Thursday, May 31, 2012

Show Up Every Day

While captive on an airplane recently, I read the in-flight magazine from cover to cover. It had a short interview with the author, Danielle Steel, and her quote caught my eye.  She said "if there's a formula at all to what I do, its this: [I] put my butt in my chair every single day. "  Translate that to my profession and it becomes "I put my hands on the cloth every day." Not a bad idea.  I know you've heard this from me before, but it is difficult to juggle all the aspects of my "job".  As someone who has to earn a living from her art, I have to balance income producing activities (teaching and writing) with creative activities that don't have an immediate income attached.  The studio time may lead to sales and income at some point, but there is definitely a lag between creation and sale.

I confess that I don't go into the studio every day.  As my activities on the income producing side have increased, my studio time has decreased. But for the next 6 weeks, I have no excuse.  No classes until late July. Can I actually commit to spending part of every day in the studio? I don't know, but I'm going to give it a try!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Working with Resists - Commercial Resists

I love commercial water-based resists for their ease of use. No mixing is involved - just open the bottle and pour! Jacquard, Presist and Inkodye are three of the many brands available. I was introduced to water-based resists years ago when I painted on silk.  I created detailed drawings with the resist and then painted inside the lines using silk dyes. When I transitioned to other surface design techniques, I didn't realize how versatile those resists can be. They go way beyond the traditional squeeze-on application.  Here are a few of my favorite ways to use them.

I love using my garden as inspiration and as a printing tool!  These are printings of rose leaves from my backyard.

I'm drawn to the soft, subtle effect of this piece. It was created by brushing water based resist through a mesh laundry bag.

Compressed sponges are the perfect stamping material.  They are very thin, which makes them easy to cut with scissors or a craft knife. Once they are placed under water, they swell to the thickness of a kitchen sponge.

Commercial resists are particularly suited to screenprinting.  The consistency is smooth and easily penetrates a silkscreen.  This is a thermofax image.

Back to the old familiar ways - the resist was applied with a squeeze bottle.

What are your favorite ways of applying water-based resists?

Read my tips for working with resists

Read about working with sugar syrup

Read about working with acrylic medium

Read about working with flour paste

Read about working with oatmeal

Read about working with potato dextrin

Read about working with soy wax

Read about working with commercial resists

Read about working with corn dextrin

Monday, May 28, 2012

How About Some Paw Prints With That?

Yesterday was a day filled with adventure.  What I thought would only take a few hours ended up taking all day. I was filming a short video tutorial and had a little help from my friends (aka my cats). Babs (a beautiful Russian Blue) decided that she wanted to be in the movies, and jumped onto my work table right in the middle of a set.  I shooed her away, and started over.  Then Callie, (a fluffy calico) decided she needed to sharpen her claws on the rug.  She was off screen, but was going at it very noisily. OK, let's try this one more time - third time's the charm, right?  I made it all the way through the tutorial.  Babs jumped up at the very end, but I had already finished.  Except she jumped right into the wet paint and left turquoise paw prints over all the samples on the table.  And I still needed to shoot the close-ups, so I needed those samples!!  Fortunately, a quick rinse in cold water removed the paw prints.  Good thing I love those cats!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Working with Resists - Soy Wax

For years, I was drawn to the look of batik, but I didn't want to deal with the wax removal.  When I learned that soy wax washes out with hot water, I rushed to try it. Now I keep a supply in my studio at all times. Compared to some of the other resists, it is easier to maintain the "white space" with soy wax while hand painting. It does tend to break down somewhat in an immersion dye bath, but I love the soft look that creates. Soy wax can be applied with a variety of tools or simply brushed onto the fabric. Here are some of my samples. 

See how the white background was maintained. This feature allows great possibilities for over dyeing.

Even though it is a soft wax, it will crack to create an interesting texture.

This leaf was created by applying soy wax through a stencil.  After washing out the wax, a layer of dye was hand painted on the cloth to give it a hint of color.

When layered with other resists, you can achieve much depth and complexity.

You can even use soy wax for shibori. How have you used soy wax in your work?

Read my tips on working with resists.

Read about working with sugar syrup.

Read about working with acrylic medium.

Read about working with flour paste.

Read about working with oatmeal.

Read about working with potato dextrin.

Friday, May 18, 2012

On Writing a Book

Yesterday I saw my book in print for the first time. I only had a chance to flip through the pages quickly, but I'm pleased with what I saw. My copy is awaiting me back home, so I'll have a chance to look at it more closely this weekend.

The entire experience has been very positive, although not entirely what I expected.  Everyone with whom I've worked has been enthusiastic, helpful and supportive. I feel fortunate to be working with the wonderful publishing team at C&T.

I was amazed that the actual writing is only a small component of the project. I spent as much time creating samples as I did writing. And the prep for the photography, along with the photo shoot itself, took many hours. A lot of time went into figuring out what how-to photos would best complement the text and what equipment, materials and supplies were needed for those photos. There were also many hours of review and revision.

The aspect that was most surprising is the length of time it takes to produce a book. I finished my part last April, so the entire production process has taken over a year. The manuscript was reviewed by several different editors for content, accuracy, grammar and spelling. Fortunately my book did not require any re-writes or revisions. The next step was putting the words and photos together in a meaningful way. And then the final layout and design. All of that was complete by year-end and the book was sent off to the printer. The actual distribution date is June 18, so there is still another month to go.

I feel a bit overwhelmed when I think of all the teamwork and cooperation needed to accomplish the task. I tend to be pretty independent and think I can do everything by myself.  This truly was a team effort and I am thankful to all those who had a hand in the book.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Back in Kansas City

C&T Publishing invited me to attend Quilt Market in Kansas City to promote my new book.  It will be a whirlwind trip - presentation to quilt shop owners today and a book signing tomorrow, then back on a plane for home. I arrived yesterday. 

Since this is my first time doing anything like this, I've been practicing my presentation whenever I can.  Yesterday I found myself in the Pizza Hut at DFW in between flights.  The place was empty, so after lunch I decided to run through my presentation.  I closed my eyes to better concentrate.  When I opened my eyes 20 minutes later, the place was packed.  A man kept glancing at me surreptitiously. Maybe they though I was meditating.  Maybe they thought I was dead. Maybe they didn't even notice.

Well, I'm off to get breakfast and practice my presentation a few more time. More later.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Working with Resists - Tip #6

#6 Understanding the Variables

One of the trickiest aspects of achieving consistency when working with resists is to understand all the factors that affect the end result. Years ago I had an early lesson in understanding variables when working with gel glue.  I made three mistakes - I applied it with a rubber stamp, I used silk noil and I immersed it.  The end result was that the stamped image did not show up at all.  Individually, those actions might be fine, but together they resulted in failure. Rubber stamps are not the most effective way to apply gel glue, particularly on a heavy fabric: a sponge stamp is a much better choice. Because gel glue is water soluble, it doesn't hold up well in an immersion. It will work with a low water immersion and a heavy layer of glue, but not with a light application on a heavy fabric.

I've had numerous lessons in what affects the end result. And I'm still learning. I'm not sure I'll ever have them all worked out, but each time I work with resists, my knowledge increases. Below is a partial list of the seemingly infinite variables. What other variables have you found in your work with resists?

The weave or texture of the fabric affects the way an image or pattern looks.  It may also affect the ease with which the resist washes out.
The weight or thickness of the fabric affects whether the resist completely penetrates the fabric and how the dye reacts with the fabric.

The Resist
For resists that require mixing, the resist to water ratio affects not only the look but also the resist's ability to block dye or paint.
The length of time the resist sits before use may affect the crackle pattern for oatmeal and potato dextrin.
The length of cooking time (for sugar or oats) affects the resulting pattern.
Different brands of commercial water-based resists have different properties.  Some are more water soluble, some spread more on the fabric, some work well with immersion.

The Application Technique
The thickness of the application affects the resist properties - a thicker layer means the dye is less likely to breach the resist.
The thickness of the application affects the crackle pattern for paste resists.  Generally a thicker layer results in larger cracks, a thin layer results in a finer crackling pattern.

The Dye or Paint
The way the dye is applied (immersion, liquid hand painted, thickened hand painted) can create significant differences in the end result.
The consistency of the thickened dye can affect how much dye penetrates the resist.

Read previous tips for working with resists

Read tip #7 

Read about sugar syrup resist

Read about acrylic medium as a resist

Read about flour paste resist

Read about oatmeal resist

 Read about potato dextrin resist

Read about soy wax resist

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Picture in My Head

How can I share with you the image I can see very clearly in my mind?  I can't quite find the words to capture it. Yet that is all I have after my week-long art retreat. A vision - still somewhat nebulous - of my next series. One might say that I wasn't very productive - no cloth to show for all that time.  Yet I feel that it was very productive.   I had a flash of insight while sitting by the creek one morning. That insight, along with many hours of reflection, journaling and meditation, gave me enough clarity to move forward. My fabric has been ordered and will arrive tomorrow. Guess what I'm doing this weekend?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Art Retreat in Place

I am devoting the next six days to an art retreat at home. I thought about going away somewhere, but there were too many reasons to stay home.  And I realized that it's better to be here where I have all my supplies rather than trying to pack up everything. 

I started getting a little stressed in anticipation - the expectations were sky high.  I was putting pressure on myself to get as much done as possible.  Last night I realized that I need to build in some quiet time to connect with my intuition.  So I won't just be in the studio 10 hours a day. It will be a true retreat in that I am taking time every day for meditation, reflection and spending time in nature. And I will be minimizing my computer time. 

I spent the past few days cleaning house and studio to minimize my distractions. Today it's an early start for a walk at a local nature center.  Then on to the studio to play with soy wax dye crayons.

Have a great week - I'll be back next Thursday.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Working With Resists - Potato Dextrin

It took a few years for me to really appreciate potato dextrin. It is best known for its distinctive crackle pattern, however I have found that it can be very versatile. It works well in a squeeze bottle, stamped or stenciled, brayer printed and even screen printed. It washes out easily but it can withstand low water immersion. The main downside is that it is more costly than other paste resists. Covering a large piece of cloth for the crackle effect can get expensive. But it does look fabulous!

Here is the classic crackle pattern. The dextrin was applied unevenly, resulting in some areas with fine cracks and some areas with larger cracks.

Potato dextrin was brushed through a plastic grid, then painted with thickened dye. When using objects as stencils, the result is not always as expected. Instead of creating neat squares, the dextrin pooled around the grid, resulting in this abstracted pattern.

Potato dextrin brushed through lace curtain, painted with thickened dye.  Prior to being used as a stencil, the lace was stiffened with a coating of acrylic paint.

Potato dextrin applied with a brush, painted with thickened dye

Potato dextrin applied with a sponge stamp, painted with thickened dye.

Potato dextrin applied with a sponge stamp, immersed.  Notice how more of the dye breached the resist, resulting in a softer image.

Potato dextrin brayer print with a chocolate box liner underneath the cloth.

Potato dextrin applied with a circular brush.

Read my tips for working with resists

Read about working with sugar syrup resist

Read about working with acrylic medium resist

Read about working with flour paste resist

Read about working with oatmeal resist

Read about working with soy wax resist
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