020:365 Greek Key

Greek Key Squiggle 020:365

My rag-rug progresses and I’m so inspired by the process that I’m making sketches for the next one, or for details to go into this one.  I’m not really sure which.  The neat thing about these rugs is that not only are they colorful and textural, but they also have a long history.

As I told you my grandmother used to make braided rag-rugs, and apparently, it is a long tradition not only in America, but also in Scandinavia.  There’s even a Finnish-American Rag Rug Collection at MSU, for which my aunt and I saw a monograph awhile back.  These are woven, rather than crocheted, and as it was the second line of thought I had today, I’ll have to post more about it later.

This morning I got  pulled along the trail of  Shaker rug history.  The Shakers are known for their handicrafts and woodwork, and I’d seen some of these interesting designs before, in the form of  these contemporary items marketed as reproductions of traditional designs.

But in the American Folk Art Museum (New York City) I found these beautiful rugs that bear more relationship to my current projects than the woven Finnish-American rugs because of their radial form and because they are made without a loom.  I love their use of bold colors and the way they emphasize the roundness with triangles and squares.  

Lion Brand Yarn has a pattern using cotton yarn which is inspired by these knitted and crocheted Shaker rugs.  If you want to download the pattern, you might have to sign up for their website, but all the patterns are free.  Yarn is a little less durable and thick than rags, but still quite cozy.

Geometry of Nowhere 013:365

Geometry of Nowhere 013:365

When I started this drawing, I was planning on layering, blending, mixing, smoothing, as I always do, but once I started making these shapes, they seemed too clear to blur.

The shapes create other shapes, and not always the shapes one would expect, much like life.  That funky part-triangle in the middle that runs into a rectangle, or maybe consumes it.  The other forms are obfuscated and broken.

Though I’ve said this many times before, drawing helps me clear my head.  In the last few days, I’ve locked my keys in the car twice, something that seems symptomatic of a larger confusion about where I fit in the puzzle.

As I said, I meant to blur this drawing when I started it.  But in fact, it seemed finished in it’s graphical state.   It looked like a map or an aerial view, with pieces of the puzzle fitting together.  No one piece is exactly the same, and though most are regular, they interlock in such a way as to make irregularities seem more striking and important.

Odd building blocks that evoke a city-scape, shapes that are organic, but geometric.  Maybe I should go back and do some more of my one-liner cityscapes in the next few days.  Though it makes for a varied body of work, I love jumping from one idea to the next and back.

In other news, I’m running back offline to work on my rag-rug.  More photos of that tomorrow.


Design Process

The other day, I was out walking with Sydney, and I saw this tree I had never noticed before which has crazy fingers:

Araucaria Heterophylla

Araucaria Heterophylla Fingers!

My first thought was, what is it?  But then I put that aside and thought of an idea for a skirt using my remixed tee crochet/knit technique.  The images I had in my head were pretty immediate, as in, I knew exactly what I wanted to do but not exactly how.  In order to show you how the development of an idea comes into play I put together a time-lapse of my prototyping process:

So I took a picture with my ever-versatile iPhone 4 and collected a leaf from the tree.  Many of the leaves on the ground were already brown and crackly, and I lucked out and got one that was still flexible.  It feels a little like one of those giant silver chains you see sold with Tibetan or Nepalese products– a veritable vegetable viper.  Being with Sydney, I had to be careful not to break it on the way home.  It doesn’t look that durable, but it was coiled in my pocket for a good hour, and it didn’t break.

Then when I got home, I looked at what sorts of T-Shirts I had available.  Someone had just given me some cast-off black polos and white polos.  Although the process in my head said: you want to make a skirt or a dress, it made more sense to use the materials at hand to make a sketch since my skirt idea will take at least six t-shirts, and at two bucks a pop, that is a lot of material to waste if it doesn’t work.  Recycled material or not, I hate to waste it!

So I sat down with the image of the tree, and the veritable vegetation viper in my hand, and began to contemplate.  I drew the leaf, and then I thought a minute or two how to apply my skirt idea to the current maquette.  You can see this is a very rough sketch, but it was nice and quick to get down on paper.  First the body outline, then the clothes on the body, ink, erase, color.  Still have to sketch out the skirt idea, since it was so clear in my head, it’s hard to sit down and draw it, I’d rather just make it.

Then I fold-measured the materials to determine the size of the cuts I needed and referenced the sketch to decide on a number.  Here’s where, since I was filming myself, I made some mistakes.  Originally I was thinking I’d have to sew the white parts into the black part, so I cut the fabric accordingly.  But as I started working I realized two things: first, that it was going to be bumpy sewing if I knitted first, so it was going to make the whole process a lot more complicated than I thought; and second, that one of the wonders of this slash and knit technique is that it can be used to create no-sew seams.

So I scratched the first idea I had about construction, which also meant that I needed to improvise a solution for the places where I now had _single_ lines of cuts because they would no longer hold the cloth as I thought they would.

At this point in the process, the iPhone 4, though a wonderful device, had crashed enough times that I thought I’d give it a rest.  So I stopped the maquette (now sitting in a bag waiting to be solved, since I hate waste!) and took off for the thrift store where I bought six T-shirts to hack up (5 of them 1/2 off!).  Hopefully tomorrow I’ll have photos of the finished item and a few more process shots of the assembly.  And maybe by Sunday there will be an Etsy listing of the maquette and the finger-conifer skirt.