Category Archives: SDA (Surface Design Association)

stitch stitch stitch stitch, repeat, stitch stitch stitchedy

EEK! Photos for one show due TODAY. I spent many hours yesterday working on “A Birth of Silence” so that i have at least one major area to shoot for this!

And i finally received my copy of the SDA “Materialities” catalogue.


Fitting that underneath the catalogue is the current work mentioned above 🙂

SDA Materialities page a

SDA Materialities page b


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Posted by on November 10, 2015 in A Birth of Silence, How The Light Bends, SDA (Surface Design Association)


show doings

No guarantee i’ll get into both of these, but unless you try–and DO THE WORK–you can’t submit, can you? With the group i am in locally (Contextural Fibre Arts Co-operative), there are two possible shows coming up next year, one at the Alberta Craft Council in Edmonton, and one at the Leighton Art Centre, near Millarville, Alberta. The first one is why i have been having periodic binges of stitching with “A Birth of Silence” for a planned “Organic Matters” theme. Admittedly though, i’m not doing so great with enough of the binges though………..A January deadline means get off my ass–or rather, ON my ass since i can’t stitch standing ;)— and “giter done”!

The second one will take place during the summer of 2016, and has us riffing off work we saw by Barbara Leighton, one of the founders of the art centre. (I wrote about that here as two posts.) I’ve been formulating and discarding ideas since that visit, about what i want to do, to portray, and which skills i have to complete the mission, but it wasn’t until yesterday morning at the train station that the lightbulb went on. I’d been thinking about an entirely different, perhaps overly ambitious, project and the pages of my notebook fell open to my Leighton scribbles and sketches, and suddenly, there it all was. (I love it when one’s ideas begin mixing and leaning on each other, fermenting and ripening.)

I’ll be sharing some of those ideas and samplings soon. All may migrate to the blog i have set up for when this one is “full” (approaching very soon, as with that pesky storage issue that all blogs have..) One thing we have also been asked to do with the Leighton show is to have smaller pieces that are reflective of the main gallery work, for sale in the gallery shop. I might start with those as they are also a good way of developing the ideas and approaches! I can then decide too what scale the exhibit pieces can be worked, as i have a diptych or triptych in mind.

And news from a “actual” exhibit: this, from the main SDA blog

Asked to summarize the experience of reviewing such a wealth of work, Wiggers observed that “Through a range of processes, such as dyeing, weaving, embroidery, quilting and tapestry, the selected works demonstrate how SDA members conjoin surface and structure using textile-based techniques; engage decorative, ornamental and pictorial traditions; examine and critique culture and traditions; and push textiles from material to ephemeral limits through individual and collaborative creative practice.”

There are gallery photos, and though i can’t clearly see mine, i suspect it’s the fifth one over in the first shot on the left in that blog post. Can’t wait to receive my copy of the exhibition catalogue. It’s funny too how as you work a thing, it seems rather large and intensive, and then it gets hung and all of a sudden it’s teeny—-still intensive, but teeny!!!!!!!!


i’m allowed to glow

!!!!! There were 2300 submissions by 506 artists for the SDA “Materialities: Contemporary Textile Arts Exhibition and Members’ Catalog” at Conference 2015!

I recognize some of “The Big Names” of the 91 artists chosen, and am truly honoured to be included among them.

SDA Materialities Exhibiting Artists 2015And i find it quite satisfying that included is one of my teachers, Lesley Richmond  (Capilano College Textile Arts program i took in the 90’s), and that my work is privileged to hang in the same hall, along with all the other big girls too 🙂 I still have some of her hand written notes in my class sketchbook!


more even better great news

I was pleased that yesterday i received an email from SDA that “How the Light Bends” was accepted for inclusion in the “Materialities” catalogue–and even more so when i received another today saying it has been accepted into the exhibition as well!

Had to read the email three times before i understood it. AND if i had read the first email that mentioned what was NOT being invited, i’d have seen that “HTLB” was not included in the “not invited”. Sheesh depression is heavy and able to filter out what is in front of you!!!!!!!!!!!!

And i actually did some serious stitching last night.


unparalyzed: great news

arlee barr_how The Light Bends_2015



I have been paralyzed since i entered this and two other pieces for the “Materialities” exhibit, and/or catalogue. I’ve done only a wee bit of stitching in the last month, a very wee bit, as i can’t seem to focus and do anything. I received an email today from the SDA executive director and am very very pleased to say that “How the Light Bends” was accepted for the 2015 Surface Design Association “Materialities: Contemporary Textile Arts” catalogue.

I have to admit reading the first email that i had not been accepted into the exhibition was a bit disappointing, in fact honestly,  i was devastated until i opened this particular email…and the catalogue will be around longer than the exhibit 🙂 🙂 🙂

Again, this piece is 21×26, ecoprinted and rusted cottons, with fabric manipulation and every embroidery stitch worked by hand.


Receiving this news was wonderful, and maybe the needles will come out again soon.


Wada workshop

Our local SDA “chapter” was fortunate enough to be able to bring Yoshiko Wada in for two workshops this August end. I participated in the first one, a two day intensive Natural Dyes and Pigments class.

the best teacher

Above, Yoshiko talked about how complex — or SO simple– cloth can become with natural dyes, with so many different application processes and defined tested knowledge used. In other words, there really is no need to re-invent the wheel with the traditional methods. (Experimenting with lesser known possibly indigenous materials is a bit different and more experimental, but the basic PROCESSING workings are the same.)

And OMG i am totally enthralled and smitten by her teaching methods, her persona and her knowledge and sharing. I’ve had few such engaging teachers in my life, but she takes gets the cake! Clear explanations and actual SCIENCE, i just fell in love with her and her style 🙂

first day no messAbove, the first arrivals, and a very very clean and quiet room 🙂

And then it was abuzzz and awhirl!

the action startsYoshiko is a dynamo, though calm and focused. Soon there were dyepots bubbling, ingredients being measured and added, and a lot of curious and excited faces peering through the steam.


madder lake pot and madder dye pot

Above, two madder pots, one a lake extract, the other a dyebath. Below, Yoshiko pours the extract for lake making.

the first madder extract bath

With the classic natural dyes, we learned about madder, weld, indigo, and osage orange, first using them as dyes, then concentrating them into lakes for painting with. The indigo vats were a 123 organic and one with henna.

indigo stomp 2Above, the Indigo Stomp 🙂 Squishing the cloth pieces between newspapers made sure that a lot of moisture was pulled out, then we all madly flapped and flailed to get the blue happening!

I hadn’t got much better results with the madder in the workshop than i got at home, so decided to overdye in indigo:


arlee indigo over exhausted madder doughnut technique C

arlee indigo over madderAlas, the photo above is wet, so i knew it would dry lighter, and BUT more “alas”, my silk hadn’t been washed properly so most of it washed out!!!!!!!!!

I was absolutely thrilled though at what an indigo dip did for an ecoprint! Yoshiko was appalled that i would sacrifice such a beautiful piece, so i tore only a small section off, suddenly realizing that if it didn’t work, i would regret it:

indigo overdyed ecoprintI wouldn’t have!!!! The chemical reaction between the indigo and the previously deposited leaf pigments made magic magic! Of course since we had talked about the colour of an indigo vat, i asked if it would be squeakingly impossibly possible to rev up a vat of my own that had frozen through two Calgary winters, but that still had a clear green liquer evident. It might!!!! I’m still looking for my chemicals long packed up since it was fresh, but i know they are in the house somewhere!

Below, Mahira’s delicate lovely shibori from the henna pot–we noted that it gave a greener blue than the 123 organic type.

mahiras delicate shibori

Then Yoshiko made real magic! She told us about Maya Blue, a mystery ingredient in South American frescoes that wasn’t properly analyzed until the 50’s. Containing sepiolite clay and a type of indigo (Indigofera suffruticosa), heat is applied to a mixture of the two, resulting in the most gorgeous aqua colour!

yoshiko making maya blue

making maya blue

Because this is a pigment, it must be “carried” using a binder–we used egg and made a tempera mix for painting on paper.

maya blue in egg tempera

I tried my small dish on silk,and stones (!) and then threw in a skein of thread.

thread maya blue 1Being a pigment, it is of course not that durable on fibre, but i still ended up with a lovely pale blue. I’d show a photo of it, but it’s lost somewhere in the stoodio!  Plenty of indigo threads to work with though once i get them untwangled:

indigo threads


Because we had also made “lakes”, more concentrated extracts from the dye baths, we each got a tiny amount of each to paint with:

my work tablebAbove are silk and linen with ferrous sulphate and gallnut.

I also used the indigo and the Maya Blue on silks and cotton:

painting with maya blue and indigo lakes

At first i was thinking “i’ll never paint fabrics”, but given my love of fine detail now and my continuing use of asemic writing, well, never say never. The technique may show up after all.

Our organizer and facilitator, the redoubtable, inimitable powerhouse Karin surreptitiously collected small pieces of work from all of us on the second day and disappeared during lunch to stitch them all into a long scroll, which she fastened to a wonderful old spool. It was presented to Yoshiko as a thank you from all of us:

the thank you scroll book

And that dress Yoshiko was wearing? That was an inspiration as well 🙂 Naturally dyed and discharged by a friend of hers, it was gorgeous:

yoshikos dress

Due to the short time, and the number of participants, we had to content ourselves with small pieces, most being 10-15″, with some slightly larger, but that’s okay–i intend to use mine down the road somewhere as “components” in future work. Hopefully i learned enough to make up the larger backgrounds needed to base them on! Fifteen excited artists jostling for position around small dye pots could have been accidents in the making 🙂

I had gathered up linen, silks (twill, charmeuse and habotai) and cotton, but no wool, except for some wool yarn. (I’ve never worked with wool, and due to the short advance notice we got for supplies, was unable to source any.) A bit of needling in linen on silk over cotton– i had wanted to do more stitching first and then dye, but added threads too so i can later! I stitched this feverishly the day and night before, then realized i can do during and after class as well. Turns out i was so involved with possibilities and sampling that i totally forgot about this! But i DID get threads in…except for the wool yarn.

And nope, i won’t be sharing methods–not because i am keeping close to the chest what was done, but because the “recipes” we used are classic and easily available everywhere on REPUTABLE sites. (Don’t fall for those stoopid “kitchen scrap” dyeing sites–very few have truthful facts, or sound advice on how to or how things work.)



my work table

listenNow i really must get to doing things!


i’m still here……

In body, if not embroidering spirit 🙂

deer me