Tag Archives: artblog

Field Trip: Philly

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.

Philly street at amyhoodarts.com

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.

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 women behind the men at amyhoodarts.com

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.

Mondrians at amyhoodarts.com

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.

Mondrian at amyhoodarts.com

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.

Degas dancer at amyhoodarts.com

I got myself a membership, so I can go back and see the things I missed.

Batik: First Experiments

batik fabrics at amyhoodarts.com

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.

batik fabrics at amyhoodarts.com

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.

batik fabric at amyhoodarts.com

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.

batik cloth at amyhoodarts.com

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.

batik fabric at amyhoodarts.com

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.

batik fabric at amyhoodarts.com

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.

batik fabric at amyhoodarts.com

Lemon yellow overdyed with cerulean blue.

batik fabric at amyhoodarts.com

Lemon yellow overdyed with light red. This has some circles mixed in too.

batik fabric at amyhoodarts.com

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.

Reflections on a Year of Quiltlets

All 52 quiltlets, in order of making

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.

amyhoodarts.com

I often just sat down to play with materials, especially ones not thought of as traditional quilting materials.

amyhoodarts.com

When I bought Neocolor pastels….

amyhoodarts.com

That netting was fun

amyhoodarts.com

Stitching on paper maps

amyhoodarts.com

Fruit netting (I hoard the plastic netting on the clementine boxes every winter)

amyhoodarts.com

This was so much fun to make

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.

amyhoodarts.com

After the Pulse shooting

amyhoodarts.com

Before the election

And personal events and feelings worked their way in, too.

amyhoodarts.com

After taking the kids into DC to see the cherry blossoms

amyhoodarts.com

How I felt about just about everything by September

amyhoodarts.com

And we ended the year by buying a house of our own

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.

Art Quiltlet: 52/52

Stick a Fork In It art quiltlet at amyhoodarts.com

“Stick a Fork In It”

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.

Art Quiltlet: 50/52

House art quiltlet, amyhoodarts.com

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.

art quiltlets 41-50 at amyhoodarts.com

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.

Art Quiltlet: 49/52

"Light" art quiltlet at amyhoodarts.com

This is last week’s quiltlet, using applique. (Can you see the free motion writing in the background?) As the winter solstice approaches I feel a definite connection to the ancestors who knew that this is a time of year that calls for light. Different cultures, religions, and traditions all felt called to honor light at this time of year; it’s a common human need. This year feels even darker than usual. I seek the light, in myself and others. Be the light in the darkness.

Art Quiltlet: 48/52

"Resist" art quiltlet at amyhoodarts.com

This came out a little paler than I’d meant. I of course used a resist technique (glue batik). Every day something newly outrageous occurs (many things, in a usual day). It’s hard to keep up. It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed. I need to still be outraged, though. Complacency due to over-saturation can’t be the answer.

Art Quiltlet: 47/52

Art quiltlet at amyhoodarts.com

Playing a little catch up here! All of these were sewn in their respective weeks, I’ve just been behind in sharing them here. This one is purely practical; I bought a stitch-in-the-ditch foot and wanted to practice. Then I added some free-motion quilting because I hadn’t practiced that in a while. Fabric is my own hand-dyed.

Art Quiltlet: 46/52

Boxed in: PTSD art quiltlet at amyhoodarts.com

Boxed in: PTSD

I’m white, heterosexual, in a straight marriage, and not Muslim, and so relatively safe, for the moment, from what seems to be descending upon us all right now. But I don’t feel safe. I’ve written before about PTSD and also about how one candidate, now, amazingly, our President-elect, triggered the hell out of me. I know I’m not the only one. For me, it’s how he so strongly reminds me of someone who was psychologically and, at times, physically abusive. Misogyny, racism, lying, gaslighting. Now, this person is in charge of the country. I do not feel safe. PTSD symptoms are getting harder to manage. I know I’m not the only one. But that doesn’t make me feel better; it makes me feel worse. It’s hard to write about and I’m done trying for now. That’s why visual art exists too.