Thursday, January 29, 2015

Do You Like A Challenge?

     Do you ever make art as a result of a challenge? One of the things my art group, ArtsEtc, does periodically is set a challenge for ourselves. At our January meeting, we went on a field trip to a local park and we walked and took photos. Our challenge was to make an art piece 8 inches by 8 inches as a result of our inspiration from our visit and our photos. It's due at our March meeting. The park is a really cool place. Not only does it have amazing plants, but also has ruins from a sugar mill, dinosaur sculptures about 10 feet tall, a few cement ponds, some buildings here and there, and lots of pathways. Here are some of the photos I took.
lots of Spanish moss
from the old sugar mill

from the old sugar mill

I like circles and use them a lot in my art so I wanted to incorporate the shape of the bowls somehow and definitely wanted to use green and capture the texture of the Spanish moss. There were also several rusted remains there, too. As I wandered the pathways and took and took my many photos, I immersed myself in the feeling of the place.
     At home, I tried several arrangements of fabrics and in the end I used two of my monoprinted fabrics, a commercial fabric, a sheer that a friend hand dyed, a cotton that I had rusted, a piece of a dryer sheet that I had painted, and some cheesecloth that I had dyed. I even used a car part (I think) that I found in a parking lot a long time ago. The circles I embroidered represent the many pathways and also represent a stack of rocks (which, to me, represents reaching a goal). I embroidered stitches around the rust marks of the washers in the lower left and that also represents pathways. The archway is an open passage to somewhere. The piece is called "Passages".
     This kind of challenge is a good one for me in that it makes me put together images in a meaningful way. It's a small piece so it doesn't take a lot of time. And perhaps it could lead to a larger, even more meaningful piece in the future. We will probably take another local field trip later this year that will lead to another challenge if the group likes how this one turned out for our members. I'm linking this to Off The Wall Friday where you can find other art quilt blogs. Please make comments on their posts so that the artists know you stopped by. Thanks for visiting.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Do You Have A Way To Give Yourself A Push Forward?

     Haven't you sometimes found yourself sometimes stuck creatively or just get a little unsure of yourself? Well, that's why I chose my word of the year to be EXPLORE. It gives me the excuse to jump forward and try things without fear and to not worry about stumbling along the way. Sure, I'll have some "failures". But I'll probably have some unexpected successes, too, that I wouldn't have had if I hadn't set my sights into new territory. To start off this idea, I began by making a prayer flag for my studio with my word on it. Here is its photo in-process.
original plan
     I hand-sewed those elements on and did a pillow case backing. The bottom of the fabric was hanging lopsided and I liked the look so I went with that. I embroidered the word on with a split back stitch.
Finished flag
     I decided to not add the key. I added embroidery instead to symbolize footsteps.
Flag hanging on studio door
     I sewed tabs on the back of the flag and attached it to a wood rod leftover from a paper Chinese scroll we bought in China in 1984. The scroll deteriorated long ago. The orange silk ties are remnants from saris that I got in a fabric trade in one of my art groups.
     So now, every time I walk into my studio, I am pushed forward to not be afraid to go for it. I'm linking this to Off The Wall Friday where you can find other art quilt blogs. Please make comments on their posts so that the artists will know you stopped by. Thanks for visiting.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Do You Have Favorite Fabrics You Are Hesitant To Use?

     Do you have a stash of special fabrics that are too precious to use for anything? When I went to Festival for my first and only time in 2012, I bought a few baggies of hand-dyed silks. Some were from saris and some were not. Some were very small pieces maybe 5 inches by 5 inches and others were almost fat quarter sized. Unlike my other fabrics, I held onto these for awhile and just took them out and admired them; afraid to use them up. Then, a call for entry came, and I got very, very inspired (like never before), and made a quilt using many of them. I had never used silk before and they were perfect for this quilt. Perhaps because it was very much different than all my other works and I wasn't adept at this style, the quilt didn't get chosen and my friends had somewhat subdued responses to it. But I had never had an experience of working like I did on this one.  I was obsessed with inspirations and revelations while I was working on it and got up in the middle of the night to work on it when I awoke with ideas. I literally worked on it hours and hours on end for three weeks. It was an amazing process for me because the work came from deep inside my psyche and I hope to have another like it someday.
     As for the quilt, it hangs in my studio. It is for sale on my website, but I'm not sure if I'll be happy or sad if it actually sells since it was such an emotional process to make it. I'm in the process of renaming it. I've never been happy with the name it presently has of Circle of Emotions
Circle of Emotions
     Also, it doesn't at all fit in with my other art so I don't know where in my head it came from. But there it is. Anyway, the reason I'm showing it again is because of all the precious hand-dyed silks I used on it.
     This week, I decided to make a prayer flag for my studio with my word of the year EXPLORE on it. And since it will hang on the door to my studio where I will see it every time I walk in, I decided to use very special fabrics. So I took out what's left of those silks and I used them to design a flag.
    Here's my design.
-The elements are pinned on the background silk. All are silk, too.
 -The circle thing is stamped on sheer silk and cut out. (It's a symbol I've developed.) 
-The wood stick is one I picked up on a beach when I was observing penguins in Argentina in November in 2014. 
-The key is from a photo I took of an actual key and then manipulated in ArtStudio on my iPad and then used the Waterlogue App on it and then printed it onto cotton muslin.
- The word Explore is printed on fabric but will be embroidered directly onto the silk.
 And of course, as it proceeds, I'll probably make changes as I go. I think the whole thing will be hand stitched. (A carry over from my online class with Jude Hill .) 
     Speaking of classes... I don't take many. I'm pretty picky about which ones I sign up for. I just signed up for one with a fabric artist I've long admired. Her name is Pat Pauly and she's teaching a wonderful class called Slash and Burn: Techniques for Improvisational Design in New Smyrna, Florida March 18 - March 21.  There is still room in the class but the deadline to sign up is Feb. 1. The accommodations are marvelous and beautiful in a natural setting. Here is the link to read about it and register if you are interested Focus on Fiber Florida Style
     So I do still hold on to my precious stash of fabrics and only use them for special things when my heart calls out. But when it does, out comes the scissors and I don't hesitate to cut them up and it feels so good to see them being used. I'm linking this to Off The Wall Friday where you can find other art quilt blogs. Please make comments on the artists' posts to let them know you stopped by. Thanks for visiting.

Friday, January 9, 2015

What Happens To You When You Clean Out Your Studio?

     Does anything happen when you clean out your studio other than it becomes more organized and better looking? Like a lot of us do in January, I decided to go through my studio and get rid of the clutter.  I started section by section and was determined to pick up all the little odds and ends that I had put in the nooks and crannies because I couldn't think of a place to put them. They either had to have a place or they had to go. I was also determined to file away all the papers and articles I had collected into folders and organize them so that I could find them later when I wanted them.
     Well, I did that and it actually only took one day. But one of the things I found on my craft desk in a basket was a set of small blank business cards that I had made into small art compositions many years ago. I remember how much fun I had making them on such a small scale. I used pieces of painted dryer sheets, threads, strips of fabrics, sequins, iron-on fusible to attach them to the cards and then colored netting fused on top to hold it all down. Here's one that I particularly liked.
blank business card designed
     When I saw this in the basket, I thought "Hmmm, I wonder if I could actually make an art quilt with this design?" It was 8:30 PM last night. The studio was just about spotless. I had just put away the vacuum cleaner. I was getting ready to sit down with a cup of tea and watch TV. But then I remembered my word for the year of 2015 is EXPLORE.  So I opened up my sketchbook and got out my Inktense pencils and painted what you see in the bottom book. The dark stripes are strips of fabric that I glued on top. The painting confirmed I could paint it. So I checked out my paint supply and I didn't have much on hand. Only some samples from workshops and a few real jars. Maybe enough for a quilt top. But that's what EXPLORE is about, isn't it? So the next step was to see what the samples of paint looked like on crinoline which is what I wanted to what paint on. That's my sample crinoline in the top book with the key on the right page.
sample book on top, sketchbook on bottom

Now it was about 10:00 PM and I was really excited about this. I cut a piece of crinoline that I had prewashed and dried to about 27 inches by 37 inches. I put plastic on my cutting table, a layer of white muslin on top of that and the crinoline on top of that.  I put all my paints that I wanted to use with a container of water and a spray bottle of water and a flat brush.  And of course, Opus, my ever present cat set himself up on table right next to the cutting table not wanting to miss a thing. As the brush moved across the length of the crinoline his head was like a spectator watching a tennis match watching the ball moving back and forth across the net.
     I used the Jacquard paints as is. For the Golden paints, I mixed those with the GAC 900 fabric medium 1:1 since they aren't fabric paints. I watered down all the paints a lot as I used them. I painted very loosely and had a lot of fun. My feeling was that if it didn't work out, the fabric piece was so large that I would at least end up with smaller pieces that I would love and could cut up and use for something good. Here is how I ended the evening at about 11:30 PM.
Painted crinoline 27x37
     I'm planning to work more on this fabric today and add batting and fabric strips and stitching if all goes well. Cleaning out the studio accomplished more than I intended and EXPLORE is indeed off to a good start. I'm linking this to Off The Wall Friday where you can find other art quilt blogs. Please make comments on their posts to let the artists know you stopped by. Thanks for visiting.

Friday, January 2, 2015

From Photo To Sketch To Fabric

      My art group, ArtsEtc, meets once a month except for July because that meeting falls on the July 4th weekend. This past summer, a small group of us decided to meet at my house that weekend and take a walk at a local park and take photos for inspiration. I came away with photos of Spanish moss hanging from large live oak trees, and close-up shots of beautiful textures on leaves and bark. The sunlight of the early morning left wonderful patterns peaking through the foliage as we walked down the shaded path towards the lake. Suddenly, the trees opened up before us when reached lake and this is one of the many photos I took as an osprey sat on one of the piers as it fed on a fish it recently caught that morning.
early morning on the lake
     I knew that I wanted to capture this moment in my art somehow. It was very quiet. I could hear the water lapping against the piers. I could hear some birds in the distance. No traffic noise at all. No wind. None of us spoke.
     So at my sketching group, I made a few sketches with this photo as the focal point. Some were more realistic. Some were more abstract. I eventually settled on one that I liked a lot that is a stylized landscape.
     I got out my monoprinted fabrics from here and some older ones and started laying them out on my design board to fit into the sketch background. That was the easy part. The harder part was to figure out how to translate the lines I had drawn on the sketch into fabric. I could couch them on with fibers, I could do bobbin work with thick thread, or I could try to paint the lines on. In the end, I decided to put two black threads in the needle at once and then free motion stitch as normal. To do this, you thread one spool as normal, and then put the other spool on the other thread holder and thread as normal but through the other tension disk. (Both threads go through the same and only eye of the needle; size 90 universal needle.) I had no problems with thread breakage or thread tension.
     I sketched out the lines onto the yellow quilting paper first and pinned it on top of the fabric and then sewed (with the double threads) on top of the drawn lines on the paper. Then I ripped off the paper. Here's a photo that shows some of the stitching done and some of the paper still on with the sketching on the paper.
in-progress stitching
If you think the fabric with the piers is lighter in color than you saw from the link above, you are correct. That's because I decided to use the reverse side of it. I felt that the "right side" was too dark and saturated for this quilt. Here's a close-up photo of part of it.
with paper and sketching waiting to be stitched
     The color inside the piers was added with Shiva Paintstiks. Now I have the stitching done and am down to some more difficult decisions. How to do the bird and how to add Spanish moss. I've made three birds already. One that I printed onto cotton fabric from a photo, but it just doesn't fit with this style of art. One that I painted onto fabric and just doesn't fit, either. And one that I printed onto sheer fabric and it is too faint. I have a few more ideas to try out for the bird.
     For the Spanish moss, I thought I was going to use painted cheese cloth, but the texture doesn't fit with this quilt. Neither does some wool roving that I have. I need something smooth and flat to go with the lines I stitched and the flat look of the painted piers. I have few ideas to try for that, too. Time to put on the creativity hat. I'm linking this to Off The Wall Friday where you can find other art quilt blogs. Please make comments on their posts to let the the artists know you stopped by. Thanks for visiting.