Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Creative Seasons?

With the official arrival of winter last week and the realization that I have not accomplished much on my pile of art quilt projects this year, I have been thinking about my work habits.  I definitely notice that I do not sit and sew as much in the spring and summer, as I enjoy being outside and love to tend my vegetable garden.  I have made adjustments though; I've discovered that sitting on the porch and sewing is delightful, and there is the bonus of letting fabric and thread scraps fall where they may, to be carried off by the wind. 

Now that it is bitter cold and daylight hours are short, I am more inclined to stay in one corner of the house and work on something creative.  In the summer, I look for more things to do that get me outside, or at least out of the house: fabric dyeing, auctions and flea markets (looking for sewing machines and anything I can re-purpose it to art), and gathering ideas from my adventures.  For me, the ideas never cease.  How does your creative energy ebb and flow throughout the year?  Do you have certain times of year for specific techniques or stages of a project? 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

One Dollar, Unlimited Inspiration

Not having learned traditional quilting means that I have no qualms about doing somewhat unorthodox things to fabric.  I have recently amassed a collection of new rubber stamps for my art journaling class supply base.  Why use them just on paper?  I have already used them on my "What's Your Story" challenge entry in the Mutton Hill Quilt Show:

Since I was stamping on the quilt after putting all three layers together, I had a lot of ink "over-slop."  The stamps sunk into the soft surface and left the excess ink that was picked up.  I probably over inked the stamps too, but everything remained legible.  I'm fine with that.

I am still adding to my collection of alphabet stamps, I just bought a vintage set of them at the local junk auction for $1. 

I should have sorted through them before the auction started, as a few letters are missing.  No problem, I could just mix fonts in a sort of ransom note style.  Then, there is always Ebay; I found a probably identical set of stamps, complete.  This second set is already on its way to me.  I will keep and use both sets, of course.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

What Is Art Worth? Part Three

A few more quick thoughts on this weighty topic, then I will move on, I promise.  I'm sure I will revisit this cost of art quandary in the future.  Much needs to be done by those of us who make things in educating the masses about why a piece of art costs what it does.  The cost is not just materials, but the time it took to put it all together, and something I call "intellectual or skill cost."  This is the time spent learning the technique and perfecting it, often years.

It still surprises and saddens me to encounter many who think that skill in art is sudden and spontaneous.  The skill in art is no different than learning to write, play a musical instrument, etc.  One has to start slowly, with very basic things and build upon those skills.
Samples of techniques from my early days of art quilting
Image copyright RPS

Some questions to consider:
Why does art matter to you? 
What makes artwork “good”?
What makes an artist “good”?
Who is supposed to be satisfied by art – the buyer, the viewer, the artist, or all three?
Is one form of art better than another?
What makes art valuable?

I'm most interested in responses to the first question.  It is something that I struggle to answer for myself, even as one who is trying to make at least part of a living off of art.  It is especially difficult to come up with a plausible answer to justify art to the rural community where I live.

Moving onward, I'm not sure what I'll have on Thursday, I really am trying to get back to two posts a week!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

What is Art Worth, Part Two

One short answer to the questions I posed at the end of my last post is marketing.  This is a multi-faceted subject, with no easy solutions.  Frankly, the arts world, whether "high" art in museums and galleries or craft or functional art, has not done well in marketing itself to the general populace.  Huge corporations producing factory made items simply have it in terms of distribution, name recognition through advertising and ability to supply the masses.

Much needs to be done in our education system to encourage the creative arts, instead of cutting funding for the arts programs.  I do understand that a painting, drama performance or orchestra concert does not fulfill basic needs such as food and shelter, but the arts fulfill deeper things within us.

How to address the lack of arts appreciation is not easy, but there are many small things we can start doing.  Creating your craft where others can observe is one good way.  I just secured a copy of the book The Art Abandonment Project: Create and Share Random Acts of Art by Micheal deMeng and Andrea Matus deMeng (North Light Books, 2014), and I'm intrigued by the concept of occasionally giving away small pieces to encourage interest.  If you are really ambitious, see about offering interactive talks or demonstrations to your local schools and youth organizations.  I am planning on doing all of these ideas in the near future.  I will certainly share my adventures here in the months to come.

The "Ribbon Lady" at Cambridge, Ohio's annual Dickens Village public art installation.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

What is Art Worth? Part One

What is art worth to you?  This could be addressed in a multitude of ways: cultural, emotional, financial.  Right now, I am referring to the money worth of art.  Not the elite objects that are enshrined in museums, I want to focus on the art and fine craft made by the many creative individuals that produce and sell for the most part on a local or regional basis and travel around to sell their work directly to buyers. 

I returned this year to two art sales fairs that I attended regularly some 20+ years ago: the Boston Mills Art Fest and Winterfair.  I was inspired by both shows, and they confirmed my thoughts that I if work hard at what I love, I could eventually support myself with my creative endeavors.  However, some other recent incidents that I have observed make me concerned for the future of the local arts markets. 

These two ceramic boxes were made by Rob Wiedmaier,  The one on the right, I purchased from the artist at Boston Mills in the early 1990s.  The one on the left, I rescued from an estate auction earlier this year.  I do not recall the purchase price of my original box.  I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I bought the other one for all of two dollars.  (By the way, Mr. Wiedmaier, if you happen to see this, I treasure both of these lovely boxes!)

This black walnut bowl, made by a local woodworker, was purchased recently at a local benefit for a school.  The high bid was only $15, and sadly, plastic made-in-China toy trucks (likely from a certain national discount retailer) were selling for over $70 each.  How did this happen?  Why aren't the handcrafted, one-of-a-kind items; crafted locally with skill and love, valued more?

To be continued...

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Odd and Ends

Oh my, there really is a random acts of art movement!  I mentioned the concept in my last post, not knowing that this was a "thing."  Even though I'd love to sell my work (I need the money!), I really like the idea of encouraging future artists and collectors by leaving original art trading cards, postcards or bookmarks for others to find. 

Earlier this week, I had a great time with my art journaling group, making artist trading cards.  Enough cards were made so that we all had a card from everyone else.  The group is continuing, but is was a nice way to have a memento from each participant.  I love the cards I that received, and will always treasure them.  This has been my first real stint at teaching, and I think that is has gone well.  I have learned just as much as the rest of the group, and I am pleased that we are inspiring each other.

Going off in another direction, I had some more auction success this past weekend:

Yes, I have a problem with fancy hankies!  This is part of a bunch of 311 vintage hankies that I bought.  Most of them will go into the resale stash, but I am going to make things with them too.  I have to have samples of projects for the stuff I sell.  These are too pretty to keep hidden in boxes and dresser drawers.  This winter I will be making several fabric collages with hankies.  Keep checking back for my progress...

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Tiny Works of Art

I'm on a roll with artist card originals / artist trading cards week.  I've been making some to sell at an upcoming craft fair, and to my surprise and delight, one of my trading cards appears in the current issue of Quilting Arts Magazine!  These "cards" are always 2 1/2 by 3 1/2 inches.  They are fun to make, they don't take a lot of time and are a great way to use up scraps at the end of a project. 

Of course, most of mine are mini art quilts, though I occasionally make some on paper.  If you can join a swap, it is a perfect way to build a collection of tiny pieces of art.  I offer mine for sale as well, to encourage art buying and collecting.  Lately, I have envisioned leaving cards in random public places for people to discover.  I haven't done it yet, but I will soon.  I've also thought of leaving a artist card in addition to a tip at my favorite restaurants, a "random act of art" in a way.  Of course, give them to family and friends as well!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Black Walnut Harvest

For the past two years, my black walnut trees have not produced any nuts, which has been incredibly disappointing as I look forward to them for eating and for fabric dyeing.  This year - a bumper crop!
This is what I pick up from underneath the trees:

The thick, soft outer hull must be first be removed, best accomplished by smashing them with a brick.  I save the hulls for fabric dyeing.  At this point, I rinse the walnuts and let them dry for a week or two.  There is still the concrete hard inner shell to be smashed.
Once they are dried, it will be time to crack them open, pick out the nut meats, and freeze them for future use in cookies, cakes and quick breads.  It is a very labor intensive process, making one realize why black walnuts are so expensive in the stores.  The same concept applies to art work.  It is not easy making things, but I find it worthwhile.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Crazy for Crazy Quilts

I'm in the midst of preparing for a crazy quilting workshop that I am teaching this weekend.  I think there is some connection between the late 1800s crazy quilting and what we art quilters now call fabric collage.  I'm just not sure of the intermediary steps, if there are any. 

I only have one example of antique crazy quilting, this lone unfinished block:

I have had it for some time, and I do not recall where I bought it.  Someday, I will put a back and border on it.  I should do that sooner rather then later, to protect it.  Just as with the 1930s unfinished quilt top I found recently, I wish it could talk.  There are stories in the stitches that I will never know.  The story inherent in a piece of art is something that I have been pondering this year.  Perhaps I am worrying too much about it.  I just need to go make more stuff!

If you cannot get enough crazy quilting, there is another new book out on the subject: The Visual Guide to Crazy Quilting Design by Sharon Boggon (C&T Publishing, 2017).  As the title implies, it is heavy on design and composition principles, but this is a good thing.  If we want to have textile art taken more seriously, we need to approach the creation of it with the eye of serious fine artists. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Purple Collage, the Finale

Earlier this year, or maybe even last year, I periodically documented the creation of a fabric collage here.  It was finished for entry into the Mutton Hill Quilt Show, and here it is at the show:
Image and design copyright RPS

It was an experiment, not completely successful.  While I made it, I had in mind the paper collages of Kurt Schwitters (scroll down on the link for images of his work).  I think the influence of Schwitters is evident in my collage.  However, it is a bit of a wreck in the technique.  My most significant fault with my purple collage is the trial of sewing a slightly smaller quilt base, allowing the edges of the purple dyed damask napkin hang free.  I will not do that again!  It was hard to quilt near the edges, and I just don't like the floppy edges.  Additionally, the quilting made the whole thing lumpy!  The next collage that I make using a dyed napkin for a sub-base will have a slightly larger quilt base, not smaller.  I would like to try mounting future collages on canvas and stretcher bars, like a painting.  I have heard of other textile artists having good luck with that method, citing that would-be buyers relate to the treatment better. 

Another thing that I like about the collage is the seed stitching I did to create an unobtrusive border.  The stitching was necessary to try and secure the floppy edges, and it added more texture.  Not only is there paper sewn into this piece, but there really are pieces in there that would have been trash!  There are foil chocolate wrappers and plastic mesh produce bag pieces in the mix.  Look around as you go through your day with a vision to find unusual materials to stitch. 

Despite the problems, I really had fun making this and I still love it as a learning experience.  I will hang it somewhere in my house, as it is still a visual delight to me.  I hope to start my next collage this weekend.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Scrap Lace Fabric

I always draw a crowd when I demo my "scrap lace fabric" at quilt shows.  I had several request to re-post the instructions, so here they are.  These instructions are copyrighted, please do not re-post this elsewhere or distribute elsewhere.  

Here is something fun to make with strips of sheer fabric and funky yarns.  I came up with this after numerous utterances of “what do I do with this?” from shoppers in my quilt show/market booth.  I sell packages of assorted funky yarns, and many visitors to my booth love them, but get stumped on using them.  I also had to find a way to use a stash of beautiful vintage rayon scarves that were a surprise in a big box lot from a recent auction.  The technique is an expansion of thread lace from two sources: Fun with Sulky Blendables and Solid Color Cotton Threads, (Joyce Drexler/Sulky of America, 2011) and Fabric Embellishing: The Basics and Beyond (Ruth Chandler, Liz Kettle, Heather Thomas, Lauren Vleck, Landauer Publishing, 2009)
2 pieces water soluble stabilizer (Sulky Solvy or Superior Threads Dissolve 4X), cut both pieces same size.
                HINT: Start small for the first try, about 10x10”
Assorted fancy yarns
Vintage scarf (rayon, polyester or silk)
Machine sewing thread to complement your color scheme

Here’s what you do:
1. Thread your sewing machine, set for free motion quilting
2. Cut narrow strips of scarf, roughly 1” wide, doesn’t have to be exact, vary the widths if desired
3. Place one piece of water soluble stabilizer on your work surface
Place strips of scarf on top of stabilizer, some horizontal, some vertical, some diagonal.  You don’t have to cover the entire surface, some gaps are OK.  You are creating a rough grid pattern.
4. Add random cuts of yarns on the strips; straight lines, curves lines, whatever looks good to you.
Add some more strips of scarf, but don’t completely cover the yarns you just used.
5. When you are happy with your arrangement of strips and yarns, place the second piece of stabilizer on top, matching it with the bottom piece. 
6. Carefully take the resulting “sandwich” to your sewing machine.  The fibers will shift as you sew, so watch for areas that are bunching and thin them out as you go.
7. Start quilting in a straight line pattern to “baste” the stabilizer sandwich, making your lines about 2”apart.
8. Once you get the basting lines done, you will now free motion quilt the entire sandwich.  Pick a quilting pattern that will allow you to easily double back over your design.  The first one of these that I made, I used the pebble design, and I simply stitched each pebble twice as I went.  The idea is to make sure the stitching is absolutely secure.  The quilting could take a while, since you are essentially quilting twice.  I also found that the stabilizer is difficult to maneuver at first, but it gets better as you go along.  I actually had to grab a fistful of one side of my sandwich to help it along.  Just be exceptionally careful that you don’t jerk it and break the needle.

9. When you are done quilting, you get to soak away the stabilizer.  Follow the instructions for the product you are using.  Let it dry, then you are ready to use it an embellishment, or attach to a piece of cotton and piece it into your next project.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Postcard from Mutton Hill

The third Mutton Hill Quilt Show is now history.  Sales were moderate for me and I was quite successful with three of my show entries.  Most importantly, I met more people who are or want to be more creative and who appreciate my unusual hand dyed textiles and art work.  Thank you.  I am energized and inspired by all of you whom I spoke to over the weekend, and by all of the lovely quilts at the show. 

I want this show to continue, for the Summit County Historical Society, for the vendors, for the quilt crafters and artists, for the supporters of textile arts.  The show dates for next year are October 19 & 20, 2018.  Please consider entering a quilt next year, and come out to the show.  This is a show worth supporting, all of us involved with it want it to continue.  Consider making a challenge entry, the theme for next year is the World War I Centennial.

Of course, I must brag a little.  I won a second place in the Challenge class, the theme being “What’s Your Story?” 
Image and design copyright 2017 RPS

One of my boxes that are a specialty of mine won an honorable mention in the Fiber Arts category.
Image and design copyright 2017 RPS

This was the first time that a Fiber Arts category was offered at Mutton Hill, so I am very honored (and a bit surprised) to have won first place Fiber Art this year! 
Image and design copyright 2017 RPS

My statement for this little piece reads; “In July, the meadows around my rural home are filled with bright orange Butterfly Weed.  This is one in a series of felted and stitched pieces that captures the seasonal changes of the meadows.” 

I enjoy sharing my creative expressions with others, and I hope that I occasionally inspire others to try something new.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Auction Finds

I had a good day at the local junk auction this week.  I came home with three sewing machines, though not anything greatly desirable.  These machines are robust but lower end models, not the machines that I look for as a collector who uses her collection.  This bunch will be serviced and donated to a group that works with abused and homeless girls.  The girls are taught sewing as a part of a therapy course, and each girl gets to keep the machine that she learns on.  I’m all for any program that gets any youngsters into making something.

I also bought this:

An unfinished hand sewn quilt top made with lots of different strips of 1930s printed feed sack cloth.  As much as I rant against looking at the backs of contemporary quilts, I must say, this one warrants study of the back.

The underside is a collection of more print scraps, and plain feed sacks.  This quilt top begs so many questions.  The obvious, who made it, and where?  Why was so much time spent on what is here, to leave it unfinished?  It also came with several loose stars, and two quarter stars.  Those little pieces will go into a collage.  I want to do something with the part top that preserves its integrity, but I have no desire to attempt to continue the pattern.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Last Two Vending Stints This Year

I was going to discuss the finishing of the purple collage, but I foolishly sent it off to the upcoming Mutton Hill quilt show without getting pictures of it.  So, that will happen later this month when I get it back.

Speaking of the Mutton Hill quilt show, I will be a vendor there, if you are in Ohio, please come out and see the show.  Better yet, buy some beautiful fabric.  I will have my hand dyed fabric of course, and I have recently purchased some great collections of vintage hankies and silk men's ties for fabric collage and crazy quilts.  These will be available along with other fun embellishing items.  I will be presenting a vendor demo each day on using vintage textiles, and I am also giving a presentation on the SAQA art quilt trunk show and SAQA Ohio's Art Quilt Gems. 

The Mutton Hill show is October 13-14, at the John S. Knight Center, 77 East Mill Street, Akron, OH.  Friday hours are 10-6, Saturday from 10-5.  Admission is $10, well worth the price for the quilts you will see and the vendors.

My last venue for the year is the Valley Quilt Guild show, October 20-21 at the First United Methodist Church, 1725 North Wooster Ave., Dover OH.  Friday 10-5, Saturday 10-3, admission $5. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Giant Pumpkins!

I have slipped farther behind, trying to finish two quilts for the upcoming Mutton Hill Quilt Show.  One of the entries is the purple collage that I blogged about earlier in the year.  With three days left before I have to deliver it to the show, I am still not sure that it is going to turn out OK.  More thoughts on that later in the week...

With all that I am trying to accomplish, I lost a day last week because I HAD to go to the Barnesville, OH Pumpkin Festival to see this:
A 2,150 pound pumpkin!  It is a state record, and so far the biggest pumpkin on record in the world for 2017.  I do not regret going to the Festival, not at all!  I recommend exploring odd festivals in your region, there is always something to learn.  I have been working on ways to incorporate small town pride into my artwork.  A few solid ideas have emerged, I just need to get working on making them.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Auction Wins and Losses

Astonishingly, my sickly, blight-stricken tomato plants are continuing to produce beautiful fruit.  I've been canning more sauce for the winter, while gazing out at a goldenrod, Joe-Pye-Weed and ironweed filled meadow that will have to wait for another year to be simmered with silk and wool to create lovely colors.

I slipped out to the local junk auction last night, and came home with some more vintage damask linens to dye.  I was outbid on a handful of lovely doilies and a generous fat quarter of vintage bark cloth.  I have my limits on bidding, and even though I really wanted the doilies and bark cloth more than anything else on my list last night, I did not want to pay much.  I keep getting outbid or just making dumb decisions on bark cloth and vintage printed feed sack cloth.  Twice in the last three years, I have found a large box of uncut feed sacks, only to leave each auction before they even started because I didn't want to sit through half a day for one box of stuff.  Of course, the boxes might have gone for far more then I could have paid, I don't know.

So here are five things I really want to find in the waning auction season this year:

1. Bark cloth
2. Feed sacks
3. Wooden ironing boards
4. Elna model 50 sewing machine (the "Grasshopper")
5. A really good deal!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

One More on the Meaning of Abstract Art

I've been simmering about the disconnect between abstract art and ascribed meanings for a while now.  So, at work today, I was stunned to discover a wonderful new children's book on that very topic: Niko Draws a Feeling by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Simone Shin (Carolrhoda Books / Lerner Publishing, Minneapolis, MN, 2017).  The book is about a creative boy who makes many drawings of concepts, emotions and sounds, but no one sees in his drawings what he feels, until one day, he meets a girl who understands his drawings.

The tale still acknowledges a chasm between (collectively) Art and People.  I absolutely agree that no one has to like everything they see as a viewer and no artist will ever make a piece that everyone loves.  That is fine.  What I wish we would all work on is being more nurturing of creativity within ourselves, along with realizing that good art is a lot closer to our everyday lives than we realize, and that it does not have to be about anything.  My own fabric collages are a fine example of this; I do not ascribe any meaning to them, they are simply a product of my desire to make something and to have something lovely within my walls.

Image and design copyright 2017, RPS
Please do not copy or repost elsewhere

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Gap Between Art and the Viewer

I'm not intentionally trying to stir up trouble here, but this is something that needs to be addressed by the art world.  There is a huge gap between the fine art world and the general public.  I have never been comfortable with art that has to be explained to the viewer, but in many examples, there has to be some sort of explanation given for the artwork.  As I have experienced not only at the most recent Quilt National and in numerous art galleries and museums, I often still fail to see what I am supposed to see.  Especially with contemporary art.

What am I missing? Is it just me that has this problem?

Is this art or just a busted-up piano?

Yes, it is just a busted-up piano, but I like the shapes that the parts create, and it could be an interesting abstract composition in an art quilt (or some other media).  However, if I translate this image into my own art, should I try to assign more meaning to the finished work?  Would the average person catch that it is a reference to a line in a Tom Waits song*?  Probably not.

What are your criteria for "good" art?  Why do you make art?  Is art a valid form of communication?  Should it be a form of communication?  What would it take to get more people into art museums, and to local art fairs to buy art?

*If you are curious, the song is Cold, Cold Ground ("The piano is firewood, Times Square is a dream /
I find we'll lay down together in the cold cold ground").  Then there is the quandary of figuring out what the song means...

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Quilt National 2017

As I mentioned earlier, I visited the biennial Quilt National show earlier this summer.  This was the third trip to QN for me.  The first show I attended in 2013 was incredibly inspiring for me, and I was astounded by the variety of techniques and pleased with the blend of representational images and abstract constructions.  The next QN that I went to in 2015 fell short of that excitement and energy that I felt from 2013, but I still think the variety was there (a crucial element to me for an art quilt show).
The Dairy Barn, Athens, OH, home of Quilt National

This year, I left feeling rather confused.  I didn't feel that there was much variety in overall techniques.  After viewing the quilts and studying the catalog for a few days after, my confusion only worsened.  There were many quilts in this year's show in which I am struggling to see what the artists want me to see.  What am I missing?

More on Friday...

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!