Tuesday, October 29, 2013


I got a few questions about fusing fabric after yesterday's post. I have written about my process here before, but maybe it's time for an update. I never liked using the conventional fusibles, so several years ago I went looking for something different. I found a product called Liquifuse and after some experimentation I had something that worked the way I liked. I never liked that fusible web on the whole piece of fabric makes it stiff and unnaturally rigid. This was a liquid that I could use only on the edges of my fabric pieces, so the result was soft and easy to stitch.  Furthermore, it sealed the edges of the fabric so much better than the fusible webs that I had been using and the edges did not fray. The liquid is not a glue, but rather a material that melts with heat applied to it and fuses fabrics together in that way.

I created a tutorial that demonstrated how I used it. You can see it here. The name of Liquifuse was changed to Liquid Thread and I refined the process, slightly, but it is essentially the process I have used for quite a few years now.

I was going to create a new tutorial. I have a new iPad and it seemed like an opportunity to make a little video to show how the Liquid Thread works. Ha! I recorded several videos and they were all kind of a mess and I could not really figure out how to edit them and then I found that they were too large to imbed into the blog! I think I have a little learning curve to negotiate before my videos are ready for prime time. But—I did end up with this little snippet that shows what the stuff looks like, so, for what it is worth—my directing debut......

Okay, well that turned out weird. At least you can see the 
bottle and the little pointy tipped bottle that I transfer the
diluted liquid into. Sorry!

For the rest of the story you will just have to go to the old tutorial. Maybe one of these days I will actually figure out how to put it all on a concise little video. And, because I know they are coming, I will attempt to answer the most common followup questions you may have.

  1. Where do you buy Liquid Thread?  I can usually buy it at Michael's Crafts locally. Because I use so much I have been buying it in quantity lately, online. http://www.save-on-crafts.com/liquidthread.html
  2. How much water do you add when you dilute it?  I usually mix one part water to two parts Liquid Thread. Other people have told me they add less. I recommend testing and experimenting with it to decide what works best for you.
  3. Can I use it on any kind of fabric? It works best on quilting weight cottons and fabrics of a similar weight. It does not do well with sheer fabrics or very thin silks.
  4.  Does it wash out? Once it has been ironed it is permanent. Before it is ironed you can easily wash it out, which is very helpful if you drip it where you don't want it.
  5. Where do I get a teflon pressing sheet? I have found them locally in fabric stores. Also available online. I especially like the Goddess sheet, but any of them work. http://www.amazon.com/Attached-Goddess-Sheet/dp/B004UMVKYY
  6. Anything else? When diluting Liquid Thread mix it with cold water. I made the mistake of adding hot water and it created clumps that clogged the hole in the lid of the applicator bottle. It didn't occur to me that this was a heat-activated adhesive. Duh!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

My brother, my sister and a good week

Last weekend's Open Studios were the culmination of a year of work and preparation. It was exhausting and exhilarating. Sales were good and I got to visit with so many nice people. At the end of the day on Sunday I walked away from the studio and didn't return until this afternoon. In between I have had a lovely week. 

My brother arrived from Idaho on Monday and spent a couple days, during which we had a great time visiting, being tourists, taking in some live Jazz and drinking in the glorious weather and fall color. He was actually here on business, but that got taken care of easily and didn't eat into a fun visit. It is a treat to be with either of my siblings so we always manage to make it special. Steve left on Thursday and on Friday I drove up to see my sister in Washington state. Can't remember the last time I saw both of them in the same week. I hadn't seen Becky since she started treatment for breast cancer about six weeks ago. She was scheduled for chemo on Friday so I went up and went with her. It is a long procedure--about four hours of just sitting while the drugs slowly make their way into her system by way of an intravenous line. She had packed us a little picnic lunch, and despite the clinical ambiance, we had quite a pleasant afternoon of visiting and catching up. That evening, along with her son, we had a great dinner at a cozy Italian restaurant. I have been so worried about her and my visit was as much for my own reassurance as it was for her. It is a devastating disease and it was so good to see her smiling and  laughing and treating the whole thing as a challenge to be tackled and an experience to learn from. She has some unpleasant days ahead and it is hard. I love her a lot.

The drive home yesterday was really beautiful and probably the last of our glorious fall days. Today we awoke to rain and the air has turned cold. A perfect day to return to the studio, and get back to work. I am working on the piece I can't show, but I can share part of the process. I am fusing irregular triangles of fabric to create a night sky. I start by applying the liquid fusible to the fabric, melt the fusible with my iron and cut out the triangles. I really liked the pattern the wet fusible created!

Once I had a nice assortment of various shades of night sky-colored triangles I used my little iron to start fusing them around the moon.

It goes surprisingly quickly and it is fun to see it grow triangle by triangle.  The sky is nearly done. 

Have a good week. I plan to.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


 I took this photo this morning on my walk. It was very foggy this morning and this was taken at the end of the walk, just as the fog was beginning to  burn off. The scene looked like a pastel or a dreamy oil painting. I used to carry my camera. Now I use the camera on my phone, which is really quite good.

I often use my photos as reference for my artwork. The digital camera and computer and photo editing software have made this a snap. And because it is so easy to do I think some artists rely on a photograph to the detriment of their creativity. What I mean is that the work ends up looking so much like a photo that none of the artist's personality or voice shines through. I have  done this myself and the results are not very satisfying. Lately I tend more toward using the photo to make a simplified sketch, then I work from the sketch and put the photo away. This seems to free me to make the kind of artistic choices with the colors and composition more easily than I did when the photo was in front of me.

The proliferation of photos on the Internet is also a huge boon to making representational art. If I decide I need to add a chicken to a scene I can easily Google "chickens" and know what a chicken looks like, as I did a while back. Nice not to have to go track down a chicken and take its picture!  The danger of working with photos from the Internet, however, is that those photos are someone else's intellectual property. My chicken was an amalgam of a number of different photos, using what I could ascertain from those photos about a chicken's form and posture and coloring. And why would I not simply just find a photo of  the chicken I liked and copy it outright? First, I would likely be violating the photographer's copyright, and second, it is just part of how I like to know that my work is wholly my own. It is perfectly legal and acceptable to use photos for which one has gotten or paid for permission to use, and I certainly don't judge artists that do that, it just isn't anything I want to do. The important point, though, is that permission has been obtained. There have been some important and interesting cases of artists being sued  by photographers for the unauthorized use of their photos. One very interesting case involved the photographer Alberto Korda who never made a penny off his iconic photo of Che Guevara until he successfully sued a vodka company who used it in an ad. In a more recent case, the artist, Shepard Fairey, designer of the emblematic Obama "Hope" poster was successfully sued by the photographer of the image Fairey used without permission.

When I decided to create a portrait of Frida Kahlo for one of my Twelve by Twelve quilts I collected.a variety of images. 

The resulting work uses elements of many of these images, but is not a copy of any one of them.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Color intoxication

This morning was foggy for our walk. The fog created silhouettes in gray, of the trees, until you got close. Then suddenly the color would emerge from the mist, almost taking your breath away. I kept taking pictures, hoping to capture all that color. When I got home and looked at the photos on the computer screen it was a surprise to see how complex the color was. I think of fall color as mainly oranges and golds. They are so bold that I guess we don't always notice the warm, smoky purples and acid-y greens and taupes and soft blues that provide contrast and context. For fun I used Photoshop and pulled out some combinations based on the photos.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

One thing after another

Busy, busy week. I have had two meetings this week, got a flu shot and continue to get things ready for the Open Studios this weekend.

Today's meeting was the Portland SAQA group meeting and we talked about writing artists statements, which is one of those chores, necessary for exhibits and such, but daunting. No one likes to do it. After the discussion I came home and wrote mine. How do you like it?

Terry Grant

Terry Grant (°1946, LaJunta, CO, United States) is an artist who works in a variety of media. By focusing on techniques and materials, Grant makes work that deals with the documentation of events and the question of how they can be presented. The work tries to express this with the help of physics and technology, but not by telling a story or creating a metaphor.
Her artworks are notable for their perfect finish and tactile nature. This is of great importance and bears witness to great craftsmanship. With Plato’s allegory of the cave in mind, she absorbs the tradition of remembrance art into daily practice. This personal follow-up and revival of a past tradition is important as an act of meditation.
Her collected, altered and own works are being confronted as aesthetically resilient, thematically interrelated material for memory and projection. The possible seems true and the truth exists, but it has many faces, as Hanna Arendt cites from Franz Kafka. By contesting the division between the realm of memory and the realm of experience, she considers making art a craft which is executed using clear formal rules and which should always refer to social reality.
Her works are an investigation into representations of (seemingly) concrete ages and situations as well as depictions and ideas that can only be realized in art. Terry Grant currently lives and works in Portland, OR.
Ha ha! I didn't write that. There is a site called "500 letters" where you fill out a short form and it will generate an artist's statement for you. I was somewhat hampered because it didn't offer fiber as a medium choice, so I chose "variety of media." I thought it did quite a good job—totally incomprehensible. But, seriously, I need to write a more realistic statement. That is our homework for next month's meeting.

I am trying something for the Open Studio that I have not done before. I had giclee prints made from three of my favorite Twelve by Twelve pieces to have for sale. I can offer something small and inexpensive ($16) as well as having my original work displayed and for sale. I ordered the prints from a Canadian company and I am really pleased with them. The paper and ink are archival and the color looks perfect. The paper is thick and creamy and the prints are beautifully detailed. I don't know if anyone will want something like this or not. It was not a huge investment to find out.

I am mounting them on black mat board and signing them. I will wrap them in cellophane to protect them.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Stories — an addendum

Ray and I decided, about a month ago, to start going to a gym. It isn't one of those fancy gyms with all the young hard bodies. It is a gym at our neighborhood recreation center and it has a bunch of machines and big windows that look out over a playground and a neighborhood and, right now, a fading flower bed and glorious red and gold trees. It is never very busy and you can always get a treadmill. Most of the people there look about like us and we nearly always see a very old man in a stocking cap who comes in and lifts weights furiously and then peddles a stationary bike like a demon out of hell, then shuffles out the door and down the sidewalk. He is amazing. My main thing is the treadmill. I walk for about 30 minutes, then I might try the rowing machine or one of the ab crunchy machines for a bit. But mostly it is the treadmill. And it is boring. Really boring.

In an effort to make it less boring I tried reading as I walked. I have seen others reading, but it just didn't work for me. My head bobs up and down too much and turning the pages is awkward and it's really hard to find and keep the sweet spot in my glasses that brings the print into focus while doing all this. So I turned to my phone. You know there is going to be an app for boring, right? Podcasts. That's the app. I found podcasts of The Moth Radio Hour and now I walk on the treadmill, with my earphones plugged into my phone and I listen to the Moth as I walk. The 30 minutes is like nothing. It flies.

If you are not familiar with The Moth, it is a public radio show of live storytelling events. The stories tend to be around 20 minutes long, give or take, and they are told by all kinds of people about all kinds of things. Some are extremely funny, some thought-provoking and some are sad.  Many are both funny and sad. You can find episodes on The Moth web site here or you can download podcasts to your phone or other device. They are great. I sometimes find myself laughing out loud, or smiling a lot. The other day I must admit I felt a tear slip down my cheek as I listened to the one called "Perfect Moments" found here. I pretended it was sweat.

I never understood, and probably never will understand how people become addicted to exercise, or even claim to love it. I know it is good for me and I will do, but I will never really enjoy it. But a good story is, for me, pure enjoyment. I can bear the one if I can have the other at the same time.

And how about this truck, parked near me at the grocery store yesterday? I loved its unintentional artistry, especially the color scheme. I'll bet there's a story there.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Telling stories

Last week Ray and I went to hear Malcolm Gladwell talk. We have enjoyed his books and thought we might like to hear and see him in person. It was a wonderful evening. If you have not read his books or his articles in the New Yorker, I can only describe him as a storyteller/sociologist. He takes a simple idea and explores what we believe about that idea and why we might not be seeing the whole picture and how we might see that simple idea in a different way once we have explored all the elements. Could be very dull, but he is far from dull because he is such a skilled storyteller.  Every idea is illuminated by a story. And standing on the stage of the Schnitzer Auditorium the other evening he spun out another true story that wound around in unexpected ways and painted a mental picture more vivid than most television. You can get a sense of the kind of storyteller he is from this recent TED talk.

(If you like this one, check out his talk about what makes us happy and spaghetti sauce.)

Anyway, he got me thinking about the skill of telling a story. Really, about the power of a well-told story. Most of us, if we are lucky, grow up on stories. There was nothing I loved more as a child than hearing my mother or father, both of whom were good story tellers, talk about their childhoods. My grandmother was an exceptionally good storyteller and hearing her descriptions of life on a Montana ranch or as a young, widowed mother scratching out a livelihood in Seattle were better than fiction. Did she ever say to me "work hard and you will win the respect of others" ? No. She did not. But her stories did. Did she ever try to impress upon me that I must always be honest and open with others? No, but her deep belief in honesty and integrity came through her stories in a way that made a greater impression than preaching ever would.

As a longtime blogger I read a lot of advice about how to blog better. Much of it is about gaining more readers with gimmicks and novelty and it seems there is always the admonition that one's blog must offer more and better information than the run of the mill blog.  Hmmm. Well maybe. Does that mean we should all be creating those lists, like "Twenty five ways to improve your free-motion stitching" or "The top ten reasons no one is buying your art."  And I think, "what do I like to find when I read a blog?" A story. Tell me a good story and I am your faithful reader.

I sometimes begin to write a blog entry and find myself telling a story. It is part of who I am, I guess. I know I use this blog to tell my story. Self-indulgent perhaps, but I am always heartened when I hear from readers who see themselves in my story or tell me they laughed—or cried. And even more, I love when you tell your stories. As I think about it, it may be the best thing we do as humans—in our writing, in our art, around the table or the campfire, in our lives. We tell our stories.

Photos, because I think all blog posts need photos. Top of the post—outside the studio door. Bottom of the post — morning walk this week.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Color for a new season

When the season changes my color sense seems to change. In the summer I gravitate toward the cooler, watery colors. Now that the weather is cooling I am going for warmth and intensity.

I am working on a new piece. It is, unfortunately one that is for a show that asks that we not post progress or finished posts of the piece until it is either accepted or rejected for the show, but I think I can show you the fabrics and colors I am using.

I am really in a love affair with golden yellows right now. And the perfect foil for that warm yellow is a nice deep, rich blue. Don't you think yellow and blue is a beautiful combination? I do, even though I'm not a great fan of blue in general. Yellow and blue just speak to each other.

(The brown got a little bath in the blue dye too, but it didn't do much to it.)

I promised a photo of the garden art I got at the show/sale last weekend and here it is.

It was the color that attracted me. Isn't it pretty? It is all metal—quite heavy. I asked the guy who made it how the color would hold up outdoors and he assured me that it is powder-coated color with a heavy-duty clear finish over it, and could be left out year-round. There was another garden art vendor with lots of whimsical rusted metal pieces, and it was very popular, but it didn't appeal to me. I wanted the color.

This is our backyard and the globe is visible from inside the house. I think it will be a nice bright spot as the weather grows darker and grayer. The backyard is a work in progress. Ray is eliminating most of the grass, little by little and there are plans for a patio and pathways. Right now the garden is in its final days. The tomatoes went in late and may never get ripe. We are still enjoying the lettuce, but it is all looking a little bedraggled. But I love my new ornament. I can face the winter if I am armed with color.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

One show down, now onward to the Open Studios

Now that the Celebrate the Gifts show is out of the way, I am working at getting ready for the Open Studios in two weeks.

I still had that dye pot with maybe a bit of life left in it. Before cleaning up the dyeworks I decided it might go one more round. It had gone from turquoise to green and was now pretty depleted so I tossed in a bit of brown and a touch of black for its last hurrah. This is the point at which I can use it to add some subtle changes to some of my fabrics. I threw in some blue fabrics to see if I could flatten them some—gray them out with a little green cast. I like what I got. I know I will be able to use these nicely.

I especially like the very light one at the bottom, which started out as a very typical pale blue and white check. I folded it so you can see that there is a noticeable difference between the back and the front, so it will do double duty. I really like these smoky colors, which mix so well with the more intense hues.

The weekend show was good. It is only the third year the church has done this show and attendance could have been better. It was a slow go and most of the sales were small pieces priced under $100—all of my sales were in that category, but that isn't unexpected. What I really enjoyed was visiting with the other artists. I met some really talented and lovely people. The collage artist who was set up right behind me was especially nice and we kept admiring each other's work. Near the end of the show she proposed a swap and I was happy to trade one of my small pieces for one of hers.

Nice, isn't it? She is a Finnish woman by the name of Airi Huoponen Foote. She has a web site here.

As much work as a show like this is, it is something I like to do occasionally. It really is good to talk to people—both viewers/shoppers and other artists. I am always a little surprised (pleasantly) at how many men are very interested in the technical aspects and want to know about sewing machines and what they will and won't do—"I don't suppose you have some kind of machine that you program and then just put fabric into it and it will do the rest...?  Yeah, I didn't think so." A lot of people say, "you must have a lot of patience..." or they say "you must have very good eyesight!" I'm never sure whether to confess that I have neither or just smile appreciatively. One woman picked up one of my small pieces and put her nose right up to it and declared, "I would be in the loony bin!" I suggested that maybe it's what keeps me out of the loony bin.

At the very end, as we were packing up I finally decided to buy the one piece of art I had been coveting and got it before it got packed up and carried away. It is a piece for the garden and I can't wait to see how it looks out there. Of course I will post a photo.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Color theory

This morning I ran back to the church where the sale is going to happen and took the bag of work that I forgot yesterday and spiffed up my display a bit, then hit the Post Office and sent off a quilt I sold this week(woo hoo) then went back home and decided I need to whip my studio into shape. The Open Studios are two weeks away.

I had a pot of dye that I needed to either use or toss out. My dyeing habits would send professional dyers and most of the fabric artists I know screaming into the woods. First off, of course, I use the wrong kind of dye, because I am not dyeing yards of fabrics to exact formulas. I am tossing bits and recycled parts of shirts into a little pot on a hot plate, hoping for something good. I'm never sure what I will get, but it is always perfect—for something! When over-dyeing, it helps to know some color theory, because "over-dyeing" doesn't mean you are covering over the old color, it means you are adding something to the old color.

All of these fabrics went into the same pot of turquoise dye today. See why this just seems like magic to me?

The first piece on the left was navy blue and white. Only the white was changed by the dye because the navy is so dark the lighter turquoise made barely an impression. The yellow just got a quick dip to knock back what was a pretty bright cheddar color to something more subtle. (Don't worry—I saved a good bit of bright cheddar!) The purple was a similar story, with only a slight change to the original color. The brownish piece on the right of the purple was dark orange. The greenish-tannish one below was an obnoxious light, bright orange and it thrills me now! The lighter, more turquoise pieces all had a lot of white, but because of the different types of fabrics and the other colors woven into them each took the turquoise a bit differently.

The turquoise was getting pretty depleted so I threw in some green and tan dyes and stirred it around until it looked interesting and started tossing some fabrics into the pot.

Those two-tone green stripes started as the fabric on the left, which is a taupe-y tan and baby blue combo. Didn't that make a terrific combination with the green? The original fabric is just weird, in my opinion, but I think it will be very interesting to over-dye in several colors. Purple for sure. The darker green at the right was a dusty looking green and white plaid. There is a piece of the same fabric in the photo above over-dyed with turquoise. A colorful and productive afternoon.

Tonight was the opening reception for the "Celebrate the Gifts" show and sale. It was nice and I sold two smaller pieces. Tomorrow is the long day, so I need to sign off and get a good night's sleep.

Good night!

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Setting it up

Here is my little 8' square sales area for the Celebrate the Gifts Arts Festival. Seems like I have been getting stuff ready for this forever. The show will open tomorrow evening with a reception, then sales all day Saturday and Sunday. I will be in attendance for the whole thing. I have handwork and my new Quilting Arts magazine for the slow times. This is the first time for many, many years that I have been in this kind of show, where I had to set up a display and hang out with it for a couple of days. I pulled out a lot of older quilts that I think might be salable and many were the perfect size to hang on the screens I brought. Speaking of the screens—I noticed that most of the artists seem to have those gridded panels like the ones you can see in the background here. They are pretty versatile and go together in a myriad of ways. They look nice. I hoped my screens weren't too unprofessional looking. Once I got it all together I think I like the screens just fine. I have more quilts hanging on the back side too. The table skirt scheme seems to work. I discovered that I forgot one tote bag filled with small art pieces, so the table looks a little sparse. I will go back tomorrow and take the other pieces.  So wish me luck. If you live nearby I'd love to see you there. Here are the details.


I read this blog post today by Thomas Knauer, who is a quilter and fabric designer and I just loved what he had to say.  He is a wonderful writer. If you haven't yet found his blog I recommend it. Good stuff.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Winner of Sarah Ann Smith's DVD workshop

I used the random number generator and it picked number 25, who is Sheila Barnes, the Idaho Beauty! And, honestly, it was the random number thing, and has nothing to do with my being from Idaho. Congratulations, Sheila! I know you will enjoy owning this great resource.