28 February 2011

art & fear - chapter 1 read-along

Here we are - the first of the month and the beginning of the new series I mentioned on Feb 1 where we discuss the book Art & Fear.

Several of you have said you're joining me in reading the book - how exciting! I expect that you won't agree with everything that I'll say. And I don't expect you to. That is usually what happens during a discussion like this.

I would love to hear your opinions in either comments on the posts or on your own blogs. If you post about it on your own blog, be sure to leave a link in the comments so every can find you.

So let's get to it:

This post takes a look at Chapter 1: The Nature of the Problem.

There are three major ideas that this chapter touches on that I found interesting so I'm going to discuss those.

***Calling or hobby?***

In the very first couple of pages, the authors discuss what I think is one of the biggest challenges we face as artists today - having our work seen as work. Not as a hobby, not as a quaint way to pass the time - but as serious work. Like any other job.

Its possible that in the past, artist was a more respected title. I don't know about you but often when I tell people I'm an artist, its quickly followed by the question, "But what do you do for a living?"

Now I do have a day job but my end goal is to eventually be a full time artist and make my living that way. I expect it will take many more years to get to that point and I'm content to work toward that goal but I often wonder what makes people think that all I have to do is step through the doors of my studio and artwork instantly starts falling into place?

The fact is that making art is hard work. It involves many steps and constantly learning new skills. Which brings us into the second major point of this chapter:

***Does being an artist mean that you possess some kind of magical gift?

The authors say no. And I have to say that I agree. I've found that the people who make the most art are the ones that are stubborn to the core and refuse to give up until they've mastered their skills and found that sweet spot that makes them realize they are making the art they are meant to.

I'm not saying talent isn't important. Hardly. But just because you are talented doesn't make you an instant success. On more then one occasion I've heard the comment from someone who has just taken a class, "She/He is a great artist but he has no idea how to teach."

Talent is talent. But skill can be learned. Everything we do in this life is learned, down to the tiniest detail. The only thing that stops us from plowing ahead and making things go is doubt in ourselves or worry about what others will think.

I've been there. When I made the conscious decision to move my art beyond the walls of my studio, it was a gut wrenching one. Let's face it, some people are just plain crabby about art. They can always do it better and they know way more then you do. They're quick to offer advice and know just what you did wrong. They'll stand there and look at your work and give you their expertise all day long.

But the thing that I've learned from these people is this: my work is hanging out in the open for people to see - where is theirs?

Crabby people are not the end all be all judges of your work. There are underlying tones to their comments. Could be insecurity on their part, could be jealousy - whatever it is, its not your problem. You make art. They make criticisms. Which one would you rather be doing?

***Failure is not failure***

The authors talk about the fear of failing and the isolation of making art in this chapter as well. I think that's a major one.

Its much easier to not try then it is to try and be rejected or fall flat on your face. No one likes feeling like a failure. I know I don't.

But I also know that even the failures have great value. The work that I choose to share on my blog and my website are the ones that worked. You don't see the half finished ones that are sitting in a box under my work table. The ones that I looked at and thought, "What in the hell was I thinking?"

If nothing else, I figured out how not to do something. This quote from Scott Adams sums up how I feel about what many people think are failed pieces:

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes.
Art is knowing which ones to keep.

Its likely that most of us make art for ourselves. We make it for a small circle of people and won't see our pieces hanging in the Louvre any time soon.

And that's okay. I found long ago that removing the pressure of perfection from what I create instantly added back in the joy that that stress was beginning to strip away.

We are ordinary people. We will go through our lives making art to please ourselves and if we are lucky, a couple other people too.

But remember that being an artist is sacred to yourself. Honor yourself first and the work will reflect that.

On April 1, we'll talk about Chapter 2 of Art & Fear.

27 February 2011

where i stand sunday

Its the early morning hours, just after I roll out of bed, is when I feel most connected to the world, myself, my life. Before a single TV or computer or radio is switched on, I soak in the silence and let my mind rest before the marathon of the day.

Where I Stand is an ongoing photo essay examining the different places I spend my life standing. Too often we take for granted the everyday places we spend our lives walking on. The ground we tread on has its own stories to tell.

26 February 2011

acknowledging the sacred

Last week I returned to the work force full time.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss my studio.

But I spent the week planning what I wanted to do in there today and when I walked in, I realized something:

My studio space is sacred.

Might sound corny and overblown but think about it...its such a personal space. A place where no one complains if we hang up something on the wall that only we like or the place where we can leave out the unfinished projects and piles of fabric.

We can even step all over them if the mood strikes.

I realized something today as I sat there in the stillness and just looked around. I'm totally lucky in every way that I have a whole separate room to work in and keep things (other members of the household feel the same since it minimizes how much gets trailed around the rest of the house.) But its more then just a room.

Its a state of mind.

I carry it with me no matter where I am.

My studio is the small journal I keep in my bag, the meditation music I have on my ipod, the daydream that passes through my mind in the middle of the day.

Its the place where the sacred belongs. I'd never really given it a name before but there's really no other way to describe it.

Do you feel it? I know you do. Its part of why we create, I think. This sacredness. This absolute separateness from the rest of our lives that can't be touched by anything but creativity.


24 February 2011


{untitled} is a blog post series featuring photos only that I find inspirational - I hope you do too...

22 February 2011

In Stitches eMag - thermofax screen printed pendants! :)

One of the most exciting things about Quilting Arts is that they are constantly coming up with new and exciting things.

And that point is driven home by one of their newest items - In Stitches eMag. They just issued their second edition of it and I'm super proud to say that your's truly got the chance to be a part of it.

(Its all part of my evil plan you see, thermofax screen printing addicts e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e...)

I got crafty this time and decided I wanted to make something I could wear. I came up with these little fellows:

Those are thermofax screen printed pendants. Want a closer look? Here:

Want to know how to make them? Full directions are in the eMag. And they have two different versions, one for PC and one for Mac.

Curious how this all works? Here's a clip of Pokey talking about how it all works:

If you move your mouse over the pendants in the article, they swing around. Its super cute, I may have squealed when I saw it. ;-)

There's sooooo much other good things in there. Its awesome in every way possible so be sure to check it out!

(And the screens that I used to print the pendants will make an appearance in the shop soon. The next couple of weeks. They are super tiny little fellows and I just need to get them up there so you can print away.)

taking a breath

Yesterday I took a deep breath, gathered all the fortitude I could find and did it: I unpacked everything from the Quilting Arts TV & DVD taping.

Oddly enough, it was not as horrifying as I anticipated it to be. I figured it would be a long marathon of organizing and putting away. When I was getting ready to go, I organized every taping segment into a separate taping bin. So each TV segment had a bin and then each of the five DVD chapters had their own containers as well.

It seemed obsessive at first but when I got to the studio, I was really glad I had done it.

However, I didn't take any kind of care when I packed everything up to go home. It wasn't necessary. I just tossed everything into whatever bin I could find, knowing that when I got home I'd have my work cut out for me.

It only took a couple of hours. And as I went through each bin, I took printed fabric that was created for examples and new artwork and methodically pinned them up or leaned them against my design board.

I admit I was pretty shocked when I stepped back and saw this:

A couple of things up there are not from the prep work but...wow. Just...wow.

That's a lot of stuff. For me, at least.

I don't know if you recall, but I talked about my approach to printing fabric briefly at the beginning of the year. I call it Intentional Printing.

My tapings meant that I needed fabric samples for the different techniques that I demo'ed. I admit, this sent a wee panic through me. I've developed the habit over the past couple of years of printing fabric as I need it, not printing just for the sake of printing.

Its not that I think this is the wrong approach. Its jut not what works for me. It became a way to control the outcome of everything from start to finish. But that also leaves me with a serious lack of printed stash.

Not so much anymore. Check out the surplus from the sample making:

When I was creating these pieces, I was sure that they would remain as samples. I like them but since they didn't begin with a particular work in mind, I figured they would be difficult to fit into whatever it was I wanted to make.

But I'm having second thoughts. Its kind of thrilling to have so much there waiting for me to pick from. I'm undecided. On the one hand, it will be nice to use these since I'm heading back into the work force this week. But at the same time, I don't want to be faced with this task if the need every comes up again.

I'll have to give it some thought. What do you think? Use it or save it as samples?

And those are not the only things that were prolific. There is also the finished work:

Holy cow.

I knew I was making a lot. I spent months prepping. (I find the one on the left that says "rest" humorous. I think my subconscious was trying to tell me something.) So I suppose it shouldn't be so surprising but pulling it all together into one pile is really something else...

I need to get these photographed. I think I might be hiring that out from now on, it will be nice to have these things to update my site with.

I've been taking a breath in many ways this week. February has been an exciting month...and its not done with me yet. Its an amazing thing really, since this is only the beginning of the year.

The thing that I've realized most is how exciting and fun and unpredictable life can be. I'm struggling a little bit keeping my mind in a peaceful positive place but I'm hoping that I can force it to stay there.

I can't wait to see what March has to bring...

21 February 2011

screen printed pillow cover project tutorial

One of the items that I pulled together for my residency with 3 Creative Studios this month is a screen printed pillow cover.

(photo by Jackie Lams)

You can snag it as a downloadable PDF from the front page of their website but I thought I would post the instructions here since I think its pretty groovy and I think you will too.

Its a rather long tutorial so I really recommend grabbing the PDF off of 3CS's site, its a handy reference rather then having to come back to the blog post.

So without further ado, here are the instructions on how to make yourself your very own screen printed pillow cover. :)

* * * * * * * * * * *

I admit that I have no limit to the amount of things that I will screen print. I can't help myself, its an obsession that I will find any excuse to indulge. I guess its not surprising that it has made it into my home decor.

I've long admired the stylish throw pillow covers sold in all the fancy home dec catalogs. I've not admired the prices, though. One of the gifts of being an artist is that we can make things for the faction of the cost that it runs in the retail shop.

I decided it was time to whip out the screens and make a pillow cover of my very own. I thought you might like to see how its done too because there is no way I'm stopping at one and I'd love some company for my obsession! :)

Here are the supplies you will need:

* fabric (I'm a cotton girl but use what you love)

* thermofax screens

* screen printing paint

* 14" square pillow

* 3/4" fusible Velcro

* 1.5" sponge brushes

* rotary cutter / mat / ruler

* sewing machine

The instructions for this tutorial are written for a 14" square pillow that I bought at Joann Fabrics. (40% off coupons rule.) But you can adapt it to any size pillow that you like.

And a quick word about fabric. You do NOT have to use hand dyed fabric. Its nice, its cool, its groovy. BUT if you aren't inclided toward making the mess or bearing the cost, screen printing plays very nicely with commercial fabric as well. I use both you can too. There's no rule to what you have to use, just make sure you like it.

Same with the screens/imagery I used. If you don't dig it, go your own way.

Now let's make a pillow cover!


Cut a 15" squrae of fabric for the front of your pillow. (I like a 0.5" seam allowance.)

* * * * * * * * * * *


We're going to print three layers of images for this pillow.

The first layer is scuff printed. I chose a screen with text on it. Scuff printing is the process of printing partial or ghost images. They are accomplished by using very little paint on your screen and only printing portions of the image rather then the whole thing.

Allow your print to dry, it doesn't take long. This is the background, so don't judge how it looks just yet.

Often when you start laying down the layers, the first one doesn't look that impressive. Just keep going. Its like cooking. Those onions and tomatoes aren't so exciting on their own but put them in chili and you really have something. Same philosophy goes for creating layered prints.

* * * * * * * * * * *


I like to get a clear sense of where the center is on the fabric. I place paper where the seam allowance will be and then place the screen in the center of that.

* * * * * * * * * * *


The next two layers of the printing are solid printing. (This is shown in Part 2 of my Basic Screen Printing video on YouTube.)

Solid printing means that we are printing a clear bold print of our image.

This time I didn't wait for the print to dry. I printed the final layer over top of the previous wet print. Because the other image was still wet, it will create a monoprint on itself on the back of the next screen. This creates shadow prints on other areas of the fabric when I lay the screen down to print. I like this but if that doesn't float your boat, wait for each layer to dry in between.

Now that we've printed three layers, we have a pretty good looking pillow top. Were going to allow this to dry completely.

* * * * * * * * * * *


While our print is drying, let's move on to making the back for the pillow cover. Its constructed of two pieces. Cut out one piece of fabric in the following sizes:

Backing piece #1: 15" wide x 10.5" high

Backing piece #2: 15" wide x 12.5" high

Along the longer side of the fabric (the 15" side), fold the seam up 1.5". Do this twice on each piece, using up 3" of the length of the fabric. (This is where the Velcro will be added later. I call this the Velcro seam.)

* * * * * * * * * * *


Take the Backing pieces to the sewing machine and stitch down both edges of the Velcro seam that you create din Step 5.

* * * * * * * * * * *


Give your printed panel a little pat to see if its dry. If it is, heat set it. This will make the paint permanent and washable. Simply iron the piece on the reverse side for a minute.

* * * * * * * * * * *


Now we are ready to assemble the pillow cover. Lay the pieces right sides together, overlapping the Velcro seams of the backing pieces as shown in the photo below:

Pin everything together and give it a whirl through the sewing machine, sewing a 0.5" seam allowance all the way around the perimeter of the pillow cover.

* * * * * * * * * * *


The next step is to add the Velcro to the Velcro seam. I'm a big fan of fusible Velcro, so easy to add to your projects. I have a little trick to make sure that everything lines up perfectly. Begin by putting the loop and mesh side together and cutting them into four small pieces, about 1" wide each.

* * * * * * * * * * *


Remove the sticker from ONE side of the Velcro and place the sticky side down along the edge of the Velcro seam.

* * * * * * * * * * *


Once all four pieces are placed, remove the sticker from the other side. Take care to hold the piece in place when you do this so you don't lift if off the fabric.

Lay the overlapping Velcro seam on top of the exposed sticky side of the Velcro pieces and press them with your hand so that they make contact with the fabric.

* * * * * * * * * * *


Iron the Velcro pieces for 90 seconds (directions from the package).

Give them a moment to cool and then you can pull the apart. Viola! Perfectly aligned Velcro closures!

* * * * * * * * * * *


Shove your pillow form into the pillow cover, giving it a good tug here and there so that the pillow sits proper


20 February 2011

where i stand sunday

Four legged friends have always been present in my life, but always of the canine variety. The kitties regarded me with a certain amount of skepticism, as if they knew my tendencies toward their natural opposites. I stood mesmerized by their eyes, a lesson in contrast and color.

Where I Stand is an ongoing photo essay examining the different places I spend my life standing. Too often we take for granted the everyday places we spend our lives walking on. The ground we tread on has its own stories to tell.

19 February 2011

the reason why i dragged half my studio to ohio this week...

I've been sitting on this information for a long time. I've told a few people but mostly I've hoarded the secret. Part out of superstition, part out of nervousness and part because...well...that's just the way I am I suppose. I always wait until after something has been completed to spill the beans and this one? This one is spilling quite a mountain of beans.

So without further ado...the reason I drug all of this to Ohio:

...is because of this:

Yup chickens, yours truly filmed two segments for Quilting Arts TV this past Thursday. Not only that, but I also filmed a workshop DVD!

One TV segment shows how to make the Wishing Owls I'm always going on about (which is what the last photo above is, Jen took a shot on the little TV in the green room that showed everything on set as it was being filmed) and the second TV segment talks about using Freezer Paper Stencils to create pattern on fabric.

The DVD is a doosey, took me some serious time to prep for but I had a phenomenal time filming it! (Even if my palms did start to sweat as the camera guy was counting down for me to begin.) It demonstrates three surface design techniques: thermofax screen printing (total shocker, right?), soy wax batik and freezer paper stencils. And then it walks you through how I design my abstract art quilts and my process for attaching them to fabric covered canvas.

Wow...that makes me tired just reading that... ;-)

I can honestly say this is the biggest thing that's happened so far in my fiber art career and it makes me feel all giddy and excited and...well, exhausted at the moment if you truly want to know the truth.

It was a phenomenal amount of work to prep for and like most big events, once the wheels started turning, it whizzed by in a single moment. Along with the prep, there was a healthy dose of angst involved. But I did it (and managed to not swear on camera - which I was totally worried about not because I cuss constantly but because you just never know what will come out of your mouth when you are nervous - and didn't have to use a sewing machine - yes, you all know why because that would have brought out the swearing) and I totally loved every second of it.

I was extremely excited to get to spend time with fellow artists. I actually squealed when my friend Jen Solon walked through the door. We've met in person a few times and I had no idea she would be there so it was fun to get to spend more time with her. She is super nice and such a talented artist, I'm excited for her that she is showing her stuff off! :)

Here we are together looking all blissed out after we were both done filming our TV segments:

I also got to make new friends. I met the fabulously talented and sweet Mary Pal. It was SUCH a treat to get to see her incredible portraits in person and she is such a nice person to boot!

I gabbed a lot with Terry White too. Her machine work actually has me considering giving thread painting a try.

Here is a group shot of all of us with Pokey:

I can't put into words how much fun I had. Which sounds kind of strange considering I've been so resistant to something as simple as posting pictures of myself on my blog. To be in front of the cameras actually felt comfortable and I'm still bouncing around with excitement!

I'm not sure when the DVD comes out, I need to check on that but we'll have a big party when it does. Yaaaaahhhhhoooooo!!!! (Can you tell I'm still a little hyper about the whole thing??)

I promised myself that I would rest up today. I'm heading back to work full time next week and I need to gather my strength. When I got home yesterday I was greeted by this:

Little man wasn't happy about my overnight absences but he seems to have forgiven me since he's hanging out next to me snoring his little head off.

*sigh* Just so so happy. :) Happy. :) :) :)

16 February 2011

3 Creative Stuidos guest artist

3 Creative Studios Badge

Do you know about 3 Creative Studios?

If you don't, you're really missing a party. Its a most awesome online studio run by the fantabulous Vicki Welsh and Teri Stegmiller. They have tons of free projects and loads of challenges to keep you inspired and humming along in your studio.

(I fully intend to join them in their Journal Quilt Project just as soon as my schedule stops trying to squash me like a bug. Got sketches, just need a few moments to make them go. Check out all the awesome quilts that have been made so far, aren't they cool???)

I really admire what they do. They put a ton of work and effort into everything that goes on there and it really shines through in every way possible.

A couple of months ago they asked me if I would be interested in being the Guest Artist for a month for 3CS. It took me about a nano second to say Y-E-S! :)

I'll be the Guest Artist from Feb 16 - March 15. Part of my residency includes providing the Technique of the Month. So that means I'll be doing what I do best - attempting to convert more people into thermofax screen printing junkies. (Are you shocked in any way?? Come now, you can't possibly be.)

I will also have the privilege of appearing on their blog a few times. They've posted One an interview today and another is a special project that I created just for my residency. So be sure to check in there throughout the month - I'll give a shout out here as a reminder.

So head on over there. Stay a while. Check out my basic screen printing videos (posted there and in this post as well) if you've not seen them before (which will begin your journey to the dark side, trust me) and be sure to give Vicki and Teri some love - they totally deserve it!

Basic Screen Printing Using Thermofax Screens

15 February 2011

recap of Guest Curator blog links

A few people emailed me asking where the 14 blogs were that I listed during my week as Guest Curator on Crescendoh.com.

Two were listed every day so it changed continuously. In case you weren't glued to computer in anticipation of what they would be each day, I thought I'd provide the links here as well in case you missed it. They are links to specific posts and I'll be honest, I had a tough time picking just fourteen. I read a lot of blogs and I think there are so many awesome and interesting artists/bloggers out there.

When I originally made my list, I have thirty-three. Then I spent a couple of weeks whittling it down. In a way I sort of felt like I was picking a team in gym class and I felt all guilty about the ones that I left out.

I also had to pick one of my own posts (again, felt like I was picking which one of my kids is a favorite, felt a little twitchy about it) but I eventually singled out loving the imperfect print.

But here is the list. It goes to specific posts but I really encourage you to look at the rest of the blogger's blog, there's some really cool stuff there.

14 February 2011

the birthday boy :)

Dooley love is 12-years-old today!


I think its a pretty special milestone for him. And it deserves a big blog post about just how cool he is. Today is his birthday. In all honesty, we can't remember the exact day that was listed on his birth certificate but its in February. So we decided to celebrate his birthday on Valentine's Day since he's our little love. (How mushy is that???)

In honor of little man bringing twelve years of happiness and fun to the family, I give you the Top Ten Reasons Why Dooley is the Best Westie in the World:

1) He is an expert napper:

2) He knows when I'm feeling blue and leans against me with a simple hug that makes everything seem better instantly.

3) He's always happy to see me. Even if I've only been gone for ten minutes. It makes me feel like a rock star.

4) He cleans up well (and fits neatly in the laundry room sink):

5) He is an excellent car rider. He is also good at supervising his property:

6) He has every single toy that has ever been brought home to him. He plays gentle with them and treats them like his little friends. Its the perfect picture of sweetness.

7) He lets me have entire conversations with him and listens to every word. He never judges, just hears me out.

8) He appreciates my handiwork (note the blurred tail from the frantic wagging):

9) He helps me bake. He aspires to being Head Tester for Quality Control but settles for Supervising:

10) He has discovered the joys of the heating pad (I use it for my back aches) and cuddles up all sweet and snuggly while we watch t.v.:

Its hard to admit that my little friend is old. He spends a good portion of his time in dreamland and a walk is now defined as a short trip down the driveway to the mailbox. He can't get up onto the sofa without a boost and has to ask for help when he wants down. His arthritis medication sits next to the coffee maker to make sure he gets his "bouncy" pill every day.

But the mischievous twinkle in his eye is still there, same as the day he came home to us at the spunky age of four months old. He's been there for me during some really hard times and I cherish every day I get to spend with him. (Even the ones when he's bored and walking around the house barking at me to entertain him.)

Little man is getting a wee cupcake from the Cupcake Factory (plain vanilla minus the frosting) to celebrate and a big old hug and cuddle from me. Much love to my little fur friend.