Onion skins, a walk in the rain, printing

It’s pouring rain outside. Still.

Inside, my house smells like onions. I’m cooking up onion skins for a dye bath.

Yesterday, a particularly nasty cold caught up with me, and so I rearranged the living room furniture, and went for a walk in the mist between torrential downpours.  Inspired by the onion skins and the heap of onions my small garden produced, I sauteed onions for curried squash soup, then sauteed more onions for burritos. I have a lot of onions, which is great because I’m really excited about the colour the onion skins are producing. It’s a rich ruby red right now and I’m curious to see what will happen to the cotton that I’m planning on putting in there. To my local friends, if you happen to feel like saving onion skins for me that would be most delightful.

After a long sleep and many spoonfuls of oil of oregano hidden in honey, I am feeling much better today. This afternoon brought a good rain walk. Perhaps it comes of a childhood spent on Vancouver Island; I find walks in the pouring rain invigorating, and no, I don’t carry an umbrella.

Today, too, I began printing. This is the part of the process I most enjoy and I’m looking forward to spending the rest of the week with a squeegee in hand.


Working with light, and a house show

I would like to catch up with myself, my real person studio self, on this blog before I begin what might be called printing week. Last week was the week of screens.

Here is where I was on Thursday:

After a less than productive day in (or out) of the studio, I am reminded of my options. Dishes, for instance, or futzing about on this blog. I spent all day waiting for my screens to dry.

On Friday, a few things happened. The screens dried. I nervously set in motion my rickety light table set up and hoped for the best.

Incredibly, it worked!!!! I have always found getting my screens perfect to be nerve racking and difficult, and hadn’t attempted it at home until now. It went flawlessly, with some of my most detailed screens rinsing out best of all.

A quick overview of the process:

Screens have beeen cleaned, then coated with light sensitive photo emulsion (I used Macdermid Autosol 8000), then left to dry in a dark space. When they were dry and non-tacky to the touch, I covered the windows in the spaces I was working in so I had just enough light to see what I was doing and put one screen at a time in a garbage bag, to transport them across the slightly lit hallway. I used a combination of books, or foam, or other screens (most of my screens are different sizes), covered in white paper, to completely fill the inside of the screen, so there was no space underneath. I grabbed my transparancy with the corresponding number to the one I had marked on my screen, and laid it on top, then placed a thick sheet of glass on top of that, and turned on my photobulb (a BBA photoflood) which was um cleverly rigged with a pie plate and latched onto a kitchen stool, on a suitcase. This set up has inspired my partner to draw up a design for a solid, adjustable light table and stand.

I let the light do its magic for ten or so minutes, and then again in the semi-dark, removed the glass and transparancy and stuffed the screen back in the garbage bag so as to not expose the area where the image was. Next, outside, back to the garden hose, in the rain, with gumboots. I turned the hose on full and (taking the screen out of the bag) sprayed the front and back of the screen. I continued to spray the back until my image was nice and clear, all the unwanted emulsion gone. Then, I let it dry and voila, I have 19 new screens to print with. I am thrilled, and relieved.

Friday evening brought with it excitement of another type. We had a house concert.

It is so nice to have talented musicians in one’s living room.

One of the nicest audiences ever filled the house, and our cats wove their way through everyone, getting pats.

Here are the folks we were lucky enough to have over for a night of “Swoon Tunes”

Susu Robin

Will Klatte
Spoken Word


Daniel Bloom

What fun! Beautiful music, beautiful people, and all put together by the lovely La Marie of Kindredheart.

Also very enjoyable this weekend was a bike ride in the beautiful fall woods. The wet roots weren’t  scary like I thought they might be. We ended up only going for a short ride as the logging road to the trail we wanted to go down was already under far too much snow!

This cozy, drizzly weekend was finished off nicely wih an afternoon of baking apple cinnamon swirl bread and making homemade pasta with good friends, and a few board games. Lovely.

Now, silkscreening!

The not-so glamarous aka grunt work portion

Safety glasses make me incognito, right? I hope so, because I spent three hours yesterday afternoon kneeling in the backyard scrubbing silkscreens with a yellow duckie nailbrush, while decked out in a respirator, snowboard jacket, green nitrile gloves and gumboots. Not the fun part of art month. I learned many things. Scrub screens in summer, or at least before it gets really cold. Scrubbing harder does not result in warm fingers.

I am otherwise enjoying the cold weather. Yesterday morning, there was a dusting of snow on the mountains. Today, there’s a lot more of it. It’s raining in a light mist and the sky is a white cloud.

After three years of using the same screens, I’ve been collecting plant matter and mining my sketchbooks and journals, as well as stretching silk onto new frames in preparation of a fresh selection of prints. Herein lies some of the hidden, less creative work. I’ve assigned the images to the screens, degreased the screens with a little dishsoap, and have taken over the bedroom closet as a temporary darkroom. Right now, I’m waiting on a fresh quart of photo-emulsion to arrive by bus. My last quart is six years old, and it’s finally gotten too rubbery to spread, which leads me to conclude that it has indeed expired. This stuff is only guaranteed for a year, so the fact that it worked at the ripe age of three is rather impressive.

Aren’t hams funny? I brought home a little plaid one from the fabric store. It’ll be a solid assistant to my tea cozy making, which is what I plan to work on until my emulsion arrives.

So far, this studio time experiment has been both easier and harder than anticipated. A little overwhelming at times, but this is remedied by getting to work. The possibility of drinking too much coffee (is that possible?) has been eliminated by the rationing of milk to avoid a trip to town. My main challenge is one I gave little thought to: finding a christmas craft market to sell my stuff at! (Maybe everyone signed up in August and I got shafted by not reading the paper? I’ve searched on google, and checked recent papers. Perhaps the Nelson craft fair scene is so hip and underground that they don’t need to advertise? We shall see…)

We shall also see if tomorrow brings snow! I hope it might, because it will be beautiful, and cozy to sit sewing in my studio, watching snowflakes whirl outside the window. Honestly though, art month stretches into cold November and I’m sure I’ll see some snow. Hopefully it waits until Thursday because I want to get at least one more bike ride in!

And so it begins again

I have taken a month off work to art about in my studio.

This morning, day one, I woke up exhausted. Today is meant to be a switching gears kind of day. Recovering from work, maybe pulling the last of the root vegetables from the garden and putting some garlic in. Maybe I’ll tidy the house a bit so I can focus, and bake something nummy to relax and get my creative energy flowing. As Kristie at work said yesterday, “baking is therapeutic”.

So, this is it. Here we go! A taste of real, full-time arting.

I must admit, I have this idea that I’ll be able to go for nice walks in the crisp fall air and admire the fiery leaves and misty mountains, and sit about drinking lots of coffee and maybe scribbling in my journal.
These things might happen to keep me going.

The real plan though, is to shift into production mode. I need to set up my light table and emulse and burn new screens, cook up some dyebaths (I have some birch bark soaking in the basement that will hopefully yield a sweet rosy shade), do a whole bunch of printing and steaming and rinsing and probably more printing, then some cutting and pressing and pinning and stitching. Hopefully I’ll also have time to pound out some more felt and make tea cozies out of it.

Wish me luck!