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Archive for the ‘work’ Category

I came across this video a while back on the Quilt Art mailing list and, for some reason, neglected to share it on the blog.

Elizabeth Gilbert approaches the idea of genius from a refreshingly new slant. While I’m not sure that I agree with the idea that Genius is a disembodied gremlin living in my fabric cupboard, I will freely admit that I appreciate the need to release genius from the artist’s self and allow for work without brilliance. My theory is more that the consistent work and striving towards betterment allows for the incredible coincidence of genius to happy. Basically, quantity with deliberate attention allows for quality.

My favourite part is probably right at the very end…… “I would please like the record to reflect today that I showed up for my part of the job.”   Brilliant.

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After my fabric painting adventure, I’m back at the design wall again.

Right now I’m working on several pieces, as is my wont. Typically, I have half a dozen on the go at a time, in various stages. I find it helpful to work this way as I can move from a piece that has stalled for whatever reason to working on a piece that is moving forward. If I worked with only once piece at a time, I’d spend hours sitting and thinking and staring at the wall. Which would occasionally be nice, but doesn’t result in much completed work. 😉

So while I mentally prepare for tomorrow’s workshop (which is all ready to go), I’ve been working on the pieces below.

Typically, I start out with an idea, pick the background or defining fabrics and then work forward. I generally have sketched out my idea, for the most part, in advance, so that when I have the background fabrics picked, I can start pinning up paper versions of points of land, buildings and the like. This is the start of a series. Not all of the skies and oceans will be the same, as I intend to vary the time of year and day of the view. I’m also going to do some serious fooling around with the borders and will post photos as they progress. Right now I’m in the fabric auditioning stage and am getting the rock fabrics and trees figured out. I’m also working on the foreground. More photos to come as I have them!

whaleback2

These two are inspired by the photos in this post (which will open in a new window, so that you can see the photos and this page, too).

whaleback1

And this piece, which is me playing around with the possibilities of shears as a raw-edged material (background fabric hand-dyed by me, fence posts felted with all sorts of bits and pieces in them):

snow piece

house

Anyway, must tear myself away from the design wall and focus on the workshop…..

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One of the things I’ve often found to be a great remedy for artistic blockage is fabric painting and dyeing. Painting more so than dyeing, truth to tell. Having completely depleted my hand-painted fabric supply over the past few months, I decided to have a go at some skies and oceans.

Normally I paint outside, with the mess factor weighing in heavily as  a reason. February in Newfoundland is not exactly….. warm, however, so I set up the studio for some inside work and turned up the heat a wee tad to speed drying.

prep

I painted this lot on corrugated plastic sheets, which are light-weight, resilient, waterproof, flat and easily stored. These are 48″ square, which is a comfortable size for working with indoors in a small studio. When I’m not painting on them, I use them as design walls and pin pieces in progress to them.

As you can see, I had a successful day. This is only some of what was accomplished. I painted about eight metres of fabric, all told.

night skies
Night ocean and sky, drying.

sky
Summer sky, drying.

during
My studio, waiting for the paint to dry!

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I am, in the spirit of spring, clearing out some stock from my studio. You can see the first lot posted here.

All of the stock is of good quality. There is nothing wrong with it other than I simply need the space (both physical and creative) more than the stock at present.

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It’s funny how sometimes you take the same photographs of the same places and, without even realising it, track the seasons of time through those pictures.

One of the views that always strikes me as particularly dramatic is that of Whaleback Rock here in Torbay. I walk over the crest of the hill on our street and the ocean is before me. Another five minutes by foot and I am engulfed in the visually stunning combination of blue ocean, craggy cliffs and sweeping hillsides.

The photos don’t really do it justice, of course, which is one of the reasons I’m translating my visual chronology into art pieces. Still working on layouts, but the series is in progress.

The hardest part of this process is deciding whether to simply do a four-season series, whether to vary the structure and composition of the pieces from each other or whether to simply use this vista as a jumping point and do spontaneously whatever comes to mind.

The artist in me says, “be free! create!”. The businessperson in me is tempering that with, “yes, but make a saleable series and for heavens’ sake stretch it out a good bit and make some money.” I have decided that will listen to both. The first thing that came to mind was the four seasons aspect, so I’ll start with that. Complete the seasons and work in a smaller, less expensive series that mirrors the larger gallery pieces. The next step would be to play with the structure and composition, trying different media (i.e. watercolour or pen and ink drawings), perhaps working the horizontal view into four vertical tiles hung side-by-side…. You get the picture.

Here are a select few of the many photos that I’ve taken from roughly this same point of view, to give you an idea of the landscape of my world and the focus of this series :
April 26, 2006

Whaleback Rock

Feb 12, 2006

Church Cove, Torbay, Newfoundland

Oct 21, 2005

Whaleback rock close-up

Oct 21, 2005

A dog's-eye view

Oct 21,2005

Whaleback Rock

And for a bit of a twist:

Oct 3, 2005 (taken from the other side of the bight)

Gallows Cove
Starting the Gallows Cove portion of the East Coast Trail.

a quickr pickr post

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As per Micki’s request in the comments of my last post, here’s a photo of the ugly birch fabric:

Ugly birch fabric

It’s a Northcott Lyndhurst fabric designed by Janet Orfini as a part of the Farmer’s Market series. I found it in the country-kitsch (and I mean that non-derogatorily) section of a local fabric store.

The realm of prints in these sorts of series (i.e. Thimbleberries and other country-style collections) usually don’t appeal to me personally as a theme or colour scheme for a quilt. I’m also not much into farm prints, chickens, cows or scarecrows. The individual textures of all of these things, however, fascinate me mightily.

I can see how other people might like these collections for their intended purposes, though, and have found that the often dull or muted tones of certain fabrics can be extremely useful in landscape quilting. So it’s a section that I frequent, when I’m not painting my own fabric, but not, I suspect, for its most popular use.

Actually, one of the ugliest fabrics I’d ever seen (and we’re talking truly hideous) turned out to have just the right textures (looked like moldy wood) to serve as the background fabric for the tree in this picture:

Whose Woods These Are

You see those spots? Yeah, they look fine for the tree, but as a whole sheet of brown, grey and taupe covered in what I swear resembled mildew, it was entirely unappealing.

This is why I don’t throw out ugly fabrics that happen to be in the colour schemes in which I often work. Thus far, just about every ugly fabric has served a very unique and essential purpose in some piece or other. I’m usually quite dubious at the outset, but it always seems to work out.

The piece below contains three or four almost-ugly fabrics. The trees, in the background, behind the house? Unattractive grey-green that I used as the basis for enhancing with fabric pastels. Some of the rock and grass fabrics were also entirely unappealing, although not truly into the realm of hideous. Sometimes an ugly fabric can be transformed when cut up into smaller pieces. Sometime it takes chopping out or covering over certain blotches or areas. Quite regularly, I over-paint, add details or over-dye fabrics that have the right texture, but need a colour change. Occasionally, as in the trees below, the colour is right, but the texture needs to be created.

Passages

detail of passages

So treasure your uglies, especially if they are in anyway reminiscent of your usual colour schemes or creative habits!

Incidentally, if you haven’t already checked out Micki’s blog, it’s well worth a regular read. Recently she posted about burning the bejeezus out of painted Tyvek, a trick I’ve wanted to try for a while but am holding off on until I can do it outside (bad fumes). Summer’s coming, though!

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Over the last few days, I’ve been preparing summer stock for two of the shops I supply. Most places around here like to be in full swing by mid-May, so I generally aim to have things in their hands by mid-April.

This week has been a week of birches. I use hand-dyed cotton fabric (low water immersion dyes using Procion MX, in case you’re interested) for the backgrounds and fussy-cut the pieces for specific spots in the fabric. Wastage is minimal, however, as the smaller works (4.5″ squares, for instance) can make excellent use of sections of fabric that would look just plain wrong for larger backgrounds. Below are thumbnails of two of the pieces used:

7a 6b

The trees are a commercial (ugly as sin) fabric that, when cut into strips, looks not bad at all. I cut the strips freehand with a rotary cutter (yes, it’s tricky to get things even) and tend to cut from several different pieces of the same fabric so that the trees don’t all end up having the same curvature or the same repeats in the fabric print.

As you can see below, the background with the strips laid in place:

Unshaded

These will be cut into three panels each when finished, hence the somewhat odd arrangements of tree trunks.

When working in a series like this, I also streamline the process by cutting out fifty or a hundred trees at once and then arranging them afterwards to suit the individual composition. I’ve discovered that I don’t really like being a one-woman assembly line, churning out the same piece time after time. I prefer to work on a reasonable number of pieces that are of a similar theme in one go. This allows me more variety, less stultification and, most importantly, gives each piece the attention and space it needs to be original as it grows and evolves.

After laying the trees in place, I then hand-shade the trees to add curvature to the trunks. As you can see below, the effect is not only one of added depth, but also adds drama to the composition and enhances the effect of the trees moving towards the viewer, off the background. The work is built up another layer from the furthest visual point.

I’ve spent several days penning in the details on these tree pieces and can say with certainty that if the devil isn’t in the details, he sure as hell rejoices in their existence.  Small, refined motions of shading for days on end are not good for the body.

A shot of two smaller pieces showing the shading(these were two of my favourites from the week)

yellows

The effect is even visible from a distance in the larger pieces:

Shading done!

It’s interesting to see the contrast between shaded and unshaded trees in the same piece. The first shot below is half-shaded. The second shot is with shading complete.

before & after 3after entire

Today’s task is to pen in all the branches, layer the piece with stabiliser and push the whole batch towards completion. To that end I have to:

  • add branches
  • stabilise panels
  • cut panels into tryptiches
  • prepare backings and attach hanging devices
  • layer panels with backing and centre stiffener (plastic canvas is a wonderful stiffener for such things; inert, waterproof, doesn’t stain and won’t kill a sewing machine if you accidentally or purposefully sew through it. Cheap, too.)
  • stitch edges
  • attach cording
  • apply glue
  • apply foil for leaves (Foiling is always the last step for these pieces.)

The result will be a variation on this (apologies for the rotten picture):

green birches

With details looking like this (again, bad picture. Colours wrong. Sorry. Will photograph the current series properly when completed!):

blue birches detail 2

blue birches detail 1

blue birches detail 3

And some of the smaller pieces from a past rendition of this idea:

foiled birches

foiled birches many

So I’m off to work. Proper pictures will follow…..

a quickr pickr post

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