Friday, April 30, 2010

On Communication, Intention, Perception, and the Need for Understanding

     For the past two days I have be thinking a lot about words and images and the role that emotions and the psyche play in our attempt to communicate with others.  There were three happenings this week that triggered my musings on these things. Yesterday there was'discussion' on the Natural Dyes group on yahoo concerning the environment. Yesterday was also the day that I went in to clean out my desk at the dictionary company where I had worked first as a definer of words then as an illustrator of words. And earlier in the week there was a posting on a blog of a piece of artwork that I am having trouble understanding.
     The artwork is an instillation piece by a fellow feltmaker who is very talented and whose work I respect. However, this new piece I am just not fully under standing. It certainly has made me think (and maybe that is the point) but rather than thinking about the piece itself I have been thinking about my own art. When I consider what this artist has created (and actually modern art in general) and I compare it to my own art I feel that mine is somehow lacking. I feel that my art is just making pretty things. My work has no message and the few pieces that I have tried to create that I wanted to "speak" I felt...some how more disconnected from. I think if my work has anything to say beyond "Here is a pretty picture of a tree" it is only about my own inner world.  But I know from comments that  others have made about how some of my pieces make them feel that this is just my perception.
    And perception is a key ingredient to communication that I think we often forget, especially when the conversation gets emotional. Listening is very complex. First we each have our own view of the topic at hand, sometimes these views seem similar, but since we are individuals with our own experiences and emotions our views are never exactly the same. Then there is the meaning behind the message, the speaker's experiences and emotions that sometimes are hidden behind the words. To really understand what someone is saying we need to try to understand where they are 'coming from'. By the same token we need to realize that what we hear has as much to do with where we ourselves are 'coming from.'  But listening in this mindful way takes time and can not be done in the 'heat of the moment'.
   Mindful listening is also very difficult when we are trying to communicate through email and short forum posts. We do not get the information that is conveyed through tone of voice, body language or facial expression. The fact that cyber communication is also often international adds a very basic language barrier. Working at the dictionary company, language and words were very much part of my daily life.  Words are added to most dictionaries based on how they are USUALLY used. There is no set or official spelling, pronunciation, or meaning.  And words change all the time. Some changes happen quickly, others over a very long time. To me, not all of the changes are positive, and certainly when the change is still new things can get dicey.
   The conversation on the Natural Dyes group yesterday was an example of this. The subject of the environment came up as it relates to the use of lichen for dyeing. The concern is that lichen grows slowly; I read that some of them can take a human life time to grow to the size of a human hand. Over-harvesting is a concern with any wild plant but especially with a slow growing lichen. Unfortunately the mention of the environment is now often equated with politics. It seems as though saying that I have concerns about global warming, or pollution, or the destruction of natural resources has become as politically incorrect as references to a person's race or religion. Since I do have concerns about the environment but I do not participate in politics I am now wondering how I am supposed to communicate my concerns without offending others.  If I use the old word I have to be sure to explain what my intention is in using that word. If I try to coin a new word I will have to explain what I mean until it catches on. Maybe instead I will create a new emoticon so that when I write the word 'environment' on the net I can add a political sign with a circle and slash through it. Although someone will have to inform me whether to use the ass or the elephant for the political sign since I don't follow politics.
 One last thing that I think gets forgotten when we try to communicate is that we have choices. The choice to listen, or read, or delete anything that we find offensive. The choice to listen mindfully.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Un Natural Dyeing

Two posts in one day! Not because I have a lot to say but because I have a lot to show. I did a bunch of dye painting on silk and felt yesterday.  Two unusual things happened; I managed not to have all the yellow wash out AND I am pleased with most of the results. I will use most of the silk for nuno felting.

I wanted to make some things that I could use as back grounds. This will be cut in two. The next photo is after the silk was steamed, rinsed and dried.

This next piece I painted was a piece of folded silk so I can have either two pieces that match...or a reflection?
And of course I did one of my typical land and sky things.

I also did some plain ole dyeing...and LOOK! one of the pieces is NOT blue and green!
And I am very happy that the only square I did that has finished edges came out so well. I like it so much that I probably won't felt it... I may need to start wearing scarves! 
The felt pieces were all over dyes on pieces that I was not happy with.
This one I did at Joei's house but I didn't like how the white wool came through so much. Below is a before and after dyeing.
I over-dyed another nuno felt piece that I was not happy with good results. This piece has been through many different stages over many months.
It started as a piece of silk that I painted...but the colors washed out.

So I laid down wool in colors to coordinate with the silk to make a nuno landscape.

Then I added bits of colored silk and other goodies on top of the painted silk.
But this was when I was having trouble with some color (especially yellow) washing out, so the resulting felt was disappointing to me.

I like it better now...
And this last piece I liked better before I steamed the piece.

but who knows...I may do something else to it and find I like it. That is what I love about doing this kind of art. There are so many options and ways to (possibly) improve a piece!
Now, I have to go clean up my dye mess!

Back to felting

I said I would post about the felt pieces I have been doing lately but my last post was too long to include them.  I was so enjoying making the small piece for the card swap for the guild meeting that I made a few more. Not sure yet what I will do with them. But first here is the card that was in the envelope that I am so happy I picked. It is a lovely sample piece done by Flo Rosenstock. Unlike me she does the smart thing and makes a sample before she makes the final piece. 

And here is Flo modeling the final product of her work. She is a very talented feltmaker!

I already posted a picture of the one I did for the swap so I won't add that here. Below are the other small pieces I've done since then.
The colors on this are brighter than they appear here.

With this one I'm not sure whether or not I should stitch some of the leaves too.

Dusting off the old embroidery skills. I don't think I have made french knots since I was a kid...I still love them!
This last one is not finished as I want to do some stitching and maybe some beading on it too. This one is almost big enough to be a pillow front.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Back to natural dyeing

At the end of my second post about natural dyeing last month I was about to use the pear bark dye and I had started some sumac bark soaking. Well, the pear bark worked out lovely. I still can't get over how different the colors of natural dye can be from the color of the dyestuffs. The pear bark was greenish yellow, the crab apple was burgundy, and the apple was such a dark red it looked black. Yet the pear bark gave me the least yellow dye. A wonderful peach.

The sumac was looking real good when I put the fibers and fabric in. The color was a strong yellow that the silk took immediately. Here is a photo of a chiffon scarf just minutes after going in the bath.

I thought this was going to be another winner. I really liked the smell of the sumac too, kind of like an herb tea with some cinnamon. However, as the pot heated up the color seemed to fade. I also had made a mistake in that I tried to get fancy and fold and clip this scarf. Unfortunately I did not notice that the clip I used had black paint on it. I also gave no thought as to what type of metal the clip was made of and how that would effect the dye. I ended up with this. Note the dark stain from the clip.

So these are the colors that I ended up with after my foray into dyeing with bark. They look so pretty together.

Next I decided to try some ground ivy. I had no idea if it would work but I figured I didn't have much to lose. There was so much of it in the lawn, it is a very pretty purple and the leaves have a lot of color too. My fingers turned purple from picking it.

 I put the plants in a pot with water and then threw in a small piece of silk. The next morning the silk was a really nice mauve color. I was so excited but when I started heating the pot the color changed, becoming greyer and greener the hotter it got. When I rinsed out the silk I had a very light grey-green tint. I didn't even bother with a picture it was so pale.
Since I was using weeds from the lawn Dad asked if I could use the nettles that he wants gone from near the garage. So they were the next experiment and sadly did not work out too well either. Undaunted I have started digging up dandelion roots to use. I think one of the things I like best about this natural dyeing is the hunting and gathering! I am also doing an experiment with the ground ivy by putting the flowers on a piece of silk and wrapping it up and putting it in a jar with water and letting it brew for a while.  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Where Time Goes

The funny thing about using notes or a string around your finger or a blog to help you remember something is that you have to remember where you put the note or what the string or blog was for. I  forgot that the main reason I started this blog was to help me remember, at least in part, what I have been doing or thinking. I admit that my lack of writing is not all due to forgetfulness. It is also because I have been busy doing other things. Many of these things I was doing in order to avoid doing TAXES. I am good at making other things seem much more pressing when there is a task I just don't want to do. For example I just HAD to cut down the invasive multi-flora rose that has been spreading in the 'back 40' for years. REALLY spring IS the best time to hack away at it since 1. I need to be outside 2. there are fewer bugs 3. cooler weather means I can wear long sleeves to protect my arms 4. multi-flora rose is one of the first shrubs to leaf out making them easy to spot. See all that dead stuff by the drive? I must have cut about 15 large shrubs.
Then I found out that our town's yearly pick up of hazardous waste was on April 10th so of course getting those nasty chemicals out of the house was much more important than doing taxes. We had/have hazardous waste here from about 5 different households. Whenever someone moved or a grandparents house was sold we brought the stuff that we didn't know what to do with to this house. I collected enough 'stuff' (much of it was a mystery since the cans were rusty or unlabeled) to fill up the entire bed of our pickup truck. I forgot to take a picture of the full truck but here are pictures of the 'cleaned out' shelves and some of the things that did not make the cut.
In between these two projects I took care of the girls...and boy.
And in between these things I had to get ready for our guild meeting here in Connecticut on the weekend of the 17th. That involved cleaning, since I would be having my friend Joei come to visit (my first sleepover since I was a kid!) and I needed to make an art card for the swap that the guild has at the meetings.
Here is my card.

I also did a few more of these small pieces and more natural dyeing. But I will post about those things later...
IF I can remember. While all of this was going on I was sliding down the slippery slope to another bout of depression caused by a switch in meds to a generic brand and maybe some stress? I didn't really notice my mood slipping but my Dad did, though I should have known when none of this brought me the usual sense of satisfaction or joy, not even these.

By the way, I actually did get my taxes done...on time.
And got back on my old meds.