14 January 2020

Ruth Asawa in Women Take the Floor

Untitled, detail.

Untitled (S 407 Hanging Five-Lobed Continuous Form within Form with Two Spheres)

The Boston Museum of Fine Arts has a sizable new installation of work by female artists titled Women Take the Floor.  Gallery 328, in the American wing of the museum, displays part of this overall installation, with the theme Beyond the Loom: Fiber as Sculpture/Subversive Threads.  A stand-out piece in this gallery is the woven wire sculpture by Japanese-American artist Ruth Asawa, created about 1952, in the image above.

The image of the gallery below gives an idea of the scale of the sculpture.

Gallery 328, with work by Sheila Hicks, Olga de Amaral and others.

From the wall text:

Born in California to Japanese parents, Ruth Asawa overcame great adversity to achieve renown as an artist.  During WWII, she and her family were forcibly relocated to Arkansas, as part of the U. S. government's internment of American of Japanese ancestry.  Later, she was denied opportunities that would qualify her as an art teacher.  In 1946, however, she began studying at Black Mountain College with Josef Albers.  During her tenure at the college, she also studied with dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham, mathematician Max Dehn, and visionary architect Buckminster Fuller.

A trip to Mexico in 1947 led Asawa to experiment with the technique of wire-looping, inspired by traditional Mexican basket weaving.  The resulting forms, hovering suspended from the ceiling as here, became her signature style.  The method of continuous looping was key to her art, and Asawa noted:
 "I was interest in the economy of a line, making something in space, enclosing it without blocking it out.  It's still transparent.  I realized that if I was going to make these forms, which interlock and interweave, it can only be done with a line because a line can go anywhere."

Untitled, detail.

25 December 2019

Happy Holidays!

Happy Elf.

Happy Elf says, whatever holidays you celebrate, may 2020 be a happy and healthy New Year for all.

Pattern is Jolly Wee Elf, yarn for body, hat and scarf is Rowan Tweed; leftover yarn for face.

22 December 2019

Dyeing with wool and synthetic dyes

Instructor Vicki's experiment with color gradation. 

In October a talented friend who spins her own yarn drove us to a workshop at Pro Chemical and Dye (more familiarly known as ProChem), a dyer's supply resource in Fall River, Massachusetts. We learned about dyeing wool using ProChem's line of WashFast Acid Dyes.  We worked with pre-made stock solutions so did not need the masks and other safety equipment necessary for working with dye powders.  Quality control officer and experienced dyer Vicki Jensen led the class.

Pre-mixed dye solutions - red, blue and yellow.

Day 1 of the two-day workshop introduced immersion dyeing.  ProChem's color palette of dyes is based on 21 "base colors", which the company buys from manufacturers. Every other color in ProChem's range is mixed from these 21 colors.  So, on the first day, the seven of us each dyed wool in three of the colors, to make our own color charts featuring the 21 base colors.

Graduated cylinders and syringes ensure accuracy.

The first step is to soak the undyed bundles of yarn in a Synthrapol solution, which prepares the fibers to soak up the dye. Synthrapol is a detergent and wetting agent.

Additional components for dyeing - Synthrapol, salt and citric acid.

5 grams of undyed worsted wool.

So, I was assigned colors 10, 11 and 12 of the color chart. Using the formulas provided, I mixed the amounts of water, salt and citric acid, as well as the three primary colors, to make my dye pot. The formulas are based on OWG, or "on weight of goods" - the weight of the dry, undyed fiber.  The most important piece of equipment for the home dyer might be the digital scale.  Needless to say, all work was done while wearing rubber gloves.

Bottles of the three colors we used to make our color chart.

I mixed colors 10, 11, and 12.

The small bundles of yarn are added to the dye and stirred.

Shortly after immersion the bundles all the dye was deposited on the fiber - the water became clear. Magic! The bundles were then  heated in simmering water in giant stainless steel pots, which Vicki stirred every few minutes.  After the final step, a rinse in tepid plain water,  the little bundles were hung up to dry overnight.

Twenty-one  dyed skeins for our color charts.

Everyone had done an excellent job with their measuring and dyeing, and the next day we cut up the skeins into sample lengths and assembled our color charts.

Each student received a chart of 21 base colors.

One group of students volunteered to dye the gradations for this swatch chart.

A feast of color.

On Day 2 we switched from immersion dyeing to "rainbow dyeing", essentially painting the dye onto prepared skeins, using disposable foam brushes. I would have preferred to have consolidated my understanding of immersion dyeing.  However, at least I now understand something of the process used by hand-dyers to achieve multi-colored yarns and the challenges facing the hand-dyer trying to achieve consistent colors for a commercial product range.

This type of yarn is popular, for sure - look at the success of Noro, for example - but my knitting emphasizes stitch definition and texture, rather than a multi-color palette. (Although I do like tonal yarns....)  Still, it's good to leave one's comfort zone every now and then.

Some of the pre-mixed dye solutions ready for our use.

Wonderful color combinations by my friend Robin, on her own hand-spun yarn.

We use dyes which had been pre-mixed and first soaked our yarns in a solution of water, citric acid and Synthrapol.  Soaked skeins were wring out and placed on cling film, then the dye was painted on with the foam brushes. It was a slow process for  me, and I ran out of time before coloring even half my yarn.

After painting, the skeins were wrapped in more cling film and these bundles were placed in steamer baskets in giant pots. After steaming the yarn bundles are unwrapped and rinsed in tepid water.

Steamed bundles of dye-painted skeins, cooling off.

My four painted skeins.

Broken garter scarf knit with two colors of hand-dyed yarn.

Here are two of the skeins, balled and knit into an almost-completed scarf.

26 November 2019

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tammis Keefe, linen towel, 1950's.

The lettering on the sign beneath the bird's foot is a bit blurry, but states Roast Turkey Today.  The turkey looks suitably irate.

Safe travels to everyone on the road, in a plane, on a train or on foot!

12 November 2019

Autumn colors on the Charles River

Some kind of maple tree with brilliant color.

On October 14, DH and I took the last 6-mile canoe trip of the season organized by PaddleBoston.  Our shuttle driver, and his friendly dog, took us to a launch in Dedham, with kayaks and one canoe (us) in a trailer. We were in no hurry, and just enjoyed a lazy paddle and the autumn panorama of New England in peak leaf season. Who needs Vermont?

Male mallard ducks, called drakes, have beautiful iridescent head feathers.


As usual on the river, we saw a number of birds, including egrets, great blue herons, cormorants and of course mallard ducks and Canadian geese.

Still water = perfect reflections.

Gallant husband attempts to pull canoe.

The water level of the river was extremely low; the DCR  diverted water from the Charles earlier in the year to work on the dam at the Museum of Science, and rainfall was lower than usual. In places even the shallow draft of our canoe was insufficient to maintain clearance above the river bed, and we had to get out and walk.

In the center - my favorite tree - I look for it every autumn.

I was inspired to try and capture these lovely colors and knitted a Broken Garter scarf for myself, using PurlSoho's adaptation of a Sequence Knitting broken garter stitch pattern. 


I used two lace weight yarns -

Dirty Water DyeWorks "Lillian" line in Topaz, a tonal gold (I love this yarn)
Manos del Uruguay "Alegria" line in Butia, hand-painted with rose, brown, gold and a bit of green
Needles US size 3, for my sins

I cast on 43 stitches

Finished size: approximately 8" by 60", a length which works for me.  At a workshop I took with her, Ms. Campochiaro, the author of Sequence Knitting, mentioned that  garter stitch items have a lot of lengthwise stretch, so I make the scarves a bit wider and shorter than other scarf patterns.

Broken Garter scarf.

Last look.

31 October 2019

Rising Star Quilt Guild Show

Coneflower Boogie Woogie, detail.

On October 4, 2019, family and I went the Rising Star Quilt Guild show, held in a church in Lexington, Massachusetts. Here's a selection from the 118 quilts on display. The lighting is a challenge in this venue, so there were some quilts I loved which were just too hard to photograph.

Coneflower Boogie Woogie, Judy Botsford.
Every style of quilting was on display, including modern quilting, generally characterized by a lack of borders, lots of negative space, tonal or solid fabrics, and intricate machine quilting.  Often modern quilts are based on traditional designs, such as Flying Geese or Pinwheels. Another genre of modern quilt is the map quilt, an fiber interpretation of geography.

Prisms, Corinne Steigenwald.

Gregarious Greylags, Kathleen McCormick.

Gregarious Greylags, detail showing quilting.

The Main Event, Laura diNapoli.

Coins, Louise Rains.

Coins, detail.

Etoile pour Oliver, Carol Miller.

Autumn Tumbling Blocks, Barbara Salamy.

Blossom, Christina Crouch.
Baby Quilt #2, Kate O'Leary.

Baby Quilt #2, detail.

Boston, Peggy Boning.

Boston, detail [note Logan airport.]

Vendors at the show.

Some of the quilt designs are very personal.  The image below is of the artist's mother.  Atara Halpern's quilt Synapse, following, is a visual exploration of the work of neuroscientist Santiago Roman y Cajal.

Trudie, Denise Konicek.

Synapse, Atara Halpern.

Synapse, detail.

The thread-painted quilt below captures a calm moment with two beloved pets.

Fredlet and Tommy, Betsy Habich.

The floral fabric used in the floral portrait below was made by the artist decades ago - in a class where she first met her husband.

How We Met, Cathy Papazian.

How We Met, detail.

Waterfowl Pond at San Francisco Botanical Garden, Amy Breiting.

Waterfowl Pond at San Francisco Botanical Garden, detail.

The quilt above doesn't try for photographic realism but rather an impression of shapes and color; the irregular border adds to the feeling of observant improvisation.

Some quilts celebrated a rainbow of colors; other works have an Asian theme.

Ombre, Christina Crouch.

Scrap Bag Fiesta, Bonnie Newman.

Speak Softly to Me, Evelyn Rossin.

Asian Harmony, Missy Shay.

Several quilts combined piecing and applique.

Field of Poppies, Tamara Jessiman.

Dresden, Dorien Keusseyan.

Dresden, detail.

Prosperity, Nancy Wasserman.

Prosperity, detail.

According to Nancy Wasserman, in Victorian times occupants of a new home would place a tomato on the mantle, for good luck. If no actual tomato was available, in those pre-Wegman's days, a tomato pincushion would substitute.

Enjoying the quilts.

Two of the quilts were both made in a Block of the Month (BOM) series offered by the Cambridge Quilt Shop. Precut packets are sent out to participants; the completed blocks are set and bordered as desired. The pattern is Vintage Farm Girl, and it's neat to see the two interpretations, and the sheep block is adorable.

Farm Girl in Shades of Blue and Gray, Susan Dresley.

Cambridge Quilt Shop Block of the Month [Vintage Farm Girl], Lolita Elverrillo.

Cambridge Quilt Shop BOM [Vintage Farm Girl], detail.

Of course, there are all sorts of intriguing color combinations.  Some classic, like blue, white and yellow, and some more unexpected but powerful, like the teal and fuschia quilt below, which includes blocks with fussy-cut centers.

Green and Pink Stacked Posies, Phyllis Maddox.

Green and Pink Stacked Posies, detail.

Moody Blues Hunter's Star, Laura diNapoli.

Reach for the Stars, Evelyn Rossin.

Some quilters have decided that the more, the merrier, when it comes to color - delightful - while others employ a monochromatic tonal palette, calm and elegant.

Postage Stamp Quilt, Peter Stringham.

Have Fun!, Nancy Soyring. (partial view)

Leaves, Clare Gordon.

Leaves, detail.

Another view of the show.

The quilt below, a tour de force of the kaleidoscope-style of quilt-making, won the People's Choice Award.

Kaleidoscopes, Margaret Hallisey.
Kaleidoscopes also appear in one of my personal favorites, below. All in all, a tremendous show.

Kaleidoscope Kats [sic], Becky Toland.