Sunday, December 4, 2011

Two Birds With One Spindle

So with dead week and finals vastly approaching, I would like to take a moment to share something with everyone that I recently began doing, and have fallen in love with.

An assignment in my drawing class about a month ago (wow, it's been that long?) was to do some primarily abstract and non-objective drawings with a pre-determined strategy. Examples given in class included drawing with your other hand, drawing under a table, drawing with reaction to something around you, or creating a 'machine'. These were all great ideas, and this was one abstract assignment I actually couldn't wait to start.

However, I could not for the life of me think of anything for the longest time, and then I Googled "Drawing Machines" and clicked images. Upon looking through a few, I found one that looked a lot like a spinning wheel (but I knew it wasn't) and it all made since.

This assignment was done mostly for a visiting artist, Marius Lehene, to come in and critique. Let me tell you, when he looked at mine and said he absolutely loved it and the way it looked like traces left behind by something, it almost blew my mind. Really? Even my teacher liked them (and she's very critical) and when she saw how I was doing them, she was amazed at the process.

So I know you are all probably wondering what process and drawings I am talking about, well ladies and gentlemen, I present to you:

Drawing with a Spindle.

For this project, I attached various types of charcoal to the bottom of my drop spindle and put a piece of paper down on the floor. As the yarn spun, the image was created.

(Single stick of compressed charcoal on the end)

The moment I conceived this idea, I knew it would be tricky. In fact, I almost didn't do it. There were so many cons to this idea. The spindle will get too heavy. The charcoal won't touch the paper right. The yarn that I spin won't be worth anything, it'll be too over/underspun. It will take the fun and relaxation out of spinning. My teacher will think I'm crazy. But after thinking some more and coming up with literally nothing better than "pencil on a string", I decided to give it a try. Man am I glad I did.

(How it's done!)

The results have been spectacular. Not only have I produced these beautiful drawings, I have also made some of the best yarn I have yet to make. It's spun almost perfectly. Maybe having that extra weight on the bottom helped to make it so? Or it taught me how to balance my spindle better? Or the fact that it wasn't fine quality fiber to begin with made me able to not worry about the results? Either way, both the yarn and the drawings are pure works of art.

(Created with a single 6B charcoal pencil on the end)

The assignment has since come and gone, and I am sad that I (for now) cannot pursue these drawings any further for a grade. However, I still do it most of the time. Whenever I pick up my spindle I also pick up a charcoal pencil and pad of paper. Upon spinning the leader, the pencil gets attached and a beautiful work of art gets created.

(Created with 2 pencils, one on one side of the end, one on the other, to create more dots)

Maybe I'm crazy, maybe I'm obsessed, or maybe I just like that I can do something I love AND get art/homework done at the same time. No matter what it is, you've got to admit, it sure would be cool to see a gallery show with the yarn hanging next to the drawings it made.

(Most of the yarn I spun for the drawings above, note that I did not create any drawings when plying; I'm not that adventurous yet)

PS: I have way more drawings than what is pictured here, but they are either with my teacher, at studio, or I was too lazy to take pictures tonight. Expect more pictures when I can. Did I also mention I hand dyed all the roving used with Wilton's food dyes?


  1. Wow, Lisa, this is incredibly creative! Are there opportunities for student art shows on campus? Can you look into the possibility of having that sort of show you mentioned, with the yarn that was spun next to the drawings you produced? I think it would be fantastic! You are turning into a professional artist!

  2. This is such an awesome idea! And I really like your idea of putting up the yarn next to the drawings that made them; you could consider the color of the yarn in relation to the drawing, etc. There's something very special and personal about the combination of these two very labor-intensive processes--drawing is the process that is very physical in the way it's performed, and yarn spinning requires not only the machine but the physical act of "cranking" the machine. And with this particular combination, you have the physical element (in which you physically move the drawing machine around the surface, though marks only depend on where the machine makes contact with it) and the mecanical element in which the yarn is simultaneously spun with the very unpredictable mark-making. It's both controlled and free. Such a beautiful concept! And I'm glad the yarn turned out so well. I wonder if you used the different yarns you have spun to knit together into something you can show--for instance, you knit the yarns in the order that you spun/draw. You are increasing your time by achieving two things at once, but you're also creating a kind of timeline....

    Your BFA show is going to be incredible. :D

  3. What an ingenious idea!! you should get the artwork framed. :-)and, I too love spinning on a spindle.


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