Wednesday, January 12, 2011

One Man's Trash

The theme of my art life in this new year has been very cohesive. This is a wonder to me, because the source of my projects is coming from many people and places. There must be something in the air. Yes, I do believe that after all the media attention to "going green" and caring for our planet, it has come down to this: you aren't in the proper groove unless your art is REDUCED, REUSED, or RECYCLED!

It all started with an article I saved from "Cloth, Paper, Scissors",  a magazine for mixed media artists that touted the magical transformation of colorful magazine photo pages into abstract backgrounds for collage, or further for the stories that one could read within the blobs and streaks created by the process. This magic happens by treatment with a certain brand of concentrated orange cleaner ("earth friendly"), not easily found in my vicinity. So far my experiments with the dilute product haven't worked, but my husband, who loves a shopping challenge, is on the case of finding it and making this thing reality.

The second experiment involved a common food source for dyeing, some cloth on hand and some patience. Tea dyed fabrics have been around for years, but tea stained tea bags, now that's the new rage! Recently made popular by quilter and painter, Judy Coates Perez, the resulting papers are used as base layers in both paper and fabric constructions. One cheap box of iced tea sized bags brewed up, some leftover muslin, two days of waiting, and then the patience to deconstruct, clean, and iron the bags, and--voila!--dyed muslin, tie-dyed muslin, and a sort of tie-dyed paper for almost free. When I calculated my lifetime consumption as a tea lover, I could have had about 40,000 tea bags by now! I could have gotten rich selling those cute stained papers to people who just can't be bothered fussing with those teeny, tiny staples.

Deconstructing the tea bags which have been sitting for two days dyeing the  "tie-dye" cloth

Three pieces of tea dye cloth and a couple dozen dyed papers

But lest you think I've just been spinning my wheels collecting trash, I've actually been making some cool journal-based art and getting ready for some soulful cloth and stitch. By now you may have read about or participated in the Strathmore visual journal online workshops. Some of us are working on a month long layered project called "Recycled Journal Pages". This is a fine way for newbie artists like me to learn about basic art materials and techniques, and how to take our own ideas and efforts to another level. I have found in just two weeks, I am making images I never would have imagined and stirring my creative pot into whole new recipes.
"Deconstructed Hippo" Week 2: Added layers of gesso, charcoal pencil, and oil pastel 

Two journal pages related to a December visit to Chicago have been combined and enhanced.  Fifi swims in her  world of wine bubbles while the cheese cow looks on.

"Where's Pinky? Greg and Pinky are transformed into little monsters.

I haven't forgotten that I was, in my previous life, primarily a cloth and stitch artist. Part of my reason for learning to draw and paint is to find a more creative and personal voice to bring to that work. Late last year, a new (old) technique and movement of cloth artists became known to me. The term "boro" (mended cloth) is a Japanese concept of reverence for the preciousness of old cloth with history. It is a slow and careful sort of repair and creation of new cloth from old or scrap cloth, instilling story and spirit into the new piece as it is made. One of the leaders of this movement, and the teacher of my upcoming class, called Contemporary Woven Boro, is Jude Hill, the Cloth Whisperer. If you haven't heard of her, you might enjoy taking a look at her work and her philosophy. She is a poet who lives her poetry.

Old linen fabric, dyed, is woven with rust printed fabric.

An unfinished project from the Cloth to Cloth workshop by Jude Hill. A walk on the beach, the waves, seaweed...?

Meanwhile I am off to spend some time learning to hear the story that my cloth has to tell me, so that I may stitch it in, and bring it to life. Ah, the poetry of recycling!


  1. Once again, nicely written! I have been using teabags, so far only in paper collage. Iron them?? No way!

  2. Looks like you've been very busy! Interesting ideas.

  3. These are so cool and so much fun!

  4. Very interesting and different ideas! Different from what I'm used to anyways....maybe others have heard of them! Nice pages!