Sunday, September 28, 2008

Graffiti with Tufts

Another "What If."  This time I stayed with the same graffiti crazy piecing for the background, but asked, What if I make tufts of layered fabrics for the embellishments?  I layered different silks, cottons and sheers and freeform machine stitched them together to form separate units.   I then handstitched these to the background.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Painting with Sheers

I am having so much fun with these Crazy Quilt Revisted challenges.  This time I used the graffiti fabric I made for the background, but asked "What If all my embellishments were out of sheer fabrics?"  I'm excited about the results of putting sheers on top of the black and whites.  I love the interplay of the foreground and background, with the sheers disappearing in places and looking like washes of color in others.   This experiment has caused a few more "What If's" to pop in my mind.

Friday, September 26, 2008

River View

This week we headed to The Ram restaurant on the Willamette River for sketching.  The Ram has a spectacular deck overlooking the river, but unfortunately it's a well-hidden spot and went out of business a few weeks earlier.   The tables were still on the deck, so we had a comfortable place to sketch in the sunshine.

I'm working on trying to simplify complicated scenes and objects.  So much to learn.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

What If?

One of my favorite blogs to follow is Jude Hill's Spirit Cloth.  Jude does the most amazing work, every bit of it by hand.  She develops rich, textured quilts that tell stories, and every stitch seems to come from her soul.  Her involved pieces take over a year to complete and contain a myriad of experiments along the way.   She refers to them as "Slow Cloth."

Part of Jude's process involves asking "What If."  What if she changed  a piece in some small way to take it in a new direction?  She keeps a separate blog that records each of these "What If" experiments.  When she invited readers to participate in a "What If" challenge, I couldn't resist joining.  Using the Crazy Quilt as a starting place, Jude asked readers to reimagine it in their own style or techniques they are currently exploring.

To me the two main components of a crazy quilt are the irregularly pieced background and the rich, often elaborately detailed, embellishments.   I asked, What If I used a variety of marks for my pieced area, all in black and white.   And following my latest interest in couching fabric,  What If the only embellishments were couched fabric with raw edges?

Here's my first "What If" piece:

I ended up adding a bit of fine line embroidery for an accent.

The great thing is that piece led to more "What Ifs."  The first being, what if I work bigger than a 6" square, so I can try more on one piece.    I've been experimenting with making black and white marks on fabric to prepare for the next "What If".

I love the finer marks on the left.  They were made with Sharpie Poster Paint and are lightly gray like chalk on a chalkboard.  The marks on the right were Jacquard fabric paint, which turn out a rich white.

I tried a variety of inks which weren't strong enough and evaporated into the cloth.  I got this fabulous orange color below from discharging with a bleach pen.  The fabric was a cotton blend:

But when I tried the same discharge method on a piece of 100% cotton, the result was very different.  The bleach spread and I ended up with gray ghost images.

I can see lots of potential to add embroidery on top of them.

You can see other examples of the Crazy Quilt Revisited What If's here.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Back to the Farm

For sketching this week, we returned to Luscher Farm to take in the last few days of summer. It was surprising how quickly everything had wilted and faded since we were just there three weeks ago when it was all in full bloom.  I've been wanting to sketch artichokes for some time now so was happy to find a bush.

I forgot one of my painting lessons to avoid painting objects that are in full sunlight without many shadows.  It was hard to capture much depth in the bright light.  I'd like to give artichokes another try sometime.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Flock

I have been having so much fun making these fabric birds lately.  When I add the beak and eyes, each one takes on its own expression and feels like a unique little character.   I wanted them to look like they were gathered bits, almost like a bower bird's collection of fibers for nest building.  This first set I call my graffiti line.  I painted the black background fabric with white writing and markings.

The photos are not the best.  These little guys are meant to be flying.

The second line is the Shabby Chic group.  I always work with so much color that I decided to try an emphasis on texture this time, using white and creams with only an accent of color.

All of the birds have scribble lines of machine and hand stitching.

They are all made from an assortment of vintage, recycled and found fabrics.  

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Treasures in our Backyard

Cynthia got lost on her way to our sketch outing at Luscher Farm a couple weeks ago and stumbled onto Hughes Water Gardens in the process.  None of us had ever been there, so we gave it a try this week.   We were all awestruck at the beauty of the place--large koi ponds,  lily pad pools that looked prehistoric, fountains and garden art everywhere.    Once again it was in our backyards, and we didn't even know it.

It had been a busy week for me, so I stayed a little longer for some quiet time at the Koi pond.

The waterlily was done at Hughes, but the St. Francis was from the previous week's outing to the Grotto, a Catholic nunnery and garden.  I didn't attempt to sketch the giant, 3-foot-wide lily pads.  They didn't even look real in life, so I knew they would be unconvincing in a sketch.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Sketch Tuesdays

One of the best things that happened this year was I joined forces with Paula, Cynthia, Martha, and Jill for regular sketch days.  We meet religiously on Tuesdays and head out on a sketching adventure.  In winter we sketched in coffee houses, shops and each other's homes.  We spent most of summer outside, usually exploring parks and gardens.  I love to sketch but seldom get around to it on my own.  Having designated Tuesdays for it has been great discipline and ensures that I sketch at least once a week.

Besides the companionship and practice, I have really enjoyed exploring parts of the Portland area that I haven't seen.  Here are a couple of my favorite jaunts this summer:

We went to the Clackamas Co. Fair.  It's probably the smallest fair I'd ever been too with most of it devoted to 4-H projects.  I had never sketched animals before, besides my bulldog who is a great model because he's not prone to move very often.   The same is not true for chickens and rabbits.

After the fair, we stopped by Swan Island dahlia farm to see fields of rich color just coming into bloom.

Another favorite trip was to Luscher Farm, a local community garden.  It seems that gardeners here try to out do one another.  Each plot was filled with picture-perfect vegetables and flowers, garden art and scarecrows.

You can read my sketching article in the latest Cloth, Paper, Scissors (Sept/Oct 2008).

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Intuitive Painting

No, I have not returned to painting right after I said I would focus on fiber for a couple months. I started this painting in a workshop this summer taught by the talented Jesse Reno .   Jesse works intuitively, letting the painting speak to him and evolve as he works.  We began by painting with our hands to get layers of background color down, and then started to see what images wanted to come out.  Using colored pencils and paint, we drew out images from the background.

I love working intuitively like that instead of starting with a preconceived notion of what a piece will be.  I'm including this now because it is an inspiration point for where I want to go with my fiber work.  I know I want my pieces to be looser, more raw somehow, originating from within, but I'm not quite sure how that translates into fabric.   So this is here to remind me of the direction I want to move in, even if I'm not sure how to get there.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Big Comfy Couch

I tend to flit around and try various art forms, but I always seem to come back to my love of fiber and hand stitching.  I'm trying to spend a few months focused only on fiber to develop my ideas a little further.  Right now, inspired by African textiles, I'm experimenting with couching chunky bits of fabric.  I wanted to replace my well-loved, and well-worn, purse from Guatamala, capturing the ethnic liveliness minus the hours of hand embroidery.  I came up with this:

I participated in an inchie swap earlier in the year (embellishing one inch squares of fabric) and really enjoyed the portability of working on small pieces.  One inch was a little limiting, so I'm doing my couching experiments on small squares and rectangles ranging from 3-6". 

They will eventually be incorporated into a larger wall piece.  I'm currently experimenting with painting background fabrics to link them together and add a sort of graffiti element:

Cracking the Books

The academic year is so firmly engrained in me that September always feels like the start of a new year and the time to take on new challenges.  One big challenge for me this year is to take another little step up this mountain of technology in front of me.  As I do, you will probably witness many stumblings along the way.

I have so many creative ideas filling my notebooks and sketchpads that I'm hoping this blog will serve to document the realization of more of them this year.  If not, I hope the fear of public humiliation, as I face an empty blog, will keep me moving.

Some of my favorite words are Dylan's:  "He not busy being born is busy dying."  Time for a new adventure.