Things have been quite busy in the studio and I realize I have not posted since November of 2018!  (Again, best laid plans – I am beginning to see pattern here (wince)!)  However, after this little update, I have some natural dye reflections I initiated back in March and never got around to publishing, among other things.  As “archaic” as this format sometimes seems, it still has relevance across the spectrum. For me, it serves a real purpose, which I had lost track of for a spell but now reclaim: writing as process-witness.

My practice continues to evolve.  Two full years after a cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment, I never thought I would find myself in a hopeful place around my studio work…but I do again.  I finally found my way back to the heart of the work, to my true flow, and that feels pretty fabulous.  The work begins to look and feel different to me although clearly on the continuum of a process begun so many years ago.  And while I have never been one to rest too long on one technique – I am sure that is my Aries nature – I am still working with cloth and fiber because there is still so much there to explore!     

So, before I resume essay-esque pursuits, I thought I might just provide an update for the record – a brief flashback to the first several months of 2019 as a way of clearing the way for whatever is to come. 

January: Lots of natural dye experimentation – mostly direct application and immersion variations with indigo, madder, tannins and ferrous after-baths.  Began working on my new wearable collection for the April open studio.   I also began experimenting with alternate hand-stitch processes which have now been incorporated into some of my wearable work.  In the midst of the studio experimentation, I was immersed in preparations for a presentation on Sustainable Making at the Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance.

February:  I continued working with natural dyes, mostly direct application with gum thickeners, exploring layering of color and assistants in various floating (unregistered) patterns on a wide range of cloth surfaces.  The process of working with natural dyes is much more labor- and time-intensive than working with their synthetic alternatives and because of this, the work feels almost contemplative.  I want to explore this entire complex topic in future posts.  But for now, suffice it to say that natural dye print processes are now a solid part of my studio practice.  Also ever-present now is my organic indigo vat, and I did get around to making some new pieces for a local craft pop-up and the first installment of the 2019 wearables.

March 2019:   My time in March was largely spent preparing for the April open studio, although I did take some time to facilitate an indigo-dyeing mini-workshop at the studio one fortuitously-gorgeous Spring morning.  I also received my copy of The Art and Science of Natural Dyes (yay!) and reflected on my early exposure to natural dyes with Catharine Ellis which work has so thoroughly enriched my current studio practice.

In April – I hosted an open studio and continued to develop more work, including a new collection of totes, as well as naturally dyed cloth, and stitched appliqué detailing.   All of my wearable work is presented under the label Petal-una Collection.  This line has been an active focus of my creative energy since 2012.   If you want to learn more about it and see more looks follow this link.

All of which brings me to the present moment.  I will save that for next time!  Meanwhile for fairly regular and consistent check-ins, I am on Instagram and FB – the links are scattered throughout this website.   If you would prefer to keep up via this blog, that is awesome too!

Thank you for following along.

Image: Mine; Ice storm “castings” in the garden (from a few years ago)

I am pleased to be writing from other side, more or less, of the health “challenge” I alluded to in a post last year.  I am back on my feet and have begun to reengage with my studio practice, which is already pulling me in various directions.  Some things I now know for sure: I am more in love than ever with this Work in its myriad facets.  I am more relaxed than ever about it, too.  Fear was at the root of so much of what I did before; fearlessness has moved in to take its place.

There’s nothing like a major illness (or other significant life change) to shake loose habitual patterns and force a reexamination of one’s motivations.  In that spirit, I am compelled to dive back down into my creative soul and explore my roots – teasing out the fundamental tendrils, breaking up the dense, knotty scar tissue blocking the flow, and loosening the soil a bit to unlock the deep nutrients .  (Nothing like a good botanical metaphor.)  I want to expand the on-going conversation I have with myself about what inspires, enhances flow.  I also want to understand more fully what expires, inhibits flow by taking a look at the influence of preparation and planning on finished product.  That is, look at, not for the first time but in a specific way, the tension that exists between process and product.  For example, is it really possible to fully let go of the planning, the pre-visualizing, and the expectations and just make art?  What does that look and feel like?  To what extent am I doing that already?  How much does it matter?  What is the nature of the resultant work?  Etc.  These are just a few of the ideas I want to investigate this year – both in this blog and through the work itself.

I thank you for following/reading.  This is not the first time I have relayed my struggles the blogging process – I love writing but I am hopelessly inconsistent.  Yet, something within values it and will not let it go… so I continue.  Maybe this year I will actually post more frequently and with regularity – stranger things have happened!

K.C.

 

 

I am just beginning to “unpack” the content and experiences I had last week at Arrowmont in Catharine Ellis’ Natural Dye workshop.  The volume of information we were introduced to, along with the actual practices we were absorbing, was tremendous and overwhelming – towards the end of the week it was almost as if a bomb had exploded in my brain – an indigo-cochineal-weld-ferrous bomb – shaken, stirred, dissolved, precipitated…I feel like the cloth we worked with – now primed to soak up as much as I can following this most intensive week of learning!  I am so grateful to Catharine for making the space and providing the energy for this experience…I am also indebted to the fabulous workshop participants whose individual contributions to the body of understanding were, for me, an essential part of the process.  I am overflowing with joy and an urgent desire to get to work!!  First up: my organic indigo vat.  Meanwhile, here are some images from the week (click on a thumbnail to open the gallery).  Many thanks to Jane Cooper for supplying a few of these images.

After years of thinking about it, I finally had the wherewithal to start a vegetable garden this Spring.  It has been incredibly gratifying and I am learning quite a lot, not just about vegetables, but about my commitment to keeping this endeavor alive.  I am also reminded of the extent to which the plant world nourishes: literally/physically, spiritually/emotionally, mentally, and creatively.  I bring all of this up because the garden is always such a fitting metaphor for all aspects of life and work.  When one nourishes the garden, waters and feeds the soil, attends to individual plants’ needs, the garden flourishes.   And so with creative work, which thrives on the regular infusion of love, imagination, effort (and surrender).  Inattention to the garden manifests in ways not unlike inattention to one’s creative work – it withers and retreats into dormancy and, if allowed to languish, finally enters a phase of decline.

Like the Fool on the edge of the abyss, we are challenged to keep our creative acts and aspirations alive and nourished in the face of post-modern life’s demands, but we so would like to surrender to the pull of the abyss.  Such is often the case with artists and dreamers at one time or another (and maybe every day) – dancing along the edge of that cliff between one necessity and the other. 

In recent months, for the sake of my physical being (food, roof over one’s head, other related commitments and obligations), I have been through a readjustment in my life situation that resulted in a certain degree of neglect (I won’t say abandonment) of my Work (I use the initial cap intentionally).  Now that I have been able, gratefully, to re-immerse myself in those labors (albeit with less time but with no less intensity), I reflect that I came dangerously close to completely losing this precious gift (the gift of the work itself and the gift of being able to actually do it).  Although it was painful to endure what turned out to be a temporary hiatus from the Studio, the experience definitely clarified what is important in all of this, and what is less so.  It was also a direct realization of the vulnerable nature of a creative life.

If one is determined to keep the Work from withering and retreating, the Work (and the maker) must be nourished on a regular, arguably daily, basis.  This sustained attention, devotion and sacrifice to the work is the “gratitude” Lewis Hyde speaks about in The Gift.   This is a dense but fluid book and one I would suggest no artist be without.  The following series of passages are relevant to recent experience:

 Once a gift has stirred within us, it is up to us to develop it.  There is a reciprocal labor in the maturation of a talent.  The gift will continue to discharge its energy so long as we attend to it in return. . . . .A gift isn’t fully realized until it is given away. . . .Those who will not acknowledge gratitude or who refuse to labor in its service neither free their gifts
nor really come to possess them. . . .

*****

The labor of gratitude is the middle term in the passage of a gift.  It is wholly different from the ‘obligation’ we feel when  we accept something we don’t really want. . . .A gift that has the power to change us awakens a part of the soul.  But we cannot accept the gift until we can meet it as an equal.  We therefore submit ourselves to the labor of becoming like the gift.  Giving a return gift is the final act in the labor of gratitude, and it is also, therefore, the true acceptance of the original gift. . . .    (pp. 62-65)

I often turn to Lewis Hyde when I am trying to make sense of the conflicts that arise between the timelessness of creative labors and the necessities of life in the early 21st century….the need to nourish our creative spirit and the need to nourish our physical bodies; the desire to do the work without charging a fee for it and the need to “make a living;” and the philosophical tangle embedded in the desire to earn a livelihood from the Work itself versus doing the Work for its own sake and making a living in some other way.  We have all felt the desire to just not have to worry about the money and do the Work but also knowing that if we had a choice between one form of work over an art- or design-based livelihood, we would probably choose the latter.  Then, when the choice is made, it is sometimes hard to grapple with the demands (and the heartbreaks) of an art-based livelihood.

This is all material for the mind to chew on while the Labor continues.  No resolution here but to keep on going.  It certainly isn’t the first and won’t be the last time I encounter and do the dance with these issues and questions.  Meanwhile….back to nourishing the seed I planted and raised to its present form 5 years ago(!)  There is no question but that the Labor will and must continue.