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Archive for March, 2008

I just finished an online course with Alma Stoller through Joggles.com. It was great fun and allowed me to be spontaneous in a way the slow and precise nature of my usual artwork doesn’t allow. Here’s the portrait I created:

She dreamed of touching the sky

Thanks Alma for a liberating experience!

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Last week, my husband and I visited an open-air sculpture museum and a city whose streets and squares serve as exhibition spaces for contemporary sculpture. Both were in the rolling countryside of Emilia-Romagna, near Bologna. Last summer, by chance, we had discovered the marvelous Giardino di Daniel Spoerri in Seggiano, Tuscany and, just recently, I found a new book called Arte Open Air: Guida ai Parchi d’Arte Contemporanea in Italia which speaks (in Italian) of several similar places around Italy. The way these places situate sculpture in nature is truly magical and has a remarkable and profound effect on me. The interrelationship between art and nature causes me to appreciate both in new ways. I’ve never been especially fond of sculpture, but as I related to these objects dynamically, they came to life, changing their appearance and altering their environment as I moved about them, viewing them from different directions, different distances, with different backdrops. They also brought me to life as I became aware of a wonderful awake quality in my looking. Especially in the city of sculpture, Fanano, not knowing where the next piece might appear, I walked watchfully, eager to discover whatever was there.

I’m trying to remember that awake quality and bring it to bear in my daily life. An eagerness to discover whatever is there.

I haven’t been very consistent in taking my “beauty in Milan” photos since the idea occurred to me on that first happy hint-of-spring day, but I did take one the next day and a few today. And the feeling of wakefulness is similar to that in the sculpture parks. It takes some effort to get started, and some very deliberate looking, but the result is very satisfying. Here are a few pics of some beauty I found in my neighborhood:

Milan beauty

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To-Do and Not-to-Do Lists

Lisa Call is a textile artist whose blog is filled with the inspiring work she does on herself, as well as on her fabrics. Her recent post, titled Not To Do List, inspired me to clarify my own priorities in life in a new way.

Of course, both my physical desktop and my computer desktop are frequently strewn with to-do lists of varying time frames — things I need to do today or this week, people to call, projects and goals for moving my career forward, action plans for increasing my effectiveness and satisfaction, for managing the household and tackling the daily chores… But a general life-priority to-do list, paired with a similar not-to-do list seems to offer a good framework for staying on course, in general, and true to my most enduring intentions. I consider these lists to be works in process, to be refined over time, but here’s a start:

Not-to-do List

Don’t

  • Get caught in negative thinking spirals.
  • Cast blame (verbally or in thought).
  • Pull out my eyebrows and eyelashes or pick and bite my fingers and nails.
  • Berate myself for pulling out my eyebrows and eyelashes or picking and biting my fingers and nails.
  • Struggle against the situation I find myself in.
  • Avoid doing things I fear, if everything else in me says to do it.
  • Compare, when it serves as justification for complaining.
  • Be reactive.

To-do List

Do

  • Interrupt negative thinking.
  • Favor presence over thinking.
  • Be a receptive listener — create a space in which others communicate openly.
  • Love, nurture, and cultivate my environment.
  • Meditate every day.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Reach out to people.
  • Write.
  • Create beauty.
  • Relax.
  • Open to my current experience.
  • Be spontaneous.
  • Go for walks.
  • Be responsive.

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Oh, this blogging business is complicated. Once you decide to start and think that you’re just going to have to be disciplined and creative about generating posts, you discover that there are endless things to learn about search engine placement and that all the research you did when you designed your website YEARS ago is now virtually obsolete… There’s no end to the learning process! And as you try to tackle it all, you realize it’s been over a week since you posted and that you never followed up on that dye experiment…

So here goes:

I got some responses from Dharma Trading and Jacquard products and it seems the warp or weft threads of my fabric may be shrinking, causing the surface puckering. They suggest that I try stretching the fabric and painting it with the dye, then steam fixing it. The problem (besides the fact that it’s a more complicated process and I’ll have to rig up a steamer) is that the same puckering may occur during steaming. We’ll see.

Actually, on closer examination, it seems to me that the warp threads are actually breaking down or unraveling somehow. They’re springy in my dyed pieces, whereas they were crisp and snappy in the undyed fabric. The dyed cloth is almost stretchy in the warp direction. I’m still working on this and trying to understand, so any input would be appreciated!

Okay, back to reading about keywords and metatags and thinking about redesigning my website now.

Bye all.

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Spring is in the air, the leaves are emerging, I’ve had a couple of nice encounters with friends, and I’m feeling good. In fact, better than I’ve felt in a long time. In a sense, I feel like that joyful, positive, expansive person I’ve been most of my life but haven’t seen for a while has come back — at least for a visit. And that’s a VERY good thing.

Today, I took some photos of the new leaves appearing on the trees in my neighborhood. Milan is not a beautiful city. But looking around for pretty little leaves made me feel good. I decided that I’ll take one beautiful photo every day (or one photo of something beautiful) while I’m in this city. Doing this will mean I’ll have to see the beauty. Seems a good idea. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Beautiful Milano First leaves of spring Gingkos bloom first?

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It just won’t work! The acid-dyed satin is as ripply as the Procion/soda ash stuff! It seems that the soaking itself breaks something down in the weave. The cloth even seems almost stretchy. And no matter how much and how hot I iron it, I can’t make it smooth and shiny again!

I guess it’s time to write to the companies. Is there something funny about this satin I bought? Is the synthrapol damaging the silk fiber as the soda ash seemed to? Or is it just any prolonged soaking that does this? If any of you have any experience dyeing silk satin and know why this is happening and how to avoid it, PLEASE TELL ME!

There is one more technique I could try: using Procion dyes but with vinegar instead of soda… in cold water. We’ll see. I think I’ll write to Dharma Trading and Silk Connection first. And wait for any wise words from any of you out there…

First response: Dharma thinks it’s something about how this fabric is woven… I think so too. Unfortunately, I still have a lot of it. Have to find a way to make it useful. Could try painting with the dye on stretched silk, then steaming. Seems like an awful lot of work… and still don’t know if it would work.

Here’s a pic:

Acid dyed silk satin, still puckered!

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Acid Dye suppliesToday, I used acid dyes to color a couple of pieces of silk satin for my thangkas. I don’t have a top-loading washing machine, so I had to go with the stove top method. And since I only have one pot big enough to allow the silk to swim freely, I did one color at a time. That’s okay; I managed to prepare and eat lunch at the same time, keeping all the chemicals separate from my food and my hands.

Heavy silk satin is the material I use most in my thangka work. I still have a lot of material that I bought in Varanasi years ago, when I still lived in India. But I’ve run out of my favorite colors, and especially of the sky and ground colors. I’ve tried ordering materials from India remotely, but have found I often don’t get quite what I ask for.

Here are some old photos from my silk-buying trips in Varanasi. The first is the street leading to my supplier’s showroom and the second is me and my friend Anie poring over the choices:

Varanasi streetBuying silk

Since this heavy satin is mostly used for bridal gowns in the West, the color choices are limited — white, off-white, ivory, cream, champagne, bone… Okay, you can find a few other colors — mostly the colors of bridesmaids‘ dresses — but still not enough for my purposes. And the material is extremely expensive! Plus, I like the idea of creating my own colors. SO I’ve been trying to dye some ready-for-dyeing silk satin I bought a few years ago from the Silk Connection.

I had previously tried using fiber reactive Procion dyes in cold water with soda ash. I have a German friend here in Italy who has produced wonderful results with these dyes on cotton. And I got some pretty colors on my silk samples too — though completely different from her cotton colors — but the surface of my satin changed. See the before and after photos below and click to get an enlarged view from my Flickr page:

White ready-to-dye satin Procion/soda ash dyed satin

I lost the smooth, tight finish and the consistent luster. Unsure whether it’s the soda ash or simply the result of soaking this fabric in water, I decided to try acid dyes which are more specifically suited to animal fibers such as silk and wool. (Procion dyes, though they can be used on silk, are better for plant fibers… or so I’ve read.)

SO today I used Jacquard Acid Dyes and white vinegar, along with a water softener (Milan water is VERY hard) and Synthrapol for pre- and post- rinsing. My work is drying now… The colors are gorgeous. I’m waiting with fingers crossed to see how the surface texture and sheen come out. Will let you know!

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