Friday, February 27, 2009

"Elliptical" Robin

What started as a round robin on the Complex Cloth list should probably now be retitled an "elliptical robin," since it took me forever to add my surface designs; instead of moving smoothly around the circle, the fabric got to me and waited . . .and waited . . . (so imagine my "point" on a sketch of the process being stretched WAY out). I received two of the pieces of cloth last year while I was in the hospital, and I'm just now getting to them.

The truth is, I can't blame all of the delay on my illness. I could have worked on these pieces starting a few weeks ago, when I felt well enough to take up art again for short periods at a time. But this is my first fabric round robin, and I've been terrified with each piece that I would ruin it. With my own fabric, it's no big loss (though a big disappointment) if I completely screw it up. With someone else's, though, there's a lot of pressure (I put on myself, of course) NOT to screw it up.

Ironically, once I finish adding something to a piece, there's a sense of accomplishment and joy above what I usually feel with my own pieces, since I know I've given something to someone else.

Now to the good stuff: the pics!
I knew I wanted to add some kind of stamped design to Margo's piece to give it some focus. I started by making a stamp out of some foam kid's beads I picked up at Michael's. I glued them to a little wooden plaque (probably not the smartest idea, because I didn't seal the wood and so I can't really wash the stamp now). I really liked this stamp until I used it on a test piece of fabric. Turns out there's too much space between the shapes for my liking. I'm going to play with the design more, or maybe I'll use it to stamp on fabric with a lot of color or texture or something.

I pulled out a sort of stamp/printing plate I made a long time ago out of cardboard, double-stick tape, and twine. I liked the test stamp I did with this one, but I discovered I couldn't really "stamp" with it very well, since some of the impression didn't show up.

I got out the Lumiere Halo Blue and Metallic Bronze paints and applied them to the plate, then laid the fabric on top of it and rubbed along the twine lines.

Because there were a few "character" blobs of paint on the fabric and I wanted to continue with the rubbings, I didn't want to wait too long for them to dry.
I laid a "serendipity" cloth I had on top of the rubbing and rubbed again to remove (or at least spread out) the little blobs. Then I moved right on to the next area to be printed.

I really like the way this turned out. I upped the contrast on the photos of the finished piece to show the paints better. The piece isn't really as dark as it looks in the photo.

As soon as I heat-set the paint and mail it off to the next participant, I'll start on the other one. I hope I won't be as intimidated this time :-)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Got Scraps?

I'm a hopeless packrat when it comes to fabric, paper, and anything art-related. I save the tiniest scraps of fabric, pieces of thread, and trimmings. I love it when I run across an article like the one in an old issue of Quilting Arts that uses scraps, because it creates the illusion that all that STUFF I've saved will actually get used someday! If you're interested, here are the basics:

Iron fabric scraps onto a lightweight fusible interfacing

Stamp onto fabric; I used Lumiere white and halo pink gold. Use a brush to fill in areas light on paint.

Cover fabric with one or two layers of sheers (organza? chiffon? I never know what this stuff is; I just buy what looks pretty, but in this case I did notice it was polyester, which is good for burning). I used two: a medium blue and a light lavender on top of that. Note: I mistyfused the sheers down, but this made it harder to remove them when areas were burned out. I probably won't do that again.

Stitch all over. I used metallic thread and invisible thread in the bobbin. It’s very hard to see the stitching in the photo; I free-motioned around the heart & wing shapes, then meandered between the hearts.

Burn away the sheers over the hearts and wings; I used a woodburning tool. I had to scrape off the sheers because I had mistyfused them. At first, I was thinking, "oh no! All that work for nothing!" because it looked a little strange and smudgy from the woodburner. After a few minutes, though, I decided I really loved the colors and textures. Now, I'm just completely enchanted and can't wait to do more of this.
And, I had one of those "in the art moment" revelations: unearthing these hearts by burning off the sheer layers covering them could be a decent metaphor for the way we sometimes protect our hearts by burying or hiding them away. How perfect that these hearts have wings!!!

Paper Play

I don't usually use paper when making journal covers, but I'm taking Sue Bleiweiss's More Journal Making class, and this week's lesson suggests paper. I covered illustration board with beautiful scrapbooking paper that was collecting dust in the craft room (I buy it because I love it!). The signatures are bound with a coptic stitch.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Musings on a Perfect Day and a WIP

Saturday was my birthday. On Friday, I had the perfect day: it was beautiful and sunshiny, and the temperature was perfect. I went to Michael's for beads, then to Barnes & Noble for a magazine. I sat outside and ate a cinnamon scone and drank coffee with cream (a rarity these days; I used to be a coffee fiend, but since getting sick I mostly stick to tea). I came home and created an art journal page with watercolors and inks (still outside in the beautiful weather, of course). My sweetie took me to Truluck's for dinner and it was wonderful. The kids brought me a cake this weekend and we celebrated more. I had a wonderful birthday weekend, but it really wore me out and I'm still recovering.

Here's a WIP I've been working on for days that's both easier and harder than I thought it would be. Easier because once I figured out what the heck I was doing, it came together pretty easily. Harder because . . . well, I couldn't figure out what the heck I was doing.

This is from a pattern and project instructions in the Viewpoints class at Quilt University. I'm really enjoying the class, because I'm finally understanding how to create scenes in one-point perspective.

Anyway, here's the process to this point:

Pick out a landscape fabric. I could have used a small landscape quilt I had already made, but I didn't want to mess one up. I thought about copying a premade landscape piece onto fabric and using that, but then I saw this interesting fabric at JoAnn's and, well, it gave me an excuse to buy it!

Add a "sky" to the landscape fabric. I cut along the top edge of the landscape motif and fused it to a background sky of hand-dyed fabric.

Copy the column and arch patterns onto fusible-backed fabric and cut out. Attach to landscape piece and fuse in place.

Select "wall" fabric (the premise is that this piece looks out from a room onto a landscape). Find the perfect fabric, then realize I don't have enough of it. Dye more fabric.

Attach walls & landscape unit to a background of plain muslin.

Wait for next week's lesson to learn how to do the floor . . . patience is NOT my strong suit!

Friday, February 20, 2009

I Heart Elizabeth Gilbert

One of my all-time favorite books is Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia written by Elizabeth Gilbert. Here's a talk Elizabeth gives called "A New Way to Think About Creativity," and I think it should be required viewing for all artists, writers, performers, and anyone else involved in a creative endeavor. It's a little long--about 19 minutes--but worth every second.

Is it Spring Yet?

Even though the weather is beautiful here (or maybe because it is?) everything I do lately seems to look forward to spring; this could have something to do with my state of my mind, too, which is more optimistic these days.

I painted the pears in this piece about a year ago; they are actually stamped with a cut pear and fabric paint. I also had this wonderful fabric that I had dyed a year or so ago, and the two had been hanging on my design wall for a while, so on a whim I threw them together.

This piece makes me happy!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tri-Fold Journal

Today's project: quick, easy, satisfying!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Lot of Play & A Little Work

We spent Valentine's Day in Fredericksburg, a quaint little town with wonderful little shops about an hour and a half away. Of course, I forgot the camera; we did stop and buy a disposable, but now I have to get the film developed. What in the world did we do before digital cameras???

Anyway, once there we bought the grandbabies cute things, bought ourselves some taffy and fudge, and bought me some inks and pretty papers. We had a wonderful late lunch at Bejas Grill then headed home, and I napped all the way backed; it has literally been over 9 months since I've walked that far. I had a great day, but of course I didn't have time (or energy!) to work on anything.

Today I drew boxes according to the QU Viewpoints class lesson, then I decided to translate the drawing into a paper quilt. I wanted to see what the problems might be before committing to a fabric quilt. I used two colors of paper for the sides of the box, but I think I should have had more separation in either the color or the value. I traced my drawing onto SaS2, cut out my pattern pieces and used those to cut out scrapbooking paper, then fused the scrapbooking paper onto felt. Then I fused that piece onto a background of fabric paper and stitched the piece.

This was quick and easy and a lot of fun, so I think I'll follow it up with a small fabric version.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine's Day, whether you have a sweetie or not--you can always use it as an excuse to spoil yourself a little :-) I'm off to take a nap, since I still haven't quite recovered from yesterday's excursion!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Something Borrowed, Something Blue

Ha ha! Just kidding, but I couldn't resist after the title of my last post.

I DO have something (sort of) blue for you today, but nothing is borrowed. Instead, it was WON! I won a prize!

Terri Stegmiller, instructor of Paper Quilting Explorations , had a drawing the last week of class, and I won a little piece of her art. It's really something to see and feel in person (I try not to drool on it). She calls this a "quiltie"--it's larger than a postcard but smaller than most journal or art quilts. Thanks again, Terri; I'm honored to have it!

Now for the blue (and green, and purple: my favorite color combination): here is a piece I'm working on for another class, Lines and Shapes at QU (I know, I know. If I were getting college credit for these classes, I would have my Masters degree by now).

Anyway, this makes yet another WIP, since I've reached the point where I'm afraid to "mess it up." You know how that goes; you start out all confident and intuitive and creative and you're putting something together and it's great and then you step back to take a deep breath--and suddenly you're afraid to do anything else, because you might ruin it.

The class has helped with that some; Lily Kerns encourages us to think in terms of a series--"what would happen if you changed this, moved that, etc.?" so at least I can tell myself that if I mess it up, I'll have learned something for the next piece in the series.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Something Old, Something New

Here is an ATC I made to exchange with Terri Stegmiller (Stegart). I had some really UGLY fabric I had painted a while back, so I covered it with Angelina & sheer fabric, all fused together with Mistyfuse, which was cool because then I couldn't see the ugly fabric anymore (I've noticed that if I have something I don't like, I can usually keep adding stuff to it until it looks good!)

I stitched the paper heart on, then hand-stitched some tiny seed beads. The first pic shows the seed beads better, the 2nd one the color.

I made 2 of these and had an extra to trade, but my DP immediately claimed the other one and seemed a little miffed that I hadn't thought to offer it to her.

I haven't made an ATC in forever, so I went looking for some I made a long time ago. I might as well post those here as well (the first one some of you may recognize as my icon on various sites):

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Paper Trails

For some reason, I've been working a lot with paper. Maybe it's because I took Terry Stegmiller's Paper Quilting class and made lots of fabric paper; or maybe it's because I love scrapbooking paper but not scrapbooking, so I have tons of it; or it could be because paper seems less risky to me than fabric--quicker, easier, less commitment. Or maybe all of the above. Anyway, I made postcards today for a swap and went the paper route.

And, while I was cleaning my sewing table off, I found a couple of completed projects that I forget to show you, so here they are. The first one is a paper journal: the cover is made with painted & stamped paper towels fused onto stiff interfacing, then free-motion stitched. The paper inside the journal is acrylic-painted and stamped. The binding is simply tied fibers.

The other project is a paper vase; squares of paper fused to stiff interfacing, then stitched. I was making real progress on using up some of my paper supply, but I went to Michael's yesterday and there was this BEAUTIFUL paper on sale and . . . well, you probably know the rest of the story.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Bits and Pieces

You know those dreams where you're trying to run, but it's like you're trapped in quicksand? That's what I feel like now. I've been in a lot of pain the last few days, so I'm trying to do just enough to take my mind off of it, but not so much that I wear myself down and risk getting really sick again. It just doesn't feel like I'm getting much done.

I'm actually accomplishing a few things, but not much of it is visible as finished projects. I've been organizing my class notes, doodling a lot, and posting pics and such to my various web spaces. I also started an inspiration journal, so I'm tearing out bits and pieces that inspire me or evoke some kind of emotional reaction from the piles of magazines I have stacked everywhere. I tried this once before, but I kept losing everything I tore out ("losing" in my house means putting it in what seems like the most logical spot so that I can find it again, then promptly forgetting where that spot was).

I've been beading a little; I just finished this little doohickey (I'm not sure what it's called). I've started another one, and I think I'll figure out a way to attach them to a journal quilt.

I painted some heavy-duty mulberry paper with setacolor paints. This is some BEAUTIFUL paper, and I'm definitely going to use it again. I started trying to put together a paper quilt using the mulberry paper as a base, but I just can't concentrate well enough to finish it.

I'm hoping the pain goes away soon or that my meds start working better (though there's not much chance of that after all these months). In the meantime, I'll just keep on with my "rat-killin'" as my grandfather-in-law calls it.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Sometimes I just annoy myself to no end. I go back to try and figure out how I made something, and I think, "why in the world didn't you write it down???" So then, of course, I recreate the wheel, but it's never quite the same. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

I've been beading this sampler for my QU beading class. I picked the fabric because it was a light color, and I thought the beads would show up nicely against it. Now, I'm finding I hate the fabric. I think I'm going to try painting it around the beads. Either that or rip the beading out; it's pretty wobbly and bobbly anyway! I'm trying to cut myself some slack, though, since I am just learning and hope to get better with practice.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Internet is one big black hole . . .

that's constantly trying to suck me in (and succeeding most of the time). I've found SO many time-wasters in the last couple of weeks, it's amazing. Ok, they're not ALL time-wasters. Some actually nudge me toward productivity. But it's not like I needed anything else to do with my time, seeing as how I'm constantly coming up with to-do items on my own. At any rate, here's a list of the sites, in case you feel the need to get sucked into a black hole, too: post snippets of messages (140 characters max per message; this isn't much room!) and they're automatically sent to all your twitter friends, and those in RL who sign up to receive them (they can even receive them as text messages on their phones). The premise is that you answer the question, "What are you doing right now?" and people literally answer that question. Some of the messages run along the lines of, "Making myself a PB&J sandwich." I tend to post about whatever artsy-craftsy thing I'm working on (look in the right column for my last 5 twitter postings). I try to justify spending time on Twitter as a way to keep track of what I'm doing, but mostly I'm just reading other people's messages. But it is a good way to promote your blog or Etsy store. If you're on Twitter or if you sign on, let me know and I'll be happy to follow you.

Fiber Arts/Mixed Media: This is a networking site started by Susan Sorrell on ning that's pretty cool. You can upload pics, make friends, see other people's work, join discussion groups, and endlessly tweak your profile. If you have a page or add one, let me know and I'll add you as a friend. This site takes the prize, probably, for being the biggest time-sink in my day. But it's pretty amazing; you can sign up for a gazillion swaps of everything from ATCs and postcards to fabric to hot chocolate to . . . who knows what all. If you're not sure about whether you want to join a swap, you can put it on your "watch" list until you decide (or the deadline for signing up passes). Once you complete a swap, your swap partners rate you and you rate them with a simple check-box form that swap-bot provides. I had been thinking about trying to swap some ATCs I made a while back (if I can find them . . . who has time to look, though???) and suddenly I ran across this site. If you're into swaps, this is a very, very, cool site.

Of course, there's also my Etsy store . . . and posting to this blog . . . AND reading everyone else's blog . . . AND reading all the discussions in the forums of the online classes I'm taking. It's a wonder I ever manage to drag myself away from this computer!

I did manage to get some crafting done this morning. I finally bought some rice paper, so I tried this technique that had been on my list for some time. Basically, you emboss the paper, paint it, and then iron the embossing out. It leaves a translucent area in the paper.

I used some of these to make notecards that I sent off to two swap partners (and I don't even MAKE cards; that darned!).

Monday, February 2, 2009

Imagi(ni)ng Faith

I just finished a journal quilt that is all about questions instead of answers. Since I got sick, I've been struggling with issues of faith. In my past, "healthy" life, I thought I had a good grasp on my spirituality, my beliefs, my understanding of the universe. Since then, though, I've been struggling with questions about how my illness (how I?) fit into the bigger scheme of things.

For some reason, thinking about all these issues brought to mind one of our "wildlife" adventures, blogged about in this post. I kept thinking about those birds, swooping through the garage with their sticks and bits of fluff to build a nest, then with food for those little cheeping babies. I wondered if their diligence required a good bit of faith; living in the wild as they do, do they approach the nest every time with fear that either their eggs or screeching little hatchlings will be gone? Or do they fly confidently back with faith that everything is just as they left it? Maybe both: maybe there's no extracting fear from faith, and vice-versa. Or maybe neither: maybe those birds are just living life day-to-day, doing what it is their instincts tell them to do without thought. Either way, they go on, pushing through every day, and I have no doubt that they'll be back this spring, seeking out the relative safety of our garage.

This quilt started as a mixed-media collage on watercolor paper, using scrapbooking papers, stickers, stamps (rubber and postage), and paints. I then printed the collage onto fabric, cut it up into three pieces, and fused it to the background fabric. I left the edges of these pieces raw and pulled some threads to fray them. I machine-quilted the whole piece, then added the ribbon and, on top of it, the beads (which are pretty hard to see in the pic).

I don't think this quilt brought me any closer to resolving my struggles around issues of faith, but I do find something comforting in thinking about those birds and how they press on year after year in the face of their own struggles. Maybe in some small way, that's what faith is about.