Friday, December 31

Goodbye 2010!

I've just scrolled through a crazy long year of blogposts to find what I wrote at this time last year. Here is last year's. Life hasn't changed too much really. I'm a busy lady as always- family, art, school, teaching, exhibiting.

In 2010, I:
  •  learned how to digitally print on fabric and expanded my dyeing skills, two things I wish I'd done back during my BFA, and finally have under my belt.
  • was in lots of exhibits and sold more art than I've ever sold before (not that it's making a living yet by any means)
  • continued teaching adults at Fleisher with Color theory now turned into a tuition-free class!
  • taught lots more kids classes- including a slew of summer Fleisher workshops and now screenprinting with 9-11 year olds, and took over planning for NLArts summer and winter camps and First Friday workshops
  • taught 2 residencies at a public school in Northeast Philadelphia including a 10-day one with three 3rd grades and a 30-day one with one 3rd grade class
  • made it through a jam-packed semester of grad school including an internship with an elementary school art teacher, researching some history of art education, figuring out various psychology theories of learning, and painting to my heart's content
  • created both Easter and Christmas altarcloths for the Philadelphia Cathedral
In 2011 I'm looking forward to an opportunity to exhibit work at the Delaware Art Museum, my semester of student teaching at Kensington Culinary Arts High School, the end of grad school, and........ whatever life decides to bring me. Hopefully that includes some balance between work for money and work for me. My studio practice has surely taken a hit with all my other responsibilities.

I wish everyone a healthy and prosperous NEW YEAR in 2011, filled with the warmth of family and friends and with the fulfillment of living a creative life.


If you're related to me and you're a woman you can pretty much expect to get a scarf for Christmas. Last year it was cobweb felt scarves. This year I decided to buy some silk scarf blanks and have some shibori fun. It's too bad I had to give these away...... I would have kept and worn all of them.
 On the left I folded the scarf in half for an end-to end symmetry, then stitched  a running stitch along a pinched undulating fold up the length, and dyed it in a low-immersion bath with lemon yellow and cerulean. Then I gathered the remaining fabric into a handful and bound a few rubber bands around the bundle and overdyed it in jet-black, leaving a bit of yellow tip untouched. The middle scarf was also folded in half, then stitched through both layers with a running stitch in a meandering wave/spiral pattern. It was dyed the same way as the first, including the rubber bands and black overdye. Jet-black comes out a dull navy if it isn't too strong.
 The third piece on the right side above was first bound to make a large tie-dyed circle at each end of the scarf and dyed cerulean, but the bath was too weak or not long enough and nothing came out. So I bound a few ping-pong balls with rubber bands into the silk and  overdyed jet-black. Since the ping-pongs float, there's an interesting gradation light/dark for each side of the ball since half of it floated above water and half was submerged.
 Then there's the warm trio. The left was folded in half, then in thirds, then in triangles up the length of the scarf and clamped with one large alligator clip in the center of the triangle bundle, and 2 smaller clips on the corners. I LOVE how that one came out. Clamp dyeing is fun as I can combine my love for shibori with my love for origami. The center piece was folded in half, then thirds, and an undulating line was stitched "makinui" style on the fold for the chevron effect, then scrunched in a jar and low-immersion dyed with burgundy and yellow for the mottled effect. The right piece uses my favorite shibori pattern- "mokume" or woodgrain. I folded the scarf in half and half and half again, then I stitched two squares in rows of running stitch back and forth. Everything was gathered tightly, like in all these techniques, then dyed in burgundy and just a little yellow. I like how the burgundy MX dye travels into the fabric, changing color slightly as it goes.
I still have that last one. Shall I keep it? I have one more gift to give, but I don't think these colors would be good for the recipient. And I bought twice the number of scarf blanks than I needed, so I could play some more. Any favorites out there? Which pattern should I do for this last cadeau? (cadeau=gift in French if you weren't familiar).

Sunday, December 26

Merry Christmas to all!

panoramic view of the Cathedral, Christmas Eve
 I've had a wonderful Christmas this year!! And of course it started off with the great pleasure of seeing my handiwork grace the beautiful Philadelphia Cathedral. It's gilding the lily, really, but the banners gave a festive air and the frontal was bold and central.
The altar frontal up close and personal
 The altar frontal tucked so perfectly under the lip of the tabletop, and it made the altar appear more substantial than it usually does when you can see through the space underneath. The only thing I was a little disappointed about, was that usually the ministers distribute the communion bread and then individuals may go up to the altar to take the cup of wine themselves (making a very intimate experience with the altar) and this time the bishop and the dean went around the gathered circle distributing both bread and wine (meaning everyone remained afar from the altar).
One of the banners mounted on a column
 I'm so pleased that our steward was able to get the brackets for the banners mounted successfully. I was so worried one might fall on someone's head in the middle of the services! But there were no mishaps. It was just a beautiful service and peaceful ambiance.
A row of bannered columns with alternating faces showing
It's funny- I feel like Christmas Eve is the religious portion of Christmas, but Christmas day is for presents and family dinners etc. Seems a bit backwards.

We've enjoyed the day playing on our new wii and feasting and singing carols with my side of the family. I hope all you out there in internetland have had as pleasant and rich a Christmas day as I have. Here are a couple of my favorite Christmas carols:

Thursday, December 23

Preparations and hard work

I love the season of Advent in the church calendar, because you get this whole month set aside for preparation and anticipation of something special. Even with a whole month, though, procrastinator-me saves up all the work for the last week! Here's a glimpse of the process I went through to get the altar frontal for the cathedral complete:
My mother's been making these star ornaments out of past Christmas cards. I think the form was quietly bubbling in the back of my head as I planned the designs for the Christmas banners and frontal

Time was of the essence- I would have preferred to do this all by hand but the machine and a wide buttonhole stitch won out for the sake of speed. I probably should have hooped the fabric, but I was afraid of indelible hoop marks on the lovely white silk

The shapes were drawn out in pencil and I stitched around each shape. I do like the bold yellow outline!

I carefully cut out all the centers of the shapes for the cutwork effect. Here it's laid out over the deep blue-violet background cloth to see the effect. To connect it back to the banners, though I wanted to use the yellow fabric again.

The yellow points are reverse applique affixed to the white silk. I stretched the purple linen onto a batting-covered board, then stretched the silk over the top. There are still some wrinkles from the odd stitching tension, but I steamed most of them out.
On the back of the board I laid a piece of brown felt to cover the backside of the board and all the staples holding the silk and linen on. Then I attached two long black ribbons to the back, so the board can be tied to the legs of the altar table. I'm going by this afternoon to set it all up. I haven't heard yet about the brackets for the banners, but no news is good news. I'll take pictures tomorrow when everything is installed, and the flowers are placed, and the candles are lit!
It gives me great joy that the work of my hands can contribute to the spiritual experience of others. Is the image on this frontal a star, a compass, a cross?  I like all those connotations.

I hope as the time of preparation and advent closes you all feel accomplished- gift-shopping done, craftiness complete, the halls decked, yummy things brewing in the kitchen, and your family and friends warm in your home and the spirit of the season.

Anyone who'd like can come to the Christmas Eve service at 5 pm Friday night at the Philadelphia Cathedral, 38th and Chestnut.

Monday, December 20

Domo picnic

The reception for the Fleisher Children's exhibition was on Saturday. Our exhibitions coordinator did a great job setting up my 11-13 year olds'  "Domo picnic" installation. These were created in the screenprinting course- the students did a reduction print with a more open background layer and narrowed it down to a detail layer. They had to consider the front and backs of their objects. Once printed, they were cut out, machine sewn, and stuffed. Each child made an edition of 2 so they could bring one home immediately and leave one for the show as well.

calloused and hunchbacked!

The past week has been a sewing frenzy!! My right pointer and middle fingers have built up some pretty impressive callouses fom handstitching the patched jeans for one of my final projects that was due last Tuesday (sorry- no photo. The prof kept the pieces for a show in January).
I've also developed a hunchback I think, from countless hours slaving over my recalcitrant sewing machine. 
But the major thing that's kept me chained to the sewing machine for the past few days and unable to blog has been a set of 8 banners I promised for the Cathedral's Christmas Decorations. I got white silk and a saffron linen (very drapey) for 20x40 inch banners, hemmed with gold-starred ribbon and with a cut-out star motif, zigzagged in yellow rayon thread (what a bitch to work with!!), and a central shisha mirror. Here's the sketch below of how it should look in the space:
I worked till dawn last night trying to finish them for this morning (Sunday's) "Greening" of the Cathedral in preparation for Christmas services. After all that work, the brackets I rigged up to attach to the columns couldn't be attached!!! They're trying to come up with some more engineering possibilities now. At least everyone is plaeased with how the banners came out. There's one more project to complete by Wednesday: a rigid frontal with a similar cut-out technique and shisha mirrors to place in front of the altar. Here's the motif sketch:
This wouldn't be such a problem if it weren't for the fact that my sewing machine likes to skip stitches, and the rayon thread has a tendency of stripping and kinking up the works. Wish me luck.

Sunday, December 12

On the walls and In the halls

The end of the semester at Tyler is an explosion of installations and awesomeness. Here are my recent favorites:
 Another links and nodes space-invading structure- it's very mountainous. Best of all- it's made out of rolled up paper and tape, making this a totally accessible as well as ultimately recyclable medium for use in the classroom.

Speaking of recyclables- our final project in my materials and methods was a sculptural workshop where we had to work as teams to design "Wearable Shelters" out of found materials we'd all brought in. Below is my team's model- the "Island Beauty". Her conical hat has a water collection system with a funnel and straws to pour water into removable plastic bottles. Her wrap dress can be removed, tied between 2 trees and staked down to make a lean-to tent. She has a dual use tool with a fork/spear on one side and a shovel/spatula on the other. She has protective boots to keep her feet warm and dry. Her bag has a pocket and hanging loop to hold all her tools, and her shawl could double as a mosquito net. All practical and stylish! I think my group had the most aesthetically pleasing solution.
A few fiber majors presented their BFA thesis shows in the Stella Elkins Gallery. Allison Craft's stack of embroidered-spine books was colorful. I understand she removed the covers, stitched them, then re-attached them to the books.
 Each of the books said "This is the beginning". It's a fabulous phrase for an emerging fiber artist.
 The piece de la resistance was Patrick Burgoyne's installation "at my expense". He created 3 pup-tent structures as well as a gigantic hive-shaped shelter all crocheted out of caution tape.
 The hive had a video inside showing male deer locking antlers. It was an interesting contrast of urban/natural, safe/unsafe. I'm very excited about Burgoyne's work- I've invited him for an exhibit in the Spring!

Thursday, December 9


These are some of the paintings that got combined into a handmade book for my painting class. The images are slightly compressed here- they were a little bit too long for my scanner, but you get the idea. Each one is thinking about perspective, viewing, looking, and the book moves from macro to micro- outer space to inner space. The critique was yesterday and it went well, but the book, in its smallness was a bit overlooked compared to the 2 other paintings.

a "God's eye"


bird's eye

"lover's eye"
I'm almost finished this semester of grad school!! Just one more paper and a final project are due by next week.

Friday, December 3


 I've been looking around for inspiration. I need to do one more painting for the watercolor class, preferably mixed media, but I haven't decided yet what I want to do. Colors and textures are popping out at me. I think it's this bright late fall light.
 The image above is the interior of that warehouse in Kensington that burnt down. They're in the process of demolishing it. There's a 20 ft high pile of bricks in the back. Soon it will be another empty lot in the formally industrial Kensington...
In the meantime, my fingers are busy stitching a response piece to the exhibit "Narcissus in the Studio" at PAFA. It's an excellent show- go see it! For my internship class we had to pull another theme out of the work on exhibit and make our own work of art in response. My thoughts turned to "Change", so I pulled out an old pair of my daughter's outgrown jeans along with various other bits of cloth she's worn and discarded over time to stitch and patch an artifact of childhood. I'll post pictures when it's further along.

Wednesday, December 1

stroke of genius

no not me- this is a repost from Spirit Cloth combining the shibori and sunprint ideas. Go take a look!


 I have 2 pieces that got accepted into this benefit exhibit for the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia- and one got selected for the postcard (a cropped version on the left side above)! That never happens! Anyway. The benefit will be Friday, December 10th, 7-11 pm with a $10 suggested donation and a silent auction, at Globe Dye Works, 4500 Worth St in the Frankford section of the city. Considering the sponsors, the eats and drinks should be well worth the trip to Frankford.

Sunday, November 28

no idle fingers

I've been preoccupied with paper writing on the subject of Quaker schoolgirl embroideries... one more day to finish that up... But never fear, my fingers have still been busy.
In my sliver of spare time, when I just need to decompress, I've got this little cloth going. There are some silk scraps stitched down to a grey cotton. Next I have a piece of sunprint cloth to go over it all for some reverse applique. I started it as a sample during my last Stitch and Surface class, and I'm just enjoying stitching on it.
I'll sign off with a quote I've discovered on 2 different samplers recently- one was from CT and the other from Philadelphia:
"Count that day lost whose low descending sun, views from thy hand no worthy action done"

Thursday, November 25

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. Not just because it's a day to see family and eat a feast, but because it's a day when our whole country regardless of beliefs takes time out to count our blessings.
Me- I'm happy to have a warm family, a chance to go back to school, time and means to pursue a creative life, a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and food in my belly. All the riches I need are right here.
Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, be thankful for the Gifts we've been given.

Sunday, November 21

My teenybopper Screenprinters

 Today was my final class with the 11-13 year old screenprint class. I can't believe they finished their projects!!! Whew! We spent the first half of the semester printing t-shirts. Starting with a collaborative screen, each student had to design a complementary screen of their own to work with the group screen.
repeated motif became a flower
Above you can see one student used the entire group screen rotated in a radial design and created the outside of the "petals" as her addition. Below another student only used the stars from the group screen and created her own sun and moon design for the front and back of her shirt.
fronts and backs
 The T-shirts took a lot longer than I expected and so our final project got a bit squeezed tight, but SOMEHOW we pulled it off today. I wanted the kids to create a 3-dimensional object from a 2-dimensional print. I offered them the option to create it on paper or fabric, and everyone chose fabric! They did a 2 color reduction print on canvas. Today everything was cut out, sewn, and stuffed. Each student made an "edition" of 2 objects. That way they had one to take home and one to leave for the student exhibit. Among the objects were 2 "Domo" figures, a giant cupcake, an ice cream cone, a puppy, and a gameboy. I think we'll arrange them as a picnic scene for the exhibit. Reception is December 18th at 1:30 at Fleisher Art Memorial.
printed, sewn, and stuffed

Thursday, November 18

Stitch and Surface Finale

Yesterday was the last day for my adult classes at Fleisher, and I thought I'd share some of my students fabulous work! It means a lot to me that there's such diversity in response to the projects I offer- meaning that they are not prescriptive, but generative in nature. I want my students to gain confidence in their own abilities to design and create works in fiber. So here we go:
 Betsy started off meticulously in this incredibly detailed yet tiny sampler piece (shown actial size here I believe). I didn't notice until just now seeing the image below in juxtaposition, but she has a strong and definite color sense. The piece below was in response to our map project, and is caught in progress. I can tell she was really opening and loosening up to experiment after her tight sampler project. I think it's very healthy for artists to experiment with modalities of process- controlled vs. spontaneous, monochrome vs multicolored, large vs small. It creates new possibilities.

 Fran has joined me for several sessions now. She's been taking cues from my project offerings, but she's really starting to use the class as studio time to develop her own work. Above is her blackwork project, which she has livened up with some surface painting and colored stitching. I love the expressiveness of her black mark in the tree trunk. Below is the beginnings of her map project. She usually places and pins everything down before basting and then stitching. She's becoming more selective in how her materials add to the meaning of a piece- note the fleur de lys ribbon and how that adds to this representation of a trip to New Orleans.
 Below is Gail's work in progress. She has an elegant minimalist approach to her work and a natural feel for materials. Below is handwoven steel core thread fragment appliqued over handmade Japanese paper affixed to taupe linen. She's started stitching her daily path across the "bridge", and I hope she'll share a picture when it's complete. I love the scroll-like abstraction of the landscape.
 Linda transformed the blackwork project. Inspired by Van Gogh's "Starry Night", she transferred the outlines onto black aida cloth and has been experimenting with a wide variety of stitches and colors. Some applique and shisha work as well as some woven wheels make the explosive stars, while the wind swoops by in patterns. The village houses are needlewoven, and I'm not sure yet how the Cypress trees will be completed. This piece makes me wonder how pared down one can take an iconic image and still hold on to its essence. Starry Night is sort of like the Mona Lisa in its ubiquity (see, it doesn't really need the quotation marks even!)- but this is definitely an intriguing and unique interpretation.
 Finally we come to Megan, who impressed us all with her incredible "stash" and craftsmanship. For her quote sampler in progress below, she took a quote from an 18th century gossip column stating "Women are armed with fans as Men with swords and sometimes do more execution with them". She makes working with metallics and rayon threads look easy. I'm very pleased with how the form and content of this piece became unified.
 The Piece de Resistance is Megan's blackwork sampler:
 It's a fabulous exploration of the transitions of patterns with an organic growth of composition. The only hard part was knowing when to stop! It includes some goldwork and pearl beads to add to its opulence.
Now I take a well-earned breather from teaching duties to focus on paper writing... which no, I still haven't really started.

Wednesday, November 17

On the walls and in the halls at Tyler

 There hasn't been a whole lot I've found impressive this semester on display at Tyler. But these intrigued me. I think they're from a foundations year 3-D basic design course.
 They're all sculptures made from component pieces made of plywood with notches for intersecting. I've seen many geometric style ones before, but the organic shapes in these make them unusual, and in turn the organic components lend to more organic wholes.
I think this could easily be done by young adolescents out of cardboard. And how much more fun would they be if they had the added element of color or texture? I really just want to play with these and reconfigure them all.