Friday, June 28, 2013

Summer in the Southeastern USA

Carol here.

I live in the upper left hand corner of South Carolina (called "the Upstate" around here).
For years, decades really, we have been classified as an Agricultural Zone 7a-7b, depending on where you are in the state.
In 2012, the zoning map was re-evaluated and the zones in our state changed.
We now run from 7A to 9A (Charleston area only).
That would explain why I rarely wear a heavy coat in the winter as well as why I stay in the house (in the air conditioning) during the heat (and humidity) of the summer.

But one of the truly wonderful perks about living in this near tropical environment is the cornucopia of fragrant flowers.
If you step out into my backyard right now, you would be treated to the scents of gardenia, magnolias, lillies, petunias, roses as well as many other odoriferous delights.

When I go out to clip leaves, stems or flowers for natural dyeing (or eco printing), I am frequently distracted from the job at hand by the abundance of natural beauty right in my own yard.

Not to mention the blackberries that are ripening up right now.

Print from a blackberry stem.
I picked a few leaves from the bushes while I was checking out the progress of the berries.
We really have to be diligent about picking them or the birds will eat them all!

I'm gathering  a big pile of natural dyed fabrics to being a stitching project soon.
I'll be glad to get to that part of the fun since it's been a while since I've been able to make something.
And that's one of my very favorite things to do - making something.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

What I'm Working On

Kristin here. My artistic career since starting a family has always been a side venture. In recent years it's taken on more and more import but there's always that balance to find between being present as a mother, diligent as a housewife (at least a little bit), and proactive as an artist. When we lived in Hawaii, I felt the desire to take my art more seriously, but never actually acted on it (the perils of knowing your time in one place is limited). Moving to Virginia with more independent kids and a husband who I knew wouldn't be gone for 12 months at a time, I made a pledge to myself to engage in the local arts community -- even if only temporarily.

I applied for and was accepted into the local art co-op and signed up for a solo show in their main gallery. Lucky me, I am scheduled for September! The opening is in just over two months. Yikes. But I'm ready(ish) with twelve aprons and five quilts and another textile to choose from. I've made lists and marked the calendar with dates by which I need things.

Right now I'm focused on dealing with some ideas I've been contemplating. I put the pedal to the metal on a medallion quilt that was bouncing around in my head and I'm really loving how it's looking. I'm so glad I had the chance to get a good start on it earlier in the month at the retreat even before I knew I'd be having a show so soon. I keep picking up a stalled quilt that I've been working on for over 10 years and finally decided that I'm not clear enough on it's vision to warrant stressing over finishing it for the show. I have a couple of half baked ideas in my sketchbook, but I don't think that they are necessary to fill the gallery, and I'm far more excited about starting the next series rather than dragging out this one unnecessarily.

I made a scale model of the gallery a few days ago and populated it with scale printouts of my work. It's like playing with a doll house! I ordered two mannequins to display work on but one arrived moldy, so back it goes to be replaced (glad I ordered early and have time to replace it). Next up is taking a look at my mailing list (terribly outdated) and writing a press release for some military-related venues that the normal publicity at the art center probably won't reach. Then I print postcards, and new business cards while I'm at it. I'll need a statement or something as part of my signage in the gallery (and I'll have to design and order the signage). And I can't forget to make sure each piece is signed and labeled consistently and ready to hang/install. I've got to get the builder guy at the art center to find or make me three pedestals for the mannequins too.

There's lots to do in the next eight weeks. But nothing is difficult or unexpected. I have been dreaming of this show for years as I've been creating The Army Wife series. I am incredibly excited and I can't wait to show my story to our community here.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Cliff Jumping and Leaps of Faith

Cotttonwood Center for the Arts

Liz Kettle here today...I have never been one for taking big risks. All those quotes that say leap off the cliff and your wings will appear or you will build them on the way down have never motivated me. Why would any sane person jump of the cliff? When faced with a big goal I take a breath and look down the side of the cliff for the first step.  One step at a time and before you know it I am at the bottom. Maybe it took me a little longer than those who jumped but it is less stressful that’s for sure!
I have been thinking about a studio outside of my home for quite a few years. I never found anything that was right. Most studios are set up for painters and are much too small for a mixed media textile artist. We have way too much good stuff to fit comfortably in most studio spaces. I started talking about sharing a studio space with my friend and fellow textile artist Cass Mullane. But, still nothing we found was right.
You know, how sometimes you just need to be totally ready for something and it shows up? Well, that is exactly what happened to Cass and me. We were at Cottonwood Center for the Arts at the same time dropping off some art for an exhibit when we stopped to chat with the new director of the arts center Jon Khoury . He mentioned that there was one studio spot that had just become available and would we be interested in seeing it.
The moment we walked into the space we both got one of those intuitive hits, an overwhelming desire to leap off the cliff and say yes to the space. Of course neither of us said much in that moment, we didn’t want to seem too eager or pressure the other one to commit to something this big without considered thought...neither of us are cliff jumpers. We left the art center and grabbed a cup of coffee to discuss the possibility. We listed the pros and cons…only we couldn’t come up with much on the con side of the paper. We both knew that this was what we had been waiting for. We just couldn't wipe the grins off our faces.

The view from the entry door
The studio is perfect. Big enough for two people to work comfortably in, great light, great access on the first floor, room to teach classes, room to display our art and at an affordable price. Did I mention the studio is in a thriving art center with over 70 artists in residence? It was a leap of faith rather than a cliff jump to sign the lease. Faith in my work, my abilities and my future as an artist.
We haven’t even been in the space a month but we both know this is going to change our art and the way we work. I found it too distracting to be at home. I had plenty of space but there were so many distractions when the work got hard. It was too easy to say, I will just fill the dishwasher or check e-mail or I just remembered that I need to weed the garden.  Before you knew it a week had gone by and I hadn’t gotten to that next step. I sometimes just want to avoid the work when I am stuck rather than push through. Which is really silly because eventually you just have to push through!

My work space and a peek down the hall to the main lobby

 There is plenty of space for teaching classes and I think my work my begin to get larger because I have space around me rather than too much stuff in too little space. I won't bring all my studio supplies to the new space. I have only brought the 'good stuff'. You know all the hand dyes, vintage fabrics, fabrics I have created with surface design...the expensive ribbons and paints. I know I will have to bring things back and forth but that is ok. I must say that putting the key in the lock each morning and walking into that beautiful space makes my heart sing.

The thing I hadn't imagined I would like is the public popping in to see our artwork and chat about our processes. They are all intrigued with our mixed media textile art. It is so rewarding to hear their comments and get feedback daily. We have a once a month art walk on the last friday of each month so if you are in the Colorado Springs area be sure to visit. We are working on our schedule so one of us will be at the studio each day. Our Grand Opening will be Sat July 6 from 10-2 if you are local or visiting it will be a blast.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

From a Single Poppy

Gloria here.

I get immense enjoyment from photography and often use it as a springboard for various design ideas and the basis of new artwork. A year or so back, a new hospital was constructed in the area.  As a result of that construction, there were some gorgeous poppy fields that sprung up that I happily visited and photographed on several occasions.  Yesterday I drove over to see what the poppy fields might look like. Unfortunately, with the earth now settled, there were far more daisies and other wildflowers than poppies. Even so, I managed to find a few few to photograph. This is an example of how one poppy became the springboard to various ideas.

This is the original photo. It's not particularly good, but I like the flower in focus and the soft light behind it.

I used the "content aware fill" to get rid of the weed on the upper right, and I used the "exposure brush" to darken the left edge.

I then added a mask to the edge to create a frame. This I will print as is for my journal.

In this version, I played around with the colors, clarity, and edge to create another look.
One of my favorite things to do in Photoshop is chop up images, repeat portions, and see what happens.  I refer to them as "chop and repeats." I do this as a jumping off point to see what types of ideas might happen. It becomes very addictive, with one idea immediately giving way to the next. Luckily I recently got a new 3 TB hard drive, so I have plenty of space for play.  By the end of last night, I had a folder filled with nearly 50 variations (and I have no doubt I will be doing more, as the ideas keep coming).

Next I will print many of these "chop and repeats" along with the original source photos to add into my sketchbook. My hope is they will become a springboard for some smaller works in fiber.  I am already anxious to use the photo itself for some watercolor sketches.  What fun!

Friday, June 7, 2013

challenging materials

Hello! Natalya here...
Lately I seem to be enjoying challenging myself with materials. I have always worked with recyclables in my art quilting, but mostly that has been vintage linens, dryer sheets and the occasional bubble wrap... This year I seem to have upped my ante without even noticing...
cut up and layered plastic bags
First I dove into using plastics. Within a few weeks of collecting plastic bags from various supermarket trips I had enough materials to create several artworks almost entirely of plastic.
mittens and twigs!
Then I invited my friends to contribute to my self-imposed challenge. I am currently making portraits of their homes and for materials using ephemera that they collected for me. What was I thinking?  Well... I was thinking it would be fun actually!
In the first portrait I made, I was given worn out wool mittens, twigs, tissue paper and dryer sheets. It was a fun challenge to figure out. Somehow the mittens made a perfect lawn and the color of the tissue paper was the same shade as the stucco house.
The next challenging bit of ephemera that's on my work table currently is mostly paper. Brochures from various parks, house plans and ticket stubs. This home portrait will be completely different from the previous one. But will I be able to keep it all in my style? Sure hope so..

What challenging materials have you worked with?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Hi Beryl here. Well, my daughter Vicki came over from the UK for a week last month and it's always hectic, trying to fit so much in especially back and forth to NYC, I was exhausted. Aside from retail shopping, museums featured heavily into our itinerary so we started at The Metropolitan. She wanted to see the Impressionism-Fashion-Modernity exhibition. It consisted of eight rooms all of which revolved around Parisian fashion in the mid-to-late 1800's and how fashion influenced the artists of the day.

From there we went to The Whitney to see The Rose exhibit by Jay Defeo as recommended by Gloria. This was well worth the trip and the video that accompanied it was amazing. Then a quick visit to MOMA and then onto Tommy Bahama's Restaurant at 5th and 45th - fabulous food can highly recommend it.