Sunday, February 27, 2011

Night Garden

"Night Garden" is my submission for the February challenge at the Art Bead Scene.

I was really pleased with the inspiration piece, "Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose" by John Singer Sargent.

Sargent is one of my favorite artists and this is a phenomenal painting - the ethereal lighting, the beautiful children framed by a garden just slightly running wild.

I knew from the start I wanted to evoke the duality of the garden, the sense of Victorian restraint combined with the wildness of Nature - but I was quite sure how I would manage that look.
My starting point is the bead embroidered lily. I anchored one side of the lily with very freefrom beading in green and white, a bit of excess with a sense of some restraint.
The other side features a band of rosy right angle weave, resembling a brick walkway. It is joined by some large brass filigree beads and moonstone lampwork beads from catalinaglass - my glowing lanterns, especially the one dangle at the clasp.
This piece is carefully weighted and can be worn with either the wild or the controlled side more prominent - two looks for the price of one!

Available for purchase here.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Plate Tectonics

Ice forms on the Straits in sheets and plates, sometimes feet thick; they are always on the move, due to the currents or just the formation of even more ice. When those plates of ice meet the unmovable shore, the ice has to give, resulting in piles of icy shards.

The interaction of light and ice shards is ever changing - my favorite is when it glows a bright blue.

Right now the ice is changing, no longer crystal clear, becoming opaque and very brittle.

So why was I down on the shore, gingerly picking my way through the ice rubble? (And just where does the water start exactly?)

Taking pictures for my 365 Project, of course!

I'm building an incredible library of images, due to the discipline of shooting every day and I'm looking at my surroundings just a bit differently - both will be of great use in future projects.

Creating art is about more than just technique, it takes development of a certain way of looking at and approaching the world around us. Everyone needs to find their own way of discovering their own world view; I'm finding the commitment of this year long project of documenting a piece of my surrounding on a daily basis to be a very powerful tool.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Stiff and Starchy: Achieving the Look - Warning LONG!

"The effect of a crisp highly-starched muslin dress upon a man of quick emotions is rapid and startling. The first impulse is to crush it between the arms, and crumple it up like a silverpaper balloon; but such desires cannot be indulged without the excuse of an affectionate embrace sanctioned by the parents of the young lady.Is it not beautiful to gaze on the female form, clouded in fluttering gauze, and floating over the ground white and aerial as a puff of steam? Through the transparent skirt the embroidered petticoat displays its costly work, and the machinery of the little feet may be watched as under a glass-case, with increasing interest. The shoulders are seen through the slight haze of the bodice, and they are delicately fair."

Augustus Mayhew, Faces for Fortunes, 1865

More years ago than I care to admit, I attended my first "Ladies of the 1860's" conference; Carolann Schmitt was speaking on petticoats and she kept saying, "when properly starched..."

I timidly raised my hand and asked if she meant spray starch.

She smiled kindly upon my poor ignorant self and gave a brief explanation of the proper method, here's another example from a period reference, An encyclopædia of domestic economy by Thomas Webster and Mrs. William Parkes published in 1852.

6493. As it is necessary to have certain parts of linen and various articles of dress less pliable than usual, starch is employed to give the requisite stiffness. The chemical nature of starch, and the process of manufacturing it, have been already explained.

6494. To make the starch for use it must be mixed with a sufficient quantity of cold water, until it is about the consistence of common paste, carefully breaking all the lumps, and rubbing it with a wooden spoon till it is quite smooth: then add boiling water in the proportion of a pint of water to an ounce of starch ; put the blue flannel bag into it, and let enough colour be dissolved to give the required tint. The making of starch properly requires some care. If made in a tin saucepan, it is a chance if it does not burn, like all thick liquids. The best vessels for making it in are a bell-metal skillet, or a copper vessel, tinned, or an earthenware pipkin. It is said that an iron vessel would make it turn black; but this is impossible if the iron is tinned: a small cast-iron saucepan, tinned inside, will answer very well.
The starch being properly mixed, put it on the fire and let it boil, taking care to stir it all the while, to prevent burning. When it is taken off the fire and poured out, cover it with a plate, to prevent a skin forming. If it be wanted stiffer than common, a little gum Arabic or isinglass dissolved may be added: and for some articles of lawn, gum Arabic alone is used, without starch. Some add a bit of white wax.

C495. As an economical kind of starch, for articles where no nicety is required, some use common paste made of wheat flour.

6496. The parts of linen and other articles of wearing apparel that require to be starched are too well known to demand enumeration, and even these vary somewhat with fashion; the process of starching consists merely in dipping the part into the starch, and squeezing it.

6497. What is called clear starching is the starching of laces, muslins, and other transparent tissues, which requires to be done with peculiar care; for these the starch is made thicker and hotter than ordinary, and the articles, after having been well washed, rinsed, and dried, are dipped into the thick starch previously strained, before it is quite cold. After squeezing them out they are clapped between the hands, to produce clearness. Instead of clapping, which is apt to injure lace, some prefer, after starching and squeezing out, spreading them on a linen cloth, rolling them up in it, and letting them lie for an hour, when they will be ready for the irons. Muslins and cambrics do not require the starch so thick as net or lace. If the articles are too dry for the iron, they may be damped again, by rolling them in a damp cloth; but this should, if possible, be avoided. All linen, after starching, requires to be made nearly, though not quite, dry before ironing.

6498. It is sometimes found that starched laces and muslins stick to the iron, and several methods of preventing this are employed. Some recommend drying the things first, then dipping them in the starch before it is quite cold; then dipping them in cold water and drying them again; once more dipping them in cold water, spreading them on a dry cloth, and rolling up previous to ironing: by this process sticking to the iron is prevented. Some put a little tallow, hogs' lard, or olive oil in the starch; but a lump of refined sugar is preferable. In India all muslins are stiffened with rice water, which is said to be excellent; and the rice starch is said not to stick to the irons.

Commercially made laundry starch was readily available, but many receipts were published for those who wished to make their own - potatoes were frequently used as a starting point.

Laundry starch powder is still available for purchase, sometimes it takes a bit of searching to find. It's far less expensive than the common liquid starch and can be made heavy, medium or light.

I start with 1/2 cup of starch and add 1 cup of cold water:

Mix well and add eight additional cups of cold water. Bring to a boil and allow to boil for one minute. Allow it to cool enough to handle.

You now have heavy starch. I now dip my clean dry petticoats in and saturate them.

After squeezing out the excess starch, they need to be hung to dry - outside is preferable, but the over the tub works better in the winter.

The remaining starch can then be diluted and used for collars, cuffs, shirt fronts, etc.
The petticoats will be very stiff when dry, in fact they can stand up by themselves, but they're wrinkled.

My next step is to spritz the petticoat until damp, but not saturated.

I then roll it up, pop it in a plastic bag and it goes in the refrigerator for at least a day - no, this isn't a period practice, but it allows the moisture to equalize within the garment making it easier to iron. My electric washing machine and iron aren't period either.
I use as hot an iron as possible and apply a lot of pressure - the result is a smooth, crisp petticoat with just a bit of gloss to the surface and it will once again stand up by itself!

Starching is a lot of work, but it's worth it for the period "poof" it gives as well as the protection against soiling - by saturating the fabric with starch, it's difficult for dirt to penetrate, it can often just be brushed off easily.
Give up the spray starch, the real thing is so worthwhile!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bead Journal Project - January 2011

I'm off to a late start with my 2011 Bead Journal Project - I was determined to complete 2010 first!

I spent a lot of time pondering what direction to take with this years project; it's important to me that I not just complete the project but that I also learn from the project.

So this year is going to be technique based - I'll be using this image of a trillium rising from the leaf litter as my inspiration:

I hope you like it, you'll be seeing it twelve times!

I will be creating a 4" x 6" beaded piece using twelve different beading techniques, one each month. Different techniques yield such different looks and when you add in different size and finishes of the beads themselves the possibilities are endless!

The first beading technique I learned was loom work - I wanted elaborate beaded bags to accompany my Edwardian outfits, so that's where I'm starting this project.
This piece uses size 15/0 seed beads; the pattern is 91 beads across. I decided to go with a modern interpretation, a period look would have a solid background and a very stylized look to the trillium.

Loom work is really meant to be viewed from a distance, for instance on a bag, not up close - the colors blend at a distance, up close you tend to focus on each individual bead. It takes strong contrasts for the pattern to work.

I've not yet decided how I will mount this piece, so for the moment I'm leaving the warp threads as is - they'll need to be dealt with at some point.

I'm excited about this project, but I'm hoping I don't get too bored with the same image - time will tell!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

More 365

I'm now officially 21 days in to my 365 Project, which is going very well, but with some really unexpected results.

I started the project, because I'm always taking photos and I thought it would be great to have another venue for actually using the images I was taking. I soon discovered that I didn't actually take pictures everyday - but I am now!

And that means looking at things a little differently, really observing all the details that we so often overlook, like the bow of this ferry frozen in place and time:

Or this fleet steed:
Grey dull days can be a challenge, especially several in a row - so I've done a little experimentation with vignettes that have meaning:

And played around with the editing software, to change it up a bit:

I've started to really look at items that I wouldn't have considered in the past:

And not just the item itself, but also the shape and shadow it might form:
But this is the shot I'm most proud of - just a bit of water vapor frozen in place. But look again, at the garden of "Frost Flowers", it would have been so easy to walk right by them if not for this project.

This project is taking time and discipline, but the creative rewards and inspiration are ample reward!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

More Ice Bridge 2011

It's like a highway out there, people and freight speeding in both directions.

A pressure crack has formed, but a little plywood takes care of that little problem.

You can't beat the scenery, I-75 sure doesn't look like this:

Road work is currently underway (this is Michigan after all). Here's some Christmas trees being hauled out to mark a second trail.

Spudding a hole to hold the tree, as cold as it's been, it won't take long to freeze in place.

High winds last week did cause some shifting of the ice and there is open water on the east side of the Island, but the bridge has firmed up again - for the moment - it can change quickly and we always ask around for the most recent conditions before considering a crossing.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Flying Visit

I was startled yesterday when I good sized bird flew by - it couldn't possibly be a robin already!

Well, it wasn't a robin, but it was a bird I had never spotted before, a female Pine Grosbeak.

Largest of the northern finches, the Pine Grosbeak is less common than the Pine Siskin or the redpolls. The males have a rosy red head and chest.

In our area, these birds are considered an irruptive species, moving south of their normal winter range when populations are high or food sources are scarce farther north.

When these birds do appear, their preference for the seeds and fruit of trees such as mountain ash and cedar makes them more conspicuous than their smaller relatives. They are very tame and slow moving, allowing close approach, which was certainly true with this bird, but she stayed tucked in the tree not allowing me a clear shot.

Now I want to spot a male...

Saturday, February 5, 2011

365 Project

I've taken on a couple new projects recently, one being the 365 Project.

The basis of The 365 Project is simple: it's a photography project where you document a year of your life by taking a daily photo and upload it to the site. Different people take different approaches, self-portraits, new techniques, image manipulation, family life, etc; the project can be anything you determine .

My intent is to attempt to capture the essence of Mackinac Island. While I will, of course, include the iconic images that would be expected, I plan to focus primarily on the often overlooked aspects of daily life on Mackinac, the small natural beauties, the hidden gems, the day-to-day moments that visitors never notice.

For instance, this woodpecker from my back porch:

A milkweed fluff refracting the sun:
A spot of color in a gray scene:

A reminder of seasons past:

As well, as the season present:

I will be trying to stay true to the spirit of the project and truly try for an original photo taken each and every day, but I suspect I will have to resort to a "filler" (a photo taken early) from time to time.

The calendar function, located at the upper edge of each individual photo, is especially interesting - it's like a mini diary of life, in pictorial form.

I really shouldn't be committing time to another project, but the benefits are potentially incredible: improving my photography skills, training my eye, building a larger library of images, etc. Please take a moment to check out this site, some of the photos are quite amazing!