resist dyeing

Oaxaca Tales: The Textile Museum, Weaving with Duck Down and other textile tales

More textile discoveries at the 10th International Shibori Symposium in Oaxaca, Mexico. Several exhibitions of historical and indigenous textiles were featured at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca, with spillover exhibition areas in the San Pablo Cultural Center.

Perhaps the most intriguing exhibit centered around a mystery textile discovered by at a flea market in the 1980s. Entitled The Plumed Weavings, its centerpiece is, quoting the Textile Museum signage,  “the ‘tlamachtentli de Madeline’, thus named in honor of Madeline Humm de Mollet, as it was she that discovered it in a Puebla flea market towards the end of the 1980s. The tlamachtentli is only a fragment of what must have been a most extraordinary huipil; notwithstanding, among its threads we were able to discern the technical sophistication and the aesthetics of indigenous art from over 300 years ago. Only five other textiles with similar characteristics as this weaving have been documented; three of them are located in Mexico, one in Rome and another in New York. All six are Mexican… and share a very special peculiarity; each one has different varieties of cotton thread that have been twisted or spun with duck down.

…While it is possible to find the use of feathers in other regions of the world (like the Andes, the Amazon, the islands of the Pacific and even in western USA) all indications are that plumed threads are exclusive to Mesoamerican culture, and in particular, to the cultures that established themselves in what we now know as Mexico.”

The research into these textiles was then shared with current day weavers from Puebla, Guerrero and Oaxaca. The exhibition displays examples of modern-day pieces resurrecting these almost long lost techniques. An excellent set of videos documented the process.

Additional exhibits focused on the use of resist dye techniques globally. Here are a few favorite pictures. Many other pieces were just as sublime.

 

The Studio Day: Creativity & the Great Balancing Act

Last September, I engaged in a much-needed weekend in my studio. Looking upon my upcoming role as Surface Design Association President, I knew I MUST prioritize making time for balance and creative work, so critical to making the rest of  life function well. In that,  I am just like 99.9% of our SDA members and all my other colleagues I know outside of SDA. All ages, all stages.

Suddenly I had an idea: talk about the importance of a studio day.  A day later, I read that I’m not alone in my thinking. Here’s the piece in the New York Times.

What follows are the closing comments I made at SDA’s Made/Aware: Socially-Engaged Practices Intensive at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. (Read a wonderful summary of this event, written by Tamryn McDermott for SDA’s NewsBlog.) I appeared in my studio garb, my SDA “uniform” —apron, t-shirt and torn jeans, rubber gloves in my pockets. I spoke to this gathering of artists, educators, students, makers, who among them have amassed an impressive list of accomplishments and inquiry, with dedication and enthusiasm.

This is what I said, illustrated here with photos from my past:

We are first and foremost, a community of makers. Many of us working in textile and new media do this as a tactile antidote to our increasingly digital world. In whatever stages of life you find yourself—longtime artist, recent college grad, juggling paid employment, or retired but wanting to rekindle a longtime interest —creative work is never an easy fit into a busy life. The quest for work-life balance challenges all of us and increasingly is part of a national conversation, as recent media articles have pointed out.

Four friends at the Surface Design Conference, Kansas City Art Institute

SDA helps us to promote connections with our fellow makers. Our group of largely textile-centric makers is the most diverse of any national textile organizations available to us. The SDA Journal, Blog, and our members show us a broader way of thinking about what we do, as do SDA’s tools such as exhibitions, grants and fellow aficionados to talk shop with.

How do YOU make time for creativity? No one path fits all. Creative success is rarely about being secluded and monastic, — it’s about living fully within our lives, a frame of mind. Often, it’s about enjoying the ride, the process rather than the final outcome.

My own life confirms this. I joined SDA as a recent college grad and worked in my studio in addition to jobs and new motherhood. I always referred to my studio work as my fourth child. If I didn’t pay attention, it screamed and hollered. There was a time when my creative moment coincided with Mr Rogers Neighborhood on Public Television.

looms are great jungle gyms for toys

Archive photo: Astrid finishing handwoven ikat wall piece

learning fold and dip dye

Later, I saw firsthand how the kind of creative thinking that artists employ brought new ideas to the table in our  Downtown District, where I worked as a long time manager for Iowa Artisans Gallery, a 4000 square foot business with 200 artists, and served on committees for community initiatives. And it wasn’t just me. For a time, the interim head of the local Area Chamber of Commerce was a graphic designer who injected new life into the organization. As a business manager/owner, I hired artists with both retail and creative abilities, or others who simply wanted to be creative, encouraging them to pursue and fulfill their own personal life destinies as artists of all stripes.

Iowa Artisans Gallery staff, 2015

Throughout this time, I always tried to guard my studio day on Fridays.  Make no mistake: work-life balance is an issue for everyone I know.

I invite you to join me in making time for creativity during a weekly Studio Day, whether it’s by learning/contemplation only, or by active doing, —for an hour a day, a day a week, or many days every month, whatever fits. And wouldn’t it be great if SDA, as an organization, took a “studio day.” (Mind you, I’m not saying we should shut down our website  for a day a week, just that our Board, staff and members can commune together in that great notion.) We share the importance of creativity to the structure and balance of our lives.  Let the community of SDA members inspire us to be more than who we are working alone. It is not selfish. It is about good self-management practices that make us more meaningfully productive in all of life.

Lastly if you believe in SDA and its community, here are a few easy things you can do to help strengthen this organization. First, invite a friend to join the SDA community. Our membership numbers are crucial to publishing our robust, quarterly Journal. And there’s more, but that’s for a future discussion. Second, thank our advertising partners and suggest new ones. (I’ll do it here for the ones I have used for years in my own work: shout-outs and thanks to ProChemical & Dye, Testfabrics, Dharma Trading.) They wonder if their ads are unseen, down some big black hole. WE NOTICE!

So, I’ve come to the end of this little talk, and on behalf of the SDA Board, Staff and all of our volunteers, I wish you a safe and inspired journey home, to the heart of your creative work and life and your very own SDA uniform! Ciao!

Gallery staff having a painting day

Astrid teaching at Penland School of Crafts

Cat learning screenprinting at Home Ec Workshop

35 years of textile samples, part 5: weaving, intaglio & miscellaneous

And how about all of those other areas of experimentation? I was once a weaver and a spinner, and I first learned to print and dye textiles because  as a student, I was printing large etching plates on canvas. From there, I wanted to alter the surfaces on which I printed, and I started weaving. I was living in a geodesic dome in the lovely countryside surrounding Bloomington, Indiana, where I went to school. We hoisted the 300 pound Kessenich loom up a ladder and into the dome. We were crazy kids. In one of my first dye baths there, the water turned clear. That’s never happened since. It was a good thing, too, because we didn’t have running water. The pump froze and cracked during a wickedly cold winter. I was discovering how in love I was with the world of fiber.

two samples of handwoven fabrics, tie dyed and screen printed/handpainted, by Astrid Hilger Bennett

 

Handwoven, screenprinted fabric using Procion MX dyes, by Astrid Hilger Bennett
Printing on wool, samples from a workshop, very nice, thin wool, by Astrid Hilger Bennett
Intaglio (etching) samples printed on different fabrics, by Astrid Hilger Bennett
Intaglio (etching) plates printed on silk, cotton, in a “book” by Astrid Hilger Bennett
stitched, woven bands, no dyeing, by Astrid Hilger Bennett
More stitched, woven bands, no dyeing, assembled by Astrid Hilger Bennett

 

 

35 years of textile samples, part 4: non-stitched resists

Resists have always fascinated me. A resist is a substance or a mechanism used to prevent dye or colorant from acting upon a surface. My very first experiments with resist were done in high school art class. My teacher was more interested in discussing politics, so I taught myself how to do batik using paraffin. Although batik was a favorite, I found removing the wax to be a  tedious and expensive process when a dry cleaner was used. This post shows samples of other resists: dextrin, potato starch, cassava, and Japanese Tsutsugaki with rice paste, as well as discharge.

Batik on silk, samples
Batik (beeswax and paraffin) on silk by Astrid Hilger Bennett
Cassava resist on cotton, fiber reactive dyes
“Presist” resist or cassava resist on rayon, Procion MX dyes, by Astrid Hilger Bennett
Tsutsugaki sample using rice paste resist on cotton and Japanese dyes, from a Tsutsugaki workshop at the Surface Design Conference in Seattle, 1991. Tsutsugaki is a class of very ordinary Japanese textiles, often decorated with auspicious symbols, used in ordinary households. 
Discharge samples on rayon by Astrid Hilger Bennett. Not one of my favorite techniques due to products that are not considered nontoxic.

Potato dextrin used as a resist, Procion MX dyes, workshop samples by Astrid Hilger Bennett
Potato dextrin resist on cotton
More potato dextrin resist
Potato dextrin on silk

35 years of textile samples, part 2: stitched & clamped resists

In the previous post, I described needing a storage container and finding myself immersed in sorting through a career’s worth of textile samples and explorations. Here is Part 2 of this archive, stitched and clamped resists on cotton and silk, using Procion MX dyes. This is a tradition more popularly known as tie dye, but it stems from a rich textile heritage that is very considered and carefully made.

Bound resist cotton, Procion MX dyes, by Astrid Hilger Bennett
Bound resist cotton, Procion MX dyes, by Astrid Hilger Bennett
Clamp resist cotton, Procion MX dyes, by Astrid Hilger Bennett
Bound resist silk, Procion MX dyes, by Astrid Hilger Bennett
Clamp resist on silk, Procion MX dyes, by Astrid Hilger Bennett
Clamp resist and silk resist on silk, Procion MX dyes, by Astrid Hilger Bennett
Stitch resist, silk

 

 

35 years of textile samples, part 3: stitch resist (shibori, tritik)

This is the third in a series of posts revisiting a treasure trove of textile samples made while learning new techniques. In search of a storage box, I found myself delving into forgotten experiments and exciting processes of learning. The other posts involved early screen prints and bound and clamp resists. These techniques have many names and fall under shibori and tritik.

So much fun! Stitch resist on silk dipped in an indigo vat, by Astrid Hilger Bennett. Unlike chemical dyes, which tend to wick up into the fiber, indigo stops the minute it perceives a barrier, such as a fold. The result is a clean, crisp pattern.
Indigo stitch resist on silk by Astrid Hilger Bennett, detail
Shibori stitch resist on silk using Procion MX dyes, by Astrid Hilger Bennett