Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Summer reading or what I've been doing since cataract surgeries

I've had a miserable series of medical issues since late March (sinus infection, shoulder injury and 2 cataract surgeries) and I am mostly all better now, but pretty much all I've done in the last few weeks is read.  So here's what I've been reading.

While treating the ear/sinus infection,  I started reading the Alex Craft series by Kalayna Price.    Executive summary:  good urban fantasy series, mashup of PI and traditional fae universe with a bit of zombie/ghost action too.  I'm not a big fan of vampire books so this one was nice since it has a completely different focus.  Somewhat similar to Seanan McGuire's October Daye books since there's crime solving going on in a universe with fae.

Barnes & Noble notified me of a new Incryptid novel, so of course I re-read that series.  Funny and enjoyable altho a bit dark since the family is fighting a losing battle against the Covenant of St. George .  While there are sorta vampiric creatures in this universe, it's mostly an exploration of a wide variety of creatures living in the various nooks & crannies of our world without being a serious threat to humans.  The conflict comes between the Covenant (which believes the only good cryptid is a dead cryptid) and the Price family, who believe that if a cryptid isn't actually endangering humans, then there's no problem.  The Prices also want to study the myriad cryptids that exist and document what they discover.  Since it's a Seanan McGuire series, there's some great humor with the mice who worship the Prices and some darkness as the various events unfold.

And last, but certainly not least, I've discovered the Lucas Davenport series.  Thirty books about a cop in Minnesota who has a certain flexible morality and a whole lotta luck.  Since they're thrillers, it's pretty much serial killers all the time in an almost noir-ish sensibility.  The author worked as a crime reporter so there's some good writing, an interesting main character, and a whole array of supporting characters.  I'm about halfway through the series and still enjoying it which doesn't always happen in a long series when I read them in a lump.    No picture for this series, since the titles all have Prey in them and there's no art on the covers.

Now I'm mostly recovered and starting summer birding along with more studio time so I should return to birds or art for next time.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The beauty of ordinary birds

I went to Scudder Pond yesterday, hoping to see some swallows, maybe a warbler or two.  Alas, my hopes were dashed yet I had a wonderful day because I got some closeup looks at some of the common birds.  First up, some Canada Geese were in the pond.  Normally, they are in the larger, deeper pond down the hill but this time, they were right there.  And not at all shy about having their photos taken.

I kept getting interrupted by the extremely active and numerous redwing blackbirds.  There were at least 6 squabbling over who got the best perches to sing from.  Alas, it seems my autofocus on the camera has a really hard time seeing a small black bird as the focal point rather than a shadow.  That combined with their inability to sit still meant I got lots of shots of a black blur atop a cattail.

Sparrows were fearless.  One has apparently been fed often enough that he kept hopping closer to me to see if I had some seed.  Once I pulled out the camera, he flew off, of course.

But the big surprise was a bird perched high atop a branch but not singing, just keeping an eye out.  The sun was bright enough and he was far enough away, that my eye was fooled into thinking it was a junco.  (Smallish bird with a black hood, brown body.)  It wasn't until I was processing the photos earlier this morning that I realized I had some quality shots of a towhee, one of my favorite common birds. 

Here's to the beautiful birds, common and rare, and to celebrating spring.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Post Point Heronry or where the birds are

April is when the herons start building their nests here in Bellingham and it was a challenge for me this year to get out there for photos before the trees got all their leaves growing in the way.  But we did a couple of days, one with good lighting, so here's some heron photos. 

I'll start with the best shot I got.  This heron was doing some morning preening so getting a good shot of the head in between the leaves was a challenge.

And to truly see how the leaves can get in the way, here's the action shot  spoiled by the leaves.

Post Point has more birds than the herons, of course.  There's a nice cove where the ducks and a killdeer hang out and an adjacent dog park with lots of shrubs for the smaller birds.  Alas, I neglected to snap a shot of the oystercatchers who have moved in but I did get this good shot of the bufflehead.  I've never been close enough to see the green on the back of the head before so that was a nice new experience.

I also got my first warbler of the season on the walk back to the car.  No photo, alas, but all in all, a very lovely birding expedition right in the middle of Bellingham.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Grounded in Springtime initial composition finally done

I've been reworking how I work in my studio to accommodate my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and the damage to my left eye's retina over the last few months and I finally got my new dancer piece to the stage where I can share a picture.  Yippee!

This is a big milestone which also marks several accomplishments in creating a new workflow and learning new tools.  And I'm sure I'll talk more about that later but for now, I'm just going to enjoy the visuals.  Here's the foreground composition.

This is a new thing for me, doing a piece on a plain white background.  Because when I was an art quilter, I'd piece the background first and then create the foreground on top of it.  Now, I'm doing it on white paper with the intent to try out various backgrounds in Photoshop before I glue everything down and finish the final piece.    This will not be the final dancer as I'm not liking the blue spirals on the yellow body.  I think they should be green for that whole green spring effect I'm aiming for.  This also means the spiral galaxy on the right needs to be lighter so there's more tonal contrast with the dancer.  And I'm going to do some variations along these lines along with using marbled fabric for that circle on the right. 

Here's some of the background fabrics I'm thinking of using.  It will be interesting to see how they work with the final foreground I develop over the next week.

Spiral galaxies

My theme for the dancer series work is "Dancing Through Space & Time" so I'm using astronomical images in a variety of ways.  I'm looking forward to playing with this one as a background, maybe with some color shifting.  

starry night sendoff

This one has lots of color and will give me a less structured background while still having the feel I'd like to achieve.  Also color shifting in the future for this one too altho it's likely to go a different direction.

More pictures will be shared as I finally get some new stuff produced. 

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Female fiber artist who influenced me: Robbi Eklow

It's March again and that means women's history month.  I'm solidly in the fiber art field now, growing from the art quilt field, so I'm focusing on artists who have influenced me.  This year, I'm picking Robbi Eklow, in part because I'm starting my own Bellingham School of Digital Collage (with a nod of acknowledgement to the Chicago School of Fusing) and in part because she's been posting on FB about her latest major life transition and I can definitely relate to that magnitude of change.

So, who is Robbi?  Her webpage gives this succinct bio.  "Robbi Joy Eklow has an Engineering degree from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. In college she married her husband Brian, they have two children. Robbi lectures and teaches internationally, and has shown quilts and won ribbons in major quilt shows across the United States. She wrote a bi-monthly column "Goddess of the Last Minute" for Quilting Arts Magazine. She has designed quilts and written articles for many quilting publications and written two books about quilting."  See her quilt gallery here.

Her column in Quilting Arts magazine helped me free myself from all the rules of the quilt police.   The quilting shows originally started out of state fairs and the judging of quilts was primarily based on technique and how well that technique stuck to the traditions of the field.  Robbi's writing was a wonderful breath of humor and she introduced me to the concept of fusibles.  Since I now do collage rather than piecing, it's clear that fusibles opened a doorway for me to a brand new world.

On of her earlier quilts showed how to use the fusing with hand dyed fabric with her signature repetition of shape within the quilt (The picture above is a newer version of that).  I was still doing traditional pieced quilts when her work (among others) inspired me to step outside traditional patterns, cut those shapes however I wanted and fuse away.  I'm still doing that now, a couple of decades later, but mixing in paper and paint too. 

Monday, March 18, 2019

resin experiment #2

Despite a horrible sinus/ear infection, I got some resin testing done this week.  I made up a board with different fabrics and used 3 different sprays I had on hand to see if any of them worked to block the darkening that happened with the first trial.  Here's the before fabric board.

I have a UV protective spray, a non VOC fixative (milk based), and fabric stiffening spray.  I left one column with no protection so I could see the difference.  I also glued the fabric down thoroughly using the purple Elmer's acid free glue sticks.    Then I used packing tape around the edges to stop the dripping that happened with the first board use.

Here's the results with some of the original fabric next to the board to show the darkening that happened.

The sprays don't seem to have made any difference but the darkening only happened with the darker fabrics.  I'm not sure what caused this completely different result altho I suspect just the glue itself helped lessen the darkening since I was very thorough about gluing the fabric down.  The lighter and medium fabrics didn't darken much if any so I'm going to work with a lighter palette for now and do some further experimentation.  

The bonus I got from this experiment is I discovered the fabric stiffening spray is reported as being very effective for use with the Scan N Cut.  I'll be testing that out myself later this week.  And I learned how to use my little torch to get rid of bubbles in the resin. Oh, and the packing tape was an epic fail.  It contained the dripping to one big spot but bulged out so it was still off the board.   All in all, a good bit of progress in understanding my new material.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

New birding board game has me so excited!!!!!!!

I'm on a couple of FB birding lists and I got completely inundated with news about a new board game, Wingspan.  It also got covered by the NYT so no surprise to find out it's already out of stock.  I'm signed up to get notified when they get more printed since there's no way I'm paying triple the price to buy one right now.    But isn't this just the coolest birdy thing ever?

The pic is from the publisher's website as is this description of the game. 

"You are bird enthusiasts—researchers, bird watchers, ornithologists, and collectors—seeking to discover and attract the best birds to your network of wildlife preserves. Each bird extends a chain of powerful combinations in one of your habitats (actions). These habitats focus on several key aspects of growth:

Gain food tokens via custom dice in a birdfeeder dice tower
Lay eggs using egg miniatures in a variety of colors
Draw from hundreds of unique bird cards and play them
The winner is the player with the most points after 4 rounds.

If you enjoy Terraforming Mars and Gizmos, we think this game will take flight at your table."

Besides my natural excitement at something that is so forthrightly birdy, the reviews are good on the game & the mechanics so I'm really looking forward to this.  I know what I'm getting myself for an early birthday present!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Resin experiments begin

As I continue my studio experimentation, I turned to resin for sealing prints and as a possible top coat for fabric collage.  I also have seen some interesting marbling done with resin so that was also on my list.  So, I created 3 pieces to try out with a resin top:  a small dancer collage that I had in my to be finished up drawer, a piece with a photo of Audubon's Great Blue Heron with some various tested fabrics, and a board covered with gold ground that I would marble on.  Various searches on the internet told me that fabric may or may not darken when resin is poured on top and one way to test is to dip the fabric in water.  If it doesn't darken, the resin shouldn't darken it either.  So I tested a variety of green fabrics and put scraps of them on the piece with the photo.

The results were informative.  All of the fabric darkened.  I suspect this is because I prewash my fabrics so I removed the sizing that is on them when they are bought.  Clearly, first thing to test in the next batch of tests is whether a sealant on the fabric will keep them from darkening.  Here's the fabric collage piece, 6" square, and it's almost impossible to see the color of the L shaped cloud piece the dancer is on.

Unfortunately, I didn't take a photo of the entire piece before putting the resin on but I do have photos of the background fabric and the dancer element separately so you can see how much darkening has occurred.

As is obvious, the background fabric is seriously darker and greener which totally ruins the look of the piece.  And then there's the dancer element which loses all the subtle color variations.  Totally unhappy artist with this piece.

The heron photo with the green fabric scraps did somewhat better.  The photo and the marbled fabric along the bottom retained their colors and clarity.  So big win on using the resin for photos and a more work required result for the marbled fabric.  It's not obvious in the photo but the fabric scraps and the marbled fabric on this one floated up a bit in the resin and some stick out the top.  This can be dealt with by better glueing them down to begin with or by putting a second coat of resin on top. 

        The green fabric scraps scattered around all passed the water test but darkened considerably so definitely a sealant test on fabric in my future.

And then the most successful of the 3 initial tests:  marbling on a board.  The colors worked well, the resin lost a tiny bit of marbling detail over time and except for the massive dripping off the bottom right corner, things were generally better than I expected.  I'll be doing much more of this type of thing in the future along with a couple of tests of taping the edges to stop the dripping off the sides.

I'm looking forward to working with the resin and I am absolutely happy with it as an alternative to acrylics for a topcoat on prints.  We'll see with the next round of experiments how many other places I can use it in my studio.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

New photography set up for studio using my iPhone

In my ongoing quest to simplify my studio practice and make each of the steps in my process faster, I looked this last week at the photography setup.  I no longer have a design/photo wall so the whole big camera with a tripod and photo lamps is not a workable option now.  Also, I'm working smaller since I'm not stitching big wall quilts.  This led to looking for 24" collapsible photo boxes and light setups that are quick and easy. 

I tried and discarded the spiffy cube that folded up like a tent with memory wire.  Alas, every time I wanted to use it, I had to go to YouTube and watch the video on how to fold it up when it was time to put it away.  Also, somehow, the light from my photography lights got slightly yellowed so I wanted to get a different box with built in lights.  I've done LED strips on my sewing machine and in my display cabinet so I decided to go with the low priced one on Amazon that had built in LEDs. 

As you can see from the above photo, it has a nice porthole on one side so I can use my phone clamp to take the shots without casting shadows.  (That's been the problem with just shooting things on the dining room table because we have a ceiling light.)  The box is made from sheets of plastic and comes with different colored inserts if you don't want a white background.  While this works (see picture below for result of above shooting setup) I cannot recommend the box itself.  Pros:  It came with a nifty zippered holder, and it does the basic job.  Cons:  The box was cracked in one corner when I unpacked it.  I can fix that with my trusty white duct tape so I'm not returning it but I'm not happy.  The LED light strips are coming off of the inside of the box and it's been set up for 2 days.  And the LEDs get hot very quickly which is not my experience with the ones on my sewing machine.  There were no instructions on setting it up in the box.  Not even a slip of paper with a webpage address.  The box is starting to sag because there really isn't sufficient support for the weight of the plastic. Also you need to have an extra USB to outlet plug for it unless you want to plug it into your computer.   It does what I need but I won't buy this one again.

On the other hand, I really like my phone clamp.  I bought it originally to do some videos which I haven't gotten around to yet.  It clamps onto the ikea bookcase behind the photo box and allows me to position the phone easily while holding it very steady while I snap photos.  Since I'm experimenting with digital collage right now, the ease of taking photos of a whole stack of my marbled fabric, for example, is wonderful.  Now I can zip into the bedroom where the small photo setup is located, put the phone in the holder, turn on the lights, position the fabric and snap.  It almost takes as long to describe it as it does to do it.  This is exactly the improvement in photography that I was hoping for so overall I am a very happy artist.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

gluten free shrimp tempura

While all the snow bypassed us and headed to Seattle, we are socked in by shockingly low temps, at least by Bellingham standards.  So while I was waiting for the gesso to dry for the panels for my next set of studio experiments, I decided to do some experimenting in the kitchen.

I googled for "gf tempura batter" and picked 2 different recipes.  I only had the ingredients on hand for the one from   https://www.gfpatisserie.com/recipes/tempura-batter#/ so we went with that one.Very simple batter recipe:  2 C gf flour (we used the local coop's bulk version rather than the websites), 1 tsp baking soda, 1/4-1/2 tsp salt and 2 C sparkling water.  We ended up adding an extra cup of water because the batter was so thick and we only used about half of what we made so next time, we'll start with 1 C flour.

Heat the oil to 375F, do some tests with veggies and then start doing the shrimp.  This batter is quite tasty but more what I think of as fish & chips batter.  That's fine, being allergic to wheat has given me some serious fried fish cravings and this will do the trick.  I had intended to take a great picture of the lovely golden brown shrimp as I got them out of the pan but completely forgot until after they were all eaten.  Now to decide what fish to do for fish & chips....

Saturday, February 2, 2019

experimenting with digital ground and acrylic skins

In and around a disastrous attempt at a week away, I've been doing some experimentation with digital grounds (from Golden) which led to some trials of making acrylic skins.  I was feeling reluctant to blog about it all because I don't really have a finished piece to show off but then I realized there's real value in sharing the interim work.  That's where my learning happens, after all. 

The piece above, Grounded (fuchsia) is a purely digital piece.  I was taking photos of the purple background piece that exists in fabric and didn't have the light set up correctly.  One of the photos came out really pink rather than purple.  And I liked it.  So I fiddled with the colors in Photoshop for a bit and ended up with this piece.  This led to wanting to put it on one of the wooden panels I use for mounting/framing my work but the question was how?  And that led to the digital ground experiments.

First I tried the porous surface ground on various papers:  cardstock, tissue paper, and regular inkjet paper.  Why bother with the ground at all, you ask?  Well, the ground fixes the ink so it won't bleed, at least this particular ground so I don't have to use any extremely stinky fixative spray on it.  And since I was already having some serious allergy issues with chemicals this week, that seemed the way to go.  Of the 3 papers, the cardstock worked best.  Tissue paper had a tendency to crinkle up and distort and the cardstock curled less than the regular paper.  The cardstock is easy to adhere to the wood panel with a layer of gel medium and then fairly easy to trim to fit with an exacto knife or rotary cutter.  But there's that layer of paper in there and it forces me to use an image that goes all the way to the edges.  What would work as well but not have that layer of white paper?

Acrylic skins seemed an obvious answer.  I got introduced to them in my paint pouring class and Golden has a very nice video about using their digital grounds on varied media, including the skins.  They also have a nice video about making skins.  So I started trying this idea out.

First, I needed to make skins.  Maybe it's my quilter's background, but I immediately wanted to be sure what size of skin I was making.  That led to me creating a skin template on the maximum size paper for my wide bed printer.  (13" x 19" for the curious.)  Since acrylic skins are made on a non-stick surface which can be clear or mostly translucent, this will let me size them while making them.

So first I tried matte medium brushed on my 2 different Teflon pressing sheets.  They're what I use when fusing fabric and I have several extras as I used to have multiple surfaces covered with them.  I brushed the medium in one direction first, let it dry, then did the perpendicular direction.  Both of those were a good solid skin but a bit thin and I had problems getting the edge to start peeling up.  This is when I went to the Golden videos for info on making skins.

I switched to gloss medium since it dries clear and that is one of the things I was looking for.  And I poured a heavier amount of medium onto the Teflon sheets and spread it with a palette knife.  Unfortunately, the medium had a tendency to bead up and leave holes in the skin with the first layer.   So I made a mental note to try a gel medium next and moved on to trying a paint/gloss medium mixture on parchment paper.  This worked fairly well altho the resulting skin was streaky in the color because I didn't blend the paint into the medium before spreading it. 

And that's where I am now.  With some ideas of things to try and at least 2 workable approaches for what I want to do.  I have several more experiments on my list for February and I'll undoubtedly share them here. 

Friday, January 11, 2019

Bellingham built Hybrid ferry boat Vessel of the Year

In my continuing effort to chat up new and interesting electric vehicles, here's a local winner. 

Built by All American Marine, Inc.,  the Enhydra is a 128-foot, 600-passenger boat which was built on Bellingham's downtown waterfront and launched in Squalicum Harbor. The Enhydra is the largest lithium-ion battery electric hybrid-powered vessel in North America. Last week at the International WorkBoat Show in New Orleans, Enhydra was named the “Boat of the Year, 2018.”

I've been following the story locally and am thrilled to see it being launched.  It will be part of the Red and White Ferry service in the Bay Area, I believe.  And here's the youtube video showing it off.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Recent museum visit: Endangered Species exhibit

To give me an outing despite almost a month of cold/bronchitis, Jeff and I went out for lunch and then to the Whatcom Art Museum to see Endangered Species:  Artists on the Front Line of Biodiversity.  This is an interesting exhibit created for our very own museum here in Bellingham which is nice in a way but disappointing in that others won't see it because apparently it's not traveling. 

But there is a catalog for the exhibit.  Catalog link on Amazon here.

Overall, the level of art is excellent, several of the artists caught my attention (and I'll be talking about them individually over the next few postings), but both Jeff and I were emotionally overwhelmed at about 2/3rds of the way through the exhibit.  If it were here past the end of the week, I'd go again to get a good look at that last third.  Instead, I'll probably be ordering the catalog.

First artist that caught my eye was this big piece right at the beginning of the exhibit.  Nin Maminawendam by Ton Uttech. 

Take a closer look at this piece (size is 67 x 73 inches so it's big) and you'll see an amazing number of birds.  Uttech focuses on the woods of his native Wisconsin and the wildlife that lives there.  His style expresses the same spiritual connection to nature that I try to express so I spent a significant amount of time taking in this wonderful piece.  I look forward to exploring his work further.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Herbal Chai: a winter crud aid

I've been down for the last week with some flu like bug that just will not give up.  And I realized it's been years since I posted my herbal chai recipe.  So here it is again, as I make the second quart for this week.  It helps with feeling chilly, congestion and low energy level so if you have any of those, you might give it a try.  I got this recipe from an acupuncturist when I was living in Boulder.

1.5 inches fresh ginger root (peeled or unpeeled, doesn't seem to matter) sliced thinly
8-10 cinnamon sticks (I split mine in half to get more exposure to the water)
10 cardamon pods (or about 50 cardamon seeds if you can't get pods) Split the pods open slightly
10 whole cloves
5 peppercorns

I put a small amount of water in the bottom of my glass double boiler and turn it on high while I prep the spices.  I also fill the electric kettle to get the rest of the boiling water.

 Simmer for 30 minutes total. I reduce the heat and put a lid on the pot with a slight gap at the edge of the lid. Add honey, lemon, milk or rice milk to taste. I have also used heated herbal chai as water to make tea with when I want the kind of chai you get at a latte stand.

After the 30 minutes, the liquid will all be a lovely cinnamon brown color.  I strain through a hand held strainer into a quart measuring cup and watch it disappear quickly.  Yields about a quart of chai.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Developing new dancer piece

We had a lovely vacation in Canada the week before Thanksgiving and then went to our daughter's house for a small Thanksgiving dinner and amidst all of that, I have neglected the blogging.  Part of that is feeling like I didn't really have anything concrete to write about.  Vacation was a very relaxing time with lots of short walks along the bay and talk about books we're reading but I left my camera battery plugged in at home so my usual vacation blog about birds would have had no photos.  Altho I did take some interesting textural ones with my phone but talk about those will probably happen when I actually do something with them.

And Thanksgiving week was all about recovering from vacation and downtime with the family.  No big events there either.

So I almost did a book report this week.  Fortunately for all of you, I did start work on a new dancer piece using my new poseable figurine to give me some shots to work from.  I actually posed her on vacation and was very happy with how easy it was to photograph her with my phone.  That was the whole point of getting the gray rather than the flesh tone figure since it would give me an almost black & white silhouette to start with.

Once I got home and had uploaded my camera photos via Dropbox, I popped the picture into Photoshop for cropping and color shifting a bit.  Then printed it out and did a tracing with my trusty brush tip marker giving me this nice silhouette.

But wait, there's more.  This gives me the first silkscreen I need so I can lay down the background color for the dancer.  Next, I need the dancer silhouette with the body art so I pulled out some of my spiral screens & stencils and played around and got this. 

Unlike my earlier dancers, I stopped the tattoos below the arms.  When I tried them on paper in b&w I really didn't like the loss of detail for the face and arms so I went with this look.  Now, I've printed this out in multiple sizes and am ready to make my silkscreens to try out my new composition.  I should have some colored versions on paper by next week.  I am really happy at how quickly this process went as this makes it much easier to do composition changes and variations. And that means I get to focus my time & energy on the color play which is my fun place. 

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Tracking time & productivity in the studio

This post was going to be about the fun experiments I was doing in the studio, but, alas, the flu struck on Wednesday so that whole thing got derailed.  Instead, I'm sharing one of my current tools that I find very useful in meeting my goals.  An app called ATracker.  The free version allows only 5 activities to be tracked but the upgrade cost is under $5 if I'm remembering correctly. 

I've been using it for a couple of months now and really find it helps me track how much time I'm spending on which part of being an artist.  I usually set my weekly goals for hours of work done in a particular area since I long ago discovered I totally suck at estimating total time for a project.  This way, I just keep working at it until it's done. 

History view for this week

So, how's it work?  You add activities you want to track, I added categories (Art, biz, selfcare) and then you click on that activity when you start working on.  Click again when you finish.  Then you get to pull up the data at the end of the day or week and see how much you got done where.  I also add a note to items saying what particular art project it was so I can see how much time I'm spending on particular things.  I use 2 views:  the history one above which gives more item detail and the pie chart from the Reports, see below.

And of course, I love the color coding possibilities.  Lots of choices on how you tag your activities, great options on how you can analyze the data and so far, only one minor bug.  (Sometimes the day shows yesterday's activities when I bring up the app so I have to manually set it to the new blank day. No big problem. )  If I were rating the app, I'd give it max stars because it does what it's supposed to do very well and is inexpensive.  

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Fiber Artist #5: Hollis Chatelain

In keeping with my focus on persistence and finishing, here's my fifth and final female fiber artist.  Hollis Chatelain came to my attention (in the 90's?) when one of her fabulous pieces sold for mid 5 figures, setting new goals for many fellow art quilters about possible income.  I've continued to be aware of and admire her work since as an influential artist in my field.

Blue Men by Hollis Chatelain

As you can see above, her work is realistic and detailed, striking in composition and content.  For a fiber artist, the way she works is inspiring.  She starts with a large piece of white fabric, sketches the design and then dye paints.  If she was working on a stretched canvas, this would be the total effort to create a painting.  But then, she stitches to add detail and texture to the surface.  Amazing work and I highly recommend checking out her webpage, https://www.hollisart.com/

I'm looking at her work with a new perspective as I try to simplify my processes so that I can still be productive with my lower energy level.  One thing I'm looking at is working whole cloth rather than doing fabric collage.  One of my challenges for this next several months is how do I do this and looking at her process is very helpful in giving me ideas.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Thermofax tribulations

This is apparently my month for challenges in the studio.  First, the sewing machine eluded my ability to thread the needle, then my whole thermofax creation process fell apart.

After I spent an afternoon unclogging the nozzles on my just for the thermofax printer, I tried making some nice fish screens to use on the current piece.  I decided to use the the new white screen because it's narrower than the old roll of green screen I have and then the problems began.

Fish art for thermofax screen

Small summary of the thermofax process for those who aren't familiar with it.  A thermofax is a quick and easy way to make a silkscreen by running graphite line art through the thermofax machine layered against the screen.  The graphite ignites from the heat of the lamp in the machine and burns off the top layer of the screen exposing the little squares in the screen so that paint can be pushed through.

The first try didn't burn the screen at all.  I ran it through 3 times and it burned so lightly that the screen slid around over the art and I got triple faint lines rather than one good solid line.  So I went over the artwork with a thicker charcoal pencil.  That burned a hole in the white screen.  After a few deep sighs and breathing exercises, I ran that art through the thermofax with the green screen.  That resulted in big blurry lines for the spirals.  I decided to stop for the day, think about it and try again later.

green vs white screens of same art
This is where I am now, with this being the green screen fish on the top and the white screen fish on the bottom.  I spent a few hours perusing videos on YouTube about making the screen transition and decided I'll have to do way more experimentation than I have time for right now so I'll be redrawing the fish with a lighter line and using the green screen to make yet another screen later today. 

Here's where I am on the piece.  I did yarn around the edges of the salmon stream and then started doing yarn around the edges of the fish and really didn't like how it looked.  So I tried hand stitching but that didn't work so well what with the 4 or 5 layers of quilting cotton plus batting that I had to stitch through.   After checking prices and reviews, I've ordered the low end Brother self-threading machine and will be seeing if that solves my stitch problem.  At this point, I can only be really thankful that the show application deadline is the end of November so I may be able to finish in time despite all these issues.  Wish me luck!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

No sewing machine, now what?

This week in the studio was a challenge.  I started the week with anticipation.  I had finished fusing the current project, had selected the threads to use and was ready to begin the stitching.  And then I tried to thread my sewing machine.

The whole vision problem has been improving with every treatment and I'm now having no problems with most visual tasks.  I still adjust the text size in a book now and then, but no longer have migraines and don't need the eye patch.  The sole exception, until this last week, was using the binoculars while birding and that's been improving too so I thought I was really over the problems.  Until I tried threading my machine.

first use of satin stich in my collage

I learned to sew on a machine when I was 8, 55 years ago.  I used my mom's Kenmore and my great-grandma's treadle machine both.  And I've been making my own clothes since I was 11.  I have 3 machines right now.  Over the last 20 years, as my eyes and my back had their own issues, I've added supplemental LED lighting, various magnifying lenses, and threading tools as needed to keep on doing the things I love to do with a sewing machine.  It took me an hour to get it threaded and I was so frustrated that I wanted to pick up the machine and bash a hole in the wall with it.  So I walked away and cooled off and came back the next day to actually sew.  And I got about 3 inches of test sewing done and broke the needle, probably because I couldn't see the sample sewing well enough and pulled too much.  So, I'm taking a break from the machine. 

If all goes well with the eye treatments over the next few months, then I'll be back to sewing happily.  For now, I'm going to assume that I have to be like Matisse and find another way to make my art.  The rest of this month, I will be experimenting with different ways to give that textured colorful line that I used the satin stitch of variegated thread to create with my machine.  Instead of the stitched line, I'm looking at using yarn, perle cotton, and other thick fibers.  I may do some hand stitching to get the variety of colors & textures I like. 

variegated stitch example

I'll be reporting on my trials here so you can follow along.  And I'll be using what I select to finish up the Salish Sea Mandala #1 that is my current project.  Right now it feels like 2 steps back and a half step forward but I have a plan and I'm confident I'll find a solution.    And I have a deadline of November 31 for SSM#1 to be finished so "make it work" is my mantra now.  Wish me luck!

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Sluggy progress on Salish Sea Mandala #1

This last week, I got a new sink in my studio.  Huzzah!  Now I can paint, dye and silkscreen without running into the house and around the corner to the kitchen sink every time I need fresh water.  That meant moving around all the shelves on that wall, and adding a couple over the sink, so my progress on Salish Sea Mandala #1 was less than I had hoped for.  However, I still made the milestone of completing the top which is now ready for stitching.

I like the wavy edges on the different sections and I know what kind of stitching I want to do around the salmon stream and the fish themselves.  I think I'll wait until I have that stitching in place to try and decide if I want to make the piece smaller or add another circle around the center.  I also think I need to paint the white patches in the fabric around the globe as right now those patches compete with the globe for attention.  Fortunately I have a smallish scrap of that fabric left so I can do some painting trials before working on the actual piece.

It's good to see that even with frequent rest breaks, I can make noticeable progress when I focus on just one thing.