Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Artist Date

I noticed feeling reluctant to go on my 'artist date' today - I was thinking I could be working on my quilt. However, I remember how refreshed I feel after I give myself this weekly rejuvenation and I think that provides balance. A few hours spent on no particular task but just for 'fun' can seem so extravagant. Enroute to Cloth Castle, I dipped into a bakery where one cake was labelled 'The Ultimate' and was on for half price. I asked them to write the above phrase on it which shows you how much fun I was already having! I'm in love with the brown and turquoise fat quarter and I imagine making a bag with it. Just having these fabrics in my studio and seeing them now and again will give me so much pleasure and arouse visions of possibilities...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Drawing From The Well

Today has been one of those days I go down so deep while creating that it's hard to come back up. I've been wanting to try a quick silk paper experiment - using spray starch, so I did that and I was having so many ideas of what to do next, all clambering over each other wanting to be on top to be the one chosen. What I chose to make is something I am not showing a photo of for now because it's a gift and I want to wait until after it's given. The gift feels very alive. I greatly enjoyed how one thing led to the next without me having a preconceived vision, and that something that feels significant emerged. I had the sense today that I am going to make alot of art - that I will sell it and that my work and my love really are one.
I tacked on a few more pieces to the emerging quilt, having to search further afield into my basket of velvets for a dark suitable colour. I hope to find dark red and green to add, as well. I'm noticing as I add each sequential value how greatly it affects my perceptions of the other existing values. What seemed dark before no longer seems so, and the lightest part is magnified. A good example of how important context is. I often think about that when I meet a stranger. Who knows what they may be going through at this point in their life and how it might affect their perception of the world around them?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Expansion From the Inside Out

I decided to add a few contrasting coloured pieces that were still fairly light in value to the center and that really helped eliminate the 'wreath' look. I'm liking how this is going - when I stand back from the design wall I get a sense of depth and movement. I may quilt it as a huge spiral beginning from the center.

Values Quilt

I belong to an monthly art quilt group and one of the members handed out a rectangle of fabric with a challenge to create something with it. It brings Monet's water lilies to mind and I decided yesterday to combine fusing snippets in an impressionist style exploration of value. I selected like colours in a range of values and began laying them down. So far, it looks like a Christmas wreath, which is not what I want, but I will continue working with it today to see if that shifts as I add more snippets. I'm not sure if using contrasting colours detracts from the focus on value, but I believe it shouldn't if I keep the reds to a minimum. The pieces are not stitched so I can still move them.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Follow Your Heart

After completing a bigger project, I often find myself in a lull where I need to do something straight forward like sewing or quilting as my designing juices begin to bubble again. I've been completing quilting 'Follow Your Heart'. It arose a few months ago from rather randomly piecing scraps and delighting in all the colours joining together. No plan, just the fun of seeing 'what if' and then going with the flow. And then I had to lay it aside when my Pfaff kept breaking the threads on my hearts and quilting them became unmanageable. I feel so much satisfaction returning to finish this quilt now, because I have almost felt as though I've stopped producing work since I have several quilts that I had to put on hold because of my machine's malfunctioning. Now I can complete them between working on other pieces.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Show Time

Yesterday night I attended the opening of a local quilt show that involved a challenge with some members of the Auckland New Zealand Quilt Guild and the Victoria Quilt Guild, who exchanged a selection of fabrics and then created quilts from them. I love how much variety creative minds can come up with! Here is Susan Teece from the Victoria Quilt Guild with her quilt 'A Common Thread'. I sewed the sleeve on my quilt today and plan to sign my name in free motion. I've decided I will sell this one - there's a community art show coming up soon that I will put it in.

Yesterday while I was at the library, I was startled to see a faded book in the quilting section with the nearly undiscernable same title as the first quilt I made - 'Paradise Found'. It has the retrospective works of a fibre artist named Amy Zerner who mixes art materials and fabric collage in her symbolic work. The description of this same-titled book in the preface parallels my intent in the making of my first quilt - to express joy in creation and the multi-dimensionality we live in.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Making My Mark

With only the sleeve left to hand sew on, I'm noticing my energy for this quilt is cooling fast - in fact, I hardly like it today. Suddenly the main focal square seems much too large and over powering and I want to add more quilt onto the left side. I'm interested in how quickly my perceptions can change. I've had this happen before and I usually do resume liking what I've made, but perhaps there's something I could learn. If I explore further with this, I realize that the quilt is needing to expand - push it's edges out further and become larger. I've decided to call this 'Making My Mark' and doesn't expansion go hand in hand with that? Pushing my growth edge. It's the first quilt I've coloured and stitched without any commercial fabric and the style feels like my own. Parts of it are unquilted, there are ragged edges and even a few loose edges, so it's non-conforming - like me. I think I do like it after all... :)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Artist Date to Coast Collective Gallery

I'd heard about a new gallery opening recently, and today I went to check it out - only it was closed. So I enjoyed taking photos on the beautiful grounds instead, as well as at the nearby lagoon. I've completed quilting my quilt and I will add roving to it next.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Working Machine Makes All The Difference

Late last night I got a fair bit of quilting done without any sewing machine hiccups. I had planned to prepare some questions for today's sewing machine tutorial but when unexpectedly my Pfaff began to purr, I had to take advantage of it! What a pleasure to sew without interruption for a change, and I'm liking how some of the quilted shapes remind me of continents or islands. Maybe I'll call it 'My Country'. This quilt really feels as though it encompasses my style and, while doing a non-objective quilt was challenging, I like working with just design elements.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Free Motion Begins

I've completed the handstitching on my quilt now and have begun free motion quilting, which is a plodding affair because my Pfaff is so finicky. I have a lesson with it in a few days to help me get to the bottom of what is going on. I believe I"ve tried everything possible - over and over and the odd time it sews like a dream and the rest of the time leaves trails of snarls and broken thread. Since getting this machine in the summer, my quilt completion has dropped to nearly none, whereas before I was completing one a month. So it really is getting in my way.
I"ve also joined FAN - a Canadian fibre arts network north and west of Manitoba, and I hope to make some meaningful connections through that, as well as to increase my learning. It felt like quite a stretch for me - and I decided to do it anyway.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Stitching and Velvet Embossing

I started stitching my quilt today - because of it's unusual construction I really have been thinking carefully about the order in which to sew the pieces. I sewed the large squarish partially needle felted piece on first, including the beaded trim. And I decided to handstitch the smaller squares in contrasting coloured embroidery thread and will probably free motion stitch the rest. The photo with the blue thread has stitches that carry on from the quilted lines I've already done on the main squarish piece. I'm stitching on the blue rectangles with orange stitching in lines to lead the eye into the piece. I also tried embossing velvet today - I may have done this before unsuccessfully - I probably used a stamp that was too detailed. It took only minutes and I could see applying this to garments.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Today while coming back from my artist date I looked down to see this 'heart' in the middle of the path I was walking on. I do feel I am on a path with heart. I pinned my quilt sandwich together and sewed a sleeve I will add later, as well as hand needle felted a bit to see how that works, and it works well as long as I'm not going through too many layers. I can't wait to get stitching!

Designed And Ready For Stitch

Yesterday I designed this quilt - there's no sewing done yet but just putting the elements together visually is an exacting and engrossing process. I tried over 50 possibilities not counting fabrics just held up to guage their fit. I know this because I took photos along the way. I wonder if the longer I make art quilts whether design choices will come to me more easily or whether I'll spend even more time trying to get a good design. There is so much to stay aware of and for each new piece added, all the design elements must be considered - how does the new piece relate to the whole? I imagine that down the road I will look back at this quilt and see how I might have improved it. For now, it works for me. I've added one more little blue piece to the lower left corner after I took this shot and decided it needed something of a darker value to keep the viewer's eye moving around the piece. I will add more roving as well - what I've placed is just on loosely to give me an idea of how it might look. I plan to construct the quilt a little unconventionally. I want some of the edges to be fringed so I won't bind them, yet I don't want the inner batting to show. I have backing that is also fringed and have cut the batting to be just inside the fringed edging and I will top stitch it closed. Also, my fringed backing piece is not long enough for the quilt so I will add fabric to make it fit. I want to keep rough edges on the surface so I will raw edge applique everything down.
I also tried a photo transfer experiment I'd heard about - print a photo onto a transparency sheet and then place on fabric and burnish with a spoon. I didn't use any medium on the untreated piece of my hand dyed fabric and it worked fairly well. I heat set it later but I don't know if it's really permanent. I'd like to try this using some digital ground matte I have, too.

Monday, January 12, 2009

First Felted Pet

I am amazed at how easy it was to make this little fellow. I used instructions from the book 'Wool Pets' but it would be simple to design my own characters. I have so many directions I'm interested in pursuing! Over the weekend I've been organizing my fibre-related books and I found it was useful just to remind myself of what I've got and all the possibilities arising from that. I also was reading from Jung's 'Man and His Symbols' about modern art. This choice of material stood out when I paused before my bookshelf and I've learned over time to act on these intuitive prompts by reaching for the book and opening it at random. Although I've read the book before, I'm now at a different place on my journey and inevitably, I notice what I now need. The thought that intrigued me was about the continuum between realistic and abstract art and how the two actually become one and the same - like two sides of the same coin. So, imagine taking realistic objects such as ticket stubs and laying them on paper in an abstract design - this abstract piece would also contain a realistic aspect - like art made from found objects. On the other hand, every painting or art quilt representing realistic objects is really not that actual object, and is therefore an abstraction.

Friday, January 9, 2009

In process

Today I carried on free form embroidering and when the thread knotted up at two points, I chose to leave the knots and even made them larger because I like the added texture. It also seemed appropriate as my sister just survived a blood clot in her lung. I'm not making exact and 'pretty' stitches - I'm using the thread and needle as a tool of expression in the moment - not preplanning what I'm going to do. I also painted a stamp and used it to add colour to the yellow chiffon. I suspected that the shallow stamp might not translate to the fabric, but I decided that even without the pattern, the added colour of the paint would create more interest. Then I heat gunned the chiffon edges that overhang one side, as well as across the top to make holes. So now I'm playing with the enlargened design - trying various ways of combining other pieces of my hand dyes - two possiblilites which aren't yet satisfactory are in the photos above. This process takes me time as I'm not using any reference and I'm finding the camera is helpful not only to remember what I put together and compare designs, but to take a step back. My design wall is a few feet away from my sewing table so getting a sense of the big picture isn't easy.
This morning I was thinking that knowing more about thread might help smooth my sewing, so I dug out a book I have by Libby Lehman - one that I bought over a year ago knowing it might come in handy. I took it with me to my threads - I have mostly bought according to colours I like, but I have noticed that the ones labelled 'viscose' are more likely to cause me grief. There was no mention of viscose in the book so I looked it up on-line and discovered that viscose is the same as rayon - which was discussed in the book. I have so much to learn!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

New art quilt in the works

Here's a peek at what I began today - I'm feeling such joy to be working with fibre again. I love that feeling when I know I'm on a roll - ideas are flowing and I'm just following along. I've taken some cloth I've dye painted and added silk roving, wools, angelina, chiffon, machine quilting and free form embroidery stitch. I want to create layers and texture and I have a sense that this way of combining methods and materials is really 'me'. I have some shibori dyed linen and other hand dyes of mine that I'm thinking I might add to the mix. And my Pfaff performed perfectly today - nice free motion quilting without a single problem - what a nice break that was!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Artist date at Knotty by Nature

Once a week I'm getting out with my camera to some place that interests me as a way to gather images and feed my muse. I could use a photo such as the one of the window ledge for inspiration for a fabric piece - the various textures and lines are what drew me. Thanks to my Victoria Quilt Guild newsletter, I heard about a new store and went to check it out. Knotty by Nature has oodles of roving that can be bought in amounts of your choosing - and - I found a hand needle felter there and foam! They also stock Treenway silk roving, which I love - and many other products which I'm so glad are now available in Victoria. I also dipped into Chintz and Co. - to the remnant bins where I got a monet-like pastel watercolour upholstery fabric and a kind of shimmery green mesh. (Not that I need any more fabric :) Also, two friends surprised me with a gift for two lessons on my Pfaff - either a more experienced sewer will solve my tension problems or I will think about getting a different machine!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Surface design

I've been wanting to paint and stamp for awhile now and today became the day for a little experimentation. I plan to do some surface design every week. I used a piece of brown velvet and a mixture of types and brands of paint - both fabric and acrylic. After painting the little crochet piece I wondered if it would make a good stamp and tried it on a piece of paper towel. I like the result. For the square cotton piece I used a foam brush, rubber comb, a foam-tipped applicator and a pipette.
When colouring these pieces, I had nothing in mind and it would be interesting to instead use something to work with as a source of inspiration - even if it was just particular colours. I imagine adding stitch to make them more interesting - possibly shiva sticks, foils or beads. I could also see creating a 'stamped' quilt top with the crochet squares - they're like mini-mandalas.
I also read part of a book about design and I notice how I think about the various elements when I stamp and paint.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Designing, Planning and Balance

I was reading about the purposes of design today and thinking about where my art quilts fit into the categories of descriptive, narrative, emotive, decorative and utilitarian. None of my quilts are utilitarian - at least yet - and all of them are decorative. Many of them are narrative and/or descriptive and emotive. For me, if an art quilt is purely decorative without also being narrative, I have a sense of something being missing. I made a few quilts like that when I took an on-line class and focused on trying different techniques with a largely decorative and descriptive design purpose. I still don't feel completely satisfied with those quilts. So I'm attempting to define and refine my sense of style, and I'm realizing that some of the impetus behind my work comes from a drive to tell a story or convey a message.

I also spent time organizing my list of intentions for this year into daily, weekly, monthly and 'one time' categories, followed by collaging them onto a poster so that I have a visual representation of them all in one place that is easily accessible and will help me stay on track. I marked down a few items in my day minder as well - and I'm thinking that I may have taken on too much even without having set amounts of time for fibre work. What I don't want is to feel as though I am failing if I don't do what I set out to do. So - this will be a trial and I will stay open to modifications as needed. Some idea of where I'd like to go can be good to dream ideas into being - and - too much rigidity and too high expectations can end up thwarting me by causing stress and draining fun. This is often a tricky balance for me.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Any corners cut lead to problems down the road

Phew! The last gift is done. I find myself being a very cautious sewer given that my Pfaff is so unpredictable. I carefully weigh choices such as changing the bobbin thread because last time I did I spent about an hour before the machine finally ran normally. So while I decided to 'risk' metallic thread on top because it really was what would look best, I kept the light blue bobbin thread that was already in from a previous project. With a regularly functioning machine I would have used the same metallic in the bobbin. I also chose a straight stitch instead of anything fancy because I've encountered problems there as well, and conveniently, the fabric that I chose doesn't fray so needs no satin edging and since it is also stretchy, I could make the cover in one piece instead of the usual three. Any timesaving is much appreciated because inevitably something does go wrong and make the project take longer. This time was no exception. When I pinned the inner flaps, I forgot that to have the metallic thread show on the cover's outside, I would need to flip it so that the pins and inner flaps were on the underside and not visable to me as I sewed. Somehow, one of the flaps curled back on itself when I sewed it -unsightly. I picked it out and resewed and it happened again! At that point I considered leaving it and telling my sister who is receiving the gift that it serves as a reminder not to be too attached to perfection - a sentiment I think she would appreciate. But I did unpick and resew with the help of a little glue stick to make sure it didn't happen again. In my experience, cutting corners does not work - yet I seem to be a slow learner in that regard. Next time I would also do the regular three pieces for the cover and use a stabilizer to back them, as I prefer a straight edge for the book as opposed to the slightly floppy edges. All of this is a reminder to me that I need a reliable machine.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The cost of stash building

I put my plans to collage my intentions for the year on hold, as well as making another journal cover, to instead pick through a variety of free items, gathering some yarns, books, fabrics, purse handles, and a few other odds and ends. I'm much more selective than I was when first building a stash because I know I have to find room for whatever I bring home and I've realized that I cannot make everything I envision! The items are mostly put away now - and I did begin gathering images for the collage. When something unexpected like today's freebies arises to interrupt my natural creative flow, I have to really check inside as to what I most want to do. How important is getting a few more things anyhow? Would I have spent my time better creating? I probably would feel more satisfied. Yet there have also been so many times that I reach for something I've acquired previously and am so glad to have on hand. And 'sew' it goes... my gradual learning and experimentation with life.