Friday, January 29, 2016

Week in Review 2016 - 01/29

Tips, Thoughts and Techniques:

Elizabeth Barton, my instructor for
Basic Dyeing for Quiltmakers,
encourages her students to keep a
record, much a like a recipe book,
of how we achieved the various colors
we dyed, so that if we need more we
can dye more. Apparently the Strong
Orange dye has been reformulated
because most of the students had
the same results I had - too much
orange in their red. The good news is
that once you know what you will
get you can make adjustments next time
if needed.
It has been a difficult week. The kind where I just want to throw up my hands and give up. I don't. That isn't my nature. I just keep pushing through hoping that my efforts will eventually pay off. What would we do without hope? It is our salvation, as the myth of Pandora's Box proves.

I've been ruminating about two books I read (actually listened to) recently along with the one that is currently downloaded on my iPod Touch. Why did all three books captivate me? At first glance they appear to have nothing in common. Then, bam, it hit me as I wrote the opening paragraph to this blog, the unifying theme is hope.

The books that have me in a reflective mood are, Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson, Left Neglected, by Lisa Genova and I Will Always Write You Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives, by Martin Ganda and Caitlin Alifirenka. The first book examines how life would be different if the central character were to die at different points of her life and start over. It is set primarily during the period just before WWI through WWII. The second book is set in the present. It addresses the question of what would happen when a wife, mother of three young children with a high powered career must fight her way back from a brain injury that results in syndrome called left neglected. As someone who is dependent on my sight to create my art, the idea of not being aware or able to see anything to my left (how left neglected manifests itself) was morbidly fascinating. Finally, and perhaps the most captivating of all is I Will Always Write You Back. This is the true story of a young girl from Hatfield, Pennsylvania and  a young boy from a slums in Zimbabwe, who start a pen pal  relationship through their mutual schools. Not only are their letters shared in the book, but with each letter comes their adult reflections on what they opted to share, what they held back and what it was like to live their two very, very different lives.
The result of my personal
experiment. I wanted
to see if I could achieve
a gradation of dappled
vegetation green. I did!

Just writing about these books puts my own fretting and upsets in perspective. I am ready to trudge on. Here is just a hint of how my week went:

1) Work on Deep Waters - (Due March 15) - Done!

I am not a happy camper. I really don't like how the white caps turned out. I tried removing the most offensive one. Not possible. Tried covering it with a fused patch and adding stitching. Better visually, but not there yet. I am staying OPEN (this year's word/mantra) to a miracle solution next week.
2) Free motion quilting practice. - Done!

I thread painted and free motion quilted white caps on Deep Waters.
3 Do some surface design work - Done!

This week the assignments were to finish dyeing the remaining colors in the color wheel and to do an experiment. The experiment was the highlight of my week. My hypothesis was that I could achieve a vegetation green range with dappled light if I combined yellow and black, then diluted the dye solution for each progressive step while simultaneously slightly increasing the yellow in the yellow to black ratio. The result is proof positive that it worked. 
4) Beware of when I find myself shutting down and find a way to stay open.

I can just imagine Linda McLaughlin
working her magic with stitch and
leaf shape on this fabric.

I was asked to attend a morning coffee and conversation group by my yoga teacher, a true Renaissance woman who is a talented artist, musician and writer. It meets on the best day of the week for me and the time commitment is only 90 minutes. Still I was resistant. How could I squeeze one more thing into an overpacked schedule. Sometimes you just have to say yes and do it. I did.
How will making the conscientious effort to stay open impact next week? Hopefully, I will be open to my muse sufficiently to pick up possible solutions for my Deep Water piece and then have the courage to follow through. I can always start with some free motion quilting practice or do some dyeing. Both get me into the studio and started on the following agenda:

1) Work on Deep Waters - (Due March 15)

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, January 22, 2016

Week in Review 2016 - 01/22

Deep Waters will finish at
19" x 38"
I plan to add my more quilted
and/or thread-painted white caps.
Tips, Thoughts and Techniques:

Sometimes saying no is saying yes. I think of myself as someone who is good at saying no, while wisely saying yes to opportunities that I feel have a strong shot at advancing my art and my art career. The difficulty of saying no, even to things that you have little interest in doing, is often the fear of being disliked or being seen as not pulling your weight. Who wants to be disliked or seen as shirker? Oh, the advantages of maturity, because the older I get the more I find myself chuckling over Rhett Butler telling Scarlet O'Hara, "Frankly dear, I don't give a damn." It was shocking language for the time - saying damn in a film just wasn't done.  It is still a little shocking to not give a damn about how one is perceived. I find myself at a point where when I say no, I do it with confidence. Life is too short, especially as the amount of life I have remaining is less than the life I have already lived, to give a damn about how I am perceived.
Isn't sun yellow luscious? I can never find the
bright yellows I need in commercial fabrics.
Now I can dye my own.

This week I was open to saying no. I did say say no. It was to an opportunity to lecture. In the past I would have made it happen. This time I knew it just wasn't worth cramming one more thing into my already abundant life. By saying no, I was saying yes to the choices I had already made. I felt empowered. 
The horizontal fabric in each color sequence is the one
done that involves constant stirring. The goal is to
achieve a solid fabric versus the more typical
mottled look customary with hand dyed fabrics.

Because I said no, I had time to work in the studio and do my dyeing lesson for the week. Here is how it went:

1) Work on Sea Fever, now renamed Deep Waters - (Due March 15)
- Done!
I also said no to the sea foam I have been working on. I love the foam, just don't like it for how the piece is coming together. The scale was completely off. Sigh. Perhaps it will work its way into a future piece. This piece is clearly a lake and not an ocean. It needs white caps, not sea foam.

2) Free motion quilting practice. - Done!

I'm not sure why the turquoise in the four vertical fabrics
didn't mottle more. I was disappointed. Still I ended
up with stunning, sunglass worthy turquoise to add
to my stash.
I decided to give Jenny Lyons's perfect quilt sandwich a try when quilting Deep Waters. I still don't have the spray she recommended for stiffening fabric, but spray starch works well enough for me. You have got to love a system that requires no pins or basting. Once the sandwich was fused together with Mistyfuse I was good to go.

3) Do some surface design work - Done!

The class I am taking, Basic Dyeing for Quiltmakers, makes sure that I do some surface design work every week. This time we focused on dyeing sun yellow, fuchsia and turquoise, the colors dyers use for the 3 basic primary colors. The method used was Deep Water Bucket Dyeing.  It is perhaps the most labor intense as you must stir the fabric for a total of 75 minutes. The result, when done correctly is a solid color versus the more mottled effect one achieves but letting the fabric sit in the dye. Only the darkest color of a gradation was done this way.

4) Beware of when I find myself shutting down and find a way to stay open. - Done!
A tiny detail from Deep Waters shows my
thread-painted vegetation and white caps.
I used two different variegated green
threads in the vegetation. I wanted to achieve
a sens of light and shadow.

It was clear that I was shutting down every time I thought of entering the studio and facing Sea Fever. It wasn't coming together. The sea foam just wasn't right. When I allowed myself to be open to changing from ocean to lake and scrapping the sea foam, I could feel myself opening up and the excitement about where the piece was heading switching from dread to Wow! 

It is going to be a busy week of dyeing (we are filling in the color wheel) and adding whitecaps to the lake in Deep Waters. I wonder what adventures I will be open to. I find that I can be at my most flexible when I have a plan. It is my way of priming the pump. Here is what I plan on doing, but I am opening to other possibilities as well.

1) Work on Deep Waters - (Due March 15)

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, January 15, 2016

Week in Review 2016 - 01/15My first

My first batch of hand dyed
fabrics. I used New Black, a low
water immersion method, doubling
the amount of dye solution each
time to create an 8 step gradation
Tips, Thoughts and Techniques:

I'm dyeing here. Last week I wrote that the fear of embarking on a five week dyeing course had me quaking in my boots. I can't say I have overcome my fear. However, I have reached a point where I am eager to push forward. The amount of work feels staggering. Some students handle this by only doing a portion of the suggested assignments or acknowledging that life is busy and they will do the lesson next week, later, some day... There is one student who is sharing all sorts of bonus tests she is doing beyond the assignment. I'm not an overachiever, in that I tend not to do more than what is assigned. I do apply myself as though each assignment was a final exam and I am determined to get an A. 

Yesterday I was reading a discussion on the topic of on-line classes and how some feel they are a waste of time. Really? I find this reaction puzzling, but not that unexpected. In fact expectations are the key. How many times have you signed up for a class on impulse or because a friend wanted you to join her? Then when it was time to start the class life got in the way, you realized you had zero interest in macrame or you didn't have time to pull together materials and hoped you could just punt. 
This is my second batch of hand dyed fabric. I used
Basic Blue, low water immersion and diluted the original
dye solution as I went, creating 8 grades of blue.

The key to any class whether it is online or in person is to be sure it is on something you want to learn. Then do it. Do all of it. Ask questions. You can be sure someone else has the same question. Share your discoveries and excitement. Give yourself permission to fail. The class will feel awkward if you are doing something that is new to you. That's OK. When you are learning you are engaged. When you are engaged congratulate yourself for being OPEN (my word for the year) and having the courage to put yourself out there and try something new.

The facing process for sea foam from left to right:
1. The facing is stitched around the piece right sides to
right sides leaving an opening at one narrow end so that
the work can be turned right side out.
2. The seams are trimmed to a scant 1/8" and then the concave
portions are clipped and convex sections are notched.
3. The work is turned right sides out and the piece is
pressed into submission encouraging the facing
towards the back. (Click on image to zoom in.)
It wasn't easy staying OPEN to dyeing this week. I had my share of upset, some might say freaking out, as the wet studio felt out of control with supplies. I dripped and splattered my way through nearly ever phase. My darks are not as dark as they should be. Why? I followed the directions. I analyzed the directions and realized that I would have done the ratio of dye differently for the darks in both batches. 

I was determined to do more than dye and I did, as you can see:

1)  Work on Sea Fever - (Due March 15)

I finished free motion quilting the sea foam, cut it into segments and began to face it.

2) Free motion quilting practice.

I opted not to challenge myself with a new motif. Instead I saved time by counting the hours I spent working on sea foam as my FMQ practice.

3 Do some surface design work - Done!

Two runs of 8 hand dyes was this week's surface design work.

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

I kept working on my hand dyed fabrics, staying open to accepting whatever the final results were, they would be just fine. I also tried seaweed salad for the first time. I've been tempted for years but find the radioactive green very off putting. I'm not sure I'll have it again, but I am glad to have been open enough to at least try a bit. 

Where will my being open take me next week? I know I have plans to dye again and have seen that we will be doing deep bucket dyeing. I am hoping to be open to my muse as I find ways to use the sea foam I've made in my current WIP. All of this is listed succinctly in my plans for the week:

1)  Work on Sea Fever - (Due March 15)

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, January 8, 2016

Week in Review 2016 - 01/08

Tips, Thoughts and Techniques:

I've been happily creating more sea foam for Sea Fever.
The plan is to have bands of sea foam. It occurred to me
that it would be easier to quilt all the bands at once on
a single quilt sandwich, then cut the bands apart and face
them. The open "worms" are where the cutting will take place.
A closeup of the sea foam. Note how I have purposefully
built up some thread lines and left some big bubbles
in the foam. The top is a faint blue and white fabric
that has been layered with tulle impregnated with glitter.
How does fear, especially irrational fear, hold you back from doing what you want to do in life? Fear is there to protect us from danger. It can also cripple us from moving forward. 

I've been thinking a lot about this subject as I commit to a year of surface design. Why? Simple, I am easily intimidated, even fearful of doing surface design projects. I  become so overwhelmed by the very prospect having all the materials I will need, how they must be set up, how will I cope if my dye turns upside down coating everything and will I have the energy to see the process through from set up to clean up. The more anxious I become, the more I want to do anything else but head into my wet studio.  

What if I let my word for the year, OPEN, guide me? What if I stay open to the possibility that I can do many surface designs techniques if I only give them a try? Imagine all the unique and inspiring fabric I will have to work with. 

I may be my own worst enemy, but I can also be my own best champion. What I have learned about myself is that if I break down a challenge into very manageable steps and take the first one, and then the next and the one after that, I surprise myself by how quickly the progress made inspires me to continue. 

This is the backside of the sea foam in progress. Yes,
it is very intensely quilted. The section shown is
approximately 9" x 12".
Today I am starting Basic Dyeing for Quiltmakers, an on-line class taught by Elizabeth Barton. I've been fretting about this day ever since I started the class. This morning I opened the first lesson. PANIC. I was instantly overwhelmed. Even though I had gone over the necessary equipment in advance and made sure I would have everything before class. Why panic, because now Elizabeth was advocating that I have a designated dorm room style refrigerator to store my dye between sessions. I mean really? - a separate refrigerator? You have got to be kidding. Time for my champion self to talk to  my quivering mass of jelly self and get me off the ledge. Buying a separate refrigerator and providing it with energy just to store dye was not going to happen. Store the dye in the same refrigerator we store our food is unwise and would take up space we don't always have after a weekly grocery shopping. What to do? Then it occurred to me, why not store the dye in the garage? We live in "cold" country. The garage is insulated sufficiently not to go below freezing, but cold enough to be refrigerator temperature. Even better there is a designated stairway from the basement where my wet studio is directly to the garage. So, I wouldn't have to carry the dye over my wall to wall dove grey carpeting. Solution found. Fear reduced.

Remember last week's bleeding disaster?
The bleeding is very clear from the backside.
When I wasn't tying myself into knots over my upcoming class I managed to make progress on my plan for the week. Here is what I did get done:

1)   Deconstructed Sunrise #3 - Add  label - Done!

I printed and attached the label, then sent Deconstructed Sunrise #3 to "shipping central" where it will be stored with its fellow My Corner of the World - International quilts until the collection is shipped to the Stratford Perth Museum.

2)  Work on Sea Fever - (Due March 15) - Done!

I tried painting with Tsukineko inks again, but this
time I blended them with shaving cream before
painting the design. The outer ring was done with
permanent pens.
This has been a joy to work on. I find free motion quilting so relaxing, so zen, that it is the perfect antidote to the fear caused by contemplating the dyeing class.

3) Free motion quilting practice. - Done!

Although the amount of quilting I managed was approximately (9" x 16") it is so intense that I had to refill the bobbin with Bottomline thread three separate times.

4) Do some surface design work - Done!

This is the backside of this week's ink experiment.
Much, much better. 
Last week I was disappointed that my attempt to paint with Tsukineko inks was less than successful. It did suggest that what was needed was a way to thicken the ink so that it wouldn't bleed when applied. Since I found mixing the ink with shaving cream so successful for broad brush applications, perhaps a more intense blend of shaving cream and ink could handle detail work. It did!

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

See my "opening" thoughts. Pun intended. :)

This time next week I hope to be writing about my first dyeing experience. Then there are other projects to keep moving as listed below:

1)  Work on Sea Fever - (Due March 15)

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, January 1, 2016

Week in Review 2016 - 1/01

Still playing with Tsukineko inks
Tips, Thoughts and Techniques:

It came to me this morning. I know just the word to choose as my word for the year. It is OPEN. I plan on this word subtly guiding me throughout the year, especially with staying open to new ideas and what life throws at me.

I printed a public use line drawing found on
to see if I could "paint" with Tsukineko inks.
The answer was a resounding NO. I attempted
to "fix" the mess with Jacquard Lumiere  paints.
Better, but still a disaster. The ink, even a single
drop on a tiny, dry brush rapidly leeched through
the cotton fabric. The paint covers that up, but you
can see what happens with the ink outside
the rim of the circle.
Last year I recall how energized I felt at committing to just showing up in the studio for 126 days. It felt like a very reasonable goal, considering I had managed 120 days in 2013. I was so excited to have a year devoted to just doing the work. I knew I could do it because I had already developed the habit of being in the studio three days a week. Then, only four weeks into 2015 I was asked to act as interim Chair of SAQA's Exhibition Committee. I agreed and ultimately made the decision to become The Chair vs. interim chair. It is an amazing experience. I am fortunate to have the support of sixteen committee members (volunteers, SAQA staff and SAQA Board members) on the committee as well as the assistance of others throughout the SAQA organization. For those of you reading this blog who are unfamiliar with SAQA and/or the scope of SAQA's exhibition this should put it prospective. In 2016 SAQA will have 16 active exhibitions touring the United States and beyond, showing at 34 separate venues, with approximately 35 different artworks in each exhibit. The reality of keeping on top of all that comes across my desk (computer - it is a virtual job, with the occasional phone call) means I spend time, at least a full studio day worth of time, each week with my Chair hat on. 

What would have happened last year if I hadn't committed to working 126 days in my studio? My guess, and I can only conjecture here, is that I wouldn't have worked as hard at finding time to both be in the studio and fulfill my obligation as Chair. 

Deconstructed Sunrise #3 was
accepted into My Corner of the World (Int'l.)!!
The experience of such an abrupt change in my life, was a good reminder that life is unpredictable. Just as art, can be unpredictable. I find this especially true when working in my wet studio on surface design projects. So, this is why staying OPEN just feels right as I begin the new year.

This past week was both humbling and extremely gratifying. It was humbling, because one of my Tsukineko ink experiments was a disaster. It was gratifying because Deconstructed Sunrise #3 was accepted into My Corner of the Word (Int'l.) a SAQA touring exhibit. This is my first SAQA acceptance in nine years and I have applied to multiple SAQA exhibits over the years, always getting the slim envelope. Before you ask, I have zero advantage as Chair, all of our exhibitions are juried blind, in other words the juror bases her selection solely on the work and her vision for the exhibition, not on who made it.

When I managed to scrape myself off the ceiling from being accepted and focus in on the work at hand, this is where I turned my attention.

1)   Deconstructed Sunrise #3 - Add sleeves and label - At least this week I can report that the sleeves are done. I should be able to add the label now that I know what must be included on it.

2)  Work on Sea Fever - (Due March 15) - Done!

Much of what I am doing on Sea Fever is experimental or involves techniques that I have used rarely and when I did it was many years ago. I have lots to brush up on.
Creating sea foam for Sea Fever has meant relearning
how to do a pillow case facing.

3) Free motion quilting practice. - Done!

I've been working on different motifs for Sea Fever

4) Post the number of days I have worked in my studio in 2015 - 111/126

I fell 15 days short of my goal. This wasn't what I expected as a year end result back in January 2015, but it is much better than I expected when I took stock halfway through 2015. 

5) Experiment with Tsukineko ink - Done!

Not all the Tsukineko ink experiments ended in disaster.
I'm rather partial to this piece.
My attempt to paint directly (no shaving cream) with Tsukineko ink was a nightmare. Boy, does it bleed. I may try again, but saturate shaving cream with color and paint with that in order to eliminate or reduce bleeding. If that doesn't work, then it is time to investigate other media for detail painting. This is a disappointment, because what I love, love, love about the inks are that they can be blended to make new colors. I've tried Inktense pencils and don't like the feel of them - I want something that glides along the cloth when I paint/draw. 

6) Perform a random act of kindness - Done!

What will I need to be open to next week? Who knows? What I do know is that I have a plan which is:

1)   Deconstructed Sunrise #3 - Add  label

2)  Work on Sea Fever - (Due March 15)

3) Free motion quilting practice.

4) Do some surface design work

5) 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.