Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Colour of the day: the seventh selection

So, it has happened. On July 26 I checked my memory of which color's turn it was against my calendar, where I had noted it for every day of the year. And I realized that I had been off by one day for the entire month already, starting on July 1. I decided on the following procedure for July 26: I was going to take pictures in the colour of the day that had been skipped on July 1 (red), and then slide back into the normal routine the next day (yellow). (And have been getting mixed up badly since about remembering which color I am supposed to be taking today.) Pictures that had been taken before my discovery still appear under the numeral of the day on which they were taken. Not that it makes any difference at all in the great scheme of things whether I took pictures of orange on July 1 or on July 2...

So here is the seventh selection:

red, July 12

orange, July 15

yellow, July 14
green, July 28
blue, July 10

purple, July 30

Well, I hope I get back into the swing tomorrow, with orange.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sustainability in irons

I have had my iron for three or four years. And it has always worked well – nice steam, easy glide, feels good in your hand. Several times people have complimented me for it, it was so good to press seams with.

In April, when I had to supply my own iron for teaching the course at the Nadelwelt (“Needleworld”) in Karlsruhe, it messed up for the first time, spitting and spluttering, and actually producing a little bit of black muck that soiled a participants’ exercise piece. We were able to rinse it off, everything was fine, I didn’t think much about it any more. During the past few days the iron has been spluttering and ‘talking’ more noisily when it was on but not currently in use, although I had been switching off the steam function every single time when I put the iron in standing position.
This morning I was listening to a program on the radio about “small is beautiful”, the limits of economic growth, including the need to increase the life-span of machines we are using, and learning that we musn’t always just throw things out, and perhaps even put things to other uses than they were originally intended for. Just then, the iron burped heavily – one could almost say it threw up – and there appeared another of those unpleasant little black mucky things. Bigger this time! Again, I was able to rinse it off and it hasn’t really done much damage. But it set me thinking. Spray bottle needed!
Well, first it set me searching. I remembered Kathleen Loomis’ post on her special loverelationship with spray bottles on the blog, and I myself did have a fantastic spray bottle at some point, and I am absolutely certain I haven’t given it away or thrown it out.
But I can’t find it anywhere in the entire house. I have looked several times in the most obvious places, and in others as well. I didn’t want to refer to the one empty spray plastic bottle I found amongst my dyeing utensils, because that has had dye in it, and I am rather reluctant to use that as a spray bottle on any kind of fabric now. Not one of the spray bottles that contain cleaning liquids is at so low tide right now that I would want to throw out the remnant in order to put this particular bottle to different use. These bottles are refillable anyway, so I would then have to buy a new one, which would be contradictory to that thought about putting things to a different use.

But I did manage to find a little spray pump glass bottle that once had contained liquid deodorant, and which I had transferred to the dyeing department of clutter in the house, but not yet put to use in that area. So it came back up into the first floor with me, and has started its new life as a spray bottle for my ironing. 

And my iron will stay with me for longer, even if it has lost some of its steam. Perhaps we are a bit alike, my iron and I...?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Invention is copying?

Early last week I heard a little contribution on the radio about the fact that inventors a lot of the time don’t actually ‘invent’ something, but frequently just find a way how to make use of what had already been there before. Electricity, for example, has been around since the beginning of time, but only in 1780 was it discovered, and in 1854 the light bulb was invented so that humankind could actually turn electricity to use in the form of light. The radio-blurb then went on to mention water- and steam-power, refrigerators, x-rays. Basically, the author claimed, inventing is really only discovering and copying of something that has been there, and finding a solution as to how this could be put to use for humankind.
Immediately, I thought of my pictures of ‘found art’. These usually aren’t what would qualify as ‘art’ when looked at the context in which they were taken. But a different way of looking at those contexts, frequently a close-up look – most of the time not even photo-shopped! – changes the original, and voilà, a picture of art.
These are my ten most recent pieces of found art, all taken since Saturday, according to the dates on my memory card on the camera:

Michelangelo supposedly once said that he did not “make” his statues, and I think I remember that this remark was made with regard to his giant statue “David”.

picture taken from here
Instead, he just "released" it from the stone that had been surrounding the sculpture, the stone somehow telling Michelangelo where to put the chisel and guiding him in how to direct it. (As a youngster I saw a TV documentary in which they said the bent left knee is due to the fact that the marble was not a perfectly rectangled block when Michelangelo got it, but that it had a ‘dent’ in that side. Bits of information like this stay with you a lifetime!) Anyway – perhaps it is the same with fabric or textile or fibre art. It is there always. All it needs is somebody to sit down and actually release it from a hidden existence. So is it creation, or invention, or copying? And what about copyright...?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

“A good day for textile workers.”

That was one comment by an official as reported on the radio last week, after an agreement had been reached to improve working conditions for textile workers in countries such as Bangladesh and China. 70 companies have signed an agreement to guarantee that the entire production chain of their items be supervised, and that agreement was signed recently (sorry, site is in German). 
The signed companies are obliged to name their suppliers so that controls can begin, and even controlling firms will be supervised by an independent organization in the Netherlands. Within nine months several thousand textile prodution sites will be inspected to guarantee that fire safety standards are met, working conditions reach a certain level, etc. Just how thoroughly can an inspection of thousands of factories within only nine months be? Will this agreement actually change something? Or is it merely a drop in the ocean, to pacify consumers in the Western World who are temporarily upset right now, but who will willingy forget about these unpleasant incidents after hearing that now everything will be taken care of?
The repeated fatal incidents in Bangladesh have really gotten to me. I don’t usually buy clothes from any of the ‘major’ brands for which these factories were/are producing, but I am overwhelmed by the thought that the Western style of quick turnover fashion, and an unbearable ‘price awareness’ push prices down down down to such a degree that working conditions have to turn so precarious for the people in those countries that are being exploited by and for our way of life. First, textile industries in the so-called industrialized countries collapsed, because production was transferred to the developing countries. Then ever-increasing large companies keep pushing down prices, outsourcing production steps, and because the social problems are not right on our doorstep, we prefer not to notice them. And then something happens, more than a thousand people – mostly women – die.

Collapsed textile production site in Bangladesh -
picture taken from internet

And suddenly we are so upset that this could happen at all? Just how hypocriticcal can you actually get?

Two of the most interesting books I read last year were India Flint’s books  Second Skin and Eco Color. And I am currently reading a book that is very hard to read – Sustainable Fashion – because it gives you a lot of insight into the entire business and ecological effects of fibre production, shipment of materials from one part of the world to the other, and the overall effect that clothes production has on our planet. I can only read a few pages a time, and then I am so upset that I have to stop.
And yes, this does fit in with the above. For me, at least. I haven’t arrived at a conclusion for the problem. But I do think if we took more care about our clothes, didn’t change a wardrobe every few weeks, substituting one cheap T-Shirt through another, even cheaper one of a slightly lighter shade, and were willing to pay decent prices, a lot could be done for the people who are producing these garments. I am not at all convinced that globalization as it has been happening is really for the benefit of the people overall. Neither for those on the winner’s side, in the ‘Western World’, nor for those on the side where cheap labor is in abundance. This can’t be the kind of world we want to be living in, or is it?

There is still a lot that needs to be done to make sure that this agreement really marks a good day for textile workers in Bangladesh. And I think it is the responsibility of every single one of us.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

On entering, again

After my slightly bumpy submission of entry to the FoQ this year I received the labels by e-mail a few  weeks ago and sent off my quilts early last week. I had completely forgotten how careful you have to be about attaching the right label to back of the quilt, to the outside of the package, and loosely inserting one in the package...

I sure do hope I got it all right!
At least this time I was allowed to pack two quilts in one package, this was not possible last time I sent quilts to FoQ. Still, postage was € 17. Well, that’s a lot cheaper than myself going to the Festival, as much as I would have liked to go. But after my extended visit last year it just wasn’t possible to do it again this year. At least two of my quilts will be present on the premises.
I even dared check the little box which said “send juror’s remarks”. Now I wonder whether I should have done that. Last time I received a comment ‘Beginner’s design’ on one of my Play of Lines quilts, which really hurt me a lot. But perhaps I will just not look at the comments when the quilts return.
Also entered Play of Lines XXXII at Quilt NihonOnly one quilt. Very briefly I had considered entering two, because a Japanese friend had told me that Play of Lines XXX was so Japanese in its choice of color. So I thought it might be a possible second entry. 

Play of Lines XXX (2012)

But upon rereading the rules of entry I withheld, because Play of Lines XXX had been on display in Ste. Marie-aux-Mines last year, an exhibition that could not exactly be called a ‘private exhibition’. Which would have been a reason for withdrawal of prize if found out later. We'll see how Play of Lines XXXII does all by itself in Japan, and Play of Lines XXXI in Birmingham.

Play of Lines XXXI, back
Somehow I get the impression that Play of Lines quilts aren't doing too well in getting into juried exhibitions. Because I had managed to enter my quilt Play of Lines XXXIII: Red Line to the challenge in Ste. Marie-aux-Mines WAY ahead of time, at least 30 hours before the end of deadline. But I have already received the rejection for that one. As I had somehow known would happen. Last year’s juror’s don’t get a guaranteed spot the year after!
Now I have to figure out for myself whether I want to submit this piece to other upcoming possible shows. Or just show it in my upcoming exhibition in Grünstadt, Germany. I think it is a strong quilt. But obviously this year’s jurors did not think likewise. And perhaps its strength does not fit into a competition/challenge.

I had just recently (re)read Terry Jarrard-Dimond’s re-published blog-entry/article on thoughts on juried exhibitions . In this she talks about her process of choosing shows to which she submits, and comes up with a very interesting list. The fact remains, though, that all these wise and important reasons for choosing to submit don’t protect you from that feeling of frustration upon receiving a rejection... And then you have to pick yourself up and put yourself together again.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Trying to resurrect "Illuminated"

Do you have a favorite quilt of yours? I do. 'Illuminated', a white combination of silk, plastic meshing, pearls, corals, organza threads and an LED-string.
It was born out of the challenge in Ste. Marie-aus-Mines that called for combination of different materials. Can’t remember the exact title of that challenge... I entered – but I had managed to misread or rather, misinterpret, the size restrictions, it was too big, and didn’t get in. As Linda Colsh said during the opening of the exhibition that year, “Size does matter.” I understood that as a direct reference to my quilt and am sure I blushed noticeably, except that nobody was looking at me at that particular moment...

However, “Illuminated” got another chance as I turned around and entered it in SAQA’s “Beyond Comfort”. Not thinking about the troubles this would cause.
At the opening in Birmingham, the plug for the light string started smouldering in its adapter, and the quilt got turned off in order to prevent NEC from burning down. I went ahead and got another plug and adapter for the US, shipped them to Bill Redeker, and then it seemed ok for quite a while. Until earlier this year when I was told by the curator that there had again been ‘some problems’ with 'Illuminated'. A little later I learned that somehow the plug had been lost. How can you lose the the plug to a quilt with clearly electrical special effects right when you are packing it? Beyond my comfortable understanding! 
In any case, it was either show the quilt without its lights on -  or remove it from the show. I opted for the latter because I did not want people standing in front of it and laughing at the fact that it wasn’t lit.
So 'Illuminated' came home in May. I had to go to the customs office and have a bit of a discussion with the customs people who really wanted me to pay customs for my own quilt. They did tell me how to avoid these problems next time when I send a quilt to an international exhibit – get a stamped export permit when sending it, which would then count as proof upon its return. If it returns within three years. Or just declare material value of under €200. Really learned something there on the side!
At home, I first tried to take a transformer from another LED-string, but it made a flickering light that was decidedly unpleasant to look at. 
To be honest – when substituting the first plug after the accident in Birmingham, I had simply taken a transformer from another LED-string and sent that together with a new adapter. Nobody ever complained about the light quality, but then perhaps nobody noticed simply because nobody knew that it was supposed to be different? Did anybody who reads this blog see the exhibition "Beyond Comfort" somewhere before January this year, and did you notice anything about the steadiness of the light? 
I nevertheless put the quilt in the exhibition of my quilt group in May, and a visitor told me the flickering might be due to the fact that this transformer was not for the correct number of lights in the string. Get another transformer, and everything should be fine, that's what he suggested.
I went back to the electrical supplies store where I had bought the string in the first place. The problem is that I had bought that string at least four years ago, and did not know the name of the brand anymore. They took note of the number of the string as noted on the tag, and have been trying to get the right transformer since then. The first one again made a flickering light. The second one had the wrong connecting plug. The third one arrived yesterday, and again the light has a certain flickering quality.
Don’t know what I should do now. I think they are probably getting fed up with me at the store, although they have been very polite and definitely tried hard. I am getting embarassed to go back, though.

What have I learned from this? Don’t make quilts with LED-strings integrated into them – unless you plan to keep them next to you all the time. Otherwise you are bound to get into trouble. Or only attach the lights loosely so it might be easy to substitute with another. And don't give favorite quilts out of the house, keep 'em with you all the time.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Always Collecting...

I hate going shopping – usually I end up in a book store, or a yarn shop. But there is one store nearby which I simply LOVE going to. (Actually, I thought I had posted pictures from it somewhere on the blog, but I couldn’t find them, at least not under the labels that I thought would be natural.) It is a Farmer’s Hardware and Utilities store where you can buy everything. And I mean everything from aprons  to nails to tools to you name it. Just look at this - doesn't it make your heart sing? - :

On Tuesday I went there because I had realized that time is drawing near. I really must come up with thoughts now about how I am going to deal with that creative outdoor bird which needs to be shipped in four weeks at the latest. I had had a few ideas, but I figured I might as well let myself be inspired there. I can spend hours walking the isles, taking in the various kinds of machinery, tools, utensils that you can buy, at moderate prices. Taking lots of pictures, too. When I come out of the store I tend to carry loads of stuff that I will be using in a different function than the original design intended. Such as these items, all my treasures from Tuesday (and I held back!):

Several items for printing on fabric. I do have a strong collection in that realm by now, I better get started on that project sometime soon!

And little screw-nuts, which will become adornment for the bird that had taken me to the store to begin with.

Which I sat down to deal with yesterday morning. It's coming along nicely.