Sunday, December 15, 2013

Pickled cabbage is alright.....

While boiling up this red cabbage to make dye I can't help singing in my head an old song from the English music hall days about cucumber by Harry Champion. Anyone know it? No, I thought not. A hangover from my early childhood when the family used to gather around the piano at my Grandad's house in Charlton, and have a good sing-song over a few pints of ale. Parties would last all weekend, and us kids would get to sleep in the 'good' lounge chairs or in Nana's bed.

Anyway, getting back to the red cabbage. I had thought it would make a blue colour, but my batch turned out purple as you can see. I used rain water in a stainless pot with a dash of alum crystals for mordant. Although it's not blue, it is a beautiful dye colour.

I tested it out on silk. Funny tho', while the silk holds the colour well, after a couple of days in the jar the liquid colour fades, even in a dark place. And by god it gets really stinky. I'm too scared to take the lid off!

In search of the elusive blue, and for my next trick, I'm going to try dyeing with black beans, which you can still eat after you've used the soak water. My son tells me they make really good brownie....who would have thought?

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Discover Me

I've recently joined a NZ on-line shopping community called Discover Me and am hoping I might sell a few of my hand-made things. You see, I keep producing stuff, of which some I keep and some I give away as gifts, but often I make more things than I need to keep or giveaway. But yet I still keep producing because, after all folks, it's the journey rather than the destination that is the important thing. And to be honest, financial income doesn't really play a significant part, it's just a bonus. So now I have the option of listing some of my work for the Kiwi market on-line.  Check it out!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Shrine to Rust

A competition and fundraiser for Hospice, to decorate a mannequin in whatever way you want, inspired me to make "Our Lady of the Divine Rusty Junk".

Our Lady of the Divine Rusty Junk
The body has been rusted using the technique outlined here. The elements used to embellish her were all salvaged from the Hospice rubbish pile. One man's trash ....... as Macklemore says......

Our Lady is rife with symbolism of fertility and re-birth. She is a shrine to honour the beauty that can be found in aging and decay. Rust is a beautiful mark that time leaves behind, a symbol of a good life. The repurposed junk reminds us that 'useless' is a subjective term and that everything continues to have value.

The mannequins are on display at a local shop window, and people are invited to vote. Then they will go to auction and all proceeds donated to the local hospice. Where I work. Another example of recycling I guess. 

When I made her, I had trouble getting the rust to stick to the mannequin. In the end, I painted her with gesso mixed with binder medium, then a second coat of gesso, then the rusting chemical. Finally I sprayed it with fixative spray.

 I'm not a catholic but I love the iconography of catholicism. The virgin Mary is a favourite of mine.

Not all Mums would spend their weekends drilling holes in boobs, my daughter says that's because I'm wacky, not like the other Mums. Thank goodness for that.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

I'm honoured....

I was talking to my talented print maker friend Glennys Patterson about whether it was time for me to do another exhibition. And Glennys said "you don't always have to do your own exhibition, you could join someone elses ya know". Which is very sensible advice and a helluva lot less work. So I went home, and lo and behold in my in box is an invitation for the Nelson Camera Club Triptych Salon. So I entered 3 digital images, and they awarded me an honours for this triptych of Queen Anne's Lace.

I was pretty stoked about this, my first honours at Salon level, and one of 4 honours awarded out of 340 digital entries. So thanks Glennys for your direction and inspiration. Unfortunately I won't be able to go to the awards and exhibition opening tomorrow because of course it is in Nelson and I'm a hockey mum this weekend for my daughter. Her Underwater Hockey team is in the Nationals event after receiving gold medal at Regionals - another reason to feel proud and honoured.  It's a good life.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Why I rip dolls heads off.....

People think I'm a tad on the strange side when I tell them I rip the heads of dollies. Can't think why? No doubt those same people may be offended by my treatment of Jesus and the Madonna as well.

This latest assemblage is influenced by the Mexican Day_of_the_Dead. Dia de los Muertos, a religious holiday related to the Catholic All Saints Day, honoring those that have gone before us and celebrating their lives.

I found these small statuettes, candelabra and a doll at the hospice garage sale - another place where we remember the dead - and in typical DeMengian usage of 'inherant thingyness' put them together in this table centrepiece. The crystal in the middle has healing properties.

It is an evolving piece, I hope to have it covered with black drippy wax and spider webs in time to come. I find it infuriating that candles these days are all non-drip. I love to play with drippy wax, something quite therapeutic in that.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Eco-print Fabric Journal

Last few months I've been playing around with dyeing fabrics and paper with leaves, India Flint style. The muted salmon pinks and browns along with vintage lace and vintage found objects, old jewellry, form into a book that has an aged and worn look about it (much like myself). Here is the result, an embellished journal made entirely by hand stitching with a long-stitch binding.

What I love most about this book is the combination of recycling objects from nature with objects that are made. Creates a nice symmetry I think.

Front Cover

Back cover


Opened book

Inside pages

Page print - Eucalyptus leaves

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Dyeing to Print III - paper technique

About 2 months ago, I put down a couple of jars of solar dyes. One with flax seeds and one with morning glory. I left them for a month in the weak autumn sun. When I took off the lids, phew, did these babies stink!! Putrid rotten leaves, dumped by the neighbours fenceline, and jars quickly stuffed in the dishwasher. The results were quite subtle, but give a good aged feel to the fabric. And once they are rinsed in rain water and dried, thankfully the smell dissipates.

Here are the results. Morning glory produced a pale pink, salmony colour. The flax, a sort of tea shade, more of an English Breakfast than Lady Grey.

This sample is from a fabric book I have been making with the Eco dyed and Eco printed calico and mull. To make the pages for this book I followed the technique documented by Cassandra Tondro
My dyeing equipment doesn't yet include a very large pan, so to get all my pages in the pot I had to cut them first after spraying with alum spray.

Each page is stuffed with autumn leaves, made into a bundle tied up with string.

This is placed in a pot, on a rack above water, and weighted down with an old iron trivet that weighs a ton. This bundle was steamed for 2 hours, then left to cool.

Once cooled, I couldn't wait to unpack it.

Each page has a unique print of leaf, some darker and more distinct than others. In particular, eucalyptus and loquat work really well.

The pages were laid flat - on the kitchen floor - to dry, while I batted the cat, who loves shredding paper, away from my work.

The next day, when fully dry, I ironed them using a dry iron, and folded them into the book pages ready to bind into the cover. I will blog the finished product next time.........

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Dyeing to Print II: Solar dyes

......and even easier than Hapa Zome ecoprinting is the technique of Solar Dyeing. This is done with a natural fabric, your leaves, flowers, seeds, berries etc, water and sealable jars, and you need plenty of patience because this technique requires time to brew. It feels a bit witchy, having potions on my deck in the sun.

India Flint, guru of Eco-printing suggests this technique. Put your fabric into a jar, clean or not because whatever was in there before may make an interesting mordant. Squash in your leaves etc and cover with water. Add an extra mordant if you want, then seal it up and leave it in the sun for some time. 

In the small jar on the left I have cotton mull, screwed up tight and wound with string to hopefully create some variation in pattern. This potion contains NZ flax pods and seeds, crushed, and a tea bag for mordant. In the jar on the right, I have unbleached calico folded with morning glory flowers in between layers, then more morning glory flowers crushed on top. For a mordant I used alum. Both jars are filled with rain water. I took this photo the same day I put the mix down, already you can see a lot of dye extracted. India doesn't say exactly how long, but I'm choosing to leave mine for at least one month (I can only resist the temptation of opening them earlier by leaving the country!). 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Dyeing to Print I: Hapa Zome

I've been experimenting with dyeing (not dying) from natural materials lately. I'm inspired by the work of the goddess of Eco Printing, India Flint. The easiest and by far the quickest results are by using Hapa Zome, or as it's otherwise known, beating the c**p out of leaves. The technique is fairly simple although it does take a bit of practice and the results are variable.

Collect some leaves, preferably freshly fallen onto the ground so you are not damaging trees. In theory, you don't even need to leave your garden (assuming you don't live in a tenement block). I found quite quickly which leaves work and which don't. Flowers and seed pods also give interesting results. Lay down a piece of thickish cardboard onto a firm surface. Lay your fabric on top. Use only natural fabrics e.g. cotton, calico, mull, silk. You should use  mordant to assist the natural dyes to 'bind' to the fabric. I use alum 10% spray, it's easy to buy at the hardware (hydrangea food). Preferably you will have soaked your fabric with the mordant first, then dry it before trying Hapa Zome technique. I soaked mine after, and found the dyes to fade quite a lot.

On top of your fabric, lay your leaf flat, then place on top a piece of paper. Get a hammer. You can use a mallet, which I would have done except ours (whose name is Sandra for some odd reason) has gone walkabout. Beat the paper on top of the leaf, not too much or the leaf will mush up and soak into the fabric or worse still, the fabric will wear a hole. By the way, if the neighbours have been pissing you off lately, this is good way to get revenge. Otherwise you might want to warn them because I tell you, this is addictive. You could be noisy ALL day.

Peel off paper and leaf. Wait for the dye to dry, then steam iron. These are some of the results I got the first time.



Morning Glory


And my personal favourite, Harakeke pods.
These suckers have a lot of natural dye.