Friday, March 26, 2010

My Dye Retreat

Several issues ago, Pokey Bolton (Quilting Arts) mentioned taking a week to have a personal surface design retreat in her own studio. She set aside that time to play with all the techniques and materials she had been accumulating. I love this idea and decided to do the same with dyeing techniques this week. I quickly found out that unless I find a way to lose my family and dog, it's not quite a retreat experience, but at least I did get some focused time to explore. My dyeing has always been hit or miss, so I wanted to find out what really works for me.

I started by building up my supply of graffiti fabrics:

I paint black and white pieces using anything I can find: brushes, sticks, credit cards, and my favorite, a bundle of fresh pine needles:

Some of these pieces stay black and white, others get overdyed. I compared the difference in using my standard acrylics and using the Jacquard textile paints. There's not a huge difference, but the Jacquard does dry more pliable. It feels like the regular acrylic may want to flake off eventually.

The first thing I wanted to dye were sheers to return to using them in ways I did here and here:
I dyed silk chiffon, silk gauze, found patterned sheers, and my new favorite--silk organza (it's the one on the far left--super smooth and sheer.) I love what Jude is doing here with light silks by blending them into the background with lots of kantha stitch. I'd like to try some of that with the sheers.

I played with some basic shibori techniques.

Gathering stitches:

And pole wrapping:

Some of my favorite bits came from the simplest technique, the crystal wash low immersion process. You can read about it on the Dharma Trading site here.

I love how some of these automatically get a piece started. That last one just begs to be a spring bouquet.

And then I played with some luscious burn out velvets:

I have to have another retreat next week because I didn't get to discharge dyeing yet.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Last Pamela Allen exercise

Finishing up my Pamela Allen class. The last exercise was to do a narrative piece. We started by critiquing artwork with a focus on how the artistic elements tell a story, even in something like a still life. Then we needed to come up with one of our own.

It was a very chaotic week for me, and I had just gotten a new book by Gail Godwin, a favorite author. I was marveling at how I could completely slip away from the chaos and lose myself in the book, and decided to try to make a piece capturing that.

I submitted 2 slightly different versions for critique.

I was afraid the first one was too overpowered by the flower background, so I tamed the background, but felt it lost something and became too static:

Pamela said she felt both pieces worked but conveyed slightly different feelings. She pointed out that the first, with the darker shading on the face created more anxiety and made the woman look like she was trying to read in the chaos, but finding it hard. The second was overall calmer.

There were strong opinions from the group on both sides about whether the flowers overpowered or not. I decided I wanted that overwhelming feeling, but created a bit of a corner to help her pop a bit.

It was a fun and challenging exercise, but I don't know that it's anything I'll continue with.

But I did love the class! Here's what I'm taking from it:
  1. I like Pamela's technique of cutting freeform and using a gluestick to anchor pieces. It's a great way to establish an overall composition before going on to details.
  2. I'm reminded to look to masters for lessons in composition and color.
  3. Think primarily about shape first and find ways to make shapes pop by varying the background.
  4. It's fabulous to find a great teacher to critique your work!!!
I highly recommend taking one of her classes!

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Break for Style

It's funny Pamela Allen's class is called "About Style" and is supposed to be about finding your own personal style, yet I seem to be getting farther and farther away from my own style each week. I'm not complaining--I still adore the class and am learning so much, but I'm so focused on composition and design that I never seem to have time to apply my own style to the weekly exercises.

So I needed a little nightly break to get my hands back into my own thing.

My good friend Cindy gave me this luscious pile of scraps. They are leftovers from a San Francisco fashion designer and include fabulous little bits, some even with seams or pinked edges.

I've been putting them together into a background fabric with no real direction in mind yet.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pamela Allen Exercises--week 3

Week 3 of my online Pamela Allen class was the grand cubism challenge. This was a tough one but a great way to wrestle with composition. We started by looking at cubist paintings. For our own pieces, we chose an object and fractured it in some way. Then tried to find its essence and add bits that picked up on that or on details in the object. And we were thinking again about creating contrast to make elements pop and working with positive and negative space.

My first attempt was close:

Pamela's only critique was that the additional fracture in the pitcher made it a little hard to read. I took that out and also decided I didn't like the white bits in that background fabric so switched to the polka dots:

For my second piece, I played with a fern shape:

Pamela thought the fabric in the upper left had too many busy lines, so I switched that out and do like this version better:

I felt like I was working on a giant puzzle this week. I'd get one area right, but then it would throw off something else. Frustrating at times, but I learned a ton.