Sunday, May 24, 2009

Fabric Collage

When people ask me what kind of artist I am, I usually answer "textile artist" rather than "quilter". Its what I put on my business cards, too. The term "quilting" just conjures up too many images of grandma's log cabin bed quilt and thats just not my main focus these days. And when I do make something in a more traditional theme, I still try to shake it up in some way with radical colors, additional techniques or materials. Textile artist covers it much better since most of what I do can more accurately be described as a fabric collage. I just don't use glue to adhere my separate pieces (well, actually, I do sometimes use a gluestick for temporary positioning), I use thread to sew down the pieces. The thread also becomes part of the design, so that's an added bonus. Here are some examples of my fabric collages.

A pretty simple design relying on the punch of bright colors on a black background (I do that a lot). All of the rays were adhered with iron-on adhesive and then the edges were stitched down (raw edge applique.)

Here's my textile stab at the trompe-l'oeil style of painting popular in the late 1800's. This "fool-the-eye" style was often used in a still life composition that included dead game piled up along with the more traditional fruit and flowers of a still life. I call this piece "21st Century American Still Life". American because of the turkey--can't get more American than that. After I finished the "painting" part, I decided it really needed a frame too. I like how it turned out--rather unexpected. I'm waiting for the right venue to exhibit this one.

And here's what makes it 21st century. Hah!

Here's a large passionflower I began in a workshop I took a couple of years ago from the outstanding quilt artist and fabric designer, Jane Sassaman She's all about large scale florals both in her quilts and fabrics so I was definitely spinning off of her energy when I designed this one.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Art/Design Contests piss me off...

A rant for all of you today and no pretty pictures--sorry! A while back I saw a posting on the message board of the Artists Registry ( website from a disgruntled artist. Unfortunately, it has since been archived or taken down. But it has percolated with me since then and I just kept getting madder and madder about the issue. So here I am distilling and adding to that message (with apologies for not crediting the original source--I did try to find you!)

As an artist employing a non-traditional medium, I am always on the lookout for new places to show. As I troll the 'net I come across many "calls to artists" in the form of art or design contests. Sounds like a great idea for all concerned--create a poster for the next sidewalk art festival, get publicity and perhaps a monetary prize. What could be better for both parties? The festival organizers and the lucky artist? Upon deeper reflection, its not such a great idea at all, in fact, its a pretty bad idea on several fronts.

For the festival organizers (or whomever), they have no (or very little) control or input into the design as it is developed. They are completely at the mercy of the entirely coincidental population of artists who have seen the call and decided to enter. They have to pick the best or most appropriate of whatever entries there are. Could be pretty cheesy. Might be OK. Seldom is great. I have a question for those art festival organizers in particular (and you know who you are): if you are so "pro" art why are you not paying a fair price to an artist to design your poster/T-shirt/logo/whatever? Face it, you know you're trying to get something on the cheap. A professional design created with your input is sure to elevate the tone of your festival and all the publicity that you use that design for. And then there's the added bonus that you won't be big fat hypocrites shouting: "Come out and support the arts and buy something!" when you don't do the same.

For the artists who enter, its really not such a great proposition either. Most of the artists won't win and thus will receive absolutely no real compensation for their time and creativity. Zero. Zip. Nada. Too bad, so sad--you didn't win--try again next year. For the winner, of course, its a better deal. There is that award money and the notoriety. Lets look closer: usually the monetary reward is a bit on the light side, if you ask me. The honor of winning is supposed to make up for that. Does it really? I've seldom thought so.

If you look at the bigger picture, art/design contests demean and devalue the role and careers of struggling professional artists and designers everywhere. What if every art/design job was put out to a contest? Few, if any designers could make a living, thats what. Ten spec jobs for one measly payoff. Artists are already starving, thank you very much. Sadly, there are websites that now promote this very concept. This completely undermines the respect that these creatives should be getting for their work. You want a poster for your festival? A new logo? A cool T-shirt? Review portfolios, find an artist and then hire them, work with them and get the perfect design for your project.


Respect the art.

See more on this subject at: and as well as a related blog entry by Cheryl Jones Evans, a super artist (see her website at: See Cheryl's blog entry at:

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Altering fabric

When the fabric I want to use is not quite what I want, but is close, I alter it. There are a lot of ways to do this. The methods I commonly use are commercial spray paint, fabric paint, Shiva paintstiks, acrylic paints, various bleaching or discharging agents (I love the Tide bleach pen) and markers. I have tried fabric makers but far prefer Sharpie markers. I stock up at Staples with the extra fine tip variety and the wider tips as well. All colors of the rainbow, of course! Truth be told, I have quite the weakness for new Sharpie markers...

Here I've used a khaki green sharpie to add some veins down the centers of the leaf portions.

I've used several colors of the ultra fine tip size to render all of the features of the face and the hair. I was rather proud of how the face turned out.

This one is much more simple. See the border fabric on the left? A simple black and white print. After I had it all together, I wished that there was just a little pink in the print to pick up that shade in some of the other fabrics. And so... I picked up my pink Sharpie and had some coloring fun.

After I had completed these beetle blocks, I felt that there was too much stark white for my design. So I filled it in with words. I had a brainstorm and spent a therapeutic hour jotting down all of the things that bug me and then transcribed them in a spiral around the beetles. This, then, inspired the name of this quilt: "What really bugs me".

Here is another face rendered in several colors of yellow and light brown.

All of these pieces are wall hangings but I've also used Sharpie markers on T-shirts that are washed along with all of the other laundry. They are truly permanent. When using Sharpies, care must be used with the color. The color on the cap is not always what the actual mark will look like--use a scrap piece of the fabric you are using to try it out and adjust your marker choice accordingly.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Culinary Creativity!

This week my big sis, Helga, visited us from Arizona and we all had a grand time with each other. One of my favorite childhood memories is one of her making apple strudel from scratch so I asked her to teach me and Fiona how to make this incredible pastry. You see the word "strudel" used all over the place and it never, never is actually real, authentic Viennese appel strudel. Forget that "toaster strudel" crap! Here is the real deal. A simple, elegant pastry that takes a good three hours in preparation and another hour in baking. But, oh so worth it!

First, I prepared the table for later by taping down a linen tablecloth. The tablecloth will prevent the polish from the wood table from getting into the dough and will also help us in the final crucial assembly.

Here is lovely Helga kneading the small portion of dough. Doesn't seem like a lot, does it? A little of this goes a long way!

The dough is resting now under a warmed ceramic bowl. Fiona got to try her hand at the kneading too.

While the dough was relaxing, Helga and I peeled and sliced apples, Granny Smiths, of course. Here is my bowl of apples. Fiona is addicted to eating the peels so we both had to work to make nice, long ones for her.

Helga cored and sliced the apples into sections while I sliced them thin on my mandoline. And, yes, if you look closely, you can see I did not use the finger guard--dangerous! But the apple pieces were just too small for the guard and I promise I was very careful. I only ended up nicking one fingernail and no slashed fingertips or knuckles. Whew--it made me nervous nonetheless because that thing is sharp.

And we needed some chopped nuts--we decided on pecans (um, it was what I had in the pantry.)

Here's the whole bowl of filling with apples, raisins, sugar and cinnamon and pecans. Simple ingredients, huh?

Now for the nerve-wracking part--the rolling of the dough. The dough came out of its seclusion a little sticky (uh-oh!) but beautifully elastic (yes!). So with a little flour on the tablecloth and on top of the dough, Helga begins to carefully roll it out working from the center to the edges.

Its getting bigger! This dough is delicate and will bake up that way too. Tears or holes can be patched but the patches will show so its best to go slowly in these rolling stages.

Wow, we're there! Look how large Helga managed to roll that dough! And nary a blemish in it either. Beautiful.

You can see that the dough is rolled so thin that its actually translucent. See Helga's fingers? Its an egg dough (no yeast) and so has a lovely silken texture.

Now to paint the dough with some melted butter. (you knew that butter had to come in somewhere, right?)

A thin layer of bread crumbs come next.

Now the apple mixture!

OK--its all on the dough now.

Quickly, I remove all the tape holding down the tablecloth and Helga slowly lifts the leading edge and causes the dough to roll itself loosely up. No hands touch the dough at this point at all.

About halfway rolled up--cool, huh?

All done! Now to slide this strudel onto the cookie sheet. Four hands make it work without tearing.

Thar she blows! (I think it looks strangely organic; almost alive. No doubt I've watched too many midnight creature features)

Before baking, a bit more butter is called for...

And here is the finished strudel. A lovely golden brown with a thin delicate dough on the outside (crispy) and the inside (melt in your mouth.) Not like the interior layers of phyllo dough in baklava that are always leathery and tough (you know they are.)

Naturally we had to try it--you can see the lovely loose layers inside.

Here's the piece of strudel I enjoyed after dinner. Heaven! Well, to be truthful, it the first of two that I consumed, ahem. Finishing options were powdered sugar to prettify it a little, or, if you are truly Viennese, a dollop of "Schlag" (whipped cream). It was so good, though that we all enjoyed it au natural.

Thanks, Helga, for sharing your knowledge, expertise and (without a doubt) love!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Feline fun

Not to worry followers--I've been busy with a bunch of simple little pieces for a one night show for a gallery in Columbus, Ohio called Zen Cat Gallery: The gallery is dedicated to cats and I was asked to submit some Zen or cat inspired pieces. Well, I did have a little bit of cat fabric that I thought I could use--kind of funky and tribal with a black background. Not really Zen, but definitely cats. So I decided to make 6 small hangings that could be grouped together or separately using the same large palette of fabrics.

I've pieced the tops and am free form quilting in appropriate colored thread.

The quilting is done and I decided to apply a real binding of fabric.

Here are four of the six I completed.

A close-up of one of them--bright and fun. I think they'd look nice arranged vertically or horizontally or?

I hope they are well received! I think I'll send five of these on to the Zen Cat Gallery and post one for sale on my online shop at Etsy: I made several textile postcards with the leftover scraps and pieces of the tribal cats (and some other scraps as well). You'll see some of those on my Etsy site, too. Check it out!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Life imitates Art, or maybe Art imitates Art

Whenever we have a yellow individual that comes through the sponge rotation in our kitchen, this is what happens to it. Funny, but this never happens with the pink or blue ones!