Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Playing with Fabri-Solvy

Lately in my embroidery practice, I've been flipping back and forth between Japanese Embroidery and working on Mrs. Rose.

When last we left Mrs. Rose, I was trying to figure out how I was going to create leaves and leaf stems for the climbing roses.  So far, I had found one way, using silk velvet and water-soluble stabilizer that I liked.

Today, I wanted to play with another method of creating an embroidered leaf without the typical wire outline that goes on many versions of stumpwork leaves.

I thought I would try embroidering directly onto the fabri-solvy...trying a fly-stitch leaf and a modification of a fishbone leaf...

I just quickly couched wire onto the back of the solvy.  This was just an experiment so I didn't really care about the finished look of the wire, I just wanted to have it there to hold my leaves in place...

I thought that the two different leaves would behave a bit differently once I dropped them in water.

What I didn't expect was how loopy the stitches came out...regardless of the stitch type I used.

A good lesson learned but this loopy look was not what I was going for so it's back to the drawing board.  

Next time I'm adding some green silk organza so that the stitches have something to adhere to...

I'm also going to change my thread to a silk with a tighter twist.   

Back to more leafing...

Monday, January 26, 2015

On Looking

At the Kimono exhibit in New York City, after I had spent hours absorbing and photographing the works on display, I realized that I had lost track of my husband Jim.

I found him here...

Completely absorbed in I knew not what.

Not wanting to interrupt his meditation, I paused to take in the sculpture which seemed to focus his attention...

In time, he saw me out of the corner of his eye and turned a somewhat faraway gaze on me.

I sat next to him and asked, "What do you see?"

And he said,

"I've been watching this fountain for about an hour.  Of all the people that have walked by this sculpture, less than 50% have bent down to look below the screen.

Of those that bent down, only 1 in 10 have stopped to read the placard on the wall."

"And of those who have read its description, only 3 of them have sat here and checked it out.  I'm one of the three."

I realized I was in the category of walking by without even seeing it.   After all, it wasn't a textile, it wasn't embroidered...I had dismissed it as merely "setting the stage" for the exhibit.

"It's a fountain, and for the life of me I haven't been able to see the water flowing over the edge of the rock, yet it is.  I've been sitting here trying to see the water move and I cannot.  It's really quite brilliant."

I sat beside him, trying to see the water move.  I got up and moved closer.  I squatted down...but no.  I couldn't see the water move either...but it was.  There was a constant flow that wet the top and sides of the sculpture without once rippling or bubbling or breaking surface tension.  It really was brilliant and I hadn't even seen it.

I was reminded of something that author Alexandra Horowitz had written...

Right now, you are missing the vast majority of what is happening around you.  You are missing the events unfolding in your body, in the distance, and right in front of you. 
By marshaling your attention to these words, helpfully framed in a distinct border of white, you are ignoring an unthinkably large amount of information that continues to bombard all of your senses:  the hum of the fluorescent lights, the ambient noise in a large room, the places your chair presses against your legs or back, your tongue touching the roof of your mouth, the tension you are holding in your shoulders or jaw, the map of the cool and warm places on your body, the constant hum of traffic or a distant lawn-mower, the blurred view of your own shoulders and torso in your peripheral vision, a chirp of a bug or whine of a kitchen appliance.

It's from her book titled,  On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes, in which the author writes of eleven different walks in New York City, most of them through her neighborhood, with eleven different companions.  First, she walks by herself and notes everything she sees.  Then she goes with her toddler, a geologist, an artist, her get the idea...and records her discoveries as her "familiar" surroundings are new again when seen through the senses of her companions.  I thoroughly enjoyed the read and found myself wanting to take a walk with Sidney Horenstein, a geologist who works for the Natural History Museum and gives geological tours through Central Park.

I came close to that experience a couple of years ago when fellow crazy quilter and blogging friend Betty Pillsbury came to visit.  Betty drove eight hours to Maryland from the Catskill mountains of Vermont.  By the time she arrived, her body was cramped from the car and needed to move so  I took her for a walk on the Grist Mill Trail along the Patapsco River where I walk many times per week.

Once we crossed over the bridge, Betty started pointing out all of the botanical names and uses for many of the plants along the trail.   Not only is Betty a talented quilter and embroiderer, she's also an herbalist.

Her knowledge of botany completely transformed the surroundings I thought I knew so well.  To this day, I smile and think of Betty when I see the Jack-in-the-Pulpits bloom in the Spring or when I spy the Mullein leaves which I now know to be nature's best wipe when you're in the woods and haven't got toilet paper!

Yesterday Jim and I went on that same walk which for us has grown fairly routine.  After walking in silence for some time my thoughts returned to Betty and how the walk was so different for me once I saw it through her eyes.  My wandering thoughts led me to my closest companion, so I asked of Jim...

"What do you see?"

"See that bit of the river, right there?" he said, pointing to an area where the water was running quickly around the rocks, "I thought that would be a perfect spot to show to a group of students.  It's an eddy current.  See how the water flows really fast on either side of that rock but there is a pool of water that stagnates and kind of swirls back around upstream?  That's an eddy.  Once you understand an eddy current you can much better understand heat transfer and using a fluid to cool a surface..."

And he went on to talk of thermal dynamics as we walked along the river holding hands and contemplating the efficiency of various surfaces for cooling fluids such as air.

What a rich world we live in if only we would could see it all.

What do you see?  Even more importantly, what don't you see?

P.S.  It turns out that the sculptor of the fountain above was Isamu Nogichi (1904-1988),  a well-known Japanese-American artist and landscape architect who has his own museum in Long Island, NY and whose sculpture I've passed many times on the Associated Press building at 50 Rockefeller center. He had a fascinating life that included a volunteer stay as an artist in a Japanese internment camp during WWII.  He was almost imprisoned for treason but the intercession of the Civil Liberties Union saved him.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Kimono Exhibit at the Met

Over the Christmas Holiday, Jim Jack and I traveled to New York City for  a couple of days.  While there, we had the opportunity to go to the Metropolitan Museum for a day.  Jack ditched his parents and went off to do his own thing while Jim and I high-tailed it over to the Asian Arts section for the Kimono exhibit that I had read about in the paper.


I have seen a few kimono exhibits in the past twenty years or so but never had I seen so many embroidered kimonos from the Edo period (1615-1868) on display all at the same time.

During the Edo period, Japan remained closed to outside influences by imposing sakoku, a foreign relations policy whereby no person could enter or leave Japan under penalty of death.  That means that the kimonos that are from the Edo period tend to be made from materials and dyes native to Japan.

It was amazing to see so many examples of Japanese embroidery using most of the same motifs and techniques that I am studying today...400 years later!

One was more stunning than the next...

Every carriage on this kimono was different and the colors were pure understated elegance...

I was particularly fond of this uchikake, a robe worn over a kimono...

It's embroidered with boxes containing shells from a shell-matching game...

I suppose its appeal might be the fact that the boxes, all different, are similar in style to the round box which I am currently embroidering. Notice the holding stitches over the orange satin stitches in the box interior...very similar to what I've recently completed on my last post.

The bottom edges of uchikake were stuffed so that the train would flow uninterrupted behind the wearer...

The uchikake below is also likely from a wedding...

Because it shows pairs of folded-paper butterflies, male and female, symbolizing the newly wedded couple.

Lucky for us, the Met has this particular kimono available for viewing in its online collection here so you can see the entire kimono up-close.

The Edo period ended in 1868 with the overthrow of the Tokugawan shogunate ushering in a period of modernization for Japan.  In the Meiji period that followed, Japan's isolationism ended and there began significant cross-fertilization between East and West.

Japonisme, an affinity for all things Japanese, influenced Western art.  See this kimono-inspired robe made for sale to European ladies...

The embroidery on this one was just phenomenal.

While Japonism was taking hold in Europe, likewise Western textiles and methods made their way to Japan.

The exhibit showed many examples of how new fibers and dyes influenced the kimono designs in the late 19th century.  The vibrant purple of this Meiji kimono was made possible with the availability of Western synthetic dyes.

It's shows a single cherry blossom tree with many birds...

and a lovely string of bells that stretch from branch to branch...

It made me wonder what it might sound like to hang a set of bells in the cherry tree out front for when the flocks of Cedar Waxwings return.  I wonder if the tinkling of the bells would scare them away?

There is so much to this exhibit that I can't possibly share it in one post.  Sadly, the exhibit closed last weekend but I did manage to take a lot of photographs.  I set them up in a Flickr album for your viewing pleasure.  You can either manually progress through the album which gives you time to read the placards here...or, if you prefer, you can watch a slideshow beginning here.

You might want to set aside some time to go through it properly.  There are over 200 pictures there.

It took me hours to go through the exhibit.  I was so absorbed that when I finally came out of my trance, I found I had lost track of Jim.

Tomorrow I'll tell you where I found him and what caught his eye...

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