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Monday, November 1, 2010

The Frost is on the Pumpkins

It's that time again.  Crisp turns into cold.  Greens turn into golds.  I love the intensity of colors that the drop in temperature brigs to so many things.  This pumpkin on my doorstep was a real surprise, though.  Oregon weather is relatively mild so I had never seen a pumpkin with frost on it before.  Could it have been touched by a Halloween spirit the night before?  Who knows?  
I took some close-up shots as well.  Could be fun to play with in Photoshop and print out onto fabric.  Guess it's time to get my jackets out so I don't turn into a frosty pumpkin myself.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Workshop Fun

 Taking classes is always fun and a great opportunity to learn something new.  There's nothing like a 5-day workshop, though, to really get the new ideas flowing.

I just recently returned from such a workshop with quilt artist, Sue Benner.  Check out her web site at  (That's her standing at the table in front of the group.)  We had a great time learning how to abstract a design.  Everyone felt like they were struggling but we had some really lovely work come out of the whole group.  With 5 days to delve into the nuts and bolts of abstracting, we all came away with a lot of new skills to draw upon in the future.

Here's a sample of our very first exercise.  Sue randomly handed us a page torn out of a magazine and we were instructed to use 5 fabrics we had on hand to recreate the picture, in 20 minutes!  As you can see, mine is still fairly objectively realistic, but abstracted nevertheless.  It was a really helpful assignment to work the picture down into its basic elements.  I would do this again, with one of my own photos, before I started my next design. Try it.  It's a lot of fun!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Color Theory Beginnings

So, how does one go about learning more about color theory?  It is hard to know where to start.  I recently unpacked three books that I like to use but , believe me, you could walk into any bookstore, go to the art section and find many more possible choices.  These three just happen to be my personal favorites.  

The first title is The Enjoyment and Use of Color by Walter Sarget.  It is a Dover Publications book which are sold in many places.  The other two are Power Color by Caroline Jasper and Color Choices:Making Color Sense Out of Color Theory by Stephen Quiller.  He also has a color wheel that is a little different than what you normally find.  Although the Quiller book is specifically for water colorists, it is still full of glowing, inspirational uses of how to use color in interesting ways.  

One thing to remember if you are a textile artist, is that paint on paper "reflects" color in a more vibrant way than fabric will.  One way to compensate for that is to choose more vibrant, saturated colors when you are picking fabrics for a textile piece.  Or, use that knowledge to achieve a softer look.  You're the boss of what you make!

Always be on the watch for color inspiration all around you.  Once you start thinking about color, interesting combinations show up all around.  For instance here's a combo that just showed up on my cutting table while I was organizing and putting away thread spools.  Neat, huh?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Back to This Again?

Well, so much for posting more often this year.  Moving is quite a disrupting experience.  All the painting I did in the old house was fun and now I get to do it again.  These paint swatches are my latest test strips.

The two largest patches were colors I used in my former house.  They look so different now.  The yellow-green on the left is the Wasabi color that is shown in my previous post on paint colors.  The goldish color on the right was much more green looking in the old house but there was less light coming in the windows.  Also, isn't it interesting how the mint green behind the samples makes them seem even more yellow?

Learning about color is a fascinating study.  Just like any other skill, color perception and understanding can be learned and honed.  Even as a quilt artist, I take color classes whenever I can.  I also have a small library of color theory books for artists.  I often encourage others to learn about color and how they influence each other, and, even how they can influence human moods.  

I'm thinking I like the Wasabi color once again but I won't really know how it looks until the whole wall is painted.  Time of day and how it plays with the plant colors outside the window will be part of the final decision.  Fortunately this is only one small wall.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Early Spring Flowers

We are well into spring now in Oregon.  Today is one of those days where the sun peaks in and out of wispy cloud drifts, but it's never completely gone.  It's warmth is gentle and we are all anticipating even better days ahead.

The early blooms are almost over.  Just a few tulips are left.  Before we arrived at this middle spring weather, I brought home a bouquet of flowering quince branches.  Their petals ranged from palest pink to a deep salmon pink.  The shape of the petals reminded me of the shape of sea shells.  It had that similar feel of delicacy and strength at the same time.  I loved looking at the way the clumps of flowers were grouped along the branches.  The open spaces in between made the whole arrangement feel very graphic.  The bare parts of the branches were as much a part of the design as the flower buds.  I hope I captured that look in the piece called, what else, Flowering Quince.

I used the raw edge applique method that works so well for me.  The background is an ombre dyed, commercial cotton.  All the branches and flowers are made with silk fabrics.  Even the little stamen in the center of the flowers are pieces of the dark pink silk that had frayed, showing the orange warp threads.   I have to admit I used A LOT of Fray Block product around the raw edges of the pink silks.  Although the branches did not fray at all, the flowers gave me some trouble in that regard.  Since this piece was going to a show at the Japanese Garden in Portland, I quilted the lines of a simple shoji screen behind the branches.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Travels in Cloth

For me, one of the best things about travel are searching out gardens and museums.  This time my friend and I traveled to San Jose to the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles.  They are in a neat, "artsy" area of town.  We saw a wonderful retrospective of the work of Joan Schulze.  Her multi-media work is fascinating and I highly recommend seeing the show if you are nearby.  It's up until May 9, 2010.

We did get this wonderful surprise of public textile art just outside the museum.  I have Googled everything I can think of to find the name of this piece and the artist.  No luck.  I have been told that the title may be Bloodlines.  I'll keep researching.  

It is a piece of art that had contributions from community members.  People were invited to embroider their names into the streamers.  It was interesting to see that some did not get all the embroidery done so their names remain unfinished, a poignant reminder of  life circumstances.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Life in the Fast Lane

Holy Cow!  A lot has happened.  No time for blogging!  In the last month, I sold my house and bought a new one.  In the middle I took a 12 day trip to San Francisco for the Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) conference, workshops and, of course, sight seeing and, what else .... fabric shopping.  It was a break from all the paper signing and home repairing, etc, etc that goes along with real estate transactions.

I am a co-representative for SAQA in the state of Oregon, along with Georgia French.  This is a shot from our reps meeting that took place the first day.  From the left is Daren Redman (IN), Lynne Seaman (Europe/Israel), Terry Springer (E-Canada), in mirror, Georgia French (OR), Laura Wasilowski (IL-WI) and Nysha Nelson (TN-KY).  We filled the day with fast-paced discussions fueled by a great lunch and warm cookies.  Dinner that evening was at the delightful home and garden of Judith & Reed Content.

I will post more soon but most especially, about the 3-day workshop I took in making Nuno felt.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Olympics of Sewing

Our sunny spring weather that was here last week is gone again.  The cold and gray is back.  It has made me notice the birds who group together on power lines when the weather is unfriendly.  When one looks up at them, the reflection off the cold clouds makes the eye contract and not see detail  All that is apparent is the silhouette of the huddled birds.  It seems like such graphic simplicity, the gray on gray upon more gray.  So, this will be my second piece for the Bird's Eye View show.

Since all the birds and the street light are hand appliqued to the piece, I got to sit and enjoy the hand sewing while also taking in many of the Winter Olympic events.  Sometimes the sewing had to be put down in order to fully follow one competition or the other, so it could have come together faster.  Ir's hard to beat a chilly evening with a quilt on the lap, a sewing needle in hand and something worthwhile on television.  Oh, a hot cup of something close at hand completes the warm circle.  Now if it only counted as exercise, that would really be something!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Poppy Platter


Okay, lunch is served!  As I said in my previous post, this isn't the most favorite thing I've ever made but I'm realtively happy with it.  One thing I try to remember comes from the book titled Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils and Rewards of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland.  One of their gems of advice is to keep making art all the time.  Some of it will be terrible, some just average and a few will be outstanding.  This is true of artists regardless of experience.  However, they say the more art you make, the more outstanding pieces you will produce.  It's great, encouraging advice.  Even if something turns out differently than what I envisioned, I always learn something just from the doing of it.

So, what did I learn from this piece?  First of all, I should have made it larger.  It's only 29" by 21".  I attempted to show depth by making the veins in the petal get closer together as they converged in the center.  This piece might be too small to really get that effect.  I think more of a gradated color effect in the black petal markings would have helped create depth as well.  Last of all, the green portion of the center should be oriented at a different angle or have more shading to it as well.   However, I also need to remember I just might be standing too close to the forest and most people will think this looks just fine simply because they can't see what was originally in my head.  Probably a good thing after all!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Finishing Touches

Well, I may not have been blogging but I have been sewing.  After stitching all the yarn detail and embroidered French knots around the center, I decided it needed to be larger and hold more attention so I added another round of yarn .  Much better.  It also helps to have a friendly yarn holder:-)

After all that work, I also decided that the flower center really wasn't enough of a focal point.  This piece was being made for a show entitled "Bird's Eye View".  So, I spent some time thinking about why a bird might be looking into a flower.  The answer, or course, is food.  So I added a lovely little hand stitched beetle.  I have always loved the look of stumpwork, and, think I got pretty close with this little cutie.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Finally Centered

After several trial runs, I found a combination of thread and stitches that gives the feel of those lush, fluffy, dusty stamens that surround the center of poppies.  The black yarn is a silk and angora blend.  The deep navy is DMC perle cotton.  I couldn't make French knots with the fuzzy yarn but filling them in between with the embroidery floss worked very well.  Next step: layering the whole piece with the batting and backing fabric and starting the machine stitching.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

January Bloom

I started a new piece today that seems to be a response to the rain and gray of our January weather. What could be further from winter weather than the warm colors of a poppy flower's silken petals? I decided to use silks rather than the usual choice of cotton. The petals are silk dupionni, the black base of each petal is silk organza and the black center is silk noil. The only cotton used are the little bits under the black poppy center. Those two pieces are hand-dyed cotton that have a slight gold glitter to the surface of the fabric. I'm still mulling how to make the individual stamens that surround a poppy seed pod while it's still in the flowering stage. It may need an application of hand embroidery using black yarn. Does it need beads, too? Stay tuned.

One of the machine accessories that I own is a needle felting attachment, which is shown above. It holds 5 barbed needles that, as they pierce through two fabrics, cause the fibers of each to blend with the other. It works best with wool, but many other fibers can be used as well. Silk seems to take to this process almost as well as wool. I thought that the needle felting process might give a realistic look to the black spotting that occurs in the center of many poppies. I do like the effect now that it is started. So back to the machine to make more petals and keep myself warm looking at this yummy, hot color of summer.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Twelveth Day

Well, it's the 12th Day of Christmas and it's time to take down the decorations. For some reason this year I enjoyed them more than usual and wasn't ready to put things away. The long New Year's weekend gave me an excuse, then it was that the 12 days weren't over yet. Today's the day, though, ready or not. There are other projects to tackle!

Here are two Santa ornaments that I have made the last couple of years. They originate from a vintage Martha Stewart show from what I call the "BP days". That would be "Before Prison" as opposed to the "AP shows" of today that are fun, but more along the lines of a talk show. In the "BP" shows, Martha had more detailed projects and this was one of them. They are meant to be reproductions of old German Dresden ornaments made with cotton batting. I have tried to find the instructions for this on the MSL web site so I could include the link, but I think they have been lost to history.

Sometimes I coffee or tea dye the batting to make it look older, but for the yellow one I actually used some leftover Procion fabric dye from a different project. (I try to never dump unused dye down the drain. Even if I just soak it up with, or brush it over, a blank piece of muslin, I always find a way to use it up.) These two ornaments also have glitter on them. One has vintage German glass glitter. The faces are scanned and printed from old Christmas cards. I am always charmed by the ones that look like Old World St. Nicholas or Father Christmas figures. I have also made some using German scrap paper with a gold metallic finish. You can find supplies for similar projects by searching for Geman scrap or Dresden on either of these two sites: or

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Beginnings

It's that time when we all look forward and backward at the same time. Most of us look forward to renewed energy for the things that we strive for every day but lose track of in the daily rush. I'm wishing for many things, both personally and globally, but mostly I want more time spent in my studio. I know, I know, it's up to me to accomplish that. There's no fairy godmother to wave a wand and make it happen.

Another wish is to add to this blog more often. While you won't know if I'm succeeding in my goal for more studio time, you will know if I don't blog more often. So, here we go on the first day of a new year with a new post. I'm off and running. Let's hope these cranes, symbols of good luck, among other things, will carry me on wings full of fresh air and new creative adventures.