Tuesday, February 26, 2019

What Sparks An Idea?

Check out the dotted lines printed on each page
I'm finally doing something with the sketchbook I bought specifically to organize my thoughts and work out ideas regarding this water series I'd wanted to pursue. That idea came from those three months I spent with my friend in Rochester MN while she got treatment at the Mayo Clinic. We discovered so many water fountains, a couple of small lakes, and even a little creek and a man-made waterfall with pool within the city limits. They all provided respite from our serious business, the sound of them and the movement of the water healing. Could any of this be captured in fabric? I started jotting down ideas in the sketchbook I'd brought along and once home started setting aside inspirational photos and fabrics. But I decided if I was ever going to make progress, I needed to have everything in one place, and I needed to start jotting down some of the small things that came to mind, not just design sketches.

Make your own table of contents

I chose to try a Leuchtturm1917 notebook with dotted line pages. I kept seeing references to this sort of notebook, apparently all the rage lately for organizing your life. The dotted line is sort of a compromise between lined and graphed pages, subtle enough to stay in the background but there to guide writing and sketching when you want straight lines in any direction. This version has other handy features, including numbered pages and a space for developing a table of contents so you can quickly find specific things. 

Reminding myself of what I thought I wanted to explore

So I've been doing some writing, printing out photos, transferring some of the sketching and notes from other sketchbooks, feeling in my element (I really do love organizing!). This is in preparation for making a very small sample that I can add to that sketchbook, a sample that has to do with portraying sparkles on a body of wavy water. I'm finding those dotted lines wonderful to work with, keeping my script in line and providing vertical and horizontal references for lining up the pictures I'm adding.

A bag of silk ties, a spark of an idea from just one

And what sparked the idea that I want to try in the sample is this, this one tie peeking out of the bag of Goodwill silk ties. I'd walked past that bag a number of times with no reaction, but it only took the one time when I only saw a sliver of those multicolored squares and could envision it creating the kind of visual movement I had in mind.

Reminders of the illusive "color" of water

It doesn't take much to move you forward, give you a possible solution to a challenge. But it also doesn't take much to lose it. Or to repeat something without realizing it. One way to avoid that is with a sketchbook, designed to hold all those flashes of insight and all those little things that may not appear directly related but feed the whole.



I just found this great short video explaining better than I have about the value of keeping a sketchbook, or as Austin Kleon calls it, an art journal, a place to put your thoughts, all your thoughts, down on paper.


Thursday, February 21, 2019

Curiosity Continues

What do you suppose I am up to here?

Well, I was thumbing through the Bags With Paper and Stitch book (the one with the silk fusion instructions and gorgeous eye candy by the way) when I came to a page showing tags and medallions one can make using hot glue and rubber stamps. I probably haven't had my hot glue gun out in decades, but still have plenty of hot glue sticks for it, and I have plenty of stamps to choose from. I couldn't resist trying this out. What you see on the stamps in the top photo is talcum powder, which keeps the glue from sticking to them. The hot glue is applied to parchment paper - I traced around my stamps so I had an idea of the amount and shape of glue to put down - and the stamp pressed into it while still hot. The stamp on the bottom has been flipped over so you can see the hot glue covering it.

Once the glue has cooled, it peels right off.

And I was quite surprised with the clear images left in it.

Boring on their own though, so the final step is to paint them front and back. I'm guessing that helps preserve the glue as well. I tried Liquetex acrylic paint and Versatex paint (which is slightly metallic). I found I had to work at getting the paint down into the relief; otherwise the paint just hits the high points. I'm thinking I could go back over the Celtic knot ones with a darker color just to hit those high points to bring the design out more.

This book is definitely short on details so this felt like it encouraged me to follow my "wing it" resolution attitude for the year. And what will I use these for? I have no idea but I'm sure I'll think of something, or probably more like it, a use for them will conveniently present itself. I've already gotten one suggestion to attach one to my silk fusion!



Just found this great short video explaining why it is important to keep a sketchbook or as Austin Kleon calls it, an art journal. I think it explains better than I have why collecting your thoughts, all thoughts, on paper is a good thing.


Wednesday, February 20, 2019

More Silk Fusion

I was quite a bit happier with my second go-round on the silk fusion. I still struggled with separating out/fluffing the pieces of silk roving to get better, more even coverage. And that did result in another somewhat thick product in the end. I think there is another method for making something thinner and more paper-like. I used up most of the dyed roving in the top layer, trying to arrange it more "artistically" across the surface. I was pretty pleased with this.

I used netting (tulle) instead of the fiberglass screening and found a tip I saw in a video came in handy. The tulle is so lightweight that when you put the second piece on top and start working with the brush and water, it helps to use clothespins or clips along the corners to hold the two pieces in place.

I used the gloss varnish instead of textile medium, diluted approximately 2/3rds varnish to 1/3rd water which was the suggested starting point. More or less water effects how stiff it will be in the end. The textile medium had to be heat set. The varnish does not need to be, although it doesn't hurt to iron it. Good thing as I hung this piece up by a single clip in the center after it had mostly dried while flat on the table, and was astounded to find that as it continued drying, the sides curved round to form what looked like a cylinder with the top half missing! The instructions DID say that with the varnish, one could sculpt the fusion while damp and it would hold its shape. I just didn't think it would take off on its own. However, heat and pressure from an iron followed by time weighted under books flattened it out.

And look! The netting left no impression on the surface. Hard to capture in photos, but the gloss varnish also leaves a sheen that compliments the silk's natural sheen.

But my goodness, this bit of fusion is stiff as a board! Perfect for a book cover though, which was my intention for it. I still plan to use the first piece to test out stitching, stamping and other embellishing, and then decide if I want to add anything to this one.

Friday, February 15, 2019

A Variation

I found a bit of time this afternoon to explore some additions to the basic Ratoon tangle I showed in the previous post. In spite of being very mindful of where I placed the initial "seeds", I still did not evenly distribute them and so still have a slightly wonky ratoon. I wasn't taking it slow and thoughtful as one should so made several mistakes as well which I did my best to cover up. Then I proceeded to a thought I'd had to echo around it (I'm thinking maybe the spacing should have been closer together) and followed some cues from one of the examples in the newsletter (the looping in the center circle and the lined square in the background). Finally, I got out a colored pencil to "and then add red" and finished it off with some graphite shading. Wishing I'd done parts of it differently, but I can surely try again! 

Thursday, February 14, 2019

A New Tangle

The Zentangle people introduced this new tangle called Ratoon last month. I studied it and wasn't sure if I was interested in it or not. But it kept calling to me and yesterday I sat down with my "Just Add Red" sketchbook and a pen and tried it out. I'm always fascinated with how simple some over and under designs are if you just know the sequence. This one is full of lovely swooping lines that I found a joy to draw. And once done, albeit a little lopsided, I decided I really liked it and could see all kinds of potential for adding to it, including some bits of red. So I will continue to work with this tangle and see how far I can take it. It may not be suitable for a machine quilting design, but I could definitely see using it with hand embroidery.

If you would like to try this one, you can find the step-outs for it in the January Zentangle newsletter

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

More To Be Curious About

That's what a 12" pile of snow looks like
We suddenly got some winter, starting over the weekend with plunging temperatures and high winds yielding below zero windchills (reminiscent of my Wisconsin Days) and then segueing into a 24 hr or more steady snowfall that at last check has us at about 14 inches. Apparently there will be another small round before daybreak tomorrow yielding another mere 3 inches. All very light and fluffy, this snow, so easy for me to clear the small bits my neighbor doesn't do for me (that's his snowblower in the above picture), but keeping the roads slick so an easy decision to stay home today, and stay inside altogether over the weekend to avoid frostbite!

So it was a good time to pursue another thing I've been curious about ever since art group friend Meg let me borrow her book, Bags With Paper And Stitch by Isobel Hall, at least 3 years ago. She has been exceedingly patient about its return any time I've brought it up. Even so, I should get what I need from it or buy my own copy! I was initially enthralled by the beautiful purses within, and then intrigued by a short section on silk papermaking. And I do mean short. The instructions left me with lots of questions, so more recently I searched around the internet, discovering that this is also referred to as Silk Fusion. A really good source of information, instructions and the silk used in this process can be found here at Treenway Silks. With that I should have been ready to go, but still I dragged my feet, until I paged through the February/March 2019 issue of Quilting Arts Magazine. There was the final prod, Tamara Leberer's The Art of Silk Fusion article. It had even more process pictures and detail instruction, so time to put aside my fears, see that I had everything I needed on hand, and go.

I'm not going to give you step by step instructions as those are readily available at Treenway Silks. As I worked through the process, I kept thinking that it was a lot like the wool felting process. You lay out your pieces of silk roving and wet generously with soapy water. Screening on top and bottom holds the roving in place. The dark areas you can see through the screen are wisps of dyed roving, of which I only have a little, so I used it sparingly over the natural roving on this first try.

Textile Medium before brushing evenly across and through surface

After the roving soaks water into its fibers, it's time to add the "adhesive". My various sources lists three different kinds (and the encouragement to experiment with others). Whether you want something fabric-like or something very stiff like paper will determine which product to use and whether or not it will need to be diluted. I wanted something more like fabric on this first try so went with Textile Medium. This gets worked through the screening front and back with a brush, just like the water. None of the directions were very precise about amounts, just indicating to be liberal and sponging off any excess. And that's it. Now you wait for it to dry before peeling off the screens.

Having never seen a piece of silk fusion in real life, never held a piece in my hand, I didn't really know what to expect. Descriptions led me to believe the finished product would still look like silk with its distinctive sheen and be smooth, not textured. So it was with some disappointment that the big reveal revealed the same issue I'd had with my first papermaking effort: the surface had picked up the texture of the screen, the thickness varied across the piece, and it felt like I was holding a heavy piece of paper toweling, or at best, watercolor paper.

And boy, was it stiff, at least in my estimation, not fabric-like at all. Look how it stands up when leaned against something and barely droops when placed on top of my water jar.

I was hoping without much faith that during the heat-setting process, some if not all of that texture would smooth out. No such luck. But the more I looked at it, the more I realized that it looked like the weave of some fabrics. So that could be a plus. But as I squint closely at the photos of Leberer's fusion, I can't see any textures even though it looks like she used the same kind of screening that I did.

So once again, a promising experiment has left me with questions, primarily why? Why take silk roving and do this to it, coming out with something that doesn't resemble silk at all? How would I incorporate something like this into my work, either quilting or multi-media? I'd had visions of it working as a book cover in the stiffer version and that is still a possibility I suppose, if more dyed roving was worked into the final layer. One is supposed to be able to embellish this with machine or hand stitching, beading, stamping and the like. My mind drew a blank with this particular piece. Maybe some of those coral-like images I discovered from my paint and glass experiment could be stamped on?

I have more roving and enough curiosity left to try this again with a different adhesive. The Gloss Varnish might give me the silk look that is currently missing, although this is billed as a stiff end product. I think I now know how to get a more even distribution of roving fibers down and wonder if the stiffness with the textile medium is because I used too much. Finally, the book's instructions call for netting, not fiberglass screen which may leave less of a pattern across the surface. All things I feel worth exploring before giving up on it. After all, I did rather enjoy the process, if not totally the results.

Parts of this process are the sort of things that one wishes one could watch someone in action doing it, be in a class room with a teacher, view a video of. And well after the fact, it has occurred to me that there probably ARE videos of the process on-line so will have to check that out. In the meantime, while googling Isabel Hall to see if she had a website, I found her video demonstrating a different method of creating silk paper using what she calls cocoon strippings and not requiring the use of an adhesive. Not sure my roving is the same product but I think this is more to my liking.