Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Rusty. Crusty. Lovely.


I find myself completely intrigued by the eco-dyeing that I’ve been reading about in the blogosphere. I really like the subtle colors and patterns that can be made by dying cloth with natural materials like flowers and leaves. I also like the idea of wrapping up bundles of cloth and then experiencing the thrill of unwrapping them to see what appears. Since we are heading into winter in my part of the world, I will most likely wait until spring to give this technique a try. But in the meantime, I decided to try my hand at rust dyeing instead. From what I can tell, the process is somewhat similar.

Here’s what you do to make marks on fabric with rust: wrap up some rusty objects in cloth, tie tightly with string, spray generously with vinegar, cover in plastic wrap, wait, unwrap, and marvel at what happens. I have fabric. I have rusty stuff. I have vinegar. The most elusive element is the patience needed to wait for something to happen.

And when it does—it’s pretty exciting! Downright thrilling, actually. Beautiful rusty marks appear in glorious shades of, well, rust.

I feel exceptionally proud of this little scrap of muslin that I rusted. I think it’s quite beautiful. But I also realize that the beauty is a result of a chemical reaction that had very little to do with me. Oh sure, I picked out the rusty bits and wrapped them up just so in the cloth. Yes, I sprayed the cloth with my vinegar, tied, and wrapped it again with plastic. I patiently waited an unbearable amount of time to open it up and take a peek. (About three days) I guess I contributed a little bit to the random loveliness that was created. Or maybe I’m just proud of the fact that I tried something new and it turned out better than I imagined it would.

I’m not sure yet what I’ll do with this little masterpiece, or the ones I’ve made since this one. Most likely, I’ll use it as part of a slow cloth. That’s another art form I’ve been admiring out there in Blogland. I have fabric. I have thread. I could use a little practice in the patience department…

Monday, November 19, 2012

Show Me Some Love

You know it's going to be a good day when even an icy windshield shows you some love! Thank you, Mr. Frost for leaving this little gift on my car this morning. That's the way I like to start my week. I hope yours is off to a good start, wherever you are.

Monday, November 12, 2012

My Wabi-Sabi Radiator

When inclement weather moves my lunch time walk indoors, I like to utilize an out-of-the-way stairway in the three-story building where I work. My routine goes something like this: 44 steps down, turn around, 44 steps up, lap around the atrium, 44 steps down, turn around, 44 steps up, lap around the atrium. You get the idea. I do as many repetitions as time allows. If it sounds kind of monotonous, it is. 

Except for my little wabi-sabi radiator. Situated between the 44 steps down and the 44 steps up, is an ordinary steam radiator with a corroded valve in the most extraordinary shades of turquoise. Since turquoise is my favorite color, seeing that little blue-green burst of color in an otherwise drab and dingy stairwell while trudging (I mean sprinting) up and down the stairs makes my heart happy. It’s true. That little radiator makes me smile. It greets me on every journey up and down the stairs and reminds me that beauty can be found in unexpected places.

As I mentioned in the last post, I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately. In the book, Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designer, Poets and Philosophers, author Leonard Koren describes the ancient Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi in this way:

“Wabi-sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.
It is a beauty of things modest and humble.
It is a beauty of things unconventional.”


I’ve been thinking a lot about wabi-sabi lately and I think this radiator totally fits the bill. It’s humble, modest, and imperfect. There’s an entire colony of dust mites camped out there. The pipe leading to the valve is a hot mess of chipped paint and rust. Yet, I think it’s beautiful, and finding beauty in a corroded turquoise valve could very well be considered unconventional. Right? Once I recognized the wabi-sabiness of the radiator, I pulled out my phone and snapped a couple of pictures. You know, just in case I ever needed to remember that particular shade of turquoise. 

That was on Friday.

Today, I was shocked and horrified to discover that someone had come along and spray painted the valve on the radiator sometime during the weekend!!! With a single spritz of white paint from an aerosol can, some well-meaning maintenance worker had changed, and possibly destroyed, the subtle beauty of my little wabi-sabi radiator. Plus…it’s not even a good paint job! I’m not sure if that makes it better or worse. I only know that today I feel sad and disappointed. And I know that today I understand the meaning of wabi-sabi a little bit better. Today I understand the impermanent part. And I know—without a shadow of a doubt—that because it’s beauty was impermanent, that ordinary/extraordinary humble, modest, imperfect, little radiator really did embody the spirit of wabi-sabi for me. And now it’s gone.

I usually make notes whenever I’m reading a book to record the thoughts or ideas I might want to remember or refer to in the future. This is what I notated from the book mentioned above:

“Beauty is a dynamic event that occurs between you and something else. Beauty can spontaneously occur at any moment given the proper circumstances, context, or point of view. Beauty is thus an altered state of consciousness, an extraordinary moment of poetry and grace.”

I hope you find moments of poetry and grace in the world around you. And when you do, be sure to enjoy them for whatever time they last.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Buried in Books

Maybe it's the change in weather or the change of seasons, but lately I find myself buried in books. I love that I can go online and request books that are delivered right to my local library for pick up. This is just part of my current stash and it includes books about seaside cottages, collage, journaling, gardening, artists books, textiles, quilting, home decor, and flea markets--just to name a few. I'm a true non-fiction junkie. Sometimes I read them cover to cover, and sometimes I just look at the photos. I often renew the books I have over and over and over while picking up new ones several times a week.

This one by Austin Kleon is a real gem. You can check it out here. It's a quick read filled with a lot of inspiration and practical advice about getting busy and making stuff. Plus, it's filled with a lot of hand lettering and you just have to love that!

Since this post is about books, I thought I'd share a photo of Pilgrim which was on display at a library (of all places) during the month of October. Two glass cases were filled with altered books as part of the Octavofest celebration in my fair city. I managed to attend several events, as well as celebrate the book and paper arts in my own way--with my nose buried in a huge stack of books. Happy reading!