This week's blog is a convoluted, twisting tale of inspirations and experiments, with flashbacks to old experiences. If I try to put it into a 3-times-a-week format, it will lose all possibility of comprehension. So you get one very long blog, today, but nothing on Wednesday or Friday.
My husband showed me an article https://www.theverge.com/2018/2/22/17041426/neanderthals-cave-painting-spain-uranium-dating which said that Neanderthals, not humans, had created some of the first cave paintings. (you should be able to click on the link. ...>sigh< ..if not, just copy and paste, OK?)
The photo in the article didn't show much, so I googled and found...
...that some of the handprints were made by NEANDERTHAL WOMEN! For me - who has spent years sewing up the history of communication, and who has a great love of ancient art and archaeology - this is pure inspirational gold! This is the first recorded communication ever! By women!
a chain of thought began....
1. Years ago, a rug hooker in Maine showed me how to do wool color transfer: take a dark piece of wool, wrap it tightly to a light piece of wool, boil them together for awhile, add vinegar and cool overnight, and voila! the color transfers:
2. There's a Japanese technique where stitches and knots sewn into the cloth are used to resist blue dye...
When the knots and stitches are removed, you get beautiful patterns on the cloth.
3. Last summer, I taught at Fiber College up in Maine, and saw lots of wonderful wool creations:
4. Returning home from Fiber College, I went right over to Goodwill and bought a big bunch of woolen sweaters and coats and did some experimenting with resists (#2) and color transfer (#1) on wool:
5. But instead of using knots and stitches to resist the color, I ironed letters cut out of freezer paper onto the cloth. The paper resisted the color in weird and beautiful ways, but I went back to sewing my tablets while I figured out just what to do with them.
6. Remember last Monday, when I wrote about making stacks of cloth to use as backing for my tablets? Well, I've been sewing up stacks...
7. One of the stacks - the third one down - is all white wool, and I made it so I could practice techniques intrinsic to the media. After reading the story about Neanderthal art, I grabbed it and went to work trying to create Neanderthal-like impressions using paper resist color transfer.
Creating the images on the wool:
A. I ironed on a paper cutout of my hand. It's surrounded by lace to soften the edges of the color transfer. Then the white wool (from a coat - see the buttonhole?) was covered by dark blue wool (another coat), and boiled.
B. The blue wool is removed, and the white wool rinsed and dried, resulting in this....
....and these, with cutout paper images of scissors, and an extra dark wool scissor-shaped paper cutout:
C. When I looked closely at these color transfers, I noticed dark lines:
These were color transfers from black stitches in the blue coat.
D. So I took some old black thread and ran an experiment:
I sewed 4 types of heavy thread on a piece of tan wool. Covered with blue wool, boiled, removed the stitches. One didn't transfer, two gave me rust-colored transfers, and one left a dark, rich black color.
E. Spent most of yesterday stitching this:
There are two handprints - one was ironed on at the start. The other (barely visible in the upper left) I sewed as an outline, then did some stitching over the shape, before ironing the paper. After adding blue wool/ boiling/cooling/rinsing/drying, I had this:
F. Then I sat down and removed all the stitches. The white lines were sewn with heavy, waxed white thread, so instead of transferring color, they resisted color. below you can see the stitched area (left) and with stitches removed (right):
Most of the black stitches were sewn directly into the wool. The big loops were held down on the wool with regular sewing thread.
And that is the story of how I created this:
Like the Neanderthal handprints, it's merely evidence of past activity. In the caves, we see prints and dots and proof that these women were thinking and creating. On this sweater segment, you see evidence of sewing having happened. Right now, I'm planning to attach them to stacks of cloth. All of this still has a long way to go, with many more experiments
I hope this made sense, that you were able to follow my ricocheting thought patterns. Back next Monday.
One more thing. In case any of you are wondering how does she boil these pieces? in a big pot? No, I use these big old photo developing trays:
I lay the stitched cloth and dark wool in the bigger tray, add boiling water, place the smaller tray on top of the cloth, add more hot water for weight, and put the whole thing in the oven to keep it at a simmer. The weight of the upper tray helps keep the layers pressed tightly together. Last night, my husband heard me putting these in the oven and thought that maybe I was making dinner. No, sweetie, better call the Chinese people to deliver.
So I now had a basic working composition. I like the fact that the upright structure of the artic scientists and the curved horizontal of the computer banks echoes the ancient T and O maps:
I spent some time photoshopping weather symbols and computer devices into useable B&W line images:
The 2 artic scientists morphed, with data graphs overlapping their bodies...
A photo of a woman at a laptop was cast as the-scientist-on-the-right-side, loads of data images were tucked into every empty space, and I had the final version:
Printed and dyed:
Stitched and mounted on the stack of cloth:
I did something with the stitching that I haven't done before - I sewed a heavy black line to anchor the center:
The black line pulls your eye to the center and strongly connects the data collection to the data storage. Below, stitched patterns of 1s and 0s symbolize the computerized data.
This is the first tablet I've mounted on stacks of cloth. More coming.
Next week, there's just one very long blog on Monday.
As I wrote on Monday, The Timbuktu Tablet and this one are meant as a pair. I was sewing Timbuktu when my husband looked at it and said 'it's a bit like what you were telling me about climate data, isn't it?' Well, yes it is. Scientists today are doing what the ancient librarians did - securing information so it isn't destroyed by barbarians.
In Timbuktu, I couldn't just show men digging holes and burying crates. And for this one, I couldn't just show people sitting at computers, tearing their hair out. I needed to put together images of scientists gathering climate data:
I found all sorts of climate/weather symbols:
Hmmm: lots of photos of MEN sitting in front of banks of computer screens...
also need images of devices used to store the data:
OK, ready for a first try:
I really loved that image of a woman in a red coat, seen recording data on the left side here. I wanted to include her. It didn't work.
I combined a photo of a computer bank.....
...with photos of messily littered desks:
added these 2 guys:
and 2 artic scientists from the second photo, and came up with this second version:
We'll finish up on Friday.