Category Archives: rust never sleeps

better detail shots of “A Birth of Silence”

Still not the whole thing as i am finding it hard to find a good spot for space and light!

detail shot dec 30_15 ABOS

detail shot dec 30_15 ABOS bAnd now it’s time to turn my thoughts to new work. I have goals again, one of them being not to get SO immersed in something that it becomes a Herculean effort to finish! I’d like to work a bit smaller again, with colour and more sculptural (ly?).

Probably my last post of the year, so i wish you all the best in whatever *you* wish/plan/desire/do. See ya on the other side of the calendar.


“A Birth of Silence” makes her debut

I can’t believe how slow i was with this one! Started at the beginning of April, i had some real time lapse moments–as in, i let it lapse in time to work on! Don’t know why i had such a block with it: Padded Cell took 7 months, and it was at least as much stitching as this one, give or take a hundred hours! *I sort of kept track at the beginning of how much time i was putting into the handwork, and gave up at around 142 hours–add another 76.675459 or so, and that means a lot of myopic moments!

So, nine months later, here it is, “A Birth of Silence”.

We are losing our habitats, our rivers, indeed much of our planet, to irresponsible stewardship, on global and personal levels. Without pollinators, our food supply and natural reserves will be devastated. I have chosen to represent these necessary life forces in “A Birth of Silence”. Bees hover around a butterfly egg, the honeycombs and pollen grains are suspended in space, perhaps to disappear forever. Without the key element of pollinators in the world, there will indeed be a colossal birth of silence, a death rather, of everything we need and desire in our world.

I am truly horrified by how even locally this mismanagement is so striking. I learned this past week that my beloved Inglewood Bird Sanctuary and the local “wildlife habitat” area are in jeopardy of becoming simply open spaces with no real natural benefit to the local ecosystem. Invasive plants, non-native plants, no water in the marsh areas, plowing over the area that was used as flood mitigation repair which opens it to more invasive and non beneficial plant life, plowing which also destroyed the natural land formations of small hills and barrows and all of the trees remaining after the flood, no long term plantings for birds and small mammal food supplies and nesting/shelter areas, removal of beaver populations, improper stewardship of new plantings, construction of touristy buildings and well meaning but spurious “art projects” gawdz, the list goes on and on……….I suspect some eco-activist action may will be upcoming in my future.

Through the local fibre arts group Contextural, this will be part of an exhibition at the Alberta Craft Council Gallery in Edmonton, Alberta. X3 features 3 organizations on the cutting edge of fine craft: Alberta Potters’ Association, Contextural Fibre Arts Cooperative and the Nina Haggerty Centre.


This is the starting fabric, the base, created in my 2012 residency at ACAD. I had deliberately done large pieces, intending to use them as start points for future work. (Some of these are still sitting in the stoodio, waiting for inspiration.) You never know where these will lead you until the time is ripe. Through the last few years, my intent is faster than the implementation though, truly “Slow Cloth”! (Note though, “slow cloth” is NOT just about hand work–it’s about intent and commitment.)  I know too that sometimes–for me at least–my ideas can’t come to fruition until i have the skill set to make them real, whether it be a particular technique, or a concept, or a deep seated NEED to do that specific work.

I flipped the fabric though so the orientation is this way (hence the upside down ©) :

big expanse orientation

After exploring this technique for the past two years, i am still thrilled by the dimension and texture created.

ABOS pre exhibition 1

ABOS pre exhibition 2

ABOS pre exhibition 3

ABOS pre exhibition 4

ABOS pre exhibition 5

I don’t yet have a photo of the whole hanging properly (the top 6″ of this is folded over behind), but am hoping to amend that by seeing it at the exhibition on January 16th–i might just finally show for an artist reception 😉 Measuring the final result with the draw-in and tension, the size is 36″ wide by 43″ height.

(I just realized, the conception, gestation and birth of this one was indeed 9 months……..)


 *I don’t normally count the hours, but i was curious myself to see how much time does go into these works. It doesn’t make me any “better” than anyone else who puts time and serious effort into their art, but i had to laugh after seeing an article about a young man who puts THIRTYFIVE HOURS into each piece 😉 HA! There are many of us who put in much more than that!


off the countdown list

The DNA strands are done. In the groove.

dna 1

dna 2

Comments Off on off the countdown list

Posted by on November 24, 2015 in A Birth of Silence, in progress, rust never sleeps


layout for “A Birth of Silence”

Finally. Finally! A few edges and holes to finish turning, but the components can now be stitched to the background.

abos layout aug 24

I still have a smaller rondelle to make, and when all the pieces are stitched down, will commence on the background, with ideas of pollen.

aug 24 abos detail

At first i was worried that stitching the edges of the holes to the background would flatten things too much, but joy, there are puffs in the centre of each.

1 comp attached

1 comp attachedb

I was struck too by the textures of the embroidery at the edge of the large rondelle:

abos rondelle edge texture

Could be i will be done by end of September. Hoofies crossed.


“Archival” issues, and carrying on

March 2015 “It was interesting, that someone who has never met me before, knows nothing of my process, practice or intent, would pass by at the end of an SDA meeting and with no other prefacing comment or introduction, make a fangy remark about rust on fabrics not being “archival”.

I posed the question a week ago on FB in several groups, asking others who work with rust, how they responded/explained/defended their work on this issue. A whole slough of answers boiled down to one thing, couched in different terms perhaps, but still meaning “who cares”? Art and fabric doesn’t always last forever–look at Van Gogh’s disappearing colour, Eva Hesse‘s work that is crumbling and deteriorating, Jackson Pollock’s paintings that are slowly falling apart, and Andy Goldworthy‘s work that lives on in mostly photos due to his deliberate use of ecological elements–and yet there are 3000 year old textiles preserved by rust. I heard from all kinds of artists, about different experiences with rust, viewpoints about galleries and commercial issues, and why the process if that’s what turns your iron flaked crank, is important to what you do with it.

At best, the comment given to me in March was rude, at worst, it was uninformed, dismissive and ignorant, in the purest sense of the word. I do did don’t  won’t anymore worry about how things will last–they will, or they won’t, and when i’m dead, where will they go, anyways, period? I like to hope too, that my method of working the main rusted fabric and the thin batting as one layer, will secure stability and protect weaker areas. So i carry on. This is my chosen method of creating the crucial elements of my work, and i’m not about to stop because of longevity issues, and presumptuous comments. And ironically, the piece i was working on at the time was the one that was selected for a major show that explores what fibre can do that other mediums can’t! Ha.


arlee barr A Birth of Silence work in progress

“A Birth of Silence”, components in process

I came to a slamming stop a few days ago, though not for angsty reasons. Lalage, my (semi) trusty machine, balks at stitching through rust or metal (DAMN, but i miss my old White that sewed through anything easily….) and there were still areas i hadn’t stitched around. After struggling with needle changes, bobbin adjustments and breaking threads every few inches, (and a lot of swearing, throwing things at the wall and feeling stuck,) i gave up. It’s not a crucial element, i’m not married to it, so got out the hand threads and needles and finished that way.

hand edges front

There is obviously a difference in appearance and and technique though. I can’t trim as close at the back because hand stitch leaves a loftier line–backstitch on the reverse looks like a stem stitch!–, and the edge becomes puffier, but again, the intent is still clear, so will file the notes for the next project. Machine stitch compresses more and makes a denser line, hand is more organic, soft and malleable, both good results.

hand back

hand and machine comparison abos


pulling a thing together

I work exceedingly slowly these days. After each “success”–whether it be a completion of a project, an acceptance into an exhibit, or a Personal Best–there is a time of blankness, blank on the surface at least, with swimming things underneath……….or maybe better, letting things be fallow for awhile.

Fallow is a colour also, browns, a mood i never cared for in earlier years, but with the use of natural dyes, ecoprinting and rust processes, a warm entry into the subconscious i didn’t act on in those early years. When i remember back to childhood, i was out in the fields, no matter the season, and browns featured greatly, earth, rock, tree, root, deep pond.

And chocolate. Coffee. Hands in the soil.

And blue, didn’t much care for that either, but again: sky, water, shadow and dusk, the fields after supper.

Eyes. Mood. Music. Midnight on the prairie, in the mountains.


blue and brown



Pulling ideas together, i often look back to previous work.





 “i hear an owl mousing

in the cold indigo of a dusk meadow.

where apple bloom ices the night,

time is a feather dropped in the grass.” a. barr 1976



a quantity of words

finding the vocabulary c

finding the vocabulary

finding the vocabularyd

I still have 42 words to create, and then i will decide how to use them with these:

honeycomb crawlers

on this:

big expanse

Immersed, and buried, acquiesced.




back to *some* textile programming, salted with “deep thoughts”

This works up rather fast, despite the apparent lack of progress visible. More heavily rusted areas (though this section blessedly is not too bad) mean stopping once in awhile to lessen the pressure on the needle and the fingers, and to alleviate the Vulcan Prosperity Cramp!

centredI am stitching again, but it’s in snatched minutes between gardening and the rest of life–summer is actually here in Calgary, and one must take advantage of it!

The Universe shares up it’s wisdom again. I mentioned that i was crushed/have been seriously “Ennui’d” about my own work, wondering if there was any point to continuing. Yesterday in the midst of the emails was this link from David Walker, a quilt artist i admired long ago in my Halcyon Days. Rejection and validation are issues most artists have to deal with if they wish to be part of the seen world–some may be able to continue with the first and not need the second, but here are his thoughts, as a well established artist. Scroll down to his “Rejection Article” thoughts.

It IS hard to not feel hurt on occasion. While i don’t agree totally with his statement that i am handing over power to others by letting them judge and determine the value of my work, because i do tend to go my own way regardless of trend, comment or suggestion, i am still part of a larger thing, and sometimes not fitting in is painful. At the same time, it is powerful and as necessary as breathing, to create what i see in my head and heart, despite the current “popularity”, style, “Movement” or whatever buzz word it is of the day. If i let go of this and continue on my own path willingly, i must forget the mainstream and just do as i do. Rejection or acceptance, i can’t work any other way. There will probably still be massive stops and manic starts–that’s just the way it is, here, in my head and heart.

Perhaps we should start a new “Sub-Genre”: The Conflicted, for those of us who are paralyzed by the thought of tying our shoes and going into the stoodio, those of us who fly high one minute and the next are trolling the depths of despair, the ones who stop and start and start again, the ones with a miledeep pile of ideas and only one needle fired up.  Unite! (At a safe distance from each other, and knowing that all most meetings may will be cancelled for no any reason, because no one can agree either where the most secure clubhouse is.)