Saturday, June 07, 2014

Begin Anywhere

In July, I am having an art exhibit with Linda Branch Dunn at the Loading Dock Gallery. Please join Linda and I on Saturday, July 5th for an artist reception from 5 to 7pm.The reception is right after Western Avenue Studios First Saturday Open Studios (noon - 5pm).

The title of the exhibit reflects the sense of adventure that I feel when I start a new piece of artwork. I can “begin anywhere" with a piece; sometimes I start with a photograph that inspires me and sometimes I start with rummaging through textiles and random art supplies that I have collected. 

The image of my artwork on the postcard is from a photo of a tree branch in the Boston Public Garden.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Experimental Art Quilts

One of the fun things about closing down the Friends Fabric Art web shop is that Mom and I have decided to keep some of the supplies for ourselves. I kept some of the Stef Francis Experimental Packs and Creative Kits. (We still have a few left at half off.)

I took the kits apart and had fun starting new art quilts with the fabrics and threads. I've been on a roll lately with starting lots of new artwork. I've not been so good at finishing up the pieces. I have a bunch of pieces on our design wall that just need to be mounted somehow...

This spirally one uses Stef Francis hand-dyed silk noil in the background. One of the Stef Francis creative kits suggests layering sheer fabrics and then doing cut-work so I wanted to play with that idea. I layered gold lace and a sheer shiny fabric over the silk noil, machine stitched spirals, and then cut away some of the lace and sheer fabric. I've started to hand stitch on it and I'm stitching over some bits of sequin fabric.

Below is another new piece with layers. The background is from a quilt that Mom started. It has a piece of blue and red silk that I dyed when I was first learning to dye. The shiny red fabric is from one of the Stef Francis packs. I never use red so this is a stretch for me. 

(Unfortunately I had trouble photographing this one because of the red shiny sheer fabric.)
It's fun to not know what the plan is for these pieces. I have no idea what they will look like exactly when I'm done with them. I'm thinking beads will be involved somehow. I sorted a ton of my beads last weekend so I may as well use them now they are nicely organized.

Maybe I'll do some more supplies organizing today since I don't really need to start any more pieces. It's holiday open studios here at Western Avenue Studios, but since we had a big snow storm last night, it's pretty quiet in the building.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Closing a Door, Opening a Window

My mom (Ann) and I have decided to close the shop - Friends Fabric Art. We decided it was time. It was a tough decision. We have enjoyed providing a source of cool surface design and mixed media art supplies to artists and crafters. Giving workshops and hosting events at the Merrimack Street location has also been great fun. Thank you so much to those of you who have visited, taken workshops, and/or purchased supplies! We are so happy that we have made so many friends through "Friends Fabric Art."

Please continue to visit us at our Western Avenue Studios location on Saturday open studios (noon - 5pm) as Mom and I still plan to share an art studio space there. We'll definitely still be making art!

Through December 2013, our web shop will have all remaining surface design and mixed media art supplies at half off on a first come, first served basis. (Any orders placed for out of stock items will be refunded.)

After December 2013, please check out our favorite supply shops such as:

If my blog location changes, I'll post it at this blog location first.

Thanks again for everything!

Sunday, September 29, 2013


I decided recently that it would be fun to do some watercolor painting again. I've done small postcards or note cards occasionally. I'd forgotten that you really should stretch your paper on a board if you want to paint anything larger than a postcard so your paper doesn't ripple. I found some illustration board I can use, but I've also done a few postcard size pieces. The small size is good for practicing and experimenting.
I've been playing with designs based on tree branches. After my first attempt at actually painting the branches to look more like branches, I decided I was more interested in the patterns the branches made.

A bunch of my latest art quilts focus on photographs with distinctive tree branches in them, too. These are two art quilts with photos of trees in the Boston Public Garden in winter.

The finished one on the right will be in the Loading Dock Gallery for the month of October 2013. The other little piece still needs to be mounted.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

InkAid Again

Ink Jet Print Over Hand Made Paper with Embedded Flower Petals
I wanted to experiment with sending papers with somewhat chunky stuff embedded on them through the Ink Jet printer. I had gotten an InkAid Sample Set a while ago. You can read about what it is in my previous post or on the Ink Aid website. The sample set came with an adhesive which I used for sticking things to paper from lace to abaca wrap. After sticking the items to paper, I coated the paper with an InkAid Ink Jet precoat. I didn't print on the papers with chunky stuff stuck on them right away because I didn't want to break our good printer. When I sent papyrus paper through it last year, it was quite nerve-wracking because it made such a horrible noise that I thought I was going to break the printer. The papers sat around in a cabinet for over a year until a few weekends ago when I finally hooked up an old printer.

I am pleased to report that I did not break the printer and only one experiment did not make it through the printer successfully. Ironically though our "good" printer decided to die anyway printing on ordinary printer paper before I'd even put the old one away again.

The one failed experiment was the Spider Web Abaca on Hand Made Paper. The Spider Web Abaca was just too stiff. It got stuck in the printer when it got to the abaca and wouldn't got any further through the printer so at least it didn't jam the printer.
Spider Web Abaca on Hand Made Paper
The plain abaca paper is less stiff and thinner so it went through the printer just fine. The image that I printed on it was a computer edited image of artwork that I created in a Jane Dunnewold class at the Quilt Surface Design Symposium.
Abaca Paper
Print Over Abaca Paper
I had a random bit of an old table runner that I had glued down to paper. I didn't really think about composition ahead of time so it took a while to figure out what image to print on the paper. I ended up printing a photo of Lowell mill ruins being reflected in a canal on it. It's almost hard to see the table runner on the paper now.

Piece of an Old Table Runner
Print Over Piece of an Old Table Runner
 I also didn't think about the composition when I glued down some hand dyed lace to paper. I didn't center the lace on the paper, but I ended up printing a pretty symmetrical image on it. The image is a computer edited version of the same image that was printed over abaca paper and the hand made paper with petals embedded in it. (Both are pictured above.) The first time I printed on the lace, I wasn't too excited by the results. I decided to print on it a second time with a slightly different version of the first print. It came out pretty wild, but I rather like it.

Hand Dyed Lace

Two Ink Jets Print Over Hand Dyed Lace

I framed some of my first InkAid experiments and a few became art quilts. I currently plan to frame the ones pictured here and make art cards with some of my other InkAid experiments.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Whimsy for Work

I had fun the last few times I made it to the studio embellishing a curtain for an odd window in my new office space that looks out into the main room. There are no windows to the outside world in the room so I thought it would be fun to add some color at the window. It has blinds on it, but basic blinds aren't exactly exciting.

I decided to use my "formula one" swirly shapes. According to Maxine Farkas, who used to work with Mom and I at Friends Fabric Art, an artist's formula one is like their default shape or image. It's an image that keeps re-occurring in your art. I tried googling formula one, but I can't find any specific art-related references easily. 

Curtain planning stage
 I also wanted to have fun with some scrap silk that Carter Smith dyed. He used to sell bags of his dyed silk fabric scraps. I don't know if he still does it. I've had some for a while now, but they are hard for me to use in artwork because they are so distinctively Carter Smith fabrics. Since I was making something for myself, I thought it would be a good use for them because I could enjoy his fabulous color combinations and shibori dyed patterns myself while sitting at the desk.
Detail of curtain in front of the planning drawing
I hung the curtain today. Who would guess it's a data analysis work space?

I tried to put the most design elements in areas that would be at my eye level when I sit at the desk. I also didn't want to get too carried away with the design so that I'd never finish it.
Finished curtain
 It's simple, but more fun that having only the boring blinds.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Wabi Sabi Artwork

"Patina" - Hardware on the Gould Barn in Topsfield, MA
I figured I'd write a quick blog about the "Wabi Sabi" art exhibit Mom and I just had at the Topsfield library since I haven't written a blog post in ages, but nothing is ever quick. First I had to figure out why blogger was rotating my photos. If you've had this issue and need to fix it, this blog post is helpful:

Since Mom and I chose the "Wabi Sabi" theme for our exhibit, we've learned that we are "on trend" with our theme. Even the Home Depot had a blog post about wabi sabi decorating. I also learned about a cool children's book called "Wabi Sabi" written by Mark Reibstein and illustrated by Ed Young. There is a Wabi Sabi blog which has some stunning photos: 

Mom is doing a talk about our Wabi Sabi artwork at the New England Quilt Museum this Thursday, March 7 at 12:30pm. She'd be happy to have you come. The details are here:

"Weeping Willow" - Boston Public Garden
This photo of a weeping willow was taken in the Boston Public Garden on one of my lunch breaks. I thought the patterning of the bark on the tree was very wabi sabi.
"Weathered" - Glacier Bay, AK
This one has a photo I took on a cruise ship as it went through Glacier Bay in Alaska. Both of these two pieces have hand stitching on them which is hard to see in these photos.

"Mystique 1 & 2" - Ipswich River by Sonja (right and left), "Stories in the Details" - Capen Parson House (top middle) and "Wizened" - Pine Grove Cemetary by Ann Lee (bottom middle), All Artworks Using Photos Taken in Topsfield, MA
Mom and I also did some pieces with photos that we took on a drive around Topsfield, Massachusetts. These are a few of them.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Dyeing Scarves

I had fun last weekend dyeing scarves. Mom and I were going to dye with fiber reactive dyes, but discovered we were out of dye activator. Since I had the itch to do something messy, I decided to use the remains of a few Dye-na-Flow kits and some Setasilk to dye scarves. If you want to get technical about it, these aren't actually dyes, but paints that act like dyes. For dyeing scarf purposes it means you get more crisp patterning than smooth gradations when you do tie-dyeing. I tend to prefer calling tie-dyeing shibori because the Japanese word shibori doesn't conjure up images of 1970s psychedelic colors and patterns.

I did primarily arashi shibori or pole wrapping using PVC pipe. For traditional Japanese arashi shibori the cloth is wrapped and tied precisely on a pole, then the fabric is scrunched up, and dyed. I take a much more free-form approach to the process so the results are much less predictable. I like the surprise of not knowing how the scarf is going to turn out. It makes for some panic though since I get nervous that the color combinations could end up muddy and the patterns will be unbalanced and ugly.
 I think I did okay though. Here's a bunch of the scarves laid out on the table.
One of the fun things about using the Dye-na-Flow and Setacolor is you can use the Lumiere pearlescent paints with them to add some shimmer which you can see here in the darker areas that have a purple shimmer.
We've ordered more dye activator so if time permits we'll do more dyeing soon. Given that Holiday Open Studios at Western Ave. Studios happens the next two weekends, it could be a while. For contrast, here's a scarf dyed using the same pole wrapping technique using fiber reactive dyes instead of Dye-na-Flow and Setacolor silk paints.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What would you take with you?

As Hurricane Sandy approached shore, I began to wonder about what I would take with me if I had to evacuate. There was information on the website about having a Family Emergency Evacuation Kit, but it wasn’t obvious from the particular article what that was supposed to be. I figured it meant stuff like toiletries and a change of clothes, but if I was assuming that I would lose everything like people do in these kinds of situations, what would I take? What would you take if you had time to think about it?

I didn’t go so far as to make a kit and pack stuff to go since I wasn’t in an evacuation zone - mandatory or recommended. I did make myself a mental list and moved a few things into a just in case pile. The pile didn’t have the necessities in the traditional sense, it had a sketchbook, watercolor pencils, and my reminders on practicing mindfulness packet from taking the “Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction” course. I sort of also figured if I had time I’d grab the Kindle eReader and the three small art quilts that I’ve been stitching on with related supplies. 

Glacier Bay, AK
Boston Public Garden Tree

Digital Image & Els Van Barle Art Fabric
I think my general logic was that if I lost everything, what things would help me maintain some semblance of sanity. It came down to something to read (the Kindle), something to remind me to breathe (the mindfulness packet), and supplies to create something that included color and beauty (sketchbook and art quilt/stitching supplies). What do you need to maintain your sanity? Maybe our own sanity is something we forget to take care of too often.

I'll leave you with the loving kindness meditation on one of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course worksheets that seems appropriate in the wake of Hurricane Sandy:

"May I be safe and protected from all inner and outer harm
May I be peaceful and happy
May I be as healthy and as strong as is possible for me
May I care for myself with joy and ease."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


What is wabi-sabi? No, it’s not a type of sushi. It’s a Japanese phrase that’s hard to sum up in just a few words. Wabi-sabi is about appreciating the beauty in something imperfect sort of like shabby chic. There’s a good description of it at this link: Wabi-sabi is the theme that Mom and I have chosen for an art show that we are having at the Topsfield, MA library in February 2013.

I first heard about wabi-sabi from Ellis Paul at a house concert he gave in Billerica, MA. He wrote a song called Wabi-Sabi for a kid’s album. Like the best kid’s songs this song is great for all ages. Not only was singing along on the chorus at the concert fun, but I was intrigued by this new-to-me term, wabi-sabi. In a way the term describes my approach to art. I look for something interesting and beautiful in everything around me even if it’s not something that’s typically considered beautiful. The mountains of Alaska that have appeared in some of my recent artwork are generally accepted to be beautiful but they are also rough and time worn. The deconstructed silk-screen process that I have used to create fabrics from textured objects is a perfect example of creating a wabi-sabi artwork. The image that you create initially with thickened dyes on your silk screen deteriorates as you create multiple prints from the same silk screen. There are no clear, crisp images created, but the screen-prints are unique and have a crumbly, aged type of beauty.
Art Quilt in Progress with Deconstructed Silk-Screen Printed Fabrics

For the Topsfield library exhibit Mom and I plan to incorporate photographs taken in Topsfield into our artwork. Topsfield’s history and rural character fit perfectly into our wabi-sabi theme.  We plan to take a day trip there to take photographs, but we also would like to invite you to share your digital photos of Topsfield with us. Mom put our deadline to get photos to us as September 30 in her blog post about this, but since I’m slow to post about this, I’d like to extend that deadline to October 31.

Here's basically what we have in mind:

Send us your digital photograph(s) of your favorite place(s) in Topsfield along with a brief statement about why you chose that particular place or thing and just what you treasure about it.  We'll print the photo on fabric and incorporate it into an artwork--perhaps adding embroidery or painting, for example.  We'll also incorporate something of your story into the artwork giving you credit for the photo and the story.

The artwork could end up something like this one that's still in progress which has photos of Glacier Bay, Alaska in it:
Art Quilt in Progress with Photographs Printed on Papers Treated with InkAid

Here are some important "rules" for this project:
  • You must have personally taken any photograph you submit and you must be willing to let us use it as we see fit--e.g., cropping it, merging it with other images, etc.
  • We will own the artwork produced.  If the artwork should sell, we would share up to 20% of the proceeds with you or if you wish to purchase the artwork yourself, we would offer you a 20% discount on the purchase price.  (It is possible that we would incorporate images from more than one person into an artwork.  In that case the 20% "commission" would be split among the people whose images are used.)
  • We do not guarantee that we will use all images submitted to us.
  • Images and stories should be e-mailed to by October 31, 2012.
We'll share our progress on this here in my blog or in Mom’s.