Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A Little Update

I am reveling in the summery freedom I am feeling this month. I think I have successfully squelched my guilt gene for the moment. I continue to work a bit most days on the fat quarter quilt but there's not much to share since I am just repeating this overall design of paisleys. Each addition of stitches looks the same as the last (except perhaps my individual paisleys are improving). This was a trial of this idea of picking a pattern that could be repeated in rows the length of quilt, ignoring seams I would normally stitch in the ditch or block patterns I would accentuate. So if I liked how it worked, I'd use this method again. If I didn't like it, not a big deal as this quilt is going on my bed. And it only took a few passes for me to start questioning my decision. Not sure I'm that thrilled with what I chose for my quilting pattern - putting a paisley in each of those small squares is making for very dense quilting and I'm not sure I like how it looks continued into the unpieced areas. And no surprise that my surety about thread color almost immediately changed too. Should I go blue or gold? Neither blends with every fabric and the gold thread seemed the most logical at the time. But the way it stands out on the darkest blues were bothering. However, it is growing on me, and probably when I pull it out from under the needle for the last time and give it a wash, I'll be fine with it.

There's been sketching too, and work on the next pocket calendar spread, though not enough as the end of the month is fast approaching and there's quite a bit still to color in. I added another item to my Comforts sketchbook. The heat of summer had me standing in front of the novelty icecream case and remembering how much I liked fudgesicles as a kid. So a box came home with me. A simple thing to draw, following a photo, not the actual fudgesicle of course, but it was a chance for me to work some more with watercolors and one of the new waterbrushes on paper actually meant for wet media. I've also been back to the park on my walking route, arriving just as the sun dips behind the mountain so I am not baking in the sun as I work on sketching a group of flowering plants. It was those purple spears that first caught my eye, and I decided it would be good practice to try to capture just the essence of these flowers with either watercolor or colored pencil. I opted for the pencils for simplicity sake, got the gist of if down on  site, then darkened the whole thing up later that evening while relaxing in front of the tv. 

One connection I've made since following this urban sketching movement is that my brain, being so detail oriented, often automatically strives to capture every detail of my subject exactly, or as completely and exactly as I can. Working with the watercolors and plant life, I have to let some of that go, don't have to draw every leaf and bloom, don't even have to do a line sketch first. This is good to practice and links to my textile work as well. There are times when I could and should back away from so much realism and detail and go for the soft blur of essence.

Speaking of soft blur of essence, I've been back out on the Pend Oreille Bay trail several time but sans camera. The views don't change much, and I was only slightly disappointed I couldn't capture the lovely blue sailboat anchored just off-shore. Sometimes you just have to let the "sharing" and "capturing" thing go and stay in the moment, experiencing the essence of what you are passing through. But I've not left you high and dry. See this post for my first hike on this trail that i DID capture and share.   

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Successful Dye Runs

Dharma's Sky Blue, Moody Blue and Ashes to Ashes
I am very pleased with the results of my recent dye sessions using the new dye powders from Dharma. Here are the swatches on the worksheets, ready to file.

Sky Blue gradation plus overdyes with leftover dye stock

I did half-yard 4 step gradations which left me with about a quarter cup of dye stock left over of each color. On a separate day, I grabbed the "natural dye" pieces of muslin that barely had any color on them and some of the snowdyes from earlier in the year and used that leftover dye stock to overdye them in large yogurt containers. The camera washes out the lightest step so you'll have to trust me that it does have some lovely light blue on it. The large piece on top was the #2 tangerine snowdye in this picture, which I could find nothing to liked about it. Still not sure how usable it is with the sky blue overdye but I do see improvement. The partially covered piece below it was a muslin natural dye, rolled and accordion folded. None of the tint from the natural dyeing seems to have survived this overdyeing process.

Ashes to Ashes gradation plus overdyes with leftover dye stock

I love love love the Ashes to Ashes grey gradation. Again, the camera washes out the lightest step. My general impression is one of beautiful grey suede somehow. There are slight hints of the orchid I was seeing in the dye bath, but no doubt that it is grey. The large piece on the top is the other natural dye piece, the one that looked slightly pink,, but again, no sign of it after this dye process. I really love the texturing in this piece. The dark piece with all the red is I believe the middle snow dye in this picture. I'm seeing mountains in it, believe it or not, so it may become a wholecloth quilted landscape.


Here's that textured muslin piece again. You can see that there are hints of green in it too, but not in the lightest areas.

Moody Blue gradation plus overdyes with leftover dye stock

Last, here is Moody Blue. As I was ironing it, I decided that if I were naming it, it is what I think of as navy blue. It gave the most stupendous overdyeing of the other two snowdyes in this picture - the red on the right (but on the left in the above shot), the green on the left (but on the right in the above shot). I know I thought I could do something with the leaf-like texturing in the green one, or stamp it with leaves, and I also thought I could work with those red pieces, but I was never really sold or thrilled or motivated by them. Now with the overdyeing, I am.


I tried to be quite diligent with distributing the dye in the fabric well (technical term: mooshing) before setting the bags out in the sun. I was rewarded with good texturing with minimal white/light areas on most of the half yards, which is what I prefer for my gradations.


Perhaps this is why I only spotted one face staring back at me. Can you decipher the white dots and vague oval outline as a face with eyes, nostrils and mouth?

Ashes to Ashes on left, Cotton Black on right

Now with everything processed and swatches on the worksheets, I checked to see how these three dyes differ from what I've used before. Here is Ashes to Ashes next to gradations of ProChem Cotton Black. You can see the issue we had with the gradations shading to green. Although I wouldn't call it a neutral grey (which is something Dharma has come out with since I bought this), Ashes to Ashes still reads as grey throughout the gradation.

Ashes to Ashes on left, Better Black on right

Judi and I had also tried Dharma's Better Black to get a more grey gradation in the lighter steps. It still shaded towards either blue or green, but not as much as the Cotton Black did. Kinda grey, but we constantly had customers asking why we added blue or green steps in our black gradations. Again Ashes to Ashes still reads grey. And since I know it has some red and teal in it somewhere, I am curious what would happen to the darkest step with bleach discharge or dye remover. I have a commercial solid grey that does discharge to a lovely pink.

As for Moody Blue, it is very close to ProChem's indigo procion dye (not to be confused with true indigo dyeing) in spite of the fact that it looked different on the computer screen when I was ordering. Any difference is slightly evident in the lighter steps that look less muted, and it did take more rinses than Sky Blue - an irritating trait of indigo dye. If it remains available and I find myself out of indigo, I might substitute it instead.

Sky Blue on left, Bright Blue on right.

I also checked the on-line color of Sky Blue against my worksheets of various blues to determine if it was different. Again, at the darkest step the difference is minimal, but as the colors grade lighter, the difference begins to show. ProChem's Bright Blue was the closest, but starts shading towards turquoise or aqua, though it is slight. But Sky Blue looks to lean more towards a violet shading, more sky than water (we had given our Bright Blue gradation packs the name "pacific blue"). Definitely room for both in my stash.

Overdye with old indigo dye powder clinging to sides of jar

When I showed the photo of my dye run basking in the sun, I didn't say what that tall plastic jar was doing out there. It once held indigo dye powder, and it seemed to me that quite a bit still clung to the sides of the jar and underside of the lid. Enough, I wagered, to produce at least a lovely pastel tint, so I had saved it. It must be at least 10 years old. I thought there should be enough dye to tone down the white in this "I don't care" print made over an older printing from my first linocut class. That pattern I printed over now looked like ripples in water so adding some blue made sense. When I dumped it out of the jar, rinsed and eventually ironed it, this was the biggest surprise of the overdyes. The muslin had not tinted to blue but to the most lovely shade of lavender, and pretty dark too. I'd only minimally thought about if the printing could survive the dye process which includes several hot water soaks and hand rinsing, with a final go in the washing machine. But now that I was processing, it was foremost on my mind. I opted to do the final Synthropal wash and rinse by hand to save the piece from the extra agitation of the machine, but I do think there was some loss of the red acrylic paint. It didn't seem to affect the background printing and I'm not sure what kind of paint I used. Not too upset about any paint loss, though, as it frees me up to do whatever I want with thread painting or quilting over those leaves. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

And The Latest On The Fiber Front...

I did take a bit of a break from things art quilty after the leaf cluster push, but then I remembered I'd promised to focus on the bishop's stole once ArtWalk was off my plate. I edited the design given me after adding a bit to the width and stretching out the design area as well. Everything felt so very cramped. Still some areas to refine but at least I got my ideas for additions and improvements sketched in and as long as I was at it, pulled some fabric possibilities for the various areas. Cut swatches to glue in the appropriate areas and sent it off for approval. Haven't heard back yet and frankly I'm not in a big hurry to proceed. Still mulling how best to execute parts of it.


This is what I did on my July Pause day. I filled the studio with the sounds of Jimmy Buffet and sat at the machine running parallel quilting lines over this "I don't care" print. As you can see, I still have some thread tails to pull to the back and tie off, but since this will likely go in a frame, no burying to do. I was struck by how "at home" I felt at the machine with its familiar hum. I've spent so many hours of my life at the machine doing basic piecing that when I've been away from it for while, coming back to it again sometimes does for me what comfort food does. And I find myself thinking I really should spend more time at it doing basic simple things like this. I was hoping the diagonal quilting would quiet down or mask the business of the background printing but I was surprised to find that it didn't make much difference and rather blended in. Will have to ponder this more. The masking tape along the side was used as a guide when laying down the first line of stitching. When I pulled it up, some of the paint came up with it. Not the acrylic paint I used on the leaf cluster, but the Speedball Fabric Printing ink used in the test printing back in 2013. It smelled to high heaven and took several weeks in the garage to dry enough not to be tacky. After 3 years it should be air cured, plus it got heat applied to it when I heat set the new printing over it. I am so glad I tossed it and moved on to something else.


The fat quarter quilt is back under the needle. Did I mention that most years my July pause lasts more than that one day? Our wedding anniversary falls just a week beyond and so I have the whole week to "do what Allen might want me to do" in the studio, pushing "should be working on" to one side. This time I decided to make good on that thought late last year that if I just did a few rows most days, like the daily drawing I did for a month, rather than think I needed to designate big chunks of time to get it quilted in a backbreaking marathon, I'd be more likely to get it finished. I haven't managed every day, but most of them, spending about an hour and a half to freemotion quilt the two rows top to bottom. The steady progress is heartening, each session a little easier and better, and my body is grateful for the short stints.


I mentioned that I would be trying out the dry-erase pen soon, and I have indeed done that. I need to make a correction. The ink is not actually dry-erase, as you can see on my effort to re-familiarize myself with the fat quarter quilting pattern. I rubbed quite hard on that spot near the top and couldn't get it all to come off. The ink is actually called "waterase", indicating that once the ink has dried on the non-porous surface, it actually needs a damp cloth to remove it. If you decide to "erase" while it is still wet, the cloth needs to be very absorbent. The piece of 80/20 batting I used just moved the ink around on the board rather than soaking it up. Better to let things dry first. And actually, I think I like this feature of the ink, it's not rubbing off easily. And I do appreciate the finer line this pen tip gives me.


Last but not least, today I finally did some dyeing, trying out the new dye colors I bought last December. The fabric had been scoured and ripped into half-yard pieces for this dye session back when I was prepping fabric for snow-dyeing. It DOES take me a long time to get from a to b to c on most grand ideas I have! I went back to my standard low water freezer bag method to produce 4 step gradations of Ashes to Ashes, Sky Blue and Moody Blue. It's been really hot here, another day in the 90's, so I'm trying something I've not done before, although I keep reading about people doing it: leaving the bagged fabric in its dye bath sit in the sun all afternoon. That zap in the microwave before rinsing out my snow-dyes really did seem to have an affect on the results, so why not try a little natural heat on these?



And as a last bit of catch-up, though not fiber related, I finally transferred some plants I'd bought in May into their planters on the back deck sometime in June. (I here you thought I shared everything with you as it happens!) It's not much, but I can see it from the sofa and as I pass through the living room. I refused to buy geraniums again after the deer neatly trimmed all the blooms I'd nurtured off the plants last summer. I hoped they'd leave the columbine and bachelor buttons alone, and I scatter some "bee seeds" in the two small planters.


The first burst of blooms came and went and I feared that might be it, but the columbine rallied and is full of blooms again. The bee seeds sprouted and are almost big enough to thin, the extra moving into other containers. The deer haven't been a problem, or more likely, aren't browsing behind the house right now. 


They are so beautiful and give me such pleasure. I hope they will winter over.  

Monday, July 10, 2017

There Was Sketching...

You may recall that I tried to squeeze in some sketching assignments from a Sketchbook Skool class I signed up for while I was also working on the leaf clusters for ArtWalk. I haven't shared much of that with you, and while I still have 3 sections of the class to work through, once free of the ArtWalk deadline, I've done a few more urban sketches. This rabbit was my choice for the hatching homework from the first section. Somehow I got it all squat and rotund and the background hatching got off-kilter much like parallel or cross-hatch quilting stitches can. I was amused at how many students chose rabbits for this exercise. Well, it WAS around Easter time.

Moody Lane




I'd been waiting for the weather to get better so I could go out to sketch, these two apartment buildings being a juxtaposition I'd wanted to sketch for some time. It still was a blustery day when I headed out, sun often hidden behind clouds and a spit of rain on my open sketchbook surprising me when it was showing through. I do find this toned sketchbook somewhat difficult to work in, but it is the one I've designated for architecture, so there you are. I tried practicing some hatching rather than my usual smudged in shading. It's not as easy as one would think.

McNearney Park
 

The second section was about urban sketching and adding watercolor to line sketches in ink. Both of these were done late May at McNearney Park along my walking route but a week apart. I discovered that the Leuchtturm 1917 sketchbook is not at all suitable for watercolor as I had hoped. The pigment didn't spread but pretty much sank right into the paper, making it fairly impossible to do anything akin to a wash or blend, and it quickly pilled if I worked an area too much with the brush. Perhaps it would hold-up to a spray of ink as was demonstrated in the video that convinced me to buy it, but not to brush action. On the other hand, I did very much like using the waterbrushes I showed in the previous post and learned to use a very light touch on this paper in my testing. One thing we were to do as we sketched in a place near home that we passed by often was to take note of things we hadn't noticed before. This was a big ask for me because I'm constantly scoping out places for future sketching and generally take in my surroundings in quite a bit of detail. I sat in full sun on a boulder at the base of a hill, across from the fence I wanted to sketch, so it wasn't long until I noticed how hot the sun was on my bare arm taking the brunt of it. I also noticed some small bugs crawling around the rocks near me - not ants as I would expect but busy bugs of some kind that in my walking along the path I would not notice. And then there were the trees beyond the fence. I'd studied them before but this time I was more aware of how many different kinds firs and shades of green were represented back there. So yeah, drawing slows you down and makes you really look. The flowering tree was at the opposite end of the park, on a cooler day when sitting in the sun actually felt good. It's another attempt at mastering a brush pen.

Not so good and not so bad - pen and colored pencil
 Once I was freed from finishing up those leaf clusters, I really did itch to go back to McNearney Park to sketch this little log structure that is part of the children's play area. I was way too cocky about my ability to sketch it without some pencil work first. I'd thought about it for so long, planned my attack, and then blew it. Oh, the roofline is pretty good but I totally messed up the proportions on the walls. That front wall should be twice as wide, or probably the logs should have been smaller so that the wall would be proportionally shorter. Eating some major humble pie and couldn't wait to redeem myself by sketching another building long on my list. Actually, just that lovely fan beneath the gable is what caught my eye as I drove by, and every time since. I hadn't really noticed til I was well into the drawing that the house had been remodeled to add a big ugly black window under it. It spoils the sketch, and I suppose I could have found a way to leave it out. Maybe I'll try again and crop it out.


My mind also kept gravitating to a large tree I'd studied at a public garden in town earlier this year. I'd been intrigued with the way the texturing of the bark curved halfway up the trunk. I thought it might make for a good exercise in drawing the negative image, and I'd try again one of my brush pens to do it. Again, the day I planned this turned out to be overcast and blustery but at least I didn't get rained on. And of course, the curving in the bark was not as extreme as I remembered. Oh well, I'm here so let's get to drawing. It was much more difficult to keep track of the negative areas, and I frequently got lost. I moved around to the other side and tried again, with about the same luck. Pretty disappointing. Since I'd used my "and then add red" sketchbook, I played around with adding red with a Sharpie marker. I soon realized I could do a sort of hatching rather than just solidly color in. I must say, it improved my befuddling sketch.


Just the other day, I took some time to go through a suggestion for "creative warm-ups" I'd bookmarked for when I had more time. Basically it's working through various doodling ideas, and if nothing else, I figured it would give me ample practice working with the new Metropolitan fountain pen. I mostly tried to copy the examples rather than print them out or go my own way, and the waves in particular gave me a lot of grief. The whole page was underwhelming, until I remembered to add red (with a gel pen). That really perked it up!

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Shopping Spree

I've been on a bit of a spending spree the last few months. Some of it may fall into the category of retail therapy or just the sudden wanting to have (like the new expanded edition of Welsh Quilts by Jen Jones who I got to see when she brought her lecture and quilts to the US) while other purchases were spurred by recommendations (like The Grid Design Workbook as reviewed by Diane Gaudynski here) and the ever enticing sales and discounts. I'm such a sucker for things on sale, free or reduced shipping offers and coupons. But some of the purchases, while perhaps on sale or qualifying for a coupon, have been things I actually need. As I've been thinking how I would quilt the snow-dyed kaleidoscope, I went on a button hunt for the perfect one for its center. The ones shown in the photo above came from 3 different stores, the ones in the center being hand-made. I was sure that one of them would be the perfect choice, that is until the next store where I found the metal button on the right. I find hunting for this sort of thing on-line to be frustrating as you sort of need to hold the item in your hand to get the best idea of its size, color and appropriateness for your project.


Threads are kind of like that too, and while I was in the quasi-big city seeing my doctor, I not only found the buttons but also took advantage of some coupons at JoAnn's to stock up on thread. Nearly out of that sparkly blue thread used on one of the Leaf Clusters, but at 50% off, what else might I pick up that I can't get in my little home town? Again, it's so different standing in front of any thread display vs viewing on line. I swooned over the sparkly red and then noted they carried Sulky's PolyLite. I'd received a complimentary spool of it in a thread order awhile back and was surprised at how much I liked it. Now I stocked up on a few colors at half price...and no shipping! I also had coupons to apply to more clothesline for coiled fabric baskets and eco felt that I sometimes use in lieu of batting.


In the "new obsession gotta have" category, I've bought a new fountain pen and yes, the availability of that color was part of the appeal. It's a fine nib Pilot Metropolitan Pop, recommended as a good, reasonably priced entry level pen, and I can't believe how silkily it glides across the page. I've also been buying different colors of ink for the other pens in my collection, and added the two Noodler inks to my pen order partly because each came with a free pen. Yeah, I'm a sucker for free. And did you know you could buy refillable dry erase pens and ink? That's what you see on the right (the ink is mostly permanent on paper but wipes off non-porous surfaces). The tip is so much finer than the dry erase pens that come with the dry erase boards. I'd just bought a small board with the idea of practicing machine quilting designs on it but I've always struggled with that because of the pens that do not come close to matching the width of the actual quilting lines. It's getting a tryout this week.


Then there were the recommendations for brushes I gleaned from my Sketchbook Skool Class. Longing to add color to my urban sketches and admiring what others were doing with watercolor, I appreciated the handy information. Cheap Joe's is one of my favorite places to look for quality art supplies at reduced prices, and what you see here I think actually is from two orders and fails to include the glue brush and bookbinder needles that got ordered along with the waxed linen thread and awl, on sale of course. But back to the brushes; although I have a little travel set of good quality watercolors, I've been lacking in brushes to take with it. I'd heard of water brushes, and not one to be able to decide between sizes, got both a medium and large one. I have tried these out and they are wonderful in the field, and for what I do, probably wonderful closer to home. The big brush is a legit travel brush with a cap that slips over the other end to extend the length of the handle when in use. Most in the class questioned the teacher's use of such a big brush tip, but then watched as she used it to both lay in color in larger areas and then use the fine tip it comes to in detail work. I've not had a chance to give it a go and am hoping the teacher was right when it comes to my lesser skills. Even at discount and with nylon as opposed to sable bristles, it was not cheap.


My most recent purchase is simply a frill and my falling for a sampler set of brush pens. There are so many different kinds of brush pens on the market, and even though the two I have bought so far were the hands down favorite of different and vastly more experienced sketchers and letterers than I, I have struggled with getting the same kind of effect I see on line with either of them. Maybe I just don't know how to use them yet, or maybe there's something better suited for how I sketch and letter. These weren't any cheaper than if I'd bought them individually (but qualified for free shipping!), but at least I didn't have to pick them out. They are all by the Kuretake company out of Japan and with the exception of the Zig Cartoonist Mangaka Flexible and the Zig Clean Color watercolor Real Brush, there's no English on the packaging or pens. I'll have to keep close tabs on the packing slip and pen packaging so that if I really like one or more, I'll know what to reorder. I've seen that clean color watercolor brush pen demoed on the Joggles.com site here and I may be the most interested in that one as it comes in many colors and might be a substitute for watercolor paint in pans (for what I do). There's also one that is essentially a fountain pen with a brush end rather than a nib, so refillable with fountain pen ink. As for the others, there are a variety of tip sizes (which I suspect may be my issue with my other brush pens) and JetPens.com has a lot of information and even videos to refer to.

So with all these purchases, one might think I'm getting ready to dive into some big project. But no. It feels more like preparation still, gathering up a lot of things I've felt were missing should I get that urge to focus on bookbinding, sketching or that next quilt languishing on the design wall. Retail therapy, a weakness for deals, and that feeling we all get that if we just had more or better tools, we'd quit procrastinating! And perhaps I will. :-) 

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

My July Pause

Allen attempting a quite moment at Camp Cross
Every year on this day, about half-way through the year, I pause to spend some quality time with the memory of my late husband who died all the way back in 2000. I generally spend the days leading up to this anniversary considering how I might spend the day to best feel closer to him, whether it be listening to his favorite music or fixing his favorite food, paging through photos or just being alone with my thoughts. I often consider what I think he might like me to be doing that I've been putting off, like working on a specific project in the studio or getting out for a hike or a sit by the lake. I still think of him often, if not daily, in the course of my passing days, and sense his spirit remains close, guiding (or more often shoving) me along. But it is good to block out this particular piece of time for less distracted reveling in his memory.

I've been going through the posts I've written each year at this time, mostly to check to see what photos I've already shared, but this time I've also read what I wrote to go along with them. If anyone tells you that grieving has a beginning and an end with ordered steps along the way, steps that everyone goes through in the same way, don't you believe them. As I am now fond of telling others, the depth of our grief should match the depth of our love for the person now gone, and while it will lessen and change its shape over time, it will always be with us, as it should be. Grief is not something to get over. Grief is the way we deal with continuing to live without those we cherish, and help keep a part of them alive, and everyone grieves in their own time and way. Read those yearly posts of mine and you will see me hinting at this, how each year is a bit different and definitely done my way.

As for this year, I share with you a photo a friend sent me a couple of years ago, one I'd not seen but that this friend, was going through his 40 year old slides of our camp counselor experiences, knew I would want to have. Such a treasure as I have none quite like this, Allen sitting atop pilings at Camp Cross on Coeur d'Alene Lake. It's probably from the first year we counseled there, the session ending two days before our wedding (which is a whole other wonderful tale). In a way, it encapsulates his personality: a bit of a loner, often getting away from the crowd for some quiet contemplation; a risk taker (I'D never climb up onto those pilings!), pushing himself in so many ways to get better, learn more, do good for others; and I think he's giving the photographer "the look", one of challenge he often used and which worked pretty well on those campers we were counseling, and could keep me in line when I needed it too (although I was known to give the look right back!) It takes me right back to those early days of getting to know each other, and the magic of those few summers we spent time isolated at that camp on the lake.

Allen getting a wet hug from a his campers


 

Saturday, July 01, 2017

July!

I really enjoyed working on this July spread in my pocket calendar. After the dense designs in previous months, there was a real freedom and freshness to the individual flowers spread out and floating on a white background. Again, I found myself questioning how these flowers are colored in real life when I could determine what kind they might be. Eventually I let that go and just colored away with my cheapie pencils. One thing different I tried in an effort to give the yellow blooms some interest and dimension was to lightly pencil in some green along the lines and around leaves to create some shadowing. I've used a bit of orange or red before but it didn't seem right for this. But I wasn't sure about the green either, but I needn't have worried. I really like the look.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Feelin' the Love

Margaret's glitzy bag
With the advent of the internet and social media, I have been blessed with opportunities to make friends literally around the world. In the early 2000s, I remember seeing somewhere about yahoo focus groups, many devoted to quilting. I scrolled through them, looking for a fit and stumbled upon The Alternative Quilt Group. I was just dipping my toe into what felt like art quilting, and this group was a big supporter of all things experimental and arty, but most of the active members were NOT from the US where I reside. Would they accept me into the fold? Why yes they would, giving me tons of support and valuable information, and I got to know some of them quite well. As blogging became a thing, many if not most of us started our own blogs, and activity on the yahoo group fell to nothing, which I regret. But I'd made close enough bonds to continue some of the friendships through the blogs. And occasionally that pays off when one of these blogger friends has a giveaway, as Margaret Cooter did earlier this year. She's been busy for some time now going through all the nooks and crannies of her living spaces sorting out what to keep, what to bin and what to give away. She came across 3 bags she'd put together out of scraps and was willing to give away if anyone wanted one. I quickly raised my hand if she didn't mind sending one "across the pond". She didn't mind at all.

Margaret Ball's Embeadery book and the other side of Margaret Cooter's bag

The bag's shape reminds me of the shoe bags I used in high school, our winters requiring snow boots until we arrived at our destination where we would slip into our good shoes. It is a collection of fancy brocades, lame, velvets and sheers, and for all it's variety and glitz, it seemed to want more added, but what? Not long after it arrived, another AQG member whose blog had gone silent suddenly started blogging again. Besides working in textiles, Margaret Ball from Texas is a writer of science fiction and fantasy (some titles here), and also published a book on her "embeadery" beading technique in 2005. I'd always meant to buy that book as I'd done a lot of embroidery in my younger days, was learning beading through Mary Stori and was intrigued by the thought of marrying the two. Now I was reminded of it again and thinking some embeadery was just what the fancy bag needed. Of course, by now the book is out of print, but in some back and forth with newly emerged Margaret, she generously offered to send me a "bruised" copy gathering dust on her shelf. I'm looking forward to using the bag as a no stress means to try out the embeadery stitches just for fun and end up with a sampler that may be functional as well.


Far afield family has been good to be lately too. My cousin in Western Washington does a lot of traveling and often sends me a little something she's picked up along the way. Not sure if this is from her Hawaii or Virginia trip, but a bit of batik is always welcomed in my stash and she knows it! And my New York niece included the Taproot magazine with her thank you note for a little something I sent for her birthday, mostly because of the eco-dyeing article because "it so seemed you." I don't think she knows of my less than stellar attempt at eco-dyeing but the article is making me want to try it again. And there's lots more of interest in it too, so glad she introduced me to this magazine.

So a big thanks for the thoughtfulness of far-flung friends and family who don't wait for special occasions to show me some love. Whenever I get a little down, I just have to remember these bits of kindness sent my way.  

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Art Group ArtWalking

From my perch on the 3rd tier - check-in station for artists at Columbia Bank
Early on, my art group realized our June meeting would be problematic from the standpoint of many members not having work to share or ask questions about. Most of us participate in the annual ArtWalk and would have just completed the big push to finish art which would now be hanging around town.

I can also see Meg's Moon in the corner on the main floor. She didn't get much traffic.

And because these ArtWalk participating members spend opening night tied to their location, they would not have had the opportunity yet to do the rounds of the many ArtWalk venues. So one enterprising member suggested we use our June meeting to go on a field trip so to speak, and do the ArtWalk together, including viewing our group's representation around town. Great idea and we've been doing that every year since.

Former art group member Cheryl and current member Robin

I didn't take many photos of other artists' work this year, either on the night of the reception or the following Tuesday with the art group. I'd noticed along the adjacent wall from where my work hung another fiber artist and went over to see who it was. It was Cheryl who used to participate in our group but now mostly concentrates on the art scene in the next town over which is closer to where she lives. She's found a gallery that loves her work and sells quite a bit of it for her. Lucky Cheryl!


This is what she had on display, a real variety of styles and techniques. The fiber portrait is of her parents who had mixed emotions about it. I look too wrinkly, said mom. I look like I have measles, said dad. Oh well, who DOES like pictures of themselves? But we all agreed Cheryl did a good job with a difficult kind of quilt art.

Photos on canvas by Christina Taylor

Just down from Cheryl's art were two large canvases that one couldn't help but notice. The poppies looked untouched but the barn had interesting photo manipulation. I liked both.


I'll let the artist, Christina Taylor, explain herself. Click on the photo for a readable size.

Vickie Edward's art quilts at ArtWorks Gallery

On field trip day, we started at the bank, viewing all floors. Meg and I were the only ones from our group exhibiting there, so we moved on to the locations of the other members. Vickie was at two locations, including Art Works Gallery where her work hangs year round. I was very impressed with her grouping there. Some of these we had seen in progress while others we hadn't seen at all. There was a counter between me and her art, otherwise I would have taken more individual and closer shots.

Off Centered by Vickie Edwards

I used my telephoto feature to zoom in on this piece. The simple geometric design and colors really appeal to me. I also took note of the quilting done in a way my regimented mind might not think of. I stay within and without shapes; Vickie quilted as if they weren't there.

Member Terrie had many quilts hanging in the hallways of the Music Conservatory - their first year participating in ArtWalk. Because Terrie teaches and designs patterns, she works in a wide range of styles from traditional to contemporary to art, and this space gave her room to show off her many sides. I can't believe I failed to get a single photo though, even though I spent much time studying one of her oval shaped art quilts, "Spring Bouquet", trying to suss out just how she did it.

We hit quite a few other locations - no photos forthcoming - noting how some styles fit perfectly with their location more so than others, and running across a few artists working in usual techniques, like the oil painter adding three-dimensional elements. But what we didn't see were red dots. Little art selling this year during the opening receptions.

Near the end of our ArtWalking tour, I made a small purchase at one of the ArtWalk venue businesses. I noticed the clerk slipping a small piece of paper into my bag. Once outside, I looked to see what it was. Why, it was a quotation, and a perfect one to end this day of viewing art, and also reminded me of my mother who had this gift:

Vision is the art of seeing the invisible.
Jonathan Swift  

I've always felt one has to have a vision in order to be successful at most things, and the best artists have the knack of seeing the invisible and making it more visible to the rest of us. Thank goodness for artists and their vision!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Invaluable Feedback

ArtWalk 2017 - Columbia Bank Venue - not the order I had in mind but it works
It has taken me all week to decompress from and process my interactions with everyone who came out for the ArtWalk opening reception - really quite well attended and fun (but also draining) for me. It's always scary when you go in a new direction with your art, at least it is for me. No matter how excited one may be about it, the unfamiliar makes one question, "Is it any good? Am I on the right track? And will people like what I'm doing, want me to continue in this vein or return to my tried and true that they are used to and love?"

Some of the viewing public - as you can see, a casual affair.

These were my thoughts going into ArtWalk with the new series. It turned out my worries were unwarranted. These Leaf Cluster variations were enthusiastically embraced, and nearly everyone who passed by wanted to ask me questions and/or tell me which was their favorite and why (which is often not the case at these receptions). Much of what was noted confirmed what I already knew or felt, some were good ideas I had not considered, and in one case I received a fairly thorough critique that finally gave me some concrete reasons why I was so unhappy with one of them. I got excited again about the series, ready to continue as many said they hoped I would, armed with feedback that should help the next pieces be stronger. Here's how the feedback broke down.

Framing
I was a little surprised by how many noted the framing, though I've known for a long time how framing up smaller textile pieces can give them more presence in an exhibition. It leaves no doubt that they are art, and as the critiquing fellow artist pointed out, "It makes them look more like art than (very long pause) craft." I think she hesitated so long wondering if using that term "craft" would offend me. But I totally agree. I think having them all the same size framed identically also contributed to their impact.

That it was a series
Again, I was surprised at how many people remarked that they liked that I did more than one using the leaf cluster motif. Several also shared that they could easily see two or three of them hanging together. One twenty-something woman voiced that because they had such a modern look, they would look good hung vertically, one over the other - something I hadn't considered, but found exciting to consider. And best of all, one of our "elder statesman" icons of the Sandpoint arts community came up to me with a big smile, grabbed my hands and said, "I am SO GLAD you are working in a series!" Well, yes then, I guess I must continue on with it!

Leaf Cluster III - a crowd favorite due to all that quilting

Fabric and quilting choices matter
I was not surprised that Leaf Cluster III drew so much attention and was often stated as a favorite. I had an excellent location on the third floor tier with lots of natural light from the ceiling which is like one giant skylight. It accentuated the quilting on all of the pieces, but especially on this one. Everyone wanted to know how I did it, what kind of machine I used, and then after my explanations, was I crazy. Why yes, just a bit! I think I could use that garnet stitch exclusively and no one would tire of seeing it. Leaf Cluster II (below) was a close second, that wonderful batik drawing people in just as it had on Leaf Cluster I. Many couldn't decide between the two and I feel the same way. It was obvious from the many comments that people were being drawn almost as much if not more by my fabric and quilting choices than by the leaf motif, and that in the case of the two favorites, those choices went with and enhanced the image of leaves.

Leaf Cluster II - that batik made it a favorite

Imperfections are assets
As you probably remember, it took me some time to get comfortable with the way my leaf clusters had printed up. Initially all I could see was failed prints because the paint had not transferred evenly. My blog readers, my art group and some distance from those first looks at them finally brought me around as people pointed out how much they liked the unevenness in the printing, especially where it allowed the fabric to show through as in Leaf Cluster II above. And more than one non-artist looking at Leaf Cluster II remarked how much they liked the varying lines and texture in the paint across some of the leaves, and even those little carving marks outside of the leaves that I tried so hard to keep from happening because, and I quote "they add interest." Ok, ok, I've got it!

Leaf Cluster V - the camera caught more of the sparkly beads. Click to see.

Not everyone likes the same thing
Poor Leaf Cluster V. Even in this excellent light, it remained a very dark piece, but at least the beads were picking up the light. Very few people commented on it, except maybe to ask about the beading. And then one man steps in front of it and loudly announces that it is his favorite, that he likes the colors, the beads, he just likes everything about it, and seemed ready to argue its merits with anyone who disagrees (and a few standing nearby weakly said they liked different ones but he stood firm - hysterical!). So the lesson here is that variety is good, because not everyone's taste is the same. I did ask two women who had described what they thought was going on with the other leaves (those are floating in front of tree bark, that one is coming down a wall) what was going on with this one. The first women furrowed her brow and said she didn't know. The second one described my vision perfectly - a leaf that has landed on the water. We all see differently too.

Look! You can see the stitches! Wait - don't look at those stitches!

The value of a good critique
Leaf Cluster IV looked so much better hanging in this spot of natural light plus some additional light from the nearby sconce - the quilting actually showed up, and yikes! I also noticed that you could now see the thread too, which means my uneven stitches could easily be seen (I really did have some places where the stitch length got long in comparison to the rest of the line). It got more comments than Leaf Cluster V but I think only because it was easier to see. I still felt uncomfortable about it, felt it was the weakest of the four but thinking it was mostly because of the quilting. I had nearly 3 hours of reception to stare analytically at the group and consider the comments I was getting, and I still wasn't 100% sure why some were working better than the others. As the crowds thinned, another artist wandered over, another local icon who, with her partner, received POAC's 2017 Artist of the Year Award. She looked at my pieces for a bit and then began a critique that told me why some worked better than others and declared Leaf Cluster IV the weakest of the lot. She kept glancing over to see how I was taking what she was saying, but I assured her that her comments were very helpful and that I totally agreed that IV was the weakest but didn't understand why. Well, in her opinion it was the one leaf, the way it was turned, how the paint on the stem faded to nothing at the end and did not "attach" in any way to the outside edge. To her it looked lost and like it didn't know where it belonged. None of the other pieces had that problem to her eye.

Leaf Cluster IV in a different and better orientation

I decided to ask her if it would improve it if it were turned a different direction. Maybe, she said as she cocked her head to one side. Well, let's turn it then, which put it back in the original orientation I'd had in mind when I printed it, but changed when considering how the four pieces would look together. She sounded quite surprised at the change that turn made, said "yes it's better and here's why. Look at how that circle of quilting now seems to hold the leaf up. It knows where it is now." It's still the weakest of the lot, but better in the turning, which led us to talking about often you do have to turn your work this way and that, depending on where it hangs and what it hangs with. As for Leaf Cluster V, she sounded sorry for it because it needed better lighting, was not getting its due down there, didn't really go with the other pieces, all things I agree with. I so appreciated her taking the time and being so candid with me, pointing to specific things that I will know to avoid in the future, giving me tips about design that if I pay heed, will help me create stronger pieces as the series continues. Because, after all, that's kind of the point of working in a series.