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.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Custom Napkins

Last week, through my Etsy shop, I had my first order for 6 of my hand painted fat quarters stitched into napkins. It has been fun and relaxing to make these up. I'm tickled pink with how they came out. I really love craftsmanship especially when it comes to sewing.

Here is the progression of how I painted and sewed them minus photos of the orange and yellow background being painted. I did that with Jacquard Dye-na-flow paints in yellow, bright orange and salmon applied with a spray bottle on wet white cotton.

(Don't forget to click on the image for a larger view)

I started stamping with Jacquard Lumiere Pearl Turquoise.

Then came red. I mixed Maroon and True Red together to get the shade of red I was looking for.
You can see the three stamps I used here in this photo. It is actually only two stamps.
I carved the same crow going in both directions, so I wouldn't have to keep cleaning the stamp.

My cat Julian is in the back supervising.

I usually have a dish pan on my work table with an inch or two of water.
I put used brayers and stamps in it to limit the number of times I have to walk upstairs
to my closest water supply. I have an old tooth brush in the water to gently clean
the stamps with.
I love how the addition of red really makes the piece pop.
Then black! This is one of the finished fat quarters. They are all a little bit different.

These are the napkins all nicely stitched and folded.

I folded over some of the ends here so you can see my mitered corners.

All wrapped up!
 One thing that gets clearer and clearer for me every time I work in the studio is what my relationship is with me as an artist making wall hung, fine fiber art and me as a craftsmen designing fabric and making home decor items. Two different esthetics that sometimes overlap, but generally do not. One for having fun and making money (hopefully!) and one to feed my soul that might also make money but doesn't have to.

Click here to see the sample on Etsy! It is painted on silk, so the result is a bit softer.

I am linking this post up with Off the Wall Friday hosted by Nina Marie Sayer. Head on over to see what some other artists have been up to this past week!