Thursday, June 30, 2016

Collectible Textiles

For a few years now, I have been working on a freelance art history project that necessitates looking through a major city's  newspaper page-by-page (the papers are not indexed by subject).  One of the perks of this project is finding pieces of other puzzles along with what I am supposed to be searching for. 

Over the past few years I have bought a few of these:

They are printed cotton flannel, and they were given away with packs of cigarettes.  That was all I could glean from price tags at antiques shops and markets.  Thanks to an accidental research find, I now know a bit more about them.  I recently found ads for these flags in the 1913 Cincinnati Times-Star.  Mecca brand cigarettes offered the flags as premiums, and Omar brand offered printed flannel Navajo blanket designs, like the one in the lower left here:

The ads were quite large, taking up one quarter to one third of a newspaper page.  I cannot confirm if 1913 was the earliest appearance of these flannels (also called "felts" by antiques dealers).  Later on, I noticed that on April 1, 1914, Cairo cigarettes was promoting two flags with each 5 cent package; "One packed regularly in Cairo and an extra blanket given with each package for a few days only.  Flags of all nations in brilliant colors."  This ad also noted that the flags measured 5 1/2 X 8 1/4."  In the May 6, 1914 Times-Star, an ad appeared for a "Free 8 X12 [inch] American Flag Blanket with a 10c oval package of MECCA cigarettes."  On May 20, 1914, also in the Times-Star, another ad touted, "Beautiful National Flag Blankets are packed with Egyptienne STRAIGHTS." 

These flags were made quite cheaply.  I have found that most of them have faded over the decades, and almost all of the ones in my collection show varying degrees of dye bleeding, especially the red dye.  I have seen a couple of quilts made from the national flags flannels.  Since smoking was nearly taboo for women at the time, it is fascinating that the premiums for a men's product were targeted to women for sewing projects!  I think that the concept of a series of small items given away in cigarette packs goes back earlier than 1913.  Small cards with various printed subject series (military ships, sports, colleges, etc.) can be found.  Harder to find are the silks:

I've only been able to secure these two.  These silks were sometimes stitched into crazy quilts.  I'd like to look into crazy quilts that have dates stitched into them and include cigarette silks.  That would give a fairly good indication of when the silks were made.  However, that is a project for some other time.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Making a Mess

Yesterday's post, today.  I have nothing insightful, interesting or educational today, I have been dyeing fabric!  11 new colors and playing with adding black for shades and tones:
I will have a more substantial post tomorrow about a vintage fabric collectible.  Next week, look back here to find out how this ugly mess turns out, after much rinsing and a couple of cycles through the washer:

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Rainy Day Ramblings

One more thought about the Ohio Annual show, actually about juried shows with prizes as a whole...

I wonder if the criteria for the selection of prize winners is vastly different than the general selection of entries.  I'm sure that there are probably as many answers to that as shows and jurors, but I really would like to know what they are looking for.  It would help the entrants decide what shows are worth trying to get into for what they create.  Yes, I realize that the prospectus for each show sets certain parameters, but there are still many mysteries about the process, I think.  As I mentioned in the last past, I pay attention to any bits from jurors that reveal insight into the process.  Of course, understanding the selection criteria goes out the window when a show has to whittle 500 submissions into 50 acceptances.  I'm sure there's always a vast amount of worthy entries that don't get in just for lack of space, and not because they are not good.

Enough of the heavy stuff, I have pretty flowers blooming!  These are some hollyhocks that I started from seed last year for dyeing:

The plant on the left is a wild mullein, not useful for dyeing (not that I know of), but I like it, so it stays in my gardens.  I like the native wildflowers too.

I still have not ordered any silk for plant dyeing!  I had dreams of having lots of plant dyed fabrics for the quilt shows this year, but I have learned that it takes a whole lot of plant material to dye a fat quarter of fabric.  Add in the work of the whole dyed process, the expense of the fabric, and the cost of the finished product skyrockets.  I will have a few plant dyed fabrics available from time to time, it just won't be something that I will feature regularly.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Ohio Annual - Zanesville Museum of Art

I promised this post late last week, now it is early this week.  It was a lot harder to write this than I thought it would be.   

I traveled last week to the Zanesville Museum of Art for the opening of their 72nd Ohio Annual exhibition.  Ohio has a wealth of very, very good artists.  Only a scant few of them are in this show.  I wish that there were more people to support the arts in this state.  I’m baffled at the people who would fork out several hundred dollars to attend a sports game that lasts a couple of hours and they wouldn’t spend the same (or even less!) on a piece of artwork that they will have forever. 

The show was well-rounded, including a variety of media.  I especially liked the attention given to various types of printmaking.  There were only four fiber art entries: a basket sculpture, a small rug hooked piece, and two art quilts.  I really wish I could post images of the art quilts here, as they were (I thought) top-notch.  I’m always gleaning criteria by which to evaluate artwork, and one that I use often is if I want to keep coming back to look at a particular piece, does it hold my attention over time? (Something I picked up at the Quilt National Symposium in 2015.)  The two art quilts met this criteria for me. 

The first, Passages, by Sue Copeland Jones, was a symmetrical geometric composition in yellow-orange and blue-violet silks.  The base composition was overlaid with bold strokes of indecipherable writing, hand stitched to outline the writing.  It was a classic example of using complementary colors, and certainly grabbed the viewer’s attention.  It kept my attention, as I wanted to figure out the writing, and there was enough variety in shade and tone of the colors to keep the piece from being overly garish. 

The second art quilt was by Georgie Cline.  This was a fascinating assemblage of random odd shaped (rough-cut) neutral tone (grays and tans) mini quilts zig-zagged together, leaving some open spaces in the construction.  The overall appearance made me think of an old stone wall, and indeed, the title of the work was, Stone Wall!  One can create good art work with neutrals, here was proof!  A variety of fabrics were used, accented with hand stitching.  The fabrics appeared to be hand dyed, perhaps some by rust dyeing, others from plant dyes.  Great visual interest was achieved by color gradations in the fabrics, the shapes of the pieces, and texture from the fabrics and the rough edges of the small pieces… all things that I like and use in my own work.  This piece captivated me even more, and I could kill a good bit of time contemplating it, given the opportunity. 

I picked up another evaluation criteria at the opening: do you want to live with this piece of art in your home?  (Of course, disregarding the cost.)  This is very similar to the question I mentioned above, but both are very good things to think about, especially for those not versed in analyzing art.  Identify what you like and worry about the why later.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

RPS Show Schedule

The vegetable garden in pretty much in the ground, at least all the started plants have made it in for the season.  I still have some seeds to plant, but that takes less time.  Now for some rain… 

I have no way of knowing where readers of this blog live.  If you are in Ohio, I’d love it if you could make it out to a show this year to buy my stuff!  Here is a list of the venues to find me so far this year: 

July 9, 10-6 Art on the Hill, Mantua, OH (downtown).  I will have mostly finished art work at this one, but I will have a sampling of hand dyed fabric and some Creative Kits. 

Boxes in progress for Art on the Hill
July 16-17 (9-5 Saturday, 11-4 Sunday) Pieceable Quilters Guild, Zanesville, OH; Muskingum County Fairgrounds Veterans Complex, Brighton Blvd & Pershing Rd.  Admission $5 

August 12-14 (10-6 Friday and Saturday, 12-3 Sunday) Coshocton Canal Quilters, Coshocton, OH; Coshocton Presbyterian Church, 4th and Chestnut Street.  Admission $5. 

Lovely dyed vintage damask tablecloths
Buy them, make beautiful things from them!
October 8-9 (9-6 Saturday, 10-5 Sunday) Town Square Quilt Lovers’ Guild, Caldwell, OH; Caldwell Elementary School, 44350 Fairground Road.  Admission $5. 

October 22-23 (10-6 Saturday, 10-5 Sunday) Mutton Hill Quilt Show, Akron Ohio; John S. Knight Center.  Admission $10.
That's it for now, I will post more about each one closer to the dates.  Later this week, I will have a review of an art show opening in Southeast Ohio.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Book Review - Natural Dyeing

Book review time!  I thought I’d profile the sources I have on plant dyes, as I am eagerly anticipating the first hollyhock flowers soon.  I am also seeing yarrow flowers opening and the horsetail is proliferating in the roadside ditches.  I need to order some silk yardage!  Here are the books that I have on my shelf: 

Wild Color: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes.  Jenny Dean, with Karen Diadick Casselman, Octopus Publishing (Watson-Guptill/Crown Publishing/Random House), revised edition – 2010.
                This is the best single source I have found on plant dyes.  Easy-to-follow, concise step by step instructions, clear photographs and a section that profiles a good selection of dye plants with the colors that they yield.  Highly recommended for the beginning dyer and anyone who wants to grow their own dye plants. 

The Complete Guide to Natural Dyeing.  Eva Lambert and Tracy Kendall, Interweave Press, 2010.
                Another excellent source with step by step instructions and accompanying photographs.  The focus is almost strictly on prepared natural dyes mail ordered from supply companies.  It only briefly glosses over collecting dye plants.  The concept of growing your own plants is apparently completely ignored.  Suitable for those who can’t have or don’t want their own garden. 

A Dyer’s Garden. Rita Buchanan, Interweave Press, 1995.
                Very good source, smaller and shorter book than the others mentioned here.  Definitely for gardener artisans.  The dye process instructions are written in prose, so I would recommend this for those who have done some natural dyeing, or as an additional resource to supplement one of the first two books listed here.  Great descriptions of dye plants and their cultivation. 

Eco Color: Botanical Dyes for Beautiful Textiles.  India Flint, Interweave Publishing, 2008.
                Interesting idea source for the advanced dyer, in-depth processes, but not concise.  Lots of interesting science and history information, loaded with overwhelming artsy photographs.  Worth the cost for a thorough list of natural dye plants from around the world. 

The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes.  Sasha Duerr, Timber Press, 2010.

Harvesting Color: How to Find Plants and Make Natural Dyes.  Rebecca Burgess, Artisan/Workman Publishing, 2011.
                I’ll discuss these two books together, since they are very similar.  Quite frankly, neither of these two books have been very useful for me.  The organization is rather haphazard, but there is some good information and instruction scattered throughout, the reader has to work a bit to glean it.  If one wants to take the time, I would recommend writing notes from these two into something to use in the dye work area.  The Burgess book is marred by frequently blurry and oddly cropped photographs (the headless torsos holding plants are just plain creepy), and I was horrified to see images of bare hands dipped in pokeberry juice, which is toxic (and it is stated so in the text of the book!)  Both books are targeted for single-project dyers who might embark on dyeing once or twice a year.