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.

Luke Haynes

Luke Haynes

“Because let me not be defined by my gender! Let me not have to create works that are a reflection of the single most obvious difference between me and the standard!!

Let me not be defined by my “otherness” but rather my “sameness”!!!”

Luke Haynes after his interview with Abby Glassenberg’s podcast While She Naps 

 I miss the quarterly SAQA MARI meetings (Studio Art Quilt Associates Massachusetts Rhode Island Chapter). Heading out on those Saturday mornings were special treats. The meeting format was pretty straightforward: chitchat, then a presentation on technique or arts management (how I loved the meetings where Vicki Jensen at ProChem shared her vast knowledge), more chitchat over packed lunch and then show and tell. If not carpooling with another art quilter, I’d detour to discover destinations near the meeting location. Many times, though, the in person meeting would drive me straight back to my studio for play and progress on my own work.

The SAQA MARI programming committee adapted with the times and now offers Zoom alternatives. On May 16, the guest speaker was Luke Haynes. His express ride through his approach, inspiration and exploration of quilt as object, as sculpture, made from used textiles and celebrating himself, his community and quilt history lingered long after I clicked “Leave Meeting.”

If you don’t know Luke’s work, think big. We’re talking at least seven feet square densely quilted three layers, made from used textiles and using traditional quilt blocks as the backdrop for a portrait. Inspired by famous compositions and iconic paintings, his portraits of friends and people in his neighborhood inject his quilts with contemporary sense of place and immortal remembrance. These art quilts hang on walls in galleries and also grace beds. Quilts often are anonymous works, signed on the back. Luke signs in all caps on the front, and even makes his name part of the composition. 

A quilter after my own heart, Luke photographs his beautiful work outdoors, draped in stunning natural settings, wrapped around people. These objects transform space as it  transforms as a work of art. His objects are beautiful and useful. Luke chooses to challenge the role and place for art. What do we value? What is desirable and worth commemorating?  How we carry those parameters forward?

Sometime in the mid 1990s, Michael James shook up the quilt world by saying something to the effect of quilting will not move forward as an art form until quilters create art. I would have read this in Quilter’s Newsletter magazine or perhaps the International Quilt Association. Making quilts near Rome in those days, when the internet was young, I found James’ statement thought provoking and I tried to get my head around his perspective. 

At one of the first quilt exhibits in Italy, I remember a surprised and perplexed visitor looking at my work and exclaiming, “This isn’t a quilt. It’s art.”

In her mind, art was a world apart. She came for quilts, that iconic American bed covering whose popularity bubbled up in those days. It was another expression of “made by hand” that Italians cherish. While textile hand work was overwhelmingly women’s work, an “artigiana/o” or artisan is anyone who creates or manufactures objects. Tailors, cheesemakers, boat manufacturers all are artisans.

After his 45 minute presentation, question and answer time wasn’t as spirited as I thought it may be. Was I the only one who was still taking it in? Did others in the mainly female over 60 audience find themselves pondering questions afterwards? The first question was more of a statement: she pondered the perspective difference and vision he had. Is she still thinking about it? I checked out the SAQA MARI Facebook group, and the conversation was sparse.

I love the way Luke wraps himself, his neighborhood and the way galleries are happy to accept his work as art. What would Michael James think?

Maybe that conversation will happen some day. In the meantime, I’ll head back to my studio and keep on making things. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you to the artists whose legacies sustain us today. Thank you to today’s artists whose creations and connections lead us toward tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mary Oliver’s poetry is one way I slow down to appreciate the beauty of existence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wishing you a fulfilling journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old Textiles, I salute you!

Old Textiles, I salute you!

These hand made treasures; need some love and a new home; I can’t resist them.

My new home town held a socially distant yard sale not long ago. I went, hoping to find silverware to use on the sailboat (score!) and book cases (maybe next time!). There were some beautiful hand made items that I couldn’t resist and several hand made baskets that I did. Thankfully, I saw someone else pick them up shortly after I passed by.

 

rectangular embroidered geometric cushion

What else did I find? Linens and embroidery galore!

I’m a firm believer in things both beautiful and useful, especially when made by hand. Crocheted tablecloths and embroidered cushions hit my heart strings and they now have found a new life in my new home.

With a few small repairs and a bit of peroxide in the tub, the crochet tablecloth was ready for Thanksgiving. Martha Stewart would be proud.

 

Crocheted second hand tablecloth at Alanna Nelson's home

Living in a more rural setting, the closest stores are charity consignment shops. And there’s a wonderful second hand furniture store in Fairhaven that’s fun to stroll (with my mask on, of course). Hopefully the cycle of letting go and discovery is one I’ll enjoy for a long time.

Do you have a soft spot for old textiles? Isabella Stewart Gardner did. I’d love to hear how you make them part of your life.

An homage to Annie Modesitt

An homage to Annie Modesitt

The bike riding, no nonsense, ever exploring Annie Modesitt passed away on October 1, 2020.

She leaves behind two adult children she adored and a legacy of knitting encouragement, discovery, books and ModeKnit Yarn. An early active user on Twitter, I got to know her when she was the guest teacher on a Tactile Travel tour of Lazio and Umbria that I organized in 2010.

She enjoyed bike riding in Rome (what bravery!), tasting pastas made with potato, corn and grains other than wheat, and shared a wide range of knitting tips and tricks with our small group.

 

Here she is with Kath, the intrepid knitter and traveler, making etchings near the entrance to Villa d’Este. 

Villa d'Este Prints

Kath brought charmeuse scarves and fabric pastels and etched herself some lovely memories. Annie was delighted to join in. Note her lovely knitted hat with brim. 

Rainy days, sunshine, there was always something that made her laugh or indignant. Straightforward, she was unwilling to let anything hold her back, and her determination was admirable and a reckoning. 

 

Annie's not wet.

Annie was a good friend of the Common Cod Fiber Guild. She joined us at the very first FiberCampBoston – just out of her jammies via Skype. While that seems ever so commonplace now, in 2009, that was cutting edge.

Annie came and spoke to the Guild in 2011. She spent the night at our place, tired after flying from Minneapolis, giving the talk and the next day, she was headed to Rhode Island to teach over the weekend. Her first thought was for her kids, and she could hardly wait to check in.

This afternoon, her children arranged a “Modemorial” for her via Zoom. More than 130 people logged in to share their memories, their condolences and their grief.

May her enthusiasm for life live in her children and us all. Thank you, Annie, for all you gave us.

COVID Days

COVID Days

One of our major flaws as animals, and a big contributor to our unhappiness, is that we are very bad at keeping in mind the real ingredients of fulfilment. We lose sight of the value of almost everything that is readily to hand; we’re deeply ungrateful towards anything that is free or doesn’t cost very much; we trust in the value of objects more than ideas or feelings; we are sluggish in remembering to love and to care; and we are prone to racing through the years forgetting the wonder, fragility and beauty of existence. It’s fortunate, therefore, that we have art.

Alain de Botton from The Guardian

As COVID-19 frames our current experience, anxiety and unhappiness churns and foams. Friends have been furloughed, laid off, job offers rescinded, or contracts cancelled. Others pivot as events, fairs and shows are cancelled and their stores close. Neighbors in essential jobs are working overtime and cope with new realities. As remote workers, daily life in our house moves on, with our grad student is remotely finishing her degree.

Fortunately, we do have art. In the daze of social distancing, art is found out the window; rainy greyscale views, brilliant blue skies or a full moon shimmering out my window. I count my blessings that I am safe, home with family and able to help flatten the curve. I’m thankful for a great internet connection, which allows me to visit with friends and family and attend conferences virtually. Thanks to COVID, there’s more time to explore museums and travel virtually. OK, I’m an optimist.

Thank you to the artists whose legacies sustain us today. Thank you to today’s artists whose creations and connections lead us toward tomorrow.

Mary Oliver’s poetry is one way I slow down to appreciate the beauty of existence.

Wishing you a fulfilling journey.

“Stitched” at Loading Dock Gallery

“Stitched” at Loading Dock Gallery

Update: View “Stitched” online

“Joined by Stitch” unites again for their third spring exhibit – this time at the Loading Dock Gallery in Lowell, MA. Please join us at the artist reception.

March 7, 2020 from 4 to 6 pm

122 Western Avenue, Lowell, MA 01851

My critique group is an eclectic mix of artists. We all work primarily in fiber and we’re all SAQA members who live within 40 minutes of each other. Beyond that, let the creative experience express itself! Each year, the setting and the work feed the exhibit… with a different result each time.

Tarja works in the Western Avenue Studios and proposed a group exhibit to the Gallery. They were very receptive to the idea, especially after last year’s show at the Essex Art Center.

Today, we chose the work for exhibit in the Gallery. Starting with a large, new piece by Agusta Agustsson, the next pieces easily flowed from our stacks to the wall. With tall, white walls, there is plenty of space to stack work, which was appreciated with 8 artists!

Joined by Stitch hangs Agusta Agustsson textile art at Loading Dock Gallery in Lowell, March 2020
Agusta, Betsy and Tarja look for level work.
Alanna Nelson fiber art "Suffragette Celebration" debuts at Loading Dock Gallery, March 2020
Suffragette Celebration bubbles on a pedestal with work by Janis Doucette, Tarja Cockell and Sue Colozzi

Installation was quick, easy and the camaraderie that Joined by Stitch developed over the last 3.5 years was clear. I did manage to complete the Suffragette Celebration piece (ahem, at 4:30am the day of installation). White walls and a grey pedestal are not doing this piece any justice… I can’t wait to get it back and photograph it properly.

In any case, please join us for the reception, and let me know what you think of the exhibit!

P.S. With the Loading Dock closing temporarily to encourage social distancing in this time of pandemic, the exhibit became online. As of March 25, the work was taken down and I’d be happy to share it with you in person in May.