Tuesday, June 17, 2014

On My Design Wall today

Philip Jacobs and Kaffe Fasset Cats!
Ok so first I learned that it's prounounced 'Calf' not kaffee (rhymes with daffy) ;)

I had this idea, with the cat shape I designed.  The centers that looks like little eggs are actually mousies, their tails and ears will be stitched in.

These were quickly put up with no thought to exact spacing just yet. 

The entire 'flower' is 2 1/2 feet across. 
Yes; most of them were strategically placed so the pattern accentuates the kitten. 

 I'm toying with two ideas for background;
1.) A dresden plate.  Each petal will be the opposing solids.  (i.e. hot cats on cool strips; cool cats on hot strips)
Two of my favortes ^ are this one and this one^

The other is to just have it be a solid white background.  Very 'modern' looking with just the two giant cat posies.  (maybe one offshoot with a 'bud'(weetinykitten)
I could do single stems and a couple leaves. 

It was loads of fun cutting these out.  It was even more fun when my own 'kitten addled' brain realized I could lay my pattern over four or five layers of prefused 6" x 10" rectangles and cut five at once! LOL AND the cats and mice come out of the same rectangle so it saves my hoarding stash of  Rowan Kaffe Fassett and Philip Jacobs layer cake by precuts.

I'm totally in love with this quilt already! As an added bonus there is some cut excess that I think will make a darling border if I can work it right.  I'll toy with that later & let you know how it worked.

Happy DEEElightful sewing!   

Friday, June 13, 2014

For the love of our pets

I did this project as a commission for a dear, dear friend.  Initially she wanted another CatNip quilt and I was going to make it 36" square. 

When I make CatNip quilts for people as custom designs, I spend much time viewing their blog and read posts and get a feel for their cats.  What they are like; what personality I see, what colors their environment is typically; and what colors may make the kitties furs pop!

Since we tend to outlive our beloved companions, I've been told that those cats who had custom CatNip quilts have kept them.  They have placed them in areas of honor with the remains of their beloveds.  I am so touched by this it's good I'm writing and you dear readers can't see the tears in my eyes.  

My friend had also discussed the possibility of commissioning a large Art Quilt from me at the same time.  (like 5x7 feet or so)  We discussed her interest in Native American folklore and the idea of animals as Spirit Guides.  Then as conversations do we agreed to 'put a pin in it' for some time in the future. 

I knew I was making a CatNip quilt so I set out to review her blog to see what her brood has been up to.   I reviewed old posts and it didn't take long to get back to the heartbreaking one over her Angel Cat Squashies.  Squashies ended up having a rare blood disorder and because there is nothing we won't do for our pets; they put out a call for Squashies rare blood type so tranfusions could be done.  Where they live there were no donors.  If ever you may 'tut-tut' social media like Facebook or Twitter, I urge you to see the bigger picture.  After putting the 'call' out on FB within days they had blood donors for dear Squashies from across the US!

Squashies had a charmed and exceptionally loved life and it was devastating when she eventually passed.  I remember the day I read that sad, horrible news.  I wept as if Squashies were one of my own.  I'm sure you all have stories like this.

Squashies was a 'cow cat' and she had the unique marker of a giant upside down heart on her shoulder. And not just a 'if you squint you can see it' kind:

 It was then I knew what I wanted to do. And so in attemtping to create a folksy tribute to Ms. D's beloved; here's how it came out.
"Not gone... Just gone on ahead"

Squashies is nestled in couched fancy yarns and those same yarns outline the stars.
Surrounded my love; she waits among the stars. 

The basket strips are fused but they have been carefully woven first.
Laura Wasilowsky hand dyed floss for the French knots.

The floss used for the radiating lines is actually Sashko thread that came dyed. Love it! 

When my good friend Vickie saw this she said 'Rainbow Bridge!' which was certainly NOT my intent but I suppose that's what can happen sometimes in art.  The discussion you have with your viewer may not always be what you intended; and that's okay too. 

I hope she likes it.  I've mailed it out to her today (along with a CatNip quilt for the kitties!) . 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Some backstory on 'Let it Go'

or 'How did she make that?'

I took some in process photos of my piece 'Let It Go'. 
I thought I'd share those as it's really one thing to see a finished work and quite another
to see the steps and watch design decisions being made in real time. 
Those decisions ultimately determine the final look of the finished work and in all but one single instance every work I've ever done came out differently than I had at first envisioned.
All that said; here we go!
The very first idea I had was to use my journal pages in some way.  I actually took selected passages and had printed them out on silk 8 1/2 x 11" sheets (Jacquard). I was going to create a nude of myself  using the journal pages to fold and wrap to create my body.  After thinking that would be boring and cliche (since it's been done a lot) I decided to take a different tack. 
I then decided to have fun with my own calligraphy since that's what I'm often told by my collectors and artist friends alike; that they enjoy seeing.  I figured a clock face would be cool and in the long, narrow format of 24" x 60" a close up would be neat looking. 
I then put my goolglefu skills to work looking for unique clock face renditions.  After not finding any I simply searched for the essence of clock shapes (round, hour glass, etc)  I found this image and instantly knew it was what I wanted. 
These aren't lines of text but that is in fact what I see. This solved two issues; one; the shape I wanted and two: how to incorporate my journal page entries into the design.

I should say that while I've never had art lessons, gone to art school or any such formal training I have studied design and color simply as a lay person looking at photos, other quilts; etc.  The most helpful advice I've ever received was this
Decide what single element of whatever it is you love and break that down to it's core.
Keep removing things until you have the single thing that makes whatever it is resonate in you.
For my Cheetah Quilt it was the eyes of the Cheetah.
This process work exceedingly well in taking (and cropping) photos as well. 
A useful skill.
Next I need to focus myself.  I can easily get distracted and lost in a piece until I become paralyzed through analysis.  So I chose my color palette.   I thought a tetrad would be awesome.  I have an app on my phone for a color wheel. Since I had chosen the background piece of material already I knew I needed to stay in the same family of tan; cream.
I chose this grouping

I printed it out and stuck it in plain sight so that while working I know what colors I can use and what I have to leave out.  Color is very hard for me.  I have to work at it constantly and I always get things wrong but just that much but overall it can be enough to throw a whole piece off!  Better to have an ironclad set and stick to it when it counts.
So next was to create the shape.  I used a round tablecloth for the shape. It was easy to lay it over the foundation and keep pulling it off and down until I was happy with the orientation of it.  I just traced it with a pencil.
Next to define it
I placed the lines for the text and added the numerals.  Since the dates of my journal entries started in 2007 I deliberately inverted the clock so it was upside down.  This added to the idea I think of how turned around we get and in deep grief and loss our lives turn upside down for a looooong time.
After each step I kept thinking, NOW , Now I get to add the text!  Then
Still needed to create more background.  I loved those lines from the original picture going through the center of the sphere and needed to add them since they would be 'breaking' the chunks of text. 
I had found the giant letters in a stencil box.  Since I didn't know the title of the piece yet I had to think a lot about it.  Again, breaking down what I was trying to say with it.  And finally I realized what I wanted was to let it all go.  All of it.  I was initially going to burn all my journals thinking that's how I could let it all go and move on.  But it doesn't work like that.  Simply creating the piece, going thru the pages; looking at the words again from a far away perspective has made a big difference.  Those pages weren't filled with laments over bills, money, other peoples dramas; work crap... They were filled with horrible grief and loss and also with exuberant joy and poignant sweetness!  How alive the pages are!
Time to play with the text.  I realized I would need to mimic the dark & light of the lines so I played with gel pens until I found the two colors I liked best.  The orange and purple.  In the initial photo note how the lines around the very edge of the circle are bright white; then they fade.  So that's why I had to paint the white edge so the orange would pop.  I knew that even if some of the purple got on that part it would be ok as it would lead the eye away anyhow.  And of course the impulse to follow the text takes your eye out.   
I added the lines inside the sphere with gold metallic pens.  They came out a nice burnished bronze color when put over the painted center.
Then I knew I wanted to add some gears.  How did I know this? Well I'm glad you asked (LOL)  I was at my friend Jamie's studio one day and she was showing me her Skizzx thing.  She showed me how easy it was to cut these gears and I had kept them in my purse, then onto my sewing table.  I placed them on the piece (they WERE the right color of purple after all!) to see how it looked.

I loved it! But the problem was there were only 4 of them; sure I could have cut more but they'd all be the same, same size, same style and there wouldn't have been enough color variants. My friend Vickie suggested I draw them on myself.   I then remembered my steam punk gear stencils (Some I had designed and the small ones I had purchased at Long Beach Festival).  And voila!

can you tell how much fun I was having finding places to tuck them in to create an open watch face illusion? 

 After spending much time painting, repainting, shading and such; I realized the text needed to be darker too.  I didn't want to write over each word (which I did start to do on a few lines) but I
decided that the Liquitex Airbrush Medium might just do the trick; sort of like a sealer. 
I tried it on the test piece and it worked great! 

I realized then that I shouldn't do every single line but maybe do 'bubbles' of it so it could create depth also and that worked very well.  I then realized I could do it over the lines of text I really wanted to stand out more.  I was very happy with the results of that.  It gives the text a weathered appearance. 

It was at this point that I felt the work needed a final layer.  Something BIG  but not too big.  Something to give further depth and push the whole piece thus far, to the back.

I found this fancy gear online and had Kinko's blow it up and I used that as my stencil. 

 I was originally going to paint it blue but decided first it needed to be white so the true color would pop.  After seeing it white I left it alone.  I liked that very much better.  Note the smaller gear cluster at the upper right?  Well those are there to obscure the fact that I had a seam from where I had to piece in a smaller bit of background material.  I only had the one long piece & it had a neat rectangle out of it! Grrrrr.   The gears and subsequent quilting obscure the seam lines.

I placed it also on the bottom; I was leary about using the same one twice but decided that since it was 'off the face' as it were; I could then paint it to match the center sphere.  I started very lightly in case that worked better.  (I have learned a lesson or two thankfully)

 much better.  And lastly some medium size gears in white as well.  Then it was just a matter of binding it.  I was going to use the facing method.  The lesson I learned there was, you can't trim your work to the exact size and then sew the facing on because when you turn the facing to the back; you've just shrunk your size by 1/4 inch all over.  Crap.  So I went with traditional binding.  I used Moda Marbles in color that nearly matched my hand painted color of the watch face.  And done!

Even the backing has meaning for me.  It's a Daisy Kingdom print in blue flowers.  I had yards left over from when my daughter was 5 and I made her a dress out of it. She's now 21. 
Mawkish I know; but as a midlife single woman empty nester:   I feel this has been my state of being for the past year.  I really am hoping with the completion of this work that I truly can let it all go and look forward with great eagerness to my coming adventures!

Thanks for reading!
Happy Sewing!