Sunday, July 31, 2011

Inspirational Art

Over the last few days I worked on this little personal quilt ~ my modern version of a Tibetan thangka.

The Summer 2011 issue of Tricycle magazine included a lovely card of Guanyin, the bodhisattva of compassion.  I printed the image (several versions available on Tricycle's website) on raw silk and fused it to a favorite piece of paper I made in the early 1990s.  Quilted, beaded and further embellished. 

I've had that ribbon on the left side for almost 20 years as well -- bought it at one of the last Renaissance Faire's in the original location in Marin County, and wore it for years on a jacket I no longer have.

It's nice to use things one has had for eons ~ those small special things you know you'll use sometime in the future, somewhere along the line.

Guanyin hangs on the wall of my studio now.

Friday, July 29, 2011

What's Cookin'?

For the past several months I've been reading blogs of artists who have been eco dyeing their fabric -- and recently I purchased India Flint's fabulous book, Eco Colour.

This week I actually began a few dyeing experiments with botanicals.

I don't plan to go into a lot of the details here -- I highly recommend you buy India's book yourself if you're interested -- but I will say a few things about the differences between "eco" or "botanical" dyeing and "natural" dyeing, which I also experimented with at length a few years ago.

But first, the photos.  Protein fibers including silk do not need to be premordanted before dyeing with botanicals -- although you might want to add a mordant of some type during or after dyeing to shift the resulting colors.  However, cellulose fibers DO need to be premordanted with either protein or alkaline.  There are numerous non-toxic sources of both.  And as with the plant materials I'll be using, I plan to focus on mordants that are close at hand or very inexpensive to purchase.  The two jars above are mordanting cotton and linen scraps.  I've used a fairly weak solution of soda ash in water for the alkaline, and unsweetened, off-the-shelf soy milk in water for the protein mordant.

There are numerous processes for extracting and applying the dyes -- the one in the second photo is called hot bundling.  I made packets of fabric wrapped around plant materials and steamed them for 30 minutes.  The third photo is the bundles after steaming and cooling, sitting in a plastic bag outside where they'll remain until I unwrap them late next week.  More time = greater color development.  I think I can wait.

These are what I see as the biggest differences between "eco" dyeing and "natural" dyeing ~
  • natural dyeing relies on a few specific plant materials -- typically logwood, fustic, brazilwood, madder, cochineal (bugs), indigo, weld, and I know there are others.  With eco dyeing, you can use virtually any botanical stuff that isn't poisonous -- leaves, bark, acorns, berries, fruit, vegetables, anything.
  • the mordants you use with natural dyeing are typically metallic salts, which are toxic.  With eco dyeing, you can derive the same mordant results with any number of things that are NOT toxic -- including fireplace ash, seawater, packaged soy milk, plant materials high in tannic acid, lemon juice...the list goes on, or even metal dye pots (aluminum, copper, brass, stainless steel, iron) or small pieces of metal.
  • natural dyeing with the typical dyestuffs requires that they be purchased from elsewhere, and much if not most of it is imported from afar.  I'm not sure whether any of these materials are endangered, but being that brazilwood comes from Brazil, I can only imagine rainforests being cut down to get dyestuffs.  One of the beauties of eco dyeing is the intention to use materials that are at hand or easily gettable.
I'll reveal this first batch of eco dyed fabrics late next week.  I also have a cold bundle going -- similar to a hot bundle but not steamed, just left for a good long time...  I plan to wait a month for that batch to process.

Have a great weekend!


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Trouble With Harry

I saw the last Harry Potter movie yesterday.  Since almost everybody I've heard from has raved about it, I thought I'd throw my contrarian two cents into the mix.

Let me say first that I almost never see movies at the theater any more.  Not only are they incredibly expensive -- even matinees are getting up there in price -- but I simply can't hear the dialogue.  Yes, I have some hearing loss, but still it seems as though the sound is turned down to where I have to lip read what the characters are saying...or cup my right ear, both of which are painful for a couple hours at a stretch.

But given the fabulous sound systems in theaters nowadays, I shouldn't have to miss what's being said.   They've all got these great Dolby or THX systems that are really thrilling when they advertise themselves at the start of the movie -- but then the sound volume is never turned up to where you can actually hear what's going on, let alone give you your money's worth for what the technology is touted to be able to deliver. It's like having a car with a fast and powerful engine and then never taking it out for a drive.

The lighting of many movies these days, the brightness, also is turned so far down that it looks like everything has been filmed after dark or inside a dungeon.  I realize it's to set a mood, but still the effect is that the movie is virtually colorless.

So such did I find the latest and last Harry Potter yesterday.  I did see it in 3D, which is the only way I will see a movie in a theater if I do at all.  So despite the fact that I couldn't hear anything that wasn't shouted by the actor and the fact that hardly any of the production design could be seen because of the poor lighting ~ I enjoyed the graphics and technology of the movie.

I also found the story to be plodding and slow.  I'll admit to not being a die-hard fan of the Potter series -- I've only seen two or three of the earlier movies -- but except for a few scenes, this effort seems as though it must have been like dying a slow death.

So there it is, I've said my peace. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Whine & Caveat

This is a post script to my recent post about using CitraSolv to manipulate photos from National Geographic magazines.  My first experience with this process was late last week.  What I found early this week when I went to use the pages is that there was an oily residue on them...which made the ink come off on my fingers and smeared the designs on the paper.  After a bit of research into the matter with the good folks at CitraSolv, I realized that I had used too much of the liquid on the pages.  As in most things, less is more!

Yesterday I tried it again, this time using only about 1 teaspoon of CitraSolv between sets of photo pages (yes, I measured it so I'd know for sure).  And it worked perfectly!  So well, in fact, that I did three batches of pages yesterday afternoon.

It all happens rather quickly.  I would suggest though that while your stack of wet pages is marinating for 20 minutes or so, you leave it in the shade.  Once the sun starts drying out the pages, they'll stick together.

But after the initial marination, after you have pulled the pages apart, lay them on newspaper in the sun and they'll dry in less than an hour.

These photos are from yesterday's session.

Earlier this week, after realizing my error with the first set of pages and while waiting for the sun to come out again here on the North Coast, I experimented with printing the digital images I'd taken of the original pages. 

I printed a few images on paper to use in collage-making.  With some of the more dramatic images I'm getting now, with the newer pages, I would like to print some on fabric as well.

It might be possible to print on fabric directly from a wet marinated page.  I'd likely try this with fabric that had been pretreated first with either Bubble Jet Set or an acrylic medium or ground.  If any of you try this, let me know how it works!

There are still a few bags of handmade fabric scraps available on my Sales Blog -- blues, greens and yellow/golds.  If you're looking for unusual small pieces of fabric for a variety of projects, don't miss these.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Body, Soul and Spirit

My latest quilt, completed on Monday.  It's called Body, Soul and Spirit, measures 21x14 inches.

You may recognize those circles, I've used them on two or three recent quilts.  Their genesis is thus ~ shiboried muslin, overdyed, soy wax batiked, discharged, and this trio was stamped and beaded.

One of the things I like best about working and multiply reworking a particular piece of fabric is the unusual resulting colors.  "Off" colors I like to call them, although they're definitely "right on."  Not quite this, not quite that.  And how nicely previously disparate fabrics work together in the end.

I am SO loving not working any longer.  As I mentioned on Facebook yesterday, I have to keep pinching myself to realize that I am on permanent vacation.  Every time I start to speed up what I'm doing, I catch myself and slow it back down again.  My pace has become such that some days I'll read most of the day and do dribs and drabs of art, if at all.  And some days I'm more creatively productive.  I don't have an agenda now, and things get done as they do. 

A couple of really good book reads to pass along ~

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein.  Just finished this yesterday.  Terrific story told by Enzo, the family dog.  Just beautiful.

The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna.  Wonderful story, beautifully written.  I have an earlier book of hers waiting for me at the library.

And that's where I'm headed now!


Monday, July 18, 2011

Other Work

Here's a little quilt I made late last week.  I'm calling it Target of My Affection.  It's 15x9 inches and features one of my favorite deconstructed screen printed fabrics.

The circle was handpainted on heavy cotton/rayon.  It was an experiment...there were several circles...I didn't like the finished piece...I kept tearing it up into smaller bits...

About a year ago several blog pals were fooling around with Citra Solv Concentrate and National Geographic magazines.  Well, it only took me a year to try it -- I did so last week.  The bottom photo shows several magazine pages that were transformed.

Citra Solv is a household cleanser made with citrus.  If you're going to try this, you MUST use Citra Solv brand and it MUST be the concentrate.  No other citrus cleaner will work!

You just grab a National Geographic and drizzle Citra Solv between pages with images.  Get the pages rather wet.  Let the mess sit for 15-20 minutes.  Then tear the pages out and lay individually on newspaper to dry.  What happens is that the Citra Solv dissolves the ink and all by itself it will shmush the colors to create really unusual patterns and textures.

Here are some tips that I used to make the whole thing easier ~
  • I worked outside and I would recommend doing this if you can.  The smell, although not bad, is pretty strong.
  • Instead of using an entire magazine, which can be really difficult to get apart without the pages tearing out unevenly, I tore out imaged pages first, in pairs, and I faced the images together.  I had a stack of pages and drizzled Citra Solve on each pair of pages and layered the whole thing together to marinate for 20 minutes.
  • Decant the Citra Solv into a plastic bottle with a small hole that you can drizzle from, instead of pouring on your pages out of the larger container.
  • Putting a small rock on each page to hold it down while it dried did not affect the new image...but did keep the page from blowing away.
I also tried this method with photos from other magazines, and it didn't work!  There's something about the ink and the printing process that National Geographic uses that makes this work.  Apparently you can also use the New York Times Magazine and get good results.

Have a look at Citra Solv's artist page for additional information and inspiration.

Among other reasons for my not trying this technique last year is that I wasn't sure what to do with the transformed magazine pages.  Now that I'm doing different things with collage, these papers will find their way into my work.


Friday, July 15, 2011


Today is reveal day for Fiberactions' "departure" challenge.  My quilt is called Verdigris and it measures 18 inches square.

This piece was a departure for me in several ways ~ first, it's size.  All of our other challenge quilts have been 16x20 inches.  Since "departure" was my selected word, I suggested that if anyone wanted to depart from our usual size restriction that they should feel free to do so.  And I did.  I really like 18x18, this is my first piece of that size but it certainly won't be my last.

Using all light colored fabrics was another departure for me.  Each one of the component fabrics was embellished with textile paint or metallic paintstik. 

A third departure for me is that I did an overall quilting job on it rather than quilt individual pattern areas on the cloth. 

A couple of you readers indicated that you might be making a quilt for this challenge, at my invitation.  If you've done so, please email your images to me and I'll post them tomorrow!


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Magic Carpet

My latest quilt, Magic Carpet, completed yesterday.  This piece measures 16x20 inches.  I'm not especially keen on that size, particularly in the portrait orientation, but it works out well with a fat quarter of foundation fabric such as this.  I used a thread color called Old Penny, from Hemingsworth's thread collection.  It's kind of a slightly bluish rust which picks up the highlight colors in the fabrics.

I have a solo show during the month of August at Los Bagels' Truchas Gallery in Eureka.  Los Bagels is one of the North Coast's culinary success stories.  The gallery is one very large old brick wall.  I think my work will look fabulous there.  If you plan to be on the North Coast in early August, the show's opening will be from 6-9 pm on Saturday, August 6 during Art's Alive!.  Stop by and say hey!

Something about this quilt said "carpet" to me.  So what better than a magic carpet.  My personal reference to a magic carpet relates to this ~ As you're traveling north on Hwy. 101 between Garberville and Fortuna in Humboldt County, the meandering highway is bordered nearly all the way by tall redwood trees, oftentimes giving you the feeling that you are, indeed, traveling on a magic carpet through the forest.

This is a fabulous place to live.  I'll leave you with that.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Quilts Soon

I nearly completed the first of a new batch of quilts yesterday.  Feels good to be working with fabric again.

In an effort to create a little space in my little living/studio space, I sorted through all my handmade fabric scraps over the weekend, put most of them in 4 oz bags, and posted those for sale on my Sales Blog.

Small scraps are especially nice if you do handstitched work, piecing, applique, etc.  Also wonderful to print and stamp on to use as embellishments on quilts or in collages.  All pieces were dyed, printed, painted, discharged, embellished or otherwise surface designed.  Check them out here -- 12 bags in total, 6 colorways, $12 per bag plus shipping.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Six Figures

Early today my blog readership will slip over 100,000 hits.  I never had a six figure income, so I'll have to settle for a six figure blog count!  Accomplishments like this always call for a giveaway of some sort.  I've been thinking about it for a couple weeks now but haven't yet decided what to actually give away.  I'll announce it here in the near future, so stay tuned.

Last weekend I completed my quilt for the Fiberactions challenge -- I'll post that on Friday, July 15.  I'm also putting together several other new pieces, have fabric strewn all over my work table as we speak.

Everything is happening more slowly for me, these days.  After this week I should be completely free to settle back into a creative groove that complements my newly less-stressful lifestyle.  After many years of juggling numerous work tasks, outside commitments and personal art projects all at one time, I realized recently that I just can't focus on more than one thing at a time now.  Nor do I want or need to any longer.

Hope you're having an enjoyable summer.  It's been lovely here on the North Coast, frequent morning fog notwithstanding.