Here are some bits of information that may help you to understand the visual work that I create.
I am interested in observing the nuance of each day and in how what we see and experience can shift and adjust from one period of time to the next. Each day can be like the previous day and can seem like an exact repeat of what happened before. Yet never are they exactly same; there are always differences and changes. Sunrises and sun sets function the same way each day and it is easy to forget that each and every one is unique. The same is true of relationships, ones’ thoughts, and the form of each flower. I believe this philosophical perspective to be at the fissure between the tangible and the intangible in life. This way of perceiving the experience of life is reflected in all of the artworks that I create.
As an artist I am visually intrigued with pattern and pattern. Images and groups of things such as flowers, stone walls, animal skins, insects, feathers, shells, pods, microscopic creatures and cross-sections, fractals, embroideries, lace, textiles, wall paper, mosaics, quilts, snow flakes, waves, rain drops on still water, newly fallen leaves and surveyors’ spray markings on roadways visually fascinate me.
I like to create with paper because of its physical characteristics. It can be stiff yet pliable. It can absorb or repel dye. It can simultaneously be delicate and strong. When I sew it together is does not stretch or ravel, it has some three dimensionality. It can be an object as well as carry an image and be an illusion. I experiment and do physical research into new variations of processes and with various colorants as a way of learning and for finding unique imagery. Paper can be so many different things; it always yields something new to me. I am educated in many fine arts, fiber arts, surface design, and in hand papermaking.
The Bauhaus was a higher education school, a ‘hot bed’ of thinkers and creators in Weimar, Germany just before World War II. Many of the teachers, students and creators at the Bauhaus escaped from Germany and immigrated to the North America. The Bauhaus ideas have been passed down to me by my teachers and by my independent studies of reference materials.
One of the ways of working within the Bauhaus was to explore a material or technique to learn what would develop naturally from a material used with a particular technique. In a way this was ‘listening’ to the materials, to the process, to ones hands and letting them ‘speak.’ I often choose to work in this manner, exploring what materials, colorants, processes and my hands will create, allowing these partners to develop an image rather than allowing my intellect to dominate the development of an artwork. Sometimes my work is process based and sometimes I am intellectually or intuitively striving to express a particular concept, feeling or idea. I have elected to work with processes that allow partnership between creative intuition, effective design, process, technique, color and material. I usually work in collage, by putting pieces together, because this process permits me to assess the relationships between the parts during the development of an artwork and allows for changes in the work along the way.
Shibori is an umbrella term for the hundreds of variations of Japanese tie-dye. It literally means “manipulated resist dyeing.” In resist dyeing, one does something to material such as fabric, paper, or leather to keep a colorant away. Wax resist dyeing (batik) is an example of applied resist dyeing. Shibori is different from batik in that the material is manipulated in some fashion - folded, scrunched, stitched, tied, clamped, etc, - and held in place so that the colourant (usually dye) can not penetrate the material. Shibori can be a highly controlled technique. One of the most wonderful aspects of this process is that even with a pre-eminent amount of experience, skill and control the natural physical process influences the outcome. It is like a dance between the artist and the process. The artist can plan and anticipate most of what will develop and can know all of the moves, but there is always a little synergy, a surprise or gift from the process and materials themselves that enhances the tango and is a surprise. One can know all of the steps, but in a partnership there is an element of the unknown, the unexpected happens.
I have been intrigued by and have worked with shibori processes since the late 1970s. My earlier shibori work was done using fabric. Now the majority of my work is done with paper.
Itajime—Japanese, (eee-tah-ji-may) ‘fold and clamp’ shibori techniques
Traditionally, itajime dyed papers were created as winter work for Japanese farmers, when they could not be in the fields working. The papers are usually first folded in a concertina fan and then folded in the opposite direction in either rectangles or triangles; the folding, like origami folding, needs to be precise. The stacks of paper are then clamped and dipped into colourants. The patterning that develops from the dip-dyeing can be highly controlled and regularized, and always has small unique variations in every pattern unit. These variations are the prized characteristics of itajime dyed paper. Variations are caused by the characteristics of the paper, the temperature and humidity, the type of colorant used, and by the manner in which the color is applied. The best paper to use is thin, has very high wet strength and is absorbent and has no starch or sizing. Of course other papers can be used with different results. The process is delicate and the paper tears easily and too much colourant can ruin the outcome.
For me, as an artist and avid flower gardener, the variations in itajime dyed paper patterns that I create are homage to nature. The small variations in itajime emulate nature. All flowers of a particular species are the same, but when one carefully observes each one there are little variations in each one. Sunrise or sunsets are all the same, the sun comes up or goes down; when one pays close attention each one is different from all of the others.
Katano shibori This specialized technique in named after a Japanese artist, Mr. Katano, who invented this variation of shibori techniques using hand stitching in patterns to hold a fan folded fabric in place. In my variation of this shibori process, paper is folded and a sheath is placed on each side of the stack; then the ‘sandwich’ is stitched through using a sewing machine. This is immersed in dye for several days, and frequently manipulated to encourage dye to penetrate the delicate folds of paper. After dyeing, the extremely fragile paper is rinsed to remove excess dye.
The end results of successful papers are worth the effort, The paper I choose to use is fragile and resistant to dye absorption, there can be a high failure rate with this process! Katano shibori, like itajime, requires a great deal of skill and control while also offering many wonderful, unexpected results! The Katano process yields a result that cannot be achieved in any other manner.
Sewing on Paper I learned to sew on paper provided by my father. When I was six or seven he taught himself how to use a sewing machine in order to reupholster furniture for our family to use. I must have been hanging on his every move, because he bought me a little hand crank sewing machine of my own. He gave me a paper with mazes drawn on it and said that when I could follow the lines with needle holes, he would give me thread to use. Decades later, in the midst of teaching at university, creating art quilts, making paper and shibori dyed fabrics, I started to collage bits of hand made paper together. Sewing seemed like a natural means of joining the papers together. I also learned to draw using a sewing machine to create line. Since then, sewing papers has been my favorite means of creating collage. The physicality of the end product is appealing to me; I like the bas-relief result. Many artwork images are illusions. The collages I create may be illusions, but they are also real objects in and of themselves.
Paste Painted Papers were first created in 16th Century Europe by book binders who needed special papers for their work. Today these historic paste-papers are the great ancestors of what we know of as children’s finger painting. I started creating paste papers for use in my own collages and soon became intrigued with ‘finger painting’ and can be just as much fun for an adult as for a child! There are an unending number of possible techniques and variations. These techniques enable an artist to create precisely what is needed for specific artworks in terms of color, texture and pattern. The process is like ones’ signature; it is easy to identify one professional paste-painters work from another’s. The process encourages invention because each different tool creates a variation, and using each tool in a unique manner creates a different variation. A paste-painter is always on the lookout for new hardware, kitchen and garage sale treasures to use in the next new design. I create paste papers for my own aesthetic needs as well wholesaling them to artists, art supply stores and specialty paper shops.
Northern Lights I have been intrigued with the aurora borealis for decades. It is very real but also intangible and mysterious. I flew to Yellowknife, NWT, in the middle of winter in 2006 to see the northern lights. It was incredibly cold out on the ice roads in the middle of the night. The aurora borealis did appear during night viewings in amazingly different shapes and colors! I have created artworks of my impressions of the aurora borealis. The fascinating phenomenon of the aurora borealis is at the ‘fissure between the tangible and the intangible in life.’ I have studied the science of the northern lights, yet there is still mystery and stunning beauty, they are ever changing and they take ones breath away.
Flower Gardens I created a series of collages as a result of travels in Holland during the spring of 2006 when the commercial flower fields and public gardens were in bloom. My heart was filled with the beauty and abundance. Suddenly I had ‘enough’ flowers in front of me, and I realized that what I had been striving for as a private gardener stemmed from early childhood visits to gardens like these. I can not personally create such expansive gardens in my home garden, but my dream of flowers to the horizon does exist in the world. I created paper collages of memories and of what I saw in Holland.
BoatHouses Years ago I was looking at a contemporary quilt exhibit and saw a quilt with little houses and trees pieced into it. At that time I tried to recreate what I had seen, but an effective technique for creating them eluded me, and I was drawn off to other tasks. A few years ago, viewing another contemporary quilt exhibit, I saw more of the little houses and trees in a quilt. This time, a companion volunteered a book that illustrated the technique. I worked to create little paper versions of the quilt houses. These houses hung out on my studio wall as I worked to master and scale down paper versions other interesting quilt patterns such as ‘hot flashes’ and ‘bow ties’. Having recently moved from one country to another, I felt as if I was on moving seas. The paper houses became boat-houses on the seas, and the patterned pieced papers framed the collages.
The Meditations are collages that resulted from my response to the dyed papers that are used as the base of the artworks, and include bits of papers from my extensive collection of patterned papers from around the world. In a Bauhaus manner, I worked with the materials, and collage techniques, including stitching, to create thoughtful visual meditations.
Suspended Sculptures I have created several suspended fabric or paper sculptures. The materials are planar and create shapes or forms when folded or used in collections. I am intrigued by changes in our perception of what we see. Therefore the fabrics are often net fabrics that are painted different colors on alternate sides and the fabrics or papers move in air currents. When one views these sculptures and moves around the forms moiré patterns can be seen. These moiré are illusions created within our eyes. These changing perceptions are a reflection of my experience of life.