Saturday, September 24, 2016

While the garden grows I am at work in my studio...

While the garden grows I am at work in my studio.

A new work. 
The challenge - how to express what is the province of Alberta on one double-sided panel?
I decided to depict the diversity of landforms in the province - landforms shaped by glacial and tectonic processes.
The schematic with a beginning sample. 

I decided to focus on the interlocking shapes of the different regions and I felt colour would be a distraction. I auditioned a variety of different unbleached cottons from my stash. I selected mainly handwoven cottons from India. I washed these fabrics and lightly tumbled them dry to allow their different weaves to naturally collapse into wrinkles unique to each cloth.
Cutting out the shapes.

Problem - how to make a neat double-sided join?
Solution - couching hand-made jute braid from India that I just happen to have in my stash, patiently waiting until needed.

The different landform shapes have been joined.
Yes, the landform edges do need more definition.

Hmmm, not sure about the outline. Is it too dark? Too wide? Does the whole panel need a wider border?

I added a border of a wider jute braid.

Nope - I don't like the way the outline of each shape takes away from the feeling of the different landform regions being related to each other. So I unpicked all of the braid on both sides.
I sewed on a much thinner jute braid.

Much better. 
Now to block the whole panel just enough to make it hang straight while not flattening out the natural landform wrinkles.
I think this must be the first work I have made without the use of my trusty irons.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Backyard Project - Sharing the Fruit and Other Ways of Encouraging Life in the Soil

We have so enjoyed a small crop of figs off our newly planted trees but we left this one for the ants. The ants are working hard at breaking down and mixing the soil in the new Hedge bed.

The results of a fun morning at our local nursery. Now to plant all of these in the beds without straw covers. There are plants that grow lots of leaves, have large leaves, or have lots of biomass in the soil - mesclun, squash, sweet potato, mullein, artichoke. Also, there are lupins to plant around the new trees, with each tree getting 4 of these nitrogen-fixing plants. There are plants for the Gravel bed garden - all medicinal or culinary. 

Willow Water
I pruned the willow tree outside my studio window then cut the prunings up finely and left them to soak in a tub of water. I have since read I need not have put the leaves in the water. Indole butyric acid (IBA) and Salicylic acid (SA) leaches out of the cut willow and into the water. These 2 chemicals act as a natural rooting hormone and prevent infection in new roots. 
I soak each root ball in the willow water before planting and give the new plants a followup drink of willow water. And I talk to them to help them settle into their new home. It all works.

Gardening rule - "One must plant all purchased plants before going back to the nursery to buy more." My sister says she has never heard of this rule and never will. And if there was such a rule it wouldn't apply to all of those cuttings and plants from friends waiting to be planted.
Following the rule, I am now allowed to go back to the nursery for more.

The nasturtiums are doing well growing next to the hot rocks. Hummingbirds and many different insects visit them. I snack on the leaves and flowers while out gardening.

Time to turn the studio beds again.

I take off the straw cover, lightly fork over the soil, give it a good watering...

...and put the cover back on so the soil can continue cooking with renewed vigour.
I am pleased with my decision to leave some beds fallow because it is so much easier to continue adding layers as the soil builds up. On the other beds, I am using plants to do most of the soil building work.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Backyard Project: Soil Building verses Plant Growing

Once all of the soil beds had a layer of mulch topped with a deep layer of straw I planted literally hundreds of seeds and waited. Patiently. But nothing except the potatoes and a few nasturtiums appeared. A month later I thought I must have bought a nonviable batch of seeds so went to another place and bought more bulk seed. 
Weeks later still nothing.
Sammy thought the straw layer may be too thick preventing the seedlings from getting the light they needed to grow. 

We pulled back the straw and found these - they have lots of different names - pill bug, roly-poly, wood louse, armadillo bug, potato bug, among others. The deep straw and rich mulch provided ideal damp dark conditions for the pill bugs and many other insects, worms, slugs and ants to thrive. And they were feasting on every new shoot that dared to pop out of the ground. But at the same time, all of the bugs were doing an excellent job at breaking down the organic matter. The pill bug and his cousins are particularly adept at breaking down the cellulose in the mulch. They were well on their to making rich soil.
I had to make the decision - leave the bugs to do their work or plant more seeds so the plants can build up the soil? I decided to do both but in different beds.

Since the potato beds were doing relatively well I pulled off most of the straw on those beds. It exposed the soil to the light and it dried up a lot and I had the added task of heaping the soil up around each potato plant. There wasn't much extra soil so some of the growing potatoes were exposed to the light and developed green sides. Oh well, I was growing potatoes for soil building and there were still more than enough to eat.

After I mounded up the soil around each potato plant I planted hundreds of seeds for the third time.

In the back straw-covered beds the bugs are hard at work.
In the front is a potato bed interplanted with 5 different types of beans and 2 different types of peas. While the beans, peas and potatoes are good companions, the beans and peas have root nodules the nitrogen fixing bugs like to live on.

Within the week, a welcome sight.
It is all about learning from experience.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Sprinkle Dyeing and Sun Printing Results

Here are my results from a day out in the sun sprinkle dyeing and sun printing.
This fabric had previously been dyed and still needed work.
I sprinkled on a mixed dye. It is interesting to see how the blue migrated further than the red before the damp fabric dried out. The red blob in the bottom is where I sprayed the fabric with water during the drying process.

This dye is made up of many different colours and is sold as black.
Sprinkle dyeing produces a distinctive look that is easily identified when used in a work.

Here are my sprinkle dye results washed and ironed. Admittedly some of the fabrics began as pre-dyed uglies but in most cases sprinkle dyeing has not improved them any. They are still ugly but I may find areas I need that I can cut out. That is the only reason why they will go back into my stash.

My sun printing results were much more promising.
In this sample, I used woven twig place mats and glass stones as resists.

The other samples were produced by twisting painted fabric into knots. The top right sampIe I added a spritz of water to after it was knotted.
So mixed results after a fun day out in the sun with friends.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Sprinkle Dyeing and Sun Printing at VISA, Victoria

During a Mark Makers' summer residency at the Vancouver Island School of Art (VISA) website we decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and have a dyeing day outside.

We set up tables and brought out buckets of water to the backyard of the school.

I set up my sophisticated system for working with dye powder safely and gave a quick demo on how to fill salt shaker-type containers with dye powder.

While the air was still we explored different sprinkle dye techniques using Procion MX. 
Wet soda-soaked natural fabrics were folded, rolled and scrunched before sprinkling dye powder over them.

Eileen sprinkles dye on flat fabric.

Brenda sprinkles dye on a linen fabric already cut to shape for a garment.

This is a great way to use up old batches of dye powder. It works best with dyes made up from a mix of colours. The different colours separate out and migrate through the damp fabric at different rates.

After lunch, Dale gave us a demo of sun printing using transparent fabric paints on damp cloth. She showed us how many different resists will work to leave an impression.

With the sun overhead, we all got clear impressions of the resists. Brenda is using plastic shapes she has cut out and leaves as a resist on linen fabric she has painted with fabric paint. Others used flowers, grasses, bubble wrap, paper and cotton doilies as resisits. 
The dyed cloth was covered with plastic and taken home to batch before being rinsed and ironed.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Backyard Project: Flowers and Hot Mulch

The garden suddenly turned colourful.
In the Cut Flower bed lilies bloomed.
This is such a beautiful colour scheme.

The exquisite shape of another lily.

The nasturtiums are out in bud.

Insects are feasting on comfrey flowers.

The 3 fig trees' Breba crop is filling out.

The feijoa/pineapple guava is in flower.

Sammy brought around a load of spent hops from a local brewery. 
He mixed it in with the mulch.

I put in the thermometer - 80 degrees. Over the week the heat produced by the soil organisms moved the temperature up. I texted Sammy when it reached 160 degrees and he came back to turn the pile. Within a few days, the temperature started to rise again. Hundreds of mushrooms appeared and covered the whole pile when the temperature hit 130 degrees. They died off in a few days while the temperature rose again to 160 degrees. I opened up the steaming pile to let it cool down. It was too hot to hold my hand on the pile.
Once it has cooled down again we will spread this elixir on all the garden beds. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Backyard Project: The Meadow Design Strengthens the Green Shed Design

It was a big planting day when Sammy and Mat arrived with the plants for the meadow areas.
Sammy picked all plants native to the Pacific Northwest coast. Once they are established they will tolerate being walked on. I will keep the plants irregularly clipped to make the area look highly textured.

The flat meadow area is between the Studio beds and the Hugelkultur beds.

The south Meadow bed has the path to the studio running along its north side.

The north Meadow bed mirrors the triangular shape of the south one on the other side of the path but not exactly. They are offset a bit to emphasise the beginning of the pathway to the Green Shed.

The garden beds reflect the symmetry of the Green Shed and reinforce the visual location of the front door. 
Pattern Langauge #110 Main Entrance is described as 'a deep and inescapable property of a well-formed environment,' p. xiv which is why I have paid a lot of attention to the design of garden beds and paths near the front door of my studio. 
Christopher Alexander says 'Placing the main entrance... is perhaps the single most important step you take during the evolution of a building plan.' p. 541.
The Problem. 'The entrance must be placed in such a way that people who approach the building see the entrance or some hint of where the entrance is, as soon as they see the building.' p.541.
The Solution. 'Place the main entrance of the building at a point where it can be seen immediately from the main avenues of approach and give it a bold, visible shape which stands out in front of the building.' p. 544.
The approach to the Green Shed will be even more obvious after the gravel paths have been put in.