Archive for the ‘Making Art’ Category

Sometimes I feel like a Duck

September 26, 2011

Our little black bear.

The image of this sweet confused young bear’s face is burned into my mind.  A week ago, we raised the deck door window shade, and much to our surprise and delight, there she was – sitting sideways under the pine tree, looking back at us with as much surprise and confusion as we at her.  We shared a few quiet moments before she ably lumbered over the fence into our neighbors’ yard.

We excitedly followed her progress over the next day, hearing that the DOW was going to let her find her way back to the mountains as long as she didn’t become a nuisance.  And then we got the news that 3 overzealous men from the DOW had shot her full of tranquilizers, causing her to fall out of a neighborhood tree, ultimately dying from her injuries.

What to do with that news?  So much anger, sadness and helplessness.  I cried a lot.  I keep seeing that sweet inquisitive face, and wondering why people have to be so hurtful and well, stupid.

Bear Medicine: Introspection

I kept thinking about this bear visit all week, and the gift she brought us.  It slowed me down from the usual daily race, and helped me remember that with all the crazy things going on in the world that we encounter, the only thing we truly can control are our individual reactions to the craziness.

I also started re-developing some focus again on myself, on routines that are healthful for my own body, mind, and spirit.  Thanks to my bear visit, I’ve been awakened from the trance yet again.

Ducks on the Long Arm machine.

What’s on the Long Arm Machine?

One of the routines I’ve been redeveloping this past week is to get into the studio and do some art each day, even if it’s only for a short while.  I had forgotten how much of a stress relief it is for me to have that daily meditative time, creating my art.

I’ve been focused on finishing a piece I started several months ago.  I finished constructing the top (pieced and appliqued fabrics which I hand-dyed and screen-printed) awhile ago and now am adding the drawing/stitching on the long arm.

The idea for this piece came from one of my vivid night dreams.  As I’ve worked to turn that dream image into a physical work of art, it has become a bold and graphic representation of how I felt in that dream.

Reconnecting with this piece, spending a little time each night in the studio working to finish it has helped me get back into a meditative rhythm not only with my art, but with myself.

Ducks getting stitched on the long arm.


Virtual Tour of my Taft Canyon Art Studio

August 8, 2011

Thanks to my brother Paul, here is a video virtual tour of my studio as it was set up for the Fort Collins Studio Tour in June:

In the part of the studio where my long arm quilting machine lives, I hung several newly completed textile paintings, including several small kitschy cowgirl pieces on one wall.  I also devoted one entire wall to work in progress.  Since we were asked to provide demos of how we make our work, I thought it would be fun for visitors to see some of the pieces I’m working on, in their various stages of completion, which revealed a bit of my working process.

On the printmaking side of the studio where my etching press lives, I included a “demo” area with some of the tools used for the various kinds of prints such as linocuts, woodcuts, and etchings as well as examples of different printmaking blocks/plates and the prints that were made from each, so visitors could see the range of mark-making possibilities in hand-pulled prints.

I also had my artist book of etchings displayed accordian-style, with the actual copper plates the prints were made from lined up in front of it, again so visitors could see both the prints and the plates they were made from.

My Process

I like to work on multiple pieces at a time, moving back and forth between the several pieces in progress.  This allows me most efficient use of my time and endless variety, as depending on what I’m interested in doing during a creative session (dyeing, drawing, stitching, composing, etc), or if I only have a small window of time to work with, I have lots of options of how to spend my time.

There is also a downside to working this way as well; at times I get too many new things started (because of new ideas being spawned from a piece I’m working on, or answers not appearing for resolving some of the existing pieces in progress) and then I get overwhelmed with all of the work I’ve got started.

It’s a kind of expansion and contraction process, the exploration of beginning a new idea/new work, expanding into new territory, and then needing to have the discipline to to resolve and complete the work, a sort of contraction, bringing it to a close.

This is why artists make good project managers!  Artists have to be able to come up with an idea worth doing, and then plan/figure out how best to do it, and then implement/deliver the goods, hopefully achieving a great result in the finished piece.

Anyway, back to the tour….  There were 36 studios participating in this year’s tour and visitors had 2 days to get around to as many as they could.  For my first time participating, I think the event was a success.  My goal was to introduce my studio and artwork to the local public and meet more people involved in local art scene.  I achieved that and I also sold some work.  And, best of all, I got some great feedback about my studio, hearing that some visitors thought it was the highlight of their tour – and in the end, that made it all worthwhile.

The Next Best Thing to Playing in the Mud

August 5, 2011

Eco dyeing with natural plant materials!

Eco Dyeing supplies: plant material, string, cotton and silk fabric, metal pieces.

My friend Diedre Adams attended an India Flint workshop at this year’s SDA conference in Minneapolis, and shared her experience in 2 great blog posts.   Who knew you could make cool art cloth by picking up stuff on the ground in your environment, wrapping it in fabric, and boiling it in water?  No toxic chemicals involved, and no special supplies to buy.  After reading her first post, I was off and running – I just had to try this.

Really having no idea what I was doing (other than having read Diedre’s first blog post and having previously done some dyeing with procion MX dyes), yet trusting my process-intensive background in printmaking, I dove in.  We had had a pretty intense hail storm and I have lots of trees/plants/greenery in my yard, so there were lots of healthy green leaves, stems, and petals laying about for easy gathering.  I also had a big collection of dried wildflowers that I had harvested years ago and still had preserved between layers of newsprint, knowing I’d find a use for them some day.  I laid out my fabric and like a burrito, filled it with plant materials and in some cases, wire and metal pieces, and then folded and rolled it up into tight bundles:

I tore some strips of PFD cotton fabric and also decided to try dyeing some silk (which I have never worked with before but had recently bought some yardage to try out).  I didn’t know this at the time, but when using protein fibers such as silk, it is necessary to add some type of mordant agent to the boiling water pot to “fix” the natural plant dye colors to the fabric.  There are several things that can be used for mordant – metal, milk, and soy milk are some options.

Wrapping up the "burrito" of plant materials. In this case, I used a hollow metal rod to roll up the bundle around and then tied it with string.

I had seen some pictures in Diedre’s post where they had used metal clamps and flat metal pieces as “supports” when preparing the fabric bundles.  Lucky for me, my Partner uses wire and metal in some of her work, so I was able to pilfer some great rusty metal pieces from her stash for my bundling.  I used these metal pieces as embellishments on the fabric bundles and to help provide some structure as I rolled, folded and wrapped the plant materials up in the fabric, tying them into tight bundles with string and rubber bands:

Plant filled bundles all tied up and ready for boiling.

Backside of the 3 bundles with more metal pieces tied on.

Then it was bundle boiling time.  All those leaves, needles, petals, sticks, and pieces of metal made for an interesting aroma in the house.  It was my very own backyard brew!

Bundles in the water pot.

After boiling, I let the bundles sit overnight in the brew pot before opening up the first one.

Bundles after boiling in the water pot and "steeping" for a couple of days.

The magical part of the process – revealing the results:

Above photos are 1 piece of cotton, and below, are photos of another piece of cotton:

After heat setting the color and then washing the fabrics out, these 2 pieces of cotton looked like this:

2 pieces of eco-dyed cotton fabric, dyed with plant materials from my own backyard.

The colors that the plant materials created in each fabric are very subtle yet beautiful (hard to see in the photos), and I love the dark shapes and marks that the metal pieces and string resist contributed.  These 2 pieces of fabric really seemed to need to be together and so, over the next 3 days, I created a new textile painting using these fabrics along with some other cotton that I had hand-dyed earlier this year:

"The Vagaries of Recall" ©Ayn Hanna, 46"x28", Textile Painting (cotton fabrics, eco-dyed and hand-dyed by the artist, cotton batting, cotton threads)

I’ll post more of the results of this first eco-dyeing session, as well as photos from a follow-on 2nd dyeing session in a follow-up post.

My Creative Process and Allowing Another Way

March 3, 2011

My Creative Process

I’m having one of those “in the flow” moments…… where words to describe my working process – at least the way it worked in creating my “Another Way” piece – seem ready to spill out.

"Another Way" ©2011, Ayn Hanna, 28"x12", Textile Painting

Allowing myself to become, following an intuitive path, comfortable and enjoying that this is what needs to be, without really knowing what comes next.  Something wonderful about the easy-ness, good energy, warmth, and kindness toward self that helps open, relax, reduce stress, and expand breath.

Ideas flow, about learning, exploring, loving the art/mark-making, the meditative unfoldment and expansion of a thought, which evolves and becomes a thing, a real physical art object.  And this newly created artwork has come forth, through a dance, back and forth, to and fro, between my own heart and mind and this object, in it’s becoming.

"Another Way" state 1: discharge paste painted on hand-dyed fabric

The exhilaration of moving through the unknown, taking chances, risks, trying things out, listening to what it wants to become, then getting distracted and disconnected, whoops, what happened there?  Now I’m not sure, not loving this, thinking this may not even work out.  But, not ready to give up on it, I’ll keep trying, and see what happens.

We keep going, and, now I’m lost, tired, not liking this and it’s time to stop for today.  I’m really confused, unsure of where this is going or even IF it can be resolved.  Tomorrow, the struggle continues, and the day after, and the next after that.  I’ve lost track of how long it’s been, muddling about, I wonder what happened to that clarity that once was.

"Another Way" state 2: hand-dyed fabric discharged, fabric paint, applique

Knowing it may return, in a wiser form, I keep going.  And sometimes, it’s not until just before the piece is complete, that we come back together and I feel my re-attachment to the work again, finally.  And I have changed.  The world seems different.  And with some pieces, I really want to spend some time with my new creations, because we need time to debrief.  And with others, with this one, not so much.

It’s in this process of thought, drawing, visual play, struggle, unknown, searching, wondering, finding, becoming, resolving, and learning that the magic of making art happens.  This is my drug.  I’m hooked on Art.

"Another Way" state 3: auditioning additional applique shapes

Allowing “Another Way”

My creative process for completing “Another Way” was a  struggle, a battle of allowing.  I began with a general thought in mind, and in the end, the finished piece evolved into something very different.  I felt as if I was being spun around in a tornado and there was a large span of time during the making in which I really did not like the piece at all and seriously wondered if it was even going to be possible to resolve.

Would I ever reach a point with it where I would like it again?  I was hung up in that uncomfortable zone of not liking the way it was looking and trying things to make it better which really weren’t helping, putting more and more work into it, all the while wondering if it was going to be for a lost cause.

"Another Way" (detail) ©2011, Ayn Hanna, 28"x12", Textile Painting

It was teetering for a long time on the brink of being trashed.  Then, something I’d try would improve it, and I’d have hope again.  Then, not.  It went back and forth.  I was getting emotional about it, and a little crazy.  At one point, I had a revelation – wow, this piece is such a perfect metaphor for what I’m encountering in my day job AND my mixed up emotions about the major changes happening around the world right now.

In the end, I feel like I’ve grown up in some way.  I stuck with it, even when I wanted to trash it, and ultimately resolved it.  I actually kind of like it, but am ready to let it go.  It’s an odd piece and I have a strange relationship with it.  I’m not all that sure about it, but I think it works.

Finding a Way

February 28, 2011

"Finding a Way" ©2011 Ayn Hanna, 28"x12", Textile Painting (discharged cotton fabric, cotton batting, cotton thread)

Wow, it’s been awhile….and so much going on.

In the last few weeks, I have:

  • Finished 2 pieces for upcoming shows (including the one above for the SDA members show at the annual conference in MN this June)
  • Completed 4 applications for juried arts events (I think every artist that’s able to successfully navigate the elaborate gauntlet of digital image editing requirements for these things ought to be accepted outright)
  • Designed the course and submitted the description for my first visiting artist workshop I’ll be teaching this summer at the Ah Haa School for the Arts in Telluride
  • As a Shift-It Coach-in-Training, led 1 client through the complete Shift-It graphic coaching process.
  • Attended a 2 day Artists’ workshop and have some new pieces of art cloth to show for it
  • Enjoyed visits from 2 out-of-town friends
  • Completed all my 2010 Income Tax paperwork!!!

One of my art cloth experiments from the surface design workshop.

The SDA (Surface Design Association) Annual Conference in June is titled “Confluence” and the members’ show theme is “Merge and Flow”.  Each member was asked to submit one piece for the show and the piece had to be 28″x12″ (either vertical or horizontal orientation).  I started out thinking I would do the piece below, “Another Way” for the SDA show, but after I started it, it evolved and became difficult to resolve.

"Another Way" ©2011 Ayn Hanna, 28"x12", Textile Painting (cotton fabric hand-dyed and discharged by the artist, cotton batting, cotton thread, fabric paint)

While I continued to wrangle “Another Way” to completion, I started “Finding a Way” as an alternative piece.  While working on my course design for my visiting artist workshop, I’ve been experimenting with dyeing, resist painting, and discharging fabric with various mediums.  “Finding  a Way” is constructed of a whole cloth piece of black kona cotton, discharged with discharge paste and then quilted.  It is a nice complement to “Another Way”, opposite in so many ways, including in how easily it just came together, and in it’s simple elegance.

The past few weeks have been filled with lots of action and turmoil – in the world, my art, and my day job.  The extraordinary world events and revolutionary changes taking place have stirred the energy in all of us.  My heart hurts when I hear the news of all the battles being fought.  What can one do?  Be productive, make progress, move ahead with right action toward goals.  I’ve been sorting through my own thoughts, silently searching for my own peace, finding a way.

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