Last night I got back from installing my latest piece Living Guestbook in a private collector’s summer home in Vermont. It was wonderful to get a little moment of New England fall. While the travel itself won some kind of prize for horrific in both directions (lost baggage, 6 hour delay) the install itself went smoothly and all people involved were incredibly sweet and hospitable.
Here is the finished weave. The weft is spaced to make room for the dyed silk cards which guests will write on in response to one of three questions. I lost count how many, but more than 200, possibly 300 of them.
The first order of business was working with the carpenter to put up the custom cherry brackets he made for the piece. Together we worked out a design via email so that we could tightened the tension if needed. It worked beautifully. When he saw my 5-minute hack at making a shuttle out of layers of thin cardboard sandwiched with wood glue (I couldn’t find my shuttles while packing) he quickly ran back to his workshop and made me 6 lovely oak ones!
I had the warp (the up and down threads) and half the weft up by the time I went to bed that day. The warp is a linen-wrapped steel and is nearly invisible, but strong. The weft is a rough Japanese silk thread. Together they are very delicate with an organic quality. The finished empty weave reminds me a little of an Agnes Martin painting, and I love the shadows.
The following day was for finishing the weft creating a good display and storage for the silk cards.
Physically I planned the piece as being done over years and fitting seamlessly into the rural settling and her craftsman-style home. This meant the silks would have to be tucked away, but ready to display, so inside existing furniture made sense. We agreed on this drawer.
I found a handmade paper was happy with and made display sections for the chosen drawer, which turned out like this:
I can’t wait to see the piece as the responses fill the weave!
The hard part with this kind of thing is knowing when to stop. At this point I’m happy with the materials. I could keep going forever, but right now there is enough material to fill the space I am using twice. The idea is to provide the variety and let the participants determine the color balance of the piece in their selections. This does make me think I want to do some themed work with dyes that do focus on a specific color range, but the project hasn’t presented itself yet.
The rest of the parts for the installation are coming along… but this is the fun part.
*note* There are more blues in the final set than are showing- arrangement of the curve was a little off so they are hiding under each other while the greens/teals are spread thin… but I am prioritizing making the piece over documenting the process perfectly.
Here’s a peek into my dyeing in progress for the Living Guestbook installation.
When I’m dyeing for an installation I find it helpful to lay out the spectrum of color as I go. In cases like this one where I want a fairly balanced spectrum this is especially helpful. So far this is the spectrum the dyeing I’ve done yields. Looking at this the holes become more obvious. Also, different from dyeing for Identity Tapestry is that need to keep the spectrum lighter and not go too far into darks or the writing won’t show as well.
This prompted a return to the fabric store for a few lighter bases to start from. They really look easter-egg to me all together like this, but I’m using them for their potential for over-dyeing and the way they fit into the whole.
Yes, I could do everything starting at a base of white, but I find over-dyeing yields much richer colors. Also in the case of many of these fabrics, the weave already had two different colors (the warp might be blue and the weft gold, giving it a color-change look).Tthat’s something I can’t do dyeing over plain white fabric, but if I over-dye it, changes in both colors come through. That again adds a layer of depth to the colors I’m working with. I can also always go back and over-dye again as many times as I like, giving me even more layers of color coming through, especially when I use techniques that dye unevenly.
You can really see the depth in the colors when you look closely at a given strip of fabric.
***Update*** spectrum after today’s work:
It’s time for Open Studios! In August I moved back to the Art Explosion, this time with a shiny new private studio space. I’ve been keeping so busy I’ve barely settled in, but I would love to see you all at the Opening Reception on Friday Sept 26th between 7-11. While I am not available Saturday and Sunday for the rest of the Art Explosion’s open studios, I am open to studio visits by appointment.
I hope to see you at Open Studios there! I am in studio 2A near the front.
Fri Sept 26th 7pm-11pm
2425 17th St, SF, CA
These are some of the materials for my next installation. The swatches at the bottom are some dye, starch and ink tests. Each of these base colors (including the white) will be over-dyed in small strips for the piece. If I don’t get the color variety I want with these base colors in the first few rounds of dyeing, I’ll go back into the process with more fabric.
The physical format will be similar to Dream Blanket and Transparency: a weaving with the empty warp, structured with a grid of weft, with the main weft made out of strips of this fabric. Visitors to this collector’s home will be invited to respond to questions about memory, impressions and experience. They will then get to write these on a strip of dyed dupioni silk that has been starched for structure and to better take the ink.
Visually I made the piece to fit the rustic quality of their vacation home in Vermont. It will even include existing objects from the house and grounds. I really love work like this. Working to specific spaces like the theater and this home is wonderful. I like making a piece in a way I might not have thought of without the constraints or benefits of a certain goal and space, or without the interaction of other people involved. I enjoy collaborative work, and I consider working with a curator, institution or collector to be another form of collaboration.
I’m looking forward to this piece!
Another installation done! Gateway was commissioned for Southern Vermont College’s new Admissions building, housed in the mansion’s gatehouse. The idea was to create a site-specific work that related to Identity Tapestry (the college commissioned Identity Tapestry Iteration #8 for permanent display in their main building), tying together the upper and lower campuses and making prospective students immediately feel part of the community.
I used locally quarried paving stones from the college to create a cairn with a gateway element as the focus of the piece. Cairns are piled of stones used as path-markers on trials. Making one which is also a gateway from the college’s foundation materials has obvious symbolism.
For the action it is similar to Identity Tapestry in that participants select a color of yarn and wrap it around statements. In this case though, statements are less about identity as a whole and are instead in two categories. They start on the left wall, pass their yarn through the stone gateway and then continue on the right wall.
On the left side are statements centered around where a prospective student might be coming from, physically, intellectually and emotionally as they enter college. “I come from a small town”, “I am the first person in my family to go to college”, “I always assumed I wold go to college”, “my family believes in my dreams”, and unlike Identity Tapestry, statements do contradict each other, such as “I never thought I would go to college”. I looked through incoming student profiles and spoke with the admissions team to get a sense of the commonalities in incoming students. Statements like “I love to be in nature” came out of that, as I’m sure the natural beauty around the college attracts many of the students.
On the right side are statements about student’s hopes and dreams for the future, also drawn from student profiles. I went for the drives and commonalities behind various fields and professions rather than simply listing them, which would always leave someone out. For example “I want to speak for people with no voices” could apply to a defense attorney, or an animal rights activist, a civil rights leader, a politician, a social worker or any number of other professions.
When the participant has marked the left wall, passed through the gateway and then marked the right wall, they are left with a fair amount of yarn still on the ball. Unlike Identity Tapestry I made all of them an equal and generous length, and there are no stones in the middle. They then toss the ball over the edge of the right-hand wall, which is shaped after the silhouette of Southern Vermont Mountains. This will make each person’s yarn disappear upwards towards the sky without being broken by a harsh angular line.
Process on site-
As usual the many (over a hundred) balls of yarn were all uniquely hand-dyed for the piece. The new challenge with this piece was the deceptively simple-seeming arrangement of balls (it took me two full days to do). It was an exercise in placing, untangling, and placing again. Trying to color balance with every color being different, with arrangements that might tangle if you moved something to adjust for color harmony. It would have undoubtedly been easier to simply make a spectrum of color rather than trying to balance the colors while making them look random, but I wanted it to resemble a crowd of different types of people rather than an organized system. I did do the beginning of each strand as a spectrum though. Make of that what you will.
The statements plaques in this piece went perfectly- laser-etched statements filled with black acrylic, fused to the plaque bases. The oval shape had the advantage of not only suggesting thought bubbles but also not catching the yarn the way the tag/label-style statements in Identity Tapestry do. The piece is also designed to be re-usable, so that each year incoming and prospective students can participate.
Overall I’m pleased with the piece and so glad it will be part of Southern Vermont College’s new building.
So in three days I’ll be installing a new site-specific piece at Southern Vermont College. What you are seeing here is my studio mockup of the project done in paper. I find that for installation work I absolutely need to work with the scale of things in relation to my body. What works conceptually or in sketches often has a very different impact when you put a person next to it.
In this case I’ve substituted the paving stones I’ll be using for paper ones of the same size which I made to try them out. The actual stones were quarried from the hills near the college, hand-cut and used in paving the college grounds. Mark Klauder, the college’s fantastic groundskeeper (who is also an excellent carpenter who has created the panels for this piece) showed me these on a forest path and told me about their history.
My thought was to use them to build a cairn (piles of stones used to guide travelers on their path) which would mark the center of the piece.
The piece will be similar to Identity Tapestry in having hand-dyed yarn on the left, each one to represent a person’s journey. Each person will circle the statements that are part of their personal journey. In this case, from where they are already coming from (pre-college) on the left wall, and then passing through a gate within the cairn to go to the right wall, which has statements about dreams and goals for the future. At the end, rather than setting down a stone on the ground they will toss the (much lighter and stone-free) ball up over the side of the piece, creating a line disappearing towards the sky.
The outline of the panel on the right is taken from the silhouette of the mountains near the college.
For the curious, this mockup was made in my new studio space. I’m so glad I found the right one just when I needed it! Tomorrow I roll up my wall-maps and Tuesday morning I fly out with a bag full of those, yarn, parts and tools to make this installation a reality. The piece will be called “Gateway” and be located at SVC’s new admissions building in the mansion’s old gatehouse.