Sunday, February 16, 2014

Dying- the First Attempt.

     So, I've been spinning less than a year. Starting because I had fun fixing, then making a few spindles, and have been enjoying spinning as well. I've tried several types of fibers, coming back to base wools (BFL, for example) as tried and true baselines.
    Over the holiday season I bought some unprepared fleeces, as my wife was wanting to try some of the raw wool to wash, dye and spin... and as a few varieties of wool became available to me, I splurged a bit. This led to us having now several boxes of raw wools of different types, and led to her suggesting I try as well.
   Well, now, I have a Fine Arts background, have a working knowledge of color theory, and mixing rules, so I thought, 'Yeah, I could try this...'  -SIGH-  and I watched her dye some, and asked a few questions... finding out that mixed dyes can 'break' oddly, and that even heavy-handed dyes tend to fade/bleed in unexpected ways. Oh yes, and you have to cook the dyes long enough to make them set properly.... so keep careful watch to add water to the steaming pan.
  Unfortunately I should have asked for baselines- both in times and dyes.
  So Since I'm a bit rough when I play I chose to try the Shropshire as it tends to be hard to felt, cleaned it, and then began dying. I wanted to try two different things, so I divided it roughly in half. The first was using a dark blue,and two different yellows (golden and lemon) to try to get a broken set of greens. The second was a light blue, with bits of green and dark brown to make a layered turquoise effect. 
  Remembering how watercolors fade as they dry, and thinking that the breaks and layers would make it substantially lighter in the centers, I mixed my dyes into deep color sets, blended them into the wool, and let them set for an hour or so, turning the zip-lock bags ever 15-20 minutes. Then I prepped the steamer.
   Bamboo steam pot, one bag per layer, with a large water pot underneath- once it was hot and ready, I put the bamboo steamers over the pot, and started a timer and a movie. Every 20 minutes I checked the pot, adding more warm water as necessary. Then the movie ended- I switched layers top/bottom so the other side would be in the more direct heat, and did it again for a second film.
   I then let them cool off, strained them, washed them with cool water to get any loose dye off, and ended up with downed rat curls of two different shades of black... a warm and a cool flat black. Worse, it was a scratchy, dehydrated, crunchy mess.  Thinking, 'maybe it's just too compacted?' I tried carding it to loosen the fibers... that's what is pictured above.
   At this point, I was thinking it was completely dead. But I was wrong. A good friend of ours, and owner of my favorite Local Fiber Shop (plug for A Weaver's Yarn) Suggested that all might not be lost... and so I carded it again, this time spritzing it with baby oil with each clump, and then bagged it. I'd leave it sit overnight, and then do it again as the wool absorbed some of the baby oil bringing it back from the crunchy-dehydrated mass back to a softer wool. After a couple of times it had softened back to a 'normal' scratchy wool level.

   One of my spin-a-long groups is going through the Harry Potter (Books and Movies) which is on Goblet of Fire this month, and the more I worked with this wool, the more I was reminded of the Thestrals. The two blacks mixed to an odd grey/green/blue tinted almost black, that reminded me of the night flight of these hidden beasts- and then was inspired to add blue and green sparkles to account for magical ways to view them- like Luna's Spectrespecs.

    So after adding way more sparkle than advised, I finally felt it was ready, and had been making rollags, which I am beginning to spin.... (yeah, again just starting this month's spin and it's already the 16th?) Well, I haven't finished any of the others in the month, so why should this one be any different? -SIGH- Still have to finish and ply by book three spin (single is almost done though...) and I need to update my Etsy... I think I just need more days in the week.--- maybe I'll spin all day on that new day.


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Arctic Visions

Beautiful- Isn't it?

       That's just a local side road, in the afternoon sun, a couple years ago. The birch trees almost look candy coated with the frosted snow. This is a good visual answer to the (classic tourist) often asked 'how can you live up here in the winter?' Yes, we usually get cold, and ice, and snow... but we don't let that stop us, and in fact, we thrive in it.

      The National News this week has been talking about 'the horrible winter' and how the nation is 'frozen' by bad roads and icy weather.... and I have a hard time keeping a straight face watching it. Basically, the view from up here is the biggest problem with your (down there) deadlocked roads, is nobody seems to know how to drive... at least not on snow and ice. I spent 13 years as a School Bus driver up here- and looking at what you're trying to drive in, seems like just another winter school-day. (But then we also have outdoor recess to -20F.)  Now I'm not saying the ice storms causing power outages wouldn't create a problem... or couldn't get deadly when combined with extreme low temps. (Of course I think out ideas of extreme lows are a bit different from yours too.) But basic transportation, and distribution of emergency supplies shouldn't even be an issue.
   Then there's the other issue... the last couple of years, here in Fairbanks, AK, we've had relatively mild winters. So while colder than normal temps have hit the lower 48, we've been enjoying warm fronts keeping us near or in the positive side of the Fahrenheit Temps. Yes, we had a week of -40F last month, and a few days here and there, but nowhere near like my first winter here (3 moths of -40F or colder, with the low for that time being -67F.) Or even the 'normal' of temps bouncing between 0F and -50F with the 'standard' being -20F. I other words-  if it's above -20F we consider it 'warm', and below we consider it 'cold' during a 'normal' winter.

    But I've gotten sidetracked... I was going to talk about my studio's name--- Arctic Visions Studio. I have my wonderful wife to thank for it's name. I was originally going to base my studio name (and Business License) on my Art Style, say 'Nostalgia on Paper' or 'Acrylics by Shane', or (well there were hundreds of ideas- I know I filled at least one sketchbook with just names and logo ideas.). Looking through them, my wife had the brilliant observations, 'If it's a license for the artwork, why name it for only one of the styles you are making?' and 'What if you find a totally different art you like, will you need a new license?'
   At the time, I was producing Paintings and Linocut Prints, so a more generic name seemed appropriate- but I was undecided. Then out of the blue came a show opportunity, for something I hadn't thought of- I was making chainmail jewelry (bracelets and necklaces mainly) out of recycled wire as an 'on the go' craft rather than my studio work. Thus My wife and I kicked around non-limiting, but very local feeling names, and I stuck with Arctic Visions- mainly because it could be interpreted as 'anything I envision', or 'my vision based on what is up here'- or 'being up here has altered my vision.' All of which I like, especially the fact that it could be interpreted multiple ways. There's a local bumper sticker I like along the same vein- "Fairbanks- we're all here because we're not all there!"  Both meanings (we got away from 'there' or we're not all 'there' mentally) work well.
    So my License was bought, and the name has continued to fit no matter which way I stretch over the years- even now dabbling in fiber arts and woodworking now, as witnessed by my Etsy (also Arctic Visions)