaking Boundaries, a two-day class built around guided exercises and creativity catalysts. We’ll be playing with the picture plane and frames that are part of the story, ways to add actual and perceived dimension to image elements, and ideas for using layers, sheers and shadows. I’m adding a new element to the class with layered image transfers. It’s part of a unit I was planning to propose for Bead & Button 2011. Since Bead & Button’s dates overlap the Surface Design Association biennial conference next year, and SDA is in Minneapolis, and my elaborate plan to be in two places at one time involved tearing a hole in the space-time continuum… well, I didn’t propose to B&B. Layered transfers fit perfectly with the goals and objectives of this Breaking Boundaries class, so these students will get a little bonus.

I’m also teaching Photo Cabochons, a fun one-day class where students learn to create focal elements for jewelry from family photos, clip art, digital photographs and other image elements. This one, made on a slice of hardwood dowel, is from a photo of my dad as a boy.

This one, made on a resin bead, is from the photo my mom had made for my dad to carry when he left for the Army.

The Photo Cabochons class is Friday, September 17. Breaking Boundaries is September 18-19. Yep — that’s just over a week from now, so if you’re planning to register please phone the Textile Center asap.

Speaking of registrations, I realize I’m planning to go the The Gathering at Sievers, but I haven’t actually registered for it. Oops — gotta go make a phone call.

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Swatch This Again

It’s the first day after Labor Day, a time when kids are expected to stand up and read essays about what they did on their summer vacation. I’ll stay seated, if you don’t mind, but here’s how I spent the 12 days since my last post:

  • I broke my toe (doing something stupid, so don’t ask).
  • I took a 5-day spinning class at Sievers (it was wonderful — I’ll tell you more next time).
  • I made pretzels for the first time, for a Labor Day potluck (and they were a definite hit).
  • Bill and I “hosted” a two-stage rocket launch in the back 40. It was so much fun, we invited everybody back next summer for a catapult toss (note to self — get catapult-building on the calendar).
  • And we picked tomatoes in the dark, because there was a chance of frost.

While we were busy celebrating the long holiday weekend and the change of seasons, Spoonflower was busy printing and shipping my digital fabric order. I ordered swatches in a hurry on the last day of my parents’ 10-day visit and was too busy to think about them again until they arrived in today’s mail.

Without really having a plan, I still came up with some stuff that will coordinate well enough to use together.

I ordered in some black-and-white fabrics to color as needed with fabric paint.

This is the first time I’ve had Spoonflower print on their organic cotton knit fabric, which is lovely. The design on this swatch was done entirely using the Picnik imaging utility. Sorry — I was working so fast I didn’t take notes on which “stickers” and effects I used.

The rest of the designs came from work I did in the 6-week Gimp for Textile Designers class I took in July and August.

It’s been a great summer for learning as well as teaching, and my mind is a-swirl with possibilities. While I prep for upcoming classes at the Textile Center later this month and for The Gathering at Sievers in October, I have lots of ideas to incubate.

In fact, it’s time to get serious about hatching some ideas. I’ll share some of the process I use on my other blog, Compost and Creativity, which has been sorely neglected over the summer. Maybe a little neglect isn’t such a terrible thing, when it feels so good to pick up where you left off.

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