Thursday, October 20, 2016

Toile, an exhibition at Women' Studio Workshop

"Toile" at Women's Studio Workshop: Silk screen on muslin with machine stitched details.

"Toile" is the title of my recent exhibition of works created at Women's Studio Workshop. 

In sewing terminology "Toile" is another word for a muslin, which is a test version of a pattern for a garment. "Toile" and "muslin" can also refer to the fabric used to make such a test version.  

If you are interested in another perspective, Kathryn Scudier has written a wonderful post about this work on the WSW blog. 

Title of the exhibition with a bowl of vegetable muslins: acorn squash, onion, and mushroom. 

The sewn objects in the exhibition were patterned using draping techniques on vegetables. The pattern pieces were then used as the inspiration for silkscreen prints on muslin and brown paper. 

Garlic toiles (two versions) with the original hand drawn pattern on muslin. 

In creating this work, I played with different arrangements of the pattern pieces. In the end I chose to work with a radial arrangement because it echoed the almost symmetrical, radial pattern of the subject. The form also alludes to a star or mandala.

Garlic pattern, print on muslin fabric. About 12 inches wide. 

The prints have three layer that refer back the process of patterning. The first layer (printed in solid white) is the actual shape of the pattern pieces. The second layer, printed in a not quite black, is the hand drawn shape on muslin, that refers back to the process of draping. The third layer (red) is in some cases a registration mark where corners of the pattern would join, or an indication of where sewn details should be added. For example, in the garlic pattern, the red line indicates the indentations between the cloves of the garlic head, which would be sewn and pulled slightly to gather inward. 

Detail of garlic print, showing the three layers of the print. 

One interesting aspect of these patterns is that they are made from individual vegetables with unique forms. The pattern attempts to capture and reproduce this unique form, in a manner that is almost nostalgic. However, unlike a photograph or even the print itself, the pattern is imperfect, and each handmade object is unique, adding an entirely different layer of variation.

Pepper muslin and print on muslin fabric

Detail of pepper print.

Acorn squash muslin and print on muslin. 

The prints on muslin and brown paper recall the tactile materials of pattern making. While any fabric could technically be used to make a "muslin," muslin fabric is often the fabric of choice because it has predictable qualities and is inexpensive. It also serves as a "blank canvas" for the designer's idea in two ways-- it provides little distraction allowing the designer to imagine different colors and textures that might be used in the final product, and it also allows markings in different colors to be clearly visible.

Similarly, any paper could be used to make test patterns. In fact, there is no clear standard that I know of, with some designers preferring some form of tracing paper or even sewable tracing paper, while other designers will use anything convenient. Brown butcher or kraft paper is often used for its neutrality and low cost. 

Prints on paper: Acorn Squash, Shitake Mushroom, Onion

While I was tempted to print on butcher paper, I ended up using a brown kraft-look cardstock by French's paper since it accepted the silkscreen inks in a more predictable way. 

Acorn Squash Pattern Print on Paper

Shitake Mushroom Pattern Print on Paper

Onion Pattern Print on Paper
Please feel free to leave comments or ask questions, I would love to hear what you think.

Residency at Women's Studio Workshop

Hello readers! Somehow my time for blogging has managed to evaporate recently, but if you follow me on instagram you've been treated to some tidbits from my recent residency at Women's Studio Workshop. Here's a little summary of my month in Rosendale. 

At Women's Studio Workshop, I worked on a project that merges my love of sewing and patterns with my work as an artist. It isn't always the case that my work as an artist and my the other aspects of my life intersect... but is very fulfilling when they do. 

I decided to use draping to create patterns for natural forms, then use these patterns as an inspiration for imagery for my prints. My original inspiration was an acorn squash that I grew in our garden. When the three dimensional form was translated into the two dimensional pattern, the ovoid shapes formed in interesting play between repetition and organic variation. 

My residency was in the silkscreen studio. For nearly a decade, my art work has been largely studio photography. Working in silkscreen allowed me to work with color much more directly than I usually do in the photography studio. Photographers do have to make color choices, but they are usually a matter of choosing from available colors in the environment rather than inventing entirely new colors from the addition of minute quantities of pigment. Early in my residency, I played a lot with color variations.

The screen that I'm working on may not look that large, but it is the second largest screen in the studio. (I'm pulling down the length of it, so it is foreshortened!). When I began to choose other forms to work with, I made sure they were smaller, rather than larger. While I did get pretty good at managing these large screens, they were unweildy and it was difficult to get a consistent result. 

Garlic is such an amazing plant, in so many ways. Perhaps it should not have surprised me that it made for a fascinating pattern. 

Women's Studio Workshop was a wonderful place to be for so many reasons. My fellow residents were one of them. Everyone was making such inspiring work, and it was great to see the magic happening as we wandered through the each other's studios. From left to right: Katie (Katie Groove Studios), Miki (, and Philly (Phyllida Bluemel). 

There were so many inspiring people there, really. We had daily pot-luck lunches, and I had so many great conversations. Studio manager Chris and interns Molly and Sarah were just so incredibly patient and helpful, and always hard at work somewhere in the studios. Somehow the interns have also found the time to make incredible works of art: Molly Berkson and Sarah Rose Lejeune.

My residency at WSW was the Parent Residency. Traditionally, artist residencies aren't very family friendly since they are built on the idea of giving artists time away from their usual lives to work on their art. While this is a great thing for artists in general, it isn't possible when you're also mom to a little person who relies on you! Lilly stayed home with dad so that she wouldn't miss preschool, but Leo (18 months) was able to come with me. 

Everyone was super-kind and supportive of Leo. Here he is in the ceramics studio where Miki is showing him the wonders of clay-stamping.

During my residency, I had an evolving exhibition in the gallery space, and in my next post I'll show you some of the works I exhibited.