It’s hard to say goodbye to a friend who is moving many hours away. I know, it could be much further away, with visits possible only by cross country or ocean trek. Still, the easy spontaneity of living a mere 20 minutes from each other will be gone.
Since we are both arty types of course we gave each other handmade farewell gifts. I created (with the help of Shutterfly) a book of my friend’s photos she had shared with me. In return she created a mixed media piece she called “Expecting to Fly.”
And it was accompanied by a handmade card.
Thank heavens email and Instagram make it easily possible to continue to share our artistic journeys. Alas, they aren’t so good for seeing shows in person and talking over each piece. I’ll miss you P.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m enrolled in a mixed media class called Wanderlust. The idea is to learn to use several mixed media materials that are considered staples. We’ve run through gessos and image transfers. Now we’re doing modeling paste.
While I had seen modeling paste mentioned in more craft oriented mixed media publications, I had ignored it. I didn’t see it being applicable to fabric (in all senses.) Now that I’ve expanded my universe to paper I’m trying it out.
Of course there are several weights of the stuff – light, regular, heavy. No art supply is ever simple. Since the class focuses on art journals we need to use the lighter weight. Otherwise no one could close their journal. All the instructors compare it to cake icing in terms of texture and spreadability. In a nutshell, you spread it on paper with something like a palette knife and then stamp on it or score it with tools. You can also apply it through a stencil. The base color is white, but it can be tinted with about any kind of paint – acrylic, watercolor, gouache, or ink.
Here are my efforts so far.
I’m working now on tinting the paste, and stamping it with watercolor painted stamps. You get an impressionistic effect. Here’s a trial sample.
Maybe I’ll try it on fabric, though I think a heavier type like canvas would be best. You certainly couldn’t stitch over it as it dries hard, so perhaps it could be a final layer. More discoveries await me.
Sometimes I like a continuing program of classes rather than a one shot deal, and Everything Arts’ Wanderlust lessons in mixed media and art journaling are delivering weekly doses of something new. Since I started exploring mixed media in 2020 I have learned much about paper and fabric collage, monoprinting, and even painting. But I don’t have a broad exposure to all the materials and techniques possible in mixed media.
From the video lessons so far I’ve learned about clear and black gesso (who knew there was more than white?), compressed charcoal pencils, and modeling paste, to name a few materials. As lessons are given by different teachers, most new to me, I am seeing diverse ways to approach the same materials and techniques.
Confession time: I don’t really follow the lessons, but I do try out the materials and techniques. The broad idea of the class is to create your work in an art journal. At the end of the course you have a consolidated arrangement of all you’ve created. I grab whatever’s on hand and work on that. So far I’ve used wallpaper samples, old pre-stretched canvases, children’s board books, and watercolor paper. I do indeed have nice unblemished paper, but somehow I feel constrained to reuse stuff. It must be the result of a childhood of saving the “good” dishes for company.
None of what I’ve made is finished work, but messing around is lots of fun.
The next lessons will delve more into modeling paste, so who knows what I’ll make. If I don’t like this week’s lesson there always will be a new one next week for the next few months.
Thanks to my brother I have a digital archive of photos passed down from several family members. Many identify the people and places shown, but some are just plain mysteries. My cousins have tried and failed to name the people, an unfortunate byproduct of our departed older generation who didn’t write anything on the backs of those photos packed away in old stationery boxes.
I decided to create a multi-panel mixed media piece with some of the mystery photos, which I call the unknown family. Here are some of my candidates.
I’ve settled on three panels: children, women, and groups. I plan to construct each separately, sewing on paper copies of the photos, and then connecting them with some sort of old cloth/lace, etc., so they will hang together. So far I have old linens for a base and decorations. I’m trying out various backing materials for support, but don’t plan to use batting or quilt these.
For a dry run I made a piece that features ancestral houses and an old embroidery sampler.
My test showed me the difficulties of using photos with different degrees of clarity and styles. I edited all but one to print in sepia, but still many details don’t show. I also used a lace doily of unknown origin and the decoration from a cotton lawn hanky that belonged to my mother. I added a few more embroidered flowers to try to blend the photos with the background. It’s backed with acrylic felt and a cotton print, both fused on.
I would love to see other pieces that attempt what I’m trying for, either ones you’re made or seen. Cautionary tales about what didn’t work are welcome as well.
In between lengthier projects I often do mini pieces that may not always involve quilting. Sometimes they are inspired by something I saw or read; sometimes by gifts or supplies from my stash that I have rediscovered. Most recently I used a sunny painted ocean scene given to me by Ann Scott to make a more disturbing landscape than the original. I call it “A Cell With A View.”
A more abstract yet functional project was two fabric bowls made from scraps and canvas I had painted. I was tired of seeing the canvas hanging in my fabric closet. Hilde Morin’s instructions call for covering the canvas with fabric, but I streamlined the process by decorating the canvas directly.
Some of my incidental projects are made from paper as well as fabric.
Finally, a photo I took at a local lake was edited in Photoshop, and printed on fabric. I glued it with matte medium to a stretched canvas. The technique is from Lynda Heines.
There are still more little projects on the go in my studio, though a few may be returned to the “someday” drawer. I won’t even begin to talk about the week I spent sewing little scraps into larger scraps by color, though I am using a few in current work.
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.
My latest mixed media creation is built with materials supplied by friends. I just arranged them, added a few leaves and did some sewing.
“With Little Help From My Friends” began with a monoprint swap with a friend. The leaf print set the theme, and I created more leaves from parts of other swapped monoprints. Two organza leaves I had left over from an old project joined them.
I kept machine sewing to a minimum as I didn’t want the paper to come apart. Most of the leaves have just one seam, though the center cluster has more stitching as it is heavy paper. I used colored pencils and markers to alter some of the colors and add leaf veins. I couldn’t resist trying out my new gold Posca marker.
The base is scrap felt from another friend, and the loosely woven gray-brown strip came from my costume designer friend. He had set aside this hand dyed remnant for me. I used some of the raveled thread from it for embroidery. To cap it all, the backing is woven tailor’s interfacing that came from my mother’s sewing supplies. I held onto it for years, thinking I’d return to tailoring, but I’m happy it’s found a place in my art.
I realize that small is a relative term, both for ice cream servings and works of art. For me, a small work of art measures less than 25 by 25 inches, which is a medium for some. A small ice cream serving for me is one and a half scoops. While I envy artists who turn out interesting work that is just 4 by 6 inches, I just can’t seem to work that small.
My work continues to use paper and fabric as I try to learn how to integrate them. Often, I begin with monoprinting on a gelli plate to develop papers and fabrics with intriguing designs. It’s just fun to crank out a dozen prints in the time it takes to sew a fussy seam. Of course the downside is cleanup is more onerous.
Two of my recent collages are made with bits from my prints, plus photos and hand painted papers.
“Fiddling” combines lots of magazine images, old art postcards and painted tissue paper, plus a monoprint or two.
Moving on to pieces made with fabric and paper, I finished “Fiddleheads” with hand stitching and learned I shouldn’t use a canvas backing if I want to hand sew.
In my latest fabric/paper creation I used gesso and markers to stencil chairs on fabric, paper, and nonwoven Pattern Ease. The edging is fused on using Frieda Anderson’s method.
Observant readers will have noted that none of the above pieces have batting, though the last two have backing and a bit of top stitching. I haven’t given up on quilting, but have found sewing heavily on paper is tricky. You can end up with a perforated line effect if you’re not careful, and there are no do-overs.
Green has finally returned to northeast Ohio, and my eyes can’t get enough of it.
A mixed media piece I’m working on uses a lot of what I thought was spring green. It turns out that my crayon memories are false, as what Crayola calls spring green doesn’t jibe with what I recall. However, Target offers children’s comforter sets in what I remember as spring green. Maybe my memory of the spring green crayon is faulty as it came only in the 64 color crayon box. That size box rarely came my way.
My piece, which I named “Fiddleheads,” features painted interfacing in two weights, woven strips of magazine pages, bits of painted mulberry paper, fussy cut bits from a large piece of cloth colored with thickened dye and then stenciled, and silk organza. It’s backed with canvas and held together with fusible and glue right now. I plan to stitch it together with both machine and hand work. At present it measures about 18 inches square.
I like using paper with fabric, though my opinion may change after sewing on paper. I’m a bit nervous about the thin magazine strips as once they’re sewn they can’t be unsewn.
Now 80 years old, mixed-media artist Marilyn Henrion is a native of Brooklyn who has spent time in the New York artistic and literary world. Her aesthetic vision has always been deeply rooted in the urban geometry of her surroundings. You can see this in her earlier works of geometric abstraction as well as in more recent architecturally-based mixed media works, which feature New Orleans and Europe.
Some of her works are quilts, for all practical purposes, with piecing and quilting. Many of Henrion’s quilted pieces are featured here.
Other works consist of hand quilted digitally edited and printed photographs.
Still others are edited photographs cut up, sewn together, and digitally printed with no quilting.
Then, some defy categorization, though I think the piece below is very modern.
And this piece has elegant curves and lovely hand dyed looking fabrics.
Henrion works in series so you can see how she plays with an idea. Her website has many examples of her work, nicely grouped by theme. I’m glad to see how her techniques have simplified over time as I’ve been looking for less complex ways to create work. Her latest work uses digitally edited and printed photographs. I don’t know if that’s the direction for me, but it’s one path to try.