Monday, August 31, 2009

Fabric Gardens

Usually when I do something like dye fabric, the product sits around for months or sometimes years before I actually use it.  Not because the fabric isn’t beautiful, but because I am afraid that once I use it all up, it will be gone, and where will I get more?  This is especially true of colors that I don’t know how to duplicate (like the inadvertent rust fabric of earlier this month), or just love so much that I can’t decide which *one* project it will go into.

This month has been somewhat different.  I realized that I can buy more dye when it is time.  I also was not able to run out and buy yardage at the quilt shop, and had to use what was on hand.  This is both scary and exhilarating at the same time.  There was a time when I would use the lack of being able to buy new stuff as an excuse to not make anything, and I am really amazed and grateful at how far I’ve been able to come from that old unhealthy pattern.

So far, with my new hand-dyed fabrics, I have made purses:

octopus sun and snail one

A sample for the private class I taught:


And an embroidery piece inspired by the ink paintings I’ve been doing in my journal:

inspired by ink paintings

I had, however, been putting off the most frightening project of all, an art quilt made using the fabrics.  I wasn’t sure I had enough commercial prints in my stash to make a larger piece, and I wasn’t sure the colors I’d made were right. 

I finally did get off my fence, and started to put together this:

green towers process one

Untitled as of yet, though it reminds me of  the early spring greens of the local cornfields, and of the verdant growth of the plants at the Franklin Park Conservatory.

green tower process two

Pinning the appliqued pieced to a base of the new hand-dyed fabric.  I also used some fabric I painted using Setacolour Paints on another fabric day this month. 

green towers process three

Three of the towers appliqued to the backing, one to go!

green tower process four

Sewing the fourth tower to the background.  I use a basic zigzag with a darning foot so I can make curves easily.  I love the needle down function on my Pfaff 2054 most of all, I don’t know how I made these pieces without it.

All of the fabric used either came from stash or was the new hand-dyed fabric I made earlier this month (which also was stash, I just needed to put the stashed dye onto the stashed fabric).  The finished piece will measure somewhere around 44” square, and I am in the process of quilting it.  I really love the richness of the browns and greens together, and I am so happy that I stood up to those fears and started the work.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Not a Personal Ad

Not a typical blog post from me, either.  Creating isn’t always about the physical product, it is also about creating a life, and making lemonade when life hands you the proverbial lemon.  Today I’m going to share a little about the mental processes I go through while still managing to make art.

Since receiving the EBay award last November, I have been able to upload images of my artwork more frequently, blog more, research galleries and shows, and more.  Hits to my website are up, and I’ve been able to get a lot more accomplished in a fraction of the time it took while working on my old desktop.

The problem, if it is a problem, is that I became used to sitting at the computer for what felt like hours to do simple tasks like checking my email.  Now that it takes less time, you’d think that would mean I had more time to do my work. You’d be wrong.  What it really meant (up until now) is that I had more time to surf different websites. 

This has not necessarily been all bad.  One of the sites I found was The Fluent Self.  Havi Brooks, and her duck Selma, offer regular blog posts on her processes involving getting destuckified in all areas of life.  I find her approach different, refreshing, and actually applicable to many of my own personal areas of stuck.

One process she describes, which I have had trouble with, is the personal ad.  The way I understand it is that, if there is something in your life you need or want, instead of writing an affirmation, or performing any other sort of “traditional” prayer or supplication, you write a request in the form of a personal ad.  She blogs her personal ads, usually on Sunday, and says that the reader may respond with their own personal ad in the comments, or report on personal ads in the past which have worked, and how the desired request was answered.

I have written a few ads, and left them in the comments.  I have asked for, among other things, a copy of her Shiva Nata DVD set, sales of my work to enable me to pay my summer bills, and a job for my husband in which he actually reaps the benefits of the work he does (in his last retail job, he was unjustly terminated before he could receive the five figure bonus he had earned, and in other retail jobs he has seen other people receive the promotions he has worked for and earned).  But all of those ads felt weird, somehow, and I wasn’t exactly sure why.  And I gave up on the idea of writing an ad, because at this point my wants/needs feel so overwhelming that it feels as if there is no possible answer, so what is the use of trying (I did win an award with my artwork, so I guess you could say that one of the ads was kind of answered).

In today’s post, Havi writes about the process of not being able to write the personal ad, and she suggests several questions to help you work with that stuck.  She shared her answers on her blog, and I’m going to share mine here.  It’s an interesting process, and I invite you to give it a try as well.  There really is nothing to lose, and a whole lot to gain in terms of learning where any blocks you may have lie.

With that in mind, here are the questions, with my answers:

Question #1: Even though I don’t know what I would even ask for…

I do know I want things to improve.  I would like things to be more routine, or should I say, I’d like to have a process that I follow so that I know what to do even when I don’t know what to do.  (Kind of like having a workout routine to start the morning, or knowing that every day at 2pm I go into the studio and work on art until dinner time).

Question #2: Even though I don’t believe that there is any way on earth that this would ever work…

I want to believe.  I want to comfort that little child inside me who is afraid that nothing will ever get better.  I want to try.  I need to let go of the idea that it has to be perfect the first time, and allow that it can be a fluid process that changes as my needs change.

Question #3: Even though I feel really, really uncomfortable when I just start to think about asking for stuff…

I need to realize that no one is a mind reader, and that they won’t know I’d like it  or need it if I don’t ask.  I also had an epiphany that part of the reason I have trouble choosing what to ask for is that we took a trip to Holland MI for the Tulip Festival when I was seven.  We went to this shop that had all kinds of little knick knack plastic toys and I went nuts buying things there.  Then we were in another shop with beautifully dressed “show dolls” in lacy, ruffled ball gowns, and I wanted one of those *so* bad.  My grandparents were the ones buying everything, but my mom said “no”, because I had gotten so much “junk” at the first stop.  Ever since then I have been afraid to say yes, in case “something better” would come along later that I would have to say “no” to. 

I also have learned that asking for something puts a burden onto the person who is being asked, and if they can’t afford it, you are being inconsiderate and selfish.

Asking for something means that you are being greedy, and not satisfied with what you have.  “Who do you think you are” is a big one in this part.

Now what?

Now I plan to sit with the answers for a while.  Recalling that trip to Holland was a huge breakthrough for me.  Realizing that I also am suffering from a little “all or nothing” thinking also is an eye-opener.  I believe some journalling is in order to help work through these blocks.  I will keep you updated on the process, and share any personal ads which may come out of it. 

In the meantime, I suggest you check out Havi’s blog, and the great freebies she offers so you can see if you are one of her Right People.  I have been able to take several of her phone workshops, and I highly recommend those as well.

Friday, August 21, 2009

You’re My Inspiration

Earlier this week I posted some of the ink paintings that I’ve been doing in my journal, and I mentioned that I may look into taking them “off the page”.

inspired by ink paintings 

This piece is the first iteration.  It is based on the kantha embroidery technique I learned from Dorothy Caldwell.  I chose a 9” square of my hand-dyed muslin.  The piece was layered with two other pieces of fabric (for this one I chose a happy orange polka dot print from Robert Kaufman Co.).  To secure the work, I stitched around the outside with a regular length seam, then used a longer seam to sew an “X” from corner to corner. 

I used several types of pencils to draw the image, starting with a pencil designed to mark on fabric for the leaves.  I noticed the image was fading before I even got to the end of the leaves, so I tried a prismacolor before finally settling on a good old #2 pencil.  I knew I would stitch over the lines, so it didn’t matter that I couldn’t erase the lines.

The lines were stitched using three strands of DMC embroidery floss.  I removed the basting as more of the image was stitched, making the fabric more stable.  Currently I am stitching in the mountain area with purple floss.  It always amazes me how stiff fabric becomes when you do nothing more than add multiple lines of stitching.

I also taught a private class this week, and needed to make a sample.  Several years ago I took a class with Glenys Mann, and each morning she gave us a photograph to recreate, postcard size , in fabric before we could work on anything else.  I thought this would be a good exercise to demonstrate to my student, and I found this beautiful photograph in a gardening magazine I picked up at the free pile of the library.

reference photo green piece

I chose to recreate the tree trunk, starting with a base of my hand-dyed twill from the dyeing extravaganza of earlier this month.


The green lines are zigzag stitch over satin rattail cord.  I then layered a piece of red organza on top of the whole piece and stitched around the cording.  The trimming was a real pain, but I stuck with it and trimmed off the excess organza.  Then I re-learned the first rule of sewing: if the machine is acting up, first you rethread the machine.  I had taken the main thread out of the tension disc to run a bobbin of some metallic thread, and when I started to sew, I ended up with the fuzzy loops of threads you see above.  I figured out my mistake when I changed the bobbin to see the lines on the far right and far left.  Pieces like these are go with the flow when I do them, but I will remember for next time!

Inspiration can be found everywhere.  The question really isn’t “where can I find ideas”.  The question is “which ideas do I pursue?”

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Just Playing Around

Sometimes it is important to take some time for yourself, to just relax and not worry about outcomes. I was stressing over the purses I’ve been making, among other things, and realized it was time to take a “me” break.

One way I do this is through working in an art journal. I have worked in many over the years, choosing different books depending on the media I was using at the time, or my preferred format for the image surface. When done “right” (which is just the way I do them, your way could be completely different and just as “right” for you) these books are a catchall of random thoughts, occasional quotes, grocery lists, cataloguing works in process, and more.

I had let the process go by the wayside over the past three years of working on freelance design, feeling like every minute needed to be devoted to something productive. Since these books are generally not for outside consumption, I could not justify spending any time working in one, even though I missed it dearly.

That changed last month when I signed up for Lisa Sonora Beam’s summer camp for visual journals and started working through her book “The Creative Entrepreneur”. I was reminded that working in such books is an important part of my process, and was necessary for me to get out of this place of stuck I’ve been wallowing in.

So first I purchased this, a 9” x 12” Aquabee Super Deluxe blank sketchbook, filled with heavyweight paper that is designed to take wet or dry media. I began working in it with no rules, and no expectations, just me and the page. I gave myself permission to put whatever I wanted on the page, and allow myself to go back in and work over pages if I wanted to hide something I had written earlier, or if the situation/my perspective on it had changed.

I also found Shelley Klammer at Expressive Art, and began doing a collage a day using old magazines from the library free table. The rule with these was that I would choose 2-3 images which caught my eye, and one phrase. I did this for about two weeks, with some eye opening results.

Finally, and this is where I am at the moment, I decided to pick up my copy of Lynda Barry’s book What It Is, which is about writing, but is a great inspiration for creativity of all kinds. I also checked out her book One! Hundred! Demons! after reading several of the interviews linked on her website.

In that book, she described her drawing process. It involves ink and a brush, on any paper which is available. It looked so fun I had to give it a try. My inlaws had visited China several years ago and sent me an ink set, which I promptly retrieved from my studio. Then I went to town in my sketchbook.

The results so far:

bull journal page august 2009

A bull and a seahorse, inspired in a way by the Percy Jackson novels my son insisted I read. I used some metallic pan watercolors on this one, and went back into the drawing with a white Sakura paint pen.

hollyhock journal page august 2009

Hollyhocks and bees. The quote came from a large print Reader’s Digest I picked up at the library free table.

fish journal page august 2009

More sea life, and a tiger peeking in from another page. The big quote is from a story about an unusual fish. I wonder what secrets he can tell. Maybe the tiger knows.

pie shopping page august 2009

My weekly grocery list/running tally of expenses. Makes meal planning easier for me when I can see it all in one spot. And it is more fun to shop when you have cool art to look at while you’re shopping, don’t you agree?

fox journal page august 2009

I started getting a little silly here. Is the spaceship taking off or landing? The yellow dots symbolize fireflies for me in this series. The fox looks like he is having a conversation with the mushrooms. I also love how the watercolors blended on the mountains in the distance.

trumpet vine journal page august 2009

Trumpet vines are all over town here in Athens. I decided to memorialize them in ink and watercolor.

frog journal page august 2009

Finally, a frog riding on a lily pad. I don’t think he’s trying to eat the fireflies, but I’m not sure. He looks like he’s having fun, though.

I did change from just using the ink stick and ink stone to using India Ink so that the watercolors wouldn’t make the drawing run, but other than that these are drawn straight from my head onto the page with no pre-drawing in pencil or anything. I added the quotes on some, and may go back in and journal on them. I’m also going to dig out my airpen and try drawing on some of the twill I have around here, to see how I like these in fabric. Some of the characters may also show up on the purses.

It was an odd, circuitous route, but I think my mojo is back. Sometimes a small detour is just what we need.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Uses for Hand-Dyed Fabric Part I

I am not guaranteeing a “Part II”, just saying in the header that there are many uses for the wonderful fabrics we created last Monday, and here is one way I put the fabrics to use.

Many years ago I bought a bolt of 60” wide PFD twill from Dharma Trading Company.  That fabric has come in handy for multiple uses, from using it as the  base and backing on the pillow shams I made

sunshine 72 web

(“Sunshine”  airbrush and hand painted on twill.)

to a base for hand-embroidery

that 70s fish 72 web

(That 70’s Fish, hand embroidery on hand-dyed twill, patchwork “frame”.)

giraffe 72

(“Giraffe” hand and machine embroidery on hand-dyed twill.)

and even backings for larger quilts (sorry, no images of those).

This week I’ve been using the hand-dyed fabric on something new, handbags.  I’ve been needing a new purse for a while.  I’ve been carrying around my blinged out turtle from Target so long that one of the rhinestones I glued on 4 years ago finally fell off.  And I didn’t know what else to do with all the luscious fabrics we dyed last week.  I was also looking for something a bit more affordable and yet fun (look for a 1000 Markets shop update around August 15).


sun, octopus and snail three

Sun, octopus and snail purses.  Each comes complete with a heavy duty snap closure and a generous inside pocket. 

octopus purse two

I love this octopus with his ‘tude.  The inside of this one is a bright orange with white polka dots, and I sewed sequin suckers onto him before adding the backing.

Each bag measures 9.5” high by 7.5” or 8” wide before seaming, and the straps measure approximately 72” around, including the body of the purse.

I have several more designs on the drawing board, including an owl, a chihuahua and a turtle, plus more variations on the three seen above.  They are a nice respite in between working on the huge quilts for the big shows.