I’ve been paper collaging like mad the past week or so to give my brain time to develop quilting plans for a few pieces. Ignoring something is often a surefire way to have solutions find me. And I wanted to work more with paper anyway.
Thanks to collage classes that have you create papers to use, I have a healthy supply of solid and patterned papers. In addition, I have a backlog of magazine pages from the Sunday NY Times, plus lots of monoprint rejects from my friend Penny. Then there are the wallpaper samples she gave me, and my rejects from monoprinting and painting classes.
So now I have a paper scrap glut in addition to a fabric one, but I’ve been organizing my papers while I work on collages.
I set out to assemble collage parts that could be used to quickly make a larger composition. I got the idea from Mary Beth Shaw of Stencil Girl, but many others have a similar approach. That went well with organizing my papers as I combined color families and similar styles and cut out images.
Then gradually the parts became whole compositions.
As per usual I crammed too much into each piece. However, I am learning to use realistic images and rely more on a glue stick rather than matte medium. (I also learned that not all glue sticks are created equal. I was satisfied with the Leeho brand I had on hand, but not with the Scotch brand.) It was making me crazy to find that each collage class I took (I relied mostly on free Creativebug classes available through my library) called for a different way to adhere paper. I found that medium is too heavy for thin magazine papers and can cause the ink to smear, especially if you use medium below and over the image. However, if you use a heavy paper like bristol or watercolor you need the medium for staying power.
I hope to continue the use of photographic images in my collages and allow for more white space. My quilting background makes me think every space has to contain some material. At some point I’ll learn that paper doesn’t fall apart if you leave part of it empty. Maybe by then I’ll have learned to keep the glue on the paper and off my fingers.
“Less is more” and “More is more” are common design mantras. Each has its adherents. A recent design experience took me way beyond “more is more” to deep in the weeds. I’m writing about my recent failure as a lesson that sometimes going for broke can break the piece.
After my Tansy Hargan From Sketchbook to Wall class I was eager to use the techniques taught, so I prepared a smallish (roughly 20 inches square) fused piece which I planned to gussy up with reverse applique, hand stitching, and pen and paint. It started out okay, if a bit pink.
Then I added hand and machine applique, and a bit of embroidery.
I thought more stuff would improve the piece, and utterly overshot the mark.
Finally, I cut off some of the hand work and lightened some of the applique with a white marker. The machine stitched bits are impossible to remove as there is a backing fused on.
My intention was to evoke the playing pieces used in children’s board games. I wish I hadn’t gone down the embellishment road as the original piece was much more pleasing than the monster I created. I could always cut it up….
Since last week I’ve continued to work on my small (about 10 inch square) pieces for my From Sketchbook to Wall class, and have five done (mostly.) I’ve learned that it’s hard to hand sew through fabric covered with acrylic paint, and that I want to hold onto some resemblance to my inspiration landscape. That surprised me as I think I’ve reached a fairly high comfort level with abstraction.
While I love the texture hand stitching gives, in the future I think I’ll use paint and its cousins more to transform the base fabrics. I have lots of painted fabric left for more such textile works, though I think I want to try to create fantasy landscapes next time.
I have lots of photos for inspiration, but I want to use them mostly as inspiration for textures. I like the rough arrangements I did of my painted fabrics better than my deliberately composed ones.
If you’re on Instagram and want to see other people’s work from this class, search #tansyhargantextilecourse.
I’m in the middle of a two week online class on textile creation given by Tansy Hargan, a British landscape architect and textile artist. It’s called From Sketchbook to Wall, which is an accurate description. We began with en plein air sketches of nature or built environments, moved on to thumbnail collages of the sketches, and then to transformation of clothing to fabrics for our final pieces.
I signed up for the course to get a different approach to textile art, and I’m getting different with a vengeance. We were to unpick old clothes with a seam ripper, paint them with acrylic until stiff, and add marks to our fabrics in a variety of ways.
Unpicking old clothes palled quickly, and I used men’s shirts I had already cut up plus remnants from my hoard. I combined textile and acrylic paints to use what was on hand, and I had a hard time wrapping my head around deliberately making my fabric stiff. All my past effort to preserve a soft hand in painted fabric made me cringe at the paper like results, but the advantage of that stiffness became apparent later during mark making. Some of the techniques were new to me and possible only because the fabric was stiff. Tansy demoed a variety of ways to mark fabric, including photocopying (stiffness is essential) and carbon paper. I wasn’t brave enough to run sheets of fabric through my brand new printer, but other students did that successfully.
Then it was on to reverse applique, hand stitching, and free motion stitching. Again, this is roughly done and fraying is encouraged.
I’m now at the point of actually composing and fusing the base layer of my 9 inch squares on top of old cotton sheeting covered with WonderUnder. We are to rip/cut our fabrics and arrange them on the fusible surface, inspired by our thumbnail collages.
I am saving the last two videos about stitching and further layering until I make more base layers. I suspect I’m overthinking the fabric arrangements, but it’s quite fiddly to get the little bits to stay put as you fuse them. After my ironing disaster I’ve made sure to use a silicone mat.
For many years I have planned to make a 3D quilted object. I have sketchbook drawings to back up that claim. My scheme was to create multiple small connected units with see through spaces between them. The piece could cast shadows on a wall or floor, or give a screen-like view through to other items in a room.
Fast forward to 2020, when I got serious about this idea. Using many silk fabrics I had amassed, I created circles and ovals. After trying to create one big piece out of all the shapes I decided to group them by warm and cool shades. The warm shades were first up because I had fewer of them.
As I wrote earlier, I treated each shape as a mini quilt, sewing together front, back, and batting. Then I hand sewed the shapes together, and machine quilted them as a single unit. I thought that would be the end, but the results didn’t look finished. I had the idea to add metal rings, which I made from jewelry wire. Once those were sewn on I threaded satin cord between the wire circles.
In a change of plans I thought I would mount the construction to an ice dyed backing. To help the shapes stand out against the backing I edged each shape with silver glitter. After I carefully sewed black wool felt spacers behind each shape to help them stand away from the backing, the construction just didn’t look right. There was still not enough contrast.
At this point I made an executive decision to declare “Roundabout” done. Some finishing details are rough and I really can’t ship it anywhere easily with the wire, so I am chalking it up to process rather than product.
Because I was determined to use the backing I worked so hard to make, I resurrected an old resist piece, quilted it, and attached it to that backing. It’s called “Raspberry Lime Swirl.”
Now all I have to do is figure out how to finish all the cool tone shapes. They are sewn together, but languish on top of my old trunk awaiting inspiration.
My January line a day challenge did go for all 31 days, though I stretched some work out over a few days. While the original intent was to keep the time spent on each response short, sometimes that didn’t happen. I am sure Penny, my friend who did this challenge with me, spent way longer than 15 to 45 minutes on many of her pieces. In our defense, if you’re in the zone you want to finish your vision.
One of my prompts was to create collages from magazine images with linear elements. In some cases I didn’t glue down the pieces, but tried several arrangements.
Then, I returned to fabric to use bias tape and free motion stitching for lines. I tried a sepia edges effect with Inktense pencils.
Next, I decided to make hard line acrylic paintings on vinyl wallpaper samples to test how well acrylic paint would stick to that surface. First, I covered the wallpaper with an ombre effect wash. Then I put down masking tape and painted tones of blue, red, and yellow. I can see I need to work on getting the tape to stick down better. However, the paint does stay on.
Since January obliged me with snow I took photos of lines from my window and used Photoshop filters to add textures to them. You can see how often the deer tromp through my yard.
In the last few days of the month I combined the fabrics I had printed with other linear fabrics to make a small quilt.
My notes indicate I made something linear every day in January, but I’ve shown only some of my output.. Not all the results are worth showing, though they were worth doing. I learned that a set daily theme made it easy to get right to work. I tried to use different media to expand my artistic toolbox, though I can see how that could lead to a “master of none” situation.
As you can see, I often responded to different prompts than Penny, and produced different work. Aside from cheesecloth, she didn’t use fabric. My work is more hard edged and boldly colored than hers, in part due to the different media we used. However, Penny’s palette is softer than mine and she likes to create layers. But, the challenge wouldn’t have been fun if we had the same responses, so vive la difference.
Challenges are always more fun with company, and my friend Penny joined me in playing with line. She has been working with collage and gel printing recently, and her responses to the prompts reflect that. I asked her to be a guest blogger. She chose some of her work to feature here, and wrote a bit about what she did and why. Take it away Penny.
Thick and thin lines with contrast We started this challenge by coming up with some “prompts” for line making. Thick and thin seemed like a good place to start. I thought about weaving lines together and thought it would be fun to make it look like it was unraveling. Black India ink with a brush was used for lines; contrast and line variety were added with white and turquoise oil pastels on a brown paper bag. It could be a theme to further explore using various media.
Using line to depict fashion figures After viewing the work of textile artist Lucienne Day (shared by Joanna), and viewing Day’s small abstracted figures; I decided to use directional line to doodle these little fashionistas. I think they would be fun over a sheer watercolor background or a collaged tissue base in very light colors. They are very minimalist, but they have a certain “je ne sais quoi.”
Lines and mark making with unconventional tools I think this was a mutually agreed upon line prompt. I used deli paper, India ink, and items such as a pencil eraser end and silicon basting brush. I did another sheet which I was unable to locate in my burgeoning stash which used a haircolor brush applicator and the edge of a credit card. These techniques could be utilized on a gelli plate as well.
Cheesecloth line gel print with tracing paper collage overlay I decided to try this after exploring adding cheesecloth to some of my gelli prints. I wanted to see how clearly the threads of the cloth would show up when used with fluid acrylic paint. I also explored the value changes made by layering pieces and/or folding the cheesecloth randomly on the plate before pulling the prints. I used tracing paper for the overlay with china marker and Posca pens. It was a fun and delightfully unpredictable way to explore line and value.
Acrylic string printing on wallpaper sample I had done numerous string printed pieces on various “regular” papers, but never on wallpaper. I decided to print multiple layer string prints using the wallpaper pressed directly onto the plate. I enjoy the way the texture of the wallpaper subtly breaks up the printed lines, making me think of some kind of abstracted Renaissance textile from a royal’s wardrobe. If nothing else, interesting collage fodder!
Using torn paper edges as line, using a variety of found papers, photocopied image, wallpaper samples, and found object junk mail in a collage I was quite disturbed by the Capitol Insurrection, and thought that torn edges would help to show the attempted “tearing down” of the democratic process. Rioters were depicted as surreal reptilian-like creatures, letting the linear pattern of blacks, whites, and grays show up against the photocopied image of the Capitol. The strong colors of magazine collage bits emphasize their rage. The diagonal lines in the wallpaper background helped to lead my eye into the Capitol interior, as well as the directional lines on the other wallpapers. I really enjoyed creating this, despite the gravity of the subject matter.
Using pinked edge masks, edge of cardboard, and high flow acrylic to explore a particular line pattern I mistakenly received a big bottle of high flow acrylic in an art supply order, so I decided to try gel printing with it. I had already made the pinked mask shapes, so it started out just as white masked shapes on a pink ground. It definitely needed something, so I decided to echo the zigzag edges of the masks with black Posca pen. I used white Posca for the dots so it wouldn’t be totally zigzaggy, and then printed with corrugated cardboard edges in black acrylic to add another type of line quality. This was a late night experiment that made me think of Good N Plenty candy (which I don’t even like). Could be a fun starting point for surface design.
Using tinted cheesecloth and machine stitching as line in a grid format Joanna told me about a class she was taking with David Owen Hastings that uses pieces of cut collage elements in a grid which are then machine stitched. I chose pages from a calendar as well as some subtly textured wallpaper. After stitching it down, I decided to layer it with collaged white tissue and painted cheesecloth to suggest a partially frozen creek bed. I added undulating stitching to give it a watery look and continue the linear feel. I’m still pondering how to create slightly raised “stepping stones” using layered collage elements for the rocks. This piece really got me excited about using cheesecloth as a collage element.
Painted damask with added lines and color Found this piece of previously sponge painted damask in my stash and was looking for a quick way to add linear detail. Used some of the pink high flow acrylic with a fine steel-tipped resist bottle for thin lines, then some fine line Posca pen detailing. It makes me think of a sunny little Mediterranean village.
Lines making Asemic or Symbolic writing I did the orange and black piece after stumbling on a great Robyn McClendon video on symbolic writing. I knew it would fit in as a line making prompt. It combines a gel print with black ink, and uses a copier for a portion of it. I don’t have the link, but if you look up her videos, you will see it. The lower left piece is another cheesecloth print on Bristol with layered Posca asemic writing, which I find very therapeutic! I like the complexity of the woven lines with the looseness and contrast of the “written” lines over it. My son, who is a graphics guy, said he really likes this “grunge” approach. I have also tried this writing in gel pen over wallpaper textured painted color tissue in a greeting card.
Acrylic string gel print with cheesecloth and linear collage elements This subtle string print was made with some brand new Golden fluid acrylics which I mixed to get some subtle colors. I decided to use layers of painted cheesecloth to give my orbs some form and shadowing. Linear collage elements were cut from a trial print. I like the subtlety of the string print colors and the contrast afforded by the cheesecloth shapes. I think it has kind of a planetary or undersea feel to it, and I think I need to do more of these.
Thanks for your insights, Penny, and for walking us through your responses. Next time I’ll present the rest of my line work.
What if I could have the fun of creating art with paper without the gluey mess? Last month I took David Owen Hastings‘ Stitched Paper Collage online class in the hope of finding an answer. As a result, I now have a method to create paper compositions that’s easy and non-sticky. It allows me to create simple work quickly, yet has the potential for larger, more complex pieces. And, it gives me an outlet to use all the magazine pages and monotype print oopsies I’ve collected.
Supplies are simple: sewing machine, thread, paper to cut up, and backing paper. The last can even be cut up brown paper bags. David adds refinements to help you line up your cut up papers, which can be as small as half an inch wide. Once you do one or two basic pieces to get the method down, you can take the approach wherever you like. One caution is you can’t stitch too much on the paper as it will tear. And you can’t rip out stitches for the same reason.
Here are my first pieces, done on a paper bag.
In the days after the workshop I cranked out several 6 by 6 inch pieces, using some of the monotype discards given to me by a friend.
If you’re wondering about the dangling threads, they are a design choice. David likes his to dangle. You can also pull them to the back and tape them down so they don’t show.
I gather you can join several smaller pieces with archival tape to create a larger composition. That’s where I hope to go next with this technique.
Temporal challenges to create art abound on social media: 100 days of postcards, 52 weeks of collages, a year of daily ambient temperatures, etc. I wanted to begin 2021 with some sort of daily art prompt, but I didn’t know how long I could keep it up. I settled on 31 days of lines.
Why line? Though it’s one of the basic elements of design, in quilts it is often addressed only through actual quilted stitches. Some would argue that every place where fabrics meet creates a line, and I see that. But I am after line for line’s sake. Lines can be straight/curved/geometric/contoured/crisp/soft-edged/continuous/broken/jagged/even/dotted/dashed/thick/thin/varied/raised/recessed, and I’m sure there are more permutations I haven’t even thought of.
So far I’ve been able to make lines on paper or fabric every day this month, and some days I’ve done more than one piece. I even persuaded a friend to join me on the line, though she is working with paper only, at least so far.
I’ve marked on fabric a little more than paper, and I’ve marked with India ink, acrylic paint, printing ink, colored pencils, tissue paper, and machine stitching; and used conventional and unconventional tools, including a feather, to apply my marks. I also did a bit of photography and Photoshop editing.
Here are a few highlights.
I have still more ideas for line making, and may set aside the final week of January to create a larger work from all my bits. Have you tried a multi-day challenge and, if so, have you stuck with it?
My husband and I were fortunate enough to be able to self-isolate for much of 2020, so we’ve remained untouched by the Corona virus. Self-isolation gave me lots of time to devote to my art, and I think I made good use of the time to explore different media. After all, I have been saving collage making material for many years. It became if not now, then when? I know many artists found themselves too distracted for sustained creative work, but art became my escape hatch from grim reality.
I was also fortunate to have a friend who was eager to try out some online classes and videos with me, and we shared our efforts with each other thanks to technology, as well as art supplies through porch drop offs. You can read about our different takes on a Jane Davies class here.
Of course I continued to make art quilts, and you can check out that work on the “My Quilts 2019 On” page of this blog. A few were major projects, but many were experiments in using scraps.
I’m not one to choose a word of the year, but my word for 2020 would have been adapt. I tried to play the hand I was dealt. Thank goodness for Jane Davies, Julie Fei-Fan Balzer, and YouTube. With the help of these online guides I took up collage, acrylic painting, and monoprinting. I tried to combine all three in mixed media work.
I learned with “Fiddleheads” not to use canvas as my backing fabric as it is so hard to hand sew through. The matte medium on top of the paper didn’t help either. I had planned more handwork, but scrapped that notion in favor of markers. The work combines woven and non-woven fabrics, magazine pages, and mulberry papers.
“Take A Seat” started with chairs stenciled on fabric scraps. Then I stenciled on monoprints, and combined all the stenciled bits with fabric shaped like the profile of a chair.
“Covid” was my attempt to use found and made paper images in a collage. I had saved photos of sunglasses ads for years. Those glamorous models got masked and covered up with the reality of the pandemic.
“Shadow” was an early collage made up of magazine images with a bit of marker line added. Thank goodness for my years of NYT Magazine page collecting.
My untitled felt piece, backed with canvas, came about after a friend gave me her felted wool scraps. They were already backed with fusing. There’s a woven paper strip background in there, as well as shiny patterned dress fabric scraps.
A monoprint exchange with a friend led to a tribute to autumn. Felted wool, organza, and paper were given a boost with markers and embroidery.
I hope to continue mixed media explorations in 2021 and improve my integration of paper and fabric. I made lots of work I’m not including here as it shows what went wrong. Practice leads to better work, but you don’t want to wade through the beginner pieces unless you’re a masochist or closely related to me.