One of the hardest things for me is trying to contain my creativity during the summer. I typically am not able to accomplish anything — although I usually take on some projects that are more pool or kid friendly.

But this year was going to be different. My children are older — I reasoned. I would have some time — at least, I though so — until I adopted a puppy.

I’ve been house training her — but I’ve had to spend a lot of time outside — and I can’t get much of anything done outside — although I did drag out a folding table one day and use it for some drafting.

My Fiber Art Fusion group has a show coming up in September — the theme is Artifacts. I really struggled with this one. I don’t like to work in themes — I think it takes away from inspiration — but in fact, over the last couple of years, it has pushed me to do things that I otherwise wouldn’t have done — which has created growth in my work.

I was really confused about how to integrate the theme of Artifacts into my work. I make portraits and I want to continue with that body of work. And then it occurred to me — I have a large collection of men’s ties.

I first used them in pinwheel blocks around my first portrait — Ama. After that, I made many pinwheel pillows as gifts and on commission. I found that even unappealing ties — ones from the seventies with strange colors and polyester material — when used with a lot of other ties and placed on black — can look really rich. So when someone in the family passes, I typically ask for the tie collection. I also have many from my husband and I have bought them at yard sales and thrift stores.

So I decided to try to use ties to make a portrait. I had no idea if it could be done. I haven’t seen it done before — but I think that if you use the right values, you can collage just about anything into a recognizable form.

Ties are tricky to work with though. After my first selection of a color palette, I began to realize that the sheen of some of them affected their value. Working with cotton all the time, I wasn’t prepared for that. So I took a lot of trips to a local thrift shop.

I couldn’t find a white tie — although I tried hard. I finally decided to use a white lining fabric that I had in my stash. Its pattern is reminiscent of a tie pattern. The yellow gold that comes after it is the lightest tie I could find. I suppose that men need ties that will hide stains — although this one very clearly has a lipstick stain which I left to emphasize the character of the materials I’m using.

It’s when I went to my next value that I began to realize I had another problem. Below is the drafting of the wonder under– and there is no way that that is going to fit on one tie without it being broken up. I had to develop a system for cutting the wonder under in some places & putting it back together with overlap.

There was practically nothing left of this tie when I was done.

Reassembled, it isn’t so terribly obvious that I had to make some splits.

However, the next value not only required that the pattern be split but I also needed more fabric than was available on one tie. The one on the right was my original tie — the one on the left is one I found to go with it.

As you can see, I used up most of the large spaces on both of these ties.

I think the only obvious demarcation is along the forehead but I think that it will become less of an issue as the rest of the layers are added.

This shows the fourth layer. Again, there were two ties used with a similar pattern.

And this shows the final value.

I still need to add detail for the eyes and the mouth. I’m not certain I can use only ties for the eyes — and I know I’ll have to use cottons for the whites and grays needed in the mouth. But I’m happy with what I’ve been able to do thus far.