Friday, August 19, 2016

Week in Review 2016 - 08/19



Tips, Thoughts and Techniques:

What does it take to be courageous? In life? As an artist? These questions have been running through my brain, since they appear to be a common thread to what I have been experiencing this week.


I used peony leaves to mask areas of
fabric painted with Setacolor
  transparent glitter paint.
It is 7 a.m. as I sit at my computer composing this blog. There is a massive storm front coming through. I can see a patch of gray sky over the roofline and witness the maple tree bobbing and weaving in the wind. I am fortunate to be inside, dry and sheltered from the rain, wind and lightening. This thought is particularly poignant this morning, since my husband and I headed out for our morning bike ride, knowing the storm was on its way. How far from home should we stray? Would we get back in time? We could see lightening way off in the distance as we rode. In fact we felt the first drops of a shower proceeding the storm about a mile from home. Our courage and obsessive radar watching paid off. We beat the storm by a good hour and got a 20 mile bike ride in.

Have you seen Laura Kemshall's post on how she created her award winning quilt 52º 32′ N 04º03’W? Talk about courageous!  This quilt was one big experiment. Kemshall had faith that her knowledge in one area could be applied to another. 
The same fabric as above once the leaves
have been removed. It is difficult to
capture the glitter in a photograph. However,
you might be able to see it if you click on
the image for an enlarged view. It is
subtle - but a great way to add shimmer.

A while back I was struggling with how to have the glitter in my glitter infused paint stay bonded to the fabric through a typical washing. There are many bonding agents, but for the most part they are either water soluble or they change the hand of the fabric. I needed something that wouldn't wash out, wouldn't discolor, and would leave the fabric feeling soft. Research online and posing the question to many provided no help. Then it hit me. Why not add Liquetex's Gloss Medium & Varnish to the paint? So I did. It worked. The fabric felt stiff after the paint had dried. However, once I ran it through the washer (that is where the courage comes in) the fabric was dry and the vast majority of the glitter was still clinging to the fabric. Why did I suspect this would work? Because I had used gloss medium in paint as an adhesive when I spent a year taking weekly mixed classes, none of which involved fabric or quilting. 

Each week has its challenges. This one was no exception. It takes courage to test what you think might work. I am grateful for each courageous step I take. Progress is made, perhaps not as much as I might wish, but progress none the less, as you can see.

1) Create 11 Siren's Song blocks. - Another valiant attempt


I finished 7 blocks this week and start the prep work for another 4 blocks.
2) Free motion quilting practice - Not done

Row 6 and 7 of Siren's Song are complete.
I'm three blocks into row 8 with four more
to go. Row 9 is the last row. Then it is time
for another leap of faith.

3) Do some surface design work - Done!!

I had fun trying my hand at bonding glitter. When I set the painted fabric outside to dry, I couldn't resist adding some peony leaves for a mask. I purposefully didn't secure the leaves with more than one pin. I wanted some light to get under them and allow the leaves to shift slightly. This way the contrast between the masked section and unmasked sections isn't as strong.
4) Beware of when I find myself shutting down and find a way to stay open. - Done!

It is so tempting to give up. Each week that I fall short of my goal making 11 blocks I fear I may not make the deadline I need to achieve in order to enter this piece into the huge stretch of an exhibit I plan to at least try for. I remain open to the possibility that I will finish on time and persevere despite the diminishing odds.

Will my courage be there when I face next week's challenges? I believe so. I find having a plan, even as simple as the same one week after week helps. Next week will be more of the same, as you can see:

1) Create 11 Siren's Song blocks.

2) Free motion quilting practice

3) Do some surface design work

4) Beware of when I find myself shutting down and find a way to stay open.

I am now linking up to two blogs on Fridays. The first is Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays and the second is Free Motion Mavericks.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Week in Review 2016 - 0812



Tips, Thoughts and Techniques:

Almost overnight the glorious
plantings in our atrium started
their rapid end of summer
decline.
Signs of summer coming to an end abound where I live. You wouldn't know it by the weather. Most days for the past couple of weeks have been hot and steamy. So why do our annuals look so pitiful? It must be the diminished light, cluing them in to drop their leaves and flowers. There is a last gasp feel this week. I find myself pulled in multiple directions. One very strong pull is my job as Chair of SAQA's Exhibition Committee. The Committee is working on multiple very exciting, but time consuming projects that if they all manage to come to fruition will result in... well, I'm sworn to secrecy, but if you are a member of SAQA, lucky you. 

The National Bike Challenge winds up on September 30th for another year. I've been hovering at 102 out of approximately 1,000 active riders in our community. I have become obsessed with reaching 100 before the challenge is done. Of course the top 100 are equally obsessed. 

Finding time to spend in my studio this week has been diabolically difficult. Instead of 3 solid studio days, I was lucky to manage about 6 hours for the full week. The result is very little progress was made on Siren's Song. I'm feeling like my annuals - worn out, droopy and off my game. This has happened in the past. It will happen again in the future. Fortunately, it has never proven to be a permanent state. Even now, just as I can find flowers in the garden, I can see glimmers of progress in the past week. It isn't quite as gloomy as my mood as you can see:

The angel wing begonia and sweet potato
vine by our front door hasn't given up yet.
1) Create 11 Siren's Song blocks. - Not even close.

I completed four more Storm at Sea blocks this week. They are the more time consuming of the two alternating blocks. 
2) Free motion quilting practice - Not done.

3) Do some surface design work - Not done.

4) Beware of when I find myself shutting down and find a way to stay open. - Done!

It can be so easy to give up when the going gets tough. I faced many difficult challenges this week. I never gave up. Instead, I always looked for one step, no matter how tiny, to move forward, whether it was a new approach to a work project, walking away from a daunting list of email to work an hour in the studio, or biking one "bonus" mile to the planned route for the day.

Very slow but steady progress continues
on Siren's Song. 
Attitude is crucial to moving forward. My goal for next week is to bring that can do, determination, persistence and positive attitude to the forefront. When I do, I should be able to make marked progress on the following:

1) Create 11 Siren's Song blocks.

2) Free motion quilting practice

3) Do some surface design work

4) Beware of when I find myself shutting down and find a way to stay open.

I am now linking up to two blogs on Fridays. The first is Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays and the second is Free Motion Mavericks.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Week in Review 2016 - 08/05



Tips, Thoughts and Techniques:


Figure 1
One of the treats of attending quilt shows
is having a white glove lady show you the
back of a quilt that has lovely quilting. What
you can't see in a finished quilt is what the
backside of the quilt top looks like. I've
chosen to share the backside of one of my
blocks to illustrate my preferred method
of how to press seams these days. 
When I started quilting in 1988 I was taught to press my seams towards the dark fabric. So, that is precisely what I did without question. Eventually, I realized the reason for this was so that the seam allowance wouldn't show through the fabric. Something that was likely to happen if a navy fabric was pieced next to a creamy yellow. Then I learned that there was another advantage. If the seam was pressed to one side, the seam allowance covers the actual seam and this kept the batting from bearding to front side of the quilt. Bearding is when fibers from the batt work their way through porous areas to the front of the quilt. I discovered this was particularly problematic when I used a cotton batt as opposed to a polyester batt. 

I am not sure when I learned a different pressing technique. That was to press seams that would butt up together in opposite directions. The advantage to this method is when four pieces in grid format with a "+" seam configuration were sewn together, the opposing seam directions caused the juncture to nest, resulting in a perfect "+". Sometimes I could even achieve the best of both methods with a little planning so that pressing towards the darker fabric AND opposing directions was one and the same. 

Figure 2
This is the same block as shown in Figure 1
but from the front side. Note the pin pointing
upwards in the upper left corner. This tells
me which direction is up. 
I had seams mastered, or so I thought. These two methods of seaming worked great during the days of hand quilting, stitching in the ditch or stitching that followed 1/4" from the seam allowance. However, this seaming/pressing method was problematic once I was free motion quilting all my work. Why? The issue is that if seams are pressed to one side, where the seam is pressed there are three layers of fabric (the piece, that piece's seam allowance and the seam allowance from the piece it is joined to). What happens at a 4 way juncture or an 8 way juncture of seams? The result feels like trying to free motion quilt over a speed bump. No surprise the needle may either jump or get stuck. Not pretty. 

Figure 3
Can you find the block I used to demo
my seaming and orientation tips in this post?
This is what Siren's Song looked like after
this week's blocks were added.
The solution is to press seams open. (See Figure 1) The advantage is that there is less bulk and since the seam allowance is always pressed towards the piece it is affiliated with. This leaves bearding as a potential problem. That can be solved by selecting a batt with little to no bearding. 

I'm really enjoying my single focus weeks of making blocks. There is something so calming about working this way for me. It does mean that little else gets done as you can see.

1) Create 11 Siren's Song blocks. - Closer

This week I managed to make 10 blocks! 
2) Free motion quilting practice - Not Done.

3) Do some surface design work - Not Done.


I do have an idea for something I want to try that I think might make glitter added to paint stay on the fabric even after it is washed. This will be my next surface design experiment.
4) Beware of when I find myself shutting down and find a way to stay open. - Done!


Perhaps only my brother, who is a regular follower of my blog will get this one. I was so turned off by my eighth grade teacher, who taught the civil war, that I rarely will read a book or watch movie set in that era. One of the few exceptions in recent years was reading March, by Geraldine Brooks. I have never made a single attempt since eighth grade (I'm 63) to understand the civil war from a first hand, non fiction perspective. However, when I discovered that Neal Conan of National Public Radio had put together a series of first hand accounts about the civil war, I gave it a try. Excellent! If only my eighth grade teacher could have humanized the war this way

Next week will be more of the same. At this rate I am estimating that I will finish piecing Siren's Song no latter than mid September. If I need a break there are always a couple of other projects on list to attend to.

1) Create 11 Siren's Song blocks.

2) Free motion quilting practice

3) Do some surface design work

4) Beware of when I find myself shutting down and find a way to stay open.


I am now linking up to two blogs on Fridays. The first is Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays and the second is Free Motion Mavericks.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Week in Review 2016 - 07/29





A recent photo of my granddaughter,
Mikayla wearing one of her favorite outfits.

Tips, Thoughts and Techniques:

One of the joys of obsessively focusing every free moment on making Siren's Song is that it gives me plenty of time to listen to books. Most of the books I select aren't exactly vaporous but I wouldn't categorize them as weighty, either. I select books for my own enjoyment. Sometimes, like this past week, I stumble upon one worth sharing. I listened to The Art Forger, by B. A. Shapiro. 
Girl in Pink Tutu done in
the style of Jean Dubuffet.
Can you guess my inspiration?

What is it about The Art Forger that grabbed my attention? Well first of all Shapiro has set the novel in Boston, where I grew up and spent the majority of my adult life. Second, one of the side plots is the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist. Third, the protagonist is a legitimate art replicator persuaded to forge a painting. It is that final point that gives Shapiro the excuse to discuss the layering of paintings and how paintings are restored and can be forged that is riveting to those who are fascinated by such things. If you read Girl with a Pearl Earring, then you understand the type of insight into painting that I am referring to.

Paul Klee did many color swatch
style paintings to understand how
the position of one color next to another
impacts the colors. I used this exercise
to send a message to Mikayla.
This week, when I wasn't working on Siren's Song, I was creating art projects based on Carla Sonheim's Kids Art Week lessons. Each lesson focused on a different artist. Some I knew, such as Paul Klee and of course Picasso, but others were knew to me, such as Hundertwasser and Motherwell. Studying art, even replicating by masters is common practice amongst artists. It is after studying the masters, that one can breakaway and begin to develop one's own artistic voice. Isn't that what quilters are doing, in a way, when they start by making patterns?

Every princess needs a castle. This one
is based on Hundertwasser's distinctive
layered lines method.
I knew that doing the projects in Kids Art Week would take time from my own studio work. However, I had asked if my grandchildren would be interested in doing it with me. One had expressed an interest. Therefore, there was no way I wouldn't do my part. I made each of my artworks with Mikayla in mind.

1) Create 11 Siren's Song blocks. Came Close.

I actually made 9 more blocks and started 2 more this week. Not bad considering all the "extra" art I crammed in.
2) Free motion quilting practice - No

3) Do some surface design work - No

4) Beware of when I find myself shutting down and find a way to stay open. - Done!


Siren's Song after nine more blocks
were created and positioned on the
design wall.
One of Carla Sonheim's caveats to the students who took her Kids Art Week class is accept the lines as drawn, the paint that drips or any other typical "whoops" moment when making art. She particularly admonishes parents who are guiding children through the exercises to let the children do the project their way. Since I was both kid and parent to my inner kid, I stayed open to never "fixing" any of my projects. No ruler was used. Not even an eraser. :) 

My goal for next week is to keep the momentum going on Siren's Song. Who knows, I might just be able to make my block quota AND work on other items on the following list:



1) Create 11 Siren's Song blocks.

2) Free motion quilting practice

3) Do some surface design work

4) Beware of when I find myself shutting down and find a way to stay open.



I am now linking up to two blogs on Fridays. The first is Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays and the second is Free Motion Mavericks.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Week in Review 2016 - 07/22



Tips, Thoughts and Techniques:


Figure (1)

"Value does the work, and color gets all the credit," is how painter David Lobenberg begins one of his blogs. I don't believe he is the first and he is certainly not the only artist to espouse this axiom. Exploring value is one of my favorite ways to work. It is how I am selecting my fabric for Siren's Song. I am limiting myself to eight values from the palest blue to a mid value green as I interpret an image taken of water  from the balcony of my cabin on a recent cruise. Normally I share the current results of my work. Today, I thought I would share a bit about how I work.

Figure (2)
Figure (1) shows how I lay my fabric out. Note that there are are 8 stacks of fabric, arranged in value order. Above each stack are pieces cut from the fabric to the size needed for piecing. I tend to cut a strip or two at a time. Then cut as many pieces as I can from the strip. Cutting all 2,862 pieces that I will need in advance is, frankly, too boring and tedious. Instead I cut as I need more. It is hard to tell from the picture but each sized piece has its own row. This makes it very easy to grab the fabric I need for my current block(s). 

I won't share my method of how I determine which value to place where. That would make this post far too long. It won't come as surprise, I do have a system.

Figure (2) Once I have laid out the fabric pieces that will form the next block in the quilt, I start to sew. I find it easy to layout my blocks on trays so that I can carry a block with me from work station to work station. I used to only make one block at a time. However, to speed up the process, I gave three blocks a try this week. See those skinny strips on the cookie trays? Those tell me where the block fits in the quilt. One of them is a C1/R3. This translates to column 1 row 3. I have a guide for each block to make sure the units are where they should be and rotated in the correct direction. I double check that I have it right before sewing the units together.

Figure (3)
Figure (3) Once a block is finished I place it where it belongs with the other finished blocks on my design wall. Now I get to see how it is all coming together. The three fabrics hanging with the completed blocks are ones I am living with before I commit to one. There is a section of the quilt where this fabric is used to create the rim around a porthole. 

No surprise my work was very narrowly focused this week as you can see:

1) Create 11 Siren's Song blocks. - Attempted

I knew trying to finish 11 blocks in 7 days would be a stretch. I managed 7 blocks. Plus I am approximately half way through the 3 on the trays. I will get a shade faster over the next couple of weeks. The first attempts always have "learning opportunities" to overcome.

2) Free motion quilting practice - Not this week.

3) Do some surface design work - Not this week.

4) Beware of when I find myself shutting down and find a way to stay open - Oblivious


OK, that might be hyperbole. However, I can't think of a single instance when I wasn't open to questioning, trying something new or processing input from others. 

I'm looking forward to next week. I've signed up for Carla Sonheim's Kid's Art Week. It is a free online class with daily lessons from Carla for kids of any age. There is still time to sign up.  I will be doing it (from a distance) with my four year old granddaughter. There is a private group for sharing. In between drawing/painting assignments I will be swatting away on my own art as follows:

1) Create 11 Siren's Song blocks.

2) Free motion quilting practice

3) Do some surface design work

4) Beware of when I find myself shutting down and find a way to stay open.

I am now linking up to two blogs on Fridays. The first is Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays and the second is Free Motion Mavericks.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Week in Review 2016 - 7/15



Tips, Thoughts and Techniques: 

One of two fabrics made using blue glue resist
and Setacolor paint.
This week has been one big happy dance. No, I didn't have my work accepted somewhere exciting. Then again, I didn't receive a rejection either. I am happy, because after weeks, even months of playing with surface design techniques, all with a focus to achieve fabric that would work to create water, while being absolutely clueless about a design that would incorporate water, I had a Eureka moment. My muse didn't just whisper the idea in my ear or show it to me behind a veil of fog. No she shouted out the idea and wrote it across the sky, like fireworks. When that happens, I don't question. I just get working. As you will see by what I did and didn't get done this week, I was focused, but driven.

The working title for the latest obsession is Siren's Song. It takes me back to my roots of block blending. This is when I selected compatible blocks but color them in such a way that the actual block/structure is hard to discern. Nearly all the work in my Shifting Values series was achieved this way. I decided that all the blocks this time should be associated with water. I'm using Flying Fish, Ocean Waves and Storm at Sea. The first two blocks are made using half square triangles and squares, so are very easy to piece accurately. Storm at Sea is a nightmare unless it is pieced using templates or paper pieced. I love the precision of paper piecing but HATE!! pulling out the paper at the end. Yes, I used small stitches, but some paper always gets caught under a few stitches with nearly every patch. This drives me crazy. So, imagine my excitement when I discovered, while googling tricks for piecing Storm at Sea, to stumble upon a method of paper piecing where the paper isn't stitched to fabric. It is called No Tear Paper Piecing and is demonstrated by the owner of Quilt N Bee in Travers, Michigan. 

The second fabric made using blue glue gel as a
resist and painted with Setacolor paint. Both
fabrics will find their way into Siren's Song. One
already has.
What can I say about this week? I've been on a (no) tear and this will become clearer over the course of future posts. Sometimes what is seen as accomplished through a checked off or not checked off list doesn't tell the full story. My plan was to:

1) Create the blueprint for the next artwork - Done!

I won't share the blueprint. You will just have to trust me on this.
2) Free motion quilting practice - Nope!


I had ordered thread to continue working on First Light. It still hasn't arrived. Even if it did, I was too focused on Siren's Song to shift gears and bang out some free motion quilting.
3) Do some surface design work - Done!

I was thinking of inking the fabric I had masked with blue glue gel as a resist. Then I remembered I had just replenished my emerald green Setacolor paint, this time with glitter so wanted to try that out. Love the green, but the glitter washed out with the glue. Suggestions on how to make the glitter permanent are welcome. 
4) Beware of when I find myself shutting down and find a way to stay open - Done!

Remember that run of green to blue hand dyed
fabrics? I selected 8 of them for Siren's Song.
I didn't dye enough fabric for the quilt the first go
round. This week I dyed a yard more of each color.
I am thrilled to report the second color run is very,
very close to the first run. Hurrah! This is the first
block made. It measures 8" x 8". The pattern is
Ocean Waves. I made two more blocks this
week. That leaves me with 66 more blocks to go.
The truth is when my muse suggested this quilt my first reaction was, "Are you crazy?" The finished size of the quilt will be 72" H x 56" W and it will use 1,000's of individual pieces to build. It was extremely tempting to give up before I even started. I didn't. I stayed open and accepted that Siren's Song, needed to be made.

My plan is clear. I have an exhibit in mind to enter Siren's Song in. Therefore, there is a deadline. It is quite a ways off, BUT for the amount of work that must be done to meet the deadline it may as well be tomorrow. It will require 100% of my focus. Here is how I plan to focus:
1) Create 11 Siren's Song blocks.

2) Free motion quilting practice

3) Do some surface design work

4) Beware of when I find myself shutting down and find a way to stay open




I am now linking up to two blogs on Fridays. The first is Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays and the second is Free Motion Mavericks.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Week in Review 2016 - 07/08





Tips, Thoughts and Techniques:

I did a little more work on First Light this week.
What is going on? Honestly, I can't seem to settle on a design for my next piece. Could this be a case of artist block? I don't think so. I have lots of ideas, theories and experiments. It is just that nothing is coming together. It has me feeling very unsettled and jumpy. Fortunately, I do have  my game plan to follow, much of it involving hand stitching. This helps calm the jitters.

If I only shared my plans and how they went, it would appear that I have everything under control as you can see:
Detail from First Light

1) Work on Sunrise Abstraction - Done!

a) Attach the sleeve - Done!
b) Make and attach the label - Done!

2) Free motion quilting practice - Done!

Who knew that stitching rows of thread
to be gathered across a 20" x 20" piece of
fabric would take so long?
I worked some more on First Light. It is coming along nicely. I will be placing an order for more thread today. Turns out that despite having what I suspect is in excess of 100 spools of thread I don't have the right shade of greens for the sky (and I have more greens than any other color) or the deep red/orange at the base of the quilt. Just doing my part to keep the economy going. :)

3) Do some surface design work - Done!

Or that gathering the thread, thread that I had tested
for its tensile strength, would prove that the real test
is in the project itself. Even the gathering is taking
a fair bit of time. 
I've started work on two different surface design projects. The first requires sewing lines of thread on fabric that are then pulled to gather the fabric. The gathering acts as a form of resist when dyed, since the dye will permeate the fabric on the surface more easily than that which is hidden inside.

I am also testing out blue glue gel as a resist. I've drawn patterns on the fabric with the glue. It needs to dry thoroughly before painting/dyeing can begin. I'm actually thinking that a fun way to go might be with ink and shaving cream. The key is for the glue not to "wash out" before the paint/dye/ink has dried. 
4) Beware of when I find myself shutting down and find a way to stay open - Done!
Blue glue gel used as a resist

I am currently listening to The Mathematician's Shiva. Great title isn't it? It is one of those books that is slow to get going and dips regularly into involved explanations that can feel like too much information. Boy, does it nail what it is like to grow up in an academic family, though. This is why I am grateful that I didn't give up. When it is good, it is excellent.

Next week I hope to be able to share the plans for my next artwork. If don't come up with any, at least I have surface design experiments and free motion quilting practice to fill in my studio time, as you can see:


1) Create the blueprint for the next artwork

2) Free motion quilting practice

3) Do some surface design work

4) Beware of when I find myself shutting down and find a way to stay open



I am now linking up to two blogs on Fridays. The first is Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays and the second is Free Motion Mavericks.