Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Latest Adventures

August is almost over, another month of neglecting this blog.  I have had success in other areas, take a look at the most recent batch of fabric I have dyed:

The bottom image is a mass of varied fabrics in a discontinued Procion color called Tea Leaves.  I really wish that it was still available.  It is a rather unstable color, prone to separation and inconsistent color across different fabrics, but that is exactly why I love it!  I don't have to tinker with it so much to get the variety that I desire.

The Coshocton Canal Quilters' show was a modest success for me as a vendor.  They have a nice new venue for the show, I will definitely be back there next year.

As always, thank you to those of you who made purchases, and I appreciate all the input on my fabric, quilts and ideas.  I am always looking to add things and improve.  I am delighted at the demand for vintage things... I'm searching for wooden ironing boards to have at the last two shows for the year!

In an attempt to get back to posting here regularly, I am trying something new: posting again two days a week, but I am only going to give myself fifteen minutes on each post day to get this out.  If carving out creative time each day is a challenge for you, I'm right there with you!  There is so much demanding our attention, and we must make time for things.  It is not easy!  I consider this blog to be a part of my creative efforts, and I have been getting overwhelmed by dreaming up posts that are far too heavy for all that I need to do in a reasonable amount of time.  I must remind myself to keep this as a light journal of my creative adventures, not a chapter in an art history book!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

What Happened to July?

Once again, how did time slip by me again?  It has been a busy and mostly fun month, I’m back and full of rambling things to ponder here.  I am probably going to post only once a week, as I need to focus more on making things and other business concerns.  A quilt show deadline looms near, this is what my entry looks like so far:

A long way to go!  That is all my own hand dyed fabric.  Need a fix of luscious fabric like that?  I will be a vendor at the Coshocton Canal Quilters' show, August 11-13.  It is held at the Coshocton (Ohio) County Career Center, 23640 Airport Road.

I made it to the Boston Mills Artfest back in early July, and thoroughly enjoyed my return to the annual event, after missing it for about 17 years.  According to my mother, I had attended the Festival since I was a baby, and I think that the early exposure to the fine arts certainly shaped the course of my life and led to where I am now, trying to make this fabric venture work.  Thank you, Mom!  I may not be secure financially, but art does matter to the spirit and soul.  I am wealthy in creative ideas and in, as Steinbeck so eloquently wrote, “the indescribable joy of creation.”  I take delight in not only my own creations, but those of many others as well.

I cannot decide if my next post will be about Quilt National, (I am hope to view it this weekend), or a ramble about art work versus collectibles.  It will all come out in time...

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Art Journaling

I am pleased to report that I have started a monthly journaling workshop through the library where I work.  This past Monday was the first session, and I think it went very well.  I am hoping to appeal to both writers and would-be artists, and I don't expect everyone to have to do all that I offer in each session.  That said, everyone tried the painting technique that I demonstrated, and some even started helping themselves to other supplies that I had for the class... fantastic!  My biggest challenge is to come up with prompts and techniques to hold the group's interest and keep everyone coming back.

Here is a view of my art journaling table. or maybe more accurately, creative chaos!

Next week, I will have some thoughts from a visit to a major juried art fair, and maybe, getting back to sewing at long last.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Great Lakes Fiber Show

Most of my garden is now planted, not all of it, but enough to allow me to get to other things again!  It had been several weeks since the Great Lakes Fiber Show, but I want to mention a few things.  It was only my second visit to the annual event, and some years have passed since my first visit.  I am not a knitter, crocheter, spinner or weaver, so the appeal of the event is a bit limited for me.  I do a little felting, that is it for me with wool (not counting wool fabric, of course).  Despite my apparent lack of interest in animal fiber, I found these guys:

Tunis sheep!!  I'd love to have a few sheep on my tiny homestead someday.  I'm not sure that will ever happen, but I might find a way.

The only thing that I purchased at the Fiber Show was fish leather.

Not quite what I expected to find at a decidedly sheep and llama/alpaca event, at least it is still an animal product!  Since I love incorporating unusual textures in my fabric collage, I was happy to try this unusual leather.  It is thinner than cow hide leather, so it should be easier to work with.  I would raw-edge applique it to whatever I add it to, it will still create a very bulky seam.  My vintage Singer 201 should have no problems sewing through it.  My plan for the weekend is to embellish a couple of Artist Trading Cards with some of the fish leather scraps.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Springtime Distractions

The springtime vegetable planting season is on, and therefore, my posting schedule here will be sporadic for the next couple of weeks, as it has been for the last two or so.  I have a trip to the Great Lakes Fiber Show to report on, and some observations from my ongoing flower pounding adventures.  There might even be some explorations with eco-dyeing here later too.  For now, it is time for a Take Five List: five music CDs I have just received from the library:

1. Essential Tchaikovsky
2. Casablanca  original soundtrack
3. Led Zeppelin: Early Days
4. The Civil War original soundtrack
5. The Best of Leonard Cohen

Have fun trying to connect those five, I have eclectic taste in music!


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Backsides (of quilts!)

I finally started quilting the purple collage that has been featured here periodically.  It was good to sit down at my little Elna "Grasshopper" again, but the long hiatus in sewing has resulted in a regression of my already meager free-motion quilting skills.  I'm not concerned about my skills on this one, as so far I am only outlining the major pieces of fabric.  The quilting isn't readily apparent, something that I like.  There are quilters out there who make some amazing designs with thread, but for my style of art quilting,that doesn't work.  I want my quilting to be structural, and not a feature of the overall design.

I'm not a fan of scrutinizing the backside of art quilts.  I understand the importance of having even stitches with balanced top and bottom thread tension, and the concept of good craftsmanship throughout a piece, but in art quilting, the maker often has different qualities that she wants to emphasize.  All the interest in my art quilts is on the front, the back is my place to anchor everything.  There is nothing great to see back there.

I suppose my feelings about the backsides of quilts comes from my very early days in acrylic painting.  Paintings of any type are usually framed, and the back of the piece is often covered in the framing process.  No one wants to see the backside of a painting.  This is a portion of the flip side of one of my high school efforts:

Nothing at all of interest to a viewer!  There is a reason why one side perpetually faces the wall, and so it goes with art quilts in my world.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Making Buttons

At about 2:30 this morning, I realized that I cannot remember the last time I either sat at a sewing machine or had needle and thread in my hands.  It is not that I have been sitting around, I have been reading through a sizable stack of library books, doing various planning for classes and other business ideas, and trying to pull, trim and dig my garden into shape.

I had a quick orientation on the new 3-D printer at work today, and as part of the training, I had to make something with it.  I decided to make some buttons, here they are:

Bright, aren't they?  They are not of great quality, considering that they are built up from a string of melted plastic, but they would still be serviceable on a garment.  The lines are somewhat visible, the process is very similar to an embroidery machine building up an image with stitches.  These button will end up on some artist trading cards.  The down side is it took 26 minutes to make five buttons, not something feasible for any sort of quantity production.  On the plus side, it is possible to scan a button that needs a match, and print out a similar one.

My goal for the weekend is to do some sort of stitching, and hopefully I will have something beautiful to share on Tuesday,

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Trick or Treat!

I know it is not Halloween time, but I found a surprise "treat" recently.  I'm working on a chicken themed quilt, and I was going to cut into one of my vintage livestock feed bags for it.  This is the bag I selected:

I noticed some traces of faded post-manufacture writing on the bag, and by chance I looked inside the bag...

Some ambitious youth had made the feedsack into a trick-or-treat bag!  I am so amused by this, that I am thinking of making this a whole cloth quilt, and not using it for the chicken project.  I might just split the bag, and turn the "fill'er up" side out, pairing it with the remaining "right" side for a quilt top.  I would stitch the letters to make them show up better, and perhaps add color to the faded printing.  I'm not sure what else yet, but I will come up with something more to do with it.

What I would love to know (and sadly never will), is where the kid who used this as a trick-or-treat bag lived.  It is a large bag, it once held 100 pounds of feed.  I'm assuming he (this must be the work of a teenage boy) lived in a rural area to have access to chicken feed bags, but in a rural area, population is sparse, houses are far apart...  slim chance of filling a bag this size with candy.  Perhaps he was traveling to a city with visions of lots of candy.  I give him credit for dreaming big!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Missed Opportunities

I spent the past week working on the paper aspect of my business name, making paper collage cards for the May edition of Zanesville First Friday.  I thought that the cards would be a nice low-cost impulse buy for shoppers, as Mother's Day is quickly approaching.  A very reasonable plan, however, I simply forgot to put them out on my table.  I found them fifteen minutes before the event ended while I was looking for something else in my project bag.  That's OK, I wanted to add a little more drawing detail to some of them, and they are not specifically Mother's Day cards.  Maybe I'll remember to put them out next month!

Sales were improved for me last night, as compared to the past two months.  I think that being out in the hallway, instead of a vacant office helped a bit.  I noticed that many of the people roaming the halls were not looking at anything, they just seemed to be walking the halls.  I wasn't the only vendor who noted that phenomenon.  If you attend a visual arts event, please look around, the artists are there to share what they make.  Even if you don't or can't buy anything (and believe me, I am in the camp that is often not able to buy), at least talk to some of the artists and give some positive comments on their work.  A few good words go a long way.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Flower Pounding

I continue to be amazed at the multitude of techniques for fabric surface design.  I just made a quick trial of flower pounding, inspired by one of the books I just purchased in Fredericktown: Flower Pounding by Ann Frischkorn and Amy Sandrin (C&T Publishing, 2000).  Flower pounding is just as is sounds, hammering fresh flowers into prepared fabric.  The fabric (cotton muslin) is prepared just as you would for dyeing with plant dyes - alum and soda ash.

A quick tour of my property for blooms yielded violets, lilac, bluets, spring beauty, pink dogwood, redbud and weigela.  Here is a sampler of those flowers:

The lilac was most disappointing.  I love the clusters of the tiny pale purple flowers this time of year, and the air now is heavy with their scent.  The pounding process on the lilacs only resulted in a murky pinkish-brown.  The bluets and spring beauties, tiny delicate wildflowers, dissolved into a pulpy mess.  The redbuds had nice color, the weigela was another murky mess.  The pink dogwood - oh, my!  It actually came out darker than the fresh flower, and the parallel veins imprinted onto the fabric -lovey!  The violets went splotchy, but notice the color of the flowers.  Are you thinking what I'm thinking?  What would happen with violets in a dye bath?  I have one little piece of prepared silk that didn't make it into the last plant dye session.  It might take a lot of violet flowers to do it, but I am going to try dyeing with them.

One important matter when you are collecting plants or flowers from the wild: be sure you are not picking anything that is rare or endangered, and no matter what, only take what you need.  For every one that you pick, leave at least ten of the same plant undisturbed.

Oh yes, here's more of the lovely pink dogwoods:

Happy spring!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Traveling through Ohio

The Fredericktown Quilters' Market Day was successful for me, if not in cash, definitely in books.  I added six new books to my personal library, along with some magazines and two other books that I already have, but will eventually be door prizes at a future class.  Thank you to those of you who made purchases from me!  I hope that you will find some new skills in this blog, at least you will be entertained by my ramblings.

It looks like I will be a regular presence at the Zanesville First Friday gallery walks through the summer.  Every first Friday of the month in Zanesville, the downtown art galleries open late and have special events from 5 PM to 8 PM.  I will be in the Masonic Temple at 38 North Fourth Street.  I will have mostly finished art work - fabric boxes and small art quilt wall hangings - but I usually bring a small selection of hand dyed fabric too.  Stop by and visit!

Here are two views of my table last month, tucked inside a vacant office:

Images copyright RPS. Please do not copy or repost.

The Masonic Temple was built in 1903, and retains most of its original interior.  This was the view out of my little office-for-a-night:
You'll never see new woodwork like that!

Despite not yet attempting the pirhi eggs I mentioned a few weeks ago, I am working on some flower pounding on fabric, from one of the books I just purchased.  Check back on Thursday to see if it works!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

See, hear and taste

A week of my life gone, vanished in the process of doing my taxes!  Here's a quick report on my trip a few weeks ago to the annual Original Sewing & Quilting Expo in Cleveland.  This is the one held at the I-X Center, the former WWII bomber factory (later produced tanks during the Korean War).  Lots of history in those walls.

I saw the SAQA "Two by Twenty" exhibit - delightfully inspiring, as expected.  I noticed a few quilts whose edges were not bound in the traditional manner, looked to be just stitched very close to the edges to hold the three layers.  I will be exploring this "non-binding" in the next few months.

As I was anticipating having to pay a bunch on my taxes, I could not purchase much, but I found a few mixed bags from a couple different vendors:

Kimono silk scraps, and a bunch of fancy ribbons and trims.  I cannot resist embellishments!  I see more crazy quilt-type collages in  my future.  Stunningly, where I bought the most was not from a sewing vendor.  I purchased a small fortune of blended teas from SubRosa Tea.  I'm not much of a tea drinker, but their blends are quite creative and delicious.  I am enjoying Pina Colada, Spiced Mexican Chocolate, Cafe Latte, Strawberry Ginger, Chocolate Mint, and Coconut Truffle.  I appreciate creative and quality food as much as I love beautiful dyed fabric and art quilts.  To finish off this ramble on appealing to the senses, I have been listening this week to Verdi - Il Trovatore, Smetana - Ma Vlast, and Mendelssohn - Hebrides Overture and Symphonies #3 and #4.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Slovenian Easter Eggs

I recently discovered an intriguing Slovenian tradition that will be of interest to dyers and surface design people.  The tradition is pirhi, a method of using plants to not only dye, but decorate, Easter eggs.  Small flowers and leaves are wrapped around raw, whole eggs, then boiled in a pot of onion skins, cooking the eggs and coloring the shells in one step.  The leaves or flowers act as a resist, leaving a lighter imprint on the eggshell.
Not the sort of egg to use for pirhi!

If only I hadn't used all of my onion skins for a small silk dye bath over the winter!  I want to try this.  I'm sure I could use any edible dye plant for pirhi, perhaps red cabbage or beets for starters.  I learned about the pirhi tradition from Our Voice, the newspaper of the American Mutual Life Association, Cleveland, OH (3/14/17).  There is a short video of the pirhi process here.  Enjoy!

Later this month, I will make my own pirhi, be sure to check back for the results.  Meanwhile, I have more ramblings about children's book illustrators. and one of these days I am going to quilt that purple collage!  Next week, I will also write a bit about my visit to the Original Creative Festival.  

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Mark Your Calendars

Rags Paper Stitches will be vending at the Quilters' Market Day, Saturday April 22 in Fredericktown, OH.  I will have a little of everything; it is advertised as a "flea market for quilters."  I'm planning on bringing hand-dyed fabric, Creativity Kits, funky yarn packs, vintage sewing collectibles and textiles, commercial batiks, thread, patterns and more!

Looking ahead to October, I will again be a vendor at the Mutton Hill Quilt Show in Akron, OH, October 13 and 14.  I hope to have a few additions to my usual crop of dyed fabrics and vintage finds by then - perhaps thread, patterns and books.

If you are in Ohio, please come and see me at these shows!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

I Want to Learn...

This week has just slipped by me, with no progress in creative endeavors.  That means it is time for a top five list, just to get something on this blog!

Five embellishing techniques that I want to learn next:

1. Discharge "dyeing"
2. Foil transfer
3. Devore (Fiber Etch)
4. Thread Painting
5. Image transfers, other than printing directly on fabric through my inkjet printer.

Bluets in my lawn this week, yeah!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Another Children's Book Illustrator

Today, I’d like to take a look at the illustrations of Ed Emberley.  I discovered Ed Emberely’s Drawing Book: Make a World (Little, Brown and Company, 1972) when I was a bit older than the book’s intended age target, but I remember being charmed by the multitude of things he drew with just a few simple shapes and lines.  As I have been seeking ways to get people to not be intimidated by drawing, I recently purchased my own copy of Make a World

His drawings are in the realm of stick figures, however, he shows how to put lines and shapes together to make many recognizable things.  The animals, buildings and objects show how one can abstract something to a simple form without losing the identity.  Textile artists, think applique or free motion quilting here.  If you can get a copy of Make a World, study it for the breakdown of forms to their bare essentials, then try making your own near-abstract creations of everyday objects.  Draw them, or cut pieces of colored paper.  Isn’t it fun to be a kid again?

Here is a free-motion thread sketch of a train that I did in Emberley’s style.
copyright RPS, please do not copy or repost 

I made some changes from Emberley’s instructions, I didn’t like the look of his caboose at all, and my coal car is quite different too.  Had I not been running late with this post, I would have looked at some pictures of real trains to get the images I wanted.  Then, I added color to my quilted train:
copyright RPS, please do not copy or repost 

If you want to make your own folk-inspired or applique designs, take a good look at Emberley’s drawings.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Children's Book Illustrators, Again

One of my all-time favorite books as a youngster was Anno’s Journey by Mitsumasa Anno (original U.S. edition, William Collins Publishers, 1978).  As much as I loved to read from an early age, Anno’s Journey has no text, only ink and watercolor landscapes that trace a traveler’s path across Europe of an undetermined historic time.  Anno’s drawings consist of very simple ink outlines, augmented by watercolor wash.  (Take a look at examples here and here.)  They are simple and complex all at the same time.  His buildings are a delight of textures, while his people and animals are outlines unencumbered by shading for depth.  There really isn’t room for too much detail in his figures, as they are very small in his vast land and cityscapes.  The color in his illustrations is typically understated –mostly muted tones.

Image copyright RPS. Please do not copy or repost
My first attempt at a free motion drawing inspired by Anno.

As a child, I missed Anno’s Flea Market (first U.S. edition Philomel Books, 1984), but I have been studying a copy of it, and I think I love it more than the Journey.  Another wordless tale, this flea market unfolds over the pages, set within the walls of a medieval fort/city/castle.  The place and time that this flea market takes place is ambiguous, and the ages of the items don’t give any clues, nor does the dress of the people in the market.  What I find most fascinating in Anno’s drawings of the flea market is the way he ignores perspective and scale to show the viewer all that is happening.  The vendors’ table tops are tilted to nearly vertical so that Anno’s economical line drawings of the items may be viewed.  The items themselves are drawn out of scale; hand tools as tall as the people, garlic bulbs as big as the figures’ heads, and so on.  The skewed scale and perspective really doesn’t matter here, as there is so much going on in his story illustrations.  Here and there, you will find somewhat sinister things going on at this flea market – a man with a trumpet on his head, an artist painting a busty rendition of a flat chested model, and Kermit the Frog makes an unexpected appearance! 

Image copyright RPS. Please do not copy or repost
The same quilted piece from above, with colored pencil added. 
Next time, I would add a stabilizer under the top fabric. 
Colored pencil does not adhere well to stretchy fabric.

What I take as an art quilter from Anno is his use of line, his mastery of storytelling without words, and his inclusion of unexpected surprises.  After looking at these two books, some free motion quilting exercises came to mind.  First, try “drawing” outlines of everyday objects by free motioning.  This is a great way to improve you hand-eye coordination.  Next, try creating a simple line landscape with a building in it.  How can you add texture to the land and structure with stitching?  Finally, what little details could you add to your art that would surprise the viewer?  What can you add that would make the viewer look longer at the piece?  

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Return to the Purple Collage

No, I have not forgotten about the purple collage!
Image and design copyright RPS.  Please do not copy or repost

This is just another example of how art simply doesn't happen suddenly.  I had to set this piece aside for awhile to figure out how to proceed with it.  Since I'm not following a pattern or even conventional quilting techniques, I encounter frequent problems, especially many "what-do-I-do next" moments.  I still do not know if this piece will turn out OK in the end.  It is going through an "awkward teenager" phase now and  hope that it will look better with some more embellishing.

I think that I now need to attach the top, still unfinished, to a three layer quilt base that I have made, slightly smaller than the collage top, so that the edges of the collage extend beyond the base.  The base (below) is a lightly quilted and pillowcase bound piece made from plain Kona cotton and a piece of ice dyed flannel that didn't turn out well.  The flannel will be hidden once the collage is attached.
Image copyright RPS.  Please do not copy or repost

I am going to free motion quilt random loopy shapes in the negative spaces of the collage.  I am still pondering how to stitch the edges, since I cannot see where the base edges are if I am quilting the whole thing face up.  What have I gotten myself into?

In between this purple monster and a challenge project, I am working on some free motion quilting examples influenced by two more of my favorite children's book illustrators.  Check back in a couple of days for the results!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Influences and Essentials

One of the books on art journaling that I have from the library (Alphabetica by Lynne Perrella) has an interesting feature. The author profiles fourteen artists who journal and part of each profile includes each artists' ten studio essentials and ten influences.  I thought I would come up with my own list of ten.  It is not easy to rank a top ten - I have more than ten each of essentials and influences.  So, the lists I present today could be different on another day!  Some of my selections would always make the list, others are subject to my whims.  Of course, the selections are in no particular order.

Studio Essentials:
1. vintage Sewing Machines
2. ephemera
3. Procion dyes
4. fancy embroidery threads
5. variegated machine and hand sewing threads
6. fusible interfacing
7. vintage damasks for dyeing
8. a variety of different fabrics
9. funky yarns and lace trims
10. my personal library of books, magazines and articles

1. Joseph Cornell
2. Viktor Schreckengost
3. nature
4. Tom Waits
5. Heather Thomas
6. Stuart Davis
7. Robert Rauschenberg
8. Kurt Schwitters
9. classical music
10. my mother

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Considering Children's Book Illustrators

I’ve mentioned before that I have been sporadically completing the exercises in the Art Quilt Workbook by Jane Davila and Elin Waterston (C&T Publishing, 2007).  One on the things that I appreciate about this book is the short list in each chapter of “artists to study” whose works relate to the lesson in the chapter.  The artists are mostly well-known and easily researched names.  No matter what art medium you are exploring, you cannot get away from looking at the work of other artists and learning from them.  Art history constantly builds on what came before.  College art students often get assignments to copy a painting hanging in a museum to learn multiple techniques.  One word of caution, it is always prudent to respect copyright, artists at any level need to be familiar with copyright laws.  Check your local library for a selection of good resources on copyright, and you could always try to wade through the essential source for copyright, the U.S. Copyright Office  

There are other artists to consider aside from the usual suspects of art history.  At my day job, I spent some time recently shelf reading the children’s books.  I have re-discovered some personal childhood favorite illustrators and found some new ones that are worth study for applying to my own art adventures.  Of course, I cannot insert images of these illustrators’ work here, but I encourage you to investigate them further. 

First, consider the collage illustrations of Lois Ehlert (Lots of Spots, Boo to You, etc.) and Eric Carle (Pancakes, Pancakes, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, etc.).  Ehlert creates images from layers of paper shapes accented with cut-outs and tiny paper bits.  Carle creates his collage illustrations from shapes cut out of painted papers, then adds detail with more paint and crayon lines.  If you want to create representational images from fabric using applique, take a look at these two.  The two small quilts below are what I created for the chapter two and three exercises in The Art Quilt Workbook.  These were done before I rediscovered Ehlert and Carle, but they make my point nicely; I certainly could have had the two illustrators in mind when I made the quilts.  The carrots and squash were created by fusing fabric cut into the desired shapes, then detailed with hand or machine stitching, similar to Ehlert’s and Carle’s techniques with paper.
Images copyright RPS, please do not copy or repost

On a bit of an aside, I highly recommend giving the children in your life a copy of Carle’s Pancakes, Pancakes for the message it contains about what it takes to make something. 

I’ll have something different on Thursday, next week I will look at another illustrator, hopefully with a quilted example that applies what I see in the art.  I’ve got to get busy!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Sunflower Silk

I truly have far more ideas than I have time.  There are three future posts in my head, based on some observations I have made from children's' books, and I am lacking the time to develop and type them... at least this week.  I have simply tried to jam too much into this week.

Anyway, here's the result of a little fabric dye experiment I managed to do over the past weekend:

I dyed silk with sunflower seed hulls, scraped up from beneath my bird feeders!  I'm not sure I will bother to do that again, the color isn't anything great.  I might try growing a variety of sunflowers cultivated by the Hopi for dyeing their wool rugs.  Maybe a different variety will yield stronger colors.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Time Goes By

The three day weekend was not as productive as I had hoped, at least in the way of sewing.  The weather was too nice to stay inside!  I did a good bit of yard work and planning for this year's gardens.  I am pleased to report that my two little woad plants are doing well.  I am embarking on a seed saving venture with these biennials, so maybe in a few years I will be able to get some blue fabric from them.

The only thing I have to share in sewing progress is this:

How about that for extreme couching!  That is a whole bunch of fancy yarn, dyed lace trims and silk sari ribbons, all machine zig-zag couched.  It is a piece of a larger fabric collage.  I hope to have enough of it finished soon to share here, maybe in a month.  I am thinking of making a small piece, 8 X 10" that is just a mass of couched fibers.  It takes a long time to do these rows of couching, but I love the look.

This will be my only post this week.  I have another installment of the art journaling workshop tomorrow, so I'll have something about that next week, some book recommendations and musings on why I have checked out a small stack of children's books from the library, when I don't have children!  Yes, it has something to do with art quilting...

Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Thought for a Down Day

I have been really stuck in the winter doldrums lately with making things and writing about making things.  Time to remind myself of one of my favorite quotes, which I will share here:

"Art is not to be awaited; it is to be chased down, cornered and beaten into submission with a stick."
(Michael Perry, Population 485.)

This quote sums up my philosophy that creativity and the construction of art objects is challenging, sometimes difficult work.  It is something that must be constantly cultivated, it does not happen perfectly at first attempt.
Image copyright RPS, please do not copy or repost

That is all I have today, time to get to creating.  I have a three day weekend coming up, hopefully I will have something new to share on Tuesday.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Rust Dye Results

Yikes, is it really Tuesday already? A blog post day?  I'm not ready for this!  However, I have washed and ironed the rust dyes pieces of fabric from last week:

I am enjoying playing with composition through placement of the objects: tools, chains, horseshoes, sad irons, trivets, spigot handles and miscellaneous odd unidentifiable pieces.  I have found some odd pieces just walking around old abandoned farm sites and even along the roads.  The fabric square on the right in the bottom picture was rusted from a vintage Christmas tree stand, picked up in a public hunting area!  I'd like to find another stand like it, as the piece I have has a good sized chunk missing, and I'm not sure how much longer the remains will hold up to the abuse incurred from being saturated with water and vinegar.  It is so far, my favorite piece of rusty metal for the effects it produces.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Rust Dyed Fabric

The rust dye technique fits perfectly with my overall theme of vintage things and re-purposing.  It is very easy too, simply arrange some rusty metal pieces on a plastic tray, cover with plain prepared-for dyeing fabric and spray with a solution of 50% water, 50% white vinegar.  Keep fabric moist until desired effect is achieved (could be a few days).  Here is a glimpse of my latest round of rust dyeing:
I still have to wash out the fabric, so I'll post updated pictures of the fabric itself next week.  I've heard recommendations of washing the rust dyed fabric in water with a handful of baking soda in it to fix the rust.  I do not treat the fabric with soda ash, nor do I use other wash detergents in the rinse out.

I've had difficulty in securing rusty objects, despite my habit of frequenting junk auctions.  The problem is not a lack of rusty things, but the prices!  A while back at my local auction, I had my hopes on a medium sized tackle box filled with rusty scissors.  I had visions of fat quarters imprinted with the scissors, would have been a great seller at the quilt shows.  The box of scissors went for $17!  Much, much more than I wanted to pay.  They were rusted, they should have been cheap!

The antiques dealers are asking what I think I way too much for rusted stuff... $6 a piece for rusty tools, for example.  I thought that rust would drive the value way down.  I don't know if people are buying them and refinishing them to use again, but still, for the work one would have to put into it, paying anything over $1 doesn't make sense to me.  Of course, for what I want to do with rusty junk, it further ruins them, so they'd better be cheap to start with.  I'm just going to make them worse, but it is all for making unique fabric.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Onion Dye

I have not been accomplishing much these past couple of weeks, but I have dabbled in a couple of odd projects.  Both were fabric dyeing projects, and ones that I could start and leave sit to do other things.  First was a batch of silk, dyed with onion skins:
It took me two years to save up enough onion skins to be able to dye a few pieces of silk.  I am not a fan of onions; I only use a little bit of them here and there in cooking.  I am pleased with the lovely color, even though it is similar to the color that the dahlias yielded last fall.  Isn't it amazing how much darker the silk chiffon dyed? (The chiffon is the  rumpled fabric on the right.)  For the first time in my plant dye adventures, the basement did not smell like rotten... something during the simmering process.  It simply smelled like I was cooking onion soup, not a bad smell, just not something I would ever eat!

Tomorrow, I will show off my latest rust dyed fabric.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Art Journaling

I mentioned in my last post that I am enrolled in a three session class on art journaling.  So, just what is meant by art journaling?  As I am discovering from the class and from a small mountain of library books on the subject, it could be taken several ways.  Usually, an art journal is a personal journal that is illustrated with drawing and painting.  It could also be a journal about the art that you make, or a journal about the art museums and galleries that you visit, and I’m sure there are few other possible definitions.
I’ve attempted to keep journals of sorts for some years now, and I thought that this class would introduce me to a new skill.  As it turns out, I have already been art journaling to some degree.  My journal of life events is augmented with my own photographs, and sometimes drawings.  I have another journal of art quilt ideas and notes on the progress of my quilts.
Image copyright RPS.  Please do not copy or repost

Above is a journal page documenting the first fabric box I made for a guild challenge.  There are scraps of the hand dyed fabric I used, and one of the viewer's choice ballots that were cast for my box.  No, I did not win viewer's choice, but a few people noticed it!

Yet another journal is a record of the quilts I am making from the lessons in The Art Quilt Workbook by Jane Davila and * and A Fiber Artist’s Guide to Color and Design by Heather Thomas.  As I am still learning the ins and outs of sewing and art quilting, this journal is a way for me to record my mistakes and the things that I get right.  It is not easy to remember everything when you’re learning a new skill.
Image copyright RPS.  Please do not copy or repost

I also have the fabric book that I made from Fabric Embellishing: The Basics and Beyond by Chandler, Kettle, Thomas and Vleck.  Not only is this a sampler of techniques, I also added mentions here and there of events in my life as I made each page.
Image copyright RPS.  Please do not copy or repost

I guess I am ahead of the game a bit with this class, but I have already picked up more ideas to try, and I am really looking forward to the time with other creative people.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Learning from Mini Quilts

Yikes, last week just slipped away from me.  I have a good excuse, I was excited about the first session of an art journaling class at a nearby small art museum.  More about that on Thursday.

I was also frantically working on an idea that I have since let up on.  My idea was to make an 8" by 10" art quilt each week for a year.  I thought of this halfway through January, and since I have four pieced tops from last fall, I thought that I could get four of the minis done by February 1.  Here are the first two, still not quite finished:
Image and design copyright RPS

And the second pair, still nothing done other than the piecing:
Image and design copyright RPS

The first two are a bit of a disaster in the way of quality.  I did not sew all of the trims to the top before I pillowcase bound it, leaving some floppy ends, and they are a bit lumpy, as I did not quilt them enough before binding.  I am still struggling with how to put the three layers of an art quilt together and embellish it without having the back look like a knotted mess, or not have any stitching through all three layers.

While  I am not going to attempt one mini quilt a week anymore, I will keep working on a long series of minis.  I'm giving two evenings a week to this adventure, and I am not going to fret if I don't finish a quilt in two sessions.  Maybe I will finish some in that time allotment.  What is most important to me in this project is getting better with technique and process.  In order to improve any skill, you have to work at it.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Learning a New Skill

There's nothing like learning a new art or craft skill to get oneself re-energized about being creative.  Yesterday, I had the opportunity to take a paper making class at a nearby art museum.  Here is the result:

The procedure was much simpler that I though it would be, and though I do need a few special pieces of equipment, I think I'd like to make some of my own paper once in a while.  I should be able to have a frame made easily, and I could use the screen off of the discarded patio door that is now part of a garden fence.  Everything else I need, I have around here somewhere.  The potential to have specific colors to match a project is a plus, and I am intrigued by adding plant matter to the pulp for visual texture.  I am already contemplating how to dye the paper pulp with the powder dyes and plant dyes that I use.

The paper is still not dry, but I think I will have no problem sewing through it.  I've already played with adding paper to my fabric collages, and these pieces are destined for future sewing projects.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Scrapbooks and Ephemera, Conclusion

Hopefully, I have enlightened my readers about two fascinating collectors, Theodore Langstroth and Joseph Cornell.  I have good reasons for spending so much time on them in this textile art blog.  First, the odd subject-specific scrapbooks and dossiers are perfect illustrations of how one can find creative inspiration just about anywhere.  If you are looking for ideas, consider things that you love and look at what you have chosen to surround yourself with at home.  Make a list of people, living or not, whom you would find interesting to meet.  What countries fascinate you, what regions of your own country interest you?  What is your town known for?  What has been forgotten about it that people might want to know?  What mundane objects in your life deserve more attention?
Memories of past road trips, before interstates.  There is an art quilt idea here...

I know that not everyone is a collector of stuff.  Many of us want to get rid of stuff.  This leads to another reason why I profiled Langstroth and Cornell.  I'm beginning to believe that a good bit of what we throw in the trash, someone might be in need or want of elsewhere.  I am constantly amazed at the prices some people pay for things at the junk auction that I would have tossed out.  Yes, a lot of trash is just trash, but I wonder how much money gets thrown away each week in the way of objects that others would pay to have.  Not only am I thinking of the cultural heritage that is being thrown out, but potential aesthetic creation.  As I have described before, I use re-purposed vintage textiles in my dyeing and fabric collages.  I'm working on some craft workshop ideas where I work that will re-purpose select trash items, so this whole theme is on my mind quite a bit.  I could go on and on with this, but I should work on securing some compact discs that no longer play.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

That Purple Collage, Yet Again

If you get anything out of this ongoing series on this fabric collage, it is that art work usually does not happen overnight.  This is one factor in why good art is seemingly pricey.  This particular piece however, I'm not sure would fall into the category of good art, not yet, and maybe not ever!

I decided to add decorative stitching around the edges of the fabric pieces.  The first image below is a detail before I started the hand stitching, the next one is after.

The stitching adds a lot, doesn't it?  This pair of images is also a good illustration of how different lighting affects something.  The first image is in natural light, the second was taken with flash.

My next step is to join the collage to the three layer back, and quilt them together.  I am thinking ahead for once, and trying to decide how much more I should add to this collage.  I could add more fancy yarns:

How about more trim and some doilies?

I am going for a heavily textured creation, though I don't want to completely cover the lovely purple napkin that serves as the base.

Where will it end?  I don't know yet...