Saturday, October 23, 2010

crochet the coral reef

Orange is part of the reef of crochet
Today I learned about a project that is currently on display here in Washington DC at the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum  titled The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef 
This is one life sized crochet installation and there are many of them growing around the world.

recycled materials crocheted into the reef
It is a very interesting story how this crochet project came to solve a problem using a form of lacy handy work, my grandmother tried to teach me, presented by Margaret Wertheim on TED talks. If you haven't ever seen a TED talk check out the videos of the best thinkers in the world telling their stories in 18 minutes or less. Well worth the time to view this story and make a date to go see the installation while it is in town. Thanks to Sabeth Jackson from Pyramid Atlantic Studios for posting the talk on her blog and letting us know this exhibition is in Washington DC right now!
Went to see the show today and really enjoyed taking photos which you can see in my flicker set called Crochet Coral Reef

Sunday, October 17, 2010

sketchcrawl #29

National Cathedral 

Holly tree sketch Bishop's garden

We regrouped and posed for a group photo at noon and headed off for lunch then headed off down the hill on Mass. Avenue towards DuPont Circle. We stopped at the Finnish Embassy to see if it was open but were disappointed to find it closed up. Along the way we discovered a little memorial park across from the English Embassy and everyone split up to draw for about an hour. I chose to go into the wooded area at the back of the memorial because there were trees there in the forest setting. 

Erin sketching at the memorial 
My woodland sketch at the memorial

Islamic Center's courtyard 
From the memorial we ambled down the road talking and visiting until we arrived at the Islamic Center on Belmont Street NW. It is a mosque and community center with a book store and ATM! We decided to look inside cautiously feeling a little unsure if we would be welcome. At first it seemed quiet deserted almost. Signs say please enter with head covered for women and everyone must remove shoes. So we took off our shoes to go all the way inside. It was elaborately decorated with Islamic motifs of plants representing nature long hand like a calligraphy. It is a small building with a dramatic sort of fantasy, giving a feeling of grandeur as you stand in the courtyard. We
Looking up at the tower from the courtyard.
spread out again and everyone began drawing different parts of the building. I felt tired and tried to draw the arches in the courtyard but soon found it was much more complex than my patience could cope with so late in the crawl.

While we were seated drawing there a group of men & boys in colorful caftans arrived. Next thing I knew there was a big white stretch Humvee at the gates and a party of women and girls disembarked stealing my attention from the architecture I was struggling to draw. I was shy about taking pictures but suddenly I saw the group's photographer and realized that what I was seeing in shades of turquoise and pink were the men and women of a wedding party. Someone reported that they were from Sierra Leone and this was clearly an African display of colorful costume on a very special occasion. I enjoyed watching them and wished there was a way to make this a water color on the spot. Full sun and blue skies gave all the colorful dresses full expression of joy and celebration. 
This is the second time on a sketch crawl I have had a first. Last time it was the delightful Brazilian all female drum corps practicing downtown on a Saturday morning in Farragut Square. This time a first time in a mosque and a first time to see a full wedding party in African wedding costumes. Both well worth the trouble of getting up early and walking for a long afternoon around town with a bunch of very nice artists. My drawings are not as rich as the experience and I always feel like I should have done more or had more color or like something was missing. It is hard to slow down and draw what you see and to do it all day is pretty draining. My pal Vincent confessed to being pretty drained after our third stop. We made it down to DuPont Circle and threw in the towel and hopped on metro and rode home together.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

printing solo

press bed with news print and a metal plate

Yesterday, I was very excited to use the print shop at Pyramid Atlantic Studios for the first time as a solo printer. I finally managed to get certified to use the press, the chemicals and all equipment in their studio alone. I wanted to do this as much as ten years ago but it didn't seem possible then. Now, thanks to a lot of people, but mostly Keith, I began with a refresher course in how to make the plates and print this year. Then I went to twice monthly open print shop nights and printed with a monitor to build up my experience. I have been building up volunteer hours making book boxes for the Moving Parts project for over a year now to get time to redeem in the shop. Thanks to Kelly O'Brien for inviting me to volunteer on that project.  Last week after talking with the print shop manager Jake Muirhead he gave me his approval to go ahead and use the intaglio print studio solo.
It was very exciting to actually get in there and set up and get to work on my own. I got some materials from the Art supply across the street. Thanks to my sister Jenny for the gift certificate that bought these tools and materials I had been without. Now I am making setting up to begin printing them on my own. I set my fine print paper to soaking in a tray of water. I turned on the hot plate to warm my etching plate and covered it with newspaper to protect it from ink. Then I plugged in the lights over the inking area. I dug out my plates, ink and fresh ink wiping tarleton, a sort of stiff cheese cloth used just for etchings.
Finally I set up my iPod with the portable mini speakers to John Lenon first to hear my newest songs Yoko released last week for his 70th Birthday. I was on a roll. I had my clean news print ready and damp print paper.

printing press with blankets rolled back

On the press I placed three felt blankets I selected to pad the steel roller. I set the press bed pressure with a clean plate sandwiched between blankets and press rollers. I chose a pressure toward to lighter side of what felt right on the bed to begin printing.

tarletons, newsprint & daubers in front of the large hot plate for metal plate warming 

Suddenly I remembered that the Plexiglas plate I was preparing to print did not need to be heated! Swiftly removed it from the hot plate and set to work inking it up. Only the metal plates get heated to soften the ink. The Plexiglas plate I was using started to warp on the hot plate so that was clearly a first mistake.
The black oil based ink is smeared all over the top of the plate almost like icing on a cake only much stickier and thicker than icing. Then slowly with the stiff tarleton I wiped off the ink leaving the lines I made in the plate full of black ink and the surface almost clean.
Once the edges were wiped clean I take it to the press and set it on news print then cover it with a sheet of blotted damp print paper and that gets covered with another new print sheet and the blankets. Then comes the fun of rolling them all slowly through the press. At last on the other side the print will be revealed by pulling up the blankets and peeling the damp print off the plate. This is when I see the results. Not bad for the first one moving on to the next repeat the inking, wiping and place paper then roll it again and the next was a little lighter?  I change how much ink I wipe off in the next few prints. Trying to get it darker. I stop for a break and show someone the results who passed by discussing how I wish it were darker. Then suddenly I thought to myself maybe I need to add more pressure? I ink up the plate again and get it ready to pull through the press then turn the screws three notches tighter or a quarter turn on the dial at opposite ends of the roller. Run it through and voila, I get a darker print! Wow I solved my first problem but not as soon as I had wished. So much for not having an expert around but next time I will know to try tightening the screws sooner.

I ended up printing 9 prints in three hours, more than I expected but not all as good as I would like. Clearly I need more practice which is why I wanted to get in there to print alone. I collected my prints from the drying rack and sandwiched them in a folder to take home and press flat to dry. Then I began the important process of cleaning up the studio. It is paramount to leave it clean so it will be ready for the next artist to begin with a clean studio and not get surprised by ink on a surface that will ruin some expensive paper or the clothes of unsuspecting visitors.  Everything cleaned and put away all the tools returned to their proper places, the lights and hot plate turned off. I came home very happy to have completed my day of print making solo at Pyramid Atlantic studios! Now I hope to go back and print and burn my new plates in the acid about once a week so I can build up a portfolio of etchings. Thanks to everyone who supports my creative printmaking.
Next up I will be working at home on the metal plates I covered in hard ground yesterday readied to begin drawing new lines that I will etch in the acid the next time I visit the Pyramid Atlantic Studios to work solo or otherwise.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


the top of my new favorite tree in Lafayette Square it is so burly

everyone in front of the Whitehouse for the rally for climate change solutions and clean energy.
James Hanson reading his prepared statement about changes needed in the future of American and world wide energy policy.

This past Sunday was a beautiful day in Washington DC. Keith and I went downtown to an international work party rally that was part of over 7,000 events held around the world sponsored by . We were "delivering solar panels and water heaters" to the Whitehouse which will be installed soon. The speakers were smart scientists all committed to helping end our fossil fuel energy dependence and bringing solar wind and other forms of clean energy to American life. James Hanson was the scientist from NASA who figured out we need to get the particles of atmospheric carbon dioxide down to 350 parts per million or lower to stop the cascading climate shifts that are happening. Last I heard the carbon measures above 380ppm. It is still happening and I see less interest in the country since the down turn in the economy and this event reminded me how far we have to go and how little has been accomplished. I am happy that Obama is putting solar panels and water heaters on the Whitehouse. I hope this is just the beginning of a move to turn the climate crisis and lead the world towards a better future. See images from all the demonstration work parties around the globe on's web page over 10,000 images from 10-10-2010.
Once the rally broke up we sat down in the shade. I drew my favorite willow oak again from a different angle. After lunch I found another old willow oak tree I like even better, so I sat down and drew it while Keith went to see a couple of craft shows in the Renwick I had already seen. Lafayette Square is across from the Whitehouse and the museum is right there on the corner of 17th & Pennsylvania Avenue.