Archive for March, 2009

Commitment problems

Sometimes when I’m surrounded by wonderful possibilities I freeze. Making an initial choice is difficult but it’s the first few steps after that which are critical. A point comes where I have an emotional attachment, a commitment, to a project – but getting to that point I can dither and dally and thoroughly irritate myself.

So this post is really about the current top contender – let’s see if working on it “out loud” helps make it real.

The Reluctant Dragon in her lair has given me a Kreativ Blogger award, which is very nice and much appreciated. I’m going to save it up and pass it on a little later. It came with a question about my recent experiments – “Is the grid of colors the finished piece, or a step in preparation for something else?”.

Partly  the colour extracts are intended as an exercise to build my skill with colours. I have a stack of books about colour theory and it fascinates me, but at some point I want to go further. I want to develop a fluency with colour, to be able to create a sense of mood or of place with colour in textiles. Some of my earlier attempts have been very literal (you can see a few in my member gallery with ATASDA). Also I live a busy, urban life and sometimes seem to be racing along on the surface of life. I want to learn to stop and not just look, but see.

Weaving brings exciting additional elements with the interlacing of colours, the textures of yarns and weave structures, the tactile draping cloth…

I have taken some baby steps. The first was my autumn scarf. The image in my mind was a still-warm autumn day, the sun shining in a cloudless blue sky, the drying leaves fluttering down and the skeleton of the trees being to show. Next was the ocean scarf. My mental image was of standing on a cliff on the Sydney coastline, watching the waves run across the rock-shelf below, looking out at the container ships on the horizon, the amazing range of colours in the water, the smell of salt in the air. For both I studied life, photos and memories, trying to look beyond the obvious in colour, and then dyed yarns and chose weave structures to try to express the idea.

collapse_v2_2collapse_v2_1Back to the present. In weaving class we’ve been exploring collapse weaves. My first attempt was a stumble. Here’s a couple of sections of my second attempt. The photos don’t show the world of difference. Almost all the weft yarn choices collapsed well across all stripe widths (stripes were 3/1 and 1/3 twill, with sets of 8, 12 and 16 ends). The first photo shows left to right a silk sewing thread, Ixchel laceweight Cashmerino (70% merino, 30% cashmere, felts beautifully) and 10/1 silk noil (from Walters Imports). The second photo, top to bottom: superfine merino (non-felting, left over from this scarf), 20/2 silk and a buttonhole weight cotton sewing thread.

The non-felted sections in particular are inspiring. There’s a bounce and movement that photos can’t capture. The bright red of the superfine wool flashes then is hidden, especially in the narrower stripes, and reminds me of glowing embers in the logs of a campfire. This is very different to the towering walls of flame which brought such grief to so many down south (close to Ixchel bunny – see her photo here).

colour_extract_3_fireMy much more benign photo is this. Not a great photo, but what I had. It’s cropped from a larger photo, taken a few years ago on a weekend in the mountains (Megalong Valley) with friends.
colour_extract_3gHere is a grid, based on my photo – plus some others on the web and my memory. Possibly here is my problem. The grid is different colours taken from the fire photos, but the proportions are all wrong and it doesn’t look reminiscent of a camp fire at all. Not inspiring.

The current plan is – dye a warp in the colours of the glowing logs – browns and greys, hints of some others. Dye weft yarn in colours of flame and smoke and the general glow. Use stripes of 3/1 and 1/3 twill. A camp fire scarf??

The other question is yarn. The collapse sample is bendigo mills 2 ply wool – not what I want for my scarf. I’d like to attempt a pure silk scarf and was considering 2/20 warp and hand-(over)spun silk hankies for weft, but without conviction. Looking at ocean and autumn has reminded me of the 50/50 wool/silk yarn. Maybe that for warp with 2/20 silk for weft would work…?

This post is certainly long enough (and thank you those who made it this far!). Is the idea strong enough? Am I committed enough?

Colour extract experimentation

Last week I tried my first “colour extract”  – click here to see the original photo and the grid of colours I came up with.

Over the past week, in little corners and oddments of time pilfered from my non-textile life, I’ve been experimenting with the software. I’ve been using gimp (GNU Image Manipulation Program – freely distributed software) on and off for over 10 years, but know only a few of its many features. Here are some new-to-me ones.

colour_extract_2pI used a cropped version of the same photo as last week. The one here is also reduced in size for the blog – I found it useful while playing to try things with both the high resolution version and a lower one. It was a balancing act between quality of information (colours not too blended and muddied) versus quantity (overwhelming). I also went into Tools/Color Tools/Levels and used the slider where the histogram was flat (based on this tutorial which explains  “making full use of our available dynamic range improves the overall contrast of the image” ) – to my eyes giving richer colour.

Filters/Colors/Smooth Palette gave me “bar codes” of colour. First 256 bars:
colour_extract_2_bar1 then 100 bars
colour_extract_2_bar2 then 100 bars with increased search depth
colour_extract_2_bar3They look like warp yarn wraps, all set to go…

colour_extract_2_mosaic1Next is Filters/Distorts/Mosaic. This has a lot of parameters to play with – the sample here is rectangular tiles, no splitting, high tile neatness, 0.0 light direction, 0.00 color variation, color averaging… The tile size was chosen with an eye for use on the blog and it gives a very dull and muddied result.colour_extract_2_mosaic2

This second mosiac, just the front flower, was created with all the same settings except for tile size.

These make me think of bead weaving – there’s an interesting article in the current (March/April 2009) Handwoven magazine “Add Beading to Fabrics for One-of-a-Kind Art Pieces “. Something for another day.

colour_extract_2_pixelize1Ucolour_extract_2_pixelize2sing Filters/Blur/Pixelize  gives these results, first focused on the front flower then the larger picture. I like the separate blocks of colour, not too muddied.

I feel this gives me the best result for my purpose. It gives me colours still in the pictorial context, unlike the barcode palette. The colours aren’t averaged into non-descript mud, but retain a range of value and hue. It does help me by reducing the choice, simplifying colour selection both in the sense of deciding which colour and in the physical picking up the colour with the mouse.

colour_extract_2So why am I hesitating to produce “my” palette, using the same grid as last week? Partly the layout of the grid itself – large flat blocks of colour. Mostly because I don’t have an end purpose in mind to guide the choice… except of course the practise. So here is today’s effort.

Extracting colour

I’ve written in the past about colour and back here talked about doing some exercises on colour in paint. I have to admit I haven’t gone far. Clearing a space to get out the paper and paint just doesn’t happen. So I’m shelving that for the moment and on to plan b (or somewhere further down the alphabet) which is to encourage myself to look, to focus on what’s in front of me. What’s in front of me most often is a computer screen.

Inspired by Ruth of Impulsive Arts, eg this post, and Kris’s Color Stripes I’m aiming at one “colour extraction” a week.

Attempt 1 is based on a photo I took in January last year in the front garden of May Gibb’s house in Sydney. It was research in preparation for ATASDA’s exhibition Inspired by May. (I made a section of the collaborative piece, but not an exhibition piece in the end. I attempted to weave – a raw beginner at that point – and it just didn’t happen).

colour_extract_1pThe grid of colours based on the photo:

colour_extract_1Not as easy as it looks…

which hopefully will encourage me to practice!

Darwin in Canberra

Weaving has taken a backseat in the past week, as I drove with my mother to Canberra for a few days. Unfortunately I was a bad blogger and took zero (!) photographs – I’ve included some links to more info and visuals.

Our major purpose was to attend a one day symposium on Charles Darwin at the National Museum of Australia (follow the link for a look – an interesting building).  Not a major interest of mine – I was basically the chauffeur – but it was an enjoyable day.  Speakers touched on the man, his travels with a focus on time in Australia, and of course Origin of Species, also Australians who contributed to later work (isolation does not equal marginalisation) and ventured into the Stolen Generation (the political use and abuse of “social darwinism”) and on to genetic modification and climate change. One speaker addressed evolution and creationism – I’ve found a article by him here. Pretty much all of his presentation was way above my head and I don’t want to get into personal beliefs – I hope I don’t offend anyone by saying it triggered some thoughts about textile work. In the past I did quite a bit of dyeing and felting which was very fluid and open to chance and serendipity. I sampled and kept notes etc, aimed to build skills and knowledge, and I do the same now with weaving but somehow it feels different. Not sure where this train of thought is going –  nowhere in the short term. The weaving I’m doing at the moment (more ringing teatowels) is all planned up front, “simply” a matter of doing my best to pay attention to each moment, each movement, to complete the plan to the best of my ability. The resulting textile will remain as a record of the performance.

The symposium talks will be available as audio on demand, though not there yet when I just checked. The exhibition is open to the end of March and worth a visit if you are in Canberra. There’s something so incredible about seeing the actual notebooks (surprisingly small) and Darwin’s handwriting. A table with the pros and cons of getting married. The logbook of the captain of the Beagle, where an earthquake gets equal billing with washing his clothes…

We also visited generate, a mixed media exhibition (heavy on textiles) by Julie Ryder at the Australian National Botanic Gardens. A beautiful exhibition, and very satisfying as a body of work exploring a particular topic. The artist punched (?) thousands of small dots from leaves, leaving beautiful patterns, and used them to create shapes. I wonder what the balance of planning and serendipity was, as she worked…

All this plus bellringing at Manuka, visiting with friends, lots of good meals (try Josh’s if you are in Berrima) and (I was pleased as punch about this one) I didn’t get lost once while driving around Canberra – a first for me!


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