Saturday, April 13, 2024

Natural Dye Club by Dianne Hricko

 Please check out the link below for the amazing group show from the Dyers Club that my daughter, LauraVHricko is part of. These artists are from a wide variety of fields. They meet once a month to study and promote natural dyeing and working with fabric. 

The show is so beautiful and also educational. The link has lots of photos and useful information. 

It's open now if you are in Philadelphia.


Saturday, April 6, 2024

Displaying Daily Practice Art by Barbara James

Like many textile artists, my daily art practice is comprised of making small 4”x 4” compositions out of my hand dyed and printed scraps of fabric. I do not try to make these perfect, but just play with my fabric and the composition. Each piece has raw edges and the elements are hand stitched in place.  By making these little art works I keep the creative juices going between making larger works. 

These little treasures stack up in my studio and I often wish that they could be displayed. While browsing my local hardware store I thought of a solution-window screening. 


Here is what I did to make a larger piece. Window screening comes in convenient rolls. I cut a piece of screening to measure 22”X 44” and turned the top back 1.5” to form a pocket for hanging on a plexiglass rod.


I mounted each small composition on a 4.5” piece of black felt to form a mini frame. It was fun to hang the screen on my design wall and move the pieces around to determine the best placement for each piece. 

Once I was satisfied  with the composition I hand stitched the small pieces in place using invisible thread. Here is a photo of the back of the piece.

 To help to provide connection between elements I cut small bits of fabric and screening and sewed these in place.


The finished work is whimsical and a creative way to journal my work.

For more art by Barbara James visit my website at <>.



Saturday, March 30, 2024

A Major Museum Supports its Community of Artists by Ileana Soto

In June of 2020, during the Covid-19 lock-down, artists of all media were unable to find venues open to display or perform their work. Museums, galleries, and all public performing halls were closed. 

The De Young Museum of San Francisco, a world premier museum, located in Golden Gate Park, announced an opportunity to support local artists. They offered a ‘call to artists’ residing in the nine counties that surround the Bay Area, to submit one piece for a 7-gallery salon-style exhibit opening in late September 2020.  They would accept up to 12,000 entries with a selection process winnowing down to the 850 accepted. The jurors wanted the show to reflect the diversity and inclusivity of our area. 

The show was called the “De Young Open.” I was lucky enough to have a piece accepted, “Heated Boundaries.” Not many textile pieces were included. The diversity of artists accepted was broad as well as the themes, including landscape, migration, climate issues, figurative pieces, and more. It was a success, but because of further lock-downs, it opened late (October) and closed early (December instead of January).
The organizers decided to make the “De Young Open” a triennial event. In June of 2023, the call went out. I had the opening entry date on my calendar, June 6th, and had already decided which piece I would enter, “Caravan: La Bestia.” I entered the first day. I knew that when they reached 12,000, they would close the entry. I couldn’t know when that would happen. That year, they received 8,000+ entries, and accepted 867. Luckily, mine was one of those!
This year’s exhibit was even more exciting than the first. There were many more textile pieces accepted: Alice Beasley, Young-min Lee, Denise Oyama Miller, Joe Cunningham, Adriane Dedic, to name a few. In addition, many pieces were fiber-based using weaving techniques in plastic, wire, paper, and metal: Deborah Corsini, Rachel Liebman. The background walls were painted a deep charcoal-violet that enhanced the art and gave the show a sense of community and gravitas. 

My goal in telling you about this marvelous exhibit, is to encourage you to contact your local museum to encourage them to do the same. Not only does it enhance the museum’s connection with local artists, but it brings in additional visitors. I brought friends (local and some who specifically travelled here to see my piece and the entire show) to walk through the galleries and look – in amazement. We 867 artists made money for the museum, and the museum enhanced the reputation of its wonderful local artists. 

 Let’s see if we can’t help local institutions recognize the artistic talent around them! Post Note: If you want to enter the only other Salon-style show (that I know about), the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in London, you’ll have to wait, like me, until early 2025! Otherwise, I’ll be waiting until 2026 to enter the next De Young Open.  

By Ileana Soto

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Breaking the Boundaries of my Comfort Zone with Natural Dyes - by Sue Sherman


One of the most fundamental forks in the path of any career is the choice to be a generalist or a specialist.  Do I try to learn a little bit about a lot of different specialties in my discipline? Or do I try to become the absolute best I can be in a very narrow niche?  In my first career I took the former; it was a good choice as I got to work on quite a lot of different kinds of projects, and it also provided a great foundation for managing multidiscipline projects. 

But when I retired from my first job and started a serious career as a fibre artist, it didn’t take long for me to realize that I wanted to try the other fork in the road this time.  After about a year of playing the field, I settled on an artistic technique (painting with thickened dyes) and started developing a style of my own (creating realistic looking fibre art featuring animals based on my own photographs).  And a couple of years after that I specialized a little further by (mostly) creating art that makes a statement about the environment, like the quilt shown above (from 2023) with penguins using their vote to have a say in their collective response to climate change.  I have now been following this very specific path for a few years now, and it never ceases to amaze me how much more I can learn about doing this one thing – the rabbithole keeps opening up more and more opportunities as I dig deeper into it! 

So why would I want to learn a completely new technique?

Well . . . my concern for the environment always brings me back to the way in which I do my work.  In particular the dyes I use, Procion MX dyes, are synthetic dyes that involve the use of chemicals to bond with the fibres to create those rich, strong colours.  These dyes also require quite a lot of water for preparing, dyeing and washing out. 

The alternative to synthetic dyes is to use natural dyes, using bits of plant and rusty nails to create lovely patterns on fabric.  As a member of the Art Cloth Network I have seen some truly amazing work by other members who are masters of natural dyeing processes.  Natural dyes have always intrigued me, but seemed to involve a bit too much witchcraft and forest lore, and anyways I was pretty sure they couldn’t be used to create work within my selected niche.  But finally the siren call of the unknown was too loud to ignore, and it seemed a good time to take a class in natural dyeing just so I could finally set aside that thought and be content making realistic artwork with my chemical dyes.

Good thing I’m able to admit when I’m wrong!  Well, not about the witchcraft and forest lore part, but who knew that natural dyes could be used to create realistic artwork on fabric?  I signed up with for their online class “Printing and Painting with Natural Dyes”.  It was designed around some simple methods of applying colour to fabric using thickened natural dyes.  Methods demonstrated in the online videos included block printing and painting simple shapes onto fabric.  But by using my own brushes (which range from teeny-tiny to medium sized) and my library of animal photographs to do the class assignments, it became evident that there is a lot of potential here! 

Natural dyes are more complicated than chemical dyes.  No doubt about it.  For starters, they don’t come in jars labelled “yellow” or “red”, but by the names of the plants (or bugs) they contain.  You need to learn how to prepare each raw material to create the liquid dye, and how each one reacts to tannins or iron.  Some need to be boiled and extracted, some just mix with water; some need to be strained and some not.  And you need to know about mordants and how to apply them to the fabric where they will react with the dye.  Bottom line, you can’t really be sure what you are going to get with a particular dye on a particular fabric using a particular method until you test it, so you need to keep good notes of what you did to create each colour, as shown in the above sampler.

And when the process is complete you will need to steam your fabric to heat set the dyes for a permanent bond, and which also modifies the colour of some of the dyes.  We used a bamboo steamer over hot water, for 30-60 minutes depending on the piece.  And depending on the method used to prepare and dye the fabric, you may need baths of chalk or bran or plain water to initiate certain reactions.  Yikes!  But in the end you can do some really great things with it.

I’m just at the beginning of exploring this particular branch of my rabbithole, but here is what I have found so far:

First and foremost, you can get a really good black with myrobalan and iron.  Given that my work involves a lot of penguins and a few zebras, this is no small thing.  I have never been able to get a true black with chemical dyes – it usually turns out as a very dark navy blue.  You don’t necessarily notice it to look at, but I can really tell when I go to stitch on it and the black thread doesn’t match. The zebra below was one of my first pieces painted with thickened natural dyes, and you can see how true the black stripes are.  The test splotches on the bottom are of four different natural dyes that come out black or close to it (myrobalan, gallnut, pomegranate and cutch) that I was auditioning for this piece.  I'm looking forward to getting this under my longarm for some thread painting!

Second, this class introduced me to painting with thickened dyes on silk and linen, and investigating how the colours look on these other fibres.  (To be clear, I could probably have learned how to do that with my thickened chemical dyes but just never got around to it.)  I love silk and linen, and can see this opening up a whole new area for me. 

The three images below are of the same rose created with mostly the same natural dyes on three different fabrics.  The second and third images were painted at the same time - the thin silk on the top allowed residual dye to pass through it to the lightweight cotton below.  I'm still trying to decide what to do with these.

Rose on heavy natural (unbleached) cotton

Rose on silk

Rose on lightweight cotton that was
underneath the silk when I painted it.

On the downside, I find the natural dyes to be much more difficult to clean, and much less forgiving if you happen to leave them too long before trying to remove them from brushes, palettes, mixing tools and my laundry sink.

And another downside is that natural dyes use a shocking amount of water in the various pre- and post-dyeing baths, not to mention the heat of dye preparation and steaming the finished pieces.  I still think that if you look at the total environmental impact of the two types of dyes, from manufacture through to disposal, the natural dyes are probably better, but not by the clear margin I was expecting.

I will definitely be adding a variety of natural dye techniques to my toolbox moving forward, especially for artwork involving penguins.  The piece below is 12"x12" and features a penguin image created using natural dyes.  The frame is part of the same whole cloth, and was created by painting with metallic fabric paint.  I then trimmed very near the quilting stitches and finished the edges with more metallic paint. 


 click here for Sue's website


Saturday, March 16, 2024

Making the Most of Naïveté

by Russ Little

I'm a new weaver. I've got a total of 5 warps and about 10 yards of cloth to my name, but I'm hooked. I've resisted weaving in the same way that I resisted knitting for so many years. I really did NOT need another needle thing in my bag of tricks to distract me. I have a friend in heaven--a very accomplished weaver--who prophesied this years ago and I know he's laughing now. I'm not entirely sure that my resistance was the wisest course. But to everything there is a season, and perhaps this season (my 61st if you count by years) is the one. I'm now a passionate knitter and this weaving thing... I can't get over how quickly color and pattern develop as the shuttle flies back and forth and how much there is to learn.

All that being so, I am, as I said, a new weaver. With that comes a whole host of challenges--tension problems, unintended floats, and wonky selvedges, which are the left and right sides of the cloth that should be straight and neat but only become so with practice and mastery. The photo above is an example of a wonky selvage indeed. 

I'm working on a project that incorporates lengths of handwoven cloth, and as I prepared to join those pieces to make a larger whole I realized that those wonky edges posed a problem. I could cut them straight, but even to the untrained eye that waviness of the warp threads close to the edges would be obvious. Or, I could cut farther into the width of the cloth, sacrificing something like 25% of the total width to get to a straight edge that lined up with straight warp threads. Or, I  could look at my bouncing baby cloth and love it for who and what it is--early work by a student--and honor the naivete of the line formed by that wonky edge.

That's what I'm doing. I'm following the natural edge of the cloth, finishing it, and even accentuating it with additional stitch. 

It's an entirely innocent line and an unintended mark that has a power of its own. Though the maker is hardly young, perhaps the mark has some youthfulness in the sense of one in the early stages of a journey. 

Wherever you are in your own artistic journey, don't lose sight of the horizon, but honor the work that you are making now, if only because it is a milestone along the way.

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

ACN Instagram followers are on the rise by Kathleen Cunningham

One of our goals for our March 6 Textile Talk was to get people to look at our website and social media, I can confidently report that we had an uptick in engagement and reach on Instagram. Bravo to our team for representing ACN so well! 

We did a good job promoting the Textile Talk on Instagram, but, it wasn't just the posts about the Textile Talk that got people to our account at the end of February and beginning of March. Maria Billings created five posts about the upcoming Unfolding exhibition at the Sierra Arts Foundation in Reno, NV, April 3-29, 2024 so people who came to our IG could see current activity. Each of her posts features a photo and short blurb about one of the artists in the show. We got a lot of response to this. Maria is continuing to feature work in Unfolding.

I invite anyone on Instagram to re-post the posts about Unfolding at the Sierra Arts Foundation from the ACN profile between now and the end of the show on April 29. You can do it from your account--you don't need to be logged into the ACN account. Take advantage of the content being ready-made and share each of the posts at least once to your followers inviting them to attend the show or at least follow our account. 

Let's see how many people we can get to follow us on IG. We currently have 917 followers. Can you help us reach 1000???





Wednesday, February 28, 2024

SACRED MUSE by Mary-Ellen Latino

As part of the Westies group, which is a subgroup of Art cloth Network and comprised of artists mostly from California and Canada, I have created a piece from a call entitled, “One Long Earth Song”. Each artist was prompted to read “Benedicto” by Edward Abbey for inspiration and create a piece 36” (W) and 18” (H) by 2/29/24.

I decided to create a piece to highlight such wonders of Mother Earth in the Petrified National Forest in Arizona. While visiting there, I was captivated by fossilized logs and stumps that had metamorphosed from trees over a period spanning 200 million years. Bursting with magical color, texture and glimmer, they exemplify powerful strength and perseverance in the face of adversity. These petrified beauties are gifts we will treasure forever.

I digitally developed a photo I had taken in the forest, commercially printed, machine stitched and fused (gilded) the log with multiple layers of metallic foil.

Here is the piece in progress as I apply foil with heat to develop surface design.

After several days of applying the foil in many layers using Misty fuse and heat, the piece is done!                 

                                                                     SACRED MUSE

Here are  3 detail views of SACRED MUSE:

SACRED MUSE, detail 1

SACRED MUSE, detail 2

SACRED MUSE, detail 3

One of my favorite poet and authors is John O'Donohue (1/1/1956-1/4/2008) who was an Irish poet, author, priest and philosopher. His writing also speaks to me about this piece.

“THE BEAUTY OF THE EARTH IS THE FIRST BEAUTY. MILLIONS OF years before us the earth lived in wild elegance. Landscape is the first-born of creation. Sculpted with huge patience over millennia, landscape has enormous diversity of shape, presence and memory."

SACRED MUSE is the second piece in the Petrified Log series. I plan on creating more pieces in this series.

PETRIFIED LOGS (diptych) was juried into the ACN exhibition LAYERS in 2022 by juror Lasse Antonsen.


                                                                     PETRIFIED LOGS 

“The tree is more than first a seed, then a stem, then a living trunk, and then dead timber. The tree is a slow, enduring force straining to win the sky.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery

by Mary-Ellen Latino

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Textile Talk: Art Cloth Network on March 6

Art Cloth Network is thrilled to be the subject of an upcoming Textile Talk, presented by the Studio Art Quilt Associates on March 6 at 2:00 p.m. on Zoom.  You can register for this free event here.  You need not be a member of SAQA to attend.  

Title: Art Cloth Network - Sharing a Passion for Cloth as Art Form, presented by SAQA

''Get to know the Art Cloth Network, a diverse group of professional artists from the United States and Canada who have come together with a common goal: to promote the medium of cloth as an art form and share it with others. Each of its members brings a personal vision and sensibility to their cloth while benefiting from the supportive community of the group. These leading-edge textile artists bring exciting new perspectives and showcase a wide range of techniques to manipulate their medium.''

Friday, February 23, 2024

Having a Blast with Tanins and Rust! by Maggie Weiss

Last fall I scoured Chicago scrap yards for rusty or rust-able metal in the weeks preceding the start of my Rust, Tannins and Indigo class at Maiwa School of Textiles. Friends donated rusty objects and I even found a nearby source of scrap non-galvanized steel sheetings sold by the pound that helped me with my homework! Some family health issues sprang up so things have been delayed a bit. I've managed to complete all class work related to Rusts and Tannins. I will tackle the natural Indigo portion in March in which we'll be asked to overdye many of the peices from this portion of the class. The instruction was thorough and well presented and the Facebook sharing with classmates was informative and fun. The  beautifully subtle colors and the steam punk style textures have been mesmerizing. Highly recommended!

Here are some terrific samples from the junkyard that were too big and heavy to take home.

I did manage to buy one of the nicely rusted barrel lids. Later in the back yard of an antique store I found this rusted ceiling tile which I couldn't resist: 

My cousin lent me some found objects to sample: 

Gathered metal components washed and ready to use.

Projects included using non-rusted metals laid upon on treated cloth which yielded some great patterns and coloring. This was the first step on a large cotton shawl, which is very long and was folded over. It will be included in more processing.

Simply lying treated fabric on rusted surfaces produced terrific results as well, such as with the ceiling tiles...

...and perforated metals. Notice here that there are two distinct textures. The darker piece below is the side of the cloth that was facing the metal and holding moisture longer. The clear outlined image is the other side of the fabric that appears to have dried faster leaving less time for the rust to color it. Love that definition and resemblance to beehives!

Bundling objects came next, which involved rolling bits and bobs up in the cloth or wrapping cloth around larger rusty items. This first sample group is Pima cotton layered with scrap metal sprinkled in each layer and then all rolled up together. Really nice rust color and crazy fun texture!

Linen wrapped around a flat metal plate; resembling my very own Shroud of Turin.

Silk organza (1) and charmeuse (2 & 3) bundled with found objects from the junk yard, washers and metal components.

Next came the addition of Tannins in the dye bath. We used Black Tea, Pomegranate and Myrobalan, the last two products having been provided in the class kit from Maiwa. When Black tea combines with ferrous oxide in the rust it produces a very dark grey, almost black color as well as many intermediary tones and hues. The Myrobalan has a more pink cast to the grey and the Pomegranate produces a pale grey. The very dark spots on the pieces below are where rust on the peices turned black from exposure to the tanins in the tea bath.

These two samples were scrunched in a ball and held together with rubber bands, then submerged in the dye bath. Look closely and you can see that this first piece is the other side of the more saturated ceiling tile piece shown above. This is the dryer side of the fabric and the outlines are more delicate and detailed. Great info going forward and something to make a note of in the dye journal that comes with class. Both of these were scrunched before being set in the tea bath.

Metal components that had been a deep rusty color turned black in the Black Tea Bath. You can see the light circles from the rubber bands that were used as resists on this cotton bandana. 

The Ferrous Oxide Tea baths using rusted washers and other scraps gave possibly the best combination of textures and colors:

Silk charmeause covered withrusty metals and then folded and clamped.

                                                        Silk charmeuse folded and wrapped.

Silk Habotai folded and clamped

Rayon Jacquard folded and clamped

Pima Cotton folded and clamped with poker chips and acrylic circles.

Lastly for these modules we dyed clean fabric in several compounds for more striking results. 
Rayon Jacquard folded and clamped

More Rayon Jacquard, folded clamped w/wooden squares

Cotton Linen weave (2 pcs) with resist clamping and set in different tannins.

Silk Habotai folded and clamped for resist

Silk Organza poker chip resist

Rayon acrylic cut out resist

Silk Organza folded resist with poker chips

It's wonderful working with ingredients that only occasionally require face masks and are not toxic to my skin. My hands have still looked gnarly by the end of the day but they eventually came clean. It felt good using Natural Dyes and it's also a healthier option. I'm grateful for learning about these classes from my fellow ACN members and so glad I've been able to dive in! Now it's on to the natural Indigo modules!