Weekend Reflections - My studio practice and what it means to me.

Comment

Weekend Reflections - My studio practice and what it means to me.

Due to a few of life's unexpected hurdles and commitments, I've been taken away for a bit from my regular studio practice and writing consistently on this blog.  Nothing major, just an inconvenient hurricane, and then volunteering for the TSA Symposium (Textile Society of America), of which the department where I work, was hosting.  (For those of you who don't know, I work full time as a studio technician in the fibers dept. at SCAD in Savannah, GA.)  Anytime, I take a detour from my personal studio practice and routine, I try to take time to reflect on where I am, and where I want to go next so I can confirm a clear set of goals to bring me back to focus and jump start my brain again.  Today is such a day, and thanks for allowing me to share and care enough to read this so far.

As I sit here on my patio writing.....it is THIS that I am sure of:  I am a creator, and feel fulfilled when I have a consistent studio practice.  I started my Kecknits brand last year to motivate me to share my creations with others because I'm tired of creating just for me.  Also, I have a growing collection of scarves, and I just can't keep them ALL.  (Although, sometimes I want to...hee hee) I want to be on this journey with others who appreciate textiles, and understand the importance of using natural materials and the benefits of living a more sustainable life.  For me, it's not just a business, but a platform for me to express my creative passion and be a better person by reevaluating what kind of foot print I leave behind me on this earth that we all share.  I am far from perfect in that regard, but I am committed to being better.  Living thoughtfully is who I strive to be, but I'm still learning how and trying to make baby steps toward this change.

I'm putting my heart on my sleeve a bit here......I have purposely surrounded myself with creative entrepreneurs who are on a similar path as me.  Most of them are knitters, like me, and we are supporting each other on this journey.  They motivate me to keep moving forward while encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone and I'm so thankful for it.  Sometimes I see their growth spurts, and I'm so proud of them because they are working so hard to accomplish their goals.  I find myself feeling frustrated sometimes though, because my own growth feels so slow...but then I remind myself, that their journey is not MY journey.  I'm not trying to make a full time living with my creations.  I'm already in a full time job I love.  I'm already working in my field and feel so lucky to be USING my MFA in Fibers and getting paid for it.  I'm surrounded by a textile community 40 hours a week.  I am already IN my dream job!  This business venture for me is a side project and a platform for me to share my creativity with others.  I don't want my passion of making textiles sit in the closet only for me!  So, if you're reading this now, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to get to know me.  It means so much me knowing I'm not alone on this creative journey.  It's really fun for me to share, and when I'm in the studio I always think of the saying, If you do what you love, you never work a day in your life....or something like that....and I wholeheartedly agree!  Thanks for listening!  

If you want to continue following my journey, you can sign up for quarterly newsletters in your e-mail in-box on my NEWS page.  

 

 

Comment

Golden Rod Dye Pot

Comment

Golden Rod Dye Pot

Oh, my goodness, I'm in love!!  ....with natural dyeing with golden rod!! There is plenty in the neighborhood at the moment, and it was so much fun collecting it myself.  FREE yellow dye for the taking...and it grows in the wild!  I've know about golden rod and its dyeing ability for years, but have never tried dyeing with it myself....well, now I have!  All you have to do is trim the flower tips off the stalk and slow simmer them in water for about an hour. (Equal weight of dry plant material to fiber.) I turned the burner off and left the flowers to soak in the extract until it cooled to room temperature. Our tap water is a little acidic, so I added a tiny bit of soda ash to the bring the PH closer to a neutral base.  Apparently, you get a clearer and deeper color that way.  I had some alpaca yarn and a tussah silk scarf that I machine knit that I had soaked in an alum mordant a while back....so I threw those in.  I decided to try a cold dye bath, so I will let it soak for a day or two depending on how much dye gets absorbed when I look at it tomorrow.  Here are a few images from today...

Comment

Indigo Vat

Comment

Indigo Vat

It was just discovered that indigo's history goes back further than evidence has shown.  According to Nature World News
"A 6000-year-old ancient fabric discovered in Peru reveals that early prehispanic Peruvians have used indigo blue dye (the color we see in jeans today) long before Egyptians did."
(Follow the link to the article for more information.)
A friend of mine had given me some of her left over indigo dye when she moved, and seeing this article inspired me to pull it out and start a vat.  I've dyed with indigo before, but it has been a while.  I just love how the fiber comes out of the vat yellow, and it turns blue in front of your eyes while it is oxidizing.  Pure magic!  The weather here is beginning to turn, and this was also a perfect excuse to be outside while being productive at the same time. This time of year when the weather is so beautiful, it's super hard for me to be inside. Daisy, my side kick agreed. ;)  
I decided to dye one of my knit scarves made of tussah silk and also over dye a pinkish purple skein of alpaca yarn that was given to me, and a purple cotton skirt...both of which I wasn't crazy about the original color.  I had so much fun....and definitely plan to keep this vat going for as long as I can.  

Comment

Alpaca Farms in GA?  Yes, Please!

Comment

Alpaca Farms in GA? Yes, Please!

I have to admit, I was struggling to figure out what to write about this week, as I have not had a chance to do much in the studio.  Fall quarter classes started again at the day job, and I've also been focused on participating in Jennifer Kem's brand story challenge.  (Check out my instagram feed for more on this challenge.)

Anyway, I thought I would share some research I'm currently working on.  I get the month of December off from the day job, and I would love to take a little road trip and explore some alpaca farms in GA during this time.  In an effort to become more sustainable, I would like to find a yarn to natural dye and work with that is more locally sourced. I am just beginning my research, but here are a few farms that I would love to visit.  (I have to admit, there are more farms in the GA area than I expected!  What a nice surprise!) However, most of the farms are breeding farms and specialize in selling alpacas, not necessarily the fiber itself (maybe the roving?)...at least that is what I'm gathering from the websites. The 2 links I'm posting below are the few I found that have already spun yarn for sale.  Enjoy! 

Wake Robin Alpaca: What beautiful yarn they have!  Some of the yarn was spun with angora, and it looked so soft!  Not exactly wholesale prices, but I'm willing to pay a little more for quality and local yarns.)

Image is from the Wake Robin Alpaca website.

Image is from the Wake Robin Alpaca website.

 

Destiny Alpaca Farm: This looked like a lovely farm as well.

Image is from the Destiny Alpaca Farm website.

Image is from the Destiny Alpaca Farm website.

 

 

Comment

Natural Dyeing with Fustic Wood

Comment

Natural Dyeing with Fustic Wood

I decided to try a hand at dyeing with fustic wood shavings! For a history lesson of this dye stuff, please refer to A Wandering Botanist, a blog I just discovered that explains it beautifully, and way better than I ever can! 

First, I had to mordant my protein fiber.  I decided to over dye some alpaca sitting around that was donated to my yarn stash.  The colors given to me did not really inspire me, so I thought they would be perfect to try and over dye in fustic wood, which creates dye in the yellow family.  I did an Alum mordant (@8% Weight Of Goods) with Cream of Tartar (6% WOG) and simmered for an hour.  Then I let the fibers soak and cool for a few hours, while I got my fustic wood extraction started at the same time.

The fustic wood I used was purchased from Aurora Silk which was cultivated from the heartwood of a tropical tree. From their website:

"The trees from which this dyestuff has been harvested grow wild in the Caribbean island of the Dominican Republic. No tree is cut down for the harvest: only a large side branch is taken. All heartwood from the center of this branch is cleaned and shaved by hand. All sales of this dyewood benefit the harvesters, who are some of the few remaining descendants of the original Taino peoples of that island."

I followed their directions for extracting the dye, by using 25% WOG and boiled the fusticwood with 3x its volume with water for 20 minutes.  I drained the remaining water into another pot and boiled more water with the fusticwood with the same proportions of water...and did this 7 times total.  The directions actually recommended to boil 5 times, but I felt like there was still more color that could be extracted, and I needed more dye stock to cover the fibers anyway.  I was still waiting for the fiber to cool that was sitting in the mordant bath, so no time was wasted.  After the dye was extracted and I was done rinsing my fiber after its mordant bath, I put the dye bath back on the stove and simmered the fiber in the bath for one hour.  Finally, I left it to cool and soak in the pot for a few more hours. I was going to let it soak over night, but it didn't look like I really needed to because there wasn't much dye left in the pot, so I went ahead and took it out, and gave it a good gentle rinse.

I'm excited about the results.  It definitely changed my "meh" yarn into colors I'm more excited about using.  It feels good to give new life to yarn I've been ignoring in my stash.  I'm finding natural dyeing is contagious!  I want to dye more!! 

Here are the results:

Comment

Cross-Pollination is Open!

Comment

Cross-Pollination is Open!

The group exhibition "Cross-Pollination" at the Gutstien Gallery in Savannah, GA that is showcasing our Red Bay Ambrosia Beetle collaboration project, "StowAway" has opened! Here are a few pictures of my work in the show:  If you are in Savannah, please check it out in person.  It's worth the trip!  The other work in the exhibit is amazing!

Comment

"Stow Away" Collaboration Project exhibited in "Cross Pollination" at Gutstein Gallery

Comment

"Stow Away" Collaboration Project exhibited in "Cross Pollination" at Gutstein Gallery

The group exhibition "Cross-Pollination" showcasing our Red Bay Ambrosia Beetle collaboration project will be open for viewing next week!

Here is a blurb from the gallery announcement describing the project:

""StowAway" is a project spearheaded by Sara Rabinowitz, professor of fibers, with significant contributions by Katie Buchanan, professor of fibers; Sheila Edwards, professor of furniture design; Scot Hinson (B.F.A., painting, 1991); Anna Keck (M.F.A., fibers, 2009, B.F.A., fibers, 1991); Anastasia Macdonald (B.F.A., illustration, 2003); Jean Mason (M.F.A. fibers) and Candance Parton, professor of accessory design. Rabinowitz adopted the conceptual framework of a store to reference practices of commerce, labor and production, and invited her collaborators to form reactions to the invasive redbay ambrosia beetle currently impacting the ecology of the southeastern United States. The beetle, indigenous to Asia, was introduced to the area in 2002 via a shipping pallet, and continues to devastate laurel trees. Participating artists produced objects related to the infestation materially, visually and illustratively.

"Cross-Pollination" is curated by Amanda York, assistant curator of exhibitions, with assistance from Ben Tollefson, assistant curator of SCAD exhibitions. The exhibition coincides with the Textile Society of America symposium, "Land, Labor and the Port" held in Savannah Oct.19–23, 2016."

Images of my limited edition scarf collection for this project are below.  You can read more about this project in the following blog posts:

Project Announcement

Progress Report #1

Progress Report #2

Progress Report #3

Comment

Figuring out my WHY

Comment

Figuring out my WHY

I am part of a small group of entrepreneurial women, and we all have the common interest of YARN.   We were brought together by the desire to step up our business marketing strategy, and landed in the same branding webinar class last spring.  Over the next year, the seven of us will be meeting face to face (virtually) to inspire each other to move forward with our business goals.  We are just beginning to get to know each other, and it's been interesting to see how each of us have such varied businesses that all use yarn.  (We are also all knitters.) Some are product based and others are teaching and inspiring other makers.  I'm really looking forward to getting to know these inspiring ladies living all over the world. (USA, France, Japan, and Australia)

Anyway, we have been challenged to really dig deep on WHY we do what we do....what drives us to create a business in the yarn industry?  Why do we want to be an entrepreneur?

Today's post will be a brain dump of sorts, to help me flesh out some of my thoughts on this.  Here it goes:

  • I'm an artist, and I MUST make to feel complete.  Making feeds my soul.  If I'm not making, then I get cranky.
  • There is MAGIC in creating something out of nothing.  Taking a yarn, adding color to it, and then knitting it to give it structure, texture, and shape.  Pure magic!
  • I love the PROCESS!  The mystery of each step of the process building upon one another to create a whole....love, love, love it!  It's so rewarding to see the final reveal of a project go through it's transformation...not really knowing what it's going to look like at the end.  (This is especially true with natural dyeing.)
  • I love the CHALLENGE of solving a design problem like trying to figure out what technique to use to bring out the best qualities of a specific yarn.
  • I love to SHARE my process with others and being part of a community of makers working with yarn. 
  • I love LEARNING new things!  There are so many possibilities with yarn and knitting....I will never get bored!  I'm constantly challenged and learning new stuff.
  • I'm a busy body and knitting keeps my hands busy.  I have such a sense of ACCOMPLISHMENT when I'm working in my knit studio.
  • Having a prolific studio practice also gives me confidence, by developing my craftsmanship skills and making QUALITY items.
  • The inspiration for my knits is pulled from NATURE, and I feel more connected to our earth.  By using all natural materials and dyes, I feel like I'm giving back to something bigger than myself.
  • As my studio practice transforms to a more SUSTAINALBE philosophy, it feels good to be doing my part to CONTRIBUTE to something in line with my beliefs of not being wasteful.  I'm still learning how to align with this in my studio practice, but it feels good to be making this shift.  (I plan to share some of my research on this in future posts.)

Comment

Progress Report #3 - Red Bay Ambrosia Beetle Collaboration

Comment

Progress Report #3 - Red Bay Ambrosia Beetle Collaboration

I'm done!  It took me two whole months to complete this series of 3 scarves from start to finish, and I'm happy to say I'm finished!  (NOT that I did not enjoy this project! ...also if you missed the premise of this project, check out my last 3 blog posts.) OK...so, I did really enjoy this project....it gave me a reason to try out natural dyeing, of which I'm grateful for.  Dyeing with natural resources (using only natural resources that bring no residual harm to the process or product) was the most exciting part I think.  It brought another level of research and learning of which really fulfills me spiritually and connects me to nature on another level rather than just using natural fibers...in this case silk.  Also, knitting with silk added another layer of "firsts" for me.  I had not really knit with silk on the knitting machine before, and though it was fun to be using such a luxurious fiber, it also brought on it's own challenges.  Silk can be very slippery and does not have any stretch to it...which can be very challenging when knitting with it on a knitting machine. (Knitting machines prefer stretchy fibers.)  My saving grace, was the strength of the fiber, and when I did have issues, the yarn did not break, so it was easy for me to keep the one continuous yarn through the unraveling and re-knitting process, so the pattern would be continuous without any weird breaks.  The first two scarves I knit went pretty smoothly, but the last scarf gave me a ton of trouble!  It fell off the machine two times, and each time, I was half way through knitting it.  I wasted about 8 hours of knitting time....but as I'm sure you know....that is just how these things go, especially when introducing a different way of working.  If you are a creative too, you know that it takes a while to get to know your tools and materials, so I refuse to be too hard on myself for the challenge I set up for myself.  All I can say is....I survived, and the most challenging scarf ended up being my favorite one!  (So, I guess it was worth it!)  Have any of you ever had any logistical troubles in the middle of a project, and if so, how did you handle it?? Did it work out for you?  I'd love to know! ;)

So, what's next?? I'm not exactly sure, but I have some skeins of yarn ready for the dye process.  I'm thinking I would really like to dye some more.  (So stay tuned by signing up for my monthly newsletter so you can keep up with my studio practice in your email!  Click HERE to sign up.)

Oh, and lastly....I will have better images of the final scarves to share next week.  For now, here are a few details of the 2 scarves that I unraveled and knit again to skew the pattern.  (The two pictures on the right is the scarf I was having so much trouble with.)

Comment

Progress Report #2 - Red Bay Ambrosia Beetle Collaboration

Comment

Progress Report #2 - Red Bay Ambrosia Beetle Collaboration

The next step to this collaboration project was to unravel 2 of the 3 knit and naturally dyed scarves and re-knit them to skew the avocado dyed pattern mimicking the effect that the Red Bay Ambrosia Beetle has on the ecosystem of the southeastern landscape. (If you're not sure what collaboration I'm talking about see THIS POST and then THIS POST.)  The tediously slow process of knitting, unraveling, and then knitting again also reflects the way these little insects create their labyrinth homes in the trees in the Laurel family.  I'm still working on knitting the third scarf again, but here are images of the 2nd scarf being knit again:

My reflection on my participation in this project: Creating this series of scarves is not normally how I approach my design practice in the studio....I'm usually trying find ways to simplify the making process, so I can keep prices affordable.  I knew when I accepted to participate in this project, that it would be a challenge by adding another layer of process to my studio practice. Natural Dyeing for example is somewhat new to me.  I do have a lot of dyeing experience (just not natural dyes), but that was many years ago.  I enjoyed it so much, I want to find ways to keep it in my studio practice and product lines. I especially like the challenge of keeping the product as sustainable as I can by using all natural materials and processes.  It's becoming more and more important to me in my designing and studio practice to really consider where the materials I use come from. I like knowing if these heirloom scarves end up returning to the earth, they will decompose without residual effects.

I also want to note that the energy of the other participating artists has been amazing!  Everyone has their unique spin on Sara's research, and has been so positive and as excited as I am to work on this collaboration.  I'll be sharing some images of their work when the show goes up later this month, so stay tuned, by signing up for my Newsletter HERE.

Comment

Progress Report #1 - Red Bay Ambrosia Beetle Collaboration Project

Comment

Progress Report #1 - Red Bay Ambrosia Beetle Collaboration Project

I've been working on this project for a month or so already and wanted to bring you all up to speed on the progress so far... (If you're not sure what collaboration I'm talking about see THIS POST.) After reading Sara's research about the Red Bay Ambrosia Beetle, I decided to focus my attention on the avocado and the ecosystem. Avocado's are one of my favorite foods, so they have a special place in my heart, and I hope they will stay around for a very long time! The ecosystem that the beetle is effecting is represented by the process I take the scarves through. Think of them as the tree.....and me as the beetle.  Every time I take the scarves through a process, I'm changing their environment. They have no control of the outcome...they just have to live with the results.  I'll break down the steps for you below.

 1. After sampling, I knit 3 scarves using 3 different types of 100% silk yarn. (raw silk, cascade petite silk, and 20/2 spun silk) Then I scoured them in hot water and a mild detergent to take the sericin out of the silk to get them ready for dyeing.

2. I drew an avocado shape and had it laser cut out of wood to use for clamp resist dyeing. (Itajime shibori) Before I could start dying I needed to put the fibers in a mordant bath. (You must use a mordant so the dye will be more permanent in the fiber.) So I went to the ocean (Tybee Island, GA) and collected sea water to use as the mordant.   Since the beetle came across the ocean to our coast (GA) on wooden pallets used on ships, I thought it would be a great way to represent their arrival to the ecosystem.  The scarves soaked in the sea water for 24 hours.

3. I naturally dyed the silk scarves using the avocado as the dye.  The scarves were dyed together using the same clamp resist shapes and same folding pattern.  In the first bath I used the small circle and left them in a bath of just the avocado pit for 24 hours. Then I took them out, changed the clamp shape (without unfolding them), placed them in an avocado skin dye bath, and left them in for another 24 hours. The final clamp and dye bath was an iron modifier. When using iron (ferrous sulfate) the color changes to a purplish grey when you are dyeing with avocado.  I was happy with the outcome and glad the avocado shape turned out well in some areas.  I love how the shapes abstract through the middle of the scarves...adding another layer to the concept. ;)

4. So, what's next?  That's right, I'm not done!  I will be unraveling two of the scarves and re-knitting them to change the dyed pattern!  I'll share that progress next week!  Have a wonderful weekend! 

*If you would like monthly updates of my studio practice in your e-mail, you can sign up for my newsletter HERE.

Comment

Red Bay Ambrosia Beetle Collaboration Project

Comment

Red Bay Ambrosia Beetle Collaboration Project

Red Bay Ambrosia Beetle Collaboration Project

I have been invited by my friend and colleague, Sara Rabinowitz to participate in a collaboration project. The focus is to bring awareness to the invasive destruction of the Red Bay Ambrosia Beetle to Red Bay, Sassafras, and Avocado trees (all from the laurel family) along the coastal areas of Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida.

Sara's studio practice is very collaborative in structure and focuses on critters and plant life and how our landscape is shaped by human production and manufacturing. She has invited makers to create a limited edition product or souvenir inspired by all the research she did of the Red Bay Ambrosia beetle.  The designers involved will be exhibiting their collections in a group show of other artists at the Gutstein Gallery in Savannah, GA. I'm not only excited about this opportunity to show my scarf collection in a gallery setting, but the exhibit will also be up when the Textile Society of America's Symposium is in town.  What an excellent opportunity to show my work to the textile community!

About the Redbay Ambrosia Beetle:

The female beetles create a labyrinth-like home in the sapwood of the host tree.  They inoculate their homes with a fungus that infects the tree with laurel wilt, which eventually kill the tree.  These beetles are native to Japan, India, Myanmar, and Taiwan. They arrived to Georgia in 2002 in shipping crates and their destruction is spreading and effecting the ecosystem in the area.  You can read more about their destruction and see images of what they look like in the links below:

For images look here: http://www.invasive.org

Example of damage...quote from http://www.ambrosiasymbiosis.org/ambrosia-beetles/importance/:

"The worst for the end: the recently introduced duo of Xyleborus glabratus and its symbiotic Raffaelea lauricola are spreading rapidly throughout the South-Eastern United States, exterminating trees from the Laurel family (Fraedrich et al., 2008). In the August of 2009, they have been recorded from avocados in Florida for the first time (avocados are also in the Lauraceae). There are no methods for mitigating the spread of this symbiotic complex. Unless drastic and ingenuous measures are taken, this ambrosia complex may devastate the avocado industry in Florida. Should it be also introduced in the west coast, the damage may be unimaginable, since the laurel tree is the dominant species in California’s forests, and Californian avocado industry is equally important."

I will be creating a series of scarves inspired by the Red Bay Ambrosia Beetle and the avocado.  I am very interested in symbolically portraying the effected ecosystem in my process by knitting, then clamp dying, then un-knitting and then knitting again.  I will be showing how a shape can change by controlling the parameters of the process, and how one small change in the process can completely distort the look of the final product (mimicking the ecosystem). I am knitting with 100% silk, a luxury yarn, as I feel the awareness of this cause is very important and deserves to be honored with nothing but the best fiber, plus the added bonus that silk is made from insects.  Natural dying with avocados will also be utilized.  I will be sharing my making progress in future posts.  You can also receive updates in your e-mail by subscribing to my monthly newsletter by clicking HERE!

Here are some samples I did on my knitting machine in preparation for this project:

 

 

 

Comment

Introduction

Comment

Introduction

I'm Anna Keck, an artist that works with fiber, and I have started this blog to share my creative studio practice of knitting on a knitting machine and natural dying.  I have an MFA in Fibers from SCAD, and I also work full time at SCAD (since 2003) in the fibers department as a studio technician. My job is to maintain some of the equipment in our building, including: knitting machines, digital fabric printers, floor looms and computer aided looms.....among many other things.  Even though my full time job fulfills me in multiple ways, I also believe in living an authentic life.  Living authentic from my perspective is keeping up a prolific studio practice, connecting with nature on a regular basis, and spending time with my family and friends.  Kecknits (my creative  brand) is the marriage between these things that are very important to me.  It is how I spend my free time. I treasure my weekends when I'm able to start my day with long leisurely walks in nature with my dog Daisy, (while taking pictures...she's my favorite model), spending time in the studio, and working in the garden.  We are on this earth for a limited time, so I don't believe in wasting a moment.  It is my goal to live life fully and authentically, and respect mother nature during my time here on earth.  I carry these thoughts with me when I create in my studio, and I hope you enjoy this journey with me. Thank you for visiting this blog about my studio practice.  

If you would like to follow my creative journey in your e-mail, sign up for my monthly newsletter by clicking HERE.

 

 

Comment