Monday, April 25, 2011

Progress and a lighter heart--

Having finished the second charity quilt, and no pressure to finish the third, I gave myself a day off to play with the latest Fast Friday Fabric Challenge. No deadlines looming, no pressure to do anything else,  I had pure fun. I had forgotten how much fun creating can be.  The piece is pieced and quilted, and a couple of leaves printed on it from one of my thermofax screens.( Gotta get some more of those!)  Today a friend is coming over to explore the wrapped stitch --just play, yet again.

But--working on the FFFC piece showed me how much my technical skill has deteriorated over the past few months of inactivity.  Have you every actually analyzed how much of the hand coordination of using a sewing machine is dependant on the left hand?  With a broken left shoulder, I've been forced to consider this, and I'm very surprised.  All of the gadgetry of the machine is set up for right-handed use, leaving the fabric manipulation and control almost purely a left-handed function. This means that you need a good range of motion and the ability to sustain a muscle contraction for a period of time.  FMQ'g and machine applique, when you want smooth controlled movement, becomes awkward and jerky with a left arm that can't sustain that control. I see a lot of practice FMQ'g in my future.  I also found out that a densely quilted surface is not good for screen printing.  Duh!  Today I hope to be able to do some beading and ribbon work on the piece. The picture is only of the basic background.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


The inks weren't quite as good as I had heard.  I tried them on watercolour paper, and they worked very, very well--both on dry paper and wet.  I then tried them on Duippionni silk, and found that there was very little bleeding when the brush stroke went along the warp threads, but some bleeding when the paint was applied on the cross grain. The bleeding was worse with the pearlescent inks than with the regular colours. The result on cotton was very much the same , but not quite as dramatic.  I still haven't played with them on Lutradur.  I think I might do a little more with the watercolour paper, as I especially liked the effect when the ink was applied onto wet paper.  I have to wonder if I can create images by manipulating where the paper is wet or dry.

This week the first of the charity quilts was delivered.  The lady coordinating this particular project had asked that I not attempt to finish it, as she knows that I'm no longer capable of hand finishing.  But she has several volunteers who are quite happy to do any hand stitching required, so everyone is happy.

Yesterday I attempted to make a couple of more small matted pieces for the art show/sale next week.  The result was dismal, which only proves to me that, having made the decision to leave the production work for awhile, my soul objects to being asked to do more of it.  So I'm more determined than ever to leave that part of my life behind, for a few months. By coincidence, yesterday a friend sent me a quote that speaks to the same issue.
   "The notion of making money by popular work, and then retiring to do good work, is the most           familiar of all the devil's traps for artists."  Logan Pearsall Smith (1865-1946)

Now, for those of you who want more pictures, I'm sorry.  Right now I'm far to busy finding myself to be able to find pictures.  But I sure hope that , in the end, the results will please both of us.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Decision made!

No more sales/shows for the next year.  I can't believe what a relief it is to have had this conversation with myself and actually come to this decision.  This gives me a year to play and, hopefully, develop a body of work that I can draw on for exhibitions.  I figured out the $$$, and it makes no sense for me to be participating in these smaller shows, when I barely cover expenses.  I certainly don't make enough to pay myself any sort of wage, so I probably just end up making myself crazy for nothing. And since I don't make expenses, it isn't going to affect my basic budget to continue taking studio supplies out of household $$$s.

Today I bought some acrylic inks to play with.  I want to experiment with them on various fabrics, including silk, as well as watercolour paper.  I've heard that they don't bleed, even when diluted with water.  This I've gotta see!  I read about them in Quilting Arts magazine and talked to the staff at the local art supply store.  Both gave me the same information. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Weekend sale

This weekend we were part of a high-end craft sale that I had committed to months ago. Since I really haven't had much time in the studio, the stock I took was mainly what had been left from last summer's sales.  I took in enough to cover expenses, and a bit more, so a reasonable sale but not a great one.  Several of the vendors were talking, especially as one vendor had significantly lowered her prices, in response to weak sales over the past year.  Most of those there have concluded that their sales are down as a result of the economy, and no other reason.  Between them there was enough of a history with this sort of activity to make them believe that their prices are appropriate to what they are selling, but, given that this sort of thing is really a discretionary or optional purchase in the scheme of things, sales drop when the economy is poor.  There was excellent feedback on my items, and several people commented on how reasonable my prices were, so this downturn is just something to ride out.

I have no more sales like this scheduled at this point.  ( I have an exhibition/sale later this month, but this is quite a different type of event)  Before I apply for any more high-end craft sales, I need to look at whether or not I'm interested in producing more stock.  No, I'm not--I want to explore my creativity--but--will I continue to participate in sales?  I've been doing it for 30 years.  So, yeah, I'll probably spend a bit of time doing the "donkey" work, but I'm determined to find a better balance between the mind-dulling stuff and the creative stuff.

Friday, April 8, 2011

charity quilts

Today with my DH's help I finished the quilt-as-you-go blocks for the third charity quilt that I've been making.  The tops for the first two are done, and the batting and backing cut, ready to sandwich.  DH is getting very handy with the rotary cutter.  He cut all of the strips and other shapes for the block, and then did all of the trimming, once they were sewn together.  I have other commitments this coming week, so the whole project will be put on hold for awhile. Over the past couple of days, the conversation on my art quilting internet groups has been on how it's relaxing and renewing to go back and do a little traditional quilting once in awhile, and I now know this is true.

This sort of work is somewhat routine and thoughts can be elsewhere.  I'm now convinced that the Doorways piece is never going to be as good as my original vision.  I will pursue and finish it, but the quality just isn't there.  However, this has been a fantastic learning situation, both in terms of the technique and in the capacity of the new sewing machine. So, time well spent.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The value of others

The week was the monthly meeting of my fibre art support group--Ravenesque.  Only half of us were there-- an unusual occurance.  One lady is moving away and won't be able to attend any more meetings, but we only rarely have anyone actually resign.  So there is  a flow to our membership, but every person adds to the strength of the group. 

Because there were only 4 of us, the conversation was more subdued than normal( chaos is normal), and we were actually able to exchange much more in the way of ideas, and explore those ideas in a little more depth.  Two of us appear to be at a cross roads.  We are unsure which direction our future  efforts may take, but we both know that we are about to make some sort of shift.  A third member has acquired a sponsor and is in the process of making a shift ( maybe temporary) to accommodate some of the sponsors ideas ( as artists have done for hundred of years)  Thr fourth member present is fairly new to the group, but not to fibre art.  She is quite taken with the various techniques we talk about, with such ease and apparent familiarity. 

I mention the meeting because I truly, truly believe that this sort of stimulation and discussion with other artists is absolutely essential to the growth and development of any artist, in any medium.  Most artists do the actual creation of art in isolation.  That is; alone, in the isolation of their studios.  What they actually produce is an amalgam of the experiences and ideas that have flowed through their lives, and the support of a like-minded group can only a positive effect. These ladies give me honest critique-- a hard animal to find.  They force me to explore and verbalize my own creative thoughts.  They encourage me to actually try new things and not devolve into living entirely within my comfort zone.  All of those efforts may make me temproarily uncomfortable, but they all help me grow in both skill and confidence.

So, the next step?  Inks.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Pushing too hard and paying the price

What a quandry!!  After almost 6 months of very little studio time, I'm feeling the need, desire, and energy to get down there and work.  Part of the lack of ambition comes--I firmly believe--to the Extra Strength Tylenol that I've been taking regularly since since early January.  So I've been making a firm effort not to take any during the day, and I've noticed a marked increase in both initiative and creativity.
So down I go and work my little fingers ot the bone to end up exhausted, and in discomfort.  The shoulder just isn't ready for such demands, and ergonomically, the area isn't set up to reduce demands on the shoulder.  Planning for efficient work flow, and pacing the speed of work both help, but I have to reduce my expectations of myself--a very difficult task for me.  Only a few years ago I could put in 12-14 hours/day of steady studio work and look after my house as well.  Old age is a bitch.

There are three shows coming up, one next weekend which is a high end craft sale, and a more formal art show at the end of the month, followed by a gallery show at the end of May.  The formal art show requires that all things displayed are ready to hang ( read framed)  Anything else can be displayed, in shrink wrap, in a different room.  I had asked for space in the shrink wrap room only, but this is not allowed, and I am required to put up something for display in the main area.  I have a couple of small pieces but they have been shown before. So--having a little extra money-- we decided that maybe it was time to frame the large matted piece that has been under the bed for three years.  Last time I was in to the framer I had a smaller piece and asked for a simple frame.  The price quoted had been over $200, so I was apprehensive about the whole thing, as the mattted piece is big.  Well, tax included the total came to $55.00.  So now I will have a new, large piece for the more formal art show, which is unlikely to sell, so probably, a new piece for the gallery show at the end of May, as well.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Fusible web

Problem solved.  I was in Fabricland to buy something else and found the remains of a bolt of paper-backed fusible web.  A very old and decrepit piece of fusible web.  So I asked if they had any more, and she found a bolt in the back for me.  It had been opened( no plastic protective covering) but there were still 22m, and at half price, I bought them all.  I may never have to buy it again, but then I've been through more than two full bolts over the past 4 years, so who knows.  What I had been looking for was the spray adhesive for basting quilts.  In Fargo, I can buy a big can for about $10.00.  Here I found a small can for $25.98.  It's almost worth the trip.

Two of the three charity quilt tops are done.  In finishing the second one ( trimming and squaring up blocks) I realized that I had a whole pile of narrow strips of good quality fabric.  I've actually taught a class on using this sort of scrap, so why was I about to throw these out?  ( And what happened to the same sort of scrap when I finished the smaller top?)  So later today, after I finish a small clothing construction job, I plan to play with these scraps and see if I can come up with a saleable product for the "big sale" next weekend.  I have an idea, but had been toying with the idea of using narrow scraps of fabric paper.  Hm-m-m?  Looks like an interesting day.  And it also looks like the muse really has come out of hibernation.