These blue ones are just not working, so I'm putting them aside for now. Much as I love the blue color and it's Japanese boro connections, perhaps blue doesn't belong in cave paintings? Back to the thrift store, where I found 3 long black coats and a 3/4 white wool:
On the left, three coats. I ripped out the linings, paddings, interfacings, etc, and have each one wrapped up in a bundle. Pinned to each bundle is a sample of the color that transferred out to the white wool when boiled. The top one gave me purple, the one on the right gave a pretty nice black, and on the bottom, a gorgeous brown. OK!
The white wool was a gamble - it's a blend, only 80% real wool. But it worked - the test sample took the transferred color! Here, the back and 2 sleeve sections give me a basic shape to start with.
Instead of hand prints, scissors and lace, I decided to go back and look again at images of ancient cave paintings. The idea of Neanderthal hand prints had been so exciting that I didn't think past the hands.
Australian cave art often has great X-ray images, showing bones and even internal organs.
Look at these kangaroos- all those strong lines! The arc of red lines, going off to the left, look almost like the base of...
Take the top of one form, add the bottom of another, photoshop it 6 ways to Sunday, and I have an Australian cave painting! Now, if you remember, I'm getting my images on the wool with freezer paper resists. By breaking the form onto top and bottom sections, I was able to use my large printer to get this image printed right onto the freezer paper.
I ironed it onto the white coat, then spent the evening stitching with heavy black thread around the paper. After I boil this with the black wool, the paper will give me strong white lines - with black outlines from the thread! I hope...
Looking at the dress form on the wool, I thought about what else should be in the composition. Years ago, my art focused on old goddess images - the kind embroidered in eastern Europe long ago:
Since pre-history, images of women with 2 mirror-image animals have been carved into stone and sewn into cloth.
No, animals wouldn't fit here, but...how about sewing machines? Possibly sewing machines with legs??
Really - sewing machines have legs. Beautiful iron legs:
But before I could leap too far down that rabbit hole, I had a scheduled visit in NYC. While on the bus, I kept thinking about those goddess embroideries. Not just the shape and forms, but those incredible colors and embroidered patterns:
What's the name of that book...the one that described how patterns are used worldwide, developed independently by many cultures...?
Years ago, I found a beautiful old embroidery. After I washed it, I dried it between layers of white cotton...and some of the dye transferred. Still on the bus, I remembered that embroidery transfer, and wondered: Could I take the old Eastern European embroideries and boil THEM for color transfer? Boil patterns from the cloth?? I couldn't wait to get home and try it.
I gathered up the pieces and pinned numbers on each of them. Then I removed tiny little bits of thread from each one and sewed them onto the white wool. Wrapped and boiled and....nada.
Before and after boiling. I know - wool and cotton use different dyes. If I had more technical knowledge, I wouldn't have to run so many experiments. On the other hand, there's all sorts of discoveries that I'd never make.
For now, I'm sewing dark lines around the paper resist images (the dressform and the sewing machines) to give me dark lines around the resist white images.
Look! My sewing machines have grown legs! This is almost ready to boil. I stitched on some pieces of wool that give a reddish-brown, and embroidered circular patterns under the sewing machine needle (using thread that transfers brownish). After boiling, it should look like this:
Spent this morning sewing black wool onto the white coat sections:
I've cut and stitched the black wool in sections, sewn with different colors of thread, so that - mid boil - I can take it out, remove the section that's not covering the dressform, and put the wool back in the oven. This should give me lighter and darker colors.
Ready to boil. No clown act today - I have a large tray of hot water to dip the wool in, and a bigger tube to wrap them around. No problems...
.....a few hours later:
On the kitchen floor, cutting the last layer of dark wool off.
from left: the boiled wool with the paper still attached; cutting off the paper - you can see where I stitched through the paper to create lines in the resist image; the finished wool section. And finally...
..it worked. Weeks of boiling wool, running experiments, frustration.... and I got it. It meets ALL my definitions for a successful piece - historical content perfectly melded with the materials! Hey, the materials FORM the art! And yes, it SINGS! composition, contrast. Success.
The two white spots will be filled with subtle transfers of spools, the whole thing will be attached to a dark layer of wool (comprised of the pieces which gave the color!!) but that's just details.
If you have comments, I'd love to read them: email me at firstname.lastname@example.org