Friday, December 18, 2015


(Above:  My "spiral", a stone formation on the dried lake bed at PLAYA, an art residency program in the remote Oregon "Outback."  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

Last October was a truly magical time.  I was awarded a four week art residency at PLAYA in the remote Oregon "Outback", along the edge of the arid, empty Summer Lake bed.  Everything about PLAYA, the time, the experience was miraculous.  On the first day there I wrote in my journal, "I am already missing this place".  I knew I would hate leaving.  I did. 

(Above:  Detail of Summer Lake's dried soil.)

I'm not going to write about that glorious month.  I don't have to.  Every Friday I drove 83 miles north on highway 31 to La Pine where I blogged from a McDonalds and then bought thread at the Homestead Quilt Shop.  (I went through over 20,000 yards of thread during the month!)  To find these blog entries, just look for the monthly listing in the sidebar (right-hand side of this blog) and find "October 2015". Each blog post includes plenty of new work.  After all, I am productive, especially when awarded "the gift of time".  My proposal was to create fiber vessels ... but not just ones referencing functional possibilities.  I wanted to make works with a concept, a suggested narrative or some sort of symbolism.  I wanted pieces that responded to "a sense of place".  Some of my vessels did just that.  Most, however, couldn't come completely to fruition until I returned to Columbia.  Why?  Well, it occurred to me that my fiber vessels could suggest Summer Lake ... a container for water but arid, cracked, and empty.  To pull this idea off, I needed experimentation with "white crackle" medium.  This week, I did the experiment!  IT WORKED!

(Above:  Fiber vessel made at PLAYA with its interior coated in heavy gel medium.)

First, I applied heavy gel medium to the entire interior surface and allowed it to dry for a couple of days.  I surmised that this would "seal" the fibers, make the vessel less porous.  Gel medium dries clear ... but it is an acrylic and did reflect some of the light in the photo above.

(Above:  White crackle paste applied to the interior and left to dry overnight.)

I used an entire (though small) container of white crackle paste made by DecoArt and purchased at City Art here in Columbia.  I've used Golden's crackle medium in the past ... generally not too successfully ... but City Art was out of this product.  Hence, I bought the stuff from DecoArt.  I liberally applied it to the interior.  I did this in the early evening and left it totally alone.
(Above:  Detail of the white crackle medium when wet.)

I've read that crackle medium is often less successful when the artist continues to "mess around with it" and thereby prevent it from drying into the desired cracks.  It was hard to just LET IT ALONE!

(Above:  The fiber vessel with the dried crackle medium.)

The next morning while I was typing my "Morning Pages" (stream-of-consciousness journaling and part of Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way discipline in which I firmly believe), my husband Steve came upstairs to show me my vessel! OMG!  It is PERFECT!  It is exactly what I hoped would happen!  It is the vision I had for a fiber vessel while creating my stone spiral on the "playa", the dried arid lake bed.

(Above:  Detail of the dried white crackle medium on the interior of the fiber vessel.)

Yesterday I went back to City Art only to learn that I'd already bought the only container of DecoArt white crackle paste.  Thankfully, City Art took my order for five more!  I can't wait to turn several other vessels into miniature "playas" ... especially since I've been offered a small solo show at Anastasia and Friends Gallery for the month of February!  I'm also excited because this show gives me an excellent excuse to create a altar to my dead flicker bird ... using one of the vessels I made and photographed its tiny, dead body in.  It also means I have a reason to use some of the image I created in Photoshop of my stone spiral! 

(Above:  Digital manipulation of my stone spiral image ... the image at the start of this blog post.)

I already have this image printed on fabric and ready to go under my sewing machine!


karen christensen said...

Wow! That turned out so well. I continue to stay in awe of your vision!

Sandy said...

Brilliant Susan!
I think this makes the fiber vessel very exciting. Is the crackle paste something that colour can be added to? Thinking the dry bed colour or colour to match a vessel.

Margaret said...

That is so cool! When I saw the FB post I thought you'd coated the entire thing...and wondered about that. Relieved to see it was only the inside, so you've perfectly combined the two media. Love it!

mark gould said...

Stunning results. Very organic and love the unusual application for the Crackle x

Debbie said...

So evocative of the lake bed, beautiful and love your manipulation of the spiral.

Linda M said...

The crackle paste really worked so well giving the essence of the playa.

Wanda said...

Oh's AWESOME! It turned out just perfect!!! I also LOVE the manipulation. Is that done with a computer program?

Julia S-W said...

Stunning results! You should apply to DecoArt to be a Helping Hand Artist. They would happily provide you with Crackle Paste - no charge just a mention of their product.

Maggi said...

I'm enjoying this work so much and the crackle glaze has worked perfectly.