Monthly Archives: July 2016

Mixed Media Roundup, Part 2

Compilations of techniques are popular for mixed media books. I looked over The Cloth Paper Scissors Book by Barbara Delaney, and The Mixed-Media Artist by Seth Apter. They expose you to many different artistic styles and show possibilities you may never come up with on your own. On the negative side, they skim the surface of techniques. Four pages just isn’t enough explanation if you’re totally new to a technique.

The Cloth Paper Scissors Book contains articles previously published in Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, so if you subscribe to that, you may already have the articles. Contents cover printmaking and surface design, journals and bookmaking, collage and assemblage, mixed-media stitching, and encaustic, metal and jewelry. Many of the articles focus on paper, but I think some could be done on fabric as well.

I concentrated on the stitching and surface design articles, as journaling, book making, etc., hold no appeal for me. In fact, the journal/book making aspects of mixed media often raise my hackles. The creations seem so self-absorbed, and require so many pricey stencils, stamps, inks, spray paints, etc.

Here’s an example of what I dislike in mixed media. Badly drawn face, a few big stitches, a button that doesn’t relate to anything else, and a piece of wretched “poetry” that references angels. It needs only flowers, and heart and key charms to complete its twee-ness.

twee art example

I liked Dorit Elisha’s use of stitch in this collage based on a screen print of an old photo. I believe the base is heavy paper, with fabric raw edge stitched on top. The zigzag stitch adds variety.

stitched collage Dorit ElishaThis book is best for browsing. Once I found some artists of interest, I went to their websites for further information. I also put a library hold on the latest issue of the magazine.

The Mixed-Media Artist by Seth Apter features several artists’ responses to prompts such as below the surface, imaginary worlds, and the face I show the world. One section focuses on 30 artists and their self-portraits. Each was asked to list 3 things they’re inspired by and 4 things on their studio table. Most responses were material objects, with a few surprises such as “the caramel aroma of fallen leaves in October” as an inspiration; and “uncertainty” as one of the items on a studio table.

In A Portrait Or The Likeness of a Man Will Ashford

Interleaved with photos of work (and there are lots) are responses to an online artist survey and some descriptions of specific artistic processes. The survey responses didn’t do much for me. I saw them as padding, and would have preferred more “how I made this” information.

The Chairman Trudi Sissonss

The best parts of The Mixed-Media Artist are the artists’ explanations of what inspired their work. Trudi Sissons created The Chairman (above) in response to the prompt long-term memory. As she explains, she was deeply affected by reading “Wherever You Go, There You Are.” The author of that book encouraged readers to pick a board of directors to serve as their internal advisors, and Trudi named Vincent van Gogh as chair of her internal board. Through photo imaging software, she melded parts of van Gogh’s paintings with a graphite drawing. I’ve talked before about copying famous art, but this piece samples it to create something new.

Like the Cloth Paper Scissors Book, The Mixed-Media Artist is good for browsing, but it’s less helpful for techniques. I had no doubt I was looking at the work of serious artists rather than crafters. It’s worth looking for at your library, but I wouldn’t purchase it just for myself.




Filed under Books, Inspiration, Project Ideas, Techniques

Mixed Media Roundup, Part 1

Now that my arm problem appears to be “shoulder impingement” (doesn’t that sound like a traffic offense?) I realize I need to change the kind of art I make for a while. No more quilts that involve lots of pieces and cutting and sewing. And no more quilts larger than about 40 inches.

My response has been to gather information about other art techniques that are similar to quilting but are considered more surface design or mixed media. Besides, I always welcome a chance to take in some eye candy. I visited my library and hauled off several books about surface design. Some are already back on the library shelves, but some I’d like to share with you.

mixed media books 1 (2)Today I’ll go over Reclaimed Textiles by Kim Thittichai and Sew Wild by Alisa Burke. The former book has crossed the pond so the artists, materials and resources pertain to the UK. I have no idea what the US equivalents are to solufleece and bondaweb. That said, the book features some seriously inventive artists who reuse waste, including plastic bags. I’d love to take an experimental textile course from Kim and plan to take a closer look at the projects on her blog.

Orange Lace Dress by Judith Hammond

Orange Lace Dress by Judith Hammond

All that lace is melted supermarket plastic bags. And how about these cunning repurposed satin bridal shoes decorated with felt and tulle by Helen McKenna?

Yellow and Green Shoes Helen McKennaI have no idea how wearable they are, but they look great and, according to Kim, show the influences of South America, Frida Kahlo, and the Day of the Dead on Helen’s work.

Reclaimed Textiles has a few projects, but I’m using it more for the possibilities it presents. I don’t know if I’m ready to make fabric by ironing several plastic bags together, but you never know.

Speaking of plastic bags, they’re just one of the materials Alisa Burke uses in Sew Wild. This book leans heavily to the DIY craft side of mixed media. The two main sections cover surface design (painting, printing, resist, discharge) and stitching techniques. There are a dozen projects that I think would appeal more to teenage girls than to me. They feature lots of raw fabric edges and what Alisa calls messy stitches.

Rosette Pillow Alisa BurkeHere’s her version of an art quilt.

Alisa BurkeThe DVD included with the book shows the various processes nicely. It seems Alisa has produced online classes about her techniques, which can be accessed on her website. I think this book would be helpful to someone just beginning to experiment with mixed media techniques, but I find the work somewhat slapdash and there’s little design guidance.

On the next leg of my trip through mixed media land I’ll feature compilations of work by mixed media artists.


Filed under Books, Fabric Printing, Inspiration, Project Ideas

Connect The Dots

My rhythm piece for Elizabeth’s master class has evolved painfully. Despite its plainness, I spent a lot of time to try out several half baked ideas and come up with this.

JMMJuly blocked rhythm resized

My Statement:

This month’s effort is more done with fabric markers and fabric stickers than cut fabric. I wrote the Morse code of “A line is a dot that went for a walk” three times on the zigzag fabric, following the zigs and zags at the breaks between words. It was too long (and I didn’t have enough fabric) to do this as a straight line. I used orange, rosy red and purple markers. My original plan to do this as satin stitch was scrapped once I saw how puckered up my sample was even with backing and how my machine couldn’t make the stitch as wide as I wanted.

Then, I filled in with circles cut out of Zen Chic fabric and fused to Wonder Under. The top group of circles follows a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 grouping to suggest how a bunch of dots become a line. The bottom group uses the different circle sizes to suggest the spoken rhythm – a LINE is a DOT that went for a WALK a LINE is a DOT.

I plan to do linear quilting in the non circle areas, echoing the zigzags. Any suggestions for more/different quilting is appreciated. At present the only permanent part of my piece is the Morse code.

Elizabeth’s response:
I think it’s a great idea and it looks good.  what’s so nice about it is the very clear structure…that looks simple until you get closer and then you realise all the complexity of it.   I’d love to see the idea too on a plain background….the Zen Zags are very strong…so I do hope you repeat it some time…
you could do the code in big white stitches on black – say linen – which is a pretty open weave and not too difficult to needle – similar to Dorothy Caldwell’s  xantha (might have the incorrect word here but it’s something like it!) stitching.
The sparkly fabric of the green dots works well too and I do like the way you’ve lightened the tops to give a sense of volume…that works very well…it all adds up to the meaning but it all goes together very well too.   I can’t see any changes necessary!  And yes, keep the quilting very simple, you really don’t want to distract from what’s already there.


Filed under Art quilts, In Process

I Don’t Have Rhythm

July’s master class topic has been rhythm and I’ve been out of sync so far. I tried out several ideas that went nowhere, and settled on three sketches that demonstrate my inability to go beyond the most literal interpretations. Elizabeth’s reaction was tepid, at best.

Here’s what I submitted and the critique:

My mind took off in strange directions for this assignment.

I began with syncopation and laid out paper squares and rectangles on a chevron pattern fabric – sketch 1. I would use two different colors than my paper for the shapes and the chevron fabric as background. Since I’m still having issues with my dominant arm I would fuse everything rather than piece. My aim is to suggest patterns but leave gaps to represent pauses, and pattern changes to show musical variations. It reminds me a bit of the rolls you put in player pianos – the Scot Joplin piece made me think of that.
JMMJulySketch1 resized
Then, I found a diagram of feet positions for a waltz, drew it and traced it – sketch 2. I overlapped the drawings to create paths. I love the rhythm of waltzing – 1, 2, 3 – which is why I did three drawings. I’d paint/print/stamp the diagrams on cloth. I’ll have to review my stash for fabric that might actually be worn for a waltzing dress.
JMM July sketch 3 resized
Finally, I thought of the rhythm of Morse code as shown in old movies where the train is speeding down the track and the voice over is conveying important news over the clacks of the transmitter. Since the code is dots and dashes I decided to translate the Paul Klee line, “A line is a dot that went for a walk” into Morse code. I curved the code along a line, traced it three times, and arranged the lines to cross each other – sketch 3. I thought of painting/printing/drawing the curved line on pieces of colored organza and overlapping them. Again, not much sewing would be involved.

JMM July sketch 2 resized

I love all your different interpretations of rhythms….
I think at the end though that you must consider the visual impact of each of these…for example the ones with dots and dashes actually look like a landscape….instead of curving them up and down, how about making them bolder and simply in straight rows but very bold and bright – nice to hide the quote by the way!! I too have used Morse code in a piece…hidden in the stitching and that is fun.
ACtually I would combine your technique from the first sketch and the message and idea of Morse code in the third sketch….the zigzag background does give a sense of radio waves!!!…..
the current arrangement is very symmetrical – and perfect symmetry tends to be rather static.
the Waltz steps were a good idea, but really don’t convey the ONE, two three, ONE two three ..of the waltz…I’m wondering if there’s a way you could bring that Beat out?

we want to get a sense of the actual Beat, and the forward movement suggested by rhythm.
So I”d use what you’ve got but take it a little further…


Filed under Art quilts, In Process, Project Ideas

Photos of All Quilts At 2016 Quilt Canada

Just a quick note to let you know you can view all the juried in quilts shown at this year’s Quilt Canada here. That way you can verify the makers of any quilts that caught your eye in my previous posts about the show.

Here’s one more award winner to ogle. This is Crackin’ The Code by Tannis Fahlman. It won first place for traditional quilts. Well, that’s not the first category that springs to my mind.

Update: For more background on this quilt, see this post by Crazy Quilter on a Bike.

Crackin the Code


Filed under Quilt Shows

My Community Quilt

Challenges seem to be the life blood of art quilt groups and the latest one I participated in had a community theme. I began one piece that I thought showed a community of women, but that veered off in another direction. It still features women but I think the viewer would see it more as a portrayal of friendship.

I decided to fill the gap with another piece I had set aside the parts for when I was playing with tissue paper fabric.  It shows wind tossed bare limbed trees set in a frame of greens with some purply browns and reds.

DoTreesHaveStandingFirst I free motion quilted the trees layer (a stencil spray painted on interfacing) between dyed silk organza and batting. After I sewed the ombre red band on the tissue paper background, I put the trees piece on top of the paper fabric and quilted wavy lines through all layers, including the green felt.  I sewed on a strip of leftover tissue paper to give some punctuation to the bottom. Then, I stitched on the brown/red/yellow cording to frame it up. I still haven’t decided how much of the felt to leave showing.

It’s meant to be a community of trees, which I call Should Trees Have Standing? The title refers to an influential law review article by Christopher Stone, written in 1972, arguing in favor of legal rights for natural objects and areas. The reference harks back to one of my varied past careers.

To me a group of trees forms an interdependent system that suffers damage when even one part of it is taken away. I always said I wouldn’t make social commentary quilts, but I have shown myself to be a liar.


Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects

Department of Self-Aggrandizement

It’s quite a shock, though a very pleasant one, to open a national magazine and see a photo of a quilt you made. I knew that my quilt In The Clouds was in a show sponsored by SAQA. After all, I had packed it up and shipped it off. Various photos of the show opening featured lovely quilts made by well known quilt artists. I quite understood why the photographers chose to train their lenses on those quilts and not mine.

Then I opened the latest issue of SAQA Journal and found myself gaping at a photo of a very familiar quilt on the outside of the right hand page.

SAQA JournalYou can see a slideshow of the whole show here. Unfortunately, I don’t think the show is scheduled to travel anywhere east of the Mississippi River, though that could change.



Filed under Art quilts, Quilt Shows

Resistance Is Futile

I couldn’t resist that title, since I just tried two methods of applying a resist to fabric. One art quilt group I belong to has been making noises about trying Elmer’s blue gel glue as a resist. Since I had some as well as a bottle of Jacquard resist I decided to declare last Friday an experiment day.

I used my circus tent design for the gel glue, and a lines sketch for the Jacquard.

Gel glue resistJacquard resist

The gel glue was applied directly from the bottle, while the Jacquard was put in a small bottle with an applicator tip. I put my drawings underneath the fabric and traced the lines.

Then I used Pebeo Setacolor light (transparent) paints to fill in the shapes. I quickly learned that too many small shapes give the paint lots of opportunities to breach the resist.

Gel glue resist being paintedI painted both pieces at the same time, using mixes of the colors you can see at the bottom of the photo above.

Once the paint dried and the fabric sat for several hours, I heat set the paint with an iron per the manufacturer’s instructions, and washed the fabrics in a bucket of soapy water. While the Jacquard product came off easily, the gel glue was recalcitrant. It’s a glue after all. I ended up scrubbing that fabric with an old toothbrush, but found I still didn’t get all the glue out.

Here are my results.

Gel glue resist finishedGel glue resist detail

Jacquard resist completedJacquard resist detail

In both you can see some bleed through. I got smoother lines with the Jacquard resist, but I think it’s because I used a fine tip applicator. The gel glue bottle was more awkward to hold so the flow of gel wasn’t as smooth, at least in my hands. If I use the gel glue again it would be for a simple design, possibly dashed lines, that I would paint over with a color wash. Also, as you can see from the Jacquard piece, I made some lines too thick for fine detail to show.

I don’t know if I’ll use this technique again soon, but I did get to recycle some of my master class designs.


Filed under Fabric Printing, Techniques

It’s Not Easy Being Green

Eco dyeing is one of the latest techniques making the art quilt rounds. Essentially, you use plant materials to color fabric. I had a chance to try it at a recent quilting getaway.

We gathered bits of silk, linen and cotton (this had to be mordanted with alum first); wet them; covered them with the plant material; wrapped them around a stick or pipe; and tied them tightly. Here’s our plant material buffet.

Eco dyeing buffetAlas, none of those lovely flower colors came through; our results ran to the green/gray/black spectrum with a bit of yellow from turmeric root. We tried to get lime green with lemon slices and chopped fresh garlic, but all that did was make our fabric smell bad.

Eco dyeing 1This is what I did to a damask napkin.

Eco dyeing 3My Great Aunt Dinah would be horrified at my treatment of her pillowcase. In my defense, the fabric on the top half had split so it wasn’t usable on a pillow.

Eco dyeing 7 linenWe threw this piece of linen into the cooking pot without wrapping it.

After boiling our bundles for a few hours we pulled them out of the water and set them out on the back porch to cure. They were supposed to remain wrapped up for a few days, but you would have thought we were kids at Christmas. I think three bundles remained intact for a few days. The rest were torn into eagerly.

My fellow dyers achieved better results than I did. I’ll use my cloth, but I don’t expect to make it the star. I understand better why aniline dyes were so thrilling when they were introduced. Brown and green clothing are same old, same old after a century or so.


Filed under dyeing

Favorite Close Ups

Sometimes a quilt will have lovely details that show the craft its maker put into it. Here are a few such details I saw at Quilt Canada.

LighthousedetailA rocky island made with wool roving. The boards on the lighthouse are about a quarter inch wide. The flag on the door is a nice touch.

JackieWhite detailExtreme matchstick quilting.

HeightoftheStorm detailA town in the middle of a dust storm done with stitching.

EnigmaticStory detailFaces possibly painted and then stitched around.

Detail of album quiltA lovely appliqued ship. The half square triangles are tiny.

CrazyQuilt detailAn old key caught behind organza.

DeepNightdetailIntense stitching.

AlbertaTurbinesdetaILThe moon reflected in clouds.

IMG_7737Charming challenge fabric quilt that doesn’t have straight edges. I applaud the creative use of these somewhat challenging fabrics.

This post concludes my report of the 2016 Quilt Canada show. Today, July 1, is Canada Day, which I thought was fitting. The 2017 show will be held at the International Centre in Toronto, Canada, as well.




Filed under Quilt Shows