Sunday, January 30, 2011

When is it a waste of time?

I went to my"get-together" and we were four ladies chatting, with three ladies knitting, andone with her arm in a sling. A pleasant Saturday afternoon, but I was there to learn about Etsy. What did I learn? " Go to . They'll tell you what to do." Thanks for the info--snark snark. For this, my poor husband had to dig the car out of the snow, and drive me to the meeting, then drive home to wait for me to call him to pick me up. So his afternoon was pretty well a waste of time, but was mine? I got out of the house, and I spent time talking to knowledgeable people about something that is important to me. ( We debated, not what is art and what is craft, but rather when does craft become art) So, even if time was wasted, from my perspective it was time fairly well spent. It certainly put me in a better mood for the rest of the day, and I slept well--recliner and all

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Quiet couple of days

Tuesday night, I pulled something while trying to adjust the quilts I'm using while sleeping in the recliner ( doctor's orders). So the last couple of days have been spent either doing my month end shopping, or playing internet poker ( I'm a big loser there, too) I'm not a fool. My body said "slow down" and I did.
During that time I took a look at the small hand quilted pieces I've been working on. They are small enough ( 12 by 12)that I quilt in the hand--an impossibilty now. ( I know, I tried) So, I went back to my days as a stitcher, and got out a 12 by 12 frame, and attached the quiltet to it with thumb tacks. I tried working with the frame resting on my studio table, and weighted down to hold it in place. This worked fairly well, but then I got out my floor frame and clamped the frame in there. Once it was adjusted to my working height, things went much better. This means that I have to quilt with a two-step-one down and one up- stitch rather than the one-step "scoop" stitch. This is a long, slow process, but I'm doing something--and that alone is worth the bother.
Today, I'm off to a drop-in get-together where members of a local Etsy group will be talking about selling through the internet. I've never done this, so now is my chance to learn something about it. Maybe this is the window that opened when the door was slammed shut on my production work.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

First results

Here is the piece I worked on yesterday. I specifically chose it to include a variety of techniques. I started with one of my gelatin prints, backed with Warm'n'Natural, then cut and lay down three strips of silk paper in blue and magenta. I arranged lengths of yarn,making sure that some were behind and some on top of the silk paper. I used my embellisher to pound these all into the background. I had originally planned to maintain an analogous colour scheme but that left the whole piece dull and boring, so I went with the compliment to the blue-orange. Not a true orange, as I found another piece of silk paper with yellow, orange, and just a hint of magenta. I traced the circles and cut them out with scissors--a much more difficult task than I had anticipated. The orange circles were FMQ'd with gold, in my trademark spiral pattern. Again, the FMQ'g proved a more difficult task than anticipated, as all of the thread manipulation and "fiddling" took place on the left side of the machine head. Have to re-think that one! I plan more FMQ'g, maybe some more spirals, but in dark blue so as to almost disappear into the background.

Of course, I overdid it. I was so excited about being able to work! I have no expectation that I produced any saleable art yesterday, but at the same time, I'm surprised at how well I did. Did I mention that I sold two of my little collaged quiltlets on Monday? So far a good week!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The journey begins

First day of a new and different life. My goals for the first week are to complete a skills inventory and force myself to become more physically active.

Skills inventory- I need to be creative, but it sure won't happen using the bi-manual skills I've honed over the past 65 years. So what skills can I use?

1. There is no way I can use a rotary cutter and ruler. I simply cannot exert enough pressure on the ruler to hold it steady enough for cutting. And the cutting is the first step in any fibre project. But I can hold the ruler steady enough to make a pencil mark, and my left had can hold very light objects--lighter than a full coffee mug. So I can draw lines and use scissors.

2. My very expensive new sewing machine requires two hands to use it. While I absolutely love the start/stop button, I can install the foot control--a device I used for 55 of my 65 years, and should be comfortable with. But getting my left hand up onto the bed of the machine is awkward. So I think I need a higher chair, and I have one..

3. I haven't tried ironing, but the bulk of the activity is accomplished with my right hand, and at a very good working height ( for me). Some experimentation needed here, but I'm optimistic..

4. When I've used my embellisher in the past, there was very little required in terms of hand function--just some simple guidance, which could be done with my right hand. Again, some experimentation required.

So how's that for 10 minutes of casual task analysis? It will mean being prepared to lower my expectations of myself, and a conscious effort to pace my work and listen to what my body tells me. Setting this all up will mean moving some furniture, so I'll have to get help for that, but it will also mean a much higher level of physical activity for me.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bit the bullet

and cancelled the two classes I had contracted to teach this spring. I've never done this before, and it has been a very difficult decision.. But--in all fairness, I'm not in any shape to give it my best, and when I teach, the students pay for my best. I have tried a little hand stitching, but yesterday, four stitches and I was in pain. There is no way I could teach a class on hand beading on fabric, with all of the demonstrations needed. But--I feel as though there has been a tremendous weight taken off my shoulders.

About a year ago, I gave myself a year's sabbatical from production work, in order to revive my muse. I have taken every class I could on painting or fibre, experimented with printmaking, and generally had a wonderful time. My muse came out to play early in the process, and has been re-appearing more and more frequently. But now I'm getting indications that my recovery time from this devastating fracture will be measured in months, if not years, rather than the 12 weeks that had first been estimated. This is one of those times when a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. My rehab background makes me aware of the hazards of such injuries. I'm well aware of the extent of the soft tissue injury, and I may be starting to see indications of potential nerve damage. So my best course of action is to be patient and do as I'm told. I'm not known for being good at either of those things.

So I plan to celebrate by extending my sabbatical by one more year. This will probably mean starting over on the show circuit, but even that will give me an excuse to visit as many shows as possible to maintain my awareness of what is a "hot" item. So, let the fun begin, and if I have to spend half my time playing internet poker (for play money), out of sheer boredom, at least let me win, once in awhile!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Creativity finds a way--despite broken bones

Attempted another painting class yesterday--this one was painting water using acrylics. (The painting is so very much easier than sewing ,when I'm only able to use one hand.) Many of the participants have been in other classes I've taken, so I'm able to relax a little more around them. Over lunch , during the conversation, a couple of other women said that they, too, were just there to learn the techniques. They had no expectation of creating great art or going home with a masterpiece. What a relief! I don't have to compete!

One woman, whose work I've quietly admired in other classes, expressed the same frustration that I've felt. As a painter, she loves working in the abstract, but finds that most technique classes are geared toward realism. My mixed media work is definitely abstract, and I had never even considered realism, until last fall when I started on these classes. She hadn't realized that I was a fibre artist, and was actually interested. ( I've really downplayed my fibre work in these classes, telling no-one unless I had confidence that they would be okay with it. Maybe the coward's way out, but I didn't want to get into that sort of adversarial confrontations that have come up in other artistic settings) So, I've agreed to take a couple of small pieces into the next class for her to see. She may also be interested in the small fibre art group that meets locally, but I'll have to feel her out a bit more before suggesting it.

The class yesterday was 6 hours with a 40 minutes lunch break. I "pooped out" after 5 1/2 hours. I was so glad to see my DH arrive to take me home! Came home and slept for almost 2 hours. Can't really say that I'm at the top of my game yet.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

May I rant?

Got further instructions about the official entry to the New Zealand show yesterday. Yes, I have to fill out a formal entry form, and send it along with money and a photo. Not a big deal, you say? Well, there were two pages, single spaced with instructions on how the photo is to be taken and processed through Photoshop Elements (PSE), so that it can be used to plan the layout of the show, to make sure that the right piece is attributed to the right artist, and on the internet for publicity etc. We were also told that if we don't have access to PSE, we are to download Picasa and use the tutorial that accompanies it to suitably finish the photo. I'm MAD! Two pages of , what is to me, a foreign language just to enter a show!!?

I try to learn new skills, but learning the computer is almost a full time job, and every time I conquer one thing, they raise the bar. Now it appears that, in order to be a fibre artist, I must become fully competent in photo processing/altering software. I didn't sign up for that!

I'm not a total Luddite, but I didn't grow up with computers, and I very much resent the time and effort needed to make them useful to me. Two years ago I signed up for a course in PSE, only to discover that it was a demonstration course. We, students, sat in the dark and watched the instructor play with the program. Mind you, he did give us a cd of pictures to play with at home, but since we were in the dark, note-taking was a problem, and no-one's memory is that good. To add to the problem, the course was given on WindowsXP, and my shiney new laptop had Vista. The commands etc within PSE were quite different to the ones I was seeing during classes. So I ended up totally confused and intimidated with the program, and many $$$ poorer

Then a friend steered me toward internet classes on PSE. Expensive, and also demonstration classes, and again not geared toward Vista.

Now I've finally found a woman who will teach a hands-on course on PSE. More $$$. The class doesn't start in time for me to make the show entry deadline, but maybe I'll be able to complete an entry for a future show.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


I notice that I have a couple more followers. A pleasant surprise!

I'm determined to continue with my painting classes, despite the broken arm. The first one, last Wednesday went fairly well. The paint got on the canvas, and not too much on me. Which paint to put where is always a problem and has nothing to do with which hand I use. So yesterday, I had a little homework to do. I've now decided that my "crap quota" is much higher with paint than with fabric. The class piece that I finished is pure crap. I'm supposed to take it back next week for a critique, and then next week's project is to paint the same picture/subject again with the opposite colour family. The subject is snow, and the piece I did is in yellows and oranges with a smokey grey/blue as the compliment. I absolutely cannot imagine it done in blues with a bit of pale orange. As well there just isn't enough value difference to make it the least bit interesting.
Now, I've done snow in fibre. I've had my snow pieces exhibited across North America and now have one heading for New Zealand. This subject, more than anything, is showing me that fibre and paint are two distinctly different media. My creativity, my understanding of art theory, colour theory etc remains the same ( however good or bad it might be) so the difference comes down to the technical aspect of the two. Now, --I believe that technique can be learned, and therefore, I can change my technical skill in putting down paint.
In terms of the classes, I'm finding that the less confidence I have in my technical ability, the more I'm wanting to stick with more rigid designs, and the less I'm willing to use an image or concept out of my brain. The teacher is pushing me in this direction, and I think both of us are getting a little frustrated.
I went through my photos of snow--I have quite a few--but this time I was looking for things like compostiton etc, rather than the individual features that I've used in past fibre projects. There isn't a lot, so today, on my way to an out-of-town meeting, we're going to take the camera along and spend some time in a local provincial park. DH will have to drive me, in any case, so, by getting two purposes out of one trip, I don't feel guilty about this detour.

Friday, January 14, 2011


Tried some simple sewing today. I have a show entry ready to go, except for its sleeve, so DH offered to help me get it put together, so that it could be passed along to a friend, who had offered to stitch it in place. I did some sewing, he did some sewing, and we got the sucker done. This one was a real problem, as it had to have Velcro attached. So then DH looked at it, pinned in place, and asked why it was so important, that it had to be hand sewn. I explained that all that I was worried about was that no stitches showed on the front. "Well, let me try", he says. So now he's busy sewing it on for me, and doing a fine job.
So, I ask you, what did I ever do to deserve such a wonderful man?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Worse than I thought

Got a call-back from emergency telling me that my shoulder is broken, and I'm now awaiting a call about an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon. I'm pissed!!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Fell yesterday and tore some ligaments in my left arm and shoulder. I have a hunch that doing any sort of sewing, for the next little while, is going to be out of the question. OTOH, I'm making far fewer typo's now that I'm slowed down by having to keyboard with only one hand.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Snow dyeing

I've been involved in a bit of discussion about the differences between snow dyeing and Low water immersion dyeing (LWI). I expressed that I didn't see where the results were better with snow dyeing, and wondered what made others feel that it was worth the effort. Others have responded questioning if I had ever had the sort of results that they have with snow dyeing--results that make them very enthusiastic about the process. This is a valid question. What snow dyeing I've seen, mine and others, seems very bland and boring to me, although lately I've been able to get a few of the crystalline patterns that I love so much in LWI dyeing. so I've taken some pictures of some of my results.

This first picture shows LWI dyeing on the left and snow dyeing on the right. Same fabric, same dyes mixed in the same proportions.

The next picture shows the big white patches I get on the snow dyed piece on the left.

Next are close-up of the same two fabrics showing the cystalline pattern of each

Friday, January 7, 2011

You asked for photos

Most recently I've been working with the gelatin prints I created just after Christmas. I've been picking out one or two to work with at a time, as I think it would be overwhelming to try to be creative with all 28 of them at the same time. There are two that are in progress, and I don't want to show them until they're finished--by Monday I hope.

So I put a few of the pieces up on the design wall in a group photo. Starting from the top left is a print I actually made on glass at my friend Brandy's house. I then hand quilted it and added beads. I'm not sure I really like this or where I might go from here with it. In the middle is a clean-up rag on which I put a freezer paper masque, and then treated with a irridescent pink Shiva paint stick. I really like the effect so far, and I'm afraid to go any futher for fear of messing it up. It may stay on the wall for awhile until I figure out what to do. Below that is one of the gelatin prints, done on satin, that I finished and used for the December Fast Friday Fabric Challenge, which was on the Colour Field Movement.

In the middle is the Ginko leaf hanging that I've been playing around with. I have no purpose for this, other than to maybe give my new machine a "field test" on fine machine applique. It passed the test, but it's obvious that my skills need to be a little further developed before I try to use this technique on any exhibition pieces. There is a close-up of this.

Below that is the only finished gelatin print out of the ones I've been working on. As you can see, I quilt, embroider, or whatever the prints, finish the edge, and mount it on a canvas that has been painted in a coordinating colour and pattern. I've also included a picture of another one I finished out of the prints that I brought home from the FAN retreat in October. There are two more in the works.

On the far right is a sunprint of grass. I love the colour and know exactly how I'm going to hand embellish it, but haven't a clue how it will be finished. I really don't need any more quilted hangings, and it's too big for my standard mountings. Need to think about this one a little longer.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Tying to be productive

after all, what else is there to do in Winnipeg in January? I've been slowly working my way through the gelatin prints from last week. I don't want to go through them all at the same time as I think it may overload my pea-sized creative gene. I've pulled out the first 5. One was appropriate for machine work and that's done, as well as the canvas for mounting it painted. I had several second thoughts about the canvas the first way I did it, but changed that today and I'm much happier. Two more will take mainly hand stitching or beading, and I hope to start that tonight. Another one has both hand quilting and beading finished, but now I find I don't like it--not sure how that's going to end up.
During all of my angst about how to approach these, I took some time off and made a small quilted hanging, which now has its binding and is just waiting for that to be tacked down.

But--tada--I think I've figured out how to post pictures. So tonight I charge up the camera batteries and try for some pictures tomorrow.