Monday, January 28, 2013

Creating a Background for a Quilt

Now that I've made a few posts to you on this blog, let me tell you the big picture of what is going on in my art life. I've joined a group of international artists and each of us has set a goal for the year. Some have set a goal to write a book, sell more art, try new techniques, create a small piece of art each day. My goal is to create a cohesive body of work. That basically means that I want to create several works of art around a theme and by doing so, develop my own style. I decided that my theme will be prayer flags and that by creating several art quilts around that theme I hope to develop a unique style. I recently posted photos that show you some of the fabrics I made for the first quilt. Here are some that show you how I put fabrics together to create a background. The next step will be to quilt it.
using a sheer to help blend fabrics
Also using a sheer fabric
A side-view showing white and blue sheers laying on top
The background (the smudge in the top right is just a shadow...not a gray fabric)

Friday, January 25, 2013

Using Found Objects

My art group set a challenge a while ago. We would collect found objects for one year. Then we would bring them in to show everyone what we found. After that we had three months to make an art quilt using many of the objects. Since I was a teacher at a high school, I had no problem getting interesting things left on the sidewalks. If anything looked valuable, I turned it in to the lost and found. Other things, I told the office about but no one ever claimed them. Here is the quilt that resulted from this challenge.
The Cast-Offs
I put a bleach product onto some of them and pressed them into the fabric to discharge it and get some of the patterns.  To quote part of its description on my website: " I wonder what data is on that CD? I wonder what love story is attached to that heart? I wonder what's up with those castles? It's an enigma as the plastic tag says."
Here are some more objects found on campus and around town waiting for their spotlight.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Preparing Fabrics for My Project

I've been busy creating fabrics for my newest project. I want to do a series of quilts with the theme of prayer flags. There are a lot of beautiful commercial fabrics out there, but I want to create my own for this series. Maybe I'll stick a commercial one in here or there, though. What I need are fabrics to put in the sky area. I'm not going for a totally realistic look for this series. I want to express the idea of the prayers being sent to the Gods via the wind. So what I did was start with 100% cotton muslin and a poly/cotton voile. I prepared a gelatin plate in a large cookie sheet (I had to lock the kitten outside during that process...he's still being trained to not jump onto the kitchen countertops).
Then I wanted to use the paints I had rather than purchase more. (I've decided to use up my stash before I buy more paint of any kind.)  I had  Jacquard blue textile paint, Jacquard russet paint, Jacquard teal neopaque paint,  regular white acrylic paint, Golden Gac 900 Fabric Painting Medium  Mixing the combination together gave me a desaturated light blue. (Using the acrylics with the Gac helped not make the fabric too stiff.) They say not to mix different product brands together, but this one worked for me.
I used a brayer to put the paint onto the gelatin plate. Sprayed it with a little water. Took a toilet paper roll and smooshed it a little to make it more of an oval and then made marks with it in the paint. Put the fabric over it and took a print. Sprayed more water on the plate and took another print with another piece of fabric.
I repeated but this time used a cardboard edge to draw streaks in the paint instead of making ovals with the toilet roll on the plate before printing.

with ovals from toilet paper roll
with streaks from cardboard edge
with ovals
with streaks
I mixed up gray paint and repeated. I repeated all several times on different fabrics.
I found that I didn't think I could use these for what I had in mind. Then I thought that if I spread some white Shiva Paintstiks on them I could blur up the marks and make the patterns more mottled. When I was digging through the bin looking for the paintstik, I saw a rubbing plate and had an ahah moment.
See below how I added the rubbing with white paintstiks. I don't know if you can see from the photos, but I used a stencil brush to blur the patterns to make them more subtle. Now I think I can use the fabrics as backgrounds with the theme of spreading prayers. I have torn the fabrics up and made a layout and will look at it over the next few days to be sure I like it. But I think it is promising. Man... this blogging thing is kind of scary... to share unfinished work. Because usually I make a lot of changes before a work is done.
streaked and rubbed
with ovals and rubbings

Saturday, January 19, 2013

An organization worth joining

If you are an artist in the fiber arts or want to be, you should consider joining SAQA (Studio Art Quilts Associates). My membership has helped me so much. As a member, you regularly receive full color journals with photos and wonderful articles, e.bulletins and e.newsletters with calls to artists and info on exhibits in your area, eligibility for juried member exhibitions, ability to participate in the Visioning Project to help you reach your artistic goals, access to mentorship conferences, and you can listen to all sorts of webinairs. I listened to one called Blogging 101 by Melanie Testa that helped me understand the blogging world. Thank you, Melanie. Professional artists receive even more benefits than those. Visit for details.
Just visiting the site is a sight for sore eyes. You will see beautiful art quilts scroll on by. I often go there just to relax.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Posting photos on the Internet

In several discussion groups the issue of how or whether to post photos of our art online. Personally, I don't mind if people copy and paste my work as long as I get credit for it and those viewing it can find me to see more of my work if they like it. One way to do this is to put a watermark on all the photos that you post. You'll see my watermark on my last entry's photos. (I only learned how to do this yesterday and found out it is easy if you have Photoshop Elements or a similar program).  So I'll try to give you step-by-step instructions. You can also see some demos on YouTube that show different ways to put on your watermark.
Here is a photo of one of my art quilts called Water Cycles. You see my watermark is my website address.
Water Cycles

1. Open your photo in your software (I used Photoshop Elements 10)
2. Create a new layer.
3. Make sure your new layer is highlighted so that you are adding the text to the new layer.
4. Click on the text tool. In PSE it's a "T" on the toolbar on the left side.
5. Set the font, size, and color from the toolbar at the top.
6. Click on the photo where you want the text to be and drag to create a text box. You'll see that it has little squares on its corners.
7. Type your text. Highlight your text. Go to the Move tool on the left toolbar and click on it. Click on your text. A box appears around your text.
8. Click near one of the corners and a curved arrow will appear and then you can rotate your text if you want it to be at an angle. You can also grab the corners and drag to stretch out your text.
9. Go to Layer menu at the top. Scroll down to Layer Styles. Choose Style Settings. (If Style Settings is grayed out, then you have to click outside your text box on the photo to close it first.)
10. I chose Bevel, 30 degrees, 3px. Click OK
11. Set the opacity you want on your text layer.
12. Save your file.

That's the first time I've written directions for PSE. I hope it is clear. If you have questions or comments, please write.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

More Space

For years, I've been wondering if I could convert our garage into a studio for me and then build a new garage for our cars, bicycles, tools, etc. But I didn't dare suggest it to my husband because it would really only benefit me and would be costly. So I've been using our dining room table to do all my work and its surface is usually hardly visible due to all the fabrics, fibers, boxes, sewing machine, etc. on it. I only clean it off when we have guests for dinner. Usually the mess extends into the living room, family room, and kitchen, too.
So imagine my surprise when he suggested that idea to me! I actually jumped up and down screaming for joy. We thought it would be a simple construction job. Well, we found out that building a new garage is actually very, very expensive. So that idea got scrapped. But then we thought we could take one of our spare bedrooms (where I store most of my stuff) and knock out an exterior wall and make the room larger.
We talked to two building contractors and got estimates and yesterday we signed a contract with one of them to do the job. The surveyor was out here today already and did his part. Next comes the permits.

 Here are some photos of the walls of room now. It will be the south wall that gets knocked down.
north wall

east wall

south wall
west wall
I've been making list of things to put into the room. I want to get rid of the futon and instead have a large, comfy chair that converts into a twin bed and also have an ottoman that converts into a twin bed. The two windows you see on the east wall will remain and the window you see on the south wall will be preserved and added next to them on the new part of the east wall. The new south wall will have a very large window and the new part of the west wall will have a window, too. The closet on the west wall will get knocked down to give the room more space. The north wall will be for my design wall (it is presently stored behind the futon and is a pain to use now). 
If anyone has suggestions, I'd love to hear them. I'm planning on building a cutting table, a painting table (there won't be any plumbing in there, though...too expensive since our drainage field is way on the other side of the house), and a sewing table. If any of you are planning something similar, I'll let you know how it's going periodically. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Making More Sales in a Fun Way

I found a very interesting site that shows how to sell more of your art (or any product). It involves writing your product descriptions in  a very enticing manner. As a result, I was up until 2 AM rewriting the descriptions of my quilts that I have posted on my website. I was only going to fix up a couple of them last night and then finish up the others today, but I got on a roll and was really having fun with it. Remember the J. Peterman catalogue from the Seinfeld show? It was a catalogue of clothing with very amusing and engaging descriptions of how the clothes could be used. I felt like I was writing copy for the Peterman catalogue last night. By the way, the J. Peterman company really exists. I get the catalogue in the mail and love to read it. Here's an example of one of my rewrites:

" You are riding a bicycle on dirt roads around hundreds of temples built between the 11th and 13th century. It's in Bagan (Pagan) in Myanmar. Some areas have desert-like conditions and others are grassy areas. The Irrawaddy River runs nearby. Some of the temples are piles of rubble and others almost completely preserved. (It's also very hot and you buy sodas frequently from locals stationed among the ruins.) But it is a great couple of days.
     The metal adornments give the feel of three dimensions like the towers of the temples and the combinations of sheer fabrics in places and fibers in others give the feel of the sandy, bumpy paths.
     This quilt is an abstract interpretation of my memories of the maze of paths. It includes some photos I took there. This is one of those places that is on many travelers' bucket lists.

Materials: Commercial cotton fabrics, sheer fabrics, tulle, image transfers, beads, metal disks, stamped fabric, trims

Processes: fused, machine-sewn, machine-quilted, hand-embroidered

The wooden hanger shown in the photo is not included. Sorry."

Here's the link to the site I found. I hope it will be helpful to you.

Monday, January 7, 2013

First Post!

Hello All,
     I would like to enter the blogging world by offering you all a tutorial. I've learned many techniques from other artists who generously offered ideas, tutorials, and techniques on their blogs and I'd like to share things I discover with you.
     I have boxes of old floppy disks from my days as a science teacher. I hate to waste things and I don't want to be a hoarder so I searched on the Internet for ways to use old floppies. I learned how to take them apart and make tiny Starship Enterprises out of them and I saw that you can paint on them to create small artworks. But one evening I had a floppy sitting on a table and I put my coffee mug on top and realized the floppy is a perfect size for a coaster. If used as is, it's not too attractive and condensation from a glass would just run down the plastic onto the table. And if the coaster is made solely from fabric, then the condensation can soak through to the table. The combination of the fabric with the plastic protects the furniture below it. So here is what I made:

What you need for one coaster:
A floppy disc (remove the metal part, pry it open and remove the metal and film inside, close the plastic floppy)
2 pieces of craft felt 4 1/2 inches square
1 piece of background fabric 4 inches square (I used burlap)
Pieces of coordinating fabric (I found that 6-7 different fabrics gave a nice appearance)
Fusible (optional) (I didn't use any)

1. Place your background fabric on top of one piece of felt.
2. Place or fuse your scrap fabrics on top of the background fabric.
3. Sew around the edge of the border fabric to attach it to the felt. (I used a decorative stitch so that the burlap wouldn't fray over time.)
4. Sew the fabric scraps onto the background and felt.
5.  Place over the second square of felt and line up edges. Straight stitch 3 sides.
6. Tuck in the plastic floppy.
7. Sew up remaining side of felt being careful not to hit the floppy and break the needle. (You could use a zipper foot, but I had plenty of room with a regular foot.)
Here are some I made for Christmas:

Save the metal pieces and find a good use for those. Let me know if you can think of anything good to do with them.
     Let me know if you have any questions. Next post may be gelatin monoprinting (if I can get the kitten to take a nap).