Indigo paper kimonos: a tribute to Boro

A Vintage indigo-dyed Boro fabric kimono from 20th Century Japan, lovingly patched and preserved

I’ve just finished the three pieces that were inspired by the indigo dyed mulberry paper described in my last post. I had wanted to return to a kimono-like construction, and about halfway through the process of piecing the papers together, I realized that this was much like constructing a vintage indigo Boro kimono.

Boro is a Japanese word meaning “tattered rags” and it’s the term frequently used to describe lovingly patched and repaired cotton bedding and clothing, used much longer than the normal expected life cycle. The beauty of boro fabric is the highly sophisticated sewing and weaving techniques used by the women who made and mended it. The beautiful arrangement of patches and mending stitches was born of necessity and happenstance, and was not planned by the maker.

Boro fabric reminiscent of American patchwork quilting

Here’s the first of my three indigo-dyed mulberry paper “Boro” kimonos, below. Each scrap of hand-dyed paper, each beeswax-coated paper bead, played an integral part in the composition.

You can see some of the construction details in this close-up. There are sticks woven through dyed and waxed images and paper beads hanging down from waxed linen string.

The second kimono, below, is a bit more formal in composition, but is still constructed from tattered and torn indigo-dyed mulberry paper. I also used a bit of Korean print rice paper which I sprayed with walnut ink in order to give some color  contrast – very Boro-like.

In the detail, below, you can see how four of the waxed and gilded paper beads have been double-laced together and then tied into the focal ornament.

All of the pieces are displayed in 11×14″ shadow boxes. I took the glass off to photograph the works, but at the exhibit, they will be covered with glass to protect the collage elements. Everything is adhered, but there is still some movement of string and beads behind the glass when the work is tilted, which is fun

In this last detail, you can see a bit of the rust effect that terra cotta walnut ink made on waxed white mulberry paper. I love that!

In fact, I love each of these three pieces because they reflect the philosophy of Boro, which means “too good to waste.” If you are a collagist, you know what I mean. We hang on to the tiniest of paper scraps, knowing that they will find a place –  eventually –  that is just right.

If you’d like to know more about Boro, here is a very user-friendly article from the FurugiStar blog. There are some lovely pictures, as well, and an intriguing description of a bodoko, or “life cloth.”

I am so happy about the connection that my little indigo kimono pieces have to the Boro tradition, and I plan to continue to explore this connection in paper and in fiber. More soon!

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Collage, Composition and old Cape Cod

Home at last from a couple of weeks on the East Coast, mostly Boston, but one of my other favorite stops was the Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill. Thats where I taught Friday’s workshop on Collage and Composition. Almost all of the participants had been at the 11th International Encaustic Conference the previous weekend, so they knew their way around hot wax. But many of them had not worked much with collage, which surprised me.

We had a great time working with my “AB3” system of composition arrangement. I’ve included a cheat sheet about what that means at the bottom of this post.

When I submitted the proposal to Cherie Mittenthal, artist and director of the encaustic conference, I told her the title was “Composition Boot Camp and Kick-Butt Collage.” She liked the proposal but suggested I tame the name a bit. I did, but everybody still made awesome kick-butt collages, as you can see in the video, below.

Lyn Belisle: Collage and Composition Workshop at the Truro Center for the Arts from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

The AB3 System gets you started by using Alignment, Breathing Room, and Thirds to plan your initial arrangement. Here’s what the Cheat Sheet says:

A=ALIGNMENT – The direction a picture, element, or shape “points” – the best alignment directs the viewer’s eye into engagement with the message or focus of the work.

B=BREATHING ROOM – Allow your elements to establish a dialogue with each other. Leave enough space that there is a contrast between “quiet” and “busy.”

3’s=THIRDS AND THREES – Use the nine-space grid that photographers use to establish good “bones” for your piece, and think in odds rather than evens.

One of my students, Mary, lived in Wellfleet, very close to the Arts Center. Bill and I told her that we had tried to find the Wellfleet Harbor and ended up on this weird one-lane road that took us to an even stranger dead-end island. Mary said that we had obviously gotten lost and ended up on isolated Lieutenant Island – check out the road through the marsh and the creaky wooden bridge we drove across. EEK!

Special thanks to Bill for all of the great photos that I used in the workshop video. Most of the time I take all of the photos myself while I’m teaching and I never get to see myself! And thanks to the super-nice kick-butt workshop participants.

 

Collage play

Quinacridone Gold – the all-purpose “band-aid” for any art project, and a great color for collage backgrounds

I had some unexpected time in the studio yesterday because of the threatening  weather, so I worked on some small collages for the upcoming Beacon Hill Art Walk in Boston on June 4th.

In my mind, I knew exactly what kind of collages I was going to create, but as usual, the process took over and drove the bus, and nothing ended up as I had planned. But the results were fun.

One of the background materials I played with was Yupo synthetic paper – if you haven’t used it, it’s really almost impossible to mess up. I painted some diluted Quinacridone Gold acrylic on the Yupo, then scraped and brushed and distressed it, and wiped the paint off through some stencil shapes.

You can see this technique in the background of the collage below, called “Asian Pear.” There are layers on top of it which have been glued to squares of archival matboard to create dimension.

Here’s another “pear-with-Yupo-background” piece, below. This one is simpler, but I like the simplicity. The scrap of blue paper went on as an afterthought, and it really makes the piece. The title is “Comice.”

The next collage also has a Yupo background and features a stock photo of an amaryllis that I altered in Photoshop. Those spatters that I flicked on just happened to follow the lines of the flower stamens!

Again, it’s a very simple collage with just three layers. I use a Scotch permanent glue stick as an adhesive for most of the layers. You can even heat-set the glued layers with a warm iron and a cover sheet to super-adhere the layers.

The next two pieces are kind of a set – both include tissue paper that I printed in my inkjet printer and then layered onto the Yupo background. I added some Portfolio oil pastel marks to both of them and stamped one with “No” and one with “Yes.”

Renaissance faces continue to fascinate me as collage images, and the titles on these are “The Game #1” and “The Game #2.”

This last one might be my favorite – it has more layers than you can shake a stick at. I tried to control what went on it, then painted the whole thing white in frustration, then wiped most of that off. It got uglier and uglier.

Finally, I just let it be itself and added a “ghost bird” as a top layer and stamped the word “Caw” on it.

The layers that were created as I kept trying to rescue the thing by adding more stuff actually gave it a richness and a history. Here’s a detail:

If I had to sum up yesterday’s collage play, I’d say it was a re-affirmation of my mantra, Trust the Process. At every stage, I looked at what the piece was trying to ask for, then tried to find it – sometimes it wasn’t what I would have chosen if I had been driving the bus. But it pretty much worked. Trust the process, y’all.

PS If you want to see a very cool woman experimenting with Yupo paper, check out Miss Millie on YouTube!

 

 

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They found their wings. . .

. . . and, boy, did they soar! The women in yesterday’s class surpassed every expectation I had for our NeoSanto workshop, creating beautiful symbol-filled personal icons on canvas. And, as Robin said during our critique, “This is much more than just a canvas.”

I showed you the construction process in my last post, but what the students brought to it was the intangible sense of self. The idea of the NeoSanto is to interpret the traditional “santo” figure from the Southwest into a personal guardian. What resulted was one of the most meaningful art-making sessions and discussions that I can remember. I was honored to be there!

Take a look at their work in the video, below.

This may be the subject of the next workshop eBook! Many thanks to DeeDee, Pam, Robin, Marilyn and Lily for the amazing workshop synergy and generosity of spirit.

Up next – on to Artful Gathering! Meet me there in our virtual classroom – registration is open.

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Altered paper, enduring magic

Ahhh – the smell of Citrasolv was in the air yesterday afternoon. Brushed onto the pages of National Geographic magazine, it never fails to turn photographs into otherworldly abstract patterns. When strips and scraps of this paper are combined, magic happens!

No matter how many times I teach this workshop, the results are fabulous – fresh, original and intriguing. Here’s a short video of the workshop participants creating their outstanding work in yesterday’s Small Worlds: Abstract Landscapes and Altered Paper gathering (If you can’t see the video, click here):

Lyn Belisle Workshop: Altered Paper Collage from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

Each person chose one of his or her works to mat, and here are their favorites:

Wally

Wally

Mackenzie

Mackenzie

Claire

Claire

5

Jan

Pamela

Pamela

3 copy

Linda

I taught a comprehensive version of this class at Artful Gathering several summers ago, and the DVD is available here.

There are also a number of free, online resources on this technique, including this really good one from Cathy Taylor.

This is one of those simple processes that rarely fails and is a lot of fun to put together! Happy Citrasolv sniffing!

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Whiter Shades, the Sequel!

Lesta Frank and I had been wanting to repeat this popular Whiter Shades of Pale  workshop collaboration, and yesterday we got to! Yay! Plus we got to teach it at Lesta’s cozy studio – what a treat.

We added a few more things to the mix this time, including beeswax and gold book foil. Some of the participants had not worked with encaustic techniques before and they loved it.

As usual, the results from this workshop were fantastic. We had a full day to work on this project, including a lunch break in Lesta’s sunny back yard.

Take a look at the video, and then, at the end of the post, I’ll share some of the things we did in the workshop.

These were some of the ways we created our own pale papers:

Methods

  • Tissue “glued” to gray palette paper with matte medium
  • Brushed with gesso, sprayed with walnut ink while wet
  • Deli paper stenciled with gesso, dipped in coffee when dry
  • White stamps on kraft paper – ink, acrylic paint with felt
  • Walnut ink on kraft paper, dried, brushed with gesso
  • Tinted white paint stenciled
  • Circles stamped with cups and objects
  • Cheesecloth
  • Walnut ink through lace
  • Silver and gold acrylic glazes

There really are no rules, just guidelines and suggestions. Discovery comes through experimental play.

After we made the papers, we constructed a collage on canvas:

Constructing the Ephemeral Collage on Canvas:

  • Review the AB3s of composition
  • Pale images manipulated and printed on plain paper
  • Glue stick to matboard, add small collage elements and wax
  • Sand edges
  • Punch holes
  • Add torn hand-decorated paper to canvas
  • Add box
  • Add sticks
  • Add fiber
  • Sew with tapestry needles
  • Attach with hot glue
  • Overpaint with gesso
  • Overspray with walnut ink, burnish
  • Glaze with metallic acrylic

You can see the steps in progress on the video – these steps, combined with everyone’s individual ideas, led to stunning (and pale) results!

Art unites. Keep up the good work with your creative life – onward through the fog, one step at a time!

 

What do you have to say to yourself?

That was the question in yesterday’s workshop at the studio called “Postcards to Myself.”

It’s a new workshop, one that I designed to see if we, as artists, create unconscious messages to ourselves as we work on art pieces that combine random images and text. The small works that were produced were amazingly lyrical, and many did seem to have meaningful messages.

The project itself was done in seven stages on an 11×14″ sheet of archival matboard.

  • Stage One – images and objects
  • Stage Two – veiling
  • Stage Three – vintage text chosen randomly
  • Stage four – enhancement and alteration
  • Stage five – selection
  • Stage six – wax or acrylic medium
  • Stage Seven – interpretation

When the collage layers were complete, 4×6″ post-card size areas were selected with transparent plexiglass rectangles. Those were cut out, and then finished either with beeswax or acrylic mat medium. We even wrote notes to ourselves on the backs of our “postcards.”

postcard

In the example above, this postcard-size section from the larger work shows faces from two different cultures and contains words such as “separate,” “restrain,” and “ruin.” It sounds like a trailer for a mini-drama! And yet it’s a completely coincidental juxtaposition within the larger collage.

We had such fun and learned so much from this project. I’ll definitely repeat it, and will probably create an eBook with with a list of materials and instructions. In the meantime, please enjoy the video from “Postcards to Myself.”

By the way, the first prototype postcard I did included text that said “eat one’s words” – so I was very careful about what I said during our critique!

proto

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New year collaboration with Lesta Frank: Whiter Shades of Pale

poster-copy

Lesta and I had such a great time teaching this workshop last September. We’ve decided to repeat it, this time at Lesta’s studio. The date is Saturday, January 21st and it’s an all-day workshop from 10-4. Click this registration link for more information.

If you’d like to take a look at the last Whiter Shades workshop at my old studio, here’s the video. Notice how mellowed out Mary Beth is – this workshop will totally calm you!

Remember that the best way to know when a new workshop is announced is right here on my SHARDS blog. Thanks for reading – and happy new year!

new-year-copy

 

Secret spaces and free stuff from the Graphics Fairy

What do you think? Actually, this is not really the new studio space, but it has possibilities . . .

So I found a studio space. I can tell you just a few things about it at this point . . .

  • It’s very close to my new home – yay!
  • It’s cozy, smaller than the old studio, but still roomy
  • You’d never know it was there – it’s very hidden
  • The number five (my lucky number) played an important part in finding it

I’m in the process of moving this week and will keep in touch. With luck (and the creek don’t rise), I’ll offer a December workshop there. You SHARDS readers will be the first to know, I promise.

In the meantime, here’s a little creative inspiration from The Graphics Fairy. If you don’t know about this site, you should, especially if you work with collage and mixed-media. Here’s an example:

I’ve downloaded three more vintage scripts and graphics for you to print out (below), but you can search the Fairy’s site yourself to find many more. Just right-click on the images to copy them. They look especially cool printed out on tan parchment paper. Print ’em out, then rip ’em up and play with the pieces!

hand2  hand1

hand3

 OK, back to moving – stay tuned!

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Whiter Shades of Pale – playing in the no-color zone

Lesta Frank has a ray gun – she brought it to our all-day Whiter Shades of Pale workshop yesterday, and when anyone “called color” on another person (like, they were reaching for some red paint), they got blasted with flashing lights and wild beeps. It was pretty funny!

The whole day was a delight, as a matter of fact. In the morning, we made beautiful pale papers under Lesta’s expert tutelage – ecru, ivory, palest gold and silver – all breathtaking. A favorite was the string-embedded paper.

wlittle

In the afternoon, we used those papers to create stunning assemblage/collages with the hand-embellished paper and found objects tied into our canvases.

listalittle

Lesta’s collage

The video from the workshop is just pure eye-candy. It’s astonishing how much richness and variety can come from such a a limited color palette. Limiting the color choices allows you to concentrate on texture and composition.

Pale colors and textures are so wonderfully nostalgic that I thought I’d treat you to the original inspiration, the song called “A Whiter Shade of Pale” which won a Grammy for Procol Harum in (gulp) 1967. The video looks so sweet and goofy – very non-MTV. But boy, does it bring back memories!

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