96" x 44". That's how big this woodcut print is. And now, nervously and with great anticipation, the big reveal.....
I use this mighty tool to deconstruct pieces that don't speak to me anymore. I look for those quiet ones that seem unbalanced, pretentious or unsuccessful. They hide in piles beneath my work table — murmuring. Some are sharing false narratives. Some seem to be trying too hard. Others just plain bore me. So I get out the rotary cutter and start cutting.
I'll often end up with a pile that stretches to fill my entire work table. I try not to think about how many hours were spent creating the pieces in the first place. It's about the process not the product right?
The varying stitch, cloth and colors create an animated surface.
Then I start stitching again, connecting the diverse pieces to each other by adding another layer of meaning to the story.
And then I add some more. Until it seems to be enough.
I am preparing for a number of shows in 2018 by gathering up all the pieces that are done and planning some that are not. I'm looking for pieces that go together and some that contrast each other well. The studio is covered in pieces that are unpacked, unrolled and stacked. The pieces represent over ten years of work.
I am also experimenting with new forms. A series of quilt pillars came to life this week. Rolling the quilts over tubes produced a third dimension that appeals to me. Walking around the pillars adds an element of surprise that the flat pieces do not. I especially like the way the back or front is revealed when the tube unrolls as in the one of the right pictured here. Of course that only works if the back is as interesting as the front.
I recognize recurring themes of confusion, chaos and uncertainty but also mystery, emotion and magic in my work. If I could see one thing in all of them it would be that I am trying to make the invisible visible. A task that thread and cloth can do only if I allow the length of time it takes to create each one be as long as it needs to be. Time spent allows the unknown in.
Steamroller. Yup. Steamroller. That's what we will use to print fabric in October. The next five weeks will find me at the Five in One Social Club workshop carving a 40" x 96" woodcut that we will ink and roll over. With a steamroller. Forty by ninety-six, big enough to be used as a banner, a shroud or a toga. Or maybe a quilt. Or two.
I've always wanted to design large prints, but never had access to large presses. This will be the first time I will carve a woodcut. It's a comfort zone challenge. There's no telling how much joy or regret I will feel during this process. Start thinking big. Yup. Big. No little stitch details necessary. (Oh...OK...maybe after I get the fabric printed I could add little stitch details...watch this space).
And of course it will be fabric. My medium of choice. Cotton, stretched delicately over an inked board, coming alive with pressure. Lots of pressure, watch your fingers.
So, naturally, I think about cutting it up and stitching swathes of yardage.
It's probably a good thing that my sewing machine is in the shop for maintenance. Not sure how much distraction I need during this challenge.
Think big. Work big. Oh my.
As Jefferson Airplane says in their classic song, White Rabbit:
Remember what the dormouse said
Feed your head, feed your head
I woke up thinking about the difference between webs and grids. Webs reach, weave and beckon. Grids underpin, stabilize and neutralize. Webs are homes and traps. Grids are fences and containers. Webs spiral, grids measure cadence. Webs connect with tenuous intersections but also can withstand thunderstorms and errant wasps. Grids tie things together with a regular rhythm yet can be broken with a casual erasure of consistency.
Webs can have enemies in them, grids can keep the lights on. Webs can be world-wide, grids map the lands and seas. Webs tangle, grids untangle. Grids are a human construct. Webs are a natural phenomenon. They are cousins in understanding where we fit.
The news of Charlottesville and our president has shattered my sense of safety and calm. It may be why I keep cutting up pieces of fabric into shards and stitching them back together. Quilting this piece begins next week. I could stitch a grid onto it to find order. I could stitch a web of threads over it to hold it all together. Or I might cut it up some more and practice sewing it back together over and over again. Not sure where the thread will take me.