Tuesday, January 6, 2015

New Year's Reflections - Stencil & Fat Quarter Designs on Etsy!

The new year is now in full swing. And although I have never thought of myself as someone who makes official new year's resolutions or celebrate on New Years Eve, I realized this year more then ever that I do actually think of goals for the coming year. Mostly goals for my business. But with that said, my business is about art making. That in and of itself makes it feel very personal.

I think it starts happening in the early fall - which would explain why that by the time the new year starts I am already in full swing of my ideas. So it doesn't really feel like a new years resolution - but in actuality it is.

The fall is my favorite time of year. Living here in New England the views are incredible. I have lived here all my life and yet continue to be awestruck each and every year. However it isn't just the colors and the obvious beauty that compels me to love that time of year. I also love when the sky turns a certain color of grey that speaks of winter - when the leaves turn brown and fall away to the ground - the barren trees - and the musty smell of the forest floor.

I always have a little thrill the first time I feel the need to turn the collar up on my jacket and dig my cold bare hands deep into my pockets. I love the first frost and how frisky the dogs are when they come into the warm house after a jaunt around our property. Even as a young teen I saw the coming of winter as a time of reflection - a chance to be still and look inward. It is a gift of rest for those of us whose eyes are like visual sponges - banking in every image we see. I breath a sigh of relief when winter and the snow arrives.

On this past New Years Eve we sent my middle child off to India for a semester abroad.

My son August on the right with fellow traveler Jesse.
He is in his third year of a 5 year Architectural program. It was important for him to choose a college that is driving distance from home, Because of this decision we have never gone more then 5 weeks at a time without seeing him. So India for almost 5 months is a huge leap for all of us. After sobbing like a baby, I turned to my husband and said that this must be the wings part of parenting. You know the old saying - where our job as parents is to give our children roots and wings. His wings have been unfurling for a few years - but now they are actually outstretched and he is flying. He isn't flying alone yet - but that will come soon enough. You can learn more about his journey as an architecture student here.

I am acutely aware of how little time I have left with my youngest still home. He is a junior in high school. The college search will be in full swing now that this semester has begun. I will miss him greatly when it is his time to leave. We are a close family. My husband and I have been fortunate to have had teenagers who wanted to spend time with us - have had long in depth conversations - laughed - and continue to share of our lives - successes and failures.

Also - this past fall my husband was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. This is a journey that of course we had not expected. But it is ours none-the-less. We don't know yet for the future - but with a new medication regime I have a bit of the old person back with me again. For that I am grateful.

Alas, we never really do know of the future - I suppose I am coming into the age bracket where more people will get sick - some will die. Last year a friend/student and fellow art quilter passed just after Christmas. She was in the heat of trying to find her own visual voice. Another friend lost his wife and a new grandbaby has come into the life of yet another. And life goes on - amazing really.

My plans for the new year encompass more teaching and writing and much more art making. I'll be teaching in June at the Michigan League of Hand Weavers Fiber Conference as well as delivering the key note speech. And my new book proposal is out there trying to find a good home.

The news for my Etsy shop is that I am now offering my stencil and hand carved stamp designs as well as my fat quarter designs for sale. It is a big leap for me. But since the publication of my book I have been introduced to the whole world of crafts and crafters. Coming from a fine art background the world of crafting was so new to me. I have come to really appreciate it's value and the excitement and joy it holds for people! The lines between fine art and craft have blurred for me - the cracks and crevices filled! It is a delight!

Everyday I'll be adding new designs to my shop. The stencils are cut on my Cameo Silhouette machine. Many of them have companion designs and offer several sizes on one stencil so people can play with scale and rhythm on their pieces when they work. 

The fat quarters are digitally printed on fabric but for all my paper crafting friends I will be printing them on paper as well. The stamp designs (I don't have any of these up just yet) will be a digital download. I will be offering the fat quarter designs as a digital download as well.
Fat Quarter

You can see the stencils here, fat quarters here, and digital downloads here. The selection isn't huge just yet but I'll be adding new items and designs everyday. And of course I will continue to add my hand dyed silkwearable art and my one-of-a-kind art pillows as well. I am now also offering pillows made from my digitally printed fabric. This particular home decor favorite will be less expensive then the one-of-a-kind versions.
My teaching schedule for 2015 is starting to come together. You can access the calendar here on my website. More classes and workshops will continue to be added as dates and venues are confirmed.

Don't forget you can click on the images for a larger view!

Happy New Year to all of you! May your lives be filled with love, laughter and all things creative!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Stencil Designs

I have been working on my stencil designs. 
I hope to be offering them for sale through my Etsy shop soon. So stay tuned! 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Last Finished Art Quilt of 2014

Here it is. All done! I should have taken pictures along the way over the last month to show you. But sometimes I just get in the groove of working and find it hard to pull away to record what I am doing. I am introverted at heart. If you click here you can see an earlier version. There is not much left to what it once was. I cut it apart, reworked much of it with paint and stitch, added some wool and needle felting and feel really good about the end result.

The background gold fabric is a piece of my hand dyed silk. The wool for the center needle felted panel is from Weeks Dye Works, a wonderful company based in Garner, North Carolina that will soon have me listed as one of its designers. I am proud to use their beautiful hand, over dyed wool fabric fat quarters and pearl cotton embroidery floss.

The quilt now measures approximately 36" square. Not very large - I know. But I am loving it just the same.

Click on the images for a larger view.

Finished piece titled "Fertility".

Needle felted panel.

Detail of needle felted area.

Detail of needle felted area.


For materials I used my CherScapes Pear Stencil and one of my CherScapes abstracted leaf stamps, Jacquard brand textile paints, variegated cotton thread from Superior Threads called King Tut, Golden fluid acrylics, Norwegian C-1 wool in several colors, Weeks Dye Works wool fat quarter and pearl cotton embroidery floss and Genziana Wool Thread. I also used my own hand dyed silk and batiked cotton, although none of the cotton is still visible!

For techniques I used direct painting, stamping, machine stitching, both hand and machine needle felting, free motion quilting and hand embroidery. Phew!

I'm linking this post to Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday. Have a peek at what some other fiber artists have been up to.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Around the World Blog Hop

I was invited to join this blog hop by Jeanne Marklin. She and I met several years back when I had a large studio in Downtown Greenfield, MA. Jeanne introduced me to the organization called the Studio of Art Quilts Associates, which was a really great foray for me into the world of art quilters. I had been making art quilts for awhile but didn't realize they had a name!

Anyway, Jeanne has been a great friend for me. She is an exceptional artist and is a master at dying cloth. You can read her blog here, and visit her web site here.

One of the goals for this blog hop is for artists to talk about their art making process. That is a hard one for me to write about. Only because I don't really know where I begin. I have been making art since I was a very small child and have been lucky that over all these years I never really lacked for inspiration or drive. I feel that I just can't help myself.

Like many artists inspiration is all around me. Sure, it can come from a beautiful sunset and the glorious autumn leaves here in New England. But it also comes from a single twig on the path through my woods, the call of a lone seagull and a random song on the radio. It comes from the ticking of my studio clock late into the dark night, from the color grey, from the fabric I just dyed and the stencils I cut the other day. It comes from the work of other artist be they painter, quilter, song writer or poet.

With my mind and heart heavy with vision and thought I go to the studio and simply work. I make things.

Over the last decade or so I have been making things with fabric - fiber. I am a painter. I am a sewist, a dyer of cloth. I am a collage artist - I make things, then cut them up and put them back together again.

It is a strange and intriguing process. And I  know not where it comes from.

Below is what I am working on right now. You definitely need to click on the image for a larger view. As you see it here the piece will measure about 28" x 32".

The process of creating this piece is almost complete. It is at this stage that I can finally see it finished in my mind's eye. However, if I am not careful and become too dedicated to this final vision I might miss something along the way.

Recently I have begun adding needle felting to my art quilts. Through texture and the nuance of tiny bits of wool fiber, I add another dimension to the surface of the piece. The blank spaces on the top and bottom will be filled in with small squares of needle felted imagery.

Add caption

This shows one of the needle felted areas.

Here it is again. There will be more of these with similar imagery.

Needle felted pear. I love how it looks like a pastel drawing!
I have invited Wen Redmond to participate in this blog hop. I met Wen when I was writing my book Fabric Surface Design. I was intrigued with her process and loved her imagery.
Her blog is here. Her website is here.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Page Review

Sometimes it happens that I think a page in my art journal is finished. I may be so sure that I will even put a completion date on it. But often, when I flip back through the journal I see a page entry with fresh eyes.

That is what happened with this entry from August of this year.

It seemed very graphic and "urban" to me. So I really liked it for those reasons. But I also didn't like it for the very same reasons! Man, can't a girl get it right?!?!

Fast forward to today and this is what I have now.

The two page spread

After a little bit of white paint and some pencil drawing this is the real finished spread. It still looks graphic and "urban" (whatever that really means!). But it feels more like me.

Don't forget to click on the images for a larger view.

Thursday, October 9, 2014


The decision is out - I am madly in love with my Cameo Silhouette machine! Did I say this before?
I think I might have but I just can't help myself.

I love the use of scale in my work. I often talk about it in my classes. Sometimes all a piece needs to finish it off is a few more prints ( such as stencils or stamps) of an image you have already used but in a different scale. You can easily accomplish this by enlarging or reducing your image/design on your home copy machine/printer or on your computer with editing software. I use photoshop but there are so many others you can use! The Silhouette allows me to have multiple sizes of one design with little effort.

Cutting stencils by hand has become increasingly more and more difficult as the years pass on. Those middle aged finger joints just aren't happy any more griping that exacto knife and pressing hard to cut through the stencil plastic. So I always put off cutting them out.

As a result, I have had a growing pile of stencil designs for a while now. So it has been such a treat to see them come alive. Here are a few examples.

One of the things I am thrilled about is that I can still create the designs by hand, you know, the old fashioned way by drawing on a piece of paper. I really didn't want to have to design on the computer. I want a hand drawn look to the stencils, plus I want to be able to sketch out designs while I am watching TV with my family, while I am outside and while sitting at my drawing table. And I love the feel of that pencil in my hand. Know what I mean?

Here is how it all works. Basically I sketch out the design. This is actually quite a challenge for me. My drawing style and use of line has to do with subtly and gradations. Stencils are all about black and white! No greys! Once I have the idea sketched, I put it on my little light table to trace out the outlines n a new sheet of paper. Then I fill the shapes in with a black marker. I like the brush tip of Pitt Pens best for this.

Then comes the computer. I scan in the black and white design, smooth out the edges and joints in photoshop, then load it into the silhouette for cutting. This is a good example of the progression.

sketch in pencil

The traced outlines with a pitt pen.

The shapes filled in with a Pitt pen and refined in photoshop.

The cut stencils.

Within the silhouette software I can easily resize the image, as well as create a mirror image.

That is all for now. A friend of mine has suggested I put together some tutorials of the many things I do. It is a great idea and the natural next step for me as a teacher. So stay tuned!

Don't forget to click on the images for a larger view.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fun Foam Goes Retro!

I posted this today on my Art Journal blog but thought I would post it here as well. I am having trouble getting that one off the ground. So maybe if you like this you might head on over there and take a peek. :)     Art Journal Blog

So this isn't really from my art journal. But it could have been!

One day I was fooling around with my stamps getting ready for a week long workshop I was about to teach. Before a new workshop I always like to bring something new that I have created, even if it is a workshop I have taught many times.

I have had these stamps for a few years now. I made them out of Craft Foam or sometimes known as Fun Foam, but never really used them. I always thought they were kind of weird. When I made them I was trying to see if one could cut the foam with scissors in a kind of free form method. That part worked out just fine. But I never really liked them. Never even used them!

So I took them out when I was packing up. I had just packed my stamping sketch book, but I hauled it out of the box and grabbed a couple of Ancient Page stamp pads. I love what happened. Sometimes the best things come about when you aren't really taking yourself very seriously.

Anyway they look very retro to me. I can't wait to use them as a new fat quarter design!

 These are the stamps. They are so uninspiring, don't you think?
But now I love them!

The little blue grid stamp was actually one of my students. She was stamping blue ink to try it out and I saw that it was just the thing I needed! She very graciously let me use it!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Art Pillows

I have begun to offer pillows in my Etsy shop.

Because they are one of a kind and because they utilize my hand painted and dyed fabric, I am referring to them as art pillows. Just the thought of that makes me giggle.

Many/most of the pillows will be made from samples I have created for my classes. It is true that I could just keep them as samples so I wouldn't have to be always making new ones. But I hate dragging around the same samples from one year to the next. For my own excitement, I need to create new samples. An added bonus is that the process of making the samples reconnects me to the technique and helps me formulate the workshop in a new way.

I take pictures of the old samples so I can precent a slide show of samples on my ipad to my students, but the actual physical samples are new and exciting to me. Plus it keeps me pushing my mediums and helps me grow. So I thought making pillows out of the old samples would be a good use, rather then just keeping them in a box on my shelf.

Sometimes I add a bit of embellishment. Sometimes there might be a collection of a certain pattern or print, but they will remain one of a kind.

Here is one I have had for a while now. It is made with one of my batik samples. I had laid out several pieces of fabric to work on at the same time (this is a practice of creating I now do all the time). So I had enough fabric to cover both the front and the back of the pillow, as well as another piece of the batiked fabric I turned into a small and decorative wall hanging/art quilt.

This is the wall hanging. It measures 16" wide by 14" high.

Side view

Covered back with a saw tooth hanger

Pillow and wall hanging together.

I happen to love to sew and am passionate about craftsmanship! So putting in all those zippers is pure satisfaction for me! When self doubt is in the air and self confidence is low, at least I can be happy with the perfect zipper insertion!

This is all reminding me about a teacher I had in art school years ago. He practiced making drums when he was feeling artistically blocked. This way he was still making something that challenged his craftsmanship and the end result brought him a wonderful sense of accomplishment and pride. I haven't thought about him for years. But I guess his drums are my pillows. Although I am not feeling particularly blocked! LOL

Here's another pillow. I actually have several of these, but each one is a little different. The front fabric is silk broadcloth. It was part of a failed dye job - a reject! One day I discovered that I actually loved the back side and began working with it again. And because I already have pillows on the brain and the fabric seemed to be more decorative that my version of fine art, I sewed all the pieces into 4 different art pillows. The back fabric is commercially dyed, but one I thought off set the silk beautifully. The stamps are of my creation. Then to make the front and back be more cohesive, I added the touches of applique and discovered the blanket stitch on my domestic machine! Who knew!



Seam with zipper


Don't forget to click on the images for a larger and closer view.