“Playing with Color” October 2022 in Melrose, MA

Fiber Art exhibit - Joined by Stitch | Beebe Estate, Melrose, MA Oct 2022

Come to the Beebe Estate in Melrose to discover “Playing in Color,” a fiber and quilt art exhibit of Joined by Stitch. Meet the artists at the October 7, 2022 reception from 7 to 9 pm.

Joined by Stitch Massachusetts Fiber Art Critique group

Joined by Stitch is the critique group of Betsy Abbott, Agusta Agustsson, Tarja Cockell, Sue Colozzi, Janis Doucette, Anne Kimball, Madalene Axford Murphy and Alanna Nelson. They are all members of Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA).  

The eight regional artists came together to form a critique group in the fall of 2016 to support each other in their individual journeys.  Each member uses fiber in creating her work but each has also developed a unique voice ranging from the abstract to the representational.

While all group members use color and fiber in their work, the materials and techniques offer a wide range of opportunities to explore and play. Members dye, print, weave, felt, paint with thread, and stitch, discovering new opportunities for textiles to turn into landscapes, emotions and messages.

Once a month, the artists bring work to a meeting, seeking either feedback from the rest of the group for a finished piece or advice on a particular aspect of a work in progress.  The meetings end with a lively discussion of news from the fiber art world and from individual members.

Group member Alanna Nelson says, “In our first group show since March 2020, we look forward to the exhibit in Melrose. We’ve had a lot of zoom sharing of our work, and it’s great to share these colors and textures in person.”

The Beebe Estate, 245 West Foster Street in Melrose, is open Saturdays from 11 am to 3 pm. “Playing with Color” will be on view from October 7 to 29, 2022.  Visitors are welcome to wear masks and practice social distance protocols.

Building Blocks at Marion Art Center

Building Blocks at Marion Art Center

Plastic bags of ice; autumn olive dyed wool felt; Building Blocks 1.

Time for the summer member’s exhibition at the Marion Art Center. Since moving to the South Coast in 2020, the member exhibits offer a chance to evaluate how my work’s changed in six months.

The big realization? Experiments and process stack up in the studio, but there is virtually nothing completely finished. Ok, I guess. The process and time has been instructive.

What are the materials for my fiber art these days?

  • Stitching with plastics – the stuff that we’d normally toss and cannot be recycled.
  • Using materials at hand.

These parameters give me lots of room and interesting results. I’m calling this series Building Blocks.

Alanna Nelson Fiber Art - Wool, plastic, cotton - Building Blocks 1

Scientists report that plankton, the building block of our oceans, consume and sometimes process micro plastics found throughout the water column.

Building Blocks: 1 was finished in time for last October’s @Doorway_a_Gallery skill share, so I took the path of least resistence and just dropped it off for the show.

This piece includes wool felt that I overdyed with Autumn Olive leaf dye bath, embroidered using cut up ice bags from our summer cruise and machine quilted.

My hub worries that my plastic hoarding habit is growing, so I guess it’s time to finish more work so he can understand what I’m really up to.

Plastic and stitching can be a great combo – especially because it performs pretty nicely when left outside. Hmmm….

The reception is August 12, 2022 from 5 – 7 pm. Hope to see you there!

Invasion of the Invasives

Invasion of the Invasives

Remember how we decided to move just as a pandemic swept the world?  We’re still here, healthy, thankful and nesting in our new home base. I spend a lot more time outdoors, watching birds, moons, tides, plants and trees.

The autumn olive tree (Elaeagnus crispa) was one new discovery. Found in the north east and upper midwest, it is considered invasive. Most trees climb high, but the autumn olive prefers to crawl out, shading out plants below. With a super-sized, shimmery silver olive-shaped leave, legend has it that immigrants from western Asia brought along autumn olive seeds because the trees produce fruit in just a few years. The bright red berries attract all kinds of birds, who happily disperse the seeds wherever they perch.

Autumn Olive tree in Massachusetts summer 2021
As this nugget of information entered my brain, Doorway A Gallery called for artists who work/play with natural inks, pigments and dyes for their October pop-up gallery. What a great excuse to curb an invasive shrub’s growth and play with fiber! Let the experiments begin.

Paging through my books on dyeing fiber with plants and kitchen waste, there were general guidelines about the usual weight of goods, et al. Then, on the internet, I found someone’s experiment dyeing with autumn olive leaves. Ok, so the berries aren’t key here, but the leaves are the way to go. Nice! This way, I could make syrup for pancakes and cocktails. A delicious BBQ sauce highlighted there tangy, tasty berries. But back to the leaves…Why I didn’t turn to Botanical Colors is beyond me. Clearly, the dye pot called my name and I wanted to start playing.

Autumn olive leaves and green berries

I made two different autumn olive dye pots. The first pot started with leaves brought to a boil, then steeping for ten days. Good grief, what stinky mess. When it came time to dye the fiber, the garage could hardly keep in the stench. Although I mordanted with an alumimum potassium sulfate after the fact, the final fiber was a stinky, rich brown.

My next pot was created in a more traditional method of simmering for a longer period of time and the dye bath was not fermented. My fiber was a richer color of reddish brown, but certainly not the golden color I’d hope to find. I also tossed in some bright wool blue and red roving, just for kicks.

My final pot used a mordant made from rusty nails (so who knows how weak or strong it was), with the remaining dye bath.

Final results? A nice range of browns, and richer reds and blues which work, aren’t glamorous, but fit nicely for my palette.

Autumn olive dye bath on red, blue and white wool
With new colors in my wool stash, it’s time to start felting. My first play took one of the larger wool battings, the blues to create a background that I embroidered using strips of plastic bags.

These plastic bags weren’t just any old plastic. During our sailing cruise in August 2021, we went through 8 bags of ice. Why couldn’t I use these plastic bags again? The boundless forms of extruded petroleum products create the building blocks of our lives. https://www.yournec.org/microplastics-and-plankton/. We are what they eat.

Building blocks 1, 2021 felt and plastic by Alanna Nelson

Liza Bingham,  Rachel Leaney and I shared our play time results in a very fun pop up in Waltham. Artists from Waltham Mills peeped out of their studios, masked and ready to socialize. Friends and other Instagram followers stopped by, which was a lot of fun.

Months have passed since that November lunch time, and a friend dropped off a pile of green #2 plastic bags that she thought I might find useful. The bags had a bath, and I’m thinking about blending outdoors with my stitching and working more with plastic that might otherwise head to the incinerator or landfill. More on that later.

Every time we move house, what I create changes. When my kids were small and we lived outside Rome, I started dyeing cotton, because it was easier to hang outdoors with the kids and keep an eye on the dye baths.

Near Milan, the fabulous fibers and fabric stores creeped into my wall quilts.

Once we moved to New England, trips to Sheep and Wool Festivals pushed my creations to the wooly side.

Now the nearest fabric store is a 20 minute drive, although there are two wonderful thrift shops that could work. What do I have in my stash? What do I have in hand?

Clearly, it’s time for the next adventure.

Make Felt in Marion May 7

Soap, water and wool; express yourself and create; your own felt fabric.

May 7, 2022 1:00 – 3:00 pm

Silvershell Beach, Marion, MA

Join me outdoors near the shore as we play with soap, water and wool to create a piece of felt all your own.

Play with color, include your favorite symbols and learn several ways to create felt. Learn how your wool choice impact the final fabric.

Class price is $20 and includes all materials and supplies.

Register here. It’s a good activity for those 12+. We’ll sit and stand and might get a big wet. Bring an apron (oil cloth, if you have one) and get ready to roll up your sleeves.

Soap, water and wool is part of South Coast Spring Arts and is the first time I’ve taught since December 2019! Can’t wait to be outdoors and see what people create.

Join me!

Wool felt success at Alanna Nelson learn to felt class 2019
5 Squares for the Violet Protest

5 Squares for the Violet Protest

 Respect for the other   Citizenship   Compromise 

 Country over party and corporate influence 

 Courage   Candor   Compassion   Creativity
Core American Values promoted by the Violet Protest

Can we agree on these American values? Artist Ann Merton thought so, and sought to remind the 117th Congressional delegation of their obligations to their constituents. With that, the Violet Protest launched.

Calling out to those who create with textiles, red and blue 8″ squares were gathered in hopes of creating a violet wash of expression. Knitters, weavers, quilters, crocheters, embroiderers, surface design textile artists of all kinds stepped up. More than 2,000 people from all 50 states and many Canadian provinces made at least 5 squares.

I’m one of 229 people in Massachusetts who donated squares.

Did you notice only four squares? As I photographed before sending them off, a flared edge on a knit square caught my eye. I pulled back the bind off and chose a different technique then popped it in the mail! At least it got to Arizona by the deadline.

Creating the five squares was straightforward, in principle. My stash yielded fabric, felt, thread and yarn that fit within the Violet Protest’s framework. But how to best express the seven principles and the message of the protest?

Probably too much energy was spent on this topic. As the deadline neared, my goal switched to imbibing each stitch with the unity, determination and good will of the project. I thanked Congress for their work. I scolded Congress for the divisions that they represent. I gave a pep talk and promimsed to do my best to embody those values in my civic life. And I finished those squares within the framework, by the deadline.

Violet Protest squares on view to the public

Squares that reached Arizona by January were included in an exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum. It looked glorious, and yet not all of the 13,500 squares donated had arrived yet.

After the exhibit, Ann and the team packed up 24-25 squares and an explanation of the project for each of our 435 members of Congress.

Did the Representatives see them? Did they feel them? Will they feel the mandate demanded?

We don’t know yet. But each of us can hold those values to guide our own behaviors. There’s a lot to do, and each of us can contribute to civic life.

Thank you, Ann, for working so hard to create this project. She hopes to make a documentary about the Violet Protest, and if you’d like, you can donate to that effort.