fiber and encaustic

My Fairy Tale Love With Encaustic

I confess, I am in love with the medium of encaustic. Just like any great relationship, it faithfully welcomes me as I enter the studio with it’s warmth, smell and luminescent glow. It always yields to my wishes without too much resistance and surprises me by doing things I didn’t even know I wanted it to do. Although we’ve had many tiffs and I have strayed to other mediums, I always return and our partnership gets better and better. We have a symbiotic connection, encaustic and I…yes, I am blissfully in love. But this wasn’t always so….

Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, there I was, a mid-thirties Fibers & Materials Studies Graduate Student at Tyler School of Art in 2001. I was working with ideas related to creation and the cyclic nature of life-imprinting, staining and marking as it relates to birth through to death and decomposition. More specifically, I was interested in the physical mark and pattern of this cycle on the earth and body. I began making visual comparisons using these kinds of patterns with images I took myself or found on the internet. Some of these were uncanny in their similarities as you can see below.

At the same time I was doing this research I was also looking for materials and processes that could replicate these patterns. Simply copying them or painting them didn’t work and looked contrived, I had to make these patterns via mark-making and process. One of my professors had taught with Christopher Leitch at the Kansas City Art Institute and recommended I look at his work combining organic printing processes and textiles. Based on the one paragraph and few images of his work that I found on the Internet, I developed my own process of rust printing and staining on textiles using decomposing organic matter and the results were more amazing than I expected. Using natural processes to depict natural processes also supported my content, it was astoundingly brilliant. I have included images of some of these fabrics below.

I came into the graduate program as an art quilter, hand dyeing my own fabrics and sewing large beaded and painted creations that included everything but the kitchen sink. I loved quilting and wanted to expand on what a quilt could be based on the simple definition, ‘three layers of material stitched together from front to back’. I used the fabrics I had created combined with papers, image transfers, mark-making, burning and lots of machine and hand embroidery. I spent the next year sewing very large, intricate quilts (which I later stretched and called paintings) for my upcoming graduate thesis show. These pieces are pictured below along with smaller quilt studies.

Even though they were a huge labor of love, I felt these quilts were just not enough. I wanted to show another side to these ideas and sculptural books were another thing that intrigued me. I wanted to work with anything skin-like. My quilts spoke very much to landscape and alluded to the body, but I wanted something luscious and something that could be touched. I experimented with melting Tyvek, plastics, crayons, layers of glue and although I liked some of these things, I didn’t find anything I could pour myself into doing. During a critique, one of my professors suggested encaustic. I had never heard of this mysterious and scary sounding thing. At the time, there were no books available yet and the images I found on the Internet of other encaustic work was done with an iron on card stock and was just not my kind of thing. I decided to experiment on my own and purchased a sampler of cheap encaustic colors, a bunch of beeswax and a pancake griddle. I also employed my Clover piecing iron that I used for quilting and I still use this versatile iron today. My first attempts were horrible, I had no idea what I was doing. I wasn’t ventilating properly, I wasn’t using Damar resin in my medium, I wasn’t fusing properly, my cheap colors were flat and muddy-I hated this crap and what I had made with it! I threw all of my paints, griddle and everything else encaustic into a closet hoping to one day sell it all on Ebay…And in that closet it sat for almost a year…

For the better part of that year, I continued sewing, making books, experimenting with materials, teaching and learning, getting ready for my thesis show. It turned out that the gallery where I was to have my show had a little room off to the side about the size of a walk in closet. Neither me or my gallery partner could figure out what to do with the space, so we tossed it between us for a few weeks. Finally, it landed in my lap and I was totally overwhelmed with what to put in there and I only a few weeks to figure it out. I started rooting through all the samples I had made to come up with an idea and I stumbled across those awful encaustic paintings…which surprisingly didn’t look so awful anymore. I attribute this change to two major turning points throughout that year.  One, was an amazing graduate level drawing course I took at the beginning of my second year. I had never drawn very well and was nervous about this course, but I was encouraged by my professors and fellow students to take it. This was not a typical drawing course, it was focused on mark-making and process-two ideas that were relatively new at the time and very new to me. This course completely changed the way I thought about drawing and making work in general. It completely changed my life in the studio and the way I taught my classes and I continue to carry those ideas into both parts of my life to this day. Two, was the writing of my thesis paper, for which researching and writing had played an integral role in marrying my content with what I was doing in the studio. For the first time in my life, my ideas and the work I was making were becoming one thing. I had grown immensely and knew myself and my ideas, I had become an artist and could look at the work I had made through that lens. The featured image at the top of this post is made up of two of the first experimental paintings that I hated. After rediscovering these two along with the other paintings, I began pairing them together and they were complete. This piece called Damage was the most successful and is now in the collection of one of my grad school friends, traded for a few glass pieces that he made.

One of the experiments I had done was to dip my stained and rust printed fabrics into encaustic medium and really liked the way it added depth and enhanced the marks on the fabric. Since I had been stretching the sewn pieces into paintings, why not do the same here. I mounted the fabrics using wax, only using minimal color and letting the stains and marks speak for themselves. I made ten of these paintings and hung them in the small room adjacent to the main gallery, which housed my large sewn pieces. The opening was in the gallery district in Philadelphia on First Friday so we had a packed house and there were so many people in that tiny room ogling my encaustic paintings, one could barely move. People were interested in the sewn paintings but it was sparse interest and they sparked no real discussion, everyone wanted to know about the luscious paintings in the tiny room. The icing on the cake was that I also sold one of the encaustic pieces to someone I didn’t know, wasn’t related to and was a museum curator. This was the first thing I had ever made that had sold, so I saw it as some kind of sign that encaustic is what I should be doing. The piece that sold is called Fulfillment, pictured below with images of some of the other paintings in the show.

I followed all the signs and immediately abandoned the sewn paintings to continue exploring the fantastic medium of encaustic which I have loved and made my own at the same time the medium itself was becoming it’s own. Over the years, I added more color, collage, image, hair, mark-making and investigated various ideas, although my core ideas have remained rooted in the earth. The rest, as they say, is history and encaustic and I continue to live happily ever after.

To see what came after this early work, visit my web site portfolio and begin with the archives here.

This post is a lot longer than I had intended so stay tuned for the next post focusing on the lessons learned in this fairy tale and some ideas that may help you in your own studio practice.

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Exploring Lands(cape) With Pattern & Encaustic: A Wine Country Coastal Retreat

113172-Sonoma-Valley

Ask me the names for the grazing lands, I know them all; the Meadow between the Cliffs, the Green Slope, the Shadowed Grass.
~Italo Calvino

SCROLL DOWN FOR IMAGES OF WORK AND PLAY FROM LAST YEAR’S FALL WORKSHOP

Who: Susan Stover & Lorraine Glessner

susanstover.com
Susan Stover received a MFA from California College of Art in Oakland, CA and a BFA from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio with both degrees concentrating in a combination of textiles and painting. Her interest in ethnic patterns, fabrics, worn surfaces and textures are evident in her work. Among her professional experience is faculty at University of California-Davis, lab technician at CCA, and 10 years at Jacquard Products, a manufacturer of textile pigments and dyes. She has presented at CHA (Craft and Hobby Association) and NAMTA (National Art Materials Trade Association) trade shows, the International Encaustic Artists conference and teaches workshops nationally and internationally. Her paintings are in many private collections and her work was included in Encaustic Revelation by Patricia Baldwin Seggebruch, Studio Visit, Wax and Paper Workshop by Michelle Belto, Expressive Collage by Crystal Neubauer, Gathering Clouds – A Magazine of Contemporary Art, FiberArts, Surface Design Journal and American Craft magazines .

lorraineglessner.net
Lorraine Glessner’s love of surface, pattern, markmaking, image and landscape has led her to combine disparate materials and processes such as silk, wood, branding, rust, paper and more in her work. Lorraine is an Assistant Professor at Tyler School of Art, Temple University, a workshop instructor and an award-winning artist. She holds an MFA from Tyler School of Art, Temple University, a BS from Philadelphia University, and an AAS in Computer Graphics from Moore College of Art & Design. She has a diverse art background with skills that include painting, sculpture, graphic design, interior design, textile design, photography, digital imaging and much more. Among her most recent professional achievements is a Second Place award in Sculpture from Art of the State at the State Museum in Harrisburg, PA, a recently completed artist residency at Jentel Foundation and an acquisition by Kelsey-Seybold Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Lorraine’s work is exhibited locally and nationally in galleries, craft centers, schools, libraries, universities, and more. Like her work, Lorraine brings to her teaching a strong interdisciplinary approach, mixed with a balance of concept, process, history, experimentation, problem solving and discovery.

What:
Exploring Land(scape) With Pattern & Encaustic: A Wine Country Coastal Retreat
Limited to 10 participants! Sign up now!
Level: Beginner to Intermediate
$795 + $50 materials fee
Contact: Lorraine Glessner, lorigles@earthlink.net

The mark of nature combined with encaustic painting creates timeless works which reference memory, change and time. Whether inspired by patterns and textures of distant lands or the immediate environment, we will utilize the natural luminosity, textural and layering possibilities of encaustic in combination with pattern and repetition on fabric and paper. Participants will experiment with innovative materials, drawing and marks to depict the spirit and essence of the land as each chooses to define it. This workshop focuses on the creation of intricate patterns, expressive personal surfaces and complex, multi-layered pieces utilizing and in combination with encaustic painting techniques such as patterned collage, stencils, candy molds, tjaps, and pyrography (creating marks with heated metal and wood burning tools). Considerations such as using pattern and repetition to support and/or strengthen content as well as presentations by both instructors on their inspirations and how it relates to the subject of lands/landscape will also be discussed. Daily walks exploring the area’s vineyards, orchards, redwood forests and the Pacific coast are led by Susan and Lorraine and will provide the inspiration for which to develop ideas while also developing your personal artistic voice through listening, mapping, touching, collecting and communing with nature through all of the senses. Optional individual critiques with both instructors will be offered to all participants.

**Please note that participants should be prepared to spend time outside as well as in the studio. In the event that participants are unable to participate in the workshop walks, participants are welcome to opt out and alternative outdoor creative exercises will be provided.

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Where: Nestled in the northern California wine country among vineyards and apple orchards our rural location is just 55 miles north of San Francisco, 12 miles west of Santa Rosa and 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean in a small town called Graton. Spring is a gorgeous time in the wine country with orchard blossoms and green hills.

When: April 16-20, 2018, 10am-4pm each day

Materials Included: the following is a list of materials provided for the student

  • All encaustic paints, extra medium, tools and equipment
  • Extra encaustic brushes
  • Graphite paper & other misc. drawing media
  • Misc. drawing papers
  • Silk paints/dye-na-flow
  • instant indigo
  • Salt
  • Rusty objects for printing
  • Brushes for water media
  • Rubber bands/string for shibori
  • Rags/paper towels
  • Needle/thread for hand stitch and/or stitched shibori
  • tjanting tools
  • freezer paper
  • paper punches
  • stencils
  • tjaps
  • candy molds
  • pyrography tools

What to bring: the following is a list of materials for the student to bring to the workshop

  • Sketchbook/notebook, pencil or pen for note taking
  • Smock (optional)
  • Closed toe shoes for safety in the studio
  • Lunch and beverage each day
  • 6-10 wooden painting panels (your preference of 8×8 or 10×10, but no larger or smaller, please) Experimentation is great! You must bring the wooden painting panels, but other suggested substrates are: stiff card, paper, masonite, board, plexiglass, etc. (nothing coated in acrylic or acrylic gesso!!) wooden panels will also be available for sale in the studio during the workshop.
  • 2-4 actual pieces or images of your work
  • 5-10 natural hair brushes in various sizes for encaustic painting (1 brush will be designated your medium brush, so it must be free of color if you are bringing used brushes)
  • a variety of basic encaustic colors will be provided, however, if you prefer certain colors, please bring them. (containers provided)
  • a variety of pigment sticks will be provided, however, if you prefer certain colors, please bring them.
  • sketchbook or drawing paper (again, think experimentation! Bring a variety of papers if possible)
  • drawing media of your choice (pencil, pastel, conte charcoal, oil pastel, Crayon, graphite, felt pen, etc.)
  • any tool or material for any technique that you normally employ while working with encaustic
  • iwatani torch with extra butane (optional)
  • textured objects and/or sharp ended tool for pressing into/incising/writing/drawing into wax.
  • 2 lb encaustic medium (containers provided)
  • package of razor blades (holder optional)
  • decorative stencils, mesh, doilies, etc-anything flat with open areas that can be used as a
  • Collage materials (fabric, papers, magazine images, photographs, etc)
  • 2 yard, even-weave, white or light colored natural fabric for rust/compost printing and painting. RTD or PFD fabrics are preferred and are available from com. (habotai and cotton sheeting work well) Alternatives are old sheets and/or tshirts that have been frequently washed.
  • freezer paper
  • a favorite book to share

Hiking Equipment Recommendations

  • Sturdy hiking shoes/boots
  • Hat
  • Comfortable clothing
  • Light rainwear
  • water bottle
  • Digital Camera or smart phone or point and shoot camera or DSLR
  • plastic bag for gathering

Payment Payment of 50% of the workshop fee + materials ($422.50) is due at the time of registration with the remaining 50% ($422.50) due on the first day of the workshop. Please contact Lorraine for payment details.

Cancellation In the event that you need to cancel your workshop, please notify Lorraine at least 30 days prior to the start of the workshop and your deposit will be refunded. No refunds will be available for cancellations occurring less than 30 days from the start of the workshop.

Accommodations The closest accommodations are in Sebastopol and there are 2 hotels in town: The Fairfield Marriot www.winecountryhi.com and The Sebastopol Inn www.sebastopolinn.com. There are also numerous bed and breakfasts in the area and hotels in Santa Rosa.

Food There will be no food or beverages served during the workshop, you must bring lunch, snacks and beverages each day. There are numerous excellent restaurants in Sebastopol and surrounding area. There is also a Whole Foods as well as other grocery stores.

IMAGES OF WORK AND PLAY FROM LAST YEAR’S FALL, 2016 WORKSHOP RETREAT