Monday, August 29, 2016

ephalumps a'stompin' 'round

"i'm truly surprised
that we seem to get by
without polka dotted elephants,
serving us pie!"
-marc johns

this past month has been a struggle at best. between another lay-off, job search, training, bodhi having health issues, piper growing older by the minute, and the ephalump of depression stomping about in my brain, it's no wonder i've managed so little stitching!  today, however, was an ephalump of another color: no, i still haven't managed to find a polka dotted ephalump to serve me pie, but i did manage a little needle chanting beneath a shady tree this afternoon.  a little romp through a cloth fragment stash and a little playing about with sharp objects.  not sure where i'm going with him from this point.  perhaps i'll work him into a little pocket. a zippered vessel for bits and bobs. a keeping pouch.  i recently salvaged some lovely old metal zippers that i should be able to harvest one from. there seems to be a little story there, somewhere. whispering quietly in the background...


Friday, August 5, 2016

the slow burn of rust

"you know, rust is just oxidation.
the same chemical process as fire.  
oxygen interacts with steel,
electrons drift from one
element to the other.
so really, rust is a slow fire.
isn't that weird?
water causes something
to burn."
-leah raeder

i was doing a little rust-dyeing last night before the sun got away and while i was neutralizing the fragments, a thought kept crossing my mind like an anxious kitten. there is a strange idea circulating around the web about rust-dyeing that just makes no sense to me. i don't know if it is simply a misunderstanding that has taken on a life of its own (which is quite common on the internet) or something else altogether.  it has to do with the process of neutralizing the rust process. i have seen it stated, and repeated incessantly, that to do this one must soak the rust-dyed cloth in a salt water bath.

it seems strange to me that one would attempt to "neutralize" the rusting process with the very solution that causes the rust in the first place.  true, most people (myself included) use vinegar in the mix, as well.  but you can use simply water. water and salt. water and vinegar. water, salt and vinegar. or any number of other combinations as well.  so why would anyone think that salt water would neutralize the rusting process when salt water is used to foster it? oh, that's right....because somewhere, someone said on their blog/tutorial/article that was what we are supposed to do. it must be the way to do it.  it was on the internet...or in a book...or...or some highly admired mucky-muck said so!

hmmm...was that a bit curmudgeonly of me?  ah well, i'm getting old and take liberties from time to time.

now to be helpful.  the (ahem) "proper" way to neutralize your rust-dyed cloth is to soak it in a bath of baking soda and water. yep! this is the only way to do it.  you read it right here on my blog. here on the internet. in black and white and rusty orange. it must be true!  ring the church bells and shout it from the highest hilltops!  ha!

seriously, though.  baking soda and water is the way to go to actually neutralize the oxidizing process that is rust.  it also neutralizes the vinegar, making it a win win!

for those of you unsure of the entire rust-dyeing process, here it is (as i employ it, at any rate):

1.  gather rusty objects such as steel and iron in the form of springs, nails, metal plate, steel wool, cans, rods, hinges, architectural bits, etc.

2. soak cloth (i use primarily cotton, however, silk, wool, rayon, and even synthetics will work) in solution of water, vinegar and/or salt.

3. arrange/wrap/press/fold/etc. cloth on/around rusty object. be sure to do this on plastic sheeting or in a plastic box/bucket/etc.

4. loosely cover in plastic sheeting to slow evaporation (also insulates).

5. allow to sit until desired level of rust-dyeing has occurred (this is completely subjective! it could be in as little as a couple hours, or as many as several days. generally, however, 2 to 24 hours is a good rule of thumb, for those of you who truly must have a number.)

6.  hand wash with dish detergent (this rids the cloth of the vinegar smell, the salt, and any dirt that may have joined the party). i suggest you do this in a bucket or other vessel outside as you most likely will not wish to introduce rust to your household plumbing.

7.  soak in a solution of baking soda and water (approximately 1 cup to every gallon of water....which means, if you are doing only a small amount of cloth, then a couple tablespoons to a large bowl of water).

8.  rinse thoroughly in clear water and allow to dry. press, if desired.

a note of caution when rust-dyeing: rust can do all kinds of nasty things to your hemoglobin, not to mention that any cuts or scratches can become infected, so it is highly recommended that you make sure your tetanus shots are current and that you wear rubber gloves when handling rusty bits to be on the safe side!

most of all, enjoy yourself and find wonder in whatever it is you do!


Thursday, August 4, 2016

idle hands

"happiness is
a warm puppy."
-charles m. schulz

i've been so busy with building barns this summer that i've been tuckered out by the time i drag my butt home at night and can't bring myself to do much more than let my hands sit idle at the needles. this week i have been playing around with a some ideas for a slow cloth version of bodhi though. i really like the direction this one is going so will have to muster the energy this weekend to dig through my fiber stash and see what i can come up with. maybe i'll manage a little rust dyeing and stitching, too?


Sunday, June 19, 2016

the movement of color

"colors are the smiles
of nature.:
-leigh hunt

a gentle smile is slowly forming here. soft. muted. timid, even. pale shades of purples, greens, and pinks peeking amidst the rusty hues.  hinting at the possibility of larger smiles. or perhaps laughter in the near future.

this has been an interesting journey that i have embarked upon with you. sharing the emerging cloth from start to what will eventually be the finish.  not that i have ever intentionally avoided it. but that i generally skip around a bit. ok. a lot. from cloth to cloth. sometimes putting one or another away for months. even years, on occasion.  allowing the creative muse to draw me to wherever she pleases. i still allow her that license. only now, i'm trying to tie down at least one cloth at a time. see it through in a more chronological manner, rather than my usual rabbit trail method. hopping first this way. then that way.

of course, this doesn't mean that i'm not still exploring. beginning other cloths. like this rather large fragment of salvaged vintage cotton brocade.  it is nearly three times the size of the moose cloth. i was attempting to capture the sweeping nature of montana's landscape without losing the sense of the big sky we are so well known for in these parts. i look forward to working on this one, too. i can already see the blue waters of the lake. the piney greens of the trees...

and something a little different. a grizzly brizzly bear.  i've no idea what to do with him as yet. but i'm certain he will begin whispering once i have a chance to listen...


Monday, June 13, 2016

broken heart mending

"it is only with true love and compassion
that we can begin to mend what
is broken in the world.
it is these two blessed things
that can begin to mend all broken hearts."
-steve maraboli

ordinarily, the news is avoided in my house. too much hate and violence in the world. the news industry feeds on it. sensationalizes it. attempts to make it pedestrian in order to find new horrors to parade across our minds.  but in a world wrapped so tightly in social media and visual stimuli, some fragments still manage to find their way in. tv screens posted strategically at the gym. memes dancing across various streams on smartphones and tablets.  there's only such much one can filter out.  it is in times like these that i am grateful to lead a sheltered life with my saint bernard, bodhi, and the resident cat, piper.  their sweet soft eyes and truly unconditional love are a gentle reminder of just how healing love and compassion are. would that we could all see the world through such eyes. would that we could all remember that our own broken hearts are not unlike anyone else's. would that we could all see the beauty in the world through the kaleidoscopic cracks in our hearts. would that we could allow compassion to pour through those cracks in an array of rainbow colors.  would that we could all simply see. truly see with our hearts and know joy.


Saturday, June 11, 2016

"clouds come floating
into my life,
no longer to carry rain 
or usher storm,
but to add color 
to my sunset sky. "
-rabindranath tagore 

a little color is gently stitching it's way across the rusty sky, insinuating new depth. hinting at hues still to whisper across this quiet scene...

every new cloth is a journey. some are chaotic. filled with color and noise and celebration. others, like this one, tip toe softly across the imagination, instilling a more meditative sense of joy...


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

a fail is not a failure

"you don't have to
change your goal.
change your path,
be willing to, and
do not see that
as a failure.
that's just life."
-diane hendricks

there seems to be some sort of rusty or corroded metal that does not transfer rust to other things.  whatever the particulates were in my rust mush is of this metal.  it left absolutely no marks on the fragment.  rather than counting this as a failure, i figure i've learned something.  i'm not quite certain of some of the details of that learning. ha! but learning was had.

next step was to pull out some rusty bits from my other stash and star rusting a ground line. also, to grab those new swirly bits from the newly plasma whacked steel plate and rust some stylized clouds with them.  in this process, i found several of my rusty bits that are of the same particulate structure that populated the rust mush and ended up with blank spots.  aaargh!  ok.  learning was had again.

rusty old hand-forged square nails came next to create some tall grasses.  oh, and a tiny rusty moose acquired at a craft show or through etsy or somewhere no longer remembered.  i figured i'd really montana this fragment up a bit!

tadah!  a foundation of rust depiction is achieved!  now to liven this cloth up with some thread chanting and stitch sketching.  maybe some beads. a little piecing. who knows what all else will put in an appearance by the time this fragment is fully realized?!?

but for now...i am at peace with the direction it is taking and quietly enjoying the serene tableau...


Sunday, June 5, 2016

like alchemy...

"my work
is like a dialogue
between me and 
unseen powers,
like alchemy.'
-cai gua-qiang

delving into unknown territory today...  first "what if" was to rust dye in layers.  wrapped my salvage fragment around the band from an old whiskey cask to dye a large, summer moon.  once dyed, i dunked the fragment back into the vinegar water and then stretched it out on a plastic sheet and laid the metal tree cut out on it, smoothing the wet cloth gently to remove wrinkles and distortions, then carefully folded the fragment back onto itself to get the second tree image rusted in....all the while, being meticulous in keeping any part of the cloth off of the moon so as not to accidentally transfer the first image back into an unwanted area of the cloth.

i was very happy with my initial results...except that all this carefulness left the image a bit stark for my taste.  what to do? what to do?'s a thought...grab some of the rust mush from the bottom of the dunk tank and spread it around to create clouds and ground after another dip in the vinegar water!    i'm liking this so much better already.  only thing is...i have no idea how this will turn out.  i've never used rust mush to dye with before.  it's just the rusty flakings from the floorboard of my international that i dumped into the dunk tank to act as a rust starter.  it's black.  i don't know why.  but it is.  i don't know if it'll turn orange and rust like any other rusty metal. or if it will dye the fragment black or grey.  or if it will just sit there stubbornly. sticking its tongue out at me and do nothing to color the cloth.  i shall just have to wait and see what happens tomorrow...  isn't it exciting?!?


squirrels and other distractions

"i often imagine
that your mind wanders
through the same
forest as mine."
-raine cooper

a dear friend of mine opened a wondrous resource for creating new artistic tools.  it is amazing what a plasma cutter is capable of making from a flat sheet of raw steel!  these lovelies are still shiny and as distracting as chattering squirrels, but will soon be coated in lovely rust and ready to go to work!  i have some very specific ideas in mind to try out with them this weekend...

she also had this delightful rust dye tank created for me.  created from raw steel, it will soon be rusty and ready to go to work.  my idea when discussing the possibilities of such a thing with her was to create a rust dye tank that i could use to get an all-over dye bath brewing in.  my hope with this experiment is to be able to create softer rust dye results than direct to metal rust dyeing.  i'm also hoping to see if it will lend itself to more of a shibori dying technique with rust.  i don't know of anyone who has tried this as yet so don't know if it will work, but the theory seems viable.

to this end, i have already dumped a starter rust dye mush into the tank, created from the rusty bits and rust dust collected from the floor pans of my 1960 International Harvester B112 truck that were removed in the process of fabricating shiny new floor pans.  this rust dye mush has been cooking in a bucket with rainwater for a few months already.  now i'll add more rainwater and some vinegar and really get the tank cooking!

as a happy serendipitous surprise, she also found this lovely small rust dye tank for me.  we are not sure what it was intended to become before it was abandoned in the scrap pile, but it is water tight and made of raw steel, so it is now my new experimental rust dye tank.  the perfect smaller size for one offs and mad experimentation!

so many new squirrels to chase after!