Friday, October 31, 2014

Dorothy Caldwell Silent Ice/Deep Patience @ AGP 6

Dorothy Caldwell Wandering Time, 2011; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Wandering Time and Wet Lake/Dry Lake hang together nicely, like sisters who get along well. A common silkscreen resist grid pattern as well as a dark on the left half/light on the right half composition unites them.
Dorothy Caldwell Wandering Time, 2011; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
As always, Dorothy's sensitive stitching blows me away. She balances fine and chunky stitching with aplomb.
Dorothy Caldwell Wandering Time, 2011; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Here's a proper look at the silkscreen resist printed grid. Dorothy drew each line of the grid by hand. No rulers or computers were involved.
Dorothy Caldwell Wet Lake/Dry Lake, 2011; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
No sizes were listed for Wandering Time or Wet Lake/Dry Lake. I would guess their dimensions to be 48 inches wide by 28 inches high.
Dorothy Caldwell Wet Lake/Dry Lake, 2011; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Dorothy Caldwell Wet Lake/Dry Lake, 2011; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
This harmonious arrangement of plain and patterned appliqué sang to me.

All photos were taken with permission from Dorothy Caldwell and the fine staff of the Art Gallery of Peterborough. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Natural dyeing with hickory nuts

Hickory nuts and leaves; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2013
On a recent visit to my parents' farm, my hubby and I gathered 18 pounds of hickory nuts. They are small, so it took us a while to fill two grocery bags.
Hickory nut husk; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2013
Hickory nuts are not mentioned in any of my natural dye books, but I did find a few mentions on the internet. There's probably a good reason for that, but I decided to see if the nuts would yield any colour. I soaked one batch of nuts and their husks in distilled water from the dehumidifier for a few days and am now simmering the vat on low over several days. I've thrown a small square of fabric in to see if there's any colour. My first observation is that the vat is slightly oily from the nuts. I'm confident that they will at least offer up some tannin to the vat. So far the fabric swatch is a mottled tan, nothing to get excited about.

Ninety percent of the husks are brown. Green husks probably yield more colour. Yesterday I separated husks from the nuts and will see if the husks yield any colour in a second vat. Nothing ventured nothing gained.

While visiting my parents, I also collected four pounds of Shademaster Honey locust seed pods and I'll see if they offer any colour once I have an empty dye pot (I also have a vat of black walnut dye on-the-go). I've read that the seeds are tannin-rich and that the pods were a source of food for First Nations peoples.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Quotes: Alan Watts

"Questions that remain persistently insoluble should always be suspected as questions asked in the wrong way." –– Alan Watts (1915-1973), British-born philosopher and writer. From The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Modern Art?

Night Sky; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
My parents' grocery store parking lot faces this building, ugly during the day, but oddly breathtaking at night. The camera was unable to capture the sky's luminous midnight blue.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Halifax Art

Street art in the North end of Halifax; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
These murals are right around the corner from my favourite little street in Halifax.
Street art in the North end of Halifax; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Each one has its own style
Street art in the North end of Halifax; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
This mural or paste-up is by Aitch and Saddo and is my favourite of the three.
Street art in the North end of Halifax; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
I like that the building owner has invited his/her doors to be adorned with street art.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Quotes: Seth Godin

New ideas should be jarring
"If your new idea is a good one, entrepreneur Seth Godin says the response it should receive is "I don't like it" or "I don't understand it." Otherwise, it's probably popular and obvious – boring and banal – or promising such little benefit it's not worth pursuing."–– Seth Godin via The Globe and Mail, Monday September 1, 2014, R.O.B., p. B5

Friday, October 17, 2014

Halifax Planter Box

Planter box in Halifax; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
I spotted this planter with its colourful painted branches on Gottingen Street in Halifax's North end this summer. The purple branches and flowers are a nice complementary contrast to the yellow building. Does anyone know what the flowers are (aside from pretty and purple)? 
Update: Diana tells me that the pretty purple flowers are Verbena bonariensis. Thanks Diana!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Woven chair seat repair

Woven chair seat repair; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Hubby and I are both Mennonite, frugalish, and creative. We are also both patient, but in different ways. I can spend months (and sometimes years) stitching a textile; hubby untangles knots and fixes things. When a seat rung on our teak chair broke, hubby glued it. The mend did not take, so I came up with plan B: weave the rung into submission. I am a textile artist, my husband is not. Guess who spent several hours weaving the repair... twice? Not me. My hubby is a keeper.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Quotes: G.K. Chesterton

"I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite." –– G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), English writer 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Dorothy Caldwell Silent Ice Deep Patience @ AGP 5

Dorothy Caldwell Listening for the Bell Bird/Watching for the Brown Snake, 2011;
Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Listening for the Bell Bird/Watching for the Brown Snake is a classic Dorothy Caldwell textile with its black and white wax and silkscreen resist, appliqué, and sensitive stitching.
Dorothy Caldwell Listening for the Bell Bird/Watching for the Brown Snake detail, 2011;
Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
The stitching in this textile is fine.
Dorothy Caldwell Listening for the Bell Bird/Watching for the Brown Snake detail, 2011;
Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Dorothy's use of various black-and-white patterns reminds me of Japanese Boro.
Dorothy Caldwell Listening for the Bell Bird/Watching for the Brown Snake detail, 2011;
Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
From a distance, most of the textiles in this exhibition appear to be quilts, but they are not. 

Dorothy Caldwell Listening for the Bell Bird/Watching for the Brown Snake, 2011; wax & silkscreen resist on cotton with stitching and appliqué; mounted on industrial felt. Estimated size: 36" square (no size listed). 

All photos were taken with permission from Dorothy Caldwell and the fine staff of the Art Gallery of Peterborough.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Dorothy Caldwell Silent Ice Deep Patience @ AGP 4

Dorothy Caldwell Flying Over Salt Lakes, 2013; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Flying Over Salt Lakes is the fifth and last of the family-of-five earth ochre textiles. The white ochre on black cloth resembles discharged fabric.
Dorothy Caldwell Flying Over Salt Lakes detail, 2013; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Dorothy combines fine and chunky stitching and couched lines to great effect. The stitching is exuberant, deeply sensitive, and intuitive. 
Dorothy Caldwell Flying Over Salt Lakes detail, 2013; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
The earth ochre textiles are a departure, as they are void of her usual screen-printed marks. They are all about line and texture. Dorothy's calm, quiet presence are embedded in these sensitive textiles. 

All photos were taken with permission from Dorothy Caldwell and the fine staff of the Art Gallery of Peterborough.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Quotes: Györky Konrád

"Courage is only the accumulation of small steps."–– Györky Konrád (b. 1933), Hungarian essayist

Friday, October 3, 2014

Dorothy Caldwell Silent Ice Deep Patience @ AGP 3

Dorothy Caldwell, Pink Hill, 2013; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Pink Hill is one of a family of five intimate textiles installed together from Dorothy Caldwell's Silent Ice Deep Patience exhibition at the Art Gallery of Peterborough. Pink Hill, like her fellow earth ochre encrusted sisters, is about 18" X 24" and is mounted on industrial felt. Pink Hill has a subdued colour palette of black, pale yellow and pale pink. The loopy texture reminds me of a chenille bedspread and makes me wonder if the cloth was stitched unstretched versus in a hoop. Dorothy must have strong hands and wrists to pull multiple strands (possibly all six) of embroidery floss through the cotton. 
Dorothy Caldwell, Pink Hill detail, 2013; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
It appears that Pink Hill was stitched after the black cotton was coated with earth ochre. I wonder if Dorothy mordanted the cotton with soy milk (a protein) before coating it with the ochre and if some of the ochre flake off in time. The more that I look at these deeply engaging textiles from the perspective of a maker, the more curious I am about Dorothy's process and materials. The textiles are embedded with well over 40 years of her knowledge and insights as a maker.
Dorothy Caldwell, Human Trace, 2013; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Human Trace also belongs to the above-mentioned family-of-five. It's amazing that five stitched ochre-encrusted cotton textiles can all look so different. From looking at the images, I sense that each of the textiles were black prior to the stitching and painting. Did Dorothy stitch the cloth before or after adding the ochre? I imagine that ochre-encrusted cloth would be difficult to stitch, especially with such thick threads.
Dorothy Caldwell, Human Trace detail, 2013; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
There's much to be learned from looking slowly and carefully at the work of a master. My admiration for the work is ineffable.

All photos were taken with permission from Dorothy Caldwell and the fine staff of the Art Gallery of Peterborough.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Dorothy Caldwell Silent Ice Deep Patience @ AGP 2

Lake by Dorothy Caldwell, 2013; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Several months have passed since I saw the Dorothy Caldwell exhibition at The Art Gallery of Peterborough. I think about the textiles often and only now are the words beginning to come to me to share my deep experience of them. Caldwell's work demands time to consider and reflect. To paraphrase India Flint, Dorothy's textiles in the Silent Ice Deep Patience exhibition have permeated my soul. Whenever my soul is engaged, the words take a hike.
Lake detail by Dorothy Caldwell, 2013; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Although the large-scale work was impressive, the smaller-scale textiles drew me in the most. Lake, about 18" X 24" and coated with earth ochre from a sacred ochre pit in Australia, is one of those intimate pieces that claimed my attention. The smaller works were like a universe that I could fully enter and absorb one layer of detail after another. The large works made me wish that I had a pair of binoculars and a Skyjack lift so that I could better see the upper details of the textiles. I was frustrated in a good way. 
Lake detail by Dorothy Caldwell, 2013; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Spend some time with Lake. Go away, preferably for a walk, then come back to it. Do you see more than you did the first time? I guarantee that that more you look, the more you will see. It's astonishing in its subtle detail.
Lake detail by Dorothy Caldwell, 2013; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Lake, 2013 Stitching on cotton with earth ochre

All photos were taken with permission from Dorothy Caldwell and the fine staff of the Art Gallery of Peterborough.