Sunday, December 12, 2010

Details, details, Part One

Detail of my Sgt. Pepper-esque
Jacket for Peter B. Lewis
 By nature, I am oriented to details. I have found this to be an odd quirk of my otherwise creatively driven personality. Some of my artist friends don't seem to have this side to their personalities, and it only seems to apply to many artists when it comes to their work. For me, I inherently pay attention to the details. It doesn't matter what I am doing. Planning a garden? Learn every name of every plant. Measure the amount of sunlight in every area of the yard at each time of the day. Do this for a week. In each season of the year. Writing a book? Interview every person in the field who was alive at that time. Read every issue of Quilter's Newsletter Magazine from its inception, (and make detailed notes by subject) so you can have the proper questions prepared for your interview subjects. You get the idea. I'm not what is fondly called these days, "anal"; I'm just thorough, and obsessively so. It's just the way my mind works.

When I am creating a new art piece, after the thrill of creating the actual composition has passed, I love the layered stitching and embellishment part of my process the best. 
Recycled tags for my TagTalk cards wait to be taken to my downstairs sewing spot. On the right, a four drawer catcher for fabric scraps takes the overflow from my wire fabric storage. Knits and flannels are at the ready under my pinning wall, while a holiday order waits to be ironed at my mini ironing station.
You can see this on my Masks III, below.

When it comes to construction by stitching, my love of details transfers easily from creating my artwork to my designing my Magic Baby line of clothing. You would never know I am focused on the details, however, by looking at my studio at the moment:

On my sewing table, various "piles" wait their turn.
The embroidered black velvet is up next.

Here, a snowflake swing dress waits for its binding,
while a design experiment sits underneath until
I have more time.

My studio only looks like a mess. Since I have little space, I make piles, then work my way through them each week.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Getting Ready for the Holidays

I am sure every family has holiday customs; ours is no different. One thing I always do is make pie, so it was a special treat this year to have the chance to make pie with my not-quite-two-year-old granddaughter. She was a natural!

I hope all of you had some time to spend with loved ones this past week. That is, after all, what this season is about for me. Now that Thanksgiving is over, my thoughts are turning to December, to winter, and to Christmas, and I begin my preparations.

I continue to be busy making new Magic Baby clothes for my etsy shop. I am having a special Cyber Monday sale, which I invite you to take advantage of. I have artwork, supplies and, of course, my special baby clothes in my shop. For the sale, take 10% off your purchase by using the Etsy Coupon Code at checkout: CyberMondayGAP10. Happy shopping!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Life of Thankfulness

This week the official holiday season begins. With the consumerization of our traditional American family get-together times, I have to mentally take a step back as I am reminded what these times are really about. For me, that means my family.
Since both of my parents died suddenly, nearly twenty years ago now, I have tried to embrace each day with a sense of thankfulness. Their untimely deaths taught me that life is fleeting, and that we can live assuming that there will be a tomorrow. This isn't depressing to me; it's envigorating, a reminder that I need to make "today" count for something.

This week, give it a try: stop wasting time worrying or engaging in activities that do not bring you joy. Focus your thoughts on those you love, and those who love you. Think about each thing you do, each conversation, each moment in the day. We all have choices at our disposal, and that choice may be as simple as reframing our thoughts in a positive way. I'm not suggesting a pollyanish approach to life. We all have real problems we are facing, and struggles to overcome. Still, we can bring love to each day by simply thinking about it. The human brain is miraculous!

So, for me, this week represents a time of focusing my energies on my family. I will be traveling a long distance to be with loved ones, dragging my sewing machine along so that I can fix curtains (a requested act of love.) I will be bringing handmade presents for a two year old granddaughter. I will be making homemade pie as a gesture of love, and joining in the FamJam, our family music time when guitars come out and all voices are welcome.

I wish all of you a week full of love and thankfulness. What will you be doing this week?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chemo Scarf tutorial

Just a quick update: Michelle at just sent a note that she shared my blog link on her blog. Michelle has created a wonderful tutorial for creating a chemo scarf, which I followed to create one for a friend's sister who is undergoing cancer treatment. What better way to say "I care"? Thanks for your great instructions, Michelle!
As you will see when you go to Michelle's blog, I created my scarf using vintage kimono silk and a purchased (and very soft) headband. Sorry I didn't have a better picture, but I wanted to get it in the mail : )
This is just one of many ways to send love!!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Playing With Image Transfers

One of Gayle's collages incorporating image transfers
I taught a class this past week on using image transfers. I have loved playing with transferred images since I first discovered as a kid that the funny pages could be transferred onto silly putty! Back in high school and college art classes, we used lighter fluid on printed magazine pages to release the ink and put it onto another surface. I was hooked by the layering, and have spent the last 35 years exploring that process.

From sunprinting to transfer paper, the possibilities are endless. One technique I hadn't played with for awhile is disperse dye transfer. Disperse dyes, paints and crayons offer opportunities for endless playing and experimentation.

Over the next weeks I hope to show you many of the techniques I have loved over the years. Unfortunately, today, blogger is (once again) not cooperating with me as I try to add new images. Does anyone know what is going on with that?

Anyway, I invite you to stay tuned, ask question, share your own experiments using image transfer. Enjoy!

To create this collage, I drew with oil pastel on matboard, then added cyan prints and heat transfers on top.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Making Buttons: A Tutorial

In one of my September posts, I promised you a tutorial to show you how I made the matching buttons for the outfit shown there. After over a week of trying to upload the tutorial here without success, I invite you to view Making Buttons: A Tutorial on youtube.

I have added a few new pictures here of outfits I have added handmade buttons to, and will post some more later when blogger decides to cooperate. Please scroll down to see the new pictures, and please leave me a post if you try making these buttons for yourself. Enjoy.

Finally, special thanks to my darling husband for taking the time to film this for me and upload it to youtube.  film this. Thanks, baby!

A close up of the challis fabric buttons I made to match my Magic Baby Peaches and Cream top.

The buttons for my Dot Coat are made in matching fleece.

Can you see the matching button on this Lucky Star jacket? This is what I like about making buttons!

Look forward to your comments,

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Gift to Cherish

Over the years I have frequently been the recipient of fiber-related gifts from friends and family members who recognize that the item they need to get rid of is too special to just throw away. I cherish these gifts of vintage fabric, old quilt tops, cotton dresses bought at auction, or the stack of handmade infant dresses a college girlfriend gave to me a few years back.
The gift I received this week, however, is unlike anything I have ever been given. It is beautiful, and I thank you, my friend. I can't wait to create a new Magic Baby design based on this garment.

The attached cape is pulled back here so you can see the body of the front.
 I received a note on facebook from a fellow artist and hometown friend to say he had found this amazing infant dress / coat while clearing some things out, and thought I might like it. I had no idea what to expect, but told him I would take good care of it. When the package arrived, I opened it to find this beautiful hand-stitched baby garment. Since I am not exactly sure what to call it, I thought perhaps you, my readers, might have more knowledge than I do. Here are the pictures:

This is the front, which features a two-button closure, beautiful embroidery and an attached capelet.

The capelet and the embroidery are on the back of the garment, too.

Look at this beautiful detail!
I carefully cleaned it, but some delicate staining remains. Everything is hand-stitched. It feels too heavy to be a dress, but it is definitely sized for an infant, as evidenced by the length of the sleeves. Because it is so long, I wonder if it may have been some sort of christening gown? The material is heavy and canvas-like, leading me to suspect it is a heavy muslin or a type of homespun. I look forward to your observations!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

X Marks the Spot

Starting a new journal is a wonderful, almost incomparable experience. I posted about journaling most recently a few weeks ago, and promised one of my readers a comment or two about what I described as "consecrating" a journal.

The image to the left shows the first page of a new journal, the Japanese stab-stitch bound journal shown in my previous post. One exercise I teach my students is designed to overcome the fear of "ruining" a new journal, especially a hand-made one. First we discuss all the ways that we can turn off the negative "censor" voices in our heads, the voices that prevent us from reaching our creative core. Then I talk to them about the journey they are about to begin in their new journals. Then, favorite writing tool in hand, I ask each student to select a page in their journal, and make an "x" on the page. "X" marks the point of entry into the pages of this personal, perhaps sacred, journey. Make your mark to begin.

 Many of my friends work with journals, often using them to work out their ideas for other artwork they will create. The examples below are from my friends in my artist group, the tArts, artists Susan Shie and Jill Milenski.

This is one of Susan's many journals. This one is for the drawing class she teaches.

Jill sketches everywhere, and often makes paintings from her sketches.

I would love to hear about your journaling experiences. Please reply : )

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Inspired by my own Magic Babies

It's been a busy fall so far. Here is a quick post showing you what I have been up to the past few weeks.

Here is one of my Magic Baby muses with her daddy's guitar. She is wearing her fruity flower dress, one of my early prototypes. Since the knot shoulder closure proved to be difficult in dressing her, I have redesigned the shoulder closure. Still, she looks adorable, don't you think?

According to their mothers, all of my Magic Babies are growing like weeds, and need new clothes. I have gone back to my upcycling ways from thirty years ago, when I was a young mother and had to refashion existing clothes for my children. Here are a few examples that I made for the new crop of babies in the family.

This is a cute swing top with matching pants. I upcycled a sweatshirt for the top, then added some applique and a knit contrast edge. Can't wait to see her wearing it. For the pants, I had some matching stretch baby wale corduroy. Perfect!

For this next three piece outfit, I used part of a stash of clothing my sister recently gave to me. This was made from a sweater skirt and top that had been my mothers over two decades ago. I paired it with a paisley challis, made matching buttons, added some lace, and voila!

The challis was tricky to work with on top of the knit, but I just moved slowly, and it worked. I used the existing sweater neck edge, but sewed it on separately. The challis band extends around the back into cute ties. I talked my husband into filming a tutorial while I made the matching buttons. I'll post a link to that later.

The matching sweater skirt has a soft waistband and a challis and lace edge.  I added a pleated skirt from the lightweight challis, which hangs underneath the knit.
For my other little Magic Baby girl, I took an existing onesie and added a double ruffled skirt with the pre-made sheer trim. Then, from the remnants of a purchased fleece blanket, I couldn't resist whipping up the polka dot jumper!

There are many more to show you, but that is enough for now. I will finish with two new designs, not made from something else. The first is a layered skirt made from sheers and tulle. My daughter calls it the "Prom Dress." The last is a custom order I just finished. It is a size 8, and is a version of my Little Frenchy design for toddlers. I call the bigger size the Frenchy Girl.

I just finished a new coat design made with polka dots for winter. I call it the Twirl Coat. More to come!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

This Way, Please, Part 2: It's Hell Getting Old

Here are some more pix from my visit last week to Clare Murray Adams' studio. The day ended with a quick dinner at home before heading out to the gallery at BayArts for the member's show opening. My friend Gail Crum's wonderful piece, It's Hell Getting Old, was one of 50 pieces juried into the exhibition!

It's Hell Getting Old, a mixed media artwork by Gail Crum

My friend Gail inside the free-standing library. 

One of Clare's artworks onsite

Everywhere you looked, indoors and out, Clare and her artist husband are surrounded by artwork. It doesn't get any better than that!

Artwork everywhere! Here are some of John's sculptures

After an inspirational tour of the property, we sat in the living room for dessert. How can you not love the Rooster Chair?

After stopping by the opening to see Gail's new work, we headed over to a local winery to see one of our favorite musicians perform, Cletus Black.  A fabulous bluesy singer-songwriter, Cletus is also just a really cool guy. I have never seen anyone so comfortable in their own skin.

Cletus at the winery
It was the perfect ending to a fabulous day.

It may be hell getting old, but I plan to do it surrounded by art and artists; this is what keeps us young at heart.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

This Way, Please, Part 1


Ah, yes, this way, please. I love this journal, because I treasure my collection of "body parts" images, snapped by my husband at my request. I use them all the time in my artwork.

I am teaching a journal making workshop here locally next month, on October 2nd. All students (young adults welcome) will learn how to make a hand bound Japanese stab-stitch journal. In addition, we will discuss journaling techniques, and I will get the class started by showing them (this could mean YOU) how to "consecrate" their work.  The picture below shows a detail of the binding technique, which I have utilized on one of my own personal journals.

Last Friday was a rare "out of the house" day for me. I get so busy working, that sometimes weeks go by in
which I realize I haven't seen any people...and I'm a Taurus!! Believe, this can be painful. Anyway, my
artist friend Gail Crum and I made a studio visit last week. We talked art all the way there and all the way home, a total of three hours in the car. We also talked art while visiting the artist studio, of course, and we were joined by another mutual friend for lunch, so I got to talk books, as well. It was a lot of fun. Clare Murray Adams and I have been friends for a long time, and our creative paths have aligned themselves through sheer destiny, it sometimes seems.

Here is the door to Clare Murray's studio:

 It was such an inviting and inspiring location. Here is some of what we saw:
                                         Zippered rocks and zippered sticks:

                                   and a cool collaborative project Clare is doing with Oberlin artist Rebecca Cross:

And all of this before lunch! More to come in This Way, Please, Part II.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tomorrow & Tomorrow & Tomorrow

Ahhh, tomorrow. So much gets put off until then, and sometimes, for some of us, it never arrives. Luckily for me, my tomorrow is beginning today. Today is my lucky day, because I think I found the ticket to finally getting some help figuring out some of the things I need to get done...metaphorically...tomorrow.

One of my TagTalk cards from my etsy store

But first, I wanted to post one of my new Magic Baby designs. I love making jumpers, capelets, overalls and the like, but I really love making outfits. You know, matching jackets and skirts, or a top and leggings, a kimono jacket with matching overalls...things like that. Admitedly, they are slower to sell, probably because they are more expensive. In making outfits, though, I try to maintain my commitment to unique, one-of-a-kind styles, which are also highly functional for babies and their parents:, so I try to make the pieces both adjustable and reversible.

My newest Magic Baby outfit, a soft-waisted fairy skirt with a reversible jacket
It's been fun getting out my fall fabrics to work with. For this design, I have pulled out the wonderful star-sprinkled twill for the jacket. It is paired with pinwale corduroy and matching cotton for the details. As you can see, I haven't finished the reversible jacket yet. I have made two matching covered buttons for the jacket, one for this side, and one for the reverse. Tomorrow, I just need to make the buttonholes, then sew them on. The jacket has roll-up, adjustable sleeves, a cute bottom ruffle, and a shaped neckline echoed in the fairy skirt peplum. The back is here, on the left. I appliqued matching corduroy edged with piping to the jacket neckline. Cute!

The back of the skirt peplum dips lower than the front, and is finished with trim and matching covered buttons. The skirt waistband, which you can't see here, is a nice, stretchy soft knit.  I love it!

Because all of my designs are produced by me, and are one-of-a-kind in terms of the fabrics used, I have been really trying to figure out how to expand my design presence. I don't want to mass produce, so I've been thinking instead of how to develop my designs into patterns. With over 25 years and a substantial reputation designing, making and exhibiting art quilts, a solid selling book under my belt, and now my work in designing baby clothing, I want to find a way to reach a larger audience. Enter my friend, fellow artist and tech-guru Shannon Okey.

I first met Shannon when we were both doing book-signings at the Sewing Expo in Cleveland. We were seated next to each other, and I liked and admired her from the moment we met. If you are a knitter, you probably have some of her wonderful knitting design books. I later discovered, by comparing our linkedin profiles, that we have similar backgrounds, the strangest one being that we both speak German! Anyway, Shannon is younger than I am, and I am in complete "I'm not worthy" mode when I see what she does on the web. I had been planning to call her next week to ask for help, when, today, in catching up on blogs I follow, I read hers, and immediately signed up for one of her new online classes, e-book basics. My goal is to learn how to create my own pdf pattern files, teach my honed-over-many-decades workshops online, and generally try to upgrade my knowledge of the online world. Starting a blog and my etsy shop were first steps. Thanks, Shannon, for giving me a "ticket" to my tomorrow.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Marshmallows...As a Food

I really wanted to do something meaningful today. I just can't get my head straight to work and be creative. Today, I just feel like sleeping, or reading quietly, or doing something that does not make my head hurt.

That is how I came to be looking through some old files on my computer, and ran across this delightful picture, an ad for "Cooking and Eating Dilling's Marshmallows" a food. Since there are no instructions included, I have been half-heartedly thinking about a) a food and, b) how one might go about cooking marshmallows. The only way I know to cook them is to roast them over an open fire. In my mind, that is not exactly "cooking." That is, in fact, only roasting: charring the outside of the marshmallow until it threatens to drip off the stick.

If I had a bag of marshmallows right now, I might be tempted to just sit and eat them. That is how I feel today. Being a creative person is hard sometimes. I think this is, in part, due to how the creative brain is wired, and how sensitive it seems to be by nature. That sensitivity occurs in at least two forms: internally and externally. The creative mind is internally sensitive, because it is highly trained, and perhaps inherently so, to pick up on cues, to interpret information differently, and to set to work playing around with that information. A creative person is also sensitive externally. By that I speculate that creative people are sensitive people, who respond with heightened reactions (overly sensitive) to external stimuli. When this happens, we feel burned out, empty and unproductive. That, at least, is how I feel.

How I long to go into my studio and make something. I just don't have it in me today, and I've decided not to fight If only I had a bag of marshmallows to keep me company.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Whooping It Up

With my hubby off to band practice, I find myself with a few hours in a quiet house. This is a rare thing when both of us are working at home. I have a long "to do" list, like most of you do, I'm sure. Instead of tackling the garden weeds after a nice rain, I decided to look through my blog posts. This is my version, for today only, of whooping it up!

First of all, I just wanted to say a quick "thank you" to those of you who read my blog, even on occasion. In looking through my own past posts, there is some meaty subject matter there, if I do say so myself. I appreciate my blog readers immensely, especially knowing that most of you, like me, have very full plates in your day-to-day lives. So thank you all for taking the time.

I was going through old posts, because I had a sneaking suspicion that I have left many loose ends. Indeed, that is the case, as I read my own promises of "more to come" in future posts. In reality, I have found that life sometimes interferes with good intentions. Most often, though, I find that I am so busy trying to stay focused on the work at hand, the real, palpable work within my studio walls, that I often don't take the time to "document" what I am doing so I can easily post it here. Sigh. Such is life.

Altered Books workshop I taught in July

In the spring "post wedding" (please see my previous posts on this subject), the summer lay ahead, and promised to be a busy time. Now, as August comes to an end, I can say that this summer was very busy, indeed. Having not blogged about each event as it happened, I can only offer a brief overview of the highlights here.

I had a terrfic group of students in the Creating Altered Books workshop I taught at my local arts center. I brought along a stack of my own altered books to show what I have done over the years in this fun medium.  

Writing in a journal is a great way to sort your thoughts

In early August, I presented a Creativity Workshop at the BayArts Women's Retreat weekend. This is probably my favorite class to present. Students only need simple tools, a journal and a pen, to work with in blowing their minds! I have spent at least a decade devising methods to help my class participants find their way back to their creative cores. The methods have been tested with many age groups and in many settings, and are very effective. It's gratifying for me to see the light bulb going off in my students' heads as they work.

For those of you in the area, I have two fun workshops coming up for Fall 2010, both at BayArts on the lake. In October is a family friendly workshop, The Family Journal Night, in which participants will learn how to hand bind a Japanese stab-stitch journal and consecrate it.

Detail of my hand bound journal and the spine

I customized the spine of my journal by adding spacers made from an old deck of playing cards. Adding spacers prevents thick pages in the journal from interfering with how the journal closes.

In November I am teaching Image Transfer techniques. Transferring images using a half dozen or so techniques is very popular right now, but I learned the basic methods while still in high school in the 1970s, and more in my freshman year of college. I have been using various techniques in my artwork for three decades now. This is another class that is really fun to teach, since the results are instantaneous! If you're around Northeastern Ohio, I hope you will join us!

One of my collages incorporating image transfers

As for the rest of the summer, there was a lot of live music, two class reunions, and lots and lots of sewing. My ongoing challenge for the months ahead is to continue to try to figure out how to balance it all. If you have any insights, I would love to hear them.