Thursday, March 31

creeping along... and giveaway reminder!

It's been a while since I posted anything about my own work. It's still happening, just at a slower pace than usual. Being creative with kids all day long kind of satisfies that urge to make something.
My tendrils of vines are continuing to slowly creep over this piece, just as slowly as Spring is taking its time to arrive around here. So much for March going out like a lamb.
 A comment on yesterday's post reminded me I haven't shared the portrait in a while either. But that's coming along nicely. Seed stitch takes a long time, but I love how it's ghosting this portrait over the quilty squares. I need to make him look happier. He needs laugh lines.

Don't forget- the comments are still open on my last post for anyone who'd like to try out for the giveaway! You have till Saturday!

Tuesday, March 29


Hello there........... I'm feeling generous today and thought I'd try out one of these giveaway things to see if anybody's actually reading this nonsense I post. I made these embroidered pendants a few years ago and have a few still floating around. If you'd like to have one of these for your very own, please post a comment with your favorite color and tell me if you lurk because you like when I show my student work or my own work or why it is you like reading Colored Thread....
I can't promise you'll get either of the ones above, but I'll try to pick one out that's closest to your favorite color that you tell me. You have until Saturday, April 2nd, noon EST to post a comment and I'll pick a name out of a hat or something. Ready, Set, Go!

Monday, March 28

Stitch and Surface embroidered books

 For a final project this past session, my Stitch and Surface students at Fleisher created embroidered handbound books. The idea was very open-ended, but most people chose to do a decorative cover for a blank book. Fran Schatz (above) used sun-printed fabric from last semester to embellish with buttons and couched ribbon for a "color" themed book. The inside pages are all sheets of felt in a rainbow of colors that she may continue to embroider. This fabric book has pages stacked on the cover with a machine-stitched binding down the center of the stack
 Gail Corbett's notebook, "Seeing Red" has satin stitched letters and a selection of raw-edge appliqued circles from the same striped fabric tilted like sunspots on the retina. The fabric was adhered onto bookboard, the inside pages are craft paper, and it has a 3-hole Japanese Stab binding. Funny story- the last center stitch was so tough to pull through, I offered to help and ended up breaking the needle!!
 Sharon Mastrobuoni created a blank notebook with an arrangement of fabric yoyo's and 4 different border stitches. Her covers were sewn with a contrasting fabric, bookboard inserted into the resulting "pockets", and final edge blind stitched closed before doing the Japanese Stab binding through 5 holes. Believe it or not we had another broken needle on this one!
Tiffany Robbins' book has satin stitched text and a feather stitch vine down the side. Her covers were adhered to book board, but she has a signature of fabric on the inside, using the coptic binding down the spine. After working on this one with her I realized coptic binding is way easier on paper than on fabric! It came out great anyway.

I love to see how my embroidery students grow and innovate with fabric and thread! If you'd like to join me next semester there's one or two more days left to register at Fleisher. I could still use a few more students for the class to run! Don't miss out on a new adventure in thread.

Sunday, March 27

Come stitch with me!

 Tick Tock! Tick Tock! Sign up for Spring Session workshops at Fleisher Art Memorial before it's too late!
 Stitch and Surface is a fun introduction to embroidery and fiber arts for those who've never tried it before, or great studio time with a chance for critique for the more advanced student. This semester we'll be doing a stitch-a-week sampler book, a Japanese sashiko embroidery/quilting project, and a few other things I've got tucked up my sleeve. It will be on Thursday nights from 6:30- 9:30 at Fleisher Art Memorial, 7th and Catharine in South Philly. I hope you'll join me for a stitching adventure, or spread the word to a friend or family member! Register here.
P.S. All these images are works by some of my past students. You'd be amazed at what you can do with some time and a little help!

"Buddha's Banana" a collaborative story

Last Weekend my darling 11-13 year-old Screenprinters at Fleisher finished up their prints for our collaborative story print exchange. We started off playing a postcard game- each kid got a handful of art postcards and they had to put forward an image to fit the idea of "a setting", "a character", and "an object". Once images were submitted we voted on which ones to use and they did a "continue the story" game. So if the story below seems strange, well it just is. It's a surrealist exercise, so the results are bound to be a little odd. The kids divied up scenes to illustrate and created a 2 layer stencil print. Time was limited and only one kid got to do the final drawing layer monoprint which would have really pulled together their images. Next session I'll arrange for more "work" time.... So, let me present:
Buddha's Banana
Buddha's Banana Title page

Once in a dingy city there was an ugly woman who could not sleep.

She held a grudge against nature for making her terminally ugly and she was jealous of her beautiful neighbor.

To cheer her up, Buddha gave her a magical banana which made her extremely powerful.

But with her new powers she destroyed her beautiful neighbor's house in a fit of jealousy.

Buddha was angry and tried to convince the ugly woman to use her powers wisely.

Regretting her actions, the ugly woman put the "net of shame" over her head.

Buddha forced her to rebuild the neighbor's house and hold it up for all eternity!
 The End. What's the moral? Ummmm, be happy with what you have and don't squander gifts from the Gods. Each student made 10 prints which were exchanged so that everyone would have an illustration for each part of the story. The exchanged prints were placed inside the portfolios they had made earlier in the semester.
This semester I started having the kids use stencils to block their screens instead of screen filler. We went through 2 boxes of freezer paper, but I saved myself hours of time not having to reclaim screens with screen filler. I also started having specific drawing exercises for their sketchbooks for the first 15 minutes of class instead of free draw time. This helped me target specific art concepts I wanted them to learn in order to understand composition and color.
Next semester we'll be doing an abstract layered series of prints and a T-shirt collaboration with the digital photography students. We have a break for a few weeks, but I can't wait to get back in the studio with them again!

Sunday, March 20

I feel famous!

A friend of mine recently visited the Woodmere museum and discovered this display of children's artwork. In the description it said that these "Teeny Tiny Art" pieces in fabric, embroidery, and mixed media were inspired by local Philadelphia Artist Marie Elcin! That's me! I feel so honored!! I feel famous! Thanks to the kids and the art educators who think local artists and contemporary artists are worth looking at for inspiration.

Wednesday, March 16

Posing Utopia/Dystopia

My students are still working with our visiting artist from the Print Center. This week we passed out digital cameras and the kids posed for each other. Once their photos were printed, we had them cut out their figures and compose them over photocopies of images by various Print Center artists.
 They came up with some interesting juxtapositions, and some of them feel very emotional.

 something so simple can change an image so much. They have so much more narrative than before.
I like the more anonymous ones with the kids looking away from the camera. Next time we'll take a look at the photos they've been taking outside of class and do some more collage of figures in spaces.

Friday, March 11

Creeping tendrils

Spring is creeping up on us. The mornings have been lighter and lighter. Shoots are pushing up from my garden bed. And the vines on this piece are slowly winding across the surface of the fabric. It started off as a winter piece, but maybe it will turn into Spring by the end. The vine is in satin stitch and the leaves are in fishbone. This is just one corner, a quarter the size of the whole piece.
It feels so good to stitch. Lesson planning and exemplar-making as well as drawing WITH my students has certainly absorbed a large proportion of my creative juices (I haven't done so much drawing since college!). So, I'm really happy to say I'm still making art for ME.

Tuesday, March 8

Geometric action figures results

The 11th and 12th grade students in my Art I class have started to turn in the geometric action figures project, and here are some of the completed works. Students selected a magazine image figure in an interesting, dynamic pose (mostly from Sports illustrated and Yoga magazines), traced the outline onto tracing paper, filled the interior space with whichever shapes fit, then transferred the figure to white paper to create an interesting composition of overlapping or interacting figures. The background was filled with larger geometric shapes to create unity and focal point, then watercolor was used to paint in transparent layers.
I think many of these show interesting color choices, reflecting their previous learning in color harmonies before I came. But many students asked for advice on color choices or responded favorably to various suggestions I made to improve contrast or create interesting relationships.
I'm pleased with how varied they were despite the narrow parameters of the project. Next we'll be doing some gesture drawing from a live model, and I hope they'll have some confidence leftover from doing this project to attempt REAL life drawing.

Sunday, March 6

Gran's colors

Last month my mother bestowed upon me a tin box full of my great-grandmother's quilt blocks, which had sat in her basement since we moved there 25 years ago. They smelled awful, and some were disintegrating, but I handwashed them, hung them to dry, ironed, and sorted them out. Most of the blocks were pieced 4-squares, a few were pieced 16-squares, and some random ones were pieced crazy quilt style.

I thoroughly enjoyed sorting through the patches, wondering at my gran's sense of design and color, curious where the fabrics had come from. I started playing with new and non-traditional color juxtapositions of the 4-squares to create some larger patchworks, disrupting the orderliness of the lights and darks. Here's a scan detail shot of the first arrangement, which is actually a 9-square piecing of Gran's 4-square blocks.
The pinks and grays reminded me of the wintery landscape we've been experiencing through January and February, so I laid a swath of white organza over the bottom to make this more land-scape like. Then I basted the organza, quilt blocks, and a white backing cloth together, and with white thread I've stitched a trellis-like pattern in backstitch and running stitch reminiscent of sashiko stitching. Now over the top I'm planning on stitching a viney pattern in stem or satin in a dark brown to act like trees. Maybe something William-Morrisy:
How's this for some photoshop sketching:

It pleases me to no end that I'm actually still making some art while doing my student teaching!!!! If ever there was a time for the meditative release of embroidery...

Wednesday, March 2

Pots at the PMA

This is a crazy week! I've collected and delivered artwork for the Battle of the Sexes show down in Wilmington, been teaching, and writing up a paper for the History of Modern Craft and Design. We had to select an object dated between 1915-1945 from the Philadelphia Art Museum's American wing to describe and contextualize. I selected a white glazed ceramic pot from the Rookwood Pottery in Ohio by ceramicist, William Hentschel. Here's the sketch:
It was an interesting paper to write, as there are quite a few pieces by Hentschel in the museum collection, and I traced the cultural influences evident in his work across 3 decades. Unfortunately I waited so long to write the paper that I squeezed it into last night-- and now I'm exhausted and sleep deprived. Time for a nap.