Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Inspiration: Where Is It Hiding?

   For the past two years, I've been taking an online course called the Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design to learn about art licensing. I am finally beginning the last module next week. One of our recent assignments was to design a collection of tea towels. The designs had to be hand-rendered, geometric, and mostly non-representational.
   I often get asked where I get my inspiration from. I suppose the answer to that question is that I am inspired mostly by nature, but I am also inspired by pretty much everything I see. 
   So, after searching for ideas, I began sorting through my photos for ideas. I came across photos I had taken of buildings  in  Ferndale, California. Ferndale is a picturesque small town near where I live with lots of interesting Victorian architecture from the late 19th century.
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   I began sketching some of the architectural elements from this building I noticed while walking down a side street. It is interesting to discover what is actually right under our noses, that we take completely for granted, and that we fail to even notice or appreciate so much of the time. I have seen these buildings for years, but it is amazing how oblivious I had become to their quirky and creative characteristics.

   Since I started teaching workshops on Block Printing, I am always in need of more block designs. So, I decided to make a few hand-carved blocks for printing on linen. I will be teaching a 2 day workshop on Block Printing on Fabric at Village Sewing in Santa Rosa on Oct.19-20 this year. 
   So I am experimenting with the different ways blocks repeat and create new designs, and I love the secondary designs that develop like with the triangular shaped block.

   I really love doing the block printing, but I guess I love the challenge of coming up with new designs even more. I am working now on tiled designs for block printing. It is so much fun playing with the different types of symmetry to see how many variations I can come up with.
   And the other day I had some friends here from out of town who hadn't ever been to Ferndale, so we headed over across the bridge to check out some of the amazing little shops and enjoy the sights. Of course I took my camera with me, and I found so many more details in the hand carved wood on many of the storefronts. Who knows how they might pop up in my future artwork?

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Kate's Pillow: Fun to the Nth Degree

   We are having a Contemporary Hand Embroidery workshop here in my studio on August 25, 2018, so I have been exploring lots of new ideas utilizing my hand stitching.
   I have this marvelous friend, Kate, who is one of the most remarkable people I have ever known. Although technically she is not old enough to be my mother, I look on her as a mother figure because she is such a wise person and I so respect her life experience and her opinion on pretty much everything.
   Kate has a marvelous sense of humor, a remarkable sense of adventure, and she is uber talented to boot.
   She recently celebrated a very significant birthday, and I could think of nothing better to give her than a special hand embroidered "Kate Pillow".
To make this piece, I roughly sketched out the lettering on a piece of paper, pinned my linen to the paper, and marked the lettering design with a water-soluble blue fabric marker.
  
I began the embroidery by outlining the letters in a three strands of dark purple floss in the stem stitch.
   Of course, I thought I wold have plenty of time to have it finished and shipped to her by her birthday, but I was definitely mistaken. If I have learned one thing in all the years I ave been a maker, it is that things take as long as they take. Regardless to say, I think the package finally arrived a couple of weeks late. But, I was happy with the results.

I added in a few horizontal and vertical lines to break up all the organic shapes of the flowers a bit.
I am happy with the way this project turned out. I wanted the name to "pop" visually by being plain white and by having all the design in the background. The pillow measures approximately 10" x 18". I like seeing the hand work on a dimensional shape like a pillow as it really shows off the textural quality of the stitching.
I enjoy working in both neutral and very colorful palettes, and I find they each have their own charm. The neutrals allow me to explore the subtle value variations from white to black, and the vivid color just makes me happy!







Saturday, June 02, 2018

Contemporary Hand Embroidery on Linen

       I just got in a new shipment of gorgeous Linen, and I could not wait to use it in some new projects.
     This is a  fairly simple Embroidered Linen Pillow project I finished last week for a friend. It started with a simple square of white linen and a basic line drawing. I really enjoy working with just a general plan in place and letting the work evolve on its own. 
     For the drawing, I sketch in pencil first and then go over my lines with a Fine Point Sharpie. This gives me a heavy enough line so that I can pin my linen to the paper and see the marks clearly enough without using a light box. I mark my linen with a fine line Water Soluble Fabric Marker.

     I stitched the mandala shape first starting in the very center, and then I started filling in the outer areas with different shades of taupe and gray. When you are using a neutral color palette, it is really interesting to play with the value of the embroidery threads for different effects.
     Below shows the stitching on the piece completed and blocked. Spritz your piece with water, smooth it out, place a few pins in it, and let it dry.The blocking process is really easy, and it makes a huge difference in the finished work. 



     This is the blocked piece that has been dried and is ready to go.


 
     Here is the finished pillow. The embroidered area is 16" square, and I cut my fabric at 17 1/2"  square so I could add a 1" flange. my friend is in the process of redecorating her entire house in mostly neutral colors, so this pillow will work almost anywhere she wants to use it. 

     I will be posting more embroidery tutorials, so please let me know if there is anything in particular you are interested in.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Moth Bag

This is the last of my linen bags. All of the others sold very quickly, and I am very grateful to those of you who purchased them. Each bag seemed to find its way to the person who was the perfect fit for each one.
 The bag exterior is 100% Linen. It is hand painted, hand embroidered, and machine quilted by me. The interior of the bag has a laptop, iPad compartment, 2 side pockets, a zippered pocket, and 3 other smaller pockets inside for carrying smaller items.



Leave a message if you are interested in this item. The cost is $300.00 plus shipping; leave a comment if you are interested in a purchase. Note: This bag has been sold. 
Stencils used: Moths,  Scrolls, and Lattice.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Hearts: Broken Open

   It always feels sooo good to finish something!
   I have just finished my tenth hand embroidery pattern called Hearts: Broken Open. This piece was absolutely a joy to work on, and it was quite challenging from an artistic standpoint.

    I wanted to illustrate a concept that I first encountered some time ago in a book by Pema Chodron, titled When Things Fall Apart. Pema teaches that the most beneficial approach to any type of suffering  is moving toward painful situations with friendliness and curiosity while relaxing into the groundlessness of our situation.
   Notice how the heart on the bottom is small, dark, and damaged.  As the small, bitter heart is cracked open, an expansive, expressive, evolving heart bursts forth. It is filled with growth and inspiration while emitting little sparks of happiness to infiltrate and heal the hearts of others.
   In Elizabeth Lesser's book Broken Open she states, "May you listen to the voice within the beat even when you are tired. When you feel yourself breaking down, may you break open instead. May every experience in life be a door that opens your heart, expands your understanding, and leads you to freedom."


   I love working on the linen. This piece was especially enjoyable to create and to work on because I only had two colors of thread. That freed up my attention to focus more on the design.
   I always start my embroidery designs with just a simple line drawing. Once I have the basic lines to my liking, it is only a matter of filling in the blanks.
It was especially challenging in this piece to begin playing with the negative/positive space while trying to achieve a variation in value as well.
I am happy with the way this piece turned out and the message that it imparts to me. It is a great reminder that we can be made stronger by the adversity we face.
The patterns and kits will be available on my Sproule Studios Website  by Feb. 22, 2016, if anyone is interested. 


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Thistle Journal Cover

   I am hoping that if I actually get caught up with the Christmas rush and customer's orders, I make the time to finish up a couple of my own projects. First of all, I would like to finish this journal cover I began probably three months ago.
   It never fails, what begins as a simple little project takes on a life of its own in no time at all. I always find it amusing that what some people consider to be obsessive attention to detail is to me absolute mindless bliss.
   I began with a beautiful blank piece of linen that was prewashed. I lightly marked the center spine area of the cover, the perimeter, and then a few circles that I wanted to leave open except for the stitching.



I painted the images with my Thistle Stencil and began working the hand embroidery around the outside of the circles. I photographed the piece, printed it out, and then began drawing on the image with pencil to help me decide what to do next.


I really enjoyed every minute of working on this. There were many evenings when I couldn't wait to settle into my old chair, surrounded by wisps of brightly colored thread and needles poking out everywhere, and watch a good film. I finally realized that I needed to stop stitching on this piece and begin something else before every speck of linen was covered up!









Saturday, August 01, 2015

Tuesday Drop-In Class

This is a linen bag that I am making. The hand embroidery is still in progress. It has been hand painted with my stencils, and it will be machine quilted after the embroidery is finished.
For the past few months I have been teaching a drop-in class at Eureka Fabrics in Eureka, CA. It is always interesting to see who will turn up, and it is never boring. I love having a roomful of people, but I also enjoy having just  a handful of people that I can give my undivided attention to.
Although the focus is on quilting and fiber art, we basically cover whatever it is people need help with.
Starting August 1, 2015, we are starting on hand embroidery where I will be teaching most of the basic embroidery stitches, and then we will move on to make a journal cover utilizing what we have learned. The class info is listed below, and you can sign up here: Eureka Fabrics.
For the first two weeks we will be working on a variety of hand embroidery stitches, and the third week we will be making a journal cover using some of the techniques and stitches you have learned. The journal covers will be simple projects you can finish in one afternoon.
Schedule:
·       Tuesday, August 4, 2015:: Hand Embroidery Basics, 1-4 pm
·       Tuesday, August 11, 2015: More Hand Embroidery, 1-4 pm
·       Tuesday, August 18, 2015: Journal Covers, 1-4 pm

Supplies:
For Hand Embroidery:
·       White or light-colored fabric, 4 10” squares
·       Embroidery needles in assorted sizes; my favorites are size 5/10.
·       Embroidery hoop, anywhere from 5”-7” will work best
·       Embroidery thread in 2 colors that contrast with your fabric

For the Journal Cover:
·       You will need to bring a journal or sketchbook with a cover that is not too flimsy.
·       Fabric large enough for the outside, and you will also need fabric for the inside of the cover.
·       A button for closure if desired.
·       Embroidery threads and other items for embellishment.
·       Batting if you wish to machine quilt the cover.
Note: The fabric needs to be large enough to cover the front and back of the book plus enough for seam allowance. It will be easier to embroider if the fabric is not cut to size yet.

When deciding which images to use for this bag, I wanted to use something I had not worked with before, so the moths were perfect. This particular species is known as the agrius cingulata (pink-spotted hawk moth). The actual moth is more pink than red, and I found it in the book Night Visions by Joseph Scheer.
This is the other side of the same bag. It will be embroidered differently from the front of the bag.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Paint and Stitch: the Little Bee Bag

     As I continue to attempt to simplify my life and determine what the true necessities are, at times I also carry that over into my work.
I am really terrible at packing for travel, but for my recent trip to Santa Fe for a workshop with Betty Busby, I was determined to try to tackle this issue. One of the things I did was to make this little bag that measures 5" wide by 6" high. It actually holds my cell phone, identification, credit cards, cash, lip balm, and a pack of kleenex: the bare necessities.
     The bag is made from a medium weight natural European linen that I have fallen in love with. There is something so incredible about the hand of this fabric that makes it especially lovely and wonderful to work with.
     First I painted the fabric with my Bee Stencil. The bag has the honey bee on the front and the bumble bee on the little back pocket. The stencil is made in two parts so you can paint the body first and then the details in a different color. I used Lumiere paint in copper and silver, let it dry overnight, and then heat set it for permanence.
     I had painted the linen pieces on a Saturday night, and the following morning I heat set the paint and began stitching. Even though it was a Sunday and I should have been doing household chores, I kept finding excuses to sneak back over to my studio to do just a couple more stitches on the bag. By the end of the day I had all the embroidery done.
     The really fun part for me was the hand embroidery. It is kind of odd, but doing the embroidery feels to me like learning a new language. It is still a bit awkward as I learn to compose artistically with this medium. At the same time it is very exciting as well as rewarding to see the end results. I love the interplay of the colors and the texture created by the stitching.

     I work in two pretty distinct ways: either very planned or intuitively. They both have their benefits, and some work, like my wholecloth pieces, does require more precise planning and composition decisions before beginning the actual piece. I really love to work intuitively though. It is always so exciting to begin with only a vague notion of where I want to go with a piece; then I proceed one step at a time until the next step is revealed to me. I think it only requires having faith that once you have that creative momentum it will continue until some inner sense tells you the piece is complete.

Friday, June 19, 2015

It All Started When......

      When I was very young,I learned to do hand embroidery from my grandmother. I always loved doing the handwork, and I spent many enjoyable hours working side by side with my grandmother learning new stitches and embroidering things that have long since disappeared to who knows where.
      Many years ago, in fact so many that I can't remember, I bought this old kit in an antique store. Someone had purchased the kit, embroidered one teeny little flower, and shoved it right back in the envelope.
      Every once in a while, I would get the urge to do some handwork and pick the piece up again. I would do a few little stitches, and then put it aside and forget about it.
     A couple of months ago I once again picked up the piece and commenced to actually finish the embroidery.
      I can't explain what it was that happened, but I fell in love with the process as well as the fabric. That beautiful old linen was like butter in my hands. The embroidery thread was not quite so delightful; it was really old rayon that tangled incessantly and caused me a whole lot of grief. I persisted and finished all of the embroidery,and now only the edges need to be finished.
The main part of the fabric has the date stamped on it: 1927. I think this must be longest running UFO. When I work on something old like this, I always wonder who the person was that purchased the piece originally.

The interesting bit is that I could not wait to do more work with this incredible fabric. I procured more linen and better thread; now I am totally hooked and I can't seem to stop.
Here is an almost finished corner. The kit also came with 4 napkins that are supposed to be inserted in the top of the lantern. The lanterns were embroidered on the gold linen first and then sewn to the background using the needle turn appliqué technique.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Santa Fe!

I have been in Santa Fe since last Saturday. I came here to take a four day surface design workshop with one of my favorite artists: Betty Busby.
 I am learning to use my new camera, and here is a shot taken from our balcony at sunset out across the arroyo. The skies are just incredible here, and I am amazed at how quickly the weather changes.
Over the years, I have had the privilege to take workshops from some very talented people. But I have never encountered anyone like Betty before. She is one of the most talented, generous, inspirational, and genuine people I have ever had the pleasure of studying with. I will post photos and more information about what we learned next week when I return home.
This is Betty with Carol Larsen from Petaluma.They are downloading images for cutting on the Silhouette. The software is easier to use than I expected, but then I haven't done it on my own yet.
My sister Barbara is traveling with me, and she is enrolled in a very intensive workshop at the Nikon School of Photography titled The Art and Science of Landscape Photography. They spend mornings in the lab, and trek off to different locations each day. Barbara has been really busy, as the five day class runs for 12- 13 hours a day.
My workshop finished up yesterday, so my friend Kathryn Stotler, who flew in on Tuesday, and I are headed out for a day of photography and sketching. We are going to Bandalier, Los Alamos, Abiquiu, and then hopefully we will hike up Castle Rock at the Ghost Ranch. Living at sea level, it is surprising to me how much the change in altitude is affecting us all. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Lovely Hand Painted Work by Kate O'Donnell

     Kate O'Donnell is an incredibly talented textile artist who lives in Pacheco, CA. I met Kate several years ago when I became acquainted and involved with a group of textile artists in Sonoma County, CA. They called themselves the Guilded Lilies, and they were an amazing group of women who shared a love of art and all things textile related.
     Over the years, I fell out of touch with most of the group as I live several hours away and time constraints kept me from participating in their wonderful retreats in the Healdsburg area. But a year ago, I ran into Kate at a show and we rekindled our friendship. Kate is a very accomplished dyer and art quilter. She has a special knack with color that makes her work sing with energy and vibrancy. Here is some of her wonderful work.
Kate used Radiance for the main painted panel and her own hand-dyed fabrics for the borders. I machine quilted both of these pieces for her.

      Kate had a very special friend that she wanted to make a wedding gift for. After taking my Stenciling on Fabric class in Fort Bragg, CA, last summer, she decided to hand paint  some Radiance using my Textile Design Stencils, Neopaque, and Lumiere paints.
     She painted the piece on the top first, and she was not quite satisfied. So then she painted the second piece and added the Chinese characters to the border. I love both pieces, and it makes me so happy to see how effectively she has used the stencils.
     I am including some images of the quick trapunto process that I used for the characters on the left border. The problem was that the metallic paint was quite heavy, and I didn't want to stitch through it. In doing fairly dense quilting around the outside of the characters, it would have made the inside of those shapes look really pucker. The extra batting helped to fill out the shapes, and now they look almost like they are embossed metal.
 The first step was to pin a layer of Hobbs Tuscany wool batting to the back of the entire left border. I then free-motion stitched very close to the edge of the 
painting with a neutral colored thread.
I pull back the top fabric and carefully trim away the extra batting on the back side.

This is the finished trapunto from the back side. Now I just layer my backing, batting, and top piece and pin the layers together as usual.
Here is a close-up of the finished quilted border.
I know that Kate put a tremendous amount of thought and effort into creating this piece, and it really shows. The lovely couple that she made it for really loved and appreciated her lovely gift to them.


 
Thank you for stopping by, and please leave a comment if you have time. I know that Kate would appreciate it, and I will pass your comments on to her.