2016 is a new year and time to diversify.  I had an invitation from my friend Dianne Gibson http://connectionsfibreartists.blogspot.ca/ an amazingly talented textile artist, to enter a work in the tri-annual Threadworks competition.  The deadline for entry is March 1, 2016.  I had given the theme, “Flashback” some thought and decided that my rocks from Beausoleil Island in Georgian Bay offer suitable inspiration (featured image above).  I love not only the sense of history, but aesthetically, the depth of colour in the granite, the imbedded quartz and amazing lichens that continue to cling to the rocks.  Yes, this is my challenge!  Parameters:  “A substantial part of the piece must be made with a threaded needle” and no larger than 36″ x 45″ x 9″ (wish I had noted this last detail before starting my 5′ x 2″ sculpture – size chosen to reflect my exact height).  Still, it’s the prototype and I’m now underway with the smaller 2′ version.

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My first job was to build an armature that was sturdy.  If this sculpture is to be publically displayed, it must stand up to being knocked and not topple over.  Here is version 1.  The base is built from layers of wood with a centre that is drilled out to act as a mortice for the tenon of the tree branch – My twig supplies and tools for rustic twig furniture building came in handy here.  The structure was then well rapped with chicken wire mesh and well secured with wire and the cut ends of the mesh – oh don’t my cut fingers know this well!

I further braced the interior with more heavy wire threaded from one side to the other in an attempt to counteract any collapsing.  I am not entirely satisfied with my efforts and am now looking for suitable material that I can stuff into the cavity through the openings at the base.  I’m on the hunt for packing material such as Styrofoam peanuts or bean-bag pellets – free source preferably.  Can anyone help?

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Version 2: I built the support around a slate base from a broken water feature.  The branches are screwed into place and further supported with wires and cables in a woven spider-web that will hopefully prevent the sculpture from collapsing in on itself.  I have used wire screen mesh tied to the cables and fashioned as a “skin” over the surface.

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Here are the 2 versions with just their support surfaces in place.  The white film on the smaller sculpture is white glue which I will explain in the next step.

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Once the armatures were built they needed their first “skins.”  In the larger, version I began with cheese cloth and other fine porous fabrics glued together with my favourite, wallpaper paste.  This is much the same process as paper maché except that it’s difficult to rip the pieces which means they have to be cut in irregular shapes for better and more seamless interlocking.  For the smaller sculpture I used white glue for better adhesion to the mesh to ensure a bonding between the armature and skin.  I have used a muslin cloth for this layer.  Dampening the cloth makes the gluing easier – penetrates the fabric better and crinkling it first creates a texture.

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Now onto the fun part:  I have for the past several years been exploring the use of charcoal, raw from the fire pit.  There are black textured areas of the rock where I felt this medium would work.

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The process involves placing cheese cloth over a granite rock and rubbing with charcoal to leave a textured imprint.  The cloth is cut into workable sections, wall paper paste applied to the surface of the sculpture then glue is applied over the surface to adhere. Scrunching and manipulating are all important, and so too is determining the composition of the dark and light areas.

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I have employed the same charcoal texturing to both sculptures, determining where my light quartz areas will stand out.  The more I worked on the smaller piece with its 9 inch depth limitations (set by the Threadworks parameters) the more the work began to suggest a torso.  If you recall the initial shape that was determined by the arrangement of branches, this likeness is quite coincidental. It means that there is a metaphorical connection that allows me to feel out the composition and the need for balance.

Working up the granite colour and texture comes next.  My medium is dyed mulberry silk noil fibre.  I will be posting these results shortly.  I have been collecting shell buttons and various beads to work up the reflective quartz.  Can’t wait to get there.

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