Colour Passion

In this season of white and grey, I am craving some delicious colour.

I think its safe to say that the way I look at colour dominates the way I view the world and the way I order my world. I think I like all colours, but only when they are used in proportions and with adjacent colours that I enjoy. Mostly I prefer strong bright colour, but just look at these browns in the dried leaves I see all around the cabin in Alabama. Perfection. Nature often does that, I have noticed. 

I do like mainly monochromatic colour schemes. And that is why I am surprised when a total random collection of colours pleases my eye. For example, playing with blocks with my grandson, it is surprising how beautiful all these primary colours, in such varying shapes and colours, fit together. I think that is because they are all the same intensity, and let’s face it, very jolly. But the same mixture in a garden of flowers, for example, does not appeal to me. I have only recently started adding yellow flowers or lime green foliage to brighten up a mass of dark purple flowers. And I do have one bed with dark orange and yellow flowers, but added dark purple to ground it, give it some gravitas. There was a beautiful burgundy and cream honeysuckle vine in the same bed which had to go elsewhere!

I purchased this hand crocheted wool afghan at a thrift store, and have looked at it in amazement many times. How could someone use no rhyme or reason to choose the colours for these blocks and then put them together any which way. But in a weird way, it sort of works, is that because it is totally random? Or maybe just all the same material (wool). 

Weaving allows so many ways to enjoy colour. Starting with the warp. The colours of the warp create the feeling of the finished piece. I learn from every warp. The way I decide which yarns belong together is by trying them yarn by yarn on the warping board. Looking at the cones and balls together isn’t accurate.

Then we can talk about the weft. The colours of the weft create the feeling of the finished piece, much as a wash does for a watercolour. I almost always use various yarns in the warp and a single yarn for the weft. The piece is calmer to my eyes that way and falls better. Selvages are more even. The weft is almost an easier option. Often before I start the actual weaving, I weave in a few rows of scraps and am amazed by how this random choice can be so pleasing. Often I make a few colour decisions at this point. Again, I usually choose a monochromatic colour range.

But there are some tried and true pairings used all through the ages. The combination in this warp was dictated by a carpet in the room next to my studio. I had planned to do a purely blue warp. But the siren song of the blue/rust pairing diverted my plans. Those colours I remember from ancient tiles in historic Mediterranean settings. Maybe even ancient Egyptian tiles. Chinese patterned kimonos, etc.

I had so much fun with these rag rugs. I used red cotton warp and those plastic vegetable bags for the weft. A friend who volunteers at the food bank saved me a lot of bags. Now those are saturated colours. I like to weave bright colours in the winter, and the combinations of reds and oranges almost made me groan with pleasure. I found it interesting how a stripe looked rather too prim, a more free flowing pattern with odd strips of other colours really suited the colours of the components. Purple and white from garlic bags, yellow from onion, rare pink bags from grapefruit. I always enjoy weaving rag rugs. My grandmother wove them, so maybe it is a genetic force in me.

My latest grandchild was born on my birthday and I have wondered if she might be a weaver one day as well, just wondering, no pressure! So far she shows no inclination to play with colour but children often have strong colour preferences. This young customer of mine chose and loved this blue scarf.

All Mixed Up in Toronto

For people who know me and my work, the following will come as no surprize. I love mixed media. Part of my mind is always “On It”.I have, for example, a current and growing collection of broken scissors, eyeglasses etc., which seem to be working towards a future art piece. I do fight a continuous and loosing battle with discarding ephemera. (Note for example a spontaneous and unintentional collage as I emptied my pockets after my recent trip to Toronto. The photo of the girl was found blowing along a sidewalk by a broken garbage bag. Heartbreaking! How could anyone throw that out!) This particular bent and accompanying skill set is why I was hired for my dream job to work at the second World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 instead of several other more conventional weavers, who no doubt still wonder why I was the weaver chosen! (see the Archived blog post World Summit for details.)

That recent trip to Toronto was a mind expanding and eye opening experience, textiles, artistic visions, textile related exhibits, big city sophistication and the sprawling generosity of urban influences for this particular country mouse, I am still recovering from the stimulation. Mostly, I am grateful for the validation I felt regarding my own creative path.

First stop was the Textile Museum. There are currently 2 exhibits, Tied Dyed and Woven, Ikat Textiles From Latin America and Diligence and Elegance; The Nature of Japanese Textiles. The visuals of both filled my eyes and heart. There even was one crossover, unlikely as that seems, the beauty of the colour of indigo dyes.

Some things stood out especially inspiring, the attention to detail as in the gorgeous hand knotted fringes on some garments from Latin America.

I also loved the cloth woven with weft of spun paper, Shifu, from Japan, once a frugal and warm cloth for basic kimono. It is a lot like linen. The piece on display was black, not a good photo option.

As much as the skills and techniques, the colour combinations and design elements linger in my memory.

Next stop was the ROM, a Saturday morning haunt of my Toronto childhood. There was a fun dress from Christian Dior. Roses! How stunning.

Then The VIKINGS; The Exhibit which I had not seen in Ottawa. I wanted more textile information, but it was, nonetheless, a very interesting and well displayed exhibit. This is the whorl found at L’Anse Aux Meadows and also a bone comb used for beating the weaving and some bone and wooden needles.

There was some information on the Bask fibers used in ropes.

It was a chance sighting that really Blew Me Away. Serendipitous. The ROM had commissioned El Anatsuito create a large tapestry. I seldom spend screen time when I am in a museum, but the accompanying film was very interesting. He prowls “recycling areas” (we would have put all this stuff in a garbage dump, but in many parts of Africa it is sorted and sold). Being aged himself, he likes to give new life to objects that are old, slightly broken, and discarded by much of society. He finds beauty there.

The tapestry is called Straying Continents and is constructed from bottle caps from liquor bottles, cut, flattened or twisted and tied with copper wire. The piece is rippling with crowded intense areas, and airy open areas, patterns, shapes and movement. The weight is causing the piece to slowly shift shape itself. The symbolism is how Africa has historically been impacted by colonialism and the accompanying imported goods. And how Africa stays true to itself somehow. My photos do not do justice to the impact of this work.

One last stop was the Distillery District. Very beautiful setting, I was told Dickens films have been shot here. I enjoyed seeing the weaving at a little shop. Wallhangings! Interesting little buttoned scarves. #Lilithsgarden I was interested in the addition of cloth and the sort of reckless abandon in the finishing details.

Also I loved the multimdia art in the Landry Gallery, a quiet, sprawling gallery with many well displayed pieces. The lighting was spectacular!

Also the painted woven plastic.

And I will end with this atmospheric painting, no multimedia at all but a gorgeous treatment of the cloth. Oh Toronto! A whirlwind trip.