Monday, January 18, 2016

Art Journaling,
looking for my voice in mixed media

Last year I took a wonderful on-line mixed media class called LifeBook.  I was very hesitant about doing this kind of class, mostly because of my unfamiliarity with the materials. I didn't even know what gesso was! I learned all kinds of wonderful lessons from the myriad of teachers. However, since finding my artistic voice in fabric, I had a lot of resistance towards the weekly lessons because I was copying what the teacher was doing.  It rubbed me the wrong way.  I hadn't found my artistic voice in this mixed media thing and it was very frustrating!

And, one of the optional features of the class, was the sharing of our work on a private Facebook group.  It was inspiring to see the range of work being done.  It was amazing to make something that looked like the teacher's lesson when I had no confidence at the start that I could draw or paint like that.  It was incredible to see other people learning the same thing!  But, it also reinforced my need for finding my own voice because there was a small subset of people that were able to learn from the lesson, but create their own work.  It didn't look like a derivative, it was original and wonderful.  Must learn to crawl before walking, and so I set off to both learn and find myself.

Now, it is a year later, and I am happy to tell you that about half way the year, I branched off into a mini-side project to find my voice.  I started with half-sized pages, and just devoted one side per day to some play.  I also journaled each day on the page.  My intention was two-fold, in that I wanted to both find my voice, but also use the work to keep better track of my diet and exercise towards a more balanced and healthy life. Lofty goals! The daily work on the journal page kept me accountable to myself, and for the most part it worked! 

What was most interesting is that the act of playing with watercolors, and colored pencils, and gesso, and paint, and markers was the THING that brought balance back, the rest just followed.  I gave myself permission to not have to plan every page, just play, on a daily basis.  The outcome of a beautiful page was no longer important.  Every day that I did this somehow freed me up to have a good day, a productive day, a healthy and balance day, and the ability to be flexible to what the day offered.  It was surprising to say the least!  Um, bad art leads to happy life?  Not exactly, it was just PLAY leads to happy life, and my form of play was with the colors on the page, and experimenting, and journaling about my life.

The end of the year came and I had almost 200 pages done.  I had also finished the LifeBook class, and the last lesson was about binding the pages we had worked on throughout the year.  I did not want to bind my artjournal pages in the same format, but I became motivated to see an alternative, one that I found on Youtube with SeaLemon.  Every question I had, she answered in one of her bookbinding tutorials.  I experimented with types of binding the pages in groups of 50 pages each, and found that I really like it when the art pages lie flat when opened.  I also like being able to see the entirety of each page.

The first one, I simply glued the edges of the pages, and then wrapped it in a hard cover.  I put about 5 layers of glue on the spine side of the pages, with heavy books weighing the pages down, and waited for them to dry in between coats.  I used cardboard from the drawing pads and used Mistyfuse on some of my own batiked fabric for the covers.  That was easy and also quite attractive because I love my batiked fabrics!  I also have a small watercolor journal that was bound this way, and I know that sometimes the pages fall out, so I added a small tie to the outer edges.  The results?
This one has a page coming loose

here's the tie to hold the loose pages in.
I like the simplicity of this style of binding, but I don't like that the pages come out so easily.  And, the book does not lie flat.  Perhaps not the best choice for these thick watercolor paper pages?

Try number 2.  For this one, I sewed strips of folded watercolor paper to the edges of each group of 2 pages.  This allowed me to stack the pages into small signatures and then sew the signatures together.

This took more time.  I had to cut the strips of paper, fold them, punch holes and sew to each individual page.  Then there was some time involved in sewing the signatures together.  It was all easy though.  This technique had the advantage of the pages opening flat, and you could see all the art, with the exception of the 1/4 inch covered by the white folded strip for the binding.  I also added a hard back cover with the Mistyfused fabric on the outside.  

The last one uses a form of a copic stitch.  And even with hard covers for the front and back, there is no cover for the spine. 
Spine from the top view

spine from the side view, love the rainbow threads!

Here is the last page with the back cover.  I selected some wrapping paper for the inside cover.
I think I like this style the best.  I used 6 strand embroidery floss that I ran through some beeswax.  The pages lie flat, and the thread only covers the art by a very little bit.  It is attractive too, and I used hard covers for the front and back with my batik fabric.  The only disadvantage is that it takes a long time to stitch all the pages together, one by one.  I also used some clear packing tape on the edge of each page just to make it stronger.

All in all, a fun project, one that I will continue into this year.  And, now that I know a bit about binding, it makes pre-planning my pages a much easier prospect!  Here are some images of the art I made this year. 

Monday, January 04, 2016

Silver Linings Circles 
59" x 58.5"
This lovely project came to me through a fabric designer I have known for a few years now, Hoodie Crescent. She wanted me to make a quilt with her fabrics to help with marketing, and so she introduced me to STOF fabrics. I was excited about the opportunity because I just love making quilts. We agreed to a few terms and then I waited for the fabric to arrive!
I am very new to this style of working. It seems odd to me to make a quilt from just one collection of fabrics, even though they are all made to go together, I usually like to work in a more "scrappy" mode. In this gesture, they also sent me some fabrics from another line to put in with the Silver Linings. Very cool! I had no idea how much fabric I asked for until it arrived. It was a LOT of fabric!! I set about washing and ironing! The fabric was so soft, I really enjoyed the meditative quality of handling all of it before I got started!

On another note, I must tell you that they wanted me to write a pattern to go with it. I have no experience writing patterns, so I wrote the pattern as I worked. Lots of notes, measurements and photos helped me put it together. Also, because STOF fabrics is in Denmark, they have many customers who use the metric system, so my pattern needed to be in English and Metric measurements. This added to my anxiety, but ultimately was not a problem, just a bit more work. They will be adding it to their website at some point if you want to download it and make this fun quilt!

My idea was to make some improvisational patchwork (like on the back of Pink and Orange), and cut it into drunkard path's blocks. I grouped the fabrics into 4 color patterns, and set to work. The first one was the creams and greens (and a little pop of aqua blue).
It just needs to be big enough to fit under the template I drew. 
This is a photo of it on my glass door.  Once I pressed the freezer paper template in place, I could easily see that my patchwork had "grown" large enough.  It was time to cut!  Then sew it to the plain cream background piece:
This part is really easy, even though it looks rather lumpy.  It turns out that the bigger the curve, the easier it is to sew!  I simply folded the patchwork in half, twice, to make folds, and then did the same thing to the background piece.  Match the folds, with right sides together, and pin, and then slowly sew easing in the fullness.  You can see more (including videos!) about this simple technique on my blog post with a tutorial for making One Earth.

I used a different patchwork for each quadrant of the circle.  It was easy to make these fabrics sing!

Next up?  How to quilt it!  I decided to keep it simple and modern, long parallel lines, 1/4" spaced.  I think it worked perfectly!  And it leads me to another wonderful Quilt Market story!  I met Becky Richards from Hobbs Batting (which I mentioned on the post regarding my 2nd place win at the Houston Quilt Show for Two Deer, or Too Dear!).  She had sent me some sample battings to play with!  I choose the Cotton (80%)/Wool (20%) blend for this project, and just LOVED it.  It was so easy to work with, easy to quilt, and the quilt looks fantastic after all this quilting!  It hangs so nicely!
This may become my new favorite batting, but I have another Hobbs sample to try, a Silk batt! 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Pink and Orange

More circles!  Yay!! This is one of my stashbuster projects...the one in which I learn to piece circles in the form of the block known as Drunkard's Path.  I pieced many, many circles for this quilt.  And about half way through I learned how to do it without cursing so much! Ha!
On the left I have 8" pink circles on solid orange backgrounds.  On the right, I have 6" orange circles on solid pink backgrounds.  I thought the two sides would look significantly different because of the colors.  What I learned, which is especially true for this color palette, is that that the value of the color was more significant.  The placements of lights and darks (whether orange or pink) is what adds movement to the design.  And for me, the size of the circles also plays a less dominant role than I thought it would.  I like it though.  It is cheerful and fun.
And, then I decided to try some really big circles, for the back!  And, because the front is practically blinding, in your face, a LOT of color, I opted for a quieter design on the back.  Then if I got tired of color, I could go for a more relaxed feeling.  I pieced these giant (maybe 30" across?) circles from some neutral fabrics in my stash.  I also won a $50 gift certificate to the Cloth Pocket from a little block contest at our Austin Modern Quilt Guild meeting with my good friend, Sherri McCauley.  I spent that pretty quickly and added to my collection of neutrals.  These came in handy for the back too!

I have already started quilting this one, but I'm not quite finished yet.  And I don't have pictures of the quilting.  I will eventually get it finished and share it with you.

Last note for today, this project has led to several others already!  With the image of a big circle in my head, I started working on One Earth (and here). And, after a trip to the Houston Quilt Market I got a commission quilt for a fabric company (which you may have already seen on Instagram or Facebook), but I will blog about it next week!

Monday, December 21, 2015

66" x 64"
The photo above shows the design of all the elements, but unfortunately did not capture the texture from the quilting at all.  I am frustrated by how hard it is to take a good photo of a mostly white quilt.  So many photo sessions!! Argh!  I tried outside.  I tried inside, with photo lights, with the flash, without any lighting.  I tried using my old Nikon and my new Canon.  I tried many, many fixes on Photoshop to make the photo look like the actual quilt.  Many times I got all the colors right, except the green kept getting distorted.  In photo terms, it is called, "What you see is what you get".  This is supposed to work using the RAW mode.  Mine did not.  And I also shoot with a grey card from MacBeth (which I can never remember the correct name).  Meanwhile, it is very obvious when shooting a white quilt when you get the lighting wrong.  This one was close to the best I could do.  I am so grateful that the detail shots are so much easier.  The photo below looks like the quilt.  I love the way the quilting lines show every tiny little ripple. 
And despite my ranting, I am so happy to tell you that this quilt was juried into QuiltCon 2016!!  I am very pleased that it will get a public audience, one that is in person, because of the afore mentioned problems with my photographs of this quilt.  It will definitely look better in person!

You can read more about how I made it on a previous post from last March, here. As for the personal meaning for me?  I was nearing the end of a long period of grieving and wondering if I should stop quilting.  I had decided to sew up all the fabric I had into quilts (the Stashbuster project), and then quit.  Or maybe quit?  I didn't know where I was going.  I felt lost.  I also felt like I was over the hill, falling.  The metaphor of these beads falling off a string, not knowing where they were going to land fit me perfectly!

And, if you have been following my blog, it will be obvious that I haven't quit yet.  I am still working on the Stashbusters, on and off, but my muse has started singing to me again and I am working. Happily working.  And last, I would like to share with you a funny picture of my cat that I previously posted on Instagram.  The cats are supposed to stay off my quilts.  This kitten hasn't learned that yet.

Monday, December 14, 2015

One Earth, the back

I decided it would be interesting to piece the back.  I had 4 big white quadrants left over from the front that I wanted to use for the center here.  So, I pieced the back using about 6" squares from these lovely pastels that were included in my fat quarter stacks from Hoffman Fabrics. 
I opted to replace the darker purples with gray and then made 4 of these sets to look like this:
That big grey line is where my two design walls meet....
Next I pressed a freezer paper template to each section and cut them out like so:
Next, they were stitched with the white circles, another giant drunkard's path block, and the 4 blocks were stitched together:
I LOVE the effect!  Very pretty!  Also, I always make my backs bigger than the fronts, to allow for some shifting while quilting.  So after quilting and trimming to the front of the quilt, it looks more like this (except the colors are a bit duller in this photo, I don't know why...):
And, I kind of like the trimmed off edges.  And though it was lined up when I basted it, you can see a subtle distortion and uneven shapes on the edges.  It doesn't bother me, even though I thought it would.  It is part of what happens when you quilt in a spiral.  Here's a close up of the quilting:
Luscious!  I love the side angle view too!
And, if you are wondering, I don't always put something interesting on the backs.  It just depends on the quilt.  I have a giant quilt waiting for it's turn to be quilted and it has just a solid piece of fabric on the back.  I am not kidding! :)

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, December 07, 2015

The Making of One Earth - Tutorial

I had been playing with improvisational curves.  Unfortunately, I like my curves too curvy.  And, the improv curves work better with less curvy curves.  Ultimately, this technique failed for me for this project because my pieces got increasingly distorted as the shape got larger.  So, I opted for the more traditional approach for curved pieces.  This is a method that works!

Draw your curves on a piece of freezer paper.
Cut out the paper shapes.
Press them to the RIGHT side of the fabric.
DO NOT cut along the edge of the freezer paper, DO cut 1/4" from the edge of the freezer paper, thus adding your seam allowance.
Then sew the pieces together (right sides together).

Bonus: The freezer paper templates can be reused many times!
I started by drawing some curves.  

If you would like to see this is action, here's a short video of drawing the curves:

Also, I wanted my biggest and last curve to be a perfect circle, like a Drunkard's path pattern.  So, I started with it first, and used a tape measure with holes punched in it (I punched the holes myself!).

Also, I mentioned in the video that you can make one big circle if you make 4 templates like this.  Too silly!  You don't need to make 4 templates, that's the beauty of having a template.  Draw it once, and then use it 4 times to make a circle!

Next I cut the paper shapes apart with a rotary cutter.  I did not hit the lines exactly, but that is really not too important, as long as you add the 1/4" as you cut your fabric to the actual edge of the freezer paper template.  Press them to the right sides of the fabric, and cut them all out.
Here is another video showing using scissors to cut the seam allowance:
Here are all the pieces for one quadrant of the earth. You can see the seam allowances peaking out from the paper templates.

Next, gently peel off the freezer paper and then stitch the pieces together.
Fold each piece in half with the two sides touching and crease the middle, then fold again.  You will have pieces that look like this.  The creased folds will help you pin the pieces together.

When opened, it should look like this:

Here is a photo of how to match the creases:

Place one pin at each side, and a pin for each fold:

I like to sew with the larger piece on the top.  Even though the folds look unwieldy, it is not too hard if you sew slowly.  Here is a video with a few tips:

After sewing fabrics for all four quadrants, I selected a background, in this case white fabric.
Then a made a template for the background from the unused outer corner of the arcs I drew and cut earlier.  Sorry, but I didn't take a picture of that one!  You can get an idea of the shape by looking at the shape of the white corner pieces in the photo above.

Next up, the little i's.  I used Mistyfuse on the back of all my fabrics.  It is super easy and quick and fun!  Cut out a piece of the Mistyfuse and press it to the back of the fabric using a teflon sheet to protect your iron.  When it cools, peel it up and cut out your shape.  I used varying widths and heights to make the i's and then decided their placement on the quilt top before any of them were pressed into place.

Last up, layering with batting and a backing (which is another post!), and quilting with my favorite grey Masterpiece from Superior Threads:

I had a LOT of fun with the quilting!  It was fun to pick a different pattern for each of the layers.  I did not have fun quilting the 1/2" concentric spiral of the background.  I love the way it looks, but it is not fun too do it.  I should also mention that I quilted the background BEFORE fusing the "i" shapes on.  It made it much easier to get the effect I wanted.  Then I went back and quilted the i's too!

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

One Earth
47" x 47"
and other stuff going on....

Confluence.  I just love that word.  This quilt was the confluence of multiple things going on in my life and in the world.  Part 1: One odd piece was related to the terrorist attacks on Paris.  I had the television on, which is unusual for me because I don't have cable.  I was watching the news in horror as the situation unfolded.  That was the first I heard of the Climate Talks that were about to happen in Paris.  And the last thing I would want is for terrorists to prevent that from happening.  But I also had the fear, the unavoidable and understandable fear.  I was worried that it would be a set-up for another attack.

Part 2: And, I have been shopping for a new car.  The criteria was NEW, ah yes!, and it had to have better gas mileage than my old minivan.  You may be wondering, but this is how the second part of the story is related to the first part.  I want to do my part to help the global climate, as small and insignificant as it feels, it all adds up.  I went searching for hybrid or electric car.  I am so disappointed to tell you that it is just not working out for us.  My son is too tall.  He keeps hitting his head on all the smaller and more fuel efficient cars.  It doesn't help that he is so inflexible and refuses to sit in the front seat, that's the Aspergers...and it is something I can work on, but it will take time.  And I will have to temporarily give up another goal if this one becomes a priority.  NUTS!!  That left me shopping for a big car with bad gas mileage, and despite the fact that the price of gas is dropping, it just hits me the wrong way to buy a bigger and badder car.  And, it requires trying out more car models than I have the patience for.  I am the odd bird, I do not like to shop.  So for now, we are still driving the old car, and will continue to do so...

Part 3:  While at Quilt Market, I was given a giant stack of fat quarters of Me+You from Hoffman Fabrics.  They were very nice to touch so the first thing I did when I got home was to wash them and iron them dry.  It was a lot.  And since I like to sew, this was a gift I can totally appreciate!  Unfortunately, many of the colors are just not colors that I want to look at, much less sew with.  So, I took out the pretty and bright and pure colors and set them in their own stack.

That left the darker earth tones and the lighter pastels, each got their own stack.  They sat that way for a week, and one morning I woke up with this image in my head.  And, I knew that the earth tones would actually be for the earth image.  And, I LOVE the way bright colors pop with neutrals, so they would be the "i" figures.

It nagged me for 2 full days.  I think sometimes we call this the MUSE.   One week later the quilt was born, with slight modifications of the design, fully quilted, and ready to go.  I entered it into QuiltCon2016 on the last day of registration.  Keeping my fingers crossed that it will get in!

For me this quilt is about the expression: we have more things in common than the things that separate us.  We all have family,  and community, and we all live on one earth.  We have to take care of that earth for our survival.  The climate talks are a crucial part of that, but only one part.

Next week I will show you how I made it.  My studio assistant, aka, my daughter, helped me film a few very short videos with some techniques I used.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

52" x 44.5"

This is my latest.  I have been thinking about it for a while, trying to firm up the design in my head.  I wanted to say something about the incredibly fast growth of my town.  I heard that 100 new people were moving to Austin, EVERY DAY.  People have to live somewhere, and I imagine many new houses being built.  And they are, and it is good for the economy.  But, there is a cost.  The animals are displaced.  The hills are razed, and rain washes the earth into the streams.  This is a natural process, but the rate is too fast.  It adds sediment to the streams which chokes out the life of the organisms living there.  It feels like we have lost site of protecting the environment which is our source of sustenance.  With this steady growth, how will we change to become better stewards of the earth?  As a society are we becoming more "developed" or less?

The process:
I used a giant screen to make the background from newspapers, mainly the Wall Street Journal.  I tore the newspaper pages into hills, and placed little squares of black construction paper on it, to make the houses. Then I carefully layered silk organza on top.  Next, I placed the screen and squeeged gel medium through it.  After it dried, I used water to gently remove as much paper as possible from the back.  You would be surprised how thin the final layer is!  This is called a paper laminate.

Once dry, I used Mistyfuse to gently place the yellow squares and black triangle roofs.  Some were done after adding the animals prints to the borders so that the houses could overlap into that space.  The faucet was printed on paper, and then made into a paper laminate as well.  I fused it with Mistyfuse on to the sky section.  Quilting was done in narrow 1/4" bands following the shapes of the hills with my favorite Masterpiece grey thread.  I had a lot of fun shopping for the animal prints.  I love, love, love the ghost bunnies and the tiny Japanese critter fabrics on the bottom.  I think I got both at Bunny's Designs.  I also shopped at the Cloth Pocket which is becoming a favorite!  Here are some detail shots for you. 
Houses falling out of the sky, like a giant faucet has been turned on.
foxes and deer
bears and more deer
tiny critters and ghost bunnies
And, I am happy to tell you that this piece has been selected to show in SAQA's Concrete and Grasslands exhibit which is opening at Grant's Pass Museum of Art in Oregon some time next year! It's a good feeling to make something I like, and then get to share it!