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Friday, 5 March 2010

Friday Follower - Nicki

Who knew that rust could be so beautiful? These cloths are the creations of this week's blog follower, Nicki Laws, who I met a couple of weeks ago when she attended my last Screen-Printing Class. Read on.

This photo makes up for the fact that I had neglected to take one of Nicki during the workshop (see blog post here). Who is Nicki Laws? She can tell us in her own words:

I am a vet and cattle producer, and my husband and I live on a small farm at Cutella, near Kingsthorpe on the Darling Downs. I also completed a PhD in Muscular Dystrophy research in 2005 and have taught science at university level for 6 years. Despite having this very science –orientated background art has been a big constant in my life for as long as I can remember.

My favoured media and techniques- Textiles rule! I love the texture and memory of cloth, and that they scream “touch me’ rather than ‘don’t touch’. I like frayed edges and knobbly, imperfect stitching. I often use vintage textiles that have been used (and loved) before. I started experimenting with rust dyeing and using found objects such as old twists of wire and rusted metal hardware a few years ago.

Like many artists, I found India Flint’s magnificent book on eco dyeing a big inspiration and quickly came to see that natural dye sources are available locally, are cheap and mostly safe to use.

Fabrics dyed with leaves.
We had planted over 700 trees and plants in our garden and on the farm, so sources were close on hand. I began to look for eucalypt leaves that will generously lend their colour to cloth and thread. They give subtle clues and are usually but not always, tinged or flecked with pigment, often with red or dark hues. They may be often found dried and fallen beneath their parent tree, or lie bleeding onto paths.

Lucerne hay, wet after rain left a golden colour on an old tarp and so gave a beautiful golden sheen to cotton after boiling in an aluminium pot. Fabrics could be left soaking in iron or copper pots with various leaves, bark or nuts and after shibori binding will yield amazing patterns and colours.

My favourite old reliables are pomegranate seed black, iron bark red, crispy mistletoe leaf grey, wilga leaf green and fennel yellow. We are so lucky to live in Australia. Rust also features in this old and weathered place and any oxidised surface I can find becomes a base to wrap cloth and thread, to mist occasionally with water or tea solution while waiting for happenstance.

The surface colouring is only half the job as I then like to mix colours and textures of fabrics and hold down layers with stitch, before adding ephemera. These become pictures or cards, some of many small compositions I do while watching a movie, as a passenger in the car or waiting for tea to cook.

Do you remember this wattle print from the screen-printing class? It has now been embellished.
I had not done a screen printing course previously, so was pleased to learn some good techniques from Thea and to be given such helpful advice to avoid possible pitfalls. It was great to be able to produce repeats so easily, and I see the endless possibilities of combining the crisp edge of screen-prints on top of eco-dyed fabrics with handstitching, buttons, beads or wire.

The Wattle picture is on shibori dyed cotton, using mistletoe leaves soaked in an old iron pot. Beads were a Lifeline (a local thrift store) find.

Thank you Nicki for sharing your passion! Nicki does not have a website but is happy to be contacted via email if you have any questions or comments: gnlaws[at]bigpond[dot]com

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Tania said...

Love the notion of Waiting for Happenstance! Truly inspired use of materials...

Trish Goodfield said...

Love seeing what other artists actually do with their fabrics. Thanks for sharing Nicki's story

Lyssy May said...

What a great post! I love to learn new things about textiles and design and having grown up in the Darling Downs region I can appreciate the influences of the natural materials available. Thanks Thea and Nicki!

Sophie Munns said...

fantastic post Thea....and Nicki.
loved reading about the work coming out of a specific location!

Karen Brock said...

Wow,'re talking my language! I love India Flint's work and have a piece of hemp/yak hair that I'm saving to dye with Eucalypt leaves and other natural plant materials when I have some idle time in between work projects.
You should try to get some hemp/yak hair or hemp/silk...I'd love to see the effects of rust on this fabric.

Great pick for Friday Follower, Thea.

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