Monthly Archives: January 2016

The Great Northern

great northern

Looking down the tunnel, photo by Stefano Catalani

Last week I had the great pleasure of working with Rick Araluce on the finishing touches of his installation, The Great Northern, at MadArt in Seattle. I’ve been a big fan of Rick’s since I saw his installation, Uprising, at Suyama Space. Rick plays with scale to help us really see what surrounds us, usually something plebeian like a stack of pallets in front of an eroded brick wall. Sometimes the works are miniatures and sometimes larger than life, but all are meticulously crafted and just a little bit creepy. He’s a truly gifted artist whose day job as a scenic artist at the Seattle Opera contributes to his ability to create magical deception.


Rick and Lara Ann laying out the ties

So when I found out that Rick was creating a half-size scale replica of the train tunnel that runs under Seattle in the MadArt gallery space, I was determined to lend a hand. A little bit pushy, even. Rick knows my work and that I’m pretty detail-minded myself, so he invited me to come down and help.


Affixing the ties, notice knife for scale

I spent the first day with Lara Ann, a student at Cornish, laying out the rail road ties, sized from 7/16″ to 3-5/8″ wide and then affixing them to the floor. When I returned two days later, Rick had laid the rails, and Lara Ann and I spent the day on our knees packing gravel in between the ties and rails. We gradated it in size from playground sand in the very back of the tunnel to 1/4,” to 3/8,” and finally to 5/8″ to keep the illusion of the forced perspective. I relate to the gestalt of taking care of every detail. Probably no one will ever see some of those details, but they are sure to sense if something is wrong.


playground sand for gravel at the end of the tunnel

It was fun to be down at MadArt, too. I was an artist in the first MadArt project, creating The Act of Becoming as part of The Window Art Project. I got a chance to catch up with Alison Milliman, the Founder and to get to know Tim Detweiler, the Director. The have a great mission, supporting artists creating large-scale installations. I really got more credit from them than I felt I deserved for my contribution, but there’s a lot to be said for showing up at the right time with the right attitude.

I have been so lucky in my work to have fabulous volunteers help me realize my own large-scale projects. It felt good to give back, paying it forward, or backward, or something like that. It was fun to just show up and help Rick, and not have to do the hard work of planning or thinking, but just putting in time and labor. It’s like my long ago days in theater, or working on the Solstice Parade, where everyone does their part to make the whole.


I’ve been working on the railroad.

And really, although the work itself was somewhat grueling, there was plenty of joy in it, too. While I was working in the back of the tunnel, brushing tiny gravel fragments between the ties with a brush, Scott Bennet who designed the sound and lights for the installation and Rick were fine-tuning the sound. Inside the tunnel, hearing the sound of a train approaching from a distance and then retreating over and over again, I experienced a little shift in reality. For a moment, I was a giant in relation to my surroundings, filling the Great Northern before the moment passed, and I was myself again.

And then there was the laughing. Rick is the funniest Guggenheim Fellow I know. Anytime Dude, really.

The Great Northern
Exhibit: January 17th-February 27th, 2016
Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 12-6pm (and by appointment)

Welcome to the Lab, Part II


dyed samples in the studio

A few months ago I ordered a new product, Color Magnet, along with my usual dyes and chemicals. It’s a “dye attractant,” supposed to create darker color on fabric where it is applied. So, I thought I’d try it out.

Color Magnet from Jacquard

Color Magnet from Jacquard

I tested it on both cotton and silk with four mixed dye colors: Kingfisher Blue and Lime Squeeze from Dharma and Butterscotch and Olive from ProChem. I didn’t use a silk screen, but applied the Color Magnet with a brush and with a foam roller using a stencil over the fabric and one under the fabric (my new round placemat). Once it dried I used a light shade of the dyes for immersion. I added a “Fix Mix” to my dye rather than soaking it in soda solution because the Color Magnet would probably dissolve in the soak.

into the dye bath!

into the dye bath!

The results, as you can see above, were really cool! On the cottons the marks showed up as a darker value of the dye color. On silk, because of the way the dye molecules react with the fiber molecules, the color actually shifted to one closer to the color on cotton. Super interesting. This is definitely a product I will use in my work. It gives some of the effect that you would get by using discharge (but reversed) but without the nasty chemicals.

But how does it work? Anyone out there with more chemistry know-how able to explain it?

silk at the top and cotton on the bottom, both dyed with Olive

silk at the top and cotton on the bottom, both dyed with a light shade of Olive

Welcome to the Laboratory

IMG_5143January always seems like a good time to try new things in the studio. I spent time over the holidays reading Lisa Kerpoe‘s book, Visual Texture on Fabric, published in 2012. In it, Lisa clearly explains and documents using multiple types of water-based resists with various application techniques. I already use a number of water-based resists, but I always enjoys reading books on surface design and pick up a few ideas. Plus, it got me excited to get back into the studio and make some marks.

One idea from the book was to use objects, flatter is better, under the fabric and then use a brayer to pick up the texture of the object. I use lots of things as stencils and to print with, but I had never thought of using them this way. Lisa demonstrated the technique for applying resist, but I also wanted to try it with thickened dye too, to create related positive and negative marks.


Presist, Elmer’s gel glue, and flour for resist

I used a circular placemat for the texture on my tests. I used three different resists: Presist (which is formulated specifically for fabric), Elmer’s gel glue, and flour paste. The Presist was easy to use, the foam roller picked it up easily from a piece of plexiglass, it went on smoothly, and I could see where I applied it. The glue went on well with the roller but it was impossible to see once it was on the fabric making it more difficult to use. The flour didn’t work with the foam roller at all, it just clumped up on the roller and didn’t transfer. I ended up just spooning it onto the fabric and then using a scraper to smooth it across the fabric to pick up the texture.


applying thickened dye paste over Presist.

After the samples dried, I used thickened dye (dye mixed into a print paste made with sodium alginate and urea) to paint over the resists. I then wrapped them in plastic to batch them overnight. All three turned out really well with varying effects. The Presist was the least strong resist, in that the dye color seeped through it. It probably would have held better if I hadn’t wrapped it in plastic, but I like the effect anyway–I’m not a big fan of white space. The glue held very well, surprising since I couldn’t see where the resist was at all. The flour worked really well, too, with its characteristic crackled marks.

While I had the dye paste made up, I tried laying the fabric over my textured objects and using the foam roller to apply the dye. It was a great success! I really love this new technique. Thanks for the tip, Lisa!


thickened dye applied with a foam roller over the placemat.

It’s a New Year!

The studio, all cleaned and organized and ready for a new year!

The studio, all cleaned and organized and ready for a new year!

It’s the new year, a time to look back and a time to look forward.

2015 was a tough one for me as an artist. I spent most of it stuck, still spinning from the mental exhaustion of my 2014 installation at Burning Man. Every call-for-entries resulted in a NO, and I just couldn’t seem to finish anything. In retrospect, and from talking to friends, I was also processing the transitions of my daughters leaving the nest. My older daughter flew off to college in the Fall of 2014 and my youngest is a Senior this year. It’s a big, this change, and if you are going through it I advise you to be gentle with yourself.

Even though 2015 wasn’t the most productive year from me, there are some highlights.

I taught a lot of Batik Scarf Workshops, this Spring through Side Tour and this Fall on my own. I also continued developing inventory for Whirlwind Hand-Dyes and Accessories. I really enjoy having people in the studio and meeting them at sales. It’s nice to make some money, too. The biggest challenge is still getting the word out. It’s yet another hat to wear.

Francesca working on her scarf inspired by an Indian textile design.

Francesca working on her scarf inspired by an Indian textile design.

Returning to Burning Man this August was a big step in getting back to my more productive self (you can read about that trip in my blog post, Burning Man Revisited). September saw me reenergized with the resolve to just git ‘er done.

I deepened my relationship with the Surface Design Association, both through continuing to write for the Surface Design Journal, and through attending and presenting at Made/Aware, an Intensive at the Arrowmont School of Art and Craft in Tennessee (see October blog posts for more on that adventure). I am now a “staff writer” for the Journal, compiling previews of upcoming exhibitions for a new feature called On Display. SDA provides a terrific way for me to connect with other artists and curators working in fibers both at the national level and through our local group.

Somehow I extracted myself from my navel gazing long enough to finish up seven new pieces in time for a December show at Foster/White Gallery (deadlines really help). That work has led to scheduling a solo show for August 2016! I’m also firming up plans for an installation in the Bellwether Sculpture Exhibition in Bellevue this Summer.

Sequim and Ozette

Sequim and Ozette

Looking ahead to 2016:

Solo show in August at Foster/White Gallery. I’m drawing, planning, looking at images, testing out new surface design techniques, and actively thinking about composition and color for a new body of work.

A week-long trip to the southern tip of the Baja Pennisula in Mexico in February for inspiration, relaxation, and dose of sunshine. Some family trips in the work, too, perhaps Washington, DC and a wedding in California in October.

More teaching (see Workshops page for information on upcoming Intensives).

Expanding Whirlwind Hand-Dyes with the help of my former intern and delightful studio assistant, Arissa, to an on-line store and more in-person sales.

Continuing working with the fabulous Marci Rae McDade at the Surface Design Journal.

And most importantly, getting out of my own way and creating more art!

New wheeled fabric organizer for easy access.

New wheeled fabric organizer for easy access.