Artist & Teacher

Posts tagged “fabric designs

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.


Making Connections…


whole quilt

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.

close up multicards

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.

Collecting Clouds

This is my Grandpa's Cloud Catalog and the fabric I designed using his photos

This is my Grandpa’s Cloud Catalog and the fabric I designed using his photos

Recently my mom gave me a slim photo album that had been her fathers, my grandfather. In photo album are pictures of clouds. The camera is aimed up, the trees have no purpose, there are no people, the clouds were the objects of desire. My grandpa died when I was six so I don’t have detailed memories of him. What I have is more memories of photographs and stories. He was an educated man who had studied meteorology in college but had ended up a postman to support his family. So in retirement he had started this cloud catalog. The dates on the photos range from ’62 (the year of my birth) to ‘6???. The type of cloud isn’t labeled anywhere I guess he really didn’t need it labeled; he knew what kind of cloud each one was. I have no way of knowing but I guess it was more of a hunt for him like birders to witness and record a sighting. This album was for him a quest a challenge. When I received the album I wasn’t sure what I would do with it but I was definitely drawn to the idea and the images. I decided to scan them all so I could use them in multiple ways. The first way is in a fabric design; you can see the swatches I got from printer on the right. I haven’t made anything yet but when I do you’ll be the first to see it. More art will come from this collection of clouds, thank your to my far off grandpa for reaching to me from the past and inspiring the small child he held in his lap 45 years in the future.

This is me wearing a dress I made from my Circle Collection of photos

This is me wearing a dress I made from my Circle Collection of photos

I’ve done a bit of photo colleting of my own. There is something wonderful about setting your sites and intentions on something and searching it – out for my grandpa it was clouds – but for me the inspiration can come from lots of places. The fabric in this dress is from photos I took of old round things… this photo scavenger hunt took me to old barns and under bridges, and behind old tractors what a fun day of seeking.

You’ve seen some of my other photo collections; there are my NY and SF fabrics that focus on signs and graffiti the beauty in the everyday things. I have my barn wood fabric that is just what it sounds like. During my recent trip to Philly I took loads of photos of glass sided buildings, hands, feet and faces from old bronze statues that somehow will come together in a photo montage that summarizes my visit. Giving myself a mission when I’m traveling prompts me to look deeply, and search for surprises as well as find some commonality in a place some thread that speaks of the place. So I recommend creating a collection even just a temporal observational collection, have fun with the hunt.

Here is a link to Spoonflower where I have a whole collection of fabrics for sale including Cloud Catalog .