My last post covered my "Just Keep Going" project--making fabric yardage from scraps. Honestly, I had so much fun making yardage from my Maria Testa hand-dyed silk scraps that I had a hard time to break away from to actually do something with the resulting fabrics. I still had a couple more piles of color-coordinated scraps left, but I decided early this month that I'd better use some of the fabric in some projects. How I used the ones I finished might make me rethink how I put them together - especially the size of the pieces I made.
My primary intent for using the yardage was to make jackets. I have done that and will share those in an upcoming post. But first I really needed a hand-work project, so I started there. I cut off and squared up about a 12" length of one of the pieces of fabrics I'd created. My intent was to embroider a pattern over the top.
(Digression - One of Clara Nartey's blog posts about the importance of practicing your drawing skills had gotten me into doing that. I didn't keep at it the way I should, but I did end up with some motifs that I liked. I wanted to use the one shown below on this piece.)
The primary difficulty I had to solve with this piece was how to best transfer my embroidery design to the fabric. Ordinarily, I would just use fabric marking transfer paper, putting it between the fabric and the drawing and tracing over the drawing. For this project that just didn't work. Not only was it difficult to find a color that would show up, but the markings tended to rub off the shiny silk. Not only were they hard to see, but they didn't last long enough - even if I did only a small section at a time.
The method I ended up using was still not very satisfactory but it got the piece done. I used a leftover piece of my clear water-soluble stabilizer. I traced the design onto it and then basted it over the silk. I still had problems getting the design clearly visible and lasting well. Of the things I tried, pencil was best, but not great. If I'd used a white stabilizer, it would have been easier to see the embroidery design, but I wouldn't have been able to see the colors of the underlying fabric. Even so, I might try that next time. If anyone has other ideas for me, I'd like to hear them.
Other than the visibility problems, the stabilizer worked great. I had no trouble stitching through it. It also dissolved away with no problem. As you can see in the pictures above, I'd layered some flattened silk cocoons onto the fabric base. I'd wondered if they would give me any trouble with dissolving the stabilizer. I was pretty confident I'd be okay since they were just another form of silk, but until you actually try you just don't know. Luckily my theory was confirmed. Not only did the stabilizer rinse out fine, my cocoons held their shape just fine through the soaking.
So here's the final result. I added borders of raw silk, flannel "batting" and some quilt stitching with embroidery thread. The finished piece is 14" x 17." Now it just needs a name and a casing for hanging.
Mom's (Ann's) November blog post about her connections to other artists and their influence on her artwork got me thinking about the artists who have influenced me. It took me a while to get around to writing about it here. Lately I've been squeezing in whatever tiny art projects I can into my life. Tiny watercolor paintings mostly on art cards have been a good way to do that. I even got a cute itty bitty Winsor & Newton travel watercolor set to try to make it easy to pull out some painting supplies. The supplies are also small enough to fit up high on the bookcase out of reach of toddler Tyler (who is almost three)!
I dabbled in watercolor painting throughout grade school, but I didn't really get a solid grounding in it until college. My professor for Watercolor Painting and Color Design courses was Wendell Arneson at Saint Olaf College. I didn't realize until taking his watercolor course what a difference a good paint brush can make. Try painting a thin straight line with one of those cheap paint brushes most kids use and then switch to a professional watercolor brush. Frustration be gone!
I really enjoyed both courses. We learned some really cool things about color design such as how to make one color look like it is too different colors. One of my favorite things that I learned from Wendell was that if you add a little bit of an "ugly" color to your painting, it can really make your painting "zing!" (I'm still working on that one.)
My favorite watercolor technique was creating a puddle of water and then dropping in the colors. I have been using this technique with my mini watercolors a lot. It's just fun to watch the colors swirl together. It can be hard to be patient for one section to dry to be able to continue with the painting. I can work on multiple little paintings at once to keep myself entertained. I've been pondering the idea of doing a really huge painting this way. I'm not exactly sure I can figure out the logistics of doing that before I can get a regular studio space again.
The painting below was from painting over some old watercolor exercises. I've chopped up all my random bits of watercolor paper and old exercises. Tyler and I have been painting on them. Since most of Tyler's paintings are mostly random washes of color, I'm planning to add more to those one of these days, too.
Do you have a fall-back project that you turn to when you can't decide what to do next? Mine is making yardage--piecing together scraps to make a piece of fabric big enough for a project. When I am in this mode I have no specific project in mind, I just piece together what I have and decide later how to use it based on the size of the pieces I end up with.
This is the mode I have been - basically since Thanksgiving. I finished up my "Tyler-Art" pillows and I'd sent scarves to all the shops that needed them. I wasn't ready to commit to starting a major project - like a jacket - even though I know I need to make some new ones to meet my goal of submitting for new juried shows. I wanted to allow time for holiday things like cookie baking and the kids coming to visit, but wanted to make sure I still spent time in my studio doing something useful. So I decided it was piecing time.
I have to admit that this time I have a little more focus to my piecing, in that I know I'll want to use my yardage in a jacket. I don't know how yet, so I've structured my project a bit to give myself options.
First part of the process is sorting the scraps into color-coordinated piles. Right now I am working with only the scraps given to me by Maria Testa--all hand-dyed silks. They are so luxurious to work with.
After trying several piecing methods for using these, I've settled on foundation piecing. I stitch them down to silk organza. The organza gives the soft silks a bit more body--needed for jackets, but not scarves--without making them too stiff. The process is much slower than fusing, but I like the resulting hand much better. Even using a very lightweight fuseable gave results that I found too rigid for garments.
I tear off a strip of organza and begin stitching down pieces of the silk; one at a time, pressing the seam after each piece. I chose the next piece based on color and size. How does the color work with the previous piece? How can I maximize my fabric usage while making an interesting design? I want to throw out the least amount of leftovers that I can. If a cut off piece has even a small amount left after seam allowances, I save it to be fit in somewhere later.
I started stitching with a pile of rusts and greens and a strip of organza about 10" wide. I still had more fabrics in those colors so I made another narrower strip. From the smallest pieces I made a bunch of squares. I coordinated the sizing of the strips and squares to make it easier to put them together later into still larger pieces - if I decide to do that.
And I just kept going. By the time I finished with that pile of rusts and greens I had two wide strips, one narrower strip and 14 squares. Seems like enough that I'll have plenty of flexibility in how I use them.
Now I've gone on to my pile of turquoise and blues. It's just so satisfying to clean up these piles and create something new and fresh and beautiful. Thanks again to my friend Maria.
As I mentioned in my last post, my daughter Sonja has had a huge influence on my development as an artist. Sometimes that influence comes in unexpected ways. A few of my latest projects have come about because of gifts she has given me of her son Tyler's artworks.
For my birthday this past June, she gave me four 8" x 10" rectangles of fabric that Tyler had painted on.
I set them aside in order to work on more pressing things. Though I was working on other projects, the fabrics were not forgotten. I was mentally trying out various ideas for how to use them for something special. As you can see, Tyler is very exuberant in his art and Sonja continues to encourage him. From time to time she sends us some of his drawings. Lately he has been working hard on circles.
Perhaps about a month ago I finally had one of those "Aha" moments when I realized what I wanted to do with my Tyler fabric. The first thing I decided was that I could combine his fabric paintings and his drawings. I printed copies of his art on 8-1/2" x 11" paper so the designs would fit on my fabric. Then I used my marking transfer paper from my sewing projects and traced the designs onto my fabric pieces.
I love to have hand-stitching projects to work on evenings when I am watching TV. So my next step was to chain stitch over the lines of the designs. I chose colors to match what Tyler had used. I used some of my Stef Francis hand-dyed perle cotton which has such lovely gradations in the colors.
It was so much fun. Sometime into this process I finally decided that I would make these embroideries into pillow covers so that they could be enjoyed day-in and day-out. I am working on my third right now. Here are the first two I have finished.
It makes me so happy to feel that Sonja, Tyler and I have collaborated on these even though we are miles apart.
This is the first in my series of posts about people and things that have influenced my artwork. I am starting with credit to my daughter Sonja. She deserves a large share of the credit (or blame) for my transformation from hobby quilter/sewer to an artist - who is now pretty comfortable referring to myself that way.
As many, probably most of you know, Sonja and I have worked together for many years. We started Friends Fabric Art back in 2002 and have managed to keep it together in one form or another ever since then. When I moved to Virginia, we thought we'd have to give up on this formal partnership, until we conceived of this blog as a way to keep it alive. (And more recently we added our Etsy shop which carries work from both of us.) Through the blog we have a way to communicate with each other and with you about our art. (As those of you with children know, uninterrupted phone conversations about adult issues are almost impossible with a toddler in the house.)
After being so far apart for a while we found we needed still more connection and a way to share the process of making art not just talking about it. I came up with the idea of doing a traveling journal. Sonja and I had been a group that did these many years ago and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Sonja liked the idea and she expanded it, suggesting that we involve Tyler as well. They like making art together and we certainly want to encourage his enjoyment of it. So we began. They did the first two pages and sent it to me for additions.
We have three pages so far. We are working in a board book with black pages. This is the first page. Sonja painted the swirl design over a page that had been "textured" with squares of glued on paper. I added the flower motif--from a hand-painted card that Sonja had given me. It was too beautiful to throw away. I thought the colors and motif coordinated well with this page - and Sonja had said she thought the page needed something.
Here's page 2 - Tyler's page. He loves to create collages with a glue stick and bits of colored paper that Sonja cuts up for him. I filled in some of the empty space on the page with pieces cut from a (used) card that I had made. The colors and textures in the card seemed to pick up on the bits of paper that Tyler had used. We'll see if Sonja adds any touches in the next round.
Here's page 3 - that I started with bits from each of us. I cut motifs from Tyler's artwork - painting and coloring - for the background. I then added the stylized leaves, again cut from hand-made cards that Sonja had given me. Lastly, keeping with the leaf theme, I added the skeleton leaves. We have each contributed to the page.
The journal will go in the mail to Sonja later tonight and I'll wait anxiously to see what will come back.
In my next post I share details of another joint artwork that Tyler and I have created together. Remember that you can sign up on our home page if you'd like to receive emailed notices of new posts.
I have been thinking a lot lately about my connections to other artists and how various people have influenced my art. One of the things that came to mind was an art history talk about Picasso that I attended some years ago. It was hosted by my friends, Joan and Arnie--my neighbors at that time. The talk was given by one of the professors at UMass Lowell. Sadly I've forgotten her name.
For me one of the most memorable things from the talk was a question from one of the others in the audience. The professor had been talking about various other artists who had influenced Picasso's work. This person asked the professor "How do you know that these artists influenced his work?" There seemed to be an implicit challenge in the question. It seemed to suggest that you couldn't really know whether these other artists had had an influence unless Picasso himself had credited them or you could point to some clear similarities in their work.
At the time, I thought to myself that the person raising the question clearly had no experience creating art within an artistic community. I knew from personal experience that if an artist works in such a milieu, he or she cannot help but be influenced by the other artists. (At the time I was working at Western Avenue Studios--within a community of literally hundreds of other artists.) You'd have to be comatose not to react to your surroundings.
I also know that sometimes it is easy to trace how you've been influenced by other artists or artistic works, but sometimes it can be very difficult. Some influences are very subtle. Sometimes an influence goes through so many changes or iterations that the original spark is hard to identify. That doesn't mean that that first spark wasn't important. Part of the artistic process is always working to make something of your own, not a copy of another's work.
For my next few blog posts I am setting myself the challenge identifying for myself some of the other artists who have influenced my work, giving them credit and trying to tease out some of the ways that they have helped me. I hope you'll stay tuned. Maybe you're on my list.
I knew it was time for another post, but I didn't realize just how long it had been since my last post till I sat down to write this new one. I guess I have been busy.
Most of my creative time has been spent on Free Lace Scarves. The last time I wrote, I was pondering possible alternative names for those scarves. I had been wondering whether I could figure out something better to call them that would help me get traffic when I got them up on Etsy. Somehow that issue has fallen by the wayside as I have not managed to produce enough to get them up on Etsy. It is not that I haven't been producing them; it's just that all the ones that I've made have gone to bricks-and-mortar stores. Since that last post, two more stores near me have started carrying them. Woo hoo!
Yesterday, I delivered scarves, pillows and jackets to a store in Newport News - Pop-Shop by Jo Louise. For 13 years now, three friends--Jo Louise, Chrys, and Joelle--have set up a seasonal gift store in an empty store front during the holiday season. It is open for the months of November and December carrying the work of approximately 100 artists. I learned about it at the first marketplace event I participated in since moving to Williamsburg. The woman next to me had been participating for several years and thought it would be a good venue for me. I sent them an email with a link to our website and it went from there.
When I brought my work in yesterday, they made me feel like an old friend. Yesterday was the first day that they were accepting work. It was clear that they'd already spent a great deal of time getting ready, painting walls and display furniture, arranging furniture, etc. Even at this early stage it was clear that they have a flair for display. Their opening reception happens in less than two weeks. I can hardly wait to see the transformation. I'll take pictures to share in my next post.
In the meantime I am continuing to create new scarves. I have a huge stash of fabrics, yarns, fibers and scraps that call to me and suggest new ways of combining them. For my last scarf I (finally) decided to incorporate some of the throwsters waste that I've ignored for years now. I was so pleased that I'm going to do a few more with it. I just love the way you can take a pile of scrap and create something truly beautiful from it. Here's the before and after.
This finished scarf is now at the Pop-Shop. I've started another one today. I'm getting ready for the holiday Small Works show at the Williamsburg Contemporary Art Center that opens November 14. Better keep sewing. I still hope to put some scarves on Etsy soon too.
I've been organizing art supplies on weekends lately. Last night I sorted through some random bits of molded and painted model magic and air dry clay that I had made years ago. I must have been inspired by Maggie Grey's "Raising the Surface with Machine Embroidery" book at the time. The random bits inspired today's rainy day art project. I got out the air dry clay, a bunch of stamps, and some bits of copper, fused Angelina fibers, and Glitterati film. Tyler and I had a great time playing with it.
I started embedding thin bits of sheet copper in the piece of clay that I was molding so Tyler decided to do the same thing. His creation on the left below got smooshed and turned into something else shortly after I took the photo. We'll have to paint the final creations another weekend since the clay has to air dry two to three days first.
I still have to figure out what I'm going to do with all the other molded bits.
My next big art event is coming up this Saturday when I participate in the Yorktown Art Stroll. I have been working steadily to build up my inventory of Free Lace Scarves to have enough to display and to put up in our Etsy store soon.
I love working on these scarves. In the design phase I revel in the mix of colors and textures of the fabrics and yarns that I use. During the machine-stitching phase, I enjoy thinking about what colors I want to use next or about other projects in progress or planned. The stitching is repetitive enough that I can use the free space in my mind to puzzle out any issues I am dealing with.
This week I have been puzzling out what product descriptors I will use when I put my scarves on Etsy. I have always called them "Free Lace." It's the term used by the instruction book I bought so many years ago. Lately, though, I have been wondering if that is the best term to use. If I use the term in a search in Etsy, Instagram, Google, etc., all I ever come up with are knitted or crocheted scarves. I wonder if that is a problem, or is it an asset that mine are so different.
I am having trouble thinking of alternate descriptors. One I came up with is Confetti Scarves. If I Google that, the scarves I see are somewhat similar to mine - at least the ones I make with small fabric shapes, but many of mine are made with yarns or ribbons. The term doesn't see to me to fit those scarves well. If I search for Ribbon Scarves, I don't come up with anything like mine.
I could use some help coming up with some good search terms for them. Here are some pictures of some of the scarves.
What descriptor terms could you suggest for these??
Last weekend I participated in my first art fair type of event here in Virginia. The development I live in had a 30-year anniversary celebration of its founding. Part of it was the marketplace I signed up for. I had no idea what to expect of it, but thought it would be a good way to meet some of the neighbors and start getting my work out there. The venue is only a couple of miles down the road from my house and the table fee wasn't very much, so it was an easy decision. I brought pillows, dyed silk scarves and art cards so the set-up would be easy too.
I am very glad it did it. If I'd measured my results based on sales, I would have been very disappointed. But I'd gone into it with no real expectation of selling anything, my hope was to make connections. On that score I was successful.
My neighbor at fair also made art-to-wear. She was impressed with my work and she came up with a couple of recommendations of places for me to go after. One place she told me about was a small gallery in Yorktown that sponsors an annual Art Stroll right down on the waterfront. As it turned out, we were planning to meet our son for lunch at a restaurant right there the very next day. I was able to check out the gallery and on a whim asked about participating in the stroll--which takes place in just two weeks. To my surprise I was able to get a spot. I couldn't get a space in the building - my first choice, but they did have a space in their big tent. So I jumped on the opportunity - might as well go into this with both feet. I'll need a bigger, more elaborate display for this one. So I've got some work to do, but I'm excited.
My neighbor was very inspirational as well as giving me concrete advice. She told me early on that she is 83 years old...and still doing lots of fairs and events. She had her daughter with her on Saturday, but usually she said she does it all on her own. So with good luck, I've got quite a few years yet and it'll be worth my time investment to check out these venues.
On with my plans...
Mother & daughter, Ann Lee & Sonja Lee-Austin share their joys and struggles in their art and lives.