This week we are sharing in the process of fiber creation with our current Artist In Residence: Christiane Knight. These insights into how Chris works are both inspiring and motivational, and it is exciting to see the way she has approached what could be quite a daunting task, with flair and creativity! The rest of this post is provided by Christiane, I know you will enjoy it as much as I have! 🙂
When I decided that my Artist in Residence work would actually be FIVE projects, I knew that I would be taking on a pretty big task. But it is one that really lets me explore the idea of the Elements in detail, and also share with you my whole process for creating, from start to finish, an artistic fiber work. Knowing this, and knowing that my favored Element is Earth, I decided to start there and work around the circle from that point. Earth is my favored element for a number of reasons – I’m a Capricorn, an earth sign. I am a gardener, and I love the woods and green things and putting my hands in the dirt. And I love grounding work, where you connect with the Earth and let your mind root down and through the most stable element, reconnect with everything. I am totally an Earth Mamma type!
So this blog post will give you some background about how I got started with this undertaking, and my thought processes to develop my concept for how I want to portray the element of Earth. The one to follow will show you the actual creation of my Earth-representing art, with an invitation to try your hand at what I have made! One way I visualize Earth is as a vessel for growth – soil supports the seedling and nurtures it, and in the same way that energy can be used to replenish ourselves, to draw from the primeval energy that we stand upon to grow and change, like an acorn stretching to become a mighty oak.
In my mind, I thought about the concept of nurturing, of pulling energy or whatever we need most from a deep hole or cavern or crag, like the hero in a great tale – transformed by what we’ve found there and ready to tackle great things.
I can’t build a cavern or crag from fiber, but I can conceptualize that idea of something built from earthen textures and colors that one could reach into to find the thing needed most.
I’ve never done basket weaving, but I have done a variety of other types of weaving [rigid heddle, tapestry, circle loom] and I have made woven lampshades, so I will be drawing on those experiences to guide me. My vessel will be shaped with the branches I’ve collected from my travels, and yarn I have spun with the textures, colors, and concepts I’m exploring in my envisioning of the Earth as an elemental force.
So what are some of these textures, colors, and concepts? Why, let me show you!
I started out with a journal. This is how I often work out a conceptual project, through thinking and writing before I ever pick up tools or fiber. It’s a good way to get my head into the project and to work through where my hands will be going before the actual creating starts. I recommend highly keeping a concept journal as a way to track progress and jot down ideas both as you come up with them as well as when you’re fleshing them out – sometimes I’ll have an idea that simmers for a very long time before I’m ready to initiate, and this way I won’t lose any of my thought processes behind the project.
I started with sense/sight as my guide, and here’s the thoughts I jotted down:
- cool loam in fingers
- green cool leaves
- fertility, fertile land
- gardens & forests
- acorns, stones, dirt, trees, salt
- green, brown, black
- roots and moss
- grains, ivy, mushrooms, trees
- grounding and stability
- rest and growth
- knotwork, cord bindings, weaving
- darkness, Autumn or Winter
- gardens & planting
- Persephone, Rhiannon, Gaia
- stability & prosperity
- the Stag
- Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn
- Pentacles suit in tarot
So I took these concepts and thought about how I was going to interpret them into fiber, and ultimately into yarn. Roots and tendrils are easily represented in spinning, using thick and thin textures, whole locks incorporated into the yarn, overwrapping with thread, coils. I wanted to add some beads, and I chose amber – fossilized sap – and some glass leaves. I also have some green crystals that have the right color feel for me. For fiber, I chose some earthy natural shades and some dyed fiber in foresty/mossy colors, all the colors in my study photos and more, and made a couple of yarns from those. Some fibers were just dyed and spun [see the thin yarn in greens and greys] and some were blended on my drum carder and have yet to be spun. I’ll take photos of those as I spin them up, as I’ll be using the kid mohair/silk yarn to the left in the photo as an auto/overwrap yarn with that and I want to show that process. That yarn will get the beads, as well.
My final goal in spinning is to create textures that feel like I could have pulled them from the Forest Primeval. If you look at the yarns and think “so earthy!” then I know that I will have succeeded!
The next step is to create my vessel with the yarns I’ve spun and branches that I’ve collected. In the next installment of blog posts, I hope to show you that outcome! I want it to be a surprise so I haven’t included the sketches for the shape. I will document everything though, so you can follow along and try your hand at the process with me if you like.
Can you see my concept starting to gel? What would your Earth element concept look like? How would you gather your inspiration? I would love to hear how you might approach this project!