Friday, August 31, 2007

Overcoming Obstacles

State of mind over state of being...
Frame of mind over frame of body...
Mind over matter...
Wanting to be there.

I guess my little lecture to myself yesterday paid off. After a shaky start to the day, I was ready and anxious to get into the studio and start quilting. The back didn't protest much, although I may regret this tomorrow. I added some height to my sitting position which seemed to help my shoulders too. I've worked my way up and down one side border, picking out the leaf shapes and the scroll in navy thread. I always worry I'll ruin my work with the quilting, think maybe it'd be better left unquilted, then marvel as the dimension transforms the design. Click on the picture to see the stitches better.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Back but not

The blog's not the only thing I'm neglecting this week. Although I returned from my weekend away late Sunday night, I still feel I'm recovering from all the stimulation and the long drive down and back. I think I've written before about pain as a distraction to creativity. I've managed to tweak my lower back and not just a little, so the thought of working at a sewing machine or doing much of anything until it quits complaining seems out of the question. I'm still dragging in general, which I expect the first day after a trip, but certainly not also on the second, third and now the fourth day. At what point to do I shake myself and say, enough! Suck it up, grin and bear it, don't be such a baby, yada yada yada! Yes, I'm lecturing myself.

So I thought the least I could do was get back to blogging and share a bit of the art I saw in the town where I stayed. Like so many cities, it has embraced the Artwalk idea, and all you need do is shop or eat or check out a wine bar to be exposed to art on the walls. Kenneth Susynski's work was being highlighted at Waterbrook Winery, and included a portfolio of his work and free postcards as well as his actual oil & charcoal paintings. I brought those postcards home which is the only reason I know his name and can share his website here. Any other artists I viewed are only dim memories. This should be a lesson to the rest of us about effective promotion of our work. Another lesson: I have no idea where this artist hails from. There is precious little personal information on his website, and his bio only lists exhibits and galleries and private collections where his work has ended up. His statement definitely helps me in understanding his work, but without clicking on a specific work, I would not know his medium.

Here is one of his works that was available in postcard form. To be honest, I wasn't much taken with his paintings - big splashy things that I would find difficult to live with. However, when I saw his work reduced in size to an image on a page or postcard, I rather liked what I saw. I'm not sure I've ever had that happen before.

The oddest collection of art was found in Gerry Mathew's “Black Door Gallery and Museum of Un-natural History,” which he describes as “a watercolor-free-zone” that is “opinionated, satiric, iconoclastic and in questionable taste.” The pieces therein dare you to stretch your mind and challenge your point of view, according to one description. Hard to categorize what I saw, but mostly collage I guess, and again, I found I wasn't much taken by it, although there were a few thought-provoking pieces and a few that made me chuckle. I kept thinking of the age-old debate, "Yes, but is it art?" Apparently, even Gerry thinks it might not be. I believe he once was a NY Broadway set designer, which would explain some of what I saw. For an alternate view and fuller description of this exhibit, check out this blog entry: Now that I think of it, brother Mad Max - you would have loved it. Better than the blue whale.

Finally, I happened upon a lovely large art quilt by Joan Colvin. It was the heron theme that attracted me to it (see this post), and since it was unlike anything else being sold in this store, I guessed it was the personal possession of the owner. That indeed was the case, and the story behind it was remarkable. The owner often spends time in an area frequented by herons, who stand reflected in the ebbing tide. This is exactly the scene depicted in Joan's piece, which was made to raise money for a conservation group. A friend of the owner vowed to buy lots of tickets for the raffle, and if she won, give the quilt to her friend. She won, and she did! Oh, to have such a lucky and generous friend! Apparently, Joan has some local ties, so the piece means that much more to this person, yet, I suspect she has no idea how well known Joan is, or how valuable this particular art quilt may be. She did mention wondering more about herons, if they meant anything special, so I shared my heron story and what I had discovered. That encounter alone could have made the trip worthwhile. I don't know when this piece was made, but Joan still works in nature themes, and I found her artist statement enlightening.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Angel Update

I'm off tomorrow for an extended weekend away with friends, but before I go I thought I'd reassure you that work continues on the angel quilt even though I haven't been talking about it. Quilting has begun, first with some stabilizing stitching in the ditch, and now the scrolls are quilted into the arbor section. If you click on the picture above, you can see some of the stitching, done with Oliver Twist Hand-dyed thread.

The white on the left is a freezer paper template. I use freezer paper for a number of things to aide me in my sewing and quilting. Here I have ironed it to the top and will use it as a guide, quilting next to the edge. This eliminates having to mark the top before layering, and also the sometimes problematic chore of removing the marking once the quilting is done.

This is my first time trying out Jenkins Freezer Paper Sheets. I've always just used the freezer paper you buy in a roll at the grocery store. It's cheap and lasts a good long time. But the last roll I bought was thinner and didn't stick as well to fabric as my previous roll. This creates all kinds of problems, especially when I use it to stabilize fabric to run through my printers. Jenkins sheets are definitely heavier weight and ran through my Epson printer flawlessly. And my templates definitely stuck better to the fabric and did not pop off even though I was moving the quilt around, not keeping it perfectly flat. It may be more expensive than my grocery store roll, but I'd have to say it is money well spent for these kinds of applications.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Age Old Sign of Hope

No brief rainbow this. We've had several days of very cool weather with much needed rain, but today was just a tad warmer and decidedly drier. As it got closer to the evening walk time, I noticed sun and mostly clear skies one direction, but some ominously dark clouds looming in the other. Oh, bother, I thought, as I stepped out the door and saw that it was sprinkling. I slipped on a slicker and hoped the sprinkle wouldn't turn into a downpour.

And it didn't. And without sprinkles, you would never see beautiful rainbows like this. When I first noticed it, it was weak and partial. By the time I circled round on my route, it had exploded into a full double rainbow stretching from behind those trees, up and over into the lake. So I stood and gazed, drank it in, waited for it to fade, but it just got stronger. Eventually, I realized I had time to get my camera. Fifteen minutes later it was still there and I eventually gave up and went in. What a delightful sign after a few dreary days!

By the way, I'd never noticed before that the colors in a double rainbow are arranged mirror image of each other.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Nature Walk

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. ~ John Muir

This quotation was on a card received from a friend last week. She knows me well.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Texture in Art

Earlier in the week, I was paging through a back issue of American Art Review, and happened upon an ad for a Clark Hulings exhibition and sale entitled Timeless Beauty: Pursuing Life's Textures. Since quilting and textile art is all about textures, I was delighted with this thought. This is what I do, summed up nicely. (As to whether what I create is timeless beauty is another issue, of course!) Photos of paintings in this exhibit and sale can be seen here. He made a bundle off this. But to be honest with you, I wasn't seeing much "texture" in the photos, and am guessing that part of the idea of the theme is a bit of play on words. Either that, or the actual texture of his paintings does not get picked up in these photos.

A few pages farther in this magazine brought me to another ad, this time for Tim Bell, which featured a maritime scene with oil applied so thickly that its texture was obvious even in the photo. (Rafted Skipjacks above.) I remember my surprise the first time I viewed an oil painting up close. I wasn't prepared to see brushstrokes and dimension. I guess I thought all paintings were flat like watercolors and prints.

My pursuit of texture did not end there. A few more pages and I was confronted by a work by Raffaele D'Onofrio called Invisible Green, seen here on his home page. This just as easily could be fabric embellished with ribbons instead of the actual medium of oil & vinyl. I was particularly interested in his artist's statement which in part says: "Lost in most nature-inspired work is the feeling of entanglement, the mind and eye weaving and swerving through the convergence and dissipation of form. The melting solidity of light catching and releasing itself as it crisscrosses around you." Here's another one of his works, Deep Forest, that looks like it could be an entangled textile piece.

Finally, my eyes fell upon Michael S. Korney's ad, not so much because of texture, but because of its glowing colors. (Carpinteria Sunset #14 seen at right.) And so I had to laugh when I read his statement: "I paint to...merge the emotional and physical worlds and to reproduce those intangible moments of memory, such as the glow of a sunset or the motion of water. Although my paintings are realistic images, my goal is to evoke a strong emotional connection for the viewer." I'd say, he definitely succeeded with me.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

July Journal Quilt

Thursday was distraction free, so I got to work on my July journal quilt. The studio felt like a haven, a sanctuary for a change, and with all my pre-planning (see previous post), I could concentrate on process with very little decision making. The calendar theme for the month of July was "Journey" with a quotation from Henry Miller: "There is only one great adventure and that is inward toward the self." I have been working my way through some writing exercises that in hindsight have been just what this quotation refers to - a journey inward. Julia Cameron's morning pages in particular have been a peeling back of the outward facade to face the turmoil within and gain control over it. I envisioned a journal quilt with a top layer peeling back to reveal words describing how I really feel inside at times. I'm getting more intrigued by layers of text, letters, words lying beneath the surface in artwork so here was a place to try that out. I've had Tyvek lying around waiting to try what everyone else seems to have tried already. I thought it could be my peeling layer. And it was about time I painted with some Dye-na-flo paint I purchased a long time ago.

I started by making a list of "inner" words and themes that appeared in my June & July morning pages. These are the things I think of as my true self that most people don't see - fear, insecurity, worry, etc. I like to print all the information about each journal on my backing fabric, and had hung on to one that hadn't turned out well enough to use. I decided to make this my base for stamping my inner words, using an alphabet rubber stamp set. By the time I was finished carefully stamping each letter on, it felt like I had banished all those negative feelings from within me and onto the cloth. I wanted this layer to be dark & mysterious, the words readable but just. So I painted over the entire piece with two different colors of Dye-Na-Flo paint. Unfortunately, I was so fixated on the stamped letters that I didn't notice I'd pretty much obliterated the printed text underneath.

Before & After

I painted a Tyvek envelope with Dye-na-flo as well, in a bright yellow to represent that bright & cheery exterior that I usually present to the world The yellow had more of an orange undertone in the bottle so I was surprised that on the Tyvek it looked so different, but it was the yellow I had in mind. Since I was recycling the Tyvek envelop, it had some creases in it, which I thought played nicely into the theme - even the sanitized selves we present to the world have their flaws, hinting to what lies beneath. Next I made a list of "outer" words, things I think everyone thinks I am, and that even I believe at times, and programmed them into my sewing machine. I layered the Tyvek over the stamped fabric, Thermore batting and muslin before stitching the words randomly over the surface.

I usually wait to compose and print out my label backing until everything but turning the edge finish to the back is done, and then I fuse it into place. But with the heat sensitive Tyvek on the front, I'd run the risk of distressing it in a way I didn't want. Steam-a-Seam2 Lite fusible works with a lower temperature, so I tried fusing a bit of muslin with it to the back of a sample using a silk setting on my iron. It wasn't the best bond but for this purpose it worked fine. I also wanted to run a line of decorative stitching next to the binding before "peeling" back parts of the Tyvek, and this could also secure the binding to the back. So the label had to be printed and fused next. Then I finished the edges with butted single fold binding, adding that decorative stitch all around that I think brings a little more tension to that outer layer.

Now for the leap of faith. I'd practiced using a soldering iron to melt back the Tyvek, but now I had to do it on the real thing, judging just how much to remove without overdoing it. And since all the stamping and stitching of words had been done randomly, would I even unveil anything recognizable? Had I even put the two layers together in the same orientation? Would I expose that inner self I've been journeying to and coming to terms with upside down?

To my relief I had place both layers the same direction, and although not many words were exposed in their entirety, I think enough can be seen to get the idea. (Click on any picture for a larger view. You may have to up the brightness on your monitor to see the exposed lettering.) I didn't want it to be blatant anyway. One has to look hard to understand what's going on inside a person, and I know what's lurking there.

Anyone who knows my work, knows how unlike me this quilt is. And to be honest, I'm not sure any of what I learned here will make it into my regular work. But that's what journal quilts are for - all part of the one great adventure!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Work Resumes - Belated Journal Quilting

I've been working on my July journal quilt this week. My journal partner, Judi, and I both had conflicts on our regularly scheduled day and the following weekend. And then Judi had to back out all together because her family just finalized their moving plans. Judi's headed out West September 1st, and soon we will be only 6 hours away from each other again. Yippee!

So while she packs up her studio and machine, I soldier on alone, which is just as well this month. My idea for interpreting the July calendar theme and quotation needed several days of preparation, experimentation and paint drying before I could actually make the journal quilt. I did a few "as long as I'm at it" follow-up experiments too. Here's what I've been up to.

As you can see, studio time moved to the kitchen for a few days. I've been hanging on to Tyvek envelops for quite awhile without actually doing anything with them. I'd read that you could paint them, then contort them into interesting textures with heat. I have jars of Dye-na-flo paint I've never really tried. I have a new machine with programmable alphabets it wouldn't hurt to learn how to use. I combined all three to work up a sample that if successful, would dictate how my journal quilt would go together.

Dye-na-flo's attraction for me is that it comes diluted ready to use. No guesswork about consistency. Beyond that, it also reacts to salt and really migrates on the cloth. I loved working with it. Here's the Tyvek I used for the sample - I think these were originally marketed for the big floppy disks that preceded the smaller, more rigid 3.5" size. I was surprised that the paint seeped through since the Tyvek is dense and smooth.

I was using other colors to paint something else (more about that in a separate post), and for fun, "pounced" the mop brush on the Tyvek. I expected dots but got these groups of lines instead.

Because I abhor waste, I had a plain piece of muslin to wipe excess paint on. You can see it in the back of the first picture. Actually, I dipped my brush in water which I hadn't meant to do, so the first strokes of yellow were pale and wetted the muslin as well. Subsequent wipes were with more concentrated paint, and some were streaky lines that bled and blended in a very cool way. Unfortunately, I kept dabbing at this piece until I lost that first bit, but in the process got a better idea of how the Dye-na-flo works. Here you can see the effects of the salt and uneven surface that allowed the pigment to migrate.

The next day, I studied my manual and figured out how to program words into my sewing machine, save them and stitch them out. I didn't know how my machine would react to sewing through the Tyvek, but it was absolutely no problem. Here it is layered with muslin, Thermore polyester batting and a final layer of muslin. The thread is just Aurofil 2 ply 50 wt cotton and the needle is a 75 quilting needle.

Now for the real test. I wanted to see if I could cause places in the Tyvek to peel back or melt away to expose the muslin underneath without the whole thing shriveling up. I've read where you can use a soldering iron to melt away layers of synthetic fabrics, so I hoped I could do the same with the Tyvek. It worked like a charm, was very easy to control and as long as I kept the soldering iron moving, I didn't scorch the muslin underneath.

I was still curious, though, about that shriveling, texture producing process that more overall heat would produce. I've read about using a heat gun for this, but I don't have a heat gun, am not going to buy a heat gun, am going to hope that a hair drier might give similar results. Well, I knew it wouldn't, but I tried anyway. Just not hot enough to do anything. While trying to find info on the web, I ran across this blog post where Tyvek is laid over a rubber stamp, covered with parchment paper and melted with an iron. I don't have parchment paper, but I do have a Teflon applique sheet that works similarly. I couldn't resist. I folded the sheet around a piece of painted Tyvek and without applying pressure, began to move my iron over it to heat it up. At first nothing seemed to be happening, then all at once, it shriveled. It would be really easy to leave the iron on too long and end up with nothing but a burnt lump of goo, but I managed to get this:

The bubbles are just too cool. But my sense is that it would be very hard to control this process to replicate an effect.

I had all my questions answered about technique and process, all the painting done and dried, so now I was ready to make that journal quilt in a single day. See the next post for all the details.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Unexpected Photo Op

The people who lease the adjacent field showed up this weekend to cut and bale again, bringing along this interesting piece of machinery. A rake of some sort, I'm guessing - different from what they used last time when the cut was primarily tall grass. This time it was mostly clover. Metal machinery or not, it mesmerised me with it's curved spinning tines that gave the whole thing an ethereal quality.

Surely there's design inspiration here. What would you do with it?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Sun Printing

Sorry to be so quiet; my god daughter and her mother have been visiting for a few days. In the meantime, I hope you've kept up with the additional comments on the quotations in the last three posts. They've been interesting and thought provoking and I'm still taking it all in.

In the meantime, my goddaughter and I carved out a few hours to "throw some paint around." We used Pebeo Setacolor paints and did a little sun printing. I mixed up a blue, a green and a red, and using foam brushes, we took turns adding paint marks to white muslin. She made off with the piece that was taped to this silvery crepe wrapping paper I'd saved from a Christmas package before I could get a picture of it. I started by painting an arc in my color and she echoed it in hers. This was an amazingly meditative process as we slowly took our turns filling the cloth. Then we tossed on some elbow macaroni for the sun printing. Her mother said it looked like maggots and that's all it took for the god daughter to choose it to take home!

This was the first one we did, and yes, I know some people think the sun printed ferns have been done to death, have become cliche. But I've never used them before and wanted to give it a go. We'd picked the ferns while on our walk along the bike trail that morning. In spite of putting them in water, they dried and curled rather fast, leaving faint impressions.

The painting process on this one was more hurried, less deliberate, just random filling in - me with the green, she with the blue. I sprinkled coarse sea salt on as well which you can see the effect of in this closeup. This one was my favorite, the one I thought came out the best.

The last one was just painting bands and blocks of paint, using up what we had left. Blah. I went back and touched the end of the foam brush here and there which makes the circles of dark color; my god daughter followed suit. Then I scattered rice and sea salt.

I also showed her how to use the waste water from rinsing the brushes to tint fabric. The one piece I did this way turned out a beautiful pale orchid. Yum. I saved the rinse water so I can tint more with this.

It's been a long time since I've had a "playmate" to join me in stuff like this. I was hoping she'd find this fun (her mother confirmed my observations that indeed she did enjoy it), but I hadn't anticipated just how much I'd enjoy it too.