Paint a skein

11 June 2009


This is a more difficult project than the dip dyeing.  I think that the fiber reactive dyes are more difficult, but the best option for cotton and other cellulostic fibers.

You may paint a skein or a warp.  We learned last week that when there are only 5 people in the workshop and when they  co-operate, you can dye a lot more than 8 oz. of fiber.  Every one will get to do their 8 oz. then if time and materials allow, you can do more.  Come prepared for more.

In painting you are putting colors side by side, not layering them.  This means that you can put red and green beside each other with out getting the dreaded mud brown.

However this is also what makes the process more difficult.  You have painted one spot your favorite color and now what color do you put beside it?  Any color in the world, this can be too many choices.  What will it look like?

I suggest  that you bring a picture, variegated yarn or natural object to help.  We can then pick 3-5 colors from that design inspiration for the first painting experience.  Once you have painted one skein, you might have more or new ideas about the second.   

Here is a picture that Carol sent me, I suspect it was taken with the Hubble Telescope up high:


I see periwinkle blue, oranges,  dark browns and little bits of off-white.

So bring a magazine pictures, or a sample of a color combination to get started.

So any skein will work.  A warp will not muddle all the colors together when you weave, but put in lots of figure 8 ties to keep the warp in order.  Normal size skeins will blend the colors together.  If you make long skeins, say 10 yds. (a warping board will allow you to do this) you will get sucesive bands of colors.

Anyhow, come with some damp cellulose yarn and have fun with colors!

variation arashi.jpg
This is a detail of a yukata that was posted on the shibori Flickr pool by It is just indigo on white (or the natural color of the cloth. It has generated quite a bit of interesting technical discussion about how it was made in the comments at Flickr. The keystone in the discusion in another piece of cloth of posted by It appears the this piece was pole wrapped with precision twice and indigo dyed the same shade each time. Try it, it will make you feel humble.
Narablog has explained that this is cotton, handspun and handwoven. Hand spinning takes about 5 times as long as hand weaving. This is extremely labor intensive (but made before we had labor saving devices and longer lives). The effect can best be seen in a larger view of the yukata.
var.arashi full.jpg
One sees darker patches in the blue across the cloth caused by tiny variations in the spacing of the arashi shibori lines that in the detail seem impossibly perfect. This color blue that fades in and out is much more like the colors I see in nature. Reminds me of the flight of a flock of birds or the sound of cicadids in the August afternoon. Seldom does nature produce a large expanse of uniform color. To me this is the kind of beauty and patterns I see in nature and aspire to create.
Todays questions are different:
Is the beauty worth the time?
Can you get the same effect faster, cheaper?
What’s next?

A tangle of thoughts

28 August 2007

One throws out threads of ideas and others pick them up add a few more and pass it on. Others mess it up and soon there is a tangle, a ghost of an idea.
When I visited with Pat Freiert she mentioned that she and her husband had taken a course in MINDFUL LIVING. This sounded to me like the mindfulness of the tea creremony (the attactive part to me) or the Zen way of creating decribed in the Unknown Craftsman.
Now Leach, who wrote the introduction to this book has his detractors–Garth Clark is one. His words spoke to me too:

Fine art ceramics is not a panacea and we do need to revalue and encourage the craft pot, provided it can find a contemporary voice.

The blog, What’s in the Making has a few entries, thoughtful, and the following intro:

The crux of the matter
As a Slow Notion, this topic delves into the practical, aesthetic and moral dimensions of the craft process. In the spectrum of production, design refers to the conception and promotion, while making is the middle process that brings design into being. In late capitalism, making becomes ever more invisible. Our factories have gone to China. This has led to anxieties about skill-shortage in the West. Does it matter that we no longer make things? Does it matter how things are made — whether they are made by hand or who makes them?

This blog dicusses the Droog design philosophy and now the emergence of iCraft. Can prototyping desk top computer displace the craftsperson?

the United States currently has a significant market and technological advantage in these technologies, all of which directly convert computer design files that describe objects as “3D models” into physical objects constructed layer by layer (i.e., assembling particles of work-piece material digitally on each layer and then adding to the work piece one layer at a time).
Digital production (or rapid manufacturing) transforms engineering design files directly into functional objects—ideally, fully functional objects.

Pat of South Carolina South Carolina talks about slow weaving.
I’ll leave the DYI movement for another entry.

On time and making

1 August 2007

I met a woman yesterday in an encounter that managed to push some of my buttons. The thoughts keep rolling around in my head, they have not yet coalesced, but I thought putting some thoughts out there might help me.
The woman that I met introduced herself as a jewelery maker which I interpertued as a kindred spirit. Every question that came out of her mouth was related to how long did that take. Wow, that must take a long time! That must be tedious and time-consuming. Clearly this is a woman in the throes of time-poverty; she has a daughter, husband, job and hobby.
But is the making things faster the same as making them better?
~industry is the best at making many things fast. I do not want to compete with industry, I will lose. Therefore I want to have different values for judgiing what I do– making it faster is not necessarily better for me. Clearly just making the same thing that industry makes but doing it slowly is not what I am after. Is there something, something interesting, that that industry can’t make that I can make? Some of this was discussed previously in an entry,’Slow Fashion
~I could be a designer instead of a maker if just the idea is important. If I am going to design and make then my hand, the hand of the maker, must leave a distinctive imprint on the object.
~What are the criteria for judging what I make? My criteria, others criteria? I must be proud of the quality and what the ideas that it embodies. It must have value for others too to keep it from being just a self-indulgence. But who; customers, other artists/makers, critics, museums…? Clearly if I want to sell then it has to be customers. If I want to be in museums than it has to be critics/curators.
~What about the textiles that I admire, were they made with speed of completion as a value? When I study ancient Andean textiles, they are exquisite (1, 2, ).
Image from VMC.
They were made with very simple technology. No advanced technology today can duplicate them, the only way to make them is with the same simple technology and skill and time. How did people who had a much shorter life expectancy, and much more physcial labor involved in the daily tasks of life, eating, shelter and personal hygine, have so much more time to dedicate to making of such textiles. Oh yeah, they had to raise the animals, spin, weave the cloth of every day life too. But then the way to power and wealth in the Wari (Huari) civilization was to make the most beautiful Four Corner Hat!
Image from this site.

This is airing tonight on PBS at 8,9 and 10 PM. This series is accompanied by an exhibit, book etc. that you can check out at their website. In the preview they show a bit of the Smithsonian Craft Show, part of my circuit.

Here is an article in Washington Post about the decline of their “craft market”, Twilight for the Kimono Weavers.
A gentleman in the article brings up the sin of preciousness. I wonder if this is not a sin that we have overindulged in too. Do we make objects that are more fit for museums than comtempory life style, just as a Yamaguchi kimono has.

What is Handmade?

11 November 2006

These questions started here. But this site, The Handmade Market, pushed the same buttons. I like their tag line,

“because Mall is a four letter word”.

But looking at their site raises these questions in my mind:
Are T-shirts handmade? Here is one from their vendors.
It appears to be an American Apparel T-shirt. And they are using the branding by Americain Apparel to sell their product.
Should one expect to get something handmade in the USA for $15-20?
From my experience , with overhead costs, selling costs, etc. this is about 10-15 min. of the makers time including design , manufacturing and packing. Is that what you expect when you buy something handmade?
Let just stay with the T-shirt issue for a moment. T-shirts are not permitted at the kind of Fine Craft Shows that I try to attend, and one would not expect to jury into the Smithsonian Craft Show with T-shirts. Here are some jury standards from the American Craft Council:

Paintings, prints, photographs, graphics (including etchings and web- or sheet-fed offset printed matter), works that incorporate materials acquired from the killing of endangered species, elephant ivory (fossilized ivory is the exception), dried or silk flower arrangements, bonsai, embellished commercially-made objects (e.g., tee shirts, note cards, etc.), and works assembled (wholly or in part) from commercially available kits are not permitted in American Craft Council shows.

This does not mean that there is not a market for this kind of T-shirts, T-shirts are a part of every one’s wardrobe. In fact there are sooo many of these that we have abbreviations for them, WOATs (words on a tee) and GOATs (grahics on a tee). What are the consequences of using existing brands, such as American Apperal to sell “handmade”? T-shirts can be tie-dyed or silk-screen printed by hand. Can I tell the difference between industrially and hand screen tees? Or are we talking quanity here? Is this hand-decoration, hand-embellishment or customization? Is it the language, not the work, that needs to evolve to describe this part of our current lives?
And this is one of the questions which has already been considered, how about this piece? This is a sewn product, how is it better (that I should pay more) because it is hand-made?

Puzzles and one solution

5 November 2006

I was at dinner last night with some collegues that own a gallery and are both makers. We were discussing the role of hand craftman made objects in our world and yours too. We start from the assumption that hand-made objects reflect the heart, head and hand of the maker. Some of the questions we asked are:

What is the quality that these objects have that industrially made objects don’t have?
What qualities do those made by master-craftsman have that differs from that made by a hobbists/novice?
Are these objects endowed with properties that are a reflection of their maker’s culture and times? Thus would the object have the same properties if she designed it and had it made in China/Thailand (you fill a country with low labor costs)?

Please share any thoughts you might have.
So today I happened on this information on Chandra Shroff. What an amazing project, the genius is in it’s simplicity! No teaching or preaching or forgein consultants on how to make colors that will sell in some far off land. The project is based on love and respect for the women’s work. The work is stimulating pride and quality. What a cultural treasure she has created with this collection of panels. I hope these women and their daughters always have access to them. I would travel to see them, and probably be stimulated and learn a thing or two.
P.S. Did you see all the shibori in the video?

I received this email:

I am fascinated with your blog entries about your development of the sting ray ensemble. It is interesting to see some of your creative processes at work.
I am a weaver-dyer trying to market my own work. I see that you spend much time and energy and resources on your exhibition pieces. Do you do this to increase your market visibility, and is it effective, or do you it for fun and to push yourself creatively? I have always wondered if I should be working toward exhibition pieces, but I am so overwhelmed just putting out the bread and butter pieces, I don’t know how to proceed.
I have your book, which I love, and I appreciate your knowledgable posts on DyeList.

(Actually it is called the DyersList, in case you go looking for it.)
My philosophy has always been for these micro-businesses (which will never make you rich like Bill Gates) that you need to produce something that meets some unsatisfied part in your customer (I do not produce something that any one NEEDS), and it must meet some of MY needs. So this is the part that meets some of my needs.
I don’t know that it has any impact on sales. It does help to create a reputation a with my collegues, who are the people who judge, jury and invite— so it may impact the opportunities I have to sell. It allows me to do things that that are not part of my line and to stretch and grow. Collaboration allows one to see thru’ new eyes and to learn new things and put things together in new ways.
You may have all the growth you can handle right now, learning how to market, produce in a cost effective manner, and satisfy some thing in your customer. Later you may need to stretch different muscles.
Let me tell you a story about trying something new. Last year I was contacted by Mike Fowler of (now defunct) to be a visiting artist on the tie-dye forum. I said yes, then after I was into it I asked myself why on earth did you want to do this? While still sitting on this forum, last summer we raised a small crop of silk worms and I started posting some pictures everyday. Peoples loved it!
This is a picture from the silk raising that produced many comments. This is the reel that I made from readily available parts ( yes, it is Tinker Toys) to pull the thread from the cocoons– you can just see the fine thread coming in from the right at the top— in a process called reeling. Reeling produces the top quality silk threads, yarns and fabrics.
Not too many steps from posting daily on a forum to blogging.

The role of the hand-made in modern society is not a new discussion (Wm. Morris recorded such discussion in another era) but the times are NEW. I make and sell hand-made accessories and the role of hand-made textiles in my life is obvious, large and satisfying. But what is its role in the life of the women who buy them?
Anything professional hand-made in a developed country will be costly, so it will not be bought because they need a scarf to keep warm. If you share my belief in aesthetic needs, then maybe we can say it satisfies an aesthetic need for the purchaser.
I find some parallels between hand-made shibori scarves and Savile Row bespoke suits in their small numbers produced, craftsmanship, price and clientele. Thomas Mahon is an elegant spokesman for Savile Row. Armani, a savvy designer that has built a business empire, has announced he will begin a haute couture line for men (a first) aimed at the Savile Row clientele. He also takes a few potshots at Savile Row, some of which come uncomfortable close to home (the use of only traditional fabrics in this time of sophisticated and highly functional textiles of mixed fibers). Gapingvoid has waded into the fray to defend Savile Row which it may not have needed. Armani is not undercutting their prices (Armani starts at 5000 Pounds, Savile Row 1600 Pounds) , so he perceives a underserved clientele! That is there are more people who want a special hand-made suit than there are satisfied Savile Row customers.
So what do the bespoke suit/shibori scarf customers have in common? Or more precisely, what need are these pricey, hand-made clothing items fulfilling in their lives?
Some of this was touched on in “Slow Fashion”. I’ll make a list of the observations I’ve made about my clientele:
disposable income
mature; baby boomers and older
design aware
not fashionistas
aware of the image they present
Things I think they want from my hand-made items:
to work well with the body they have
to fit with their exsisting lifestlye/wardrobe
uniqueness to indiviualize their look
to add something to the wardrobe they don’t have–could be a wow, or timelessness, elegance…