Friday, July 31

All coiled up

After a week of teaching Fiber Sculpture, with some basketry, coiling, and soft sculpture, I'm taking inspiration from Australian Aborigine artist Kantjupayi Benson's life-size coiled car: I'm getting in mine tomorrow for a much-deserved day off. I'll get photos of my students' work up as soon as I can .

Wednesday, July 29

Red and yellow and pink and green

Because I saw one yesterday and it's raining today and I need to get into a better mood!

Teens Using Credit Cards Responsibly!

For the past 3 weeks I've been working with a group of teen girls in Collingswood at Perkins Art Center in a DIY Silkscreen printing class. Week 1 we made our own screens out of cereal boxes, fabric, and duct-tape. Week 2 we got out images on the screens trying out several different blocking methods, and this week we got to PRINT! The image above is printed on a ribbed tank top and was inspired by Rocky Horror. The picture below shows my Frida Kahlo Bird necklace print, and a student's Tegan and Sarah logo print. I'm not sure if she made up the logo or if it's something the band uses, but it's cool.
Below is the Tegan and Sarah logo printed on a T-shirt, and another student's print collage showing her texture crayon rubbing block and her sun contact paper block.

What does this have to do with Responsible Credit Card Use??? We're using expired credit cards as squeegees to pull the ink across our small screens! Below is our collaborative print mural in progress. I'm having them use up their ink by printing on a large sheet of paper. Maybe Perkins will let us hang it in the window for passersby to see.

Sunday, July 26

Pattern Exploration wrap-up

The second week of July was a fun-filled art-packed week teaching Pattern Exploration to a group of nine 8-11 year-olds at Fleisher Art Memorial. The premise of the projects was to explore one type of pattern based on a traditional cultural textile each day. Here are some of the results:The first day covered stripes and was inspired by Ghanaian Kente Cloth. Students created a repeat of stripes and symbols down a long strip of paper in crayon and watercolor, then cut and assembled the strips into a rectangular "cloth". Students were encouraged to choose colors and symbols that were meaningful to them. The second day explored geometric patterns based on American quilts. Students broke up a cardboard square into shapes, tried out different "block" compositions, then created a collograph stamp in their favorite configuration to print onto muslin squares, repeating their motif in either a symmetrical or asymmetrical image. On our third day we looked at circular motifs in Japanese textiles. Above is myself all in blue and my assistant Zoe on the left (oh the luxury of only 9 students PLUS an assistant!!!!). The kerchiefs we're sporting are the results of our circular motifs. Students traced circular objects using permanent markers to create a pattern on cotton, then tried shibori/tie-dye by bundling and wrapping their cloths in rubber bands.

Day 4 focused on botanical motifs in Middle Eastern rug patterns. Students painted a background field, a border, and a central medallion, and then added symbolic details in the separate fields in either paint or permanent marker. We tried finding botanical motifs out in the park to use in the rugs, but some students preferred their OWN ideas!

On the last day we looked at English Blackwork embroidery and how patterns can build up to create value shadings. Each student filled a page with black marker patterns in increasing density. The pages were photocopied and enlarged to give each student plenty of source material, then they drew major lines on top of photocopied photographs of themselves, cut out the shapes as templates, and traced the shapes onto pattern papers matching the values. They then reassembled the image like a puzzle piece combining photocopy sections of the photograph with the pattern shapes. It's a bit difficult to explain, but their results were phenomenal! The one on the right is mine, but the left one is one of my student's.
I had such a great time teaching this fantastic group of kids. One thing I tried was to send the students home each day with a note with a summary of what occurred in class and ideas for afternoon activities to continue the experience. As a parent I'm always frustrated hearing "nothing" as the standard response to "how was school today". Thought I'd solve the problem by giving parents a clue into the learning process. Hopefully some of them actually did some of the activities and made a richer learning experience for the students.

Studio progress

Despite floors and nephews, I was able to get some work done this week. Wednesday morning was spent at the Wagner Free Institiute of Science, an awesome natural history museum that remains the same as when it was installed in Victorian times. Here are some sketches of robins and eagles I made from their taxidermied bird collection. I may use these as inspiration for my Woodford Mansion piece. I also managed to get three 2in square pieces complete for the gridded Trenton Ave piece. The next step in this piece is to find some red fabric for some appliqued backgrounds.

Saturday, July 25


This embroidery, entitled "Tulip and Berks", found a happy home this week. Hooray! There was a lot of work in this one as it's very densely stitched. It includes random cross, satin stitch, straight stitch, couching, buttonhole, seeding, and feather stitch.

Slow Cloth progression

I'm really enjoying the results of my in-class samplers this summer. Part of it is using the rust-dyed cloth as a background, part of it is the slow build-up of mark without planning any imagery. Past samplers have included words and recognizable images, whereas these are more abstract and mark-based. They also include shisha embroidery for the first time! The one below is complete and includes applique, shisha, feather stitch, lazy daisy, running stitch, vandyke, and spider wheel (worked around an applique with an open center this time). I have been trying to keep the colors more unified by selecting colors to use rather than depending on my leftover grab-bag.

This second image is a work in progress, stitched over rust-dyed fabric and including lace applique, shisha, chained feather, seed stitch, vandyke, ladder stitch (which I may start calling double vandyke!), cable chain, and pekinese. As usual, these begin as demo samplers as I instruct students how to do particular stitches. After a while the stitches build up, a composition develops, and I start to be more selective about where things go. I'm thinking about a new series perhaps! I'm imagining rust-dyeing fabric onsite throughout my neighborhood, and collecting bits of glass off the street for shisha. We'll see if I ever get around to it. Have to finish my grid piece first...

Friday, July 24

Color Contrasts

Oh my poor color theory students have been sadly neglected here of late. Here's something for them.....

We cannot know hot without cold, light without dark, good without bad. What a boring world we'd live in if everything only tasted salty, never rained, and was colored gray. We need contrast to be able to understand and appreciate the world around us, especially in color.

Itten distinguished 7 different types of color contrast which we use to create interest and depth in our images. Click on the links for an illustrative image!

Contrast in Hue

Contrast in Value

Contrast in Chroma

Complementary Contrast

Warm-Cool Contrast

Simultaneous Contrast (1 color can look like 2 and 2 colors can look like 1 depending on the adjacent colors)

Contrast of Extension (the appearance of a color depends on its quantity in proportion to other colors)

Images rarely rely on a single type of contrast, and one can usually identify several types of contrast within an image. The degree of contrast influences the mood of an image. High contrast images are exciting and dynamic, whereas low contrast images are calm or moody.
In my embroidery, Berks and Girard, the major contrast is complementary as I've used mainly red and green hues, but there is also value contrast in the various shades of red and green, and warm-cool contrast within the green grasses. The level of contrast is medium to high as there are extremes in hue and value, making it a dynamic image despite its simple composition.

Urban Art

You know I like art about the city. Here is artist Liu Bolin who puts himself right into it in a series called "Hiding in the City". He camouflages himself in the photographs. I'm intrigued by the blending of painting and photography and how he shows the ways culture and environment are impressed upon us. All the more poignant when reading how his art and practice have been suppressed by the Chinese government.
Thanks to Nathan (my cousin and all-around awesome smart guy) for the link.

Thursday, July 23

Stitch Week roundup and my sincere apologies

I can now sit upon my shiny new/old floors and reconnect to the internet. Hooray! I can't really imagine life before internet now. I used to wait weeks for mail to come with penpal letters, but now feel deprived after one week without online access.

So here are the last images from Stitch Week- which seems like ages ago now. Although I'd like to expound upon each one at length, there's so much else going on I'll just give them to you at once:

Frances Schatz was all about exploration. She had previously taken collage classes at Fleisher and incorporated her work on paper into a fabric/paper collage.

Dianne Hricko is an amazing surface design artist who was eager to learn new stitches to use in her silk fabric collages. I've been to her studio frequently and enjoyed our critique sessions.

Ali Emeric was very open to experimentation and has a great color sense. Ali is a senior at Moore, my alma mater, and is doing an internship with Dianne this summer.

Fran Dietrich is one of those slow and precise sort of stitchers, and her results are elegant. Here she was able to combine her crocheted rounds as an applique in her circle sampler. Combining different media in one piece can be a challenge, but she pulls it off by unifying through color and shape.

Roberta Kangilaski has an inner sculptor I think. She really enjoyed all the experimentation and exploited the techniques for their dimensional possibilities.

Last but not least is Elaine Erne, who bravely set down her 4B pencil and picked up a needle and thread. Elaine definitely seemed interested in embroidery's capacity as a drawing medium.
So that's all folks! Join me again in the future for more stitch classes at Fleisher Art Memorial.

Friday, July 17

All quiet on the western front

Your regularly scheduled blogpost has been interrupted due to unforeseen home improvement. Art and teaching continue and you are welcome back in a few days after my floors are rendered shiny and beautiful, when lots of pictures will be shared. (of art not my floors)
Until then, read something else!
Like this

Tuesday, July 14

Stitch week finals Part 3

I'm sort of curious why people choose to take my embroidery classes. Is it that they see embroidery as a viable fine art method and intend to go on and make art? (Cause that's why I stitch for the most part!) Is it that they have fond memories of crafty maternal figures and want to keep a tradition alive? Perhaps. Some see the practical aspects of knowing how to stitch and embellish, and here are the results of some of my students' efforts in that realm:

The galloping horses with flying stitched tails belong to Ann Chabandour, who created this whimsical piece hoping it would appeal to a certain 2-year-old boy as a blankie. It is made of lovely soft flannel and her embellishments will give him textures to play with and shapes to spark the imagination. Helen Cunningham created the embellished dress on the right intended for a 2-year-old girl, wisely cutting it a size larger. Children grow quickly- perhaps quicker than our fingers can complete the handmade gifts we hope to give them. The dress includes a ribbon applique with blanket stitch edging and a center spider wheel medallion. I wish more children could know the pleasure of having toys and clothes lovingly made for them. I frequently was able to say "My mom made it for me" when I was growing up. There's nothing better than an original, unique, handmade item when it comes with the knowledge that someone loves you enough to take time to make something for you.

Here is a photo of Melanie Miller and her handwork embellishing a store-bought dress. When you buy something the novelty wears off after seeing 10 other people wearing the same thing! Melanie solved the problem by turning it into a unique item. She screenprinted our collaborative print onto the hip area of her dress and then started stitching over it with some excellent color gradations. Melanie's intention for the class was to learn new skills that will help her in designing items for a line called "Neurochic", making medical accessories more fashionable.

Whatever students' reasons are, I hope they are satisfied with the learning experience and feel confident to continue working in embroidery!

Saturday, July 11

Stitch Week Finals Part 2

On the very last day of Stitch Week I photocopied a bunch of city photographs to show people some different ways of working from a photo. I had everyone trace over the major shapes with Sharpies to establish the geometric structure of the composition, then switch colors and draw over the photo with ideas for which stitch to use to recreate textures.

I find it very interesting how different people approach the same image. Below is the beginning of Joi Dye's version:
Joi chose our rusted fabric for her foundation, and sketched out her composition in pencil so that she could enlarge the image. Although I suggested she could enlarge the photo on the copy machine and trace the composition with carbon paper, she felt comfortable with her drawing skills and did it freehand. Her stitching started off with recreating the brick texture in gray using a satin stitch (which turned out to be a long running stitch densely spaced- way to innovate Joi!). By the end of class she had a portion of the wall complete and the telephone pole filled in with long straight stitches. Joi was obviously thinking about her composition as areas of color and texture.

Here is Rachel Schade's rendition of the same image:

Rachel's is much smaller and began with a carbon transfer of the photocopy and an applique of ochre gauze over the entire composition. The bold black outline suggests that she is approaching her image as more of a line drawing. I was happy to see that Rachel searched out a new stitch to try that would more closely approximate the barbed wire instead of using running stitch. Having an embroidery encyclopedia at hand is really helpful. Props to Rachel for all the fantastic books she brought in during the week!

Both of these artists successfully incorporated multiple techniques for image-making in embroidery which they learned this week. Both artists, although starting from the same image, have a unique vision for their individual interpretation.

Stitch week Final Projects

I thought I'd go through individually on my student's final projects from Stitch Week. After demos on applique and how to work from a photo or sketch, students started a final project.

Here is Sue Becker's translation of a friend's painting. The friend may actually be her husband (didn't catch that detail) and the painting may have been done at Fleisher (but I'm not sure)

She had both a large copy shown here and a much smaller copy which she used as a template to trace with carbon paper onto her white silk. She started off with the black gauze overlay covering the entire composition, but then I asked her if she wanted to keep any areas the pure white of the background. She played around with cutouts and finally decided to only use the gauze in the background and hair. I think this helps emphasize the space and increases the contrast levels, both in color and in texture. She then started stitching the hair, using a whipped running stitch with bullions and french knots to represent the corkscrews. With the encouragement to see stitching as comparative to drawing, Sue seemed suddenly more confident in what she was doing and the work seemed to progress quickly.

I think many people have been trained to compartmentalize different media. Painting and drawing and printmaking and sculpting and stitching appear to be so separate. But in truth we all learn to speak a visual language and our skills are transferable. Especially once you get the hang of what you're doing in the new medium.

Sue's piece reminds me a bit of Shizuko Kimuro's life-drawing stitching.
More later!

Different Interpretations

The Thursday night class had a week off for the 4th of July, and came back to class with a lot of work done on their collaborative print samplers. I like how the "puppy" print shows up in different samplers as a puppy (with the adjacent spiral as the body), a purring kitty, and an owl. Most importantly, each one shows the hand of the artist in each woman's unique style for color, pattern, and technique. Enjoy:


Wednesday, July 8

Busy Fingers

After a day of dyeing and rusting, and another of painting/printing/drawing on fabric, my week intensive Stitch and Surface students had itchy fingers to start stitching.
We tried some sketching to try out what individual stitches' possibilities for mark-making can be and then went at it. Spider webs and vandyke stitch were extremely popular. Go-figure!
As you can see, we tried out the collaborative print idea again. I don't think people expected all the different things they've tried when they signed up for this class. It's fun pushing students' expectations and creative experiences!

Tuesday, July 7

Color Harmonies

This evening was the night for Color harmonies in Color theory class at Fleisher. ( I think this is the longest work day I've had in months). These mandala coloring book pages are a fantastic resource, as it allows students to just play with color and not have to worry about design.
monochromatic: using shades, tints, and tones of only one hue
Complementary: using colors opposite each other on the color wheel
Split-Complement: using one major hue and the 2 colors that lie adjacent to its complement
Analagous: using 3-4 colors that lie adjacent on the color wheel
Triadic: 3 equidistant colors around the color wheel (primaries, secondaries, 2 tertiary combos)
Tetradic: using 2 set of complementary pairs in a composition

In the image below, clockwise from top left, is analagous, secondary triad, complementary, and monochromatic.

Below from Left to right, monochromatic, triad, and analagous

Both Analagous Clockwise from top right, monochromatic, analagous, and complementaryIn zones from top to bottom, monochromatic, complementary, analagous, and triadic

Everyone should start looking around themselves with new eyes, searching out all the color harmonies. These are just guidelines for choosing harmonious combinations, not rigid rules. You can put any colors you want together.

shibori results

As promised, here are the pics from today's shibori adventure in Stitch and Surface. We had a few collapses of the easel-supported clothes line, but figured out the balance eventually. It's interesting to see the range of color results from 3 separate dye baths, blue, purple, and magenta. Not everyone had pre-washed their fabric and thus had less saturation of the dye.
With a few simple tools you can get amazing results. We used ping-pong balls, rubber bands, thread, bobby pins, and sewing for our bound resist. In the left of the piece below you can see the small circles from pinching and binding small sections. The large white area on the right side is from pleating and pinning the fabric.

A beautiful blue-purple ombre can be seen in the top right below. Her piece was bound rather loosely and didn't spend as much time in each dye bath. The piece to the left top was bound very tightly and almost completely, resulting in large white areas. I'm very happy with the "indigo" look that we got from Procion MX Navy blue.

Tomorrow we'll see the results of the fabric rusting. Within just 6 hours of binding the vinegar-soaked fabric onto the rusty objects, I saw the staining begin. By tomorrow they should be even better. Will post more pics tomorrow!

Monday, July 6

shibori day

Today was the first day of my Stitch and Surface Week Intensive. I'm trying to do different things with each class, in hopes that students will be inclined to come back year after year.

We kicked off the week with some dyeing techniques- shibori and rust -dyeing. I'll post pics later, but here is a website to visit for dyeing supplies:

And here is a video showing traditional techniques. While the term "shibori" is a Japanese term, tie-dying or bound-resist dyeing has developed in cultures around the world. This video is from China, but there are also traditions from India, Indonesia, Pre-Columbian Central and South America, and our very own Hippy T-Shirt trend.

Thursday, July 2

Crafty Cats

One of the activities the Free Library of Philadelphia suggested for their summer reading program was for kids to create a craft from a book at the library. So after picking up "Softies Only a Mother Could Love: Lovable Friends for you to Sew, Knit, or Crochet" edited by Jess Redman and Meg Leder, my daughter created her version of "Arno the Cat". She traced the pattern, cut out the fabric, embroidered the face, stitched the pieces together on my machine (with me biting my nails and hovering), stuffed it, and handed it off to me to suture...... um, I mean slip-stitch. I finished off the second one behind it. Attention spans last only so long, you know. The basic idea behind stuffed animals like these is to sew together 2 duplicate animal shapes and stuff. They're not fully dimensional animals, but they're simple and quirky, and even a kid can make them.

Wednesday, July 1

back lots and gypsy moths

I just finished the first panel in this multi-panel piece, which you can see here bottom right corner. Not much of the printed fabric shows through now, but I know it's there, and I like that hidden element of the leaf found on site working into the image. From top right down the stitches are: trellis stitch, feather stitch, straight stitch, and fishbone stitch. I'm trying to be a little looser in my detail in this piece, relying more on texture than specific details. At least that was the original intention.

People often ask how long it takes me to do these. Now you can search back into the blog and find out. Sometimes the thinking time takes more than the working time.

This photo is for one of my students who stated a desire to work with eyelets. I found this gypsy-moth nest in the parking lot behind Liberties Walk in Northern Liberties. The caterpillars were pulsating in unison for some reason-maybe that's how they escape. The open circular areas reminded me of eyelets. Gypsy moths take me back to my youth when my grandmother waged outright war on the caterpillars on the trees on her acre of land in Voorhees, NJ. She armed us with tweezers and a can of gasoline to plop them into and called me "eagle-eyes".
You never know what will inspire you.