I am back in Portland for the time being, so I have access to all my stuff here.  It's really nice to be around my supplies and my husband again.  I had a grueling time getting back--what was supposed to be an eight hour trip (by land) became 15 1/2 hours.  I spent the next couple of days recovering from that.  But I am back in the swing of things now.  We have decided that I will spend half my working day in study, and half in production and business.  I am also happy to announce that I have made my first large sum of money!  This was on the commission I had told you about earlier, for my friend Melanie.  Here are the pictures of my work:
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Long view. It's a table runner.
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The middle.
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Detail.
The table runner was made with a number of steps.  First, I had to wash the fabric with a special soap to get all the oils and imperfections out (it was sort of a natural beige when I started).  Next, I painted the fabric with liquid dye.  I let it rest a couple of days and then rinsed the excess dye out (this process usually takes me about an hour).  Then, I pinned the cloth to my work surface and put a flour paste over top.  I wrote words and squiggles in the paste with a skewer.  I let that dry for a few days and squished the hardened surface to make it crackle.  I then applied a thickened dark purple dye over top with a brush, really working the dye into the cracks. After another couple of days I soaked it in warm water to remove the flour paste, and then washed it to remove the excess dye.  I had to do this flour paste and dye step four times because my work surface was only so big.  Next I carved out a bird stamp with safety cut lino, and used that to print the birds with textile paint.  After that dried and 24 hours had passed, I heat set it with an iron.  Then I sewed the white stitching on with my sewing machine and a free-motion darning foot.  It took me quite a while because I spent as much time unjamming my machine as I did sewing!  Then I pulled and pulled on the fabric to straighten it out (it bunched a bit when I embroidered it) and ironed it to make it flatter.  Finally, I sewed all the edges so they wouldn't fray.  And that, my friends, is what goes into my work!

Today I started with a little warm-up.  It was very similar to a warm up I had done before, in which I thought about my artistic "DNA" and why I was attracted to surface design in particular.  I'm still not sure I can explain--I understand why I am into fiber arts (my mother did it, her mother did it, her mother did it, etc.) but when I tried surface design, it just felt right.  It felt like what I was supposed to be doing.  I can't really explain it any other way.

Next, I listened to two podcast.  I had heard them both before.  The first  one was the second part of the round-table discussion I was listening to earlier.  I listened to it on the train originally but I had such an awful day that I forgot it all.  It was actually still difficult to remember, because people were mostly talking about what they felt like talking about rather than having an organized topic.  There was some discussion on the commercialization of textile traditions, whether it be that a peasant ask for money to be photographed in her traditional costume, or from outside companies who market a traditional craft for a little while until it ceases to be trendy.  They talked a bit about going to remote locations to find crafts, and the excitement and danger that could be involved.  They talked about the tragedy of collectors buying up all the crafts in one area until there were none left and no one knew how to make them anymore, and how the public sometimes doesn't understand the textiles that they are viewing.  One of the panelists had to sell most of her collection of textiles in an auction because she didn't have the space to store them anymore, and not one of the people who bought the work has contacted her to find out about her research on that particular textile.  She also collected many pieces for the Victoria and Albert Museum, and by the time she was finished, they were no longer interested.  There have, however, been some interest by the national archives, so that is positive.

The other podcast I listened to was about a clothing company called Ocelot.  I had heard this podcast before but the website had pictures to go with it so I listened again.  The podcast explained how the artist got into dyeing and making clothing: she was exposed to dyeing as a child, and got into costume design after college.  Eventually, she became fascinated with natural dyeing and clothing construction, and seeks to create clothing that is timeless and beautiful.  In her dyeing, she uses wooden blocks as physical resists.  You should really check out her work because it's absolutely beautiful.

Then, I drew.  I drew a bowl.  It was a white bowl, but that doesn't really show from the shading I did.  Need to work on that shading.  I was quite successful with shading in my last drawing, but it was much more difficult to depict a smooth surface.  I will have to draw more white ceramic.
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For surface design, I am trying a glue resist with dye.  It worked very well with fabric paint and now I will see how well it works for dye.  I also learned how to get dye out of the carpet!  Dropcloth it is then.  I had loads of leftover dye so I painted dye on one piece of cloth and tried a pleated resist with another.  Those will take a day or two to do their thing, so I don't know how they will all turn out yet.

My husband did some research on my behalf to investigate how to reach Canadian customers.  I am focusing on Canadians right now due to my immigration status.  I don't want to say too much about it, but it is possible that there may be some disruptions in the next few months, which would affect my unschooling and my business.  But we don't know for sure yet.  My husband also contacted customers for me and arranged deposits and such.  I am very excited to have him as my business partner.  He is much better at promoting me than I am, and at settling deals!

For production today, I had the rather boring task of cutting out and scouring fabric for bookmarks.  I am hoping to make bookmarks an affordable way for people to buy my art.  Most of my stuff isn't cheap, and I have friends who don't have a lot of money who would like to partake.  I thought this would be a good way, since I can't lower my prices.  I just pay myself a little over minimum wage, so I don't listen to any complaints about the prices being too high!

That's it for the day.  I'm off to eat dinner and meditate.
 


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