I come from a long line of sign writers and am happiest with a brush and some paint! Add
paint to fabric and I get really excited!!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Years ago I experimented with traditional batik methods but was never fully satisfied with the process, or the results.I didn’t enjoy ironing and re-ironing the wax soaked fabrics using reams and reams of newsprint. We used the resulting papers as fire starters for the family woodstove, but still it was a labor intensive procedure for results I was never completely happy with. Even after boiling or steaming the fabric, there always seemed to be a wax residue that kept my fabric from having a soft, flowing hand.

So, when surface designers started using soy wax for fabric batik, I jumped at the chance to give it a try. The process for removing the wax is still very much the same, but I have found the process much quicker and the results much more pleasing.

I have been experimenting with using soy wax as a resist with fabric paints and dyes. I have used very gentle ways of removing the resist and I have also tried very abrasive methods. If I want my colors to be bold I use more aggressive techniques to take the wax out. I use a strong hand and usually a scrubbing tool to first remove the layer of paint and then to assist in removing the layer of wax. Sometimes the results include some blurry edges that become incorporated as part of the design. If I want a clear solid edge, I am more frugal when I add the layer of paint and then it is easier to remove.

Soy batik with Seta Fabric Paints executed on solid black fabric
The flow of wax from a tjanting tool is somewhat similar to the flow of paint from a fully loaded brush. Achieving interesting shapes and lines is relaxing for me. It is a meditative action as my hands immediately kick into signwriter mode, my mind calms and my breathing slows.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Photography has always held an interest for me. When I was about 10, I had a Brownie camera. I remember holding it in my hands and enjoying the shape and the weight. Throughout the years I have owned a variety of film cameras culminating in being the proud owner of a Nikon F65 and what I considered some serious glass. I shot a lot of film with that camera and my goal was to achieve 5 or possibly 6 “perfect” photos out of the 24, or maybe 27 that I could squeeze out of each roll. That meant there were a lot of prints that I was less than happy with, but I always had a difficult time destroying them nonetheless.

Night time shot with what is my "dream machine" - Nikon D7000
It took me quite a while to embrace digital photography. Perhaps I liked the “purity” of film. Perhaps I wasn’t ready to tackle new technology. Perhaps I felt I would be spending money I should probably be spending on other, more immediate needs. Whatever the reason, I came to the world of digital in short, halting steps. But, once I had a DSLR in my hands and I started seeing the immediacy of shooting, the quality possible, the choices I had - whether it was to delete and reshoot or to edit until I had my vision captured, I was hooked.

Day time shot taken at Cap Maringouin - D7000

Thursday, March 22, 2012

No one expects March in the Maritimes to have days of 27 - 30 degrees temperatures. But, this week we reached the highest recorded temperatures in 50 years! The snow has melted, the trees are budding, skin has been bared. Folks of all shapes and sizes walked their dogs, ran, rode their bikes and breathed deep. Tonight the sunset filled the sky with shades of pink and coral and made it so hard to believe all this will come crashing to an end with low temperatures and snowfall predicted for early next week. Sigh.....

One of the projects of an art quilt group I am a member of was journal quilts. We chose the size of 8.5 by 11 inches and the theme? Well, it really doesn’t matter because one of our rules has always been to break the rules and make them our own! If there must be a theme, mine was focused on using a variety of surface design techniques in each journal quilt.

In this quilt I used hand dyed fabric as my base, then painted fabric for the centre of the “sun”. The rays of the sun were another painted fabric cut into pieces, sewn on the base and then I added detail work with 3D Fashion paint - the kind that you squeeze out of a bottle. The water was more hand dyed fabric with some strategically placed quilting lines.

Detail of sun and rays

When the air once again becomes chilly and I tuck my shorts to the back of the closet for another few months, I think I will keep this quilt on my desk as a reminder that warmer days do happen. And that I need to enjoy them as they come, when they come.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Today has been a beautifully sunny day and although the temperature was only registering 3 degrees, it certainly felt warmer when you were sheltered. The next few days promise highs of 21 and 23! This time of year when you realize summer might actually come again, it renews my belief that there be beach days soon. Looking around, admiring the sun beaming through all the windows, I also realize I still had a small Christmas wall hanging on my dining room/office wall! Perhaps it just might be time to take it down and replace it with something more seasonally appropriate!

The hanging I decided on is one based on a drawing by Simone when she was 6 or 7. I chose to piece the background and hand applique an enlarged copy of her drawing over this pieced base. I used satin stitch as well to enhance some details and made a fabric balloon for “meow”. I tend to use free form quilting when I hand quilt and this was no exception. Keeping the backing light, the stitches show better on the back but when the light hits the hanging in just the right fashion, the stitch patterns do show well.

I have quite a morgue of animal drawings by both children and have plans to continue incorporating them in future fabric and quilted pieces.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Inspiration comes in many forms and when I was a stay at home mom, my inspiration came mainly from my children. Trying to keep chaos to a minimum, yet still feeding my creative urges, I found that fabric was the best canvas I could use. I began using more and more of my son and daughter's drawings as the focal point of my art quilt pieces as I incorporated various methods and techniques. I distinctly remember many more traditional quilters expressing dismay that I used wonder under and a glue gun to achieve the effects I wanted! Add clay embellishments, ripped fabric tassels, braids, beads, paint and shells and some weren't really sure how to be polite about their remarks!

I did create a small collection of fairly distinctive pieces and was asked to display them as part of a quilt show in a small community near our town. This was a big honor for me to be asked to show my very non-traditonal pieces, especially at a very traditional show! I stayed up almost all night finishing bindings and hangers the night before the pieces were to be transported and hung.  At this point, I don't think I necessarily considered my work art quilts; I didn't really have a way to classify them. As far as I was concerned, I was creating small quilts that honored the talents of my children, encouraged them in their creative pursuits and let them know how much I valued their input into my life.

Over the years I have been glad I kept these pieces small. As life passes I seem to gather more and more items that hold meaning and memories. And as I age, I realize I want to keep less and less to look after and organize. As my husband says, less to hold you down. (The words of a man who thinks everything he needs should fit in his backpack!) But, I have also found the next generation in our family doesn't feel the need to keep things for sentimental reasons. They all live in smaller homes, or are in transient stages of their lives, and they want less to worry about and less to carry with them. 

So, when I keep my art pieces small, I can store them in drawers and display them on table tops until the day comes that perhaps my son or daughter might want to add one or two to their own collections. Keeping work small has also allowed me the opportunity to try multiple techniques without a huge time commitment. 

                     This is a piece based on my then 4 year old son Gabriel's drawing of a snowman. It measures approximately 18.5 sq inches.

Monday, March 12, 2012

I have been able to translate my love of painting to fabric. Working with fabric - cutting, sewing, glueing, dyeing, painting, batik, surface design of all types - gives me great satisfaction.

I learned to sew on my Grandmother's Singer Sewing machine at age 12. The first outfit I made for myself was a dress and an orange tunic - bold, bright florals and solids.  Looking back I realize my taste in patterns and colors has never veered far from my early sewing days. I am still attracted to vivid colors and bold, decisive design. Simplicity and symmetry are my balance. I used to see this as detrimental, but as I get older, I grow more relaxed about trying to achieve complexity in design. 

The more I have sewn, the more I have wanted to use my own fabrics to translate my messages. As I began my foray into Art Quilting, in order to make a project mine, the fabric needed to be my design. I had been introduced to dyeing fibre while studying at Holland College School of Visual Arts. But well before that my sister and I had often had crazy fabric dyeing sessions where anything and everything was fair game. Our Dad still talks about his hand dyed underwear which got him some strange looks in the hockey locker room!

When my children were small, I would host dyeing parties for quilting friends. I often organized bucket dyeing of team t-shirts and t-shirts for birthday sleep overs. I hosted moms and kids for painting parties where we decorated t-shirts, aprons and pillow cases with hand prints. It seemed I was always searching stores for fabric paint, fabric markers, fabric dyes.....

Today my Mom and I found one of these pillows. My children had painted their hands and pressed them on a piece of fabric and signed their names. I then sewed the fabric into a pillow cover for their Uncle "Gimme". There a lot of mom things I didn't do - like keep up baby books, organize all the growing up photos, keep locks of baby fine hair - but these wonderful hand printed pillows? These are my version of cherished keepsakes.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

I did not exactly embrace learning to hand letter.

In the beginning I filled in letters that my Dad outlined for me. I cut out hundreds of vinyl letters by hand, then mounted them on another piece of vinyl to add a narrow border, and then I cut them out again. I cut out hundreds more changeable letters with an ex-acto blade. In essence, by repetitive action I learned the shapes and contours of fonts most used in commercial signage.

When it was decided the time had come for me to start lettering signs on my own, I distinctly remember throwing the yardstick I was supposed to use to guide my hand across the floor shop. I used some choice words to let everyone know I wasn't happy. I remember my Dad saying something about how my work looked great and there was no rush....And then he exchanged one of those looks with another of the guys in the back shop and left me to it.

At some point I must have picked the yardstick up and continued on, but that part is foggy. I am sure though that I continued to throw things and swore more than my share as I learned to relax and trust my hands to create what they now knew instinctively. To breathe.

Today I still love the feel of the brush, the flow of the paint and the pleasure in executing a perfect line of beauty.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The quilt in my banner was the turning point for me in my need to always be creative. With 2 small children at home, I decided to embrace what was in front of me and take it and run! We always made our gift paper and cards and my daughter drew a wonderful picture telling me, "Mama! There are birds in our garden!". Fortunately something made me trace this small rendering before it was sent off to the lucky birthday girl. Next thing I knew I had used my overhead projector to enlarge it, pulled some of my hand dyed fabrics off the shelf, heated up the wonder under and created what is still my most favourite quilted piece. I recently made up a miniature version for the artist - my daughter, Simone - to hang in her room and although I have never been anxious to make more than 1 block of any design, I know I could happily reproduce this gem many times over!