Susie Monday

Artist, maker, teacher, author, head cook and bottlewasher.

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The art I make is the result of a life-long love of pattern, texture and color. How I teach is a skill honed by experience (I started teaching creative arts to younger kids when I was 12). After earning a B.A. in Studio Arts from Trinity University, I helped lead an internationally recognized educational foundation, designed curriculum exhibits for schools and other institutions, wrote and edited for a major daily newspaper, opened the San Antonio Children's Museum and then, a dozen years ago, took the scary but essential (for me) leap to become a fulltime artist and art teacher.

About This Blog

This weblog is about the maker's life. The teacher's path. The stitching and dyeing and printing of the craft of art cloth and art quilt. The stumbling around and the soaring, the way the words and the pictures come together. Poetry on the page and in the piecing of bright scraps together. The inner work and the outer journeys to and from. Practicalities and flights of fancy and fearful grandeur, trivial pursuits and tactile amusements. Expect new postings two or three times a week, unless you hear otherwise. 

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    Dye Stuff

    History comes alive for me through personal meaning, so even though the prose is rather dense and dry, I found the information in A History of the International Dyestuff Industry to be worth slogging through. I knew that Procion MX dyes, those most of us artful dyers use, were fairly new, more of the postwar explosion of chemical tinkering (and one of the more benevolent). Here's an excerpt that pinpoints the official birthday:

    Els.JPGMarch 1956 was the centenary of the discovery of Perkin's mauve, and the event was celebrated, like the fiftieth anniversary, by international gatherings in London and New York. Appropriately, the ICI Dyestuffs Division marked the event with the announcement of the first successful fiber reactive dye, reacting chemically with the fiber to form covalent bonds. These exceptionally fast dyes became the first of the Procion range, ideal for cotton dyeing (Procion Yellow R, Procion Brilliant Red 2B, and Procion Blue 3G)....

    Today, the fiber reactive dyes are available in a wide range of shades, are extremely brilliant, are wetfast, and can be applied economically. They were originally applied to wool, but the dyeing performance does not match that on cellulose. In Japan, for example, fiber reactive dyes account for over half of the colorants used for cellulosic fibers.

    Actually, the earlier dye history is more interesting, with more details about the actual people involved, and the article includes some wonderful old engravings of dye machinery and technology. Thanks to the wonderful Layers of Meaning blog for this link. And thanks to the unknown chemists who have given us such wonderful colorants -- and all the chemical surprises possible on the cloth. (P.S. Another benefit from reading this article is the incentive  it provides for us to use proper safety procedures when handling dyes in studio -- all those nicely scary chemical formulas pointing to long-chain organic chemicals!)

    The photo above shows Els van Baarle at a recent workshop, where she taught us methods of using layers of Procion MX dyes with hot wax batik to create richly nuanced color and texture.





    "Tonantzin" is in.

     The juried exhibit SIDE BY SIDE will feature work of Texas fiber artists and open in Clear Lake, near Houston and Galveston, on September 26, with the show running through October 22. The exhibit is in conjunction with the Houston Fiber Artists Association annual show (thus the "Side by Side," ) and will be at The Arts Alliance Center at Clear Lake. One of my wall altars, "Abba Samuel, Orange" was also accepted. It's nice to get acceptance calls, isn't it? (Three of Laura Beehler's large art cloth pieces, from the same series as "Lambent Thoughts" will also be in the show.)

    The juror, Amanda Clifford, is the exhibitions coordinator at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. Prior to this, she was the Exhibitions Coordinator at the Wood Turning Center, Philadelphia, PA and assistant Curator for the Everson Mustum of Art, Syracuse, NY. 

    "Tonanztin"  is a 36" by 55" art quilt that stirs together symbols of Our Lady of Guadalupe and of the Aztec Corn goddess, the iconic stance of Our Lady, the corn and villages of  Tonantzin, the moon of both. The lady of compassion and the goddess of sustenance are surely soul sisters, if not one and the same.

    Other titles that seem to be related to this goddess are:"The Goddess of Sustenance", "Honored Grandmother", "Snake": Aztec Goddess of the Earth. She brought the corn, Mother of the Corn and she was worshipped during the moveable feast called Xochilhuitl. An idol attributed to this deity is described as being made of wood and in the image of a young woman of about twelve yeas old, wearing red. A tiara of red paper was on her head and her neck was adorned with a necklace of corn and tied with a blue ribbon. Her hands held ears of corn and her arms were open.



    To be Inspired


    Inspiration has a linguistic connection to breath. We breathe in the world and transform it into our work. This week away from the studio, I am inhaling images that will find their way onto my work tables at El Cielo. Breathing lessons. Slow down. Take time, take photos if you wish. Fill your chest cavity and your solar plexis with otherpeople's everydays.

    For more of what I'm seeing:  


    Mask4RK.jpg Mask3RK.jpg heartRK.jpg FolkartRK.jpg BambooRK.jpg DOgRK.jpg Books RK.jpg


    Lambent Thoughts

    More about Laura Beehler's art cloth "Lambent Thoughts."

    This piece consists of layered silk organza created with deconstructed screen printing, stencil printing, paint stick and colored pencil. Here's what Laura has to say about the piece and her process:

    "'Lambent Thoughts' evolved during a period where I was having problems concentrating on any one project or thought as there were so many to deal with. My thoughts were jumbled and on a rampage through my mind. 'Lambent Thoughts' became the fleeting glimmer of thought that streamed in and out of my mind. Just beyond my grasp to hold on to and solidify the thought.

    "My work has evolved from very timid and shy to the reckless abandonment of preconceived ideas. It has become very intuitive and spontaneous with my next steps guided by what is taking place on the fabric. In my current body of work I use a deconstructed screen method which is applying dye to screens, letting it dry in the screen and then releasing it onto the fabrics. This gives me an unplanned array of colors, marks and textures that are very organic in nature. I let the cloth guide me as I lay down additional marks to accent and enhance the emerging story.

    "I continue to work with lengths of fiber and the application of dyes through various screens to apply color and design to the fibers. There seems to be endless, unpredictable possiblilites with this technique and I have many areas that have not yet been explored."

    Deconstructed screen printing is a open-ended and spontaneous technique for letting the cloth and imagery lead the way. This meeting of mind and technique is what makes Laura's work sing for me. Her willingness to follow the imagery as is develops on the page is like watching someone wander onto a path along a beautiful coastline or along a mountain ridge.