September 30, 2007
september 30, 07
This dress doesn't look as different in this photo as it really is from its last state. The solid blue ink that covers the whole skirt contrasts more with the blue of the bodice than is apparent in this lighting.
September 29, 2007
This morning I printed one layer on each of the eight large prints on Tokuatsu, plus a second layer on at least three (maybe four, I forget). My goal by Monday is to have two of these looking finished enough that I can photograph them for some exhibition proposals I have to put together later in the week. After that I came home and got a significant amount of sewing done on five new dresses, which I'll need in order to finish the two big prints (printing the dresses on the paper) and also for my trip home this week for Thanksgiving, so that I don't run out of things to wear like I did on the last trip.
Here are some details of one of the prints from today; these are very hard to photograph, because they're so large that when I get back far enough to get the whole print in the frame all of the beautiful detail in the surface is lost. The first photo is 1/3 of the print, folded down, and the other two are closer views:
september 29, 07
Didn't check what setting the camera was on, so today's photo is super grainy.
September 28, 2007
september 28, 07
september 27, 07
dress #3, state 4 (printed september 26, 07)
dress #5, state 3 (printed september 26, 07)
dress #6, state 3 (printed september 26, 07)
September 27, 2007
september 26, 07
dress #2, state 4 (printed september 23, 07)
dress #4, state 3 (printed september 23, 07)
Just continuing to pile more black ink on this one. The front:
September 25, 2007
september 25, 07
At a public lecture this afternoon I got a little silly and started writing notes on my hem to "pass" to my colleague sitting next to me. An hour later and there was half a conversation written upside down along the hem of my dress in ballpoint pen: while it began as a joke, I think perhaps that note-writing such as this is perfectly appropriate in terms of making the clothes a part of my daily life and not being precious about keeping them pristine. It's not like it isn't going to be covered up in a few days anyway, and it makes sense that if I need to write myself a reminder note about something, I ought to write it on my dress, upside down somewhere around the knee so that I will see it when I sit down, and be reminded. It would keep the back of my left hand a lot cleaner.
dress #6, state 2 (printed september 23, 07)
I forgot to take a shot of the dress laid out before printing it, so the only record of state 1 is the photo of me wearing it. At any rate, here is the front after printing:
and the back:
September 24, 2007
september 24, 07
Had a critique with a visiting philosopher of aesthetics this afternoon; it was pretty good, neither a huge disappointment nor a huge barrel of insight. I think perhaps it could have been better had we had more time, as there's much surface to skim here and a lot beneath that which doesn't get reached. Spent part of the rest of the day finishing up a first draft of my statement of teaching philosophy, which I then forgot to turn in to the person I wrote it for, what with both of us being distracted with our visitor and all. Phooey. I also made the dress image on the wall over my right shoulder: it's an image that gets transferred onto my newsprint blotters after I've printed one side of a dress and then flipped it over onto a newly inked woodblock to print the other side, so that the area outside the dress is printed darkly from the wood and the dress itself is a ghost of ink that offsets off the newly printed dress. I scanned it in sections, reassembled it and then digitally printed it out on Rives BFK so that I can draw or print over it. I think I'll work offset printing like this into some of my large pieces on the kozo paper, perhaps folding the paper in three and offsetting three subsequent printings of the same garment in a row. For that I need to make the next several dresses shorter, because they fit onto the woodblocks better and thus will print better on the paper.
september 23, 07
Back in studio, printing fabrics for new dresses. I've got to make two new ones right away to bring me up to eight, plus one to replace the one that I'm retiring this week (dress #1). With the sewing machine taking an extended vacation at the sewing machine hospital/spa, that's going to be tricky.
September 23, 2007
september 22, 07
The obligatory pose-in-front-of-your-piece photo doubles as my daily wardrobe documentation. There are more naked pictures of me on the dress than there are on the wall behind me.
At the opening of Elementals: Wood, Metal, Stone, Paper. September 22, 07; Blue Tower Gallery, Atlanta.
September 22, 2007
dress #3, state 3 (printed sept 19, 07)
dress #5, state 2 (printed sept 19, 07)
before printing, state 1:
The lines and marks within the blue print are dents made in the woodblock from running it through the press with other garments on it.
state 2, front:
dress #2, state 3 (printed sept 19, 07)
september 21, 07
dress #4, state 2 (printed sept 19, 07)
state 1, before printing:
state 2, front:
September 21, 2007
I was talking with Peter the other night about my project, and he brought up necessity as something for me to consider; how does this artificial limitation on what I can wear (and when) relate to the not-so-recent past in which people often had only one or two sets of clothes (and one of those reserved for Sunday)? When you are forced by necessity to wear the same clothes every day, wear and tear becomes evident very quickly, and near-daily maintenance can be required to keep those clothes wearable. I have been feeling that I don't have enough limits in my project, and the days when I wear store-bought t-shirts with the skirts I feel wrong, like I'm not working hard enough, like I'm not getting enough into the spirit of living in my work. I want to see changes happen in the pieces, I want them to grow more quickly into whatever it is they're going to grow into. I want to be an artist walking around forced to think about my work every moment of every day, because I can smell the ink on me or because I can feel the stiffness of the ink buildup on my dress (or my sweater). I don't want to be just someone walking around wearing weird clothes, because this project isn't really about that.
So from now on I'm not going to be wearing the eight skirts or two tops that I made any more, although I will hang on to them in case of an emergency in which I don't have anything else ready to wear (if I can properly establish a working routine and stick to it, this shouldn't happen). I currently have six dresses. I will add two more to bring that number to eight. This will allow me one week's worth of things to wear, plus an extra to wear on "wash day". Once a week, I will launder seven of the dresses. Once a week, I will print on or otherwise alter seven of the dresses. And once a week I will choose one dress that I consider "finished", setting it aside and not wearing it again; I will make a new dress to fill the place in the cycle of each retired dress. By doing this I will be able to gather a number of works for exhibit later on, while the limited number of pieces in the wearing cycle will allow for each piece to be printed and altered more often. I will continue to limit myself to variations on the same basic dress shape, for uniformity.
As for sweaters: I will be making a series of pullovers (again, of a uniform design) that I will print from and wear with the dresses. I will also allow myself to wear a limited number of cardigans and boleros with the dresses, but these must also be made by me. These I won't print on or with, mostly because I'm only interesting in using a single, recognizable sweater shape in the prints I'll be making.
Until now, this blog has focused solely on the wardrobe project; I haven't given up on my other work, printmaking on paper meant for the wall, and indeed this work will feed off of and into the wardrobe project a good deal. At the same time that I print the dresses, I have been working on a new series of large scale prints, using the same inks and the same woodblocks, allowing the dents and bumps left by the clothes in the surface of the wood to appear in subsequent prints on paper. This summer I bought several sheets of 36" by 78" Tokuatsu (a strong, machine-made kozo paper) at the Japanese Paper Place warehouse in Toronto, and these will form the wall component of my work for the thesis exhibition next spring. The prints will evolve slowly, beginning with folding and re-folding the paper sheets and printing layer upon layer of transparent colour from uncut blocks of wood, building up complex and varied colour fields. I have no preconcieved idea of what these prints will end up looking like; what's important to me is that they serve as maps or keys to what's going on in the wardrobe work, and that they convey a sense of that layering of marks and the layering of time, the damage inflicted on the clothes in wearing and in printing, and the damage inflicted in turn on the printing matrix (and the body) by the clothes. The action of folding the paper in many places, combined with the subsequent buildup of ink layers, will make the paper feel like well-worn-in cloth.
Here are two of the new prints in progress, each with three layers of ink:
And a detail:
september 20, 07
dress #1, state 3
September 20, 2007
september 19, 07
I did some thinking about my project last night, and I've decided to phase out the skirts and tops from this point and concentrate on the dresses. I'll also exercise some stricter controls over when and how things get altered, and how much. I'll write more about this later on today after I get back from teaching my class.
September 18, 2007
september 18, 07
I'm almost to the point where I have enough clothes that I won't have to sew new things as often, and can re-print the existing garments more often. I'm eager to get to the part where I'm just altering and re-wearing the same set of dresses so that I can get a good buildup of ink happening on them. Some of the earlier separates will likely get phased out of the project as I figure out which pieces are better for printing on and which pieces will be more difficult to exhibit later; ideally I'd like to have ten to fourteen dresses and just cycle through them, watching the ink layers accumulate.
september 17, 07
September 16, 2007
september 16, 07
Another new dress.
september 15, 07
A new dress.
september 14, 07
September 13, 2007
september 13 redux
At an event this evening in honour of my former professor and mentor Daniel W. Dingler, I was able to get some better pictures of today's version of dress #2. I was also able to reunite, if only for a short time, not only with some friends but with my beloved Griffin press.
(photo courtesy Peter Zimmerman).
More on the event and more photos here.
I was trying to compose a concise statement about my current project to send to somebody, and I thought I would include it here as well:
This project started as a way of questioning the value of the hand work put into textiles for the body and the home in comparison with my "real" work in the studio, and the lack of value that my many efforts in textiles and knitwear design had in the context of my candidacy for a Master of Fine Arts degree. This questioning led me to strive to unify my studio work and my work in fashion by not only wearing my prints (as a uniform, or as a costume) every day, but to allow my handwork to be destroyed, if necessary, by my printmaking, and to document that process of destruction. To this end I am printing on fabrics, sewing clothes from those fabrics, then printing on the clothes, wearing each garment only once before altering it again. When the weather turns colder I will make sweaters, inking them up and printing from them and continuing to wear them; my clothes will become the printing matrix as well as the printing surface. The printmaking inks will not hold up to repeated washings, so the normal wear and tear that clothing endures will lead to the destruction of the printing at the same time that the printing is bringing about the destruction of the clothes.
The following is lifted whole out of the statement of purpose that I included in my grad school application packages nearly three years ago; you can see that while my physical work has gone through a lot of changes in the intervening time, a lot of my concerns are the same:
For me, printmaking is intimately connected to the body, not only because of the sheer physicality involved in making prints: it’s about any sort of impression made with or on the body, from a handprint on a window to the patterns a sweater leaves on a face when one falls asleep with ones head resting on an arm. It is from this starting point that I make my work: I want to draw attention to my body and at the same time have my body leave its mark. I seldom print a straightforward image, preferring to build layers of image upon image to create a sense of history in the work; beneath the surface, bits of shapes and figures can be seen, partially hidden, a mystery that must be unfolded slowly.
For as long as I have been making prints I have also been engaged in domestic craft, mainly knitting, sewing and embroidery. For me these processes speak profoundly about the body: textiles are created by human (usually female) hands, to warm and protect the body, and over time the body creates wear on these textiles, so that even in the absence of the body its impression on a piece of clothing or bedding can be seen. I combine domestic textiles with my printmaking in a number of ways: transferring fabrics and knitted pieces onto litho stones to create organic forms which stand in for organs and bones in my figures; tearing apart and sewing back together pieces of prints so that they resemble quilts (but also damaged, mended bodies); printing on bed sheets and on clothing; constructing clothing out of fabrics I have printed on.
When I mentioned construction clothing, I was referring to this piece, part of my final work for my BFA:
At the time I had planned to do more work like this, but never ended up doing so. Later on in grad school I made this dress of printmaking paper sewn onto a muslin base:
and this dress, of Kitakata (a Japanese paper that's thin and crackly):
After that I lost interest in making clothes that weren't wearable; the work felt forced to me.
september 13, 07
I can't quite get the setup I like using other people's cameras, so even though I have access to two borrowed cameras that are both of higher quality than mine, my photos might not be as good until I get my camera fixed. I suppose I should stop worrying about it, as I'm lucky to be able to find good cameras and not miss a day of documentation.
Tonight we're going to a gallery opening/retirement party in honour of my former professor Daniel W. Dingler. I'll be wearing the same dress, only with some more appropriate leg-and-footwear. I think I'll make it a rule to keep the same garment on all day when I have an event to attend, rather than having some garments in my project be just for dressup; I think this is more in keeping with the spirit of my project, living in the prints every day. None of these clothes will be more special than any others, and they'll all get trashed in the end.
dress #2, state 2
Printed September 8, front:
september 12, 07
I had to break my new rule about changing each garment every time I wear it: pretty much all of the skirts without elastic have had their zippers crushed in the press and have to be repaired, and I had already worn all of the others since printing them. I got up early and made two new dresses to get me through the weekend, since I'm away from studio for the next few days and can't print, but needed to wear this skirt again in order to have something to fly home in today. As it is one of my new dresses has ink on it that's not quite dry, so there might be some project-related disaster this weekend.
dress #1, state 2
Sept 7: the first overprinting on this piece is a map of our neighbourhood in Windsor, with our house marked, printed across the front and back of the skirt. This dress hasn't yet had its zipper removed so I had to keep the printing down low, but next time I plan to cover the whole thing.
I'm thinking about whether it would be useful to keep the dresses somewhat thematic, or whether that's counter to my overall goal with this project. It would help if I had a clear idea of my overall goal with the project, I suppose. But for now, this dress has one image on it, of an important slice of my town, while dresses #2 and #3 have multiple layers of images of my body. I might try just layering the same things over each item rather than mixing it up willy-nilly.
September 11, 2007
september 11, 07
I've been struggling a bit with the need to find garment shapes I like to wear that don't have zippers in them, since I've crushed a few already and I'm afraid of damaging the press. The short skirts I made with elastic waistbands (wide bands cut off old t-shirts) are cute and comfortable and can go through the press without incident, but I want garments that are longer, to serve as a larger canvas for working on. So today I tried to make the same skirt longer, with pretty hideous results.
I hate this skirt immensely. I tried making it better by drawing on the front of it during a morning meeting, but it's the cut that's the problem. I'm going to chop off the waist and make it straight with a bit of a wrap. I've decided to try sewing in fabric loops and ties similar to what you'd use to tie up your canvas tent. While those will take considerable extra time to sew, they can go through the press without damaging anything, and having the long ties floating about could make some interesting marks in the prints.
September 10, 2007
september 10, 07
I printed the second layer on this dress in the same green colour as the first, only less transparent. I'm toying with the idea of continuing to print on this one dress in the same colour, rather than the haphazardly multicoloured approach I'm taking with the other pieces. Perhaps when it's almost filled up with green I'll switch to orange.
Yesterday I was sitting having lunch with Mouse outside a local burrito place when a young man and his parents came out from inside; the mother came over to me and said "he was telling me about your skirt!" (gesturing towards her son). Turns out the son is a student in my colleague Jessica Mills's drawing class, the class I spoke to about my work last Friday. If he was interested enough in me and my work that his mom asked me about it, I guess that means that my talk went well.
September 09, 2007
september 9, 07
skirt #4, state 3, september 8, 07
September 08, 2007
september 8, 07
skirt #5, state 2, september 7 07
state 2 (front):
top #2, state 2, september 7, 07
skirt #1, state 2, september 7, 07
September 07, 2007
september 7, 07
This morning I'm visiting a friend's drawing class to talk to her students about my work; she's introducing a project focussed around obsession in art-making, and wants to show them artists whose work is obsessive or speaks to obsession or obsessive behaviour in some way. In order to get my thoughts together for that, I'll try to write a little bit about that aspect of my work.
I have restless hands; left unattended for too long they twitch and flutter, pick at things, tear corners off paper and roll them up and down, up and down, open and closed. It distracts me and I find myself paying attention to what my hands are fiddling with and tuning out other things around me. And so I knit, giving my hands a mindless, repetitive task to occupy them so that my mind can be occupied elsewhere. I knit on public transit and while waiting for it, I knit at meetings, in restaurants and bars, at artist lectures, in class. All of the little spaces in between being places and doing things I fill up with stitches.
In my printmaking work I tend to shy away from empty spaces on a page in the same way I avoid empty time (by which I guess I mean unoccupied hands time). I print over and over until a page is completely covered, until parts of an image are buried beneath others, mere shadows looming up from under a blanket of ink. I print the same images over and over, keeping the same wood blocks for years, layering time within the layers of ink. During my undergrad studies my main adviser, Daniel Dingler, would periodically take prints away from me, prints I considered unfinished; he always told me that I didn't know when to stop. He probably still has a few of those prints lying in his drawers. Unfinished.
Although never the one factor that governs what I do in my work, frugality has always been a part of how I operate: while an undergraduate printmaking student I couldn't afford a lot of paper, so any prints that were messed up were saved to print overtop of later. I buy secondhand sweaters and unravel them for knitting yarn. I have knitted a garment, worn it for a season and then unraveled it and reknit it into something new (this sweater, for instance, made from a shawl that I wore during my first year of grad school, which began as a thrift store turtleneck pullover). This year I cut up hundreds of (finished and unfinished) prints, most made during my first two years of grad school but some older ones as well, and began binding them into small books to be used as my daily sketchbooks. In these books, over top of an already sometimes dense fog of printed imagery, I draw the same things over and over. Here is where obsessive documemtation first came into the work: I date stamp each page drawn, scan the pages and assemble them all into a web page. Similarly, I date stamp the garments every day that I wear them, and document the wearing with a photograph. I photograph each change that takes place in the clothing, and have also begun documenting these changes in print form as well, by printing onto paper the ghost image left behind on a woodblock after a garment has been printed from it, and offset printing the newly-printed garment onto paper.
This post isn't about why I make my work; that's something I'll write more on later. This is more about process, and understanding how my lifelong patterns of mark-making and stitch-making have expanded into this current project. My clothing becomes like my prints, new imagery and new ink laid down again and again until what was originally there is completely obscured by something else (or so I hope; I want to see what will happen when there is nobody to take the work away from me and tell me I'm going too far). And at the same time, this preoccupation with constantly making new marks out of old marks, on top of old marks, filling all of the spaces with a dense mass of marks, becomes my identity (costume).
For a little more about how clothing is connected to all of this, please see my old artist statement, written at the time that I was applying to graduate schools. Later on I'll plunder some more old writings to help illustrate the connections I've always made between clothing and textiles, hand work, printmaking and the body. Because plundering my old work for new uses is what I do best.
September 06, 2007
september 6, 07
September 05, 2007
september 5, 07
September 04, 2007
september 4, 07
September 03, 2007
september 3, 07
September 02, 2007
skirt #4, september 2, 07
skirt #2, september 2, 07
I love the way the print skips over the bunches and creases in the fabric, and I especially love the way the folded-up hem from one side makes a big dark pressure mark when the other side gets printed (excuse me, miss, but your process is showing).
skirt #3, september 2, 07
I printed all three skirts today from the same woodblock, in the same colour, a dusky dark green. It didn't show up all that well on this one.
I accidentally printed over my date stamps on this one, which is something I'll have to just get over. I'll keep stamping below where the original stamps were, anyway.
Placement of new prints on some of these is going to be governed by keeping the zipper hanging off the edge of the woodblock so it doesn't get crushed.
september 2, 07
Today I looked a bit clownish, wearing this skirt with one of the loud shirts I silkscreened yesterday. I want to get away from relying on too many pieces that aren't part of the project, and am thinking about bringing all of my plain t-shirts to studio, inking up one of my larger woodblocks in black, and laying them all out on it so that each will pick up some printing somewhere. I'm trying to decide if that's necessary.
Today I printed overtop of three of the skirts. I'll now be making changes to them, whether it's printing, stitching or drawing, in between each wearing, and posting photos of each new change. I'm going to separate today's work out into three separate posts, because I'd like each garment to continue to have its own archives.
September 01, 2007
september 1, 07
No new sewing this weekend as I'm babysitting a dog and I didn't bring my sewing machine to her house. Tomorrow, though, I'll begin printing overtop of the existing clothes. I'd like to set a goal of changing each garment before I wear it again, every time, and think that with another week of sewing new things I'll have enough pieces to begin to do that. Then this will really get interesting, instead of just taking pictures of the same old things.
I will have a new t-shirt to wear tomorrow (along with an old skirt), one that I mucked up a bit today while silkscreening a bunch to sell.