An Artist's Quest

monoprinting

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!


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

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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


Making Connections…

 

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I Spy quilt made using 20 original stencils and gel plate print technique

Those of you who follow me know that I’ve got a million ideas and time for about 10 at a time. Some times my ideas are bigger than me and I don’t always reach out to make the connections I need to take an idea to another level. Because really there aren’t a whole lot of things we can do all by ourselves, and frankly, that’s a good thing. When we try to do things all on our own we don’t have the power of community, the power of family, the power of partnership – so things can only go so far. I’ve had this idea – well to be honest it’s not totally my idea – it’s an idea I’m borrowing and putting my own spin on.  It’s an idea that is all about connecting – connecting on so many levels… let me try to explain.

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Detail of quilt and matching cards

A few years ago I crossed the path of a woman making an “I Spy” quilt. Do you remember the game “I spy with my little eye”….? It started out as a game to pass the time especially on road trips, clues are given and the guessers guess until they get it right. So an “I Spy” quilt has blocks with different animals or object in each printed square of store bought fabric (Goggle it you’ll see some examples on Etsy). So the “I spy” game on a quilt is like the original but it’s a conversation piece for parent and child. It could also be a way to teach attachment parenting and build language skills (you might have guessed in another life I was preschool teacher).  So what if there could be a connection made between quilt guilds – who love to make quilts – and early childhood learning organizations for families in need?

I liked the quilt idea but I wanted the images to be more cohesive and original. So I created 20 silhouette stencils for a farm and garden theme quilt. Each block is a gelli print on cotton then stitched together. I had multiple prints of each block and my husband made the connection that a second matching game could happen. When I showed a friend she thought perhaps the words could be in Spanish (or I guess no words just instructions in multiple languages…might be better). What if I made this into a kit for quilt groups and friends to get together and print and make the quilts to share in their community? Wouldn’t that be a wonderful connection? These are my ideas – a few of millions – I think to really make this idea go anywhere I need to connect with all of you – any ideas? Do you have any connections? I spy with my little eye…. connections happening, wheels turning,  community in action…. let me know your thoughts.


My Life is a Wagon Wheel

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Huginn & Muninn mixed media on wood panel 24×48″

My life is a wagon wheel. What? A wagon wheel? Now hear me out. Those of you who have followed me for a while know, I am an artistic nomad – mixed media, encaustic, collage, painting, fabric art, quilting, clothing design. Sometimes I wish I could just stick with one thing. Maybe if I stuck with one thing, I would get really good at it, right? Focus for heaven’s sake! Find my inner Monet and paint a lily pond or hay stack over and over. I guess it’s obvious I’m no Monet, but I do love to make and create. If I don’t have a creative outlet, I’m a bear to live with, just ask my family. So here is my wheel analogy. Creativity, creative forces (perhaps God even?) is the center of the wheel. I am on the outer rim and each spoke of the wheel is a way in. I have to think and problem solve and imagine and create my way to the center. So each endeavor gives me another slice of my creative center, each attempt gets me closer to the whole or at least I’m betting on it working that way because that is who I am. Even if sometimes it is crazy making to juggle all these balls maybe one day one of those balls will plop down on my head and say “concentrate on me, go down my spoke only” but until then I will keep rolling on my wagon wheel theory of life.

This is a way to show you some of the things I’ve been working on – you may have noticed that I’m not walking down the blogging spoke of the wheel as often as I used to, here are a few reasons why.

Teaching:

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 workshop making icons for All Souls day at Incarnation Church in Santa Rosa

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2 day workshop creating Guardian Angels at The Bishop’s Ranch.

Writing:

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My latest article in Quilting Arts Magazine on creating fabric by the yard from small mono prints. Purchase magazine

Making: (see ravens at top of article)

4.mother bear SM

Mother Bear mixed media collage on canvas panel 11×14″

5.Home is where the heart is small

Art quilt part of a challenge donation put out by Quilting Arts magazine to give as gifts to homeless folks transitioning to permanent housing. 14×14″

Entrepreneurial endeavors:

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My work at Gallery 300 at The Barlow in Sebastopol CA

7. family art sale

Me, my print maker son Ivan, and blacksmith husband Jack at our Family Art Sale at The Bishop’s Ranch

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My line of Cashmere and Modal Scarves go to my website to see detail pictures and to purchase – Website

WOW- that’s a lot even for me! I’m always looking for new places to teach and share my creative energy so if you have any ideas for me let me know. Soon I’ll catch you up on my workshops in 2019.