Dorothy Caldwell: Human Marks at Shakerag

Dorothy Caldwell: Human Marks at Shakerag

Back in September at the Eco dyeing class with Pia Best, my Santa Cruz friends told me they were signed up for a class in Tennessee from a woman whose work I admire: Dorothy Caldwell. I often find out about work and artists through Pinterest, or my art group. And I have long “pinned” Dorothy’s work. I love her sensibility, colors and simple forms.

So, I said I’m in!

My husband and I planned to go a week ahead of the class for exploring and a roots tour, as my grandfather was born in Cocke County, the heart of deep Appalachia. Not knowing what to expect makes me nervous, and the thought of moonshiners and meth dealers made me even more nervous!

But what we found in our travels were cities in the process of revitalization and with that, great food and culture. And outside of the big towns were winding roads and pastoral scenes, tidy farms for the most part.

That scenario prevailed as we drove up to St. Andrews/ Seawanee, the campus where Shakerag offers it’s two week summer classes. Atop one of the bluffs, next door to University of the South, the rolling campus is a calm spot for letting down ones inhibitions and preparing to be creative.

Dorothy’s class was one of five classes being offered that session and there were 17 women participating in hers.

She presented in the morning and afternoon. The exercises we did were simple, mark making, painting with India ink, Kantha stitching, batik/discharge, and finally book making. I had done some of them before, but this context made them fresh again.

45 Women at the Studio

45 Women at the Studio

A good excuse to clean and organize one’s studio is to have invited 45 women to come over! Back in April at the Style ’16 Show, Mary Ann Behrens asked if her group, the Haute Couture Societiè, could come for a studio visit. Yes! Of course. And after we would go to the American Craft Council show at Fort Mason.

Oh the sorting. Oh the clean up. I was happy to have an excuse to work the place over. When I am in full production mode or demi mode, I never have the time. And the fabric multiplies. Positively breeds. Spills out from the wall. I had the satisfaction of arranging the whole mess so I could find things, remember things, see things and be excited by them. To find why I kept them in the first place.

I also started to finish some ancient projects, way down deep in the project pile. All of that “finishing” helps me move forward and loosens up energy for the next phase. Even though I might feel guilty for sewing something for myself, it is part of the whole “making” process and can inform the next cool piece.

Anyway- back to the 45 women! So I met them downstairs and up they filed, a long continuous line of women. I wasn’t entirely sure they would really all fit. But I had taken quite a lot out of the studio.

When they were all squeezed in Mary Ann asked me to talk about my clothing. And you know, I did. It just came flowing out. It felt so natural. I love sharing my work and how it came to be. And it is very comfortable to be in the studio where it all happens.

Thank you Jonelle Tannahill for the lovely photos!

Number of Attendees

3 Cruzianas: Winter Painting

3 Cruzianas: Winter Painting

The group is getting distilled. From eleven to five to three. And the three are passionate painters. Because they have already been en studio, there was an idea of what was possible. Sharon brought a packet of images to be made into silk screens she had designed. Each had brought pre-washed fabrics to sample. I had mixed 3 large jars of “chem”,  the thickened mixture we add the dyes to for flat painting. And I had extra mesh for making the silk screens. Set to go.

The 1st day was getting our priorities established.  Silk screening first so it can “batch” and soak up the black dye. Then getting started on painting yardage of different fabrics. They had purchased some natural wool flannel at my source, and had bought the striped cotton/linen they had fallen in love with at the last workshop. Plus bits and pieces of other interesting cottons and velvet. Lisa brought a dynamite shantung organza. I’m going to go right out and get me some! Such body and texture. Love it!

The time seemed to tear by at a rapid clip. Every available rack and ladder was covered with drying fabrics. We ran out of painting tables. I mixed more dye. There was still more to work on. So much so that we added on a day  in order to let the pieces dry, make the silk screens  and possibly paint one more hunk of fabric.

All the while I was fighting a cold, and what I noticed was as the days progressed and  the excitement of sharing in the creative process, by the last day I felt healed. It was amazing. There was such a flow and sympatico between us, these women who have spent time together in a creative container. I was very honored to be part of their history and provide new horizons for their work.

Cruzianas au studio!

Cruzianas au studio!

A painting with thickened dye workshop-handouts, masks, gloves lined up and ready for the Cruzianas to come paint their hearts out. 5 women came, so I moved some tables around to make room and washed off the formica skins.

We had 3 days.

The first to get oriented and clear about fibers and activators, mixing dye recipes and chemical medium. Swatching out the dyes (painting small amounts) on all the fabrics they brought. Waiting for the drying process to complete to see how much lighter the colors would be. Doing our silk screening before painting.

The 2nd, demos from me and laying out of printed work and painting over those and many more pieces. I also created many buckets of dye for men’s shirts and various swatches for vat dyeing. What I love is to see how differently everyone approaches their work. And also to see how the energy builds and gets so high and productive.

The 3rd day we washed out all we had done, did some discharging, and pushed to get a bit more painted and then cleaned up.

I think the information coalesced at the end. I spent time with Sharon fine tuning my class notes to really clarify the process. All in all a very fun, satisfying and edifying time. They are a great tightly knit group of women and I love spending time with them. The ideas flow and everyone is totally engaged. Thanks Cruzianas!

Love Fest In Santa Cruz

Love Fest In Santa Cruz

Okay—I don’t think I have ever taught 11 women, and schlepped all my scraps, sewing machine, artworks and clothing anywhere. But when I was invited to work with this close knit group of artist/sewers I jumped on the opportunity. I love to teach. It is such a perfect balance of give and take.

I tried to come up with a curriculum, but the years have taught me to fill in as I go along. I know what I am doing. Do I get nervous? Yes, but then we get into the flow, that all melts away. I am there to share and they are rapt listeners. And they in turn gift me with their ways of doing things and their vulnerability.

We started with show and tell, examining all seams stitches and cuts of the garment. Then I talk about the mystery process of SOLVY, the dissolvable interfacing.

Sunday I do another demo of my Dervish process: collaging pre-painted fabric together into a vest shape. There again everyone has their way of assembling and approach to composing. But I hope I offer another way of seeing. It is wonderful to watch these women using all their senses to create in a new way.

We have a final critique of the SOLVY pieces and vests before we break up. It is rewarding for us to share in the process, elevating the work to a new level, seeing with new eyes.

Pin It on Pinterest