TIF Challenge May 2

Well I didn’t turn into a pumpkin! I got my May TIF Challenge piece done yesterday (just) but too late for taking photos.

I decided to create something that included some of the techniques I love most, and to try to express how I often feel as if I’m exploding in all directions – there’s such an onslaught of possibilities it seems impossible to choose between them.

For the background I used a piece of indigo-dyed shibori I made at a workshop taught by Nell Dale. I applied scrim that I’d dyed and torn, and some little bits and bobs – hand stitching, machine stitching, felt, knitting, dyeing, batik, printing, and layered fabrics. I also love textiles with writing, so I added the phrase that Neki of A Moveable Feast picked out from my thoughts on the challenge question – ‘naming is not defining – it is choosing’.

But choosing means saying no as well as yes. I long to learn to focus enough to practise, in every sense of the word. I enjoy exploring so many things but I also value skill and mastery, and to attain those things one must make choices and leave some roads untravelled. For now, as a student, I’m constantly trying out new paths and revisiting old ones, but I also hope that on the way I’ll discover which directions take me “further up and further in”… that I will learn my name.

appliqué piece

Links to the beautiful and thought-provoking work being done for Sharon’s Take it Further Challenge can be found on her blog In a Minute Ago, the Flickr group, and the Take it Further Challenge blog.

TIF Challenge May 1

Aside: a link to the story of The Wild Swans I mentioned in my last post.

Now, the Take it Further Challenge for May.

Sharon asked, “What do you call yourself and why?” when you’re asked to describe your creative activities. She said,

“The way I see it is if you can’t talk about what you do, or haven’t taken care in how you think about what you do, how do you expect others to respect the way you spend your time? Or how do you expect people to respect what you make?”

I’ve thought and thought about the question and I’ve come to the conclusion that, yes, naming is important, but I want to be very careful to distinguish it from labelling. Of course we need shared labels – a kind of shorthand to help others to know how to see us, and sometimes to help focus ourselves, but they are, in every sense, limited. I don’t agree that respect is dependent on how we’re able to talk about our work. I agree that thinking and talking about what we do is important, but for me it’s an ongoing, open-ended conversation…

Naming is not defining, it is choosing. It’s the opening up of potentials and possibilities. A label often says more about what we are not. When I file something, I have to choose a slot for it. I might cross-reference, but I can’t afford to be too messy about it. It more or less has to be one thing or another. Whereas me myself I – we can be many things. At once. Or in turn. Or now and again. And a child is usually given more than one name – sometimes many – names with meaning, heroic or familial or mellifluous, or all of those things.

So I’m Fiona. I was Finlay now I’m Dix. I’m lovefibre. I’m a beginner and a student. And names I might give myself to play with, to see where I can go and who I can be – maker / textile artist / embroiderer / feltmaker / dyer / other; and because nouns alone don’t seem enough, I’ll add messy / creative / impulsive / colourful / melancholic / curious into the mélée for good measure.

Of course this might all be an elaborate way of saying, I don’t know…

my avatars

felt under fabric

When I was working on this quilted hanging, one of my aims was to use felt as the wadding in a way that made its colour a central element of the design. I’m still thinking about that, so today I’ve been stitching some studies for my sketchbook pages for the April TIF challenge (changing a piece of fleece in as many ways as I can). I collected a pile of sheer fabrics of varying opacity and made a small sample of each, layered with some of the pink felt I’d already made.

transparent samples

The best silk I’ve found for this is silk organza (top right) – it’s what I used on the front of my hanging; though I think you can get silk net and I’d love to try that. The manmade fabrics at the bottom – nets, voile and organza – are the sheerest of the samples but I really prefer natural fibres (although I confess I went and bought the finer net and the organza specially for this at Reticule today!). It’s partly because I like the feel of natural fibres so much more, but also because so many manmade fibres are petrochemical based. I think if I were to use them extensively I’d look for them in secondhand clothes and recycle.

In the middle are the cottons – an organdie on the right, and on the left my favourite – cotton scrim. I just love the combination of the open weave and the distortion from the stitching and the way the felt shows through and is furrowed by the pull of the stitches.

felt and scrim

I’m going to try a kind of nuno version on a partially felted base, and also with dyed scrim and different colours of felt.

And I just wanted to share these, because they’re so lovely…

tulip tulips

more felt

I’m not sure about either of the pieces of felt I made today but at least I made them 🙂 One is an experiment stitching into prefelt before felting – more play with a piece of fleece. The images show before and after the felting was completed:

embroidered prefelt
embroidered felt

I want to explore this effect some more, but would prefer finer wools for the stitching, I think.  Then, rather than getting all wet and soapy for one little piece, I also made another piece of felt based on thoughts of the sea at sunset. It didn’t really turn out as I wanted, but it’s all experience.