Monday, 29 February 2016

Quotes: Simone Weil

"Stars and blossoming fruit: Utter permanence and extreme fragility give an equal sense of eternity." –– Simone Weil (1909-1943), French philosopher, political activist, and author. 

Source: Quote is from her book Gravity and Grace and was sent to me by a fellow artist friend. Thanks, Lisa!

Friday, 26 February 2016

Studio Series: Mennonite series tags

Mennonite series tags; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
Off and on, I've been playing with words and symbols of my Dutch German (Russian) Mennonite material culture for more than twenty years. Until I discovered the tag format I hadn't been able to pull it together. Above is a random assortment of the strongest tags pinned to my studio wall. I'll present them differently in a gallery setting with proper spacing, probably in a long line and I'll install them with specimen pins.
Mennonite series tags detail; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
I have over fifty completed Mennonite material culture tags, but only thirty work well together. The collection now has a voice and an aesthetic has emerged.
Mennonite series detail; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
As of this week I have thirty textile tags set up for stitching. The collection is growing. It's about time.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Art Deco Designs paper

Art Deco Designs papers; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
This year I am working through my stash of paper and I'm putting it to use with the Annie Dillard quote fresh in my mind: 

"One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is a signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly is lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes." (from The Writing Life)
Art Deco Designs papers; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
In my paper stash is this Art Deco Designs book of gift wrap. I've had it for more than twenty years. It's time to use it.
Art Deco Designs papers; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
This is one of my favourite spreads.
Art Deco Designs papers; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
Soon these papers will be put to good use. One of my goals is to follow Annie Dillard's advice to: "spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time."

Monday, 22 February 2016

Quotes: Roger Scruton

"The ability to take what is most painful in the human condition and then redeem it in a work of beauty has always been seen as the sacred task of artists." –– Roger Scruton (b. 1944) British philosopher and author (via artpropelled)

Friday, 19 February 2016

Studio Series: future tags + small disaster

Great Opa B's notes; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
Last fall my mom handed me an old cookie tin that contained documents belonging to my late great-grandparents. One item was an old notebook that my great grandfather kept. He wrote with a fountain pen and his hand-writing is elegant and beautiful. Unfortunately it's written in an old German script that I'm unable to read. I scanned a few pages and digitally printed them onto fabric. After rinsing the fabric, I painted it with washes of walnut ink and black tea. In a few days I'll rinse the fabric again and then stitch them. Working with my great-grandfather's words is very special.

To digitally print the text, I used C. Jenkins Miracle Fabric Sheets and they are best used for black-and-white images (colour is a bit washed out on them). I thought it would be cool to feed my own fabric through the printer, so I ironed grocery store freezer paper to fabric that I cut to size and fed it through the printer. Big mistake. The fabric came away from the freezer paper and wrapped around the printer's roller. Thankfully my very patient husband is mechanically adept. With great care he took the printer apart, fished out the fabric, and put it all back together and it works! I will never do that again. C. Jenkins sells a strong freezer paper, but I am not going to test fate (although I am slightly tempted).

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Studio Series: Mennonite screen prints

Mennonite series Red Gate and threshing stone pattern screen prints; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
My ironing table doubles as a print table, but I've never used it to screen print. A first step in setting up the table was to clear the foot high piles of fabric that covered most of it. To accomplish this, I went through most of my fabric bins and did a significant purge so that the fabric on the ironing table finally had a proper home. Two friends will be the beneficiaries of my deaccessioned stash. 

I hadn't printed on fabric since my Sheridan days. My husband set up a hose in the laundry room sink so that I was able to wash my screens with enough pressure to prevent clogging. My husband held the screen while I printed. We make a great team. I printed on commercial and naturally dyed fabrics. The honey locust bean pod dyed fabric looks great printed with rust fabric ink.
Mennonite series Mulberry leaf pattern screen prints; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2016
While I was printing fabric, I printed some paper so that I can collage with it. What I learned from going through my bins was to buy and print fabrics in small, usable quantities. I print larger quantities of paper because collaging is more immediate than hand-stitching fabric.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Quotes: Karl Lagerfeld

"I have my best ideas when I don't think about having ideas. It's very strange. It's like an electronic flash – sudden! Also, they come during the daytime and in the bathtub! It's very strange. But you cannot count on it, you cannot say, 'Oh, I will have my electronic flash now!' You have to work at the same time, because when people say they wait for inspiration, well, I don't believe in that. Inspiration is a nice word. But the French say the appetite comes when you eat. And the ideas come when you work." –– Karl Lagerfeld (b.1933) German fashion designer
Source: Beker, Jeanne. 'Stylesetters: 'It started with me and it stops with me.' The Globe and Mail, Saturday April 11, 2015, p. 4. (question & answer interview with Karl Lagerfeld) via my book of commonplace.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Lent 2016

Lent 2016 begins today and it lasts until March 27 (Easter Sunday). Lent is my favourite season. In the past I have given up wine, sugar, and chocolate and have taken up daily practices at least 15 minutes in duration: drawing from life, mark-making, yoga, and a gratitude practice. The daily yoga continues (1848 days-in-a-row since Lent 2011) as does an almost-daily mark-making practice (701 days since Lent 2014). Last year's gratitude practice was powerful and over time I noticed patterns of what sparked the most joy in my life. The nice thing about a gratitude journal is that it is a pleasure to read years into the future. This year I'll revisit my practice of recording three moments of gratitude each day. 

Monday, 8 February 2016

Quotes: Brian Eno

"Stop thinking about art works as objects, and start thinking about them as triggers for experiences." –– Brian Eno (b. 1948), British musician and producer

Friday, 5 February 2016

Video: Grimes Flesh without Blood


Canadian performer Grimes' Flesh without Blood is very danceable –– perfect for dance breaks in the studio (but no break dancing).

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Studio Series: screen prints

November 2015 screenprints © Karen Thiessen, 2016
My winter screen print class is already one-third over and I still have at least fifteen designs that I'd like to print. Each week I arrive with a work plan where I've made all the decisions about ink colours to mix, and papers and designs to print. This helps tremendously. Above are designs that I printed during the fall session. I've already collaged with many of these papers and one pattern made it into an early 2016 birthday gift for a friend.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Quotes: Herman Melville

"It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation." –– Herman Melville (1819-1891) American novelist, best known for his novel Moby-Dick