Wednesday, May 30, 2018

I Am Struggling . . .

I have been putting off sewing the binding on my main new piece for ArtWalk. Not because I was still dithering over what fabric to use. No, I had made that decision and even cut the strips. It was this decision to use a method that would allow me to use a double fold binding (for extra stability over my usual single-fold method), make sure the application would result in perfectly equal measurements of the long sides, and not result in a join along one of those sides. That method has you adding the binding like you would a mitered border, and this little tool helps to mark the sewing line to make the miter in the binding happen, since unlike a border, the seam must make a turn midway. I've only used this once before and remembered it as fussy, tedious and requiring precision. My memory was not wrong. It was not enjoyable, and I spent way too long trying to get the points poked out all the way.

And then it was the long slog of hand stitching the binding to the back after pinning. It took about 3 hours; I know that because I listened to three hour-long podcasts while I stitched. No wonder I've become so fond of framing.

It still needs steaming around the outside, but first impression is that those corners are not all that square for all my troubles. One I am sure points out like a finger flipping me off. But I'm running out of time to fiddle with my ArtWalk pieces so I've pinned on the leaves (have adjusted the positions since this poor picture) and will stitch them down this afternoon. They help this look less like a tablerunner and more like a piece of art, I realize, the risk one runs when using a long narrow format. Then it will be sleeve time, another part of the process I don't enjoy. At least it will be a short one. Fortunately, I've used muslin on the back, so my label can be inked directly on it rather than having to make a separate label that would also need to be hand sewn on. Yes, this is the drudgery part of the creative process, maybe partly because it is not creative at all. But still, it must be done and done well, even as my mind wanders and wants me to do other things.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

May's Art Group Meeting

Just a few things from my art group's meeting this week. I took my book in progress and latest leaf cluster with quilting completed to share so am not including pics since you've already seen them. Last month Terrie shared a grid round robin challenge she is involved in and here is the last one she'll be working on. Picnic is the theme and she is considering adding a couple of glasses of ice tea or water and eating utensils as well as filling in some areas with fabric. The "reveal" is coming soon so she will see what the others in the challenge have added to her starter piece. One aspect of the grid challenge that is unlike regular round robins is that the owner doesn't have to sew hers together in the way it has returned to her. She can rearrange the individual pieces and even relegate some of them to the back of the quilt if she wants.

Terrie is close to finishing up another challenge, one where she was given three vintage Dresden plates to work into a design any way she'd like, as long as all pieces of the plates were included. Terrie chose to disassemble the plates into 3, 5, and 9 petal sections and back the pieces so she could use them in a three dimensional fashion instead of attaching them by stitching along the edges. I particularly like the three-petal one at the top that forms an opening bud like a calla lily.

And how clever is this use of a zipper? The flower centers still need to be added, probably yoyos. She will be facing this one.

Busy Terrie also got this Judy Niemeyer pattern started in a class. She showed a diagram with the different looks you can get by changing the colors and value placements of the star diamonds. Scroll down the Twinkle Star Pattern page to see them.

Robin has spent the winter in Arizona so we were excited to have her back. While away, she experimented with Laura Heine's fused collage technique using the Hen Rietta pattern which called for a lot of floral fabrics. She loved the technique so much that she started work on the Abilene Cow pattern. Here is one of the background fabrics she is considering.

This time she used all geometric-patterned fabrics and is planning to quilt "Buttercup" using a grid design.

Meg has been working on building her website and has hit upon the idea of letting her little fabric birds and animals and kids do the talking and marketing, since she herself, like many of us, is quite uncomfortable with selling herself. So she will be talking through her quirkie creations, which we all feel suits her style and her art really well. She also wants to produce a time lapse video that shows how the pieces of her big tree go together up on the wall. She says one of the most difficult things has been to explain what it is that she makes and how a buyer could "use" or display them. She's hoping this video plus the newly vamped website will help. Go take a look - it's really cute! 

Thursday, May 17, 2018


I was fiddling with a photo, hoping to come up with an interesting if not also cool rendition to update my Facebook portrait with. I started with the picture on the left and ran it through the various filters in my software program, coming up with several usable ones, including the one on the right, the result of using "lights" under the illumination effect. What I generally do when working with this program is use its random button rather than mess with the individual settings myself. Click click click until I see one I like to save. There. That didn't take too long.

But I have no self control when it comes to trying out the various effects. Soon I was pulling up "patterns" under reflections effect. I've done this so many times that I'm getting used to seeing pretty much the same thing pop up, only in different colors depending on what photo I start with. This time was different. I'd not seen anything like this one before. Oo ah oh!

Nor these.

These look somewhat familiar but somewhat different too. Such fabulous fabric some of these would make.

Ok, shut it down, I said to myself. But really, do you expect me to quit before I've run this through the kaleidoscope effect? And I gasped at the first one. Definitely not what I've seen before.

Nor this one. It looks like feathers.

Here's another unique one, very subtle, no brown or peach in sight.

This one has quite a different look as well, and with no blues or whites.

This is so dynamic. I think I fiddle with the number of "petals" on this one to make it more symetrical.
Would you have guessed my portrait would have produced such designs and colors? It was all I could do to tear myself away, quit all that clicking and saving!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Evolution of a "Simple" Project . . .

. . . Or how an idea for a quick project gets out of hand. If you recognize yourself in any of the below, please leave a commiserative comment!

The Challenge:

Sturdy brown paper bags with twine handles and graphics

I've been following Ali Manning's blog and Facebook page (Vintage Page Designs) for awhile now. She has such a straightforward approach to bookbinding, lots of good basic information and some interesting bindings mixed with a variety of non-standard bookbinding materials. So when she started a Facebook group devoted to Crafting Handmade Books, I, of course, joined. I wanted to see what others were doing without following a lot of different blogs or joining Instagram. The group has given me so much eye candy, information and inspiration. And then Ali decided to try giving the group monthly challenges. For April she chose "Upcycled covers: create a book with repurposed items as your covers." Oo Oo - I can do that, because I have TWO small shopping bags I'd set aside (a long time ago) with the idea of turning them into some kind of book. And it shouldn't take long to do (she said, immediately dooming any chance of a quick finish).

The Plan:

I chose the smaller bag on the left in the top photo, the one with the dragonfly on it. I found instructions in two different books to help guide me with my idea of using the fold in the side of the bag as the starting point for more folds to make a concertina spine. Once I started cutting the bag apart, I realized that, rather than trim them away, I could fold the bottom and sides to the inside for a sturdier edge. I hadn't planned on pasting in "endpapers" but I also hadn't thought about how those twine handles were attached, and it didn't look pretty. I hit upon the idea of using some of the security envelopes to neaten up the look.

I was thinking I'd only need to make a fold on either side of the bag's side fold but their width would have made the signatures to be sewn to them too narrow. I had the hardest time getting my brain around how to place the additional folds (even though I thought I'd worked it out on a scrap of paper) but eventually figured it out. I chose my security envelop pattern, pasted them in place and secured the side and bottom flaps to the inside, all with YES!.

The Problem:

Now for the pages for the signatures. I'd also set aside this very heavy brown paper that had been used as packing in a shipment. It wasn't crumpled or creased, and I intermediately thought how well it would go with my little bag books if I ever got around to making them.

I thought I could get a lot of pages out of this length, plenty for my little book. I did the math on how big each sheet should be, straightened off one end and started tearing sheets to length. For being so rough and unrefined, this paper tore quite well. But I could only get 6 sheets from this piece, one for each peak of my spine, and there was no more, nothing even remotely like it. One folded sheet per peak was not going to cut it.

The Solution:

This was the point at which I was letting myself get just a little bit terrified of my project. I had intended to tear away the excess along each side of each sheet to bring the width to the proper measurement, but for now I decided to leave it turned to the inside to create a little more "bulk" because that is what I needed, things to add additional thickness to fill up the space between the folds in the spine. And as I held it, opening and closing the flaps, I started thinking about what might get added on these pages, things I could collage in place perhaps. While my mind scrambled for ideas, I hit upon one small step forward I could take in the meantime, a step more easily done before signatures being sewn in place. I've been using a piece of corrugated cardboard to stamp lines in art journal projects. I hadn't really thought through what I would be using this book for, but surely I could put some writing in it. And having lines as guides appealed to me.

Another night of mulling before dropping off to sleep produced another idea. I've been saving teabags, not really knowing why, but now I thought this would be a good place to experiment with them. I laid some out and decided, why not? They can be a first layer, can be stamped over, drawn over, collaged over. Not increasing the bulk much but I was really liking how they looked on that paper.

Fortunately, I had a scrap of the brown paper and some extra pieces of teabag to test out some adhesives with. I'd already determined I did not want to add adhesive over the top as is so often demonstrated by multimedia folk, and I did not want to use anything that would buckle that brown paper, heavy and stiff as it was. The results were surprising, except for the YES! The other three buckled the brown paper to varying degrees while changing the look of the teabags in different ways. In the end I went with the YES and was very pleased with the results - no buckling and not much change in the teabags.

More Solutions And A Theme:

I still needed to find something to create more pages in each signature. I got to thinking about that paper I made from recycled shredded mail. Most of it was pretty thick and I hadn't come up with any ideas for using it yet. It turned out to be exactly the right size with minimal trimming,  and whereas I'd not liked how the tea leaves I'd thrown into the mix had bled out brown around them, now against the brown paper pages, it was a good fit. It had occurred to me that I could play off the dragonfly printed on the outside of the bag and fill the lined pages with things about dragonflies and maybe even poetry about dragonflies. I determined that the best distribution of brown paper pages and handmade paper would be to nest the former into the later to form a signature. Yes, it turned out that I only had six pieces of the handmade paper that were suitable, exactly what I needed.

The more I have worked with this, the more the ideas have come, and because of the spine I chose, I soon realized that the sorts of things occurring to me to add and how they need to be added would be really difficult to do on signatures sewn to those peaks in the spine. So my "quick" and "simple" challenge project, one I thought I could whip out in a few afternoons, turned into a longer range project where I will be looking for all things dragonfly and perhaps even drawing a dragonfly or two. I've been surprised, frankly, at how similar the thought process has been to when I work with my textile art, making it a little less foreign in feel. I'll be putting it aside, now that I know how much more time I need and things to find, now that I have a theme and a bit of a vision about it, because the days are flying by and those things with real deadlines need some attention. 

Sunday, May 06, 2018


Kurt Vonnegut's Six Seasons
I ran across Kurt Vonnegut's take on season designations not long ago as my area was doing its usual struggle to break from winter. I tire of the complaints that arise during these transition months that have been assigned a season that gets generalized by its best attributes and ignores the broader reality of their existence. Vonnegut's description of how he would redistribute months into 6 seasons is totally in line with how I have always experienced these in the northern climes and so I think it quite clever.

So when "spring" officially arrived without warm temps and sunny skies, the impatient grumbling began. The "unlocking" had begun, though, and in the last week I can report we have thoroughly unlocked with the sudden burst of blooming trees. Yesterday I opened my blinds to see the wild syringa (Idaho's state flower) had come into bloom overnight. And the lilac bush along my daily walk has the beginning of blooms that should start opening and spilling their scent within a week or so. Right on schedule.

Creativity can have its seasons too. Are we being receptive to what each is and has to offer? I found this post, Reception, on Austin Kleon's blog offered a thought worth keeping in mind. (There's also a good Thomas Merton quotation over there).
You can have a good antenna pointed in the right direction, but if the tuner isn’t twisted to the right spot, all you’re getting is static. I’m hesitant to use machine metaphors for creative work, but there’s something here.

You can clear space in your day, clear space on your desk, and clear space in your mind, but at some point you have to move your fingers.
So are you ready to move your fingers? Are you about to embark on a wave of productivity, or at least wish you could? You may find Frank Chimero's Modest Guide To Productivity of interest. There was one suggestion on it that I do periodically but with a type of permission added that I really needed to hear.
Dump your brain on to a sheet of paper—every single thing you could hope to do in the next 3 to 4 months. Then, look at your task list. Have the author sign each one. Did you write it, or was it fear, that nasty tyrant in your head? Cross off anything written out of fear. Listen: some drudgery is unavoidable, but you’re living your one and only life. You get to drive; no bullies at the wheel.
Yes, this basically says you need to really look at all the things you think you need to do and make sure there aren't things there added out of fear, guilt, obligation or any number of reasons that do not serve you and in the end will not make you happy, and may even hinder your productivity. The other piece of advice he calls The Reckoning, a point down the road where you reassess and allow yourself to "tidy up". Things change over time and you should not slavishly stick with a master plan that no longer fits and needs editing. That's always been a tough one for me but I am very much more open to this sort of thinking and planning this year. On the other hand, we tend to put off the things we like the least yet they still must be done (binding, you're on that list...). "There's no pleasant way to face them," he says, "but we must." Time to quit putting them off, always be "tidying up" so that they don't all pile up at once.
Austin Kleon Blackout Poem
It's spring, a time of growth and refreshing. It's time to unlock. Let's get to work.

Friday, May 04, 2018


The passage of time starts upper left and circles back to lower left
When I'm working on my textiles, sketching and bookbinding are always in the back of my mind. When I'm sketching and bookbinding, my textile projects are always in the back of my mind. So as I worked to get my ArtWalk application together, I had that couldn't wait feeling about getting back to that challenge bookbinding project. And yet, when free day came, I was so intimidated by what I had started I simply kept finding other things to do. In fact, I returned to a Sketchbook Skool assignment (from Lynn Chapman's class) I'd been working at here and there all April. It too had an intimidation factor but in terms of ranking, it suddenly moved down the meter. And so I present to you my attempt at telling a story (of something I repeat every day) with a bit of capturing the passage of time. I tried not to obsess about perspective and and details, setting up my little still-lifes for reference and finding an illustrated yoga asanas flyer to copy. It's done primarily in colored pencil and different inks with less pencil undersketching than I usually do. I couldn't resist the rhyming text!

While finishing this up, I had time to consider what was keeping me from proceeding with the bookbinding project, why I suddenly felt terrified of it. It mostly comes down to I am trying something I've not tried before with little specific direction in an area I have little experience with. I realized there was more to putting together my little book than I originally thought, and I needed to mull things over a bit. I mulled my Morning Routine sketch for a long time too before starting it. It's what I do when feeling intimidated, work out as much as I can in my head first, a method of talking myself down off the cliff as it were. But once I make a plan, I am eager to see if it will work. I'm at that point I think, and with this sketch done, I can give it a go.

Pend Oreille Veterinary Clinic

But first, I wanted to finish up one last sketch that's been hanging over me since last September! This building is on my walking route and I watched all summer as it was constructed. It was that arch over the front of the building that caught my eye, was put up quite early on so I had plenty of time to study and savor it before finally starting to sketch. I think I went back 4 different times until I had all the details sketched in and colors matched to my pencils. I did most of the coloring at home between trips to the site. Finally, everything was sketched in and I only had the building siding and windows to color in. And there it sat on my kitchen table, tempting me but very low on the priority list. But today, as part of my tying up of loose ends so I can concentrate in the studio, I finished that laying down of color and I am very happy with the results.

I don't think I've shared this sketch yet, a continuance of "homework" from the graffiti-style urban sketcher Brian Butler's class which preceded Lynn's class. He calls this kind of filling of a sketchbook page an inspiration generator. I'd already done the homework for his class, filling a page with images of a favorite place collage style so this style of sketching was fresh on my mind when I started watching a new season of Project Runway. Right after a commercial, they throw up quick angled shots of buildings and street scenes, and it wasn't long until I wanted to capture some of these in my sketchbook. Yes, I have a DVR so I could pause the action while I threw down some quick lines. I found this really fun, and using a thick soft nibbed pen like a Flair pen has a loosening up affect on me. I'm thinking I need to fill that white space between cab and bridge with a headshot of Tim Gunn!

True confession, I haven't touched the other assignment Lynn gave us, the one I made the accordion sketchbook for so I could try the pivot method of sketching a room. That still intimidates me and I'm still mulling and working out how to tackle it. I'm getting closer, think I know what media I want to use, have determined I'll start in the middle of the book sketching the corner desk where my computer monitor sits and then working my way around from there. I'm definitely out of my comfort zone with this, as well as that bookbinding project. And to be perfectly honest, I'm a bit intimidated by the thought of binding Sway, even though I can do binding in my sleep. I'm focusing on all the things that could go wrong, waffling on how wide I want it to be and whether to make it single or double fold. I just need to take a deep breath and do it, all of this.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Meeting the ArtWalk Deadline

My application for this year's ArtWalk is due on Friday, so the weekend found me not quite frantically putting the last of the garnet stitching in this eighth leaf cluster. Frankly, I thought it would go more quickly since there are 4 clusters stamped on this 15" square rather than just one as in the other cluster using this stitch. I filled the bobbin 3 times and killed off the spool of Aurifil Thread I like to use in the bottom. I'm undecided about how to frame this one up, though. It was meant to be another one wrapped over a 10 X 10 canvas and slipped in a floater frame but I rather like the look of the full clusters with their tails curving to the outside.

Possible finishing of Leaf Cluster VIII - Sheila Mahanke Barnes ©2018

Friend Meg always reminds me that I do not have to submit photos of new work or even work I plan to exhibit and I know that to be true. POAC just needs to get a feel for the media and typical size of an applicant's art to help them choose the best venue for it. But if I did not use this first deadline to get my pieces I plan to exhibit mostly done, I'd be in real trouble come hanging day. I just get enough done so that I can take a photo that can have the frame or binding photo-shopped in, as I have done in the photo above. I didn't even think of the orientation when I pinned the quilt up and shot the photo. I think it needs to be quarter turned to the left. But the quilting is visible and I very well may finish it off this way rather than essentially crop a couple of inches off all round.

Fracture - Sheila Mahanke Barnes ©2011

I haven't gotten to the binding yet on Sway so up on the wall it went too, getting a photo-shopped binding and not worrying that in the end it may sport leaves. I did choose an older piece to submit as my third example, one that would look good with these new pieces and hasn't been out on the circuit in awhile. When I looked in the entry folder of that exhibit it was in, thinking I could just copy that photo to my application stuff, I noted I'd done the trick on it too. Fracture seen above ended up having sheer leaves added to it, like I plan to do with Sway, but the entry photo was taken before that happened. Such is the world of entering exhibits here. I could not get away with that if I was entering juried exhibits and most big quilt shows.

So the photo thing was taken care of yesterday and today I reworked an Artist Statement to better match what I think I will be showing. Finally, I filled out the application pdf and emailed everything off to POAC. So pleased I've made this the priority at the beginning of the week rather than doing it at the end last minute. I'm taking a break and working on a little bookbinding challenge (it was for April and I wouldn't let myself start until I had this ArtWalk stuff taken care of - Silly me thinking I could do it in a few hours at the end of the month) which I will share when it is a little farther along. And then I'll get that binding attended to and some more quilting done.