My kids and I will be at Arts in the Park this Saturday (more info here) selling lots of lovely handmade items. They’ll be selling beaded bracelets to benefit red pandas, and I’ll be selling sewn, knit, and dyed items (mainly to benefit their craft supply fund, I suspect!). It should be a fun day for families so if you’re local, stop by and say hello!
The local art supply store that carries my pencil pockets let me know they’d need some more, so I went on a little sewing spree this past week. These are so much fun to make mainly because I treat them like little canvases. For some, I use upcycled fabric or fabric from my stash, like so:
The greenish fabric is from a pair of my husband’s pants that got an unmendable hole. I’ve printed it with a linocut* of one of his bicycles. The denim is also upcycled, with fun accent stripes. The linen is stamped* with a hand-carved stamp, and the rest of the fabrics are from stash. The gears and the fish, by the way, are fabrics my middle child picked out for pajama pants. I always buy extra because he picks the best patterns.
I also bought some utility cotton and dyed it.
I love these so much. All of these are printed with hand-carved stamps*, except for the stripes, which were done with a flat-sided chopstick, spaced by eye. I love that one. And the butterflies, and the scallop shells…I love them all, did I mention?! Having the control over the color of the background fabric is amazing because then I can be sure my ink shows up.
While I was at it, I sewed up some small pockets too, again using a mix of fabrics.
First offer for these goes to the two local stores that currently have some of my pockets, and whatever remains I’ll list on Etsy. I’m also always happy to sew to order, and as a reminder, I still have two upcycled zip pouches available, to benefit the National Park Foundation.
* I use both linocuts–carvings into linoleum–and hand-carved stamps–which use a softer carving material. I’ve seen “linocut” used to refer to stamps and it’s a pet peeve of mine because they’re so different! Linoleum works much better for designs with fine lines, like the bicycle, and it’s a little harder to carve. When I first switched to linoleum from stamps there was a learning curve on what made a good design; it’s not simply transferable. And I use different inks with each. Anyway just my little PSA that these two things have similarities but are not interchangeable.
This exhibit is opening tonight, and I’m really excited and pleased to be represented. I have a textile piece, “Fractured,” included, and I want to tell you a little bit about it.
Creating has been up and down this year. It took me a bit to get back into the studio after moving and the Inauguration, and when I did, I began by sewing my feelings. Sew, slash, sew, slash, trying to get the inside out. This piece was the result, and what I intended. Something shattered, something broken, something fractured, but still in one piece. I almost didn’t submit this one. I first thought, It’s just piecing. Will that be taken seriously as “art” for a juried exhibition? I looked at it again and felt that if it were paint, ie, a more “traditional” fine art medium, I wouldn’t even be thinking twice, so I submitted it. I am extremely pleased that this textile piece is included in this exhibit, and I’m looking forward to seeing all the artwork. The Mitchell Gallery has been giving peeks on its Instagram feed and it all looks wonderful.
A rather housekeeping-ish post ahead, so I thought it best to start with a photo of the baby house finches nesting on our front door. We expect they’ll have to fledge any minute now because how on earth are those five birds squeezing themselves into that nest? They might just fledge when they start falling out, I don’t know. Aren’t they gorgeous? Little dinosaurs with beautiful wing feathers. My door, on the other hand, is a sight. Much poop. We’ll deal with it.
So, news! I’ve revived my dormant email list for news and added inspirations. Sign up is on the right. But let me share a few things here as well….
In March I sold some items to benefit the Southern Poverty Law Center. This month I’m selling zip pouches made of upcycled woven plastic birdseed bags. The images on them are fantastic! The full purchase price, minus listing fees, will be donated to the National Park Foundation. I think these pouches would be great for summer explores. Making things to sell in order to donate is one of the ways I’m dealing with my anxiety over every new announcement. It’s a little bit of, Here’s something I can do. It’s not the only thing I’m trying to do, but it’s part.
If you’re local to Annapolis, MD, or planning to visit the area, I have work in two upcoming shows downtown and zip pouches in two local stores. Maryland Federation of Art’s Spring Member Show runs from May 4 to May 26 at the Circle Gallery in Annapolis, and Image and Imagination: Anne Arundel County Juried Exhibition 2017 is at Mitchell Gallery from May 23 to June 11.
I’m getting more confident in what I make and do, and in talking about it. I still struggle (always will, I think) in getting down to it sometimes. So much else competes for my time, and when I get out of the habit of just going in and working, it’s harder to get started. I mean, this is obvious for anything, it’s just that a habit can so easily be knocked out of whack (sick kids, extra things in the schedule, whatever) and not so easily established again. So it’s a constant effort. There is always more going on in my head than is actually productively happening. And I still feel like I’m at three-quarter speed. Better than just after the inauguration, but not fully functioning. (Still struggling with reading books and inertia in general and with sleep, always.) Anyway, some random thoughts at the end of this post on creative effort, I guess. Oh, and it turns out submitting to shows can actually result in being in shows but never submitting guarantees not being in any. Hmm.
We don’t travel much (for various reasons), but at least we have always lived close by to interesting places we can visit for a night or two or even a day trip easily. We planned two nights in Philadelphia over the kids’ spring break week. Even that didn’t go to plan! Two of the kids were sick so we needed to delay it, but we got there eventually. It’s only about 2 1/2 hours away by car, and we arrived midday on a weekday (versus a Sunday, like we’d originally planned). We’d thought we could visit a museum first, since hotel check in was much later. Ahahaha, no. There is no place to park in Philadelphia! We finally found a parking garage that wasn’t full and it was this little tiny space where you left the keys and they stack the cars and we immediately left because three of us felt like we couldn’t breathe just driving in. Anyway, once we went to the hotel and left the car I didn’t hate Philadelphia so much. We walked everywhere and didn’t drive again until we left.
We tried to touch on everyone’s interests in three days, so we visited the Constitution Center, the Franklin Institute, and the Museum of Art. That is a lot of museum-ing in three days. We also walked a lot, and ate quite a bit, because we found some good gluten free options, like Sabrina’s Cafe and Waffles & Wedges. That was actually a pretty long walk from the hotel, but gluten-free waffles! That’s a rarity. Plus cute streets like this.
We also stopped at Rittenhouse Square on the way back to rest on the bench by the goat, which was, at 5 pm on a Thursday, the place to be for toddlers and dogs. We all enjoyed interacting with both. And while we took other pictures in other places, I’m just sharing art museum photos because that was by far my favorite part.
We decided to pay the extra to see the American Watercolor exhibit. It was definitely worth it. The admission desk had told me photography was fine as long as no flash, but neglected to say no photography at all in this exhibit, and if there was a sign I missed it, so oops, here are two photos (I did apologize when notified–I didn’t know!).
This is Isabella Stewart Gardner’s sketchbook.
I really love her museum so I snapped a pic. And hmm, this signage just spoke to me, if you know what I mean.
The exhibit explained how watercolor was looked down upon at first because it was just what children played with and ladies dabbled in. But then! Then the men embraced it and rebranded it as so American in its carefree-ness…or something like that. I’m glad the curators made sure to point that out. Plenty of women were already quite skilled in what was available to them. Sigh.
Moving on! The kids wanted to go to Arms & Armor after that, so my husband stayed with them while I got to go hunt down the Mondrians all by myself. I found them. This photo’s perspective is a bit skewed because I took it while sitting on the floor, because I needed to stare at them a while.
There were two more in the room behind me! I find the minimal approach and geometry very calming. When I get really anxious, my tendency is to try to order everything, because order and predictability feels calmer. Looking at a Mondrian, I feel, Ah, somebody has already done that for me. The gift shop had a print of the one on the right so I took it home and framed it.
Then I worked my way back through the modern art into impressionism and it was all lovely and I was all by myself the whole time, which is a gift, because I could just sit and stare at things as long as I wanted. Like this Degas dancer.
I got myself a membership, so I can go back and see the things I missed.
I spent about a week (off and on) dyeing batik fabrics. When I first wanted to learn how to dye, it was with batik as the ultimate goal. Batik is a resist method–you apply wax to the fabric, to protect it from being dyed–but it feels a lot like printmaking. Printmaking and fabric are two of my favorite things. I decided to practice and use the results to make my son a quilt. He chose the colors (green and orange) and I discussed ideas with him, but this was my project. I’m using Color Your Cloth by Malka Dubrawsky as my guide, but I used low-immersion dyeing, which results in a textured color rather than uniform.
I started simply, by applying wax to white fabric and dyeing once.
The circles were made with the plastic tube from the inside of a bundle of produce bags, and the triangles were made by fashioning cardboard into a triangle. I was aiming for orange for the bottom, but I learned that deep yellow creates a better orange than lemon yellow. This is a reddish orange.
Then I applied wax to dyed fabric, discharged the color from the unwaxed areas, and dyed again. This is so much fun.
This fabric was dyed green before wax was applied (using a cardboard rectangle). Then I discharged it and dyed it black. I was using the wax out on the deck and by the time I got to this piece, the sun had warmed it a little overmuch and it was a little runnier than it should have been. I just went with it. My son and I love this fabric.
This was also dyed green, wax applied with the end of a cardboard paper tube, discharged, and dyed orange. It vibrates (complementary colors will do that) but my son really likes it.
This fabric was created by dyeing cloth green, adding wax, discharging, adding wax again, and dyeing deep yellow. HOW COOL IS THAT? You get three colors on one piece of cloth! This is the only piece I tried that with this time but it’s definitely something I’ll explore more.
I did three yards by dyeing, adding wax, and overdyeing.
This first one was dyed turquoise before applying wax, then dyed lemon yellow. This was a little iffy from the get-go because I was putting a lighter color over a darker one. It’s very subtle. I thought about adding wax again and then dyeing the whole thing something darker, but my son likes this, so I kept it. Wax was applied with a potato masher.
I used a different potato masher for these next two.
Lemon yellow overdyed with cerulean blue.
Lemon yellow overdyed with light red. This has some circles mixed in too.
These last two were overdyed together in orange. The top one was dyed light grey, wax was applied with a cardboard diamond, the fabric was discharged, and dyed orange. The bottom one was dyed turquoise, wax applied with a cardboard rectangle, and dyed orange after discharging. The bottom one is a bit more of a rusty orange because the fabric still had a slight turquoise tinge.
I learned so much experimenting like this! I like applying wax with cardboard–something about how the cardboard absorbs the wax a bit made it easier for me, after practice, to control how much wax transferred to the fabric. The metal potato mashers were actually a little more difficult to control. I decided early on to embrace the unpredictability with this process, though. I don’t mind wayward drips of wax; I think it adds to the interest. I really love the effects that can be had using discharging, because you’re not limited to colors that mix well together.
The whole process is time-consuming, uses a lot of water for rinsing and boiling, and is physically wearying! If you ever wondered why hand-produced batik fabric is so expensive, there you go. I have a great space in the basement with a utility sink, second washer, lots of concrete floor space, and a table and shelves. My son called it my “lab.” That’s where I dye, rinse, and discharge, although it’s probably not ventilated quite well enough for the bleaching process. I was applying wax on the deck but then moved indoors to my art studio area, which was a little better on my back, too.
Like I said, though, it’s time-consuming, and I didn’t do any sewing. So now it’s time to shift back to that. My daughter’s quilt just needs quilting–I needed that to sit while I thought about it though. It’ll be the biggest quilt I’ve done and I’m a bit daunted at doing it in my home machine. That’s first on the list, though, above piecing my son’s. I definitely have the dyeing bug though.
At the beginning of 2016, I decided to commit to making one small art quilt per week. It had to be a quilt, that is, three layers of fabric held together by stitching. It had to be 6×8 inches. And it had to be weekly. Other than that, it was wide open. My goals were to make sure I was spending time each week being creative and to become a more confident and capable textile artist. The small size removed any pressure for perfection, opening up room for trial and error, practice and play. And I already knew that by making creative play time a priority, by showing up, ideas would show up too. At no time was I up against a deadline with no idea what to do.
Often, I decided to work on specific skills, like with this piece, where I focused on piecing improv curves and inserting a narrow stripe.
I often just sat down to play with materials, especially ones not thought of as traditional quilting materials.
Sometimes playing with materials led to ideas that I then explored later on in a larger format.
Some weeks, current events were reflected in my little pieces.
And personal events and feelings worked their way in, too.
This project fulfilled all my hopes for it. I am a better and more confident textile artist. I sewed so much and so often that for a while there I felt like the sewing machine was simply an extension of me; we worked that well together. I have ideas, and I have more things I want to experiment with. I also learned that a weekly commitment is just right for me. I have trouble with daily challenges and never seem to complete them. Part of this, I think, is because I have too many creative things I want to fit in, so prioritizing ONE thing into EVERY day means other things I like to do get left out too often. Weekly was never a problem, though. I completed every quiltlet on time.
I definitely want to get back to creating soon, but January is pretty much given over to cleaning, sorting, packing, moving, unpacking, and settling in. I’ve mentally prepared for not getting any real studio time in until February. That way, if I’m able to sooner, it’s a bonus. I have a lovely new space to work in, with a big window, and I’ve already hung a birdfeeder right outside it. I can’t wait to start creating there.
The final weekly quiltlet of 2016, and what else could it be, really? We still have 3 1/2 days to get through; who knows who will die next, or what calamity will occur. I’d be happier to see 2016 go except I’m so worried about what 2017 will bring, given the seeming demise of the American democratic experiment in favor of fascism and kleptocracy.
I never missed a week. Fifty-two weeks in a row of getting this small creative challenge completed on time. I’ll be back next year with some reflections on this project as a whole.
Stitching and Neocolor pastels on cotton.
We bought a house! It has a front porch AND a deck. It’s surrounded by trees, but part of a neighborhood. It feels remote (woods! no streetlights! nature!) but it’s only 15 minutes from downtown. It’s the nicest house by far that I’ll have ever lived in–the kids will each have their own rooms, plus we can have a guest room, plus a room for my art-making. The windows are big and let in lots of natural light. It’s airy and welcoming for entertaining. I can’t wait to move in.
Originally we were going to wait until spring to look for a house, but a few months ago, when the toilet backed up into the tub (that’s as gross as you think it is) and the landlord told us he felt it was our fault for “misuse of the tub,” that was the last straw for living here. Bad enough all the plumbing issues we’ve had, among other issues, in this house that had never been rented before and really wasn’t up to handling five people, but to then have the owner decide it must be us, rather than the old, weary plumbing–it was insulting. We started looking the next day. We put an offer in on this house the day before the election. It’s been hard to be excited about it as we moved through negotiations, inspections, and all the rest, what with the general state of the world. But we still need to have a place to live, and renting here is no longer workable. Yes, for a while, it was nice knowing if something went wrong, it wasn’t our financial responsibility. But the lack of control is just too hard. I will just say, this is not how we maintain a house we own, but we don’t own this one. I will miss our next door neighbors, and I’ll miss running over the Naval Academy Bridge, but I will not miss this old dusty leaky cricket-infested house AT ALL.
And every time we buy a house I feel fortunate. We began saving for a down payment the year we got married, 1999. At the time I was babysitting a coworker’s children once a week; her husband was a financial planner. I don’t think I knew of anyone who used a financial planner, and maybe didn’t even know it was a thing until I met them, and without a doubt we wouldn’t have even thought to seek one out. But there he was, and he helped us grow the money we saved faster than we expected, so we were able to buy a house before prices really exploded. When we sold that first house, we had made quite a bit, and we have put that money right back into subsequent houses ever since. We were disciplined, yes, and we hit the timing very well, but we were also connected to someone who could help us make the most of both, and that’s privilege. I recently saw an article that Millennials who own houses do so because their parents either helped them with a down payment, or with college costs, or both. We’re older than that generation, and our college cost less (and one of us had help), but we still benefited from who we know. It really does take luck on top of discipline and work.
That’s my housing story. And since this is quiltlet number 50, here’s another grouping of ten.
Not all my quiltlets are textile diary entries, but many fall under that category, and without looking back I’d guess this grouping of ten has more of those than most. It’s been a difficult year. I feel a bit conflicted, ending the year on a high personal note (yay! a house!) while also feeling despair and fear over the state of the country and the world. It’s been hard to feel positive over anything. Two more weeks, and quiltlets, to go in 2016.