Monday, August 29, 2011

Painting experiment

Friday I had to opportunity to do some fabric painting.  I had wanted to try a technique described by Robbie Joy Ecklow, where she hung lengths of fabric and dripped paint at the the top allowing it to flow down.  Now, I didn't have much fabric, and I didn't have much time--just a three hour window, before the grandchildren arrived--and I had to work outside.  Got every thing ready and the wind came up--more like a howling gale than a gentle fabric drying wind.  But I persevered.  I think my husband laughed more watching me than I did.  It was quite a battle.  I ended up totally covered in paint--even soaked through to  my underwear.  The first piece I thoroughly wet in a bucket, and then figured out that it would be much easier to hang dry fabric in the wind than wet, so used the hose to wet the rest.  The scrunched up fabric of the first piece produced a texture that the others didn't have, and I may want to re-visit that.  I tried it in four different colour-ways, and am pleased with them all.  It took far more paint than I expected,  but this meant that I got rid of a lot of old paint. 

The next day, while doing a bit of sunprinting with the grandchildren, we found an old light disgarded in the bush.  It is about 12 inches square and is a bas relief of a sunflower. It's obviously commercially made, likely out of a mould.  I've done two painted impressions of it, and am thrilled with the result.  But now I have the quandry of attributing the design.  I have absolutely no idea who did the original design, and I see so many possibilities in the pieces I've made.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Just do it!

All of us have UFO's, and all of the ieces are UFO''s for a reason.  Usually, it's because I can't figure out where to go next on a piece and it falls by the wayside --a victim of procrastination.   Over two years ago I wanted to make a piece for an exhibition sponsored by the Fibre Art Network (FAN).  I wanted this to be a very special piece, and devoted a fair bit of time finding the right image and taking a picture of it ( actually this process took almost two years, as I had a idea in mind before the exhibition was ever announced).  With my sister's help, and to the annoyance of  the driver of the semi in line behind us at a construction stop on Hwy #1 outside Kenora, I got the right picture.  I had it blown up ( Ka-ching!), painted fabric,  and fused a very detailed picture of a rock cut and tree growing out of the middle of it.  Then  layered it ready for quilting and realized that something was wrong.  Dead halt.  Could not figure out where to go next with it.  A year passes and I took the piece to the 2010 annual FAN retreat for a critique, trying to figure out how to proceed.  Not much help, but one lady did offer the suggestion that I needed to step back and do some thread work before I started quilting it.  Good idea, but I'm still not sure how to proceed with thread work.

It's now late August 2011, and I haven't done a thing.  I want to take the finished product to the 2011 FAN retreat in late September.  OMG!  So I just plunged in.  De-contructured the layers and started some basic thread work on the rocks.  OMG again!  It looks fairly good!  I started this over the last weekend.  The thread work on the rocks is finished, and the thread work on the trees about to start.  I have a good idea of how to proceed with the trees and expect them to be finished within the next week ( we're going away for the weekend or it would be done sooner.)  The quilting will be for structural reasons, not decorative and should be quickly finished.  The only decision wll be to face it or bind it.  I want to face it, and think it will look better that way, but with the stabilizer, and layers of fused fabric, the piece might prove too thick and binding may be the only option.

So, was this a case of procrastination, or was two years ago just not the right time to work on this piece?  I have to confess that two years ago I may not have had the skill with thead work that I do now.  There have been two or three pieces with heavy machined thread work finished and my skill level has grown significantly.  But this also proves that we don't know what we can do until we just get down to it, and  try.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

As promised

Here is the finished project, as promised, --both sides.  Several technical problems came up.  It needed two-sided binding, and since it was only an experimental piece, I wanted quick and easy.  Didn't happen.  The binding itself was made according to instructions in the book (why re-invent the wheel?), but the mitering technique described in the book was based on a 90degree corner, not a 60 degree.  Then came the issue of how to join the binding strips for finishing. The origninal instructions had the ends curt off and hand sewn at each corner, but again this was for a 90 degree corner, not 60 degrees.  The technique simply wouldn't work for 60 degrees. The join was especially important because of the bulk of the folded and seamed binding.  After several experiments, I ended up separating the two strips and cutting them to length separately, Joining the ends of each, then  folded the first side in half, and sewed it to the second side, then pressed open the seam according to the original instructions.  Sewing it to the quilt was fairly simple after that, and because the ends were cut at 45 degrees for joining, the bulk was well distributed along the edge of the piece. The purple side was planned as the "B" side, but I'm finding that it is quickly becoming my favourite.

As I said, this was meant as a learning piece.  It's hard to justify, to myself, spending time and supplies for a piece that will never be exhibited or sold. But this sort of activity is essential for any sort of growth, as an artist.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Over the past little while I've been playing with the reversible quilt technique described by Sharon Pederson, in her book, "Reversible Quilts".  This is the technique I had been asked to use in most of the charity quilts I've worked on over the past few months, and I wanted to learn more about it.

She has a second book, "More Reversible Quilts", that explores the technique a little further, but I couldn't afford to buy both, so information in that one hasn't been available to me.  In my exploration I've been using fabric that is mainly from my stash of hand dyes, especially some of my dyed cotton Damask tablecloths.  The cotton Damask takes a Procion MX dye beautifully, and there is something about the soft, well aged fabric that gives the colour a glow that I've never found anywhere else.  Only one of the light blue strips was cotton Damask, but all of the red/purple strips were Damask.  I found that using it this way requires a very cautious cutting and seewing technique.  I buy my cotton Damask at thrift stores, and the used tablecloths often have stains or holes in them, that I have to work around.  Trust me, I don't cut up valuable antiques

I particularly like a low water immersion dyeing technique and most of the fabric used was dyed that way.  However, the darkest of the light blue strips could only be found in a commercial fabric.  The patterned fabric used on the dark side of the piece was originally a pale red hand dyed piece that was overdyed with navy using a Shibori-type technique.  I've had this one for awhile and was glad to finally find a use for it. I think it works very well. 

The following pictures show the trimmed but not joined sections of the piece, both sides. As well there is a close-up of the red/purple Damask strips.

Monday, August 8, 2011

the frustrations of a happy marriage

The kitchen was finished, although we had discussed needing the paint the ceiling.  So, back to the studio, with glee.  A whole day to work, and enough on tv during the evening to accomplish a lot of hand finishing.  That was yesterday.  Today, DH announced that it's now time to paint the living room and hallway.  I reminded him about the kitchen ceiling, and he denies ever having discussed it with me.  But now we're doing that as well. 

My time in the studio had allowed me to plan out my work for the next three months.  Along with doing all of the preparation for a class I'm teaching in mid-October, I'm half of a two-woman team jurying a fibre show for the month of November, hanging it, and organizationing the necessary demonstations and volunteer, knowledgeable docents.  Add to this my plans to attend a four-day fibre retreat at the end of September, and the need to be ready, willing and able to provide any sort of help DH needs, over the next while.

So, today I bought some fabrics to start making embellishments for the next fibre art piece.  It will be simple hand work that I can put down whenever duty calls.  I also bought flexible plastic cutting boards from Dollarama.  These are perfect for making sturdy templates and cost $1.00 each for a piece of plastic larger than the template plastic sold in quilting stores for $5-6.00.  The eyeglass cases are finished and in use, but teaching samples need to be made.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Life takes over

Yes, it has been a long time between posts.  DH has been painting the kitchen, with me standing by and cheering him on.  The job has included the back door foyer, and some of the pantry.  Since DH now admits that he's not 22 any more, it has been a slow process, as I've had to ensure that he paces himself carefully, and the hottest July in years has complicated the issue.  The downside, as far as this blog is concerned, is that very little has been happening inthe studio.

The most that has been accomplished has been a little bit of hand work.  For many years my arthirtic hands and wrists have forced me to minimize the amount of hand work that I do.  This has lead to some wonderful times teaching myself to use my machine more creatively, and to develop my machine skills in a number of ways.  A fantastic period of new concepts and ideas and learning.  But there is also something to be said for the gentle peace that can come from repetitive hand work.  No, I'm not ignoring the tantrum-inducing frustration that can occur when something goes wrong, but rather, I'm celebrating the satisfaction when something is going well, and you are truly "in the groove".

My "groove" used to be found in delicate, fussy detailed embroidery, and applique, and I know I  will never again have the patience to get involved to any extent in either of those.  However, I needed to make myself a couple of eyeglass cases.  Since I must now use reading glasses in several different areas of the house, I have five pair of dollar store glasses that I need to keep track of.  So, given the bad influence of friends who are heavily into crazy patch right now, I've been working on Duippioni silk, with one or two strands of silk thread.  The work had to be small, given the small size of the project. It's amazing how quickly old skills can come back!  The success has caused me to consider trying some other older techniques that I have abandoned, possible the hand applique.  One of the friends mentioned has offered to work with me on an applique project, and this just might provide a counterpoint to the heavy machine work that has occupied my creative life recently.