Tuesday, April 05, 2016

When I was young....

I heard about some paintings and sketches recently discovered from a famous artist, when he was young, before he knew how to paint.  For some reason these "beginner" works were highly regarded, maybe because they showed the origins of his greatness?  I can't even remember who it was.  But, that might be more about my age now.. ha!

So, back then, I made a conscious decision to save my artwork, you know for when I became a famous artist.  It is great to dream big! 

Well, I have been wading through my life as I unpack the towers of boxes from my studio.  I am simplifying my life and my studio and it means getting rid of a lot of things that I thought I needed to keep.  And now I am making a conscious decision to release these drawings back to the universe, these drawings that are from my childhood that I long ago forgot I had.  So I took pictures of them, and tossed the original crumbling papers that I saved for so many years. 

I was about 7 when my mom signed up my brother and me for a community art class, just to keep us busy.  It turned out it was for adults, and my brother was quickly ejected from the group.  I wanted to stay though.  And as the teacher kept "teaching" us about pastels and still life compositions, I just brought in my toys to sketch.  And, now I get to immortalize them on my blog, so I hope you enjoy these, from my childhood.  They bring back many fond memories!
This one is acrylic.  I remember being frustrated at how hard it was to control the thickness of the paint for the black line.  I really like this one now.  The bright flowers really pop!

A pastel, one of many of my good friend, Gumby! The pastels are not fixed.  It is amazing how much clarity still remains despite some obvious smudging is many of them.

My grandmother gave me this little lion.  I still had the lion too, who was really decomposing in the box where he was stored.  I let him go too!

One of several still lifes before my teacher gave me permission to bring in a toy to sketch.
Thanks for indulging me.  I am currently busy reforming my backyard gardens.  It is great weather, hard work, and I am sleeping really well! I am also too tired to make art right now.  And the gardens need to be done before it gets too hot to work outside.  Well that, and, I am not inspired.  It is hard work moving back in to the studio.  It is hard to let go of all the stuff I have accumulated over the years.  It is necessary work though, and I firmly believe the extra empty space will allow me room to grow!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Catching Up

I can't believe that it has been almost 2 months since I've posted.  I have missed QuiltCon.  These two quilts went to the show and were happy to be seen! Since I wasn't there, I watched a lot of Periscope and Instagram.  It was so nice to get the virtual tour!

One Earth
I have been tackling a few new house projects.  The biggest is the re-finishing of my hardwood floors in my studio.  It has needed to be done for about 10 years now.  The only hitch is moving EVERYTHING out of the studio.  I mean really, who wants to do that?? Meanwhile, since everything was out of the studio, I decided it was also a good time to remove the popcorn texture from the ceiling.  My moveable design walls are just tall enough to constantly bump into that stuff and have it rain on my floor.  And, it is unattractive.
scraping off the popcorn texture

covered in dust from the patching and sanding of the ceiling

And paint? Yes! The old purple walls will be painted a nice and light reflecting white paint.  I will miss the old purple, a lot, but I think I might be able to see better with white on the walls. I also wanted to mention, for the curious among you, that my body feels significantly older than the last time I scraped ceilings and painted walls.  This may be the last time I do this.

Here is a photo of the before floor, walls, and one of the bookshelves. The bookshelves were built in place. It is a simple construction, and very effective for storage. However, the bottom board sits on the floor.  To sand the floor, the bookshelves had to go. They are too large to move, because they reach from floor to ceiling, so I had to take them out, one board at a time...
goodbye old purple walls

The most fun so far was seeing the floor after sanding.  My fabulous workers painted samples on the floor of the new colors, and I got to pick!  It was fun.  Then they sanded off the samples and then stained the floor. Also fun, hiring someone to do the work.  These guys were VERY skilled and I so appreciate their craftsmanship and professionalism.
Floor sample colors, and the new white walls
Today is the last coat of the polyurethane, and then there will be days of outgassing the fumes.  Then I will go back to work, painting and re-installing the baseboards, putting in the sink, re-building the bookshelves, and then moving back in.  The sink! I found, hidden in my closet, a functioning water supply and drain!  So I bought this little sink at IKEA.  It took quite a few hours to assemble the 6 million pieces, but I am looking forward to having it in my studio!
IKEA sink for my closet + cat
I also decide to put in new window coverings.  My old ones were purple, like the walls.  I want nice white light, so I bought a white shade for the window, and white replacement slats for the vertical blinds covering the door.  The white replacement slats were NOT white, they were beige.  Bleah....It was disappointing, but not a disaster. Paint to the rescue.  One by one, I painted both sides with wall paint.  That is actually how I got the old purple blinds purple, I painted them too.
painting the vertical blinds 
Soon I hope to be happily quilting in my studio again, instead of stumbling over pieces of my studio in the rest of the house.  Cheers!

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!