Tag Archives: creativity

Stitched Illustration

I’ve always sewn clothes, made pictures, sculptures–tactile, physical objects that I could share with others pretty easily.

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The lakeshore, formerly at 76.5 metres above sea level had risen by 15 metres and was lapping at Queen Street West. From The Bones, Chapter 2, by Laura Wythe

For a number of reasons, writing has become a great creative and personal outlet for me.  But how to show and share words? Contests, blogging, writing plays and joining writing groups have worked for short fiction.

Recently I finished a novel, inspired in part by a street in Wortley Village. Tecumseh Avenue is the only native name among so many traditional English names. It took a lot of research to find out the story behind the name, and I used the presence of this First Nation man in The Bones.

The main character is Catherine Blackwood, the textile curator at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. She grew up on a farm next to the battlefield north of Chatham where Tecumseh died in the War of 1812. She heads back to the farm, now in Flood Zone 4, obsessed with making one last search for Tecumseh’s bones. (I’ll blog more about the Tecumseh story.)

I’m used to showing and telling what I’ve been up to. The logical thing — for me — was to make a series of illustrations and launch a book with pictures! Catherine, the textile curator, came to mind as having the perfect point of view for the illustrations.

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gathering materials for The Bones Laura Wythe

For more than 2 years, I have collected textiles–table linens, threads, and other bits and embellishments. I have pored over maps and charted the travels of the characters through a flood ravaged land. I have joined London branch of the Canadian Embroiderer’s Guild to bone up on my stitching techniques.

I have 4 months left to finish the illustrations, and literally thousands of stitches to go.

 

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Indie Publishing

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A long time ago, in the town I grew up in, I had my first Indie publishing moment in Mr. Smith’s Canadian Lit class. I wrote the story, drew the pictures, hand printed the words, and bound the pages with red electrical tape. Pretty cool. An excellent teacher, Mr. Smith went through the pages with pencil and pointed out my not-too-numerous spelling and grammar mistakes. He whispered to me (I was a class-slacker) that I should get this book published. I thought it was.

Little did I know at the time “nurd” would be become a part of our vocabulary, and have a different spelling!

Now with online printing platforms, I can go beyond a short children’s story and print out a whole novel, and many copies! In my case, I used CreateSpace, and being a pencil and paper girl, I had a hard time until I just followed the instructions. Oh yes, and I enlisted a friend’s help!

Talking out design problems and getting the book just right was a great experience, and now it’s done. I have a BIG book.

Mind you, I also booked a venue to hold an art show in 2018 — can’t resist illustrating a novel. Deciding how to include illustrations is still to be decided. I’d like it to have some of the charm of an “old-school” book, maybe with colour plates pasted onto blank pages opposite the text, or scattered through more randomly. It won’t be hand printed, but the illustrations will be hand-made.

I’m proud to announce the release of The Bones, and will be among the small presses and indie authors at London Ontario’s Wordsfest — Southwesto Book Expo — held November 4 and 5th at Museum London. A cool start for a book.

Meet local author_landscape

 

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Colours of the Garden: colour wrapping

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thread wrapped basket/Laura Wythe

Many of the fibre artists I meet dye their threads to make their own pallet. I haven’t tried it, except the once when I sank a skein of pearl cotton into a brew of black walnut juice.

In the cold of winter, I went to a workshop led by Nancy Latchford. She’s a fibre artist who specializes in baskets, and her baskets are amazing in size and range. We met in a workroom in the Jonathon Snell-Bancroft Gallery where we had a view of Nancy’s fibre-based work, as well as many, many amazing ceramic pieces.

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Base of basket by Laura Wythe

We started making our little baskets, first wrapping a washer for the base, then wrapping more threads over a cotton and wire core to make our coils. I’ve made slippery coils for clay for pots before, but this was new, and quite a challenge to juggle the pieces.

A huge part of the project was to choose the colours, or in my case, let the colours choose me. There was a boardroom-size table before us filled with hand-dyed cotton thread of all colours and tints. Impossible to include them all, but I tried. Red is always my favourite, but then violet, purple, orange, yellow, greens and blues took up the bulk of the project. In the dead of winter, I was thinking about June gardens.

The wrapping technique was new to me. You choose 2 or 3 colours and wrap them together around the core materials. It’s blending colours, and then as Nancy pointed out, they become further blended when the coils are bound together with yet more blends.

The basket is still a work in progress, palm-sized. The gardens, however, are in full bloom.

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Thread-wrapped basket in progress, Laura Wythe

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Joy of colour

It’s been a grey monotone winter, and I’ve been working on a large project with a theme of rain. More greys and damp and sombreness. Every now and again, there’s a tiny break in the grey blanket of sky, shadows, even a bit of blue. It doesn’t matter if it’s morning or night, it’s all a progression of grey.

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Detail of Sari Splendor square by Laura Wythe

Into the grey came a workshop called Indian Splendor led by Donna Funnel, hosted by the London branch of the Canadian Embroiders Guild. Step by step we were led to a guarantee of colour harmony and wonder. It really is important to trust the instructor, especially when they say, choose your colours, any colours will work.

Sari ribbon is a new material for me, and of course, the ribbons came in brilliant colours and textures. Donna also had some sari silk yarn that matched the silks but brought another layer of texture when all was done. We created a base with the ribbons, then cut and embellished. Of course, I bling-ed my project up with shiny yarns, sequins and beads–and some variegated silk thread.

So, here’s the finished project.

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Full size Sari Splendor square by Laura Wythe

Donna has used the squares in an entirely different way to create a stunningly detailed wall hanging. Simple structure, amazing results.

What a riot of colour for a dull winter’s day.

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Take Away Art

On the way out of the Central Branch of the London Public Library, I noticed a table with a sign: Take Away Art. An man of many years with a walker noticed the same table, and instead of avoiding it, as in avoiding contact between strangers, we both stopped and checked out the artwork in a basket: screen-printed canvas, black on natural canvas, likely cotton.

The man told me he had made artwork many years ago, up in Kincardine where he lived until 25 years ago. He had a favourite piece, one he’d painted on glass. He’d lived at home until he was 22 because there was a dance hall across the street from him, no need to leave for some excitement. In his “old” age (he confessed to feeling quite young at times) he was studying Greek and Hebrew, and “all the universe,” which, if I understood him well enough, boiled down to the number 5. Then he had to go, but as with many long-lifers, he gave me his opinion that young people weren’t active enough, and how it was a shame. There had been too many teens drowned in the lake up his way in recent years. He didn’t remember anyone drowning when he was a youth. Young folk, pay attention and get a life outside your media devices. Such was our encounter, a rambling circling chat between generations.

But, he wouldn’t take a piece of art. He wanted to make something himself.

I took a piece of art–it seemed too much good fortune just to pass by. The back of the canvas is signed, and there’s details about the print run. Only, I would ask Charles Harris (working on his MFA at Western University), if he’d  be really upset if I embellished his Take Away Art. Not sure how to reach him. I have been putting away the devices for more and more of my days, and I’m embroidering. Not like my mom or gran, but like me. And if ever there was a piece of cloth needing embellished, it’s this Take Away print. Like fries needing ketchup. Sorry Charles.

Or maybe I shouldn’t. Should I let it stand as a statement, now a statement of private art in my eclectic collection. I’d like to find ways to make it public again, like the case of the “Traveling Pants.” Perhaps send it on a journey among friends who embroider and embellish and quilt and bind books, and …

In any case, without this Take Away Art in the branch of the Central Lbrary, I wouldn’t have had such a charming chat. Cheers to the Take Away Artist!

 

 

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The memory quilt from t-shirts

cutting the t-shirts

cutting the t-shirts

Like all children, my daughter has grown up.  Now, we’re always sorting out closets, deciding what can stay, what should go,  reminiscing all the while.   She came up the idea for me to make a blanket from some of her favourite and well-loved t-shirts.

I’ve made traditional quilts, and crazy quilts from blue jeans, but never worked with knits before.  Joyce’s Sewing Shop on Wortley Road had a beautiful four-way stretch fleece that looked like shearling, so I didn’t worry about stabilizing the blanket.

the layout

the layout

Planning the blanket was a challenge.  The t-shirts and their logos were different sizes. So I approached it by cutting first, planning later.  The logos were cut out with generous borders and to get a sense of how to put them together, I laid them out on the table.  Nothing matched up.  In the end, I decided to make four rows and fill in the spaces with extra t-shirt fabric AND old photos!  I didn’t tell my daughter about the photos.

joining the logos and pictures with strips

joining the logos and pictures with strips

The design was kept to rectangular and square shapes, and because I wasn’t going to be fussy about squaring the corners and a consistent grid, I sewed the top so the selvedges were showing.  I figure after a number of washings, there will be a nice rag look to the borders of each piece.

joining top and back

joining top and back

Because of the thickness of the fleece, I didn’t put a layer in between top and backing.  I finished it by tying it at regular intervals so the blankie could stretch without tearing.  If I’d stabilized it, the folks at Joyce’s could have quilted by machine for me.

And my grown girl loves it!!

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