As I collect and photoshop the images, I've been calling this bunch of images 'the operators'. Don't be distracted by the beauty of these machines - the people who operate them are hard workers. Googling 'sewing machine operators' I found these Tshirts:
As I'm playing around with silhouettes of the operators, I've stopped thinking of them as merely body-shapes for my machine skeletons. This whole series was sparked by the concept of Neanderthal woman creating the first recorded communication. My approach has evolved from hand prints to prints of machines to now considering the relationship between the machines and the operators. All of which needs to be depicted by the interaction of dyes on clothing sewn by...sewing machine operators.
Remember how I wrote last week about wanting to expand the machine images? "change the view, get to the essence of the machine, let it morph into an image that really captures the beauty of the mechanism". Especially now, as I'm trying to focus on the interaction between machine and operator, I need to get past the mechanically realistic aspect of the machines. Each machine/operator combination goes through so many phases - you see five steps here, but that's condensed from maybe fifty....
1 2 3 4 5
If you look closely, you'll see that there is almost NOTHING of the original machine left in the final resist image: it's a composite of several different machines. But it captures the operator/machine relationship, the movement of parts......hmmm: the earlier grayish operator (in the middle) has better movement than the final one. OK, I can leave his head, arms and hands, but lean the torso.....gotta work on that.
This version of the Singer 29K machine (left) gives me a better compositional shape. So if I take that, and then use the base from a regular 29K machine, and turn that upside down, I get a really interesting image.
A few more flips and turns, and I'm getting closer. Years ago, I realized that it didn't matter HOW any hours/days of sewing I had done, if it wasn't working, I had to rip it out. Taking out stitches was just as much a part of the creative process as putting them in. This understanding is serving me well here, as I spend hours carefully honing each part of a machine, only to eliminate that part in the next variation.
In Photoshop, I set up composite jpegs as palettes to mix images:
The woolen jacket, top and center, is ready for me to fill with the prepared operators and their machines, plus extra wheels to add. Everything already has the approximate color of the finished piece, so it's a little easier to visualize as I work. I copy and paste and use the clone stamp tool to put it all together:
...and realize it doesn't work, so I can use the same palette to create different compositions, and add different images to the palette. Eventually, I get to an arrangement that works:
Let's stop and consider: have I morphed the sewing machines so much that they're no longer identifiable as sewing machines? Should I enlarge the hands so they become a more prominent part of the image? (remember, this all started with the hand prints). Does the composition draw the eye in? The operators are anonymous silhouettes, which fits with their nameless identity, but should they be less cookie-cutter, more realistically shaped?
Meanwhile, a supply problem: as the weather gets warmer, the thrift stores aren't carrying as much woolen clothing. Even in cold weather, there's not a great deal of 100% wool anymore. This past Saturday, I lucked out at a garage sale, and found a old, ugly long brown wool jacket with a heavy fake-fur lining. I didn't even bring it in the house - I sat outside on the back porch and cut out all the fur, the lining, bagged it up for the trash and left the wool hanging on the line to air:
The same sale had lengths of woolen fabric, which will be useful as backing material:
OK, supply problem solved for now. I leave you this week with the image of my paper resists resting on the white wool jacket sections...which look SO different than they did in the plan.
Any comments? Email me at email@example.com.
While I'm busy stitching away on my herd of sewing machines (and the Anthropocene Coat), here's a look at some other images that I've been playing with:
A Singer machine that specifically sews buttonholes. Modern home sewing machines all have buttonhole attachments or programs, but I suppose that in early clothing shops, it made sense to have a machine for the buttonholes...? Anyway, I love the mechanical complexity of this one, and played around with it:
As I take an image from photograph to line drawing, it goes through phases where the colors are muted and lightened, sometimes quite beautifully. If I ever take up watercolors, it would be fun to paint these machines.
This could be fun to do as an imaginary creature (as opposed to the totally realistic sewing machine creatures, Diane?). But I mean taking the machine and doing what David Hockney did with chairs - change the view, get to the essence of the machine, let it morph into an image that really captures the beauty of the mechanism. And then use some of that dark blue coat and the rusty-brown, with resists??? I just have to photoshop the image another 50 or 60 times......
And then there's this industrial leather machine that I photographed in Belfast, Maine. It has such a wild mechanical/organic form! This is the Singer model 29, and here's some real beauties:
No idea what kinds of machines these are but I love them:) And look! another type of sewing machine table legs (lower right, DOMESTIC)!
I made many, many really ugly, stupid-looking creatures before I arrived at this one:
But I'm going to leave this one alone for awhile before I turn it into a resist. There's got to be a way to make it less...awkward.
I decided to google around and see if I could find X-ray images for other machines. Found a few:
Then I accidently came across something that could be a whole new series - TSA luggage X-rays. When I'm at the airport, I love peeking at their machines, getting a glimpse of how the machines see my luggage.
Not sure if this would work with the wool boiling, but it would be great to play around with Aboriginal-style X-ray images of luggage. I found other images by an artist, Hugh Turvey, who makes X-rays of clothing:
and an X-ray image of the Antikythera Mechanism:
The Antikythra mechanism is often called the earliest computer. It was an ancient mechanism that made all sorts of nautical calculations. It was found in a shipwreck off the coast of the island of Antikythera.
OK, so there are some angles to explore with X-rays. But here's an obvious one: instead of using the machine casing as the 'body' shape, why not use a silhouette of the machine operator. So...start collecting images of people working at a sewing machine, and photoshop them into silhouettes:
Look at the one by Romare Bearden. He's showing us the movement, the intensity, of the operator better than any photo could.
But I needed images that showed the hands better. My husband took some pictures of my hands (wearing black gloves, easier to photoshop) and I came up with these silhouettes:
from left: the pattern for the X-ray image, and then how that image looks boiled on the wool. Last, the plan for a machine 'skeleton' with a machine operator 'body'.
This is going to take some work. The machines have to be reversed - all my images show the machines from the front. But if you see a photo of a machine with the operator behind it, you're seeing the back of the machine.
Front of the machine........She's sitting in front of the machine, so we see the back. This one looks pretty similar, front and back, but some of them don't.
OK, I have work to do. More next Monday. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.