So is it Art?

Fiber art works are works of art that communicate some sort of message, emotion or meaning and go beyond just the literal meaning of the materials. Fiber arts face the challenge at times of the message or meaning of the work of art being eclipsed by the study of the materials used and their history, rather than what they contribute to the overall work of art.[6] From Wikipedia

So what is Fibre Art to me? The concept that has the most resonance at the moment is the concept of Kansei, as used by Misao Jo in her book Self Innovation through Free Weaving. For me, Fibre Art is something that expresses and develops my “Kansei”, that combination of taste, sensibility, aesthetics, and technique that is uniquely mine. Like a writer’s “Voice.” I make Art when I connect to something, an idea, a feeling, an emotion, a phrase, and it comes out as a fibre creation.

I’d like to say I sat down and planned, and made decisions before embarking on a piece of Art, and I have learned to get better about that, but honestly? When I’m actually in the zone, I let the fibre, the colours, the thoughts in my head merge, and mingle, and produce something unique. It flows through me, as much as it is a conscious, intentional creation. I’m very inspired by my materials.

I guess, for me, the Is it Art Question? is answered by another question. Does it have a name? Should it?

(This post was originally published as an introduction to my personal Fibre Journal for the Creative Fibre Designer Yarns Course. I’m aiming to reblog some of them here, as and when I get time!)

The Inspiration Basket and my Creative Process.

I am very inspired by my materials. Crafting with Fibre, engages all the senses, and I get as much inspiration from gazing into a box of fibre as I do from “thinking”, possibly more.

This here is motivation in a basket!

There is a time and a place for mindful creativity, of course sometimes I will start with a concept, or be given one for a commission, but what I want to share with you is my never-fail strategy for getting past the creative blahs, the Inspiration Basket!

If I am stuck, I always return to my materials for inspiration. What does this fleece, this braid, this colour want to be? What will make it sing?

I will look into my box, pull a couple of things out, put some of them back, grab something else, eyeing up the colour, feeling the texture, inhaling the warm pungent wool scent of it, and suddenly, I’m head down, bum up rummaging for the accent fibres, the silks, the bling, the locks, chucking it all into an “inspiration basket”, words and pictures whirling in my brain, faster than my hands can work.

This seems to work, whether it is a felted piece, or my Designer Yarns, though one thing I have learned, is that while in felting, the colours stay more or less where they are placed, it is almost impossible to apply too much colour, as the felting process tends to mute and harmonise what look, on the face of it, to be clashing colours and textures.

I may edit the basket later. I’ll confess, I did these for the photoshoot, the pictures show an attractive basket, but I’m just as likely to use a pound shop plastic bin, or even an old cardboard box, whatever is to hand, when the inspiration strikes. I may not use everything in it, or I may go shopping in the stash for that last little something, but the concept is born in that mad rummage!

I can be feeling totally meh, not a creative bone in my body, and if I remember to do this, it almost always works, and I am excited to create again. I’ve also lost count of the times I started wanting to make one thing, and wound up making something entirely different, because that was what the thing that inspired me needed to be!

Like all artists, I can get stuck in colour ruts. I find blues, purples and teals in complementary colour schemes are a bit of a default. I’m challenging myself to be more adventurous with colour, so sometimes I use one of those colour palettes, beloved of Pinterest, as a leaping off point. This one spices up my beloved Blue/greens with Reds and Orange. What I make from it, and how, will be another post!

Sometimes, one fibre is the inspiration, and the rest play a supporting role. For instance, I have a glorious luxurious blend, which came to me in a grab bag of World of Wool lap waste, and sat in my stash for several years. It had Merino, Alpaca, lavish amounts of teal blue mulberry silk, in the most delicious mixture of blues, whites and natural fawns. It sang to me of the sea, on a sunny day after a storm, when the water was blue again, but with flecks of fawn foam. And it waited, patiently, until I had the skills to do it justice, before becoming a yarn that reminded me of just such a sea. Core spun with a jagged motion, chain plied, with silky Teeswater locks woven into the plies. Fat and bulky, but airy and squishable, and the slightly grubby denim blue of the sea after a storm, with big frothy white breakers. That fibre changed the entire creative direction of a larger project, because it needed that technique.

I wanted this piece to be both tactile and disturbing!

Sometimes it will be an accent that sets the tone for a piece. I once bought one of those Turkish “Good Luck Eye” bracelets, because I wanted to felt a Torque necklace with a row of googly eyes in it.

Sometimes unconventional materials lodge themselves in my brain, telling me to hunt out the perfect fibres and techniques to bring them to life, as with my Peacock Barb and Beetle Wing Yarn. That yarn lived in my brain on and off for a month as I mulled it over, before making up my inspiration basket and blending the batt, selecting the technique, and the plying thread, and making it real.

This post has been a joy to write, so welcome to the whirling Kaleidoscope that is my process. I don’t know about you, but I feel inspired now! I think I may just have an appointment with a basket of fluff!

Kaleidoscope and the Plague (COVID-19)

Everyone is responding to the virus in different ways. I’m OK, I’m still healthy, and my level of social contact hasn’t really changed much. But my shops and retail outlets are suffering badly, and there are other pressures on my time.

For me, right now, it means I have to spend more time trying to help out in my partner’s business, and less time on art, but that doesn’t mean no time, and it doesn’t mean growing my art business is not still really important to me. As most of his clients are in the hotel and catering industry, my income is likely to become rather more important over the coming weeks and months! It’s a juggling act, but we all have to find ways to cope!

So, this is what I am planning to do!

  1. Update my Galleries so that you have more eye-candy to look at, better organised! Check out my new Hats and Gifts pages!
  2. Start a “Commissions” Page, so you can ask me to make stuff for you! Until it’s up, just Contact Me.
  3. Develop some new stock, including some affordable gifts like the Glasses Cases above, because not everyone wants a hat.
  4. Collect as much stock as I can from bricks and mortar stores, and get some kind of a shop page organised.
  5. Give my Patreon and Ko-fi pages some more love, so you can give them some love too
  6. Learn how to use video-conferencing better, and start some online events and teaching sessions, to help folk while away the long hours.

What you can do to support me!

Keep checking back, buy stuff, when it’s up, come and hang out with me, and learn with me.

Contribute via Patreon and Ko-fi (if you can afford to).

Offer moral support! Visit my site and my social media, comment, offer feedback, share my posts, and my images (with credit), let me know I’m not shouting into the void from my little socially distant bubble! Sharing is caring!

Support other small businesses of all kinds, so we are still here for you when the world returns to whatever normal looks like going forward.

If you are good at things like WordPress, and Video-Conferencing, and would like to give me some help, and would like me to make something for you in return, I do barter on an hour for hour basis. It takes 10 hours to make a hat!

Bear with me! This is all a bit of an adventure, and it won’t all happen at once. But hopefully, when the new normal comes, you will see a more colourful, faster whirling, more responsive Kaleidoscope than before.

Who knows, this could be the kick up the bum I needed!

Creative Fibre – Certificate in Designer Yarns –

A bit of a Review

It’s all gone a bit quiet here, but that does not mean I’ve not been busy, quite the reverse! In July, I embarked upon this course, and it is taking a lot of my “spare” time.

For now, here are some pics of what I have been working on as Eye Candy!

I will say, I am learning a lot! The course is self directed learning, and they encourage you to keep a journal. Some of the entries in my journal will, eventually, be edited and make it onto here as tutorials.

It is really encouraging me to reflect on my Fibre Art, slow down and analyse my process. The course material is good very comprehensive, but the tutor encourages you to look elsewhere on the internet, and find your own learning resources. There is also a closed facebook group for folk to share their learning, and ask questions.

The course starts with a reflective, self assessment Assignment, and then there are sections on Preparation, Spinning, Plying, Techniques, and Variation. It covers most of the usual Designer Yarn types you find, such as Core Spun, Tail Spun, Core spun, Spiral Ply, Beehives, Autowrap, Cabled Yarn and Boucle. It then encourages you to do variations on your techniques.

Some of these techniques I have tried, but my knowledge is deepening, and enriching with the staged approach. (I’ve read ahead, but I’m still on Fibre Prep in terms of assignments.) The tutor really encourages you to think about what you are spinning.

While the course is New Zealand based, the students are completely international, One lives in the USA, I live in the UK, there is an Australian, and a New Zealander.

One of the things that attracted me about the course is the fact that it very much encourages and experimental and “what works” approach. It is more about learning and discovery than about perfect outcomes, which frees me, at least, from my imposter syndrome, and allows me to put the work in from which mastery will eventually develop.

Did I mention the tutor is the awesome Suzy Brown? Of Woolwench, Fibery Goodness, and tinyStudio Creative Life fame. I am a sad, sad, fangirl, that woman has inspired me and taught me so much in my fibre journey!

It also gives me a chance to practice my photography, as you have to photograph each and every stage of the process! I am also doing Evanita W Montalvo’s Outstanding Images for the Fibre Artist online course, which has helped me up my fibre photography game.

Certificate in Designer Yarns 2 is in the works, and I will almost certainly go on to do that also!

Eventually, I hope to have some stunning workshops and online content from all this learning, with my own Kaleidoscopic spin, so watch this space!

Fibre Art Versus the Tidy Home!

How I THINK Fibre Artists homes should look!

I love hanging out with Fibre People! But as a reasonably new Fibre Artist, not many of my Fibre Folk are the kind of old friends that I am used to inviting into my home. Home friends, in my world, are the kind of folks you welcome with “Mind the Cat Puke, I have Wine!” Hence, my rediscovery of the pernicious art of Anxiety Cleaning!

So earlier this week, I was thrown into an absolute tizzy, by those ill fated words “I’ll pop around and pick them up, shall I?”

Now Fibre Art sounds like a single hobby. But it’s not! In my case it is a combination of several hobbies, some of which feed, and share SOME supplies and resources with each other, but not all. They are; Fleece and Fibre Prep, Dyeing, Spinning, and Felting, Knitting, Crochet, Embroidery, and Sewing, depending on whether what you are making is a material in it’s own right, or an end product, with weaving sitting somewhere in between.

And each of these hobbies comes with it’s own, entirely ancilliary hobby of buying materials to feed it! And, in case you didn’t realise, fibre is BULKY, and fibre tools aren’t much better. But, you see, materials and tools are Inspiration, and Inspiration is Life!

Now when you add to this the fact that I get bored with working on one craft, or even one project per craft at once, I am rarely working on one thing, or even half a dozen things at any one time, you have a recipe for a perfect storm of mess!

I will confess, I’m hopelessly addicted to those magazine features about the lives of people who run creative businesses, where elegantly eclectically dressed women waft through bijou country cottages full of thier own works and impeccably curated vintage finds and ethnic textiles, and no-one ever finds an empty wine bottle, a single abandoned male sock, or a lump of VM or Worse on the living room carpet! And I imagine myself as one of those women, right up to the point where I start working and making something.

Perfect! Or is it?

I have a Pinterest Board somewhere with “Perfect Craft Room Ideas“. And these perfect craft rooms all have one thing in common. They look like nobody has ever made anything in them EVER! If I ever manage to win the lottery and build the perfect craft room, I will never make anything ever again, because I would be so terrified to mar it’s pristine beauty with the kind of flinging stuff about and moving things from one place to another, less inconvenient for the moment, place, that my typical creative process seems to require. And that assumes that a dedicated craft room is even a thing!

My typical creative process, complete with Neighbour’s cat!

While we have a good sized house for two people, if we are to have guests, ever, my designated craft room also needs to be the spare bedroom. It’s also the room with the linen cupboard, AND the room with the rail of LARP Costume on it. When the spare bed is up, there is about two square metres of unoccupied floor.

Simple, I thought. We aren’t using the Conservatory. I’ll put all my fibre, my tools and my desk in there. It turns out, there’s a good reason we weren’t using the Consevatory, which faces South East, and is mostly made of glass! To enter it on a sunny day, between the hours of 10:00 am and 3:00 pm, any time between April and September requires a deep breath, and the kind of protective clothing they issue to fire fighters. I had one of those digital thermometers on my studio table. It stopped registering the air temperature one day in April about 11:00 am at 48 degrees C, at which point, it was still comparatively cool in there. So if you hear me airily mention my “Studio” remember that what I am talking about is a room typically hotter than Satan’s armpit during the hours of daylight, for six months of the year, and colder than Siberia the rest of the time. So what was a pristine and inviting space is now somewhere where stuff gets hastily shoved for storage, or to dry!

I decided that April, that none of my expensive wooden tools were long for this world if they stayed out there, so into the living room they came, and they’ve been there ever since.

This IS Tidy. It’s even clean. Don’t go there with what is out of shot!

Now there IS an underlying structure to my mess. Most things not in use have a designated space, and I usually remember to put them back there when I’ve finished using them, but “finished using them” remains an elastic concept, and besides, I can only really put stuff away in the conservatory when it’s night time.

However, it turns out, that as a fellow Fibre Artist, you are much more welcome in other Fibre Artists home, if you precede your intention to descend with the stern instruction, “Don’t tidy up!” Through my British Guild, and through my adventures visiting Fibre Folk on my trips home to New Zealand, I learned that most Fibre Folk share similar issues, and I started to feel better about my place.

So my Guest? I did sufficient Anxiety Cleaning to find the pieces of paper work I needed to give her, at the same time discovering various useful items I hadn’t seen for a while, like my passport, my Engagement Ring, and my car Log Book, which was nice.

Then I sat her down at my new Majacraft Aura, and told her to have a go! She and her husband were so fascinated by it’s elegant simplicity, that they didn’t get a chance to notice the rest of the place, and the visit went swimmingly!

It was only when showing them out again that I realised what they had meant by “Well, we knew we had found the right place!” There, on the path, just in front of the door was a single, dyed Wensleydale Lock. Rumbled!

So, I’ve finally learned to invite people that I don’t know that well into my house with out a three day bout of Anxiety cleaning. Hell, if I really like you, I might even pick up the empty wine bottle!

Thoughts, While Spinning.

Image of Suzy Brown Creative Fibre, 2019

This thin thread,
Connecting us to past, to future,
To clothing, to warmth,
To Women, to spiders,
To Spirit, to Fate,
This thread is memory, magic, and life.
An unbroken connection,
To the Lady in the castle,
The Shepherd in her croft,
It is protection from the elements,
Beauty, Sisterhood, and Love,
This thin thread,
This sacred Work.

I haven’t written a poem in years, much less published one, but this seemed to sum up so much of why I spin. Enjoy!

Sharing the Joy

I am currently learning Saori Weaving, and am very much interested by Misao Jo and her concept of “Kansei”, by which she meant the significance of an intuitive sense of beauty inside all of us. (From her book, “Self Innovation through Free Weaving”, I bought mine here!)

It’s a wee bit like mindfulness, but to me it is more “in the moment” more spontaneous, less planned. It is something that flows, an instinctive, intuitive wellspring of creativity, where observation and learning occurs naturally and profoundly.

I find that Fibre Arts are, for me, the direct path into my “Kansei”, the thing that infallibly gets it flowing, that then inspires me to intuitively pick colours and shapes that look harmonious to me, and to train my fingers to arrange them in a way I find pleasing. When I do this, I create things that give me joy, and that seem to inspire joy in at least some other people.

And I want others to share that joy, that flow, that harmony and learning.

This is why I love to teach. Because EVERYONE has kansei, however deeply buried or differently expressed. My partner, a Programmer, expresses his through a beautifully crafted line of code that does what it is supposed to. I know people who express it through a perfectly brewed pot of tea, cakes, holding parties! But if fibre is the thing that pulls on your heartstings, I want to help you find it.

I love the look of combined joy, discovery, and concentration on the face of someone who has just learned a new fibre skill! I love to see the colours, shapes, and textures that flow from their own creative selves. I want to set that free in the world.

Up until now, this has been pretty informal, mostly among friends. I am a fairly new Fibre Artist, if a very experienced teacher. 25 years in Organisational Development has to be good for something, (apart from building up a Local Government Pension) and if I know it, I can teach it.

My goal continues to be earning some kind of a living from sharing my joy in Fibre, and something happened this weekend to convince me that actually, I really am good enough.

My friend Erin, came to stay to rehome one of my spinning wheels, so I gave her a couple of lessons. Now Erin IS a natural, she soaks things up like a sponge, and starts riffing on what you have taught, taking it beyond where you left off, as naturally as breathing. And there we were, her first lesson, and suddenly we were doing Supercoils, with lockspun yarn that she had spun. Because we connected with her Kansei!

I have also taught people who have struggled to learn. And been able to help them get enough skill, understanding and muscle memory to start that all important flow. Which means more lovely joyful fibre art out in the world.

So this is it! I am officially available for workshops, private coaching, crafty parties (with afternoon tea, for a small extra charge).

Contact me for fees, and availability. Mates rates and barter also a thing, especially among friends.