An Artist's Quest

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California Tiger Salamander

CTS sm file finished

California Tiger Salamander, Endangered Species of Sonoma County -24×36″

A recent UN report warns that one million species are at risk of extinction. The landmark global assessment warns that the window is closing to safeguard biodiversity and a healthy planet. We might think this is a faraway problem. Polar bears, elephants, and tigers are glamorous and examples of animals in danger. But right here in my little neck of the woods, Sonoma County California, we have endangered species too. The ones here may not be as photogenic or charismatic but their place in the chain of species is no less significant. I am highlighting the endangered species in my area through my fabric art. So far, I completed the diminutive Myrtle’s Silverspot Butterfly and the pint-sized Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse. I now add the slightly awkward but surprisingly cute California Tiger Salamander to the list of completed art pieces. This little critter is endangered because of habitat loss (the top reason for all on my Sonoma county list) and climate change issues as well since this amphibian is dependent on vernal pools created during the rainy season for reproduction –In short, if the rains are small there are no pools to reproduce in.

I am thoroughly enjoying my process. I decide on which animal to feature next, research on the internet about the critter, find resource photos and begin creating digital paintings of the animal using the photos I found in my research as my jumping off point (thanks this time to the very extensive CaliforniaHerps.com website for really great information and lots of photos too). Once I have the images completed, I print them out on cotton fabric. These images are the basis for the supporting fabrics I create for the rest of the art quilt. In this case I created gelli prints and marbled fabric in purples, blacks and contrasting gold. With my salamander images, info page and printed fabrics ready I begin the composition process.  I want all the endangered species art to connect with each other in size and format, but I want each one to have to colors and content that the animal itself dictate.

Now on to the next endangered species…. perhaps I’ll do the Red-legged frog or the Western Pond Turtle or the charming Western Snowy Plover is tempting…. I’ll let you know when I complete the next one!

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Backyard Mandala

butterfly mandala

I’m on a bit of a new journey professionally. In the last year or so I have become more connected with the quilt guild world. They are an organized bunch and set aside time and money for speakers and teachers.  Now I’m doing a bit of travel in Northern California mostly, to share my talents and hopefully inspire others to try new things in fabric and surface design.  I have two lecture/trunk shows that I do; one is a surface design for fabric artists overview and the other is a deeper dive into designing your own fabric using photos taken with a smart phone. I’ll be sharing these techniques in Fort Bragg with the Ocean Wave Quilters and I felt like I needed another example for them to touch and see. To that end I started wandering around The grounds of The Bishop’s Ranch looking for inspiration (if you have been here you know that’s not hard to find). The lushness of the saucer-sized nasturtium leaves grabbed my attention first and and snapped a few close up photos. Then the bright and happy calendula flower beckoned next. The green and yellow orange spoke to me of bursting new life and an idea began to form. How about a mandala of spring life? The butterfly that had been fluttering around the edges confirmed my suspicion that I was on the right track and asked to be included in my design. I took my photos home played with them a bit in a few of my favorite photo manipulation apps then printed my designs right on my home printer within minutes I had my own fabric to begin designing my backyard mandala. Thankfully my son has a math brain and with a bit of calculating he easily helped me figure out the angle I needed to create an octagon. A lot of machine stitching later and some sore fingers from embroidery stitching through lots of layers I finished my ode to spring.

Take a moment today to acknowledge the wonder of nature around you, Find some way to let it influence your day and allow creation to sing it’s sweet song in your ear.

I have creative mixed media classes coming to spark your artistic fire and fuel new ways to make and create go to my website to see more.

Time Stamp #2

A couple of weeks ago I showed you the first in my “Time Stamp” series. These are small meditations on a moment. I’m trying to capture the feeling of a particular place and time not a literal image. So here is my second in this endeavor. A morning hike through Gina’s Orchard here at The Bishop’s Ranch revealed a clutch of wild iris, a little patch of purple in a sea of green. Here is my fabric collage marking of that moment.

4.9.19 Iris

4/9/19 7:45 am 181°S (11×14 printed, marbled, stamped fabric and paper stitched)

Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse

final quilt

A several weeks ago I showed you the first art quilt in a series about endangered species of Sonoma County; that piece highlighted the plight of Myrtle’s Silverspot Butterfly. This week I finished the second in my series featuring the very charming Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse. Just like Myrtle’s Silverspot, this little mouse is endangered mostly due to habitat loss but climate change and sea level rise are a problem for it too. It seems we humans are a most invasive species and I’m afraid the habitat loss is the main reason for most of these endangered critters. My next quilt will feature the California Tiger Salamander, maybe not quite as cute as the mouse or beautiful as the butterfly, but charming in it’s own way. Look for that in the coming weeks.

I hope you notice the hand printed and marbled fabrics I used in these quilts, I have some upcoming workshops to introduce you to stamping and marbling fabric check out my website for more info.

Time Stamp

Yesterday I went for a hike here at The Bishop’s Ranch as I often do. Usually my main goal is to exercise and I move with a pace. This time, however, I wanted to soak it in, take the earbuds out, listen to the breeze and birds, feel the morning mist, take note of the colors – in short be more present. It was a glorious morning full of greens and blues with a splash of yellow in the buttercups and rusty brown in the decaying tall grasses at the lake edge.  The tsicka-dee-dee of a Oak Titmouse told me I wasn’t the only one enjoying the sunny morning. Walking back I carefully plucked a fist full of Buttercups and Maidenhair Fern to using to print in printing on fabric. I had the idea to make a “Time Stamp” of this place and time. Not a literal representation but an impression, a feeling, a response. So here it is…

TIME STAMP: 3/29/19 8:47am facing 247° W facing the lower lake at The Bishop’s Ranch

3-29-19 lake hike

Time Stamp #1 (11×14″ paint, stamp and stitch)

The Art of the Problem

smallfile_full quilt

I’m a problem solver. That’s who I am. If someone asks me if I can do something I usually say yes even if I don’t know how – yet…figuring it out is half the fun. For me art is like that. That’s why I’m forever trying out new mediums and materials, I want to figure it out and make it my own. When I have an idea to convey or a feeling to share I have to find a way to create it in physical, visual form. After my series of bird collages (see my last post), I was invigorated to set a new challenge.  I have decided to do a series of 24×36” fabric collages depicting endangered species of Sonoma County.  FUN! I have a new problem to solve. First, I had to do my research, make a list of endangered species in my area, then decide which to start with.  I chose the diminutive Mrytle’s Silverspot Butterfly found only on the Sonoma/Marin coast. I wanted my work to be informative but not completely literal and of course it has to be visually pleasing.  I also decided I only wanted to use fabrics that I have dyed, printed or stamped myself.  My butterfly subject helped me choose the color scheme.  Orange, rust and black from the butterfly and tans, and lavender and blue for the coastal bluff where they make their home.  I got to work marbling, stamping a dying fabric. For the butterfly images I used my iPad to create a digital watercolor that I printed out on cotton from my home printer. Once I had all my fabric, I began to lay out my composition. This is what I came up with.

I had so much fun with myself imposed problem I have started on my next subject – the very charming Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse – now I’m thinking green, grey, brown and blue thoughts while I puzzle over this next riddle. I promise to show you when I’m done.

I’m teaching several surface design and mixed media workshops in the coming weeks, check out my website to see if you can join it the fun! Upcoming creative workshops

Allowing Failure to Lead You

I haven’t blogged in a while – I’ve gotten out of practice. The end of the year was busy with teaching and holiday’s and visitors. And the beginning of the year was busy with teaching and visitors and all the busy-ness of life. This past week I decided to create space for a making week. Not prepping for classes, not writing a magazine article, not preparing for a show – just making. For a long time now, I have felt that my creative endeavors are bifurcated. I have my paintings and mixed media work and I have my fabric work. My roots are deep into textiles and stitch but in the last 25 years my focus has been more on paint and collage. In the past 10 years I have been dipping more frequently into my fabric art persona connecting to the vast next work or quilters and quilt guilds. My one goal in my play date with my studio was to create something in the medium of fabric that is in the same voice as my paint/collage work.

To that end I set out sketching and planning. I dyed and printed, stitched and pieced, quilted and embroidered. After 4 days of this I stepped back and didn’t like it. I really didn’t like it. The scale was wrong the colors weren’t working, my heart sunk, my plan – kaput! I lay the three-foot by four-foot piece across my dining table and decided to sleep on it. In the morning it was clear to me that I needed to cut it all up and let go of my plan. I got out my ruler and rotary cutter and cut the piece up into 11×14 inch rectangles. I didn’t cherry pick, I just cut. All along I had planned to put wrens on my piece. I had already printed out my watercolor wrens onto cotton fabric and they told me they still wanted in on this piece. I pulled out two bins full of printed and stamped fabric from past adventures and let them talk to me. I started composing. Word from a psalm in that Sunday’s church service found their way in, a snippet of sheet music called out. A favorite rubber stamp I’d carved years ago of a bird in flight stated firmly it need to be included. My studio exploded – I worked furiously, with energy and joy and perhaps most importantly – no plan. I will say I am in love with these fabric collages. They feel like me. They feel like home, they feel real.

I am so glad I allowed myself to the space and time to create. I am so glad I allowed myself the space and time to fail. I am so glad I allowed myself the space and time to find contentment and my mature voice in this medium. Now my synapses are firing and tingling. What about natural dying? What about rust prints? What about a series on endangered species in Sonoma County? Oh the possibilities!

Take time for your own creative self. Let yourself fail, brood about it, then make something of it – remember that joy is meaningless without knowledge of struggle.

JUST GET OUT THERE AND MAKE YOUR ART