in the studio

This is a series of new tangle sculpture stacks. I am making four the same size. One is a commission piece and three more will expand the series. Though my objective with this work is to capture tangles, most of the labor that goes into sanding and polishing the edges. As a result, the sculpture transmits light nicely and it sort of disappears when seen from the side. Many hours go into this, but it is well worth the trouble. That clean detail makes me want to eat the thing.
Nine hours or so later, Side A is complete.
Onto Side B.

and then C and D.

A German friend of mine, Kisa, mentioned that they have a term for this kind of crazy task that must be done "du bist des Wahnsinns fette Beute" which google translates as "You are the fat booty of insanity".
With that as my mantra, I can't help but giggle as I sand.


"When it rains, sheep become self-cleaning."

Over the last year one of my major ongoing studio tasks been washing loads of raw wool one after the other in my bathtub. I've been scouring them which means soaking the wool in hot water and detergent for a time, pulling them out while the water is still hot, draining them and the tub and repeating til the water is clear and then giving a couple rinse soaks at the end for good measure. It's work that uses a lot of hot water and detergent, means the bathtub is constantly full of wool in various states of dirty and, most importantly, any other work I'm doing is constantly interrupted to tend to it.

Recently I stumbled across about the Fermented Suint Method which seemed like a promising method to make the process more efficient. The Fermented Suint method was developed in New Zealand and involves soaking dirty raw wool in rainwater for several days. This works because of the self cleaning properties of wool. Judith MacKenzie McCuin explains:

"In addition to the coating of lanolin that happens during the passage through the tube of the [hair] follicle, wool is coated with a substance called suint.

Secreted from a gland similar to a sweat gland, suint is applied just before the fiber exits the skin. Suint is liquid at room temperature and hardens as it moves up the shaft of the fiber, away from the sheep's body heat. Like soaps and detergents, which are made from either sodium or potassium salts, the chemical composition of suint is primarily potassium salts, making suint a natural detergent. Unlike lanolin, suint is water soluble. Like all other soaps and detergents, suint naturally attracts dirt and surrounds it, moving the dirt up the wool shaft by osmosis towards the tips of the fleece. When it rains, sheep become self-cleaning. The rain activates the soapy qualities of the suint in the tips of the fleece and washes away much of the dirt. " ("On Washing Wool" Spin-off magazine, Fall 2008)

She goes on to mention that pioneers would run the sheep through rivers or creeks before shearing to wash the wool.

This is the first batch of fleece, which has been sitting in water for five days and is ready to come out. Future fleeces only need two days in the same bath of water.

That film on the top means it's healthy.
That stink means it's happy.
That cover means my neighbors won't hate me.

I have six buckets going right now and am using tapwater instead of traditional rainwater, if these fleeces were more expensive/delicate I'd probably try rainwater.
Once rinsed and clean, the wool no longer smells sour. This process leaves some lanolin which I may decide to remove with my usual scouring method, but it will be much faster needing only one or two washes and rinses rather than several.

The vegetable matter is another issue altogether which will require lots of picking and combing in the future.

At the moment I'm expanding my drying racks to keep pace with the cleaning.


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