06 January 2011

the process or the product?

You've heard the discussion before right? Are you a Process artist or a Product artist?

Its an interesting question. I mean, let's face it - making art is a lot of work. Most people don't really realize it. They see the end product all tied up nice and neat. If they could see the trail of destruction that the lovely little work of art left behind in your studio, they'd be astonished that anything made it out in one piece.

So the question is, do you always enjoy the Process (the grunt work) of creating art?

For me, it depends on what I'm making. When it comes to knitting, I dig both. I love the calm meditative process of having the yarn in my hands for the time I'm turning it into something new. And on days like today when its in the 20s and windy? I certainly love the Product.

For everything else that I do, its split pretty much down the middle. There are some activities where I admit I have zero interest in the Process, I just want the stuff that I get from going through the work.

Dyeing fabric falls into that category.

Dyeing and I have had a somewhat stand-offish relationship. We've never really found a place where we are comfortable being together. But we're getting there and since I've been pre-occupied with getting a particular color palette made up for a big project, its a good thing that its improving.

When I first tried dyeing a few years ago, I started with this book. In fact, almost every fiber artist I know has Ann Johnston's book on their studio shelf. Its a good book, there are fun things in there but...I had no luck when I tried to get a certain color.

Scratch that, I had zero luck. Zip. Nada. Nill.

So I put all my dye stuff away and shunned it until I felt like trying it again. And the information on the internet? Oh my, there's enough there to induce an instant migraine. Everyone has an opinion (and they are always right too).

But I tried again, several times. I found the labor of it all very annoying as well. I tried to restrict it to the summer months so that I could set stuff up out in the garage and leave it out there. Still couldn't control the outcome. And it got to a point where I was using maybe a quarter of what I was dyeing because, well, I just didn't like the colors I was getting.

Not a ringing endorsement for my skills.

So last year when Cathy brought Carol Soderlund to the Fabrications Retreat, I decided that if I was ever going to get a grip on this dyeing thing, she would be the one who could beat it into me. She did. For a solid week. I know more about dyeing then I ever thought my brain would care to retain.

And I liked it.

Okay, so we eliminated one problem. Now I knew what to do with the stuff but the physical labor thing...still not appealing. I admit that I've been avoiding it since the class last fall because of it. Its simply too hard on my back.

I was griping to Cathy about it and she sent me a link to a nifty little contraption called The Wonder Washer. (And yes, it deserves all those capital letters.)

The Wonder (as I have come to call it) will do all the swishing and sloshing for me. Which is especially good since I've become extremely affectionate toward solids lately and those are the queen of back breaking labor.

Wanna meet my Wonder? Here she is:

She's basically a little mini washer meant for people who live in small spaces. She fits nicely on my bathroom counter and she is my absolute new best friend. She has an electric base that makes everything go and a plastic tub, just like a regular washer but on a much cuter scale.

I mentioned that I had gotten one of these on Facebook and the first question was "How much fabric can you put in it at one time?" Good question.

Here is what the bucket looks like:

My dyeing agenda at the moment only involves dyeing one yard pieces in different colors. But just to get a sense for the capacity of the Wonder, I piled three yards of already dyed fabric in it to see if there was any room to spare:

(Picture gets scary big if you click it.) There was still space at the top. So the little bugger holds quite a bit.

But as I said, I was all about the one yard pieces today so that's all I put in at one time. I measured my dye:

And then put all the necessaries into the bucket and set it about its task:

(The white spots in the first photo are the reflection of the light bulbs.) The Wonder has a little timer on the front that goes up to 15 minutes. You can choose Standard or Gentle cycle. I tried both - to be honest, they sounded the same to me so I don't really know that there is a difference.

It doesn't have a drain, you have to dump it out manually when its done. But I consider this a minor thing. It does all the swishing with no complaints, which makes me love it entirely.

I set the timer, worked in the studio, came back to futz with it, set it running again, worked in the studio some more. And in the end, I had a lovely solid perfectly even piece of dyed fabric in a color that I wanted.

Wow, never thought those words would come out of my mouth!

I gave everything a rinse:

Then did a proper wash out in the big machine and added the fabric to the pile so it could make friends with the others:

The two on the left I did today in the Wonder. The three on the right I did manually yesterday (which is what inspired the {untitled} post pictures).

** I was advised by other dyers who use these (apparently I'm late to the party) that you can't run these all day long. (Too bad, the temptation to is overwhelming.) You have to space out the cycles so I only did two yards today. I might have ordered a second Wonder so I could increase my output. Maybe. You know, just hypothetically...since there's room on the counter and all for a second one...maybe...

I do believe the Wonder might just might help me to learn to love the Process of dyeing just as much as I love the Product.


Justine said...

That is just too easy! I've done dyeing solids once and all that swishing was boring! Justine

Approachable Art said...

It's fantastic that you found this and love it. I can imagine how much easier it makes dyeing solids. Since out class, I've dyed a LOT of solids and I wish I'd had this little beauty to help me. I spent last weekend putting my washing machine to the solids test for the first time and it passed with flying colors (har-har), thank goodness. Otherwise, I might be shopping around for one of these, tonight. :)

Debbi said...

I do not dye solids too often, but I find since that class with Carol that I have given some thought to creating some more color families and/or different fibers. But, I HATE all that stirring. I never thought about the Wonder Washer... could be the answer I am looking for. Thanks!

janice said...

Well you got me. I just ordered one. I can see that it will help if I want to dye solid scarves as a base for printing and stamping. Also, some people just like solid color scarves. Oh I'll just admit it I love buying tools and gadgets. Need to blog about this passion ? obsession of mine to buy all the new things I hear about.