Friday, July 23, 2021

Summer phone photos

 Suddenly it’s the middle of July! I have been loving the feeling of freedom that the summer brought, with fewer restrictions regarding COVID precautions. This last week has brought concerning news, though, about the more dangerous variant of the virus and rising rates of infection. It continues to astound me that there are still people refusing to take COVID seriously and those who who refuse the vaccine. Depressing to imagine that this pandemic will drag on and on, if this thinking continues. I’m sad and sorry for everyone living in those communities where it is surging and ever grateful that my friends and neighbors here in Western Oregon have had the wisdom to comply and vaccinate. Our vaccine rates are high and infection numbers are low. I hope that continues. 

One of the best things that has happened are outdoor, in-person get togethers. The photo is our art quilt group, High Fiber Diet, meeting together, for the first time in more than a year this week, in a lovely park. And another group I am part of met in another park the next day. Both were such joyous occasions!  And, why, I wonder, have we never thought to have our summer meetings outdoors?  A circle of camp chairs under a big, shady tree beats the heck out of a Sunday school room in a church or  community center meeting room. We will do it again next month. 

 I finished my piece called “Tower of Babel” and submitted it for the next High Fiber Diet exhibit called “Can You Hear It?” It represents the Biblical story that explains the origin of the many languages of the world. The background uses a required fabric that resembles sound waves, to which I have added the word “hello” in many different languages. 

My big project this summer is putting together a book for Oregon SAQA (Studio Art Quilts Associates). 21 Quilt artists from the Oregon chapter of SAQA were chosen from proposals, to create a piece of quilt art, that they would document from inspiration to completion in words and photos for a book. I was asked to design and lay out the book. I am also one of the 21 artists. It is exciting and challenging! I’ve spent most of July, so far, creating the overall layout, communicating with the artists and the editor, reviewing and choosing the first sets of photos, then resizing and tweaking them to place in the document. I loved my work in publications and have sometimes missed it since retiring, so this is fun!

The city of Portland has taken a beating this past year, both literally and figuratively, but it is recovering and still a great place. We haven’t left home much at all this past year, so trips into the city have been few, but we went in and across the river to one of Sofia’s soccer games a couple weeks ago and the city was beautiful and vibrant as ever. As we crossed the iconic Burnside Bridge I spotted this message on a building near the bridge, and it made me smile. I think we’re going to be OK!

So, to all my fellow wildcard, misfit and dabbler friends—I hope you are vaccinated and I hope you are having a great summer, or, at least, a better one than the last one…

Sunday, July 04, 2021

Sun printing tutorial

 I mentioned in my last post that I have been doing a lot of sun printing, and from that, and posts of my prints online in various venues, I’m getting quite a few questions, so rather than try to respond individually to each question I decided to post a how-to here. Before I begin I want to mention that I took a class with Betty Busby a couple years ago and part of that class dealt with her techniques used in sun printing, which vastly improved and added to what I already knew, so credit to her for some of what I’m doing here. 


This is the design I used.  I created it on my iPad, using the Procreate app. I saved it as a jpeg to use to make a stencil using my Silhouette cutting machine. You can use commercial stencils or homemade stencils. You can cut stencils from paper, all kinds of vinyl or plastic sheets, Tyvek, Mylar—endless possibilities. You can cut them by hand using little scissors or an Xacto knife or a cutting machine. In addition to stencils, you can use all kinds of objects  for sun printing, that lay flat and create interesting designs—leaves, ferns, string, coins, metal washers, rubber bands, paper clips, etc, etc.  

I cut my stencil from window cling vinyl (one of Betty Busby’s brilliant ideas) which produces very crisp, detailed prints and cuts beautifully by cutting machine.  Now I was ready to prepare the fabric. 


Here are my supplies—A flat surface for painting on; fabric, cut to size; a spray bottle filled with water; a container for water; a large paintbrush and paint. The fabric I use is cotton, mostly quilting cotton, but you can use almost any kind of fabric for this. Sun prints on silk are beautiful. I have successfully sun printed directly on T-shirts and canvas bags, as well. Any kind of acrylic based paints will work, as long as they are, or can be thinned down to a fairly liquid state. Some produce quite thin, pastel color when thinned with water. My favorite brand to use is Jaquard Dye na Flow paints, which are very liquid and do not need to be thinned, and produce rich, intense color. 

I spread the fabric on my painting surface, spray with water , then paint the entire surface, working quickly so it remains quite wet. I like using a basic color then mottling in some variations, but keeping it fairly consistent in value. 


I carefully layered the stencil on top of the wet paint, smoothing it out to get it laying as flat as possible, in close contact with the wet fabric. A big, dry paintbrush is helpful in getting it smooth.

Then I just let it sit in the sun until it was dry. The amount of light is really not what creates the design, so it is actually possible to do this in any kind of weather, but direct sun that dries the fabric quickly produces, in my experience, the clearest, crispest prints. 

Once it felt dry, I carefully peeled back the stencil to reveal the finished print. That’s all there is to it!

I like to iron the piece to be sure the paint is set, then the fabric is ready to use. The stencil can be used over and over for lots of prints in different colors.  

I find this technique so satisfying!  It is so very simple—no chemicals or special lights, basic, inexpensive supplies. And the resulting fabrics are uniquely yours. I hope you will try it and show me what you’ve done!


Friday, July 02, 2021

Summer Ode to Joy…


July arrived yesterday. Earlier this week we were sweating out (literally) the hottest temperatures we’ve ever experienced here, but July arrived yesterday bearing a cool breeze and an invitation to walk through the garden in comfort. This morning is lovely again and I sat with my coffee to catch up with the world by way of my iPad and clicked on a Facebook “memory” from a year ago. It was a music video I watched over and over last summer, and I realized I had tears in my eyes. It took me right back to 12 months ago and the surreality of the horror that was rapidly overtaking us. In the spring we knew we were in a pandemic and we’d have to hunker down for a few weeks—at worst, a couple months—and get past it. By July we knew it was bigger than anyone imagined and people were sickening and dying by the thousands. We were beginning to understand how truly horrifying it really was and I desperately craved moments of grace and beauty. So, for me, I followed the guidelines and then I distracted myself. I made art, I watched Netflix, I read, I listened to music and I watched that lovely video over and over, and through it all I kept reassuring myself that it would all be OK eventually. So summer rolls around again and here we are, getting much closer to being OK. We can exhale and find more joy today. 

Last summer I spent long days in my studio and one of my joys was cutting stencils and making sun printed fabric to use in my artwork. For a couple weeks I printed stripes in rich colors. They were like capturing sunshine in cloth. 

When the sun finally came back this spring I started thinking about getting out my paints and stencils for more sun prints. The past month has been pretty great. Here’s what I’ve done so far.

I’m finishing up a piece for our next High Fiber Diet exhibit “Can You Hear It?”  It is about the story of the Tower of Babel, and how the people of the world came to speak many languages. Here’s a sneak peek. 

My big project for this summer is designing and preparing a book for our Oregon region of SAQA. It will be a book following 21 selected artists in our region as they each plan, design and produce an art quilt, showing their work in photographs and writing about their process.  It’s a very exciting project! I am also one of the 21 artists, so I am also working on my piece at the same time. I’ve barely started. 

Never has summer felt more welcome than this one, despite its red hot start. Life is returning and though there are still challenges I feel like joy is more accessible. And that video? Still beautiful…