Sunday, 24 October 2010

A little rain

Just before I went to bed last night, I poked my head out of the back door to look at the rain. Didn't think it would work, but I took these photos.

Another galaxy?

A cocktail dress strung with silver sequins?

Tom Waits - A little rain.

My daisy cloth soaking up a brief moment of early morning sun.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Every flower...

How often our posts relate - in a big or small way - to the subject of inspiration, personal reasons for creativity, and/or of finding ourselves falling unsuspectingly into that darkening pool, which acts as creative quick sand.

This week I was touched by Karen's creative questioning (and, BTW, Karen has moved here) and by Arlee's quest for originality, and was also reminded of a lovely comment left in response to one of my recent posts by Anya, saying:

"It never stops to amaze me how much effort, work and knowledge goes into creating something beautiful. It is always a labore of love at the end and the final result will always reflect the amount of effort put into it. :-)".

Which is so true!
Every flower must grow through dirt.
-- Anonymous
I'm fortunate, in that, I seem to have the inner critic - that inimical voice that says " You're so stupid... that's such a dumb idea, etc." - well under control. Also, I rarely find myself without inspiration. If anything, I have too many ideas, and it takes me a while to gather these thoughts into something tangible.

Of course, it doesn't always work out the way I imagined! And I frequesntly don't end up with a "finished" piece... oh, you already noticed that ;) But, since what I most enjoy about it all is the initial design phase, the research and exploration, and learning the process of making cloth - because I have no practical experience at this, folks! - the fact that it doesn't become something in the end, doesn't matter.

Nothing we do is useless!

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars
-- Les Brown

Recent sketchbook page: Further developing pattern ideas from my last post.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Planning on pink

Somehow... amidst all of my weekend report writing and visiting of Nilo's virtual farm (at you know where!)... I came up with some plans for what to start on next. And guess what... I'm planning on pink!

I found that I had some Earthues natural dyes left over from Megan's visit earlier this year, and there just happened to be a little bit of powdered Lac extract and and little bit of powdered Quebracho red. And so I dyed a few little scraps of cotton, having first boiled them up with a little alum. Surprising what a difference the alum makes!

Some pleasing results in pretty shades of rose. The bundle on the right hand side is still wet, so I'm expecting that paler shades may result once those cloths area dried and ironed.

This is one of my recent palette designs: "Plum coco". These are more or less the colors that I'm planning to use next.

This is one of my palette designs from last year: "Hot Chocolate". Similar, but it has those rich chocolate browns (which I LOVE).

More inspiration: Hot chocolate and marshmallows.

A tree of Tabebuia rosea (Bignoniaceae) flowering like I'd never seen it do before!

An infloresence of Conostegia subcrustulata (Melastomataceae)

A few flowers in a sweet little garland.

Sketch 1: This idea has some way to go yet!

A setting of buds: Probably more like the direction I'll go in.

Sketch 2. When I simplified the pattern formed by the buds, it reminded me think of something like this...

An elegant garnet piece from Titanium Jewelry Only

How all of this will eventually blend into a cloth piece, I still don't know. But it's something to be thinking about during the week. At 3pm we travel back to town. And tomorrow it's back to school and back work... again!

Saturday, 16 October 2010


I have two more weekends to finish the piece that I've been working on all month.

Still impossible to photograph!

There are still many green flecks and a few more leaves to stitch around the edges, and the petals of the third flower in the central (vertical) row to fill. Then I have to make it into a pillow cover. But I think I might just get it finished!

Friday, 15 October 2010

Long weekend

I actually have the day off work today. We've come up to the farm for a long weekend. Plenty of time - I hope! - to stitch and to dream about cloth, texture, and design ideas

I want to play with these:

A textural feast, from the native palm Attalea butyracea

Off the top of my head. Pattern doodles that sometimes grown into something more.

Thinking about the word "Coconut".

I'm just catching up on everyone's posts for the week.
I really like this, this and this.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Further developments: Fire and Brimstone!

I haven't done any stitching so far today. But have continued to develop my ideas for future cloths projects.

I can't remember if I ever told you about the site Colorlovers ? Well, for anyone who's looking for a color testing ground, this is for you! I've been a member since August 2009. You'll find me here under the alias as Ohsafaraway. So far, I've created 295 palettes, 428 patterns, and 212 colors. Just for fun! It's fairly self-explainatory. That's to say, if I can figure out how to use it, so can you! Basically, you can invent color palettes, either off the top of your head or by attaching an inspiration image and working from that. There is a pattern section which lets you play around with palette variations [although, having been away from the site for several months, now I return I find I don't so much like the patterns they have available]. The great thing about this site is that it lets you watch who is loving what you do, and you can watch what other members are up to as well.

Yep, that's where those professional looking palette graphics come from, like the one that appears below.

But before we get to that... this morning I've been working on this.

A start to my "Dahlia" theme board. I have a long way to go with it yet! But this is helping me to feel my way towards what it is that I would like to do next. And ok,Jude and Deb,you were right... looks like there will be more exuberance than I had first anticipated!

The threads that appear on my theme board come from ARTFABRIK by Laura Wasilowski, who I mentioned here. I am planning to buy these beautiful threads to work with. Somehow!

This is a basic palette based on the "Dahlia" theme board, which I've called "Fire and Petals".

My birthstone is the Garnet, and this is my all time favorite color. Dark, fiery garnet, like the color you'd see starring into a full glass of blackberry wine, or like my favorite rose Josephine Bruce produced by the "King o' Roses", David Austin. To me, the epitomy of elegance would be a garnet colored shot taffetta dress in Victorian style. But I somehow don't think it would work with my construction boots ;)

Yes, I am a closet romantic. I feel a deep connection with things which are old worldy. As far back as I can remember, I have thought that I was born into the complete wrong century! So, now it's time to make up for it :)

What's your all time favorite color?

Mara: A pattern based on my "Fire and Petals" palette. That would make cool fabric!

Saturday, 9 October 2010


The house did not fall down during the night. Nor was I crushed by the breeze block shelf system beside the bed. Today I note a distinct lack of blog presence on behalf of many of those I follow, so I'm hoping that it's just that you all are busy leading very creative lives, and that nothing untowards has happened to you either.

Thank you to those who commented on last evening's post regarding the new banner. It's been slightly modified since then, and I think it looks better. I was particularly intrigued by comment's from Jude "i like the new banner, seems quiet for you..." and from Deb "very soft & subtle but I sense more exuberance from you. Do you have a secret up your sleeve?"... because I tend to think of myself as a pale cloth sort of gal [who, ok, from time-to-time, does something a bit bold!]

Whilst I've been stitching today, I've been musing about these comments and thinking some more about my "style". Who am I? Or more specifically - since it's always wise to have at least one plan - who do I want to be?

A while back I saw a blurb somewhere [don't remember where I read it now] which said " Why follow fashion, when you can lead it". And that's a good place to start out from. Beacuse we all know that trying to satisfy someone else's taste is instant death to the creative spirit!

Do I have a secret up my sleeve?...

Well, I have been thinking about making fashion apparel for a while now, that much you already know. First of all it was bags (and probably will be again someday). But right now, I think my next thing might be scarves. Why? Because I rather like the simplicity of the format, and the fact that one could do alot of embellishment within a small area and still create something stunning in a relatively short time span. I also like the fact that it would be simple to work the whole thing by hand, and not have to be distracted by the construction. Because that's not my strong point!

If I think about the things that I have experimented with during the past year, the things I have been most pleased with, and have most enjoyed, have been the more subtle cloths, the ones that were composite pieces, incorporating dying, printing and stitching. So, thinking about some possible future direction, that's really what I would like to focus on next.

I like the orderliness of repeat patterns. I like the idea of creating 'all over' prints by hand. If you think about it, both of these are usually machine generated these days, and usually I find that machine-generated perfection is tedious on the soul, in the same way that industrially colored cloth is. I welcome imperfection. It adds character!

I've started making notes on color too. What kind of palettes I would like to try out. I created this as a starting point.

Palette: "Mollusc". Inspired from the colors of a particular kind of bi-valve sea shell that I've seen on the beach here. And also this...

Palette: "Golden Mushroom". A richer spicier palette inspired by the image below.

A velvety fungii I spotted at work on Friday.

I'm going to keep playing with these palette ideas. But what I'm thinking is to make a series of cloths. Perhaps a few designs/patterns made in different color ways, or the same color ways using different designs/patterns. What I'd like to do is have an exclusive, hand-made collection, a limited number of unique pieces each season.

So...we'll have to see where the ideas take me!

And the name of the future label?... Iyam!

Friday, 8 October 2010

New banner!

I have a new banner! What do you think?

She wrote... in the middle of an earthquake!


Oh good... it stopped! Earthquakes always make me dizzy. Especially when the vase of Heliconias infront of me start dancing of their own accord. Takes a moment to figure out what's going on.

Play time with Owen Jones and the NYPL

Owen Jones?... Owen Jones?... For those of you who haven't yet had the pleasure, Owen Jones was a British architect during the 19th Century, and famously the author of The Grammar of Ornament, which was first published in London, 1856. You can read a little bit about him here. For anyone who is suffering from a creative block, I strongly recommend that you do a google image search of "Owen Jones + The Grammar of Ornament", and I promise you, that'll get your juices flowing again!

As anyone who follows my blog has probably already noted, I am especially inspired by elements of historical ornamental design. And this stuff really does it for me!

The Textile Blog (a mine of historical and cultural information) has many posts about Owen's work. I searched the blog under his name and these are the results available, for those interested.

The New York Public Library [NYPL] has a great digital library, which happens to present some of Owen's decorative plates which you can find here. The fun thing about this particlaur site is that you can select a plate image, and from the page that opens, you can then select the zoom option, and the plate will open in a new window which allows you to explore the image in great depth. Just click on an area of the image and select the zoom again. You can pan around the image and get quite creative with it. For example...

This came from zooming in on a plate from Nineveh and Persia. This little section reminds me so much of Jude Hill's gracefully stitched feathers. Jude has several posts on her blog which relate to her feathers, it was hard to choose between them, but I like this one alot.

And from a plate of Elizabethan ornament...

A fabulous repeat pattern - oddly Indian in it's appearance I thought - that I might do something with one day.


From Leaves and Flowers from Nature Ornament no. 10: Passion flowers. (1856). Now wouldn't that make a cool embroidered pillow?

Now, if you'll excuse me... I am going out to play with other featured works on the NYPL digital library!

Want to join in? :)

P.S. Check out the bugs! here . This is for a new blog friend, Susan Fletcher Conaway over at Fiber Art and craft. I am really enjoying her work and posts!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Linking up

Remember this? Remember that I was on the verge of starting a small design business with my friend Megan from California and then got hired as a landscaping foreman? Well, Megan and I have not lost contact (actually we were just on the phone) and although she and I put our joint plans on hold, she is going ahead and launching her design label Philosopy of Love which you can like on the label's FB profile. Her website is coming soon. I'll let you know when. Anyway, I want to congratulate her, because she is a very talented new designer, and these bags are beautiful!

Shoulder purse by Megan Houseberg: Made with recycled leather and hand dyed silk, with beaded embellishments.

This is my personal favorite from the portfolio right now!

As for me... I've been battling to try to get a better picture of the cloth piece that I'm working on right now. And it's just not happening! This is the best I can do. I don't know if it's the camera, or the lighting, or the color of the thread and the cloth, or all of the above. But this is where I'm at with it so far.

I only have until the 31st of October to complete this!

Early morning bird notes

Even though I'm here in the New World tropics, dipping into to some of my favorite blog spots, I have a sense of that Autumn-slipping-into-Winter time, that many of you are posting on. I've had a couple of days here in the new town house on my own. And I have a couple more ahead of me. I've taken to sitting on the back step with my coffee in the morning. I am up at 5am.

With all of the rain that we've been having - October is the height of the rainy season here in this part of Costa Rica, and we've been having some severe floods and landslides over the past 10 days - the morning skies are dark, but the colors rich.

I decided to snap some of what's about at that time of the day (although it's not the best time of day for an amateur to get good shots!).

A country idyll! Maybe you can make out the Snowy Egrets that always accompany cattle in this part of the world, and the two white Ibis birds, which had just alighted in the tree above the grazing cow?

I'm not an avid bird watcher. I mean, I love to see them but I don't go out of my way to spot and identify them. But still, one can't help noticing that they're everywhere!

A fiery-bellied Aracari (tucanet) perched on the upper most branch of a dead tree.

Some kind of hawk, puffing it's feathers in the cool dampness.

The same bird, but zoomed in. And talking of zoomed in...

... A chestnut billed Tucan in flight. They have a perculiar manner of flight, they flap their wings a few times then, gliding, they swoop to a different level. Given the characteristic shape of their beaks, it made me think of needles passing invisible threads through the air.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Although I have been working a bit on my latest cloth this afternoon, I've decided not to show any pictures of it this weekend. I have the real camera, but now I can't find the USB cable to download images! So, it's either more crappy pics of flashed out stitches - as taken by the camera on my phone - or nothing. And nothing got the most votes! :)

I'm feeling happier about it as more of the areas are filled with stitches, and now that I've stopped beating myself about the fact that this particular piece seems so slow to develop. I mean, really, couldn't that have something to do with being a mother and a wife, the 70 hour/per week job, and the single strands of DMC thread? Oh yes, and somewhere in amongst all of that, we moved house for the second time in 2 months.

I should say, we moved town house, because of course we live in town during the week, and try to get back to the farm most weekends.

I like this new place. It's simple and functional. It's actually on the outskirts of town and when you open the back door, you see this...

Which is a small portion of this...

And there are hundreds of Parakeets and the Squirrell monkeys pass through, and it's far more like home according to my interpretation of that word.

Anyway... Friday night, I was standing on the doorstep, staring at the builders rubble outside on the driveway, and this caught my eye...

And it almost seemed that I had caught it's eye too. And it intrigued me. At first, in the darkeness, I thought it had been carved, but on closer inspection saw that someone had drawn this grapic on the rock with a marker pen.

And I wondered who, and why, and what it had meant to them?

And after that brief philosophical moment, I thought to myself, "I shall steal that simple motif for some future stitching!" ;)
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