Category: Mixed Media

Holding you back

The “Cloth & Clay” exhibit at Campbell House Galleries closes next week. It’s almost time to take it all down and store it away for another opportunity. Why do I create? It’s because I have to. There is something in my DNA or maybe it’s just some off-kilter electricity in my brain.

I don’t remember a time that I didn’t create. I think my mom was blessed because as a young child all she had to do was put a new craft or book in front of me and I would be engaged for hours.

In high school, I was secretly embarrassed that I crocheted because that is what old ladies did. In college I had a classmate who, after I described my new passion for knitting, told me that I was “so domestic” [spoken condescendingly]. After graduate school I remember calling myself a “closet crafter,” because I didn’t want people I worked with know about my “non-professional” hobbies. These were my saboteurs.  Yet, I still would speed crochet an afghan in no time while watching tv at night. Now I’ll either knit or stitch to pass time. And, I focus deliberately on making textile art.

I’m still learning, refining and pursuing my skills. I continued even though some would have given up. For me it’s a passion, something in-grained. I want to keep learning and exploring. Even when I’m my own worst critic, I continue. What about you? Do you have a gut feeling about creating? Do you love making things? Would you call these skills your passion? Are you listening to your feelings and acting on them? Are you ignoring your critics (even the one in your head)? What’s holding you back?

Fix whatever is not working

So … there it is. Everything is hung and looking pretty.
The idea of creating an art exhibit sounds romantic. It is but, it’s also a lot of work to include creating the art and coordinating all the details (like when to hang, how to hang, reception details, advertising, etc.). As I reflect on all of this, I realize I have a wealth of knowledge. I’ve been involved with producing a countless number of textile art exhibits, including my own solo exhibit. I’ve learned quite a number of tips along the way.

With every exhibit, I walk away with more knowledge; What would or wouldn’t I do again?

It’s interesting that, whatever journey you follow, you have the opportunity to grow. It’s important to step back and review your accomplishments because it helps you reflect on what’s important. What might have been the answer to your life-long questions, may just be a stepping stone for the ultimate pinnacle. So, pay attention, keep trying and fix whatever is not working.

 

Cloth & Clay
June 4-25, 2021
Campbell House Galleries, Southern Pines, NC
Open Mon-Fri 9-5p  | Saturday, June 19  2-4p
(click image below for larger view)

On this journey today

Change is inevitable.

I had a conversation yesterday with a family member which brought up some vivid memories. Due to life circumstances, the family life I had was different than my siblings. My brother and sister and their spouses all went to the same high school … and I didn’t.

As the youngest of 3, I moved with my parents into the city (Chicago) at the start of my freshman year of high school. Yesterday’s conversation reminded me of how important that change was to my future self. I started high school in a brand new school that was designed to be an arts magnet schools. I wasn’t recruited, but was just lucky enough to live within walking distance of the school, so I was in.

I joined the theater program doing all sorts of back stage jobs. My freshman elective was beginning band. I didn’t know how to play an instrument but quickly took a liking to the clarinet. From there I continued through the remaining 3 years in band classes, marching band, and orchestra (I still have my letterman’s jacket to prove it). And then in my junior year, I enrolled in my favorite class, “Chicago Where its Art.” Talk about mixed media exposure in those last 2 years. Drawing, painting, stained glass, architecture… you name it Mr. Erklin was teaching it to us. Wow!

After high school, I didn’t pursue art in college (except for a couple electives). I chose science as as my curriculum of choice.

And here I am now thinking back to the past, while I try to pursue a dream that maybe I should have started when I  was 19. In hindsight, it’s odd the way things happen. I believe, what’s meant to happen all comes around in it’s due time.  Had I not had these early opportunities of exposure to art in the Chicago Public School system, I probably wouldn’t be on this journey today.

 

There for a reason

This week I finished my hawk quilt. It’s been quilted, squared up and a facing added (instead of binding). Overall, this is a simple design; a bird on a branch. The fact that the hawk is 24″ tall is really where things got complicated. All said and done, I used 18 colors of thread to finish this piece. In my Paint with Thread classes, I teach the exact techniques that I used for this piece, except I significantly scale down the number of thread colors.

When I create my art quilts, I always use an oversized background fabric. Whenever you add heavy stitching (e.g., quilting or thread painting), the fabric pulls in and you wind up with a smaller piece than you started with. The amount of shrinkage correlates with how much stitching you add. At the end, I square things up, removing the excess fabric.

When I create, I go through various stages of anxiety. This is especially true when I’m creating for a deadline. Each step of the process supports the next, if anything goes wrong the outcome might lead to starting all over again. Hopefully, if the worse happens, I can develop plan B, but that’s not always the case.

Squaring up a quilt is anxiety provoking for me. At this stage of the process, starting over is not a welcome option. I realize the anxiety is helpful by making me hyper-alert and focused on the process so I do it correctly. Why? because if I do it wrong my rectangular quilt could wind up with obtuse angles versus right (90°) angles. Obtuse angles make the quilt look skewed and hang wonky or ruffly. I embrace the perfectionist in me during this process, because it will show if done wrong. I just have to remind myself to breathe, this anxiety is there for a reason.

 

Practice makes precision

I teach a “Paint with Thread” class. The class sample is really quite simple, but when you understand the basics of what I teach you can adapt the technique to work on more detailed projects. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about in the hawk foot that I’m currently working on.

I modified a photo that I took of a hawk and had the image printed on fabric at Spoonflower. I then chose about 16 colors of brown, beige, and yellow threads to fill in the design. In the photo, you can see a detail of the hawk’s claw. On the left is the printed image. On the right is after about 4 different colors of thread were stitched over the image.

I think it’s clear with this comparison, that the more colors you use in thread painting, the more blended and realistic the completed design looks. I have a few more hours of stitching to do on this piece, but I’m happy with where it’s going. There is no such thing as perfect, so I say “practice makes precision.”

Ok, We’re done

I’m enrolled in a class that studies archetypes in our creative lives. Archetypes are a way of viewing people (yourself) based on personality or character traits. For example, maybe you have nurturing tendencies? (Mother/father archetypes). Or maybe you like to joke around? (clown/jester archetype) Or maybe you enjoy figuring out how things work? (Engineer archetype) [note: Caroline Myss is a great resource]

Exploring your archetypes helps you understand how you work, process things and what you like to do. While developing my list of 12, I realized I have a strong Artist archetype. You may think, “Well duh? You didn’t know that?” Well…I believe I am an artist and I’m working as an artist, but I never realized how strong/innate this trait is within me. Art has always been my favorite go to activity (even at a young age). It’s something that gives me relaxation and calm.

Whenever I travel, I pack an activity bag filled with knitting and, more recently, “slow stitch” projects. I remember doing embroidery as a child, but I use to hate my hand stitching. I would say, I don’t like doing it because I didn’t sew neat and tidy (aka perfect).

A couple years ago, I stumbled on this new trend of mindful stitching and mending. I loved seeing all the pretty stitch work and clearly noticed the un-perfect approach these stitchers embraced. This recovering perfectionist had to try it. Well, I’m hooked!

It is extremely meditative to stitch the layers of scrap fabric. As I stitch, I have no plan. On a whim I’ll change direction or try a different design. It is good to have projects that don’t require perfection or planning. We all have an inner critic and sometimes that voice is stifling. We get so hung up on making things perfect that we miss the enjoyment of just doing.

If your inner critic says you can’t, then find an activity that allows you to ignore it. Slow stitch is a good place to start. Search for inspiration on the Internet using terms like: Slow stitching, boro, or mindful mending. When you start, release all expectations, tell the critic to take a hike, and start stitching. Don’t judge the work in progress, just stitch until your inner creative says “Ok, we’re done.”

Have fun!

I feel comfort knowing that life is slowly creeping back to normal. The world seems to be running more like an out of tune sports car versus an old “hit ‘n miss” tractor.” We all have been affected by this past year and life will never again be like 2019. We’ve all adapted to changes. I’m kind of liking this mask idea, because I haven’t gotten sick (knock on wood) in over a year. And, I’m also embracing the Zoom technology. Yesterday, I held my very first live Zoom class.

I’m a bit of a technical geek. In 1990’s and early 2000’s, I use to design e-commerce websites. That was a time when most people didn’t have a “personal computer” (PC) or know what the Internet was. Even with this techie background, I wasn’t ready to embrace Zoom. I spend enough time in front of the computer and I wanted to find ways to get away from it. Zoom wasn’t for me. As the shut-down continued to stop my livelihood, I knew I had to think out of my box.

I took my first Zoom class presented by my friend Jodi Ohl. She is a mixed-media painter. I love her sense of artistic whimsy, so I signed up for her class. What I discovered was live Zoom art classes can be a lot of fun. You’re not sitting there watching a boring lecture, you’re actually working along with the instructor. You’re in your own comfortable creative space and everything is within reach, including the snacks or fresh pour of coffee. Need a different color thread? … just go get one. Forgot your machine pedal? … go grab it from the other room. And bonus!! … everyone participating has front rows seats. No more, standing behind tall people during demonstrations. (YES!!) You can work along or sit and watch…You can be you!!

Yesterday, my students praised these aspects of Zoom classes and I got to see what it was like to be on the other side. When I would teach in-person, I would grab my little “kit” of supplies and go teach. I learned that my kit needed a lot more supplies. Before class, I had to produce videos that show my sewing techniques (which eliminates many uncontrollable levels of chaos sewing live). I needed more step-out examples to demonstrate my processes and I needed to plan ahead to get class handouts to the students. And I had to get comfortable with all the new equipment, lighting, computers, cameras and software.

I was apprehensive at first, but I realized I liked the process. During class, I forgot I was in my room alone. We chatted and shared stories. They worked on their projects and I anxiously waited to see their progress (unlike in-person classes you can’t see what someone is doing on their sewing machine). BTW, everyone did great!

My follow-up verdict is I’m going to continue doing this. And, if you find you’re missing taking classes, check with your favorite artists and see if they’re teaching online; enroll if it fits. I bet you’ll have fun!

 

Join my email list and be the first to know about upcoming classes.

Bee-done

We all have those days that we’re hard on ourselves. I’m trying to stay focused on what I need to do, yet be mindful that my expectations for getting things done may not always work as planned. Admittedly, I sometimes overthink things. And, although I may be recovering, there’s still that perfectionist inside of me critiquing the process. It’s a constant juggle of doing things well and letting go of when they don’t.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

I finally found a visual of my feelings most days; the one-man band. As a kid, I remember seeing a guy like the one pictured. I found him fascinating and fun. A traveling musician that is responsible for playing all the instruments of his mini-orchestra. I have such fond memories of watching him play.

Yep…that’s what I’m doing. I’m responsible for all the parts of my tiny enterprise and I’m trying to have fun. Eventually, all the little bits and pieces I’ve been working on fall into place and I get to acknowledge progress and bee-done.

 

Stuck when creating

As I mentioned last week, I don’t work with a real “plan.” Maybe that’s good, maybe not. I have a vision or idea, and start working with stops and starts along the way. The following description is an insight to my creative process.

Over the past week, I attached the hexis to my background fabric and created an applique element that will go on top (you’ll see that next week). When I auditioned the applique on the hexis, it looked flat. There was no pop or interest and the applique didn’t stand out.

So, I auditioned some fabrics that I could lay in the center of the hexagons to give it a dimensional appearance. I found a loosely woven material in my stash, laid it on top of the design and stitched around each hexi shape. Then, I cut away the excess material. Tedious.

While I was stitching I noticed the there was a little pocket between the two layers of fabrics. I didn’t like that. I thought, I “should have!!” put Mystifuse on the back of the woven fabric. Then after stitching, I could iron it to adhere it in place. The problem … I didn’t use Mystifuse. Grumbling to myself, I kept on going.

As I continued to work, I thought about … “matte mediums.” I think of mediums as akin to Mod Podge but of higher quality. Mediums are acrylic liquids that can be used by artists to adhere collage material or used to thin acrylic paints. The word matte means there’s no sheen. If you wanted a shine, you would use a gloss medium.

Once the woven cloth was stitched in place and the excess removed, I then “painted” it with matte medium. This not only adheres the 2 layers of cloth, but also stops the woven cloth from unraveling. I succeeded with my vision and I’m ready for the next steps.

Although some people map out their plan, I like the challenge of not knowing. The vision drives me. Most of the time I can work around the obstacles. Usually what saves me is my arsenal of ideas. Mediums are not something quilters usually keep on hand, but other artists do. Because I have exposed myself to many different art techniques, my “toolbox of ideas” is full. And, my stash of supplies is diverse. Classes are a great way to learn new things.

I encourage you to take classes and experiment. Don’t be disheartened if you take a class and find you’re not good at it. You will likely always learn something new when you take a class. Understanding what you like and don’t like is part of the learning process. The more you learn, the more options you have. The bigger the tool box, the less likely you’ll ever truly feel stuck when creating.

Count my blessings

Sometimes life is like a pile of scraps. A heap of bits and pieces. Tiny shards of bigger projects or dreams.

My studio is a mess. We’re taking time this month to do some much needed renovations around the house. Although my life feels a bit chaotic right now, I keep the vision that things will be better when we move past this.

My studio space (a spare bedroom) is a mess. Everything is getting packed up in boxes and moved out. I’ve delivered 2 carloads of stuff to the local Restore and there will be more visits to come. I’m not a minimalist, but when you don’t move in 14 years, stuff starts piling up.  I think it’s a genetic trait because my siblings are collectors too.

Most of what I keep are treasures to me. The bits and bobs may be packed away in a box…but when I find them, I’m flooded with happy memories. Some things find there way out of my life via trips to the donation centers. Then other things, the box gets shut and put away until our next encounter.

Not to be forgotten in all of this is my art/textile supplies! These items are treasures at a much different level. If you’re reading this maybe you can relate to this type of — shall we say — “curating.” Patterns, books, yarn, fabric, paints, markers, rulers, threads and scissors!! I may not use some of these items for a few years, but when I need them I’m happy to know I don’t have to go shopping. For example, the “I’m over it” fabric became useful making masks this year. And… all the wool I’ve collected found itself resurrected as a felting class! My former years as an avid cross stitcher paid off when I discovered slow stitching and mindful mending. I have plenty of floss to keep me busy.

As I reflect on all that I have, I’m reminded, as always,  to count my blessings.