Sunday, December 29, 2019

Post-Christmas Review

It was supposed to be a quiet Christmas, just me, my Christmas music and some holiday goodies. It's what I told everyone on the cards I sent out. And then this guy called a couple of days before Christmas, asking if I had plans. Yeah, plans to clean house because you must be headed my way! This is my nephew Darren who lives about a 5 hour drive away. He's a manager at a Trader Joe's in the Seattle area, and as such, rarely gets enough time off around any holiday to get home to his family in CA. But if he has even two days (which was the case this time) and clear roads, he asks if he can come spend them with me. How special is that?

He arrived mid-afternoon on Christmas day, bearing gifts of wine, chocolates, mini-cakes and the most fabulous apple tortes (missing from the photo because we drowned them in cream and devoured them for dessert). All selections from his Trader Joe's store. I accused him of not being able to decide what to get so he got a bit of everything!

About 24 hours later, after staying up late talking and drinking wine, and the next day bundling up to take the short walk to the neighborhood Mexican restaurant for lunch, he was loading up and heading for home.  Rolled up under his arm was the quilt he had slept under. I've pondered about giving him this quilt for quite awhile but was worried about all the pink fabric mixed into it and on the back. But when I saw his reaction when I opened it up to spread over the guest bed, the jaw drop and the "wow" and the "this is so cool" that exploded out of his mouth, well, I found myself saying, "I guess you should take it home with you then." It is so gratifying to know that this quilt is going to a new home as something desired and appreciated. I'm sure you know what I mean - there's no guarantee that a gift of a quilt will be received in the same spirit as it is given and duly appreciated. I know this one is in good hands, because before he left he quizzed me on whether it could be used and washed (he has a declawed cat) or should just go up on the wall. Well, either, I assured him. It was made with the intention that it be used, but it looks fantastic on the wall too.

View out my front door
A front was predicted to pass through overnight, pretty much like the last Christmas he spent with me, and I was relieved to get the text later that night that he had made it safely over the pass (but not the cranberry bread I'd sent with him, he noted with a laugh). Because this is what I woke up to the next morning - a couple of inches of very wet snow that made the roads slick and icy and caused lots of accidents in the area. Since most of the snow had melted off the lawns before Christmas, only visible along the tops of mountains, I was happy to see this new bit of snow, even if it didn't come in time for Christmas. In fact, its absence was what gave me my very special Christmas this year.

View out the back

Hope you also had a special, family filled holiday! 

Monday, December 09, 2019

4 Needle Coptic Binding Book

4 needle coptic binding - signatures measuring 5 x 3-1/2 inches
I actually finished this "level-up" coptic binding book last weekend but have been almost literally sitting on it, having had it under heavy books trying to get it to behave. I was eager to make this slightly larger 4 needle version now that I'd tried the simpler version and gotten some great information about how to navigate some of the issues I had making it. Forged ahead with confidence that I would end up with a perfect book this time.

Eco-printed paper wrapped around every other signature

I decided that while learning the ropes, I'd follow as closely as possible the materials the teacher is using in her tutorials, and make my books the same sizes before I strike out on my own experimenting with alternate materials. I don't want to be the bookbinding equivalent of the beginner quilting student who comes to class with wool or polyester fabric instead of quilting cotton and bargain barrel sewing thread. But for this version, the teacher was using handmade paper which I don't have, and wrapping each signature in two different colors of it to add interest. However, she did say her paper was 140lb which is the same weight as the watercolor paper I have on hand - hopefully close enough. And I got really excited when I realized I could use some of that eco-printed watercolor paper for the wrappers. Time to start cutting!

Rather than wrapping each signature in eco-print paper, I alternated wrapping around the outside and placing it in the center

Remember me mentioning similarities to quilting I kept running into? Did I mention that you have to be cognoscente of grain direction, not only in the paper for the signatures, but in the book board and whatever you choose to cover it with? It's not an issue of stability like in fabric (different directions stretch more than others) but an issue of making folds that do not crack the paper or spring open (try it with a piece of copy paper - hold it flat in the palms of your hand and gently bend in each direction - one with resist more than the other), and cover paper that doesn't warp the boards because the grains are pulling in opposite directions. All grain in each part of the book must be going in the same direction. And so when I went to check my eco prints, I realized I couldn't fold them in half as I'd intended, but that the grain ran the long way. Wouldn't be able to use the measurements from the teacher, so got some practice figuring what mine would be based on the paper I'd be using. Definitely worth it. But in preparing to cut that 10 inch long eco-print in half for my 5 inch high signatures, I thought to check if the paper was really still 10 inches after eco-printing it. Yikes! Just like in quilting fabric, watercolor paper can shrink! I'd lost nearly a quarter of an inch in length! So glad I paused to check.

Looks much more like leather. Need to clean up around the holes.

While the signatures spent some time under heavy books (really helps to flatten them out and set the fold) I proceeded to cover my boards. I decided to use the "faux leather" paper colored with several different shades of blue paint, the result of a second round of experimentation. It just looked too flat so I tried rubbing different colors of ink pads over the wrinkles. Black was too stark. I didn't have a navy blue one. Brown didn't look right. I didn't think a lime green would likely work, but tried it anyway, and it was just the thing. I think there are more wrinkles in the pieces I used than in the first trial of this technique, I was more careful when I glued it to the boards so I didn't inadvertently smooth them out, and it definitely looks more leather-like.

When I took the signatures out from under the books, they sprung open a bit which concerned me but I decided to get them stitched together anyway. I left more of a gap between the covers and the signatures as suggested to give more breathing space for the book to close up. It all went very well, but the more signatures I added, the more I could see the signatures springing open. But I couldn't believe that more space would solve things, though I pulled and wiggled and tried to make larger gaps. After more time under books and still resistance in staying closed, my best guess is that my watercolor paper is stiffer and perhaps thicker than the teacher's handmade paper, and I probably should have used fewer pieces in each signature. I'm trying to decide if carefully removing a folio from each signature would make things better, or if I should just make a closure to hold it together.

I really do love it though. I found a piece of handmade lotka plant paper in a sampler pack my niece gave me long ago that was perfect for the endpapers. And cutting those eco-prints up and interspersing them with the blank pages changed them from too precious to know what to do with them to images sparking inspiration. I've got ideas now of how I want to fill the blank pages. Not unlike quilt fabric that sits in the stash not knowing what it can be until one gets it out and starts working with it.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

What Else Percolated

Apologies for not the greatest photo . . .
Towards the end of summer, I think my creative brain had rested enough that it was starting to fire again. Even before my palette musing I had another one of those accidental juxtapositions of fabric that resulted in a perfect pairing. Thing is, the two fabrics had been sitting a foot or two from each other in separate stacks on the floor for months. I'd seen them numerous times as I stepped over them or glanced that direction while sitting at my laptop. Eventually, yet another glance down that narrow piece of floor between work table and storage cabinets suddenly made the connection that the batik with mariner compass designs provided the design solution for that piece of snow-dyed fabric. I've always liked it but knew I needed to add something more to it, and had only thought about how it could be quilted. Ding dong - that compass in the batik looks the perfect size to fit in the upper left corner if cut out and appliqued in place, and has the right colors to go with those in the snow dye. Well, THAT was exciting to discover. (Don't ask how soon I'll follow up.)

More recently, I found I couldn't let this faux leather from paper bags technique go without giving it another try for better results. This time I experimented with both brown and white paper bags. On the white one I used acrylic paints which moved and blended once laid down and worked with a wet brush. Much better results than with the Art Graf. On the brown one I used several shades of blue from a Marabu Fashon spray set. I wasn't too keen on the nozzles on these spray bottles - did not give a fine spray and were prone to sudden unexpected big drops. But it was a quick way to get some color on the paper.

These still look more like hand-dyed fabric than leather to me, but I'd been doing a little more research and learning that most of the time, people were rubbing additional layers over the paper to either create depth or highlight the wrinkles. I planned to use one of these on my next bookbinding effort so tucked that info away for later - my usual mulling process.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019


If you've been quilting for as long as I have, I'm sure from time to time you look through your stash and realize you have a few pieces here and there that are starting to look dated or that you thought were similar to a newer fabric but when seen side by side, you can see the fabric designers have altered the color just enough that it will not go with the older fabric. I have such a stash, started in the 1990's and added to as I shopped at numerous quilt shows, that was specifically for a state block quilt that never got beyond the first block ("Michigan" made for a block contest) and some patterns I tracked down. It resides in a bin drawer along with orphan blocks, leftovers from strip sets and other odds and ends too good to toss but difficult to know what to do with. I have looked at that stash now and then over the years, never wanting to dip into it for other projects, but the last few times my best sense said it's time to incorporate those fabrics into my regular stash because it is clear I am never going to make that state block quilt.

Close-up of BOM quilt ad next to my stash and my Michigan Block

However, the last time I looked at them, which was probably earlier this year, I had to admit those peachy fabrics looked mighty dated and didn't belong in any of my stashes. Maybe I could make charity quilts with it but I thought it might be embarrassing to hand over a quilt with obviously dated fabric. So imagine my surprise when an October Connecting Threads catalog arrived advertising a new block of the month quilt that included these exact peachy colors paired with the same green. I can't believe it's back! But maybe it's only back because this BOM quilt is "inspired by an actual heirloom quilt, handed down from one generation to the next" in the designer's family. According to the ad, the original was paper pieced which means it can't be THAT old and perhaps was made during the same period as I was collecting my fabrics. And the original color palette was faithfully copied for the new line of fabrics. Whatever the story is, it is rare for a fabric color to reappear unchanged years later (unless it is a faithful reproduction fabric) and uncomfortably confirms my general modus operandi of keeping things forever because one day it might be just what I need. Uncomfortable because it leaves me conflicted about something I was close to letting go of!

Yes, I've been at this for a long time, and my tastes and leanings have definitely changed over the years. My stash is filled with batiks and hand-dyes now and brighter commercial fabrics that would be easy to match up with, say, the flowers in this year's deck garden. I haven't done that kind of "bring the outdoors in" sort of matching for years (my Azalea series started just so), yet here I was in September, thinking about what joy this little garden had brought me all summer and wondering how much longer before a season change would stop it in its tracks. As you know, quilting hadn't exactly been forefront in my mind for months, and yet as I sat there, my thoughts idly wandered to considering that these many colors might make a pretty scrap quilt. Stunned that I would be thinking this after all this time, I followed up by getting some shots of the various flowers, just in case whimsy would find me following up on the idea and needing reference photos. What do you think? If nothing else, if you are sitting in snow or rain and feeling a bit dreary, this might perk you up.

Lots of yellows and oranges, bright and pale.

Deep burgundy to light pink and some blue.
The tiniest pale lavender bloom, no bigger than 3/4 inch

And my most favorite, the dahlia with red accents.

Monday, November 18, 2019

What Else Is Percolating

"Art is much more interesting and makes a lot more sense (at least for the artist, anyways) if you think of the finished works as just the remains — the “fossil record” — of a process of looking, thinking, making, etc."  Austin Kleon

I loved this as I often refer to my cleaning of the studio/work table as being akin to an archaeological dig. But it also resonated because I am getting closer to starting a project whose idea germinated way back in February 2017 after a snow dyeing session. The piece shown above gave me the idea to quilt a labyrinth over the top of it. But it has taken over two years of thought, research, pondering of technique and materials, gathering of necessary supplies, hunting down a source for a key embellishment . . . You get the picture. And this is not unusual for me. When a quilt idea goes quickly from inspiration to completion, it startles me, and I wonder what I've forgotten to do. 

Here are the steps so far for this project:

Once I decided I wanted to quilt a labyrinth over the fabric, I researched labyrinths, finding different styles and eventually finding a square one that I thought would work. I bookmarked the site where I found it. I'd deal with enlarging and printing it out later.

I thought I had the perfect embellishment to go in the center of the labyrinth - a sparkly broach that had belonged to my grandmother. But when I placed it on the fabric, I could see it wasn't right at all. Neither were the bugle beads on hand that I thought would work. They were shorter than I remembered and not the right color either, to go with that sparkly broach OR the fabric.

In July 2017 I found myself in "the slightly bigger city" where there are several stores that carry large buttons. I brought these home to audition, the one on the right turning out to look perfect once placed on the fabric.

Now the hunt for bugle beads to go with it. I spent a lot of time looking on line and trying to find a bead store anywhere within a couple of hours of my home. No luck. I had no idea these longer bugle beads would be so rare, let alone not available in the smooth matte antique gold finish to match the button. That button sat on my desk in front of the computer screen for well over a year and the whole project ground to a halt as I worked on other art quilts and then got sidelined by that finicky nerve issue.

With company coming for the 4th this year, I decided it was time to clean off that desk a bit and there, buried under papers and notes, was that button. I've been thinking about this quilt again, wishing I could get going on it now that my nerve issue had calmed and I might be getting back to the machine before long. In a sudden fit of frustration, I set the search engine again, and to my surprise, the first website to pop up had exactly the bead I was looking for! Of course, I checked a few more websites too just in case, but soon realized it wasn't going to get better than this. I don't like buying beads on-line though when I need a specific color - beads are notoriously difficult to photograph - but I didn't have much choice. I held my breath until they came and proved to match the button perfectly.

Well, NOW I was running out of excuses not to proceed. That labyrinth pattern would need to be enlarged - I'd been sussing that out in my head for a long time - and because it needed to be around 16" square I'd either have to print it out in poster mode (multiple letter size pages) and tape the pieces together or take a copy to the print shop and have them enlarge it. I ended up dong both because the one I took to the printer was not the right labyrinth, although you probably can't tell the difference.

But now I started pondering the best way to transfer all those straight lines onto the fabric. I was leaning towards using Golden Threads quilting paper but really needed something that I could see clearly through to get it positioned just right over the pattern in the snow-dye. Suddenly, an option presented itself in an issue of Quilting Arts I was reading, using Press and Seal. I remembered hearing about using this cling wrap to aid in quilting a long time ago but didn't think it was for me. Now it sounded like a possible perfect solution. I still need to do a sample to make sure it will work, but I think this just might be the ticket.

But before getting to the quilting stage, I have long wondered if I shouldn't add a bit of border of some sort, probably of some of the other pieces of snow-dyes from the same batch. However, when finding my labyrinth patterns, I had saved one that had a Greek Key border and an interesting applique, and now I am thinking I may add a similar border around my little piece.

Here's another example bordering a square labyrinth. Of course once i get the border resolved, the quilting design positioned and the top sandwiched up, there will be a thread choice to make (have several in mind) so the mulling and pondering continues at every turn.

When I finish this particular piece, I know all this process I've gone through will not be evident, that most will not realize they are merely looking at the fossil record that goes back quite a ways. It's one of the reasons that makes answering that question, "How long did it take you to make?" so difficult to answer. Another reason, of course, is the distractions and diversions that keep one from working in a straight line from conception to completion. This will continue to be on hold now that I am focusing on my book binding club. But I wanted to assure you, working in fiber is not far from my mind . . . 

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Something New

mini 2 needle coptic binding 4-3/4 x 2-7/8
I've moved from sketching to bookbinding! This is the first project in the on-line bookbinding club I've joined. I can't tell you how long I've been wanting to try this coptic stitch binding; as per my m/o, sometimes I just need the right incentive. Yes, I could have found on-line tutorials or even a class, but I think this club is more my style, more apt to get me actually doing the work. It's more of a community with a forum and a facebook page depending on your preference and there is really something inspiring about seeing people posting their finished books and sharing what materials they used and any issues they had. So much information, such great tutorials. I am so please.

I've done a little what I think of as casual bookbinding, like my soft fabric covered journals and that recycled materials accordion book. But I've never worked with real book board, let alone learned how to properly cover a hard cover (in spite of the books I own or have read on the subject or the tutorials I've watched) or tried any of the fancier decorative bindings I've seen and admired. As I started in on the first tutorial, I was struck by the fact that, just like quilting, I had many decisions to make, much measuring to do that had to be accurate and even a little math to figure. It never occurred to me how much time would be devoted to preparation before I could get to the stitching - again, very much like quilting! While if I followed the instructions, at least I didn't have to choose what size of book to make and then figure all the dimensions for its various parts, I did have to decide what I was going to use to cover those book boards. Although I do have some suitable papers and eventually will try using fabric, I'd been lured to try a method of making faux leather from brown paper bags (another thing I've been meaning to try forever). The instructions I chose suggested using watercolor paints on the paper that had been crumpled, thoroughly wet with water and then spread out flat, I decided to try those Art Graf blocks instead which you can use like watercolor paints. Whether it was the brush I chose to use, my own unfamiliarity with them or just the nature of the beast, I could not get the wash gradation and blending that I was going for. Much of the brown of the paper ended up without paint and it still looked like a paper bag to me, not leather!

I used a 70lb drawing paper for the signatures.

Still, I decided on this first "practice" book, I'd use some of it. It held up to my gluing it into place and I liked using the orange thread with it. I may end up stamping something on the front cover to jazz it up a little. I had the same issue as many first-timers in my community in that the cover doesn't really want to stay closed even after putting it under weights. But in the live chat that is another great feature of the club, our fearless leader, Ali Manning, addressed the problem and gave us tips to prevent it from happening. I'm anxious to try the "level up" version which will be slightly larger and use 4 needles instead of two to sew it all together.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Final Week of #INKtober 2019

I just wrapped up those last 5 days of the INKtober drawing challenge yesterday. I have to admit I was losing steam and even a little bit of interest after four weeks of daily drawing, a feeling I remember now from past years of doing this challenge. But the creatures I'd picked as my final five were ones I really wanted to work with so even though I missed days and lacked some motivation, they got drawn. Some presented quite the challenge because the colors of ink I have on hand are limited, and it doesn't always work to try to mix them on the page. That parakeet is a case in point. Still, I'm pretty pleased with these last bestiaries.

When paging through the book for candidates, I thought this eagle was actually a phoenix rising from the ashes. Although there was another eagle candidate I'd still like to draw, I stuck with this one because of the drama. It was only recently that I spotted a similar one and realized this depiction was quite common in the early days of the United States where I live. In its double-headed version as well as one looking much like the one I've drawn, it was used as a sign of power, both by the church and by countries, becoming the emblem of kings and emperors. All varieties of eagles can be found on antique American quilts (including the two-headed variety - see two examples as you scroll down this page), some closely copying the eagle on the Great Seal of the United States, others looking embarrassingly like a chicken (if you are on Pinterest, there are lot of examples here). As for the bestiary eagle, it was regarded as the king of birds due to its strength and noble bearing, keen eyesight and mastery of the skies.

You might remember my basilisk on a mission. Well, I felt the same way about this parakeet, who not only looks on a mission but looks pretty angry too. According to the text, ring-neck parakeets like this one were highly prized as pets by wealthy Europeans beginning in the 15th century when they began to be imported into Europe from India and Africa. Exotic plumage and its ability to mimic human speech accounts for its popularity in spite of the expense of importing it. But by virtue of how often it showed up in the margins of manuscripts as early as the 13h century, it was already known to illuminators who added it to margins of manuscripts based on descriptions by Pliny, Solinus and Isidore. Towards the end of the middle ages, depictions became less exact between different varieties in the parrot family and more fantastical and colorful in general as they were used more for decoration than any kind of symbolism.

I've already discussed dragons in week three, but they come in so many varieties that I found another one to draw. This one was featured in a folio titled "Wild Animals, Wild Men, and Wonders of Ethiopia" in a chapter devoted to A Geography of the Cosmos: Observation and Myth. The Text notes that "the presence of animals in mythic places and dream spaces was not limited to the celestial domain. It was also strong in imaginary realms closer to humankind, those associated with wonders . . . and miracles... Since the first half of the thirteenth century, clerics had drawn a distinction between "natural" curiosities such as giants and fairies and everything pertaining to divine interventions. But the boundary between the two categories was porous . . ." The text that accompanies the illustration where my dragon appears shows how people of this era "delighted in fantasy" even though there were actual travel accounts available: "Ethiopia is a region . . . where there are a great many venomous beast such as serpents, basilisks, grand dragons and aspics, and unicorns . . . in Ethiopia there are people call Blemies . . . They have no heads on their shoulders and eyes and mouths on their chests . . ." Indeed, my dragon is hissing at a serpent with a human head while a unicorn looks on, looking ready to either attack or flee. Above them in the scene sits a rather glum man entwined with several snakes while further up there's a trio of those Blemies. An alligator drinks from a river beside them while over on the right and looking totally unconcerned about what else is going on around it is an elephant - a truly odd mix of images in an otherwise bucolic setting.

I've noted before that my choices have often been driven by some kind of quirkiness in the image. I had no idea what kind of animal my next one was, again, just flipping through the pages for ideas, so was very surprised to see it was a tiger/tigress, looking like no tiger I'd ever seen. According to the text, that really isn't a surprise because "The tiger we encounter in medieval manuscripts has very little to do with the real animal. Most often, it is a canine creature with a speckled coat shown contemplating its reflection in a mirror on the ground while an armored horseman flees in the opposite direction carrying a tiger cub." The idea of throwing down the mirror was to trick the tigress into thinking her reflection was her cub because otherwise, the tigress would be too fast to escape from. Tigers rarely show  up in manuscripts save to illustrate this story because they were practically unknown.

Finally, we have these two rabbits, looking decidedly unhappy. whether they are in a spat with each other or angry at something else, it's impossible to know but I couldn't resist the interplay between them. Rabbits and hares do show up quit a bit in manuscripts, often being chased by dogs. Hunting, after all, was a mainstay of the times. There is a sexual interpretation if it is a rabbit rather than a hare being chased because of a play on words of the Latin names, leading to the dog-chasing-hare being used in profane manuscripts. But generally speaking "these scenes of pursuit have no other aim than to adorn the page; they simply evoke one of the most prized activities of the medieval nobility. . ."

Thanks for sticking with me through another INKtober challenge. Thinking back on the experience, a few things stand out, although I'm not sure how they may factor into my textile work. I've been rather fascinated by how a slight change in the rendering of an eye (by changing the position of a pupil or the angle of the upper lid) can change an expression from angry to surprised to blank. Equally important in getting an expression right in a profile shot can be the angle of the head/snout/face. Take that Tigress, for instance, I changed the angle from top of head to tip of nose three times before I got it slanted enough, and when I did, suddenly I'd captured that puzzled and mesmerized look. As for the birds of the bestiaries, I've never seen so many big feet! I think of bird's feet as either being small and delicate or big talons. So many of these birds had feet that looked totally out of proportion.  Were they rendered that way on purpose, as a joke, because they didn't know any better, because fantasy ruled? I admit, it made drawing some of them more fun.

And now I'm anxious to exchange the time I've been spending on this sketching for a different pursuit. Watch for upcoming posts hinting at a return to art quilting as well as something somewhat new. 


Saturday, November 02, 2019

More Eco Printing

So pleased and fascinated by the results of my first eco-printing on paper experiment, I couldn't wait to give it another go, my mind churning with what ifs. Using a lighter weight and smoother paper than before (98lb mixed media paper vs 140lb watercolor paper), I got perhaps even better results. Talk about near instant gratification - I am in love with these papers. Still getting bleed-through which may just be part and parcel of this technique, but it is not always a bad thing, creating depth and ghost-like images on some sides. And so I've taken pictures and posted above both sides of the papers in the order in which they were stacked.

I struggled to get accurate color shots of these, tried tweaking them a bit, but the papers seemed to change color depending on what kind of light they are in. Wish you could see them in person. But in the meantime, as I was doing the reveal, I couldn't resist taking these before and after shots of this particular page onto which I scattered the small dark red leaves from a what I think is a barberry bush (very thorny). One of the "what ifs" that crossed my mind concerned the leaves used in my first session, saved and now crispy dry. Would there be any color left in them to transfer, especially in their dry state? What if I crumbled a leaf over the wet paper along with my fresh leaves? I tried it here.

And yes, there's still color transferring. I'm not sure where all that yellow came from but this is one of my favorite pages.

Another "what if" concerned adding some fabric into the mix. Would the weak alum solution that works so well on the paper be enough to transfer and hold images to fabric? I haven't washed these yet to see if what little did transfer will stay put, but I did get some image and color on the very pale hand-dyed fabric. To get sharp imprints I think I would need to have more pressure than I can get on the bundle with just cardboard on either side held by binder clips along the sides and a bit of weight on top while it steams. I also wondered if sandwiching fabric between papers might block some of the bleed-through from a page underneath. Difficult to tell but I don't think it made a lot of difference.

Here  is an example of the mirror effect one gets from two papers one on top of the other.

Here are close-ups of a few of my fabrics from this batch. The one on the left is a good example of how those dried leaves crushed and sprinkled over the paper creates a lovely effect that reminds me a bit of sprinkling salt over paint. I also used some wide blades of grass on that one (and also on the first paper in the top row in the second picture at the top of this post) and since those blades were very green, it was a bit of a surprise that the transfer of color wasn't also green. I was able to find a small willow tree with yellow leaves still clinging to branches and collected quite a few. One would expect them to transfer yellow color then, but as you can see from the paper on the right, instead it was a lovely brown - they really transferred well.

Some of the pages showed I am getting better at arranging my leaves.

And this one I love because of the way those dark brown images are not solid but full of tiny spots. Click on any photo to get a closer look.

The question still remains, what will I do with these eco-printed papers and where else might I take this experiment? Why exactly am I playing with this? Well, if nothing else, I am a curious person and processes fascinate me. But part of my "year off" from art quilting has been to make time to try things I've been wanting to try for a very long time but have not because I've felt I didn't have time while pursuing art quilting and exhibiting. Or, if I did not have a specific thought of how to use the results of my experimentation efforts, I had a hard time convincing myself I should set other things aside to pursue them. Yeah, a long-time problem of mine which I've managed to shake off quite a bit this year. Finally, at a point in my creative journey where not everything has to result in something show or gift worthy.

And that is why this excerpt from a recent Sketchbook Skool blog post rang true, something I've believed and practiced for a long time but often need reminding of:
Creativity isn’t about making something out of nothing.
It’s about combining existing ideas into fresh combinations. Taking inspiration from one source, borrowing from another creator, adding a new context, changing the mood, and flipping everything on its head. We need lots of different ingredients to make a tasty soup. 

As developing artists, our job is to gather firewood from many sources until inspiration sparks a flame. We need to stay curious, open minded, and explore.

So all the sketching, the playing with paint, the eco-printing, the waterfall chasing, it's my gathering of firewood, the hoping for a spark, staying alert for fresh combinations.