Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Bead Embroidery + Thread Embroidery + Eco-dyed Fabrics

Passing through the slump of divorce and moving, I'm finally starting on a new beaded pathway. Also, I've been taking a bunch of workshops, a pleasure I've postponed while busy with my own teaching career. These workshop experiences will be the subject of a later post, after I get the pictures out of my camera and ready to post. In the meantime, here's a little glimpse of my new work.

Back tracking over a year ago, a group of eco-dyers on Lopez Island blessed me with the opportunity to join them in wrapping plant materials and assorted metal objects into bundles of re-purposed silk, cotton and/or linen. After popping the bundles into a plant-material dye bath for a while, then waiting for days to unwrap them, we garnered for ourselves a supply of eco-dyed fabrics. Since the above two sentences are a gross over-simplification of the process, you might want to turn to other sources, such as India Flint or Sweetpea's Path, for more information about eco-dying.

At first my own bundles and resulting fabrics, seen above, reminded me of old paint rags or end-of-the-world costume fabrics for a tacky movie. Probably with a lot of experience and patience, one begins to get desired and almost predictable results. I love and respect the idea of eco-dying, the connection it builds between earth and human, the lovely plant memories captured and prolonged in the fabrics, which are also natural materials. But for me, although I'm always intrigued by dyeing and printing with dye, having previously been smitten with Ann Johnston's process and workshops, and a felt-dying workshop by Chad Alice Hagen, I never follow through with preparation of my own dye baths. Finding that I'd rather bead or stitch, dyeing is not quite compelling enough to keep me going.

However, I had this pile of eco-dyed fabrics, a pile I almost consigned to rags or took to the thrift store during the move. I also had an idea percolating in the back of my mind, an idea about making fabric collage with thread and bead embroidery, layering the fabrics and embellishing them, framing the results in a narrow, vertical frame.

So one day, examining the details in my pile of eco-dyed "rags," I noticed there were small parts of them that appealed to me, such as the prints made by inserting rusty washers in the bundles, visible on the left in the above picture. This piece of linen, taken as a whole was dark, and muddy or dirty looking. But if I were to cut out just the marks made by the washers, I might have something useable.

That thought was the beginning of this:

And this:

And this:

This is the final piece (you can click to enlarge), titled Trust:

The same wonderful eco-dyers on Lopez later invited me to join them for a day of dying with indigo and lac (red/rose/burgundy dye from an insect, some of which made the narrow pinkish stripes in Trust). My results that day, combined with some remnants of Kantha stitching on cotton fabrics, provided the materials for my second layered fabric collage.

Here's a detail:

Here's another detail:

Here is the final piece, titled Northern Lights:

Since making these two pieces, two more are in progress, one with layered kimono and obi silks and one with my indigo and lac pieces. I'm excited about this new pathway and hopeful about using more of my hand-dyed/hand-painted fabrics.

It's feels really good to have recovered a little of my former beading mo-jo. I look forward to the peace and quiet of winter, when traditionally I spend more time beading!