Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dyeing During the Dog Days of Summer

You seriously didn't think I could get through a post on dyeing without some puns on the word dyeing did you?  Anyways, it was a perfect day to dye on my old Victorian porch.   Well almost perfect, if you don't count the dueling lawnmowers from my two adjacent neighbors and my husband using his chainsaw to cut this year's wood.  I did manage to really have a pleasant time working up a batch of hand dyes. 

You see I treated myself to 5 yards of PFD at QBL this year and I was itchin' to get after it.  So I set up my make-shift dye station on the porch complete with me sitting on a bucket.   My porch is a super convienant place to dye - well if you ignore the mail carrier navigating through all the paraphanlia strewn all over.  He must have done it successfully though, 'cause there were bills in my box as always.
New Use for the trusty red Beer cup
I once again used the helpful methods put forth on Fabric Dyeing 101 with the addition of Linda Johansen's new book a Fabric Dyer's Dictionary.  Its super useful with its 900 recipes to get just the color you are looking for.

Still that wasn't my problem.  I tend to just sorta guess at what colors I need thinking over my stash.  It seems right now I have a lot of saturated pure colors so I need more murky muted colors to round it out.  Also I need some decent dark darks and light lights.   Leaving them sitting all night gave them a really cool molted effect that adds the needed texture in my work.  Next time, though I think I'll take them out and rotate them a bit.
So,dyeing is so much fun, I can see how people can get addicted.  I don't see that happening to me anytime soon though.  Working at a station which includes me sitting on a bucket and dyeing in beer cups doesn't sound like the making of the next Jane Dunnewold.  Right now though, I'm just having fun dyeing!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Rain Rain Don't Go Away - A New Piece

Well back from Quilting on the Lake.  It was an amazing week and I was so blessed all the way through.    First of all, I just love the venue, Onondaga Community College.  There are nice close suites to stay at, the food was pretty much great (with a few exceptions) and there is plenty of pretty walking trails where you feel like you're out in the country but safely on campus.  Really you couldn't find a nicer place for a conference.

That said, my class with Jeannette DiNicolis Meyer, was definitely the highlight.  Our class was almost full with 18 VERY talented ladies.  It was good to see Jeannette again, since her classroom is such a safe place to create.  Our classroom, although tight, still had comfy chairs and air conditioning so I was cool with that. (okay that's my pun of the day).  Since this was a guided studio, we could start on our own work right away.  I really had no idea what I wanted to work on - just prayed and mediated until a strong thought came to me.  One inspiration photo kept on coming to mind.  It was a stock photo which I had bought and literally been sitting in my sewing hole for 3 months.  Still I didn't want to use it as is since it was photographer's composition and I thought it needed more.

So I took out my trusty sketch book, which I gotta do more often, and started doodling.  It always seems to free my mind a bit - Andddddd as usual curves came out which eventually ended up being a tree.  So added a tree to piece.  It took a bit of playing to get the bench just where I wanted it and the horizon line set but by noon on the first day, the sketch was ready.

Next came the fabric auditions.  So many fabrics wanted to be the star of the piece, but I was aiming for a limited palette and a nice balance of cool colors and just a hint of warm for some tension.  Plus, I wanted to add a nice accent color in there.  Can't have Elizabeth Barton thinking I had forgotten everything she taught me LOL!  I was doing fine until I came to that dang horizon line.  Its so hard to get the correct value of fabrics when the range of that value is so small.  Still the darkest fabrics ended up near the front and the lightest faded away into the background near the top.  It only took about 4 hours to get them that way.  Also the accent color needed to be placed around the piece so that it would help the eye move nicely.  Because the figure was so dark and saturated against the horizon, the contrast was there for the focal point.

Finally, with Jeannette's blessing,  I got to sew it down.  First though I anchored it with a million blood drawing silk straight pins.  Talk about Bleeding for your Art.  But I managed to not stain up the top.  With all the fabric sewn down to a stabilizer back, I could put in the thread work textured.  It was such a treat to be at this point by Wednesday, so that I could consult with Jeannette on where texture lines should go and how line would be a whole new addition to the design elements.  Her big advice - DON'T GO TWEE. (excessively sentimental, sweet,or pretty ) Since I'm not twee by nature - well the Calandar Cows are the exception - it wasn't hard to do.  I'm about a quarter the way done with the stitching - which I'm doing with the batt backing.  Next time I'm going to layer with a thin muslin backing since the batt tends to get every where.  I'm really pleased with the progress so fair on this piece.

So as you can tell, I had great time this week.  Jeannette is easily one of the best teachers out there to take a design class from.  She's generous with her time (we had a meeting during dinner one day and she came back to check on us at night), she always knows what answer to give you in the least amount of words and she had the patience of a saint.  She was so hard working during the week - never leaving when the class time was up and always rotating around the room in case you had a quick question.  I loved her inspiring poetry, her funny cartoons and her quick little talks on different aspects of being an art quilter.  Really its the kind of week that can sustain your creativity for a year!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Off to Quilting by the Lake

Well I'm leaving today for my annual trip to Quilting by the Lake held in Syracuse, New York.  This will be my 10th year so I hope it will be a special one.  I'm taking a class from Jeannette DeNicolis Meyer called Expressive Fiber, Master Class.   Basically its more of a directed studio than a design class.  The class is to have  class critiques and brainstorming as well as other professional concerns of a fiber artist like a good artist statement (is there such a beast out of there?).  I remember when it was first announced last year that  some quilters were intimidated to sign up since it was posted for intermediate to advanced quilters.  That didn't phase me until I saw a list of the ladies that will be joining me this week.  There are some very talented women in that class.  Its always a little scary going in wondering if you will measure up!

This is my second time having Jeannette.  I had her about 5 years ago in a design class.  At the time, I never really understood or appreciated abstract art and she was the first teacher who truly opened my eyes to it.  Her work is abstract but you can clearly see what she's trying to portray with it.  It really moved me to the next level with my own work and I loved the piece I created that week.  I nicknamed  it the Praise Ladies because it was based on women at church who go up to the alter to dance and sway in praise to God.

That was also the piece that won my first ever 3rd prize at our county fair (I usually would win 1st or 2nd).  While I was still bumming about that, a lady from Ohio called, said she had seen the quilt at the fair and could she buy it .  So it was my first art piece sold.  She wanted it for her Yoga studio.

I always credited Jeannette for bringing out the best in my work and I'm hoping that this week it will be no different.  I'm thinking I'll continue the arches series - but you never know what I'll end up with.  I'll just have to pray and see what happens!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Somethin' on the Wall

Well after a week of working on it - I did manage to get somethin' on the wall.  There was a lot of sweat involved though.  First of all - am I the only one that thinks creating in 95 degree temps is hard? Here on mild Lake Erie we only get this type of weather once or twice a year, so we've never bother to put in a condenser for central air.  Most summer days, my house doesn't go higher than 78  - but not this week!  It was crazy hot in this old Victorian.

Still I moved along on the piece.  Looking at the scale of the last arch I did, I thought I might make this one a bit larger.  I don't know - I just like working with pieces that are around 36 - 45 inches.   With that though, I needed to use some of my bigger hand dyed fabrics.  With the palette of golds, browns and magenta as an accent - I really had to dig through my stash.  It was fun though, pawing up the cottons.  It was like getting reacquainted with an old friend.  I did manage to use quite a few pieces I dyed myself last year - yay!!

Anyways - after a week or so  - I manage to get the basic design done.  I didn't pin it totally down because I want to let it cook while I'm out of town.  I'm sure it will need some adjusting when I get back from Quilting on the Lake.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Getting Back on the Horse or the Arch. . .

Well after a long hiatus from creative sewing, I manage to finally, start sewing again.  It was nothing major that stopped my creative process, but after my computer was finally up and running, Christmas happened.  Then we were solidly into the "dark" months of winter here in NW Pennsylvania.  Its never been my most creative time, but this year I was hit with a perimenopausal funk of exhaustion.  I was too tired to get anything done besides teaching at school and keeping the house running.  Still with the help of some  progesterone cream - which worked miracles btw - I'm back to my ole self!

With that said, I've  put aside Tessa's cows which still remain undone, and started back on the arches series.  I have Quilting on the Lake looming in a week, so I thought it might be time to actually start a whole new piece to get my creative juices flowing.  It was hard - very hard - but finally it seems that things are going smoothly again.

So this week I've managed to pick an inspirational photo from my huge file of them and to trace out the lines that the most important to me.  Sometimes this step needs some major editing work, but I really like the flow of the lines in this photo and thought I would use it just as.

Once that was done, I took out the handy set of gray scale color pencils I have and made a value drawing of the photo.  I find value drawings a super help and it really keeps me on track as I go through the process.  With the value drawing in place, I started to look at color palettes.  Since I feel so out of the whole creative process, I took out my art, quilt, and fiber art books and picked a piece that the colors really struck me.  Now I just applied that palette to my own piece - "easy-breezy".  Sometimes I go through such design and color angst that it really can stifle the whole process.  This way, I could jump right into the fabric stage of it!!
Well getting into the creative process is not like writing a bike but a little conditioning I'm sure I'll be back at it.