Thursday, October 24, 2013

Christmas Cards Already?

     Well, my shoulder is healed enough now that I can do some sewing. The thing that is painful is rotary cutting, so I have to do only a little of that a time. I have three large art quilts sketched out and am excited about them and ready to start on the first of those, but I thought I'd start (and finish) small sewing items first. At one of my art meetings this summer, we did gelatin monoprinting and I took a small gelatin plate (about 6 x 7). I decided make prints that I could use for Christmas cards this year.
     I originally wanted to print a nativity scene, but that was too complicated for the time I had and the number of prints I wanted to make. So then I thought I could use small fern fronds to look like evergreen trees and I would use string to look like trails of falling snow. I used regular acrylic paints mixed with Gac 900 fabric medium about 50/50.  I tore up an old sheet into small rectangles about 6 x7 inches. Here are the steps I did:
1.) I mixed up the paints on a plastic plate to get a light blue. I mixed the GAC900 into the paint.
2.) I brayered the blue paint mixture onto the gelatin plate.
3.) I put the fern fronds on top of the paint on the gelatin in an arrangement I liked.
4.) I put string on top of the paint and ferns in a curvy line on the gelatin plate.
5.) I laid the sheet rectangle on top and pressed in down with my hand and lifted it off after I was sure the paint had made good contact.
6.) I cleaned off the gelatin plate with a cotton wipe rag and a squirt bottle of water.

I repeated steps 2-6 until I had printed 30 rectangles.

After the paint was dry, I stamped some circles onto each rectangle with gold Lumiere paint from Jacquard and I stamped some snowflakes on each with some Sargent Art Acrylic Glitter Glaze mixed with white acrylic paint.  Here's a photo of several of the rectangles after they were printed and stamped.


Then I cut some cardstock and printed a phrase on it. I trimmed each rectangle to fit on the cardstock the way I wanted it to fit above the phrase. I applied a little glue stick the long edges of the fabric and stuck it on the cardstock and then I machine stitched it using a shimmery thread (I don't know the brand or type because its label fell off long ago.)
The finished card
So the card doesn't look like evergreen trees as intended. But since I live in Florida, I guess it's OK for me to use ferns (with snow?) It did snow here once for about 2 minutes on our driveway. Each card is different and maybe by next year, I can think up a nativity design I can monoprint.  I'll send 30 of my artistically inclined friends and relatives these cards and the rest will get the standard cards. Only because I didn't have the energy to make more of the prints that day. 
I'm linking this to   Off The Wall Friday   where you can see other art quilt blogs. Please make comments on their posts to let them know you visited.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Taking Photos of Quilts: Summary

I decided to make one last post about photography. I used to be a teacher and we were taught to end a lesson with a summary so here it is in a list fashion. Now that I've written down all the settings that work for me on a piece of paper, I can pin a quilt on the design wall, set up the lights, set up the camera on the tripod, and start shooting and be done in about 25 minutes. I keep the lights screwed into the reflectors with the clamps and store them in a drawer so that they are ready to go. And I keep the 2x4-stands against the wall in my studio. But they could easily fit into a closet that isn't used often. So here is the list for taking photos of the whole quilt with my husband's digital Pentax K-7:
1.) F-stop 10
2.) iso 1600
3.) 12 second delay
4.) lens set between 47-55 mm
5.) set camera focus to auto
6.) set white balance (WB) It's a symbol that looks like a sun
7.) For regular quilts, I set the lights about 4.5 ft away. For quilts that are shiny, I set the lights about 7 ft away.
8.) For quilts that are about 24-36 inches large, I set the camera about 6-8 ft away. For small quilts, I set the camera as close as I could get it and still fit the quilt in the picture.
9.) Make sure the lens is pointed level to the quilt as Holly outlines in the link on my post below.

I promise, once you have done it a few times, it becomes easier and easier. I used to dread having to photograph my quilts. Now, I'm confident it will work. You just have to get past that initial set up stage.  I kept putting it off but finally made myself do it. I gave myself a reward of chocolate for having done it. :) Write down on paper what worked and what didn't and keep that list in a safe place so you don't have to do it all over again. Go for it and it will work!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Taking Photos Of Quilts Part 2

Last week, I told you how I solved the problem of getting all of my quilt photos in focus. Now, I’ll tell you how I solved the problem of getting my camera to read the correct colors of my quilts. For some of my quilts, the camera didn’t seem to have any problem at all. The colors in the photo matched perfectly the colors of the quilt. But, for some reason, the camera has a problem reading teals and other blues.
     To counteract that, I always used to set the camera into its “program” mode instead of auto mode. And then I set the white balance by aiming the lens at a white surface like a white piece of paper or the white design wall and setting the white balance. Then I took the photo. The photo came out ok, but not great. The other thing I did to counteract the problem was to try to adjust the color after I took the photo using Photoshop Elements. Sometimes, I could get the photo to get very close to the actual colors of the quilt. But every now and then, I just could not get it right. It was very frustrating. Taking the photo outside when the sun was out, but not in the direct sunlight worked the best, but that meant that I had to wait for a good weather day and I had to have a spot with no shadows that would fall on the quilt. 

     Then I found this link Shoot That Quilt! from Holly Knott (By the way, she also designs websites) and it made a world of a difference!  The key is to use the lights that she recommends.  The lights are inexpensive. They are so much like daylight and so economical that I installed one in a lamp on my craft table and one in an overhead light hanging from a ceiling fan in my studio. The only problem I have with the set up in the description from the link, is that the clamps on the reflectors that I bought had a tendency to slip off of the 2x4’s and one fell onto the floor and broke one of the lights. So to solve that, I tied a strip of fabric to the reflector and put a push-pin for extra security. Here is a photo that shows how I secure the light to the 2x4.
Secured with fabric and push-pin into 2x4

So now I can take photos no matter what the weather is outside. I set up the lights (side by side) just as Holly describes in her article in the link. When they aren't being used, I keep the lights (screwed into the reflectors attached to the fabric strips) stored in a drawer. And I keep the 2x4 stands against a wall in the studio.  It is very quick to set them up and get the camera on the tripod. I can get it all ready to shoot in about 15 minutes.
     Here is a photo of an art quilt I made called “Water Cycles” that I had a great deal of trouble getting accurate colors on the photo until I used these lights. It has a lot of teal and other blues in it. (I don't know why that particular hue is so difficult to photograph on my quilts.) When I used the lights Holly Knott recommended, the photo was perfect without any adjustments.

Water Cycles Art Quilt

     The other thing I discovered about lighting is that for quilts that have a sheen, foil, or have a glossy fabric, it helps to move the lights as far back as possible to reduce glare.
     I'm linking this to Off The Wall Friday where you can see other art quilt blogs. Please make comments on their posts to let them know you visited.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Taking Photos of Quilts Part 1

     I used to think that my small Point-and-Shoot camera (Canon Power Shot) was fine for all my photography. When I compared my travel photos I took on it to the photos my husband took on his professional camera (Pentax K7), mine looked as good (sometimes, better) than his. My photos were sharply in focus and the colors were true. And the detail shots from my camera were wonderful. He didn’t own a macro lens, so he couldn’t take close-up shots and my camera has a button in the Program to take close-ups. 
But I discovered my camera’s weaknesses when I took quilt photos:
1.) When I took photos of my quilts from a distance to get the whole quilt in the photo, they seemed adequate, but when I looked at the photo on the computer monitor and zoomed in, they seemed a little fuzzy. (And I was using a tripod and a 10 second delay.) When I looked at quilt photos from art quilts of some of my favorite artists, I could zoom in on their photos a great deal and their photos stayed sharply in focus. Sometimes, I could even see individual stitches on their quilts when I zoomed in.

2.) On some of my quilts, the camera had trouble reading the correct colors. It didn’t matter if I took the photo outside in the daylight or inside. 

So, to solve problem number one:
     I asked for help from a Yahoo group from SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associoates) that I belong to and I got a lot of good advice from them. Various members told me that I probably didn’t have my aperture on the camera set high enough (which means I didn’t have my camera set to focus on both the depth of the valleys produced by the quilting and the top surfaces of the quilt at the same time.) 
     I did some research on-line about point-and-shoot cameras and found out that they do not have adjustable apertures. They only have one aperture setting. That works fine if you are taking landscape photos, or portraits where you aren’t going to be zooming in, or close-up shots where everything you want is at about the same depth. But it doesn’t work for quilts because quilts have depth due to the stitching and quilting. It’s okay for photos that you are going to only use for your blog, but not for your website where you want people to be able to zoom in to see the quality of your work to make sales. It’s not okay for photos for calls for entry where you want the jurors to be impressed with your work, either.
     The only answer I found is to use a camera that you can adjust the aperture setting to above 8. I ended up using my husband’s camera for the whole shots and using an aperture setting of 10 to get clear, crisp photos. And of course, I had the camera on a tripod and had the camera set for a time delay. I used a 12 second delay. I set the tripod at a distance so that the quilt fit well into the photo and had space to crop later using photo software. I had the quilt pinned to my design wall, which is white felt glued onto insulation board.  DESIGN WALL  I had the pins pinned onto the back of the quilts so that they could not be seen.
Here I’ll show you an example with a quilt called "Three Round Bales". I it made several years ago with the theme of a hayfield. (I was influenced by Gustav Klimt at the time, after a trip to Eastern Europe and made several art quilts with the Klimt influence.) Because of many beads, wires, and stitches, it has a fair degree of depth in places, and needed to have a camera with a high aperture setting to get a good depth of field. 
Hayfield art quilt photo with the Pentax

quilt photo with my point-and-shoot camera
You can see that the second photo is adequate, but isn't in focus everywhere if you zoom in on it.

And since my detail shots with my point-and-shoot camera came out so crisp and focused I just couldn’t figure out why the whole quilt shot kept coming out fuzzy until I found out that my camera only had the one aperture setting in it.
Here is a detail shot with my little point-and-shoot camera.
Detail showing wire and beads

You can visit my website to see the other detail shots of this quilt and to read the background information and see the other Klimt-influenced farm hayfield quilts I made at that time (go to the Landscape section of the Gallery).

Next week, I’ll post how I solved problem number two.
I hope I’m not boring you with technical details. I just know how I struggled with this when I was trying to enter quilts into calls for entry and couldn’t figure out what was going on. I hope it helps some of you.

By the way, if you join SAQA, you get to belong to their Yahoo discussion group and you can search back through all the topics that have ever been discussed there. I have learned so much from this group of artists on an amazing variety of topics. You can ask any question and that same day it will be answered in detail by several people. And that is only one of the membership benefits. Visit to learn more about membership.

And here is a link to a book that is very helpful about photographing quilts and editing the photos called Digital Essentials by Gloria Hansen

I'm linking this to Off The Wall Friday where you can see other art quilt blogs. Please make comments on their posts to let them know you visited.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Uploading Photos

Since I still can't sew, I've been working on cleaning out files on my hard drive and getting rid of not so great photos of my quilts and uploading better photos of them. I've finally mastered getting good photos of them (I hope). My next blog post will detail some things I've learned and have some links on how to photograph quilts. For me, it was a long learning curve.With the old method of photography I used, I had a terrible time getting clear enough detail on the shots of the whole quilts and the camera just couldn't get a good read on the true colors. Now, I think I have enough detail on the whole quilt shots and the colors are just right without much effort.
     In the meantime, here is a photo of a quilt I made this past Spring and some detail shots of it. This quilt is not at all in my usual style. I made it for a special call for entry. It didn't get accepted to that show, but I'm glad I made it. The idea just popped into my head and I had to keep on working on it madly until it was finished. Usually, I work on pieces very slowly.
      I've named and renamed this quilt. Presently, it is called "Circle of Emotions". It used to be called "Spirit of Emotions".  I thought of "Of Two Minds" and "The Prescience of Mind".  All of them fit, but none speak to me. What about you? Here is the artist statement that goes along with it:

It is amazing how complicating emotions are and that colors can help us identify with those feelings. In this piece I tried to show two opposing sides; the fiery, passionate side with loving feelings and stormy outbursts and the colder, more calculating side where the all-knowing eye sets the gears in motion to analyze with detachment of emotion. I chose to use deeply saturated colors and many silks because of their shimmer, adding to the feelings of passion. I selected a pattern for quilting the background to represent both icicles and teardrops. And in the midst of all this complexity of feeling, the Spirit of Emotions keeps it all in balance.
Circle of Emotions

Detail 1 Female figure and gears

Detail 2 The Eye
I'm linking this to Off The Wall Friday where you can see other art quilt blogs. Please make comments to let them know you visited.