Saturday, September 7, 2013

Update on the Altar Cloth; Layering Interactions

The little altar cloth, inspired by Grace as a way to remember an event I discussed a few weeks ago. I realize I've made no notes about how it has progressed, haven't really been putting it into words. So I am making a stab at it here.

I have a lot of 'masters' here; plans, frameworks, ideas, thoughts that determine each step. Plots, I suppose. One is the kasaya or kesa or okesa, a ritual garment worn by Buddhists. In its ideal form (which is sometimes also it's literal form) it is a whole cloth made of collected, washed and assembled rags. It is also commonly assembled of sumptuous cloth, brocaded silks, damask. Sometimes sedately coloured cotton or linen. As long as it is built in a patchwork, following a fixed pattern, it can become a proper garment. So I collected a bundle of the smallest scraps of found cloth.

The basic idea of composing something from rags of course appeals to me. The idea of a pattern to fit these into adds something I need for this. The plot, a kind of pattern, drives the composition. The pattern I settled on, below, is to build nine sections, three by three. The process then is to fill three large panels diagonally from top left to bottom right, where the centre panel is the bird, her nest and a bee; the corners on the left bottom and right top are made up of small patches. The panels on either side of and above and below the centre panel are bars.

I wanted the little story of the bird, her nest, the compassion of her helpers, at the centre, because it is a singularly important moment. But I also wanted this piece to fit within, to be as much a part as each other part. The logic of the kesa, of a fixed plot which brings singular parts together, helps me. This singular story belongs within a story of building a life and understanding in relation. In interactions, experience. Within context. And from there, once I had started working on this cross shape, I started to fill in the other fields. Some of them with little, tiny bits of cloth.

And just as soon as I was filling up these sections, maintaining their boundaries, I didn't like it. So I started to let these filled in spots start to leak, extend beyond those boundaries. Here these impossibly small printed leaves flicker out of a piece of blue cotton into a white section.

I'm responding to the shapes of the tiniest scraps.

I'm responding to things that are already falling apart, but also coming together. So now I've collected these little scraps of abrasion and wear.

These are things that show interactions, with wind, rain, sunshine. With insects and roots.

With objects the cloth was lost with, or that was on the ground where it was discarded.
 Below is the bottom of the lining of a pair of pants, where stitches in the hem left wear, and where the back of the cuff dragged on the ground.
 This is from the same piece, at the knee. So maybe this is a record of a skinned knee.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Dying Experiments: Pattern and Chaos

Following up on Grace's experiments with dying, and inspired by her use of a tin can which made this magnificent mark, I went looking for a tin can. From a distance of a few feet, in the evening light, under a tarmac-locked black walnut tree, this thing looked like a tin can.

It wasn't a tin can, it was whatever this is, heavy, threaded on the inside. I suppose it is a coupling of some kind. But for what and from where I just can't imagine. Since it was what I found, when looking, I decided to try to use it. So I wrapped it with a 6" x 36" strip of second hand linen, pleated until it was just long enough to cover the outside of the coupling. I dyed it with a fresh walnut dye pot, made in a small (4 cup) crock pot.


And it made this mark:

A beautiful mark, what I just at first welcomed as a kind of happy accident. But a comment from Heather on my last post here made me notice that it wasn't just an accident. Yes, I didn't know it was going to look like x-rays of teeth (?) when I prepared the cloth. But I did plan something of it, pleating, tying. A ha. So I keep making them. I'm up to five, two on linen, two on what I think is unbleached diaper cloth, one on part of an old tea towel:

They are weirdly similar to each other, but also quite unique. Each bundle was tied differently, of course, a kind of randomness.

Each one I tied in the same fashion, but not in the same places or the same ways. Each set of pleats was uncounted, just enough to shorten the cloth, make a stack of pleats I could handle easily enough to tie.

The dye in the pot changes a bit each time, as well, as it interacts with the iron coupling. Today when I dropped in a bundle there was a crystalline rind on the top of the pot. The pot dyes some parts of the cloth black, some parts are still brown.

And so. It occurs to me that there are interactions here, between me and the 'stuff'- the walnuts, the water, the heat source, the metal thing-  and among those things themselves. These interactions aren't unknown, I could even investigate each further. These interactions are possibly not uncontrollable, but can I just let them be uncontrolled? There is something in the 'unknown' that I want to hang on to now, for now.

So that's the update; I am thinking about these uncontrolled interactions as productive. Thank you for stopping by.