Monday, September 03, 2012

A Distinctive Voice?

I have been thinking a lot about my work lately.  Does it say 'me?'  Are there aspects of it that make it recognizable?  I have been trying to figure out if I've 'found my voice', as the saying goes, or if I am still all over the map- which is how I've felt in the past.

In an effort to answer this question, I constructed a photo mosaic of quilts I've made in the past five or so years.  It doesn't contain everything I've done- I eliminated some that I made as part of a group challenge where the theme or photo never spoke to me or evoked an emotional response.  Here's what I came up with--

What commonalities to I see?  I like strong colors- no pastels for me, thank you.  They're only useful for the good colors to play off! I also like how those strong colors play off black.  Even if the image is somewhat realistic, I prefer abstracted or simplified.  I like strong lines and simple shapes.  That is what jumps out at me- what do you see?

I think I am at a point where I want to simplify how I work, and explore a more cohesive or consistent way of expressing my images.  I don't want to be agonizing over how I will do something, I just want to figure out how to do it withing the constraints that I choose for myself.  I'm thinking that will feel freeing rather than constraining.

It also means that I will limit my fabric choices.  I've preferred using my hand dyes for several years now.  I have been slowly moving away from the heavily patterned low-water immersion dyes that I fell in love with initially, and more towards soft, very subtle patterning.  It reads as solid from a distance, but on closer inspection shows the influence of the dyer.  If I want patterning, I'd probably go with what I can get with soy wax batik, where I have more control over the amount and kind of patterning than I do with straight LWI dyeing.

I'm hoping this is a positive move for me.  I will be going through my stash, eliminating a lot of the commercial fabric I have that just doesn't get used much anymore.  Then I can go through the hand dyes, and make sure I have a good range of both colors and values.

With that in mind, I tried something new today.  I'd read about Robin Ferrier's method of dyeing, which she calls flat dyeing.  It certainly conserves water, and doesn't involve all the containers or stirring.  Here's what the wet studio looked like at 10:30 this morning, after I got about twelve half yard pieces dyed.

I do have a couple of shibori pieces in the containers and under the plastic shopping bag.  I also immersion dyed a piece of linen/cotton for a blouse.  All the rest is under the plastic, batching away.  I'll probably leave it until Wednesday night.  Oh yeah, I also threw a piece of soda soaked cotton into the drip pan under the table.  We'll see if that one turns out to be a dog or a gem!

I'm hoping that working within these self-imposed limits will turn out to be a good thing, and help move my work to the next level.  I'd love to know what you think. . .


What Comes Next? said...

the finding of one's voice is something I struggle with - and I am definitely still all over the map! When I look at your photo collection I see strong colour, strong line and high contrast - all very pleasing to these eyes. Good luck with your focus on simplifying.
I wait to see how your flat dyeing experiment works out - it looks to be an interesting technique. Your move towards working only with your hand dyes will create some fabulous work - giving ourselves constraints is the best way to grow as artists.

Rian said...

I think you have to try on a lot of "voices" before you find the one that is YOU. I don't know if I could spot a piece in a show and know it's "a Beverly," but I do see a commonality among the pieces in your collage even if you don't see it yourself. I think if we make enough art, eventually we find ourselves returning to one or two comfortable (no-brainer) methods of construction--and we use similar fabrics because we are drawn to them, and that speaks sameness. Meanwhile, you are still exploring. I think your hand dyes might just provide the link.

Barbara Strobel Lardon said...

I agree with Rian. I also think some people are recognizable because they work in series. I think that helps to remember them and their style.

I think you are seeing your style coming out because the grouping you chose is cohesive.
So you are on the right track.

Love that green you are dying by the way. Hope it all turns out.

upstateLisa said...

wow! What a great idea! I love how you made your mosaic... where did you end up going to make this? I have been really struggling lately to find my voice. But I think my problem is that I need to back even more off from challenges and start creating my own works... a place to start. But I will definitely try out this technique when the time comes. I also see strong, bold color, simple pattern, a lot of representation of things from nature too. Very cool!!!

Debra Spincic said...

I think Rian is spot on with her comment.

I also agree that a series is the way to really discover your voice. Just start something and then with the next piece, change one thing & see the difference and then do it again. Limiting the variables helps.

I like the combination of hand dyes with commercial fabrics. I think the commercial fabrics give some zip to what I often see as dull hand dyes. I like solids too but a steady flow of solids can be boring, IMHO.

Vicki said...

I think we all struggle with finding our own voice, but I think you are finding lots of colour and texture and contrast in your work. I always love your dyed fabrics