April 26, 2012 46 comments

America Now - Walking While Black

In the black community in Canada and the US, when certain events happen to our brothers, our fathers, ourselves, we say "Oh ... DWB.", and shake our heads.  It means, "Driving While Black". 

It's a shorthand used to describe the times we are pulled over for driving in the "wrong" neighbourhood (affluent, mostly white neighbourhoods); for driving the "wrong" kind of car (expensive), or just for simply being around when a certain kind of cop is bored.

This doesn't mean of course, that all police are bad, racist or ignorant; but it does mean that enough of them are that a phrase like this became part of our shorthand.

George Zimmerman, a man who in the months prior to shooting Trayvon Martin had made over 90 calls to 911 to complain of "suspicious persons" in his neighbourhood (nearly all of whom were black); conversed with 911 operators on that night as well, and was recorded as saying as he left his vehicle to pursue Trayvon Martin:
"These assholes, they always get away."

...and less than 20 minutes later, Trayvon Martin - an unarmed, 17 year old boy, who went to the store in the rain to get his little brother a pack of skittles -  was dead.

Trayvon Martin was walking while black.

And so he joined other black children whose deaths caused a public outcry and calls for reform - from 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955 to 14-year-old Martin Anderson in 2006.

The shooting of Trayvon has engendered a lot of conversation about race, racial profiling, the roll of media, gun control and hoodies - these and many other subjects which I will discuss in my art over the next little while - all of which have nothing (or very little) to do with the events that happened the night Trayvon Martin was killed by Mr. Zimmerman.

Initially, I viewed those conversations as a "Look over here!" tactic; but as I've been thinking (and thinking and thinking) I realized that his death has turned a spotlight on those issues - and we do need to talk about them.

But as I (we?) talk about those issues, I don't want to lose sight of this boy: this-nearly-a-man who was not a perfect boy, but was perfectly loved; and who was guilty of nothing but WWB. 

There has been a lot of talk about whether Mr. Zimmerman is white.  But whether he was white or not doesn't matter.

What matters is that Trayvon Martin was killed, because he was black.


For those of you who are interested in the process behind the process, and why I chose to do what I did -  I'll be offering an explication over the weekend.  'Till then...

Linking with TGIFF at Christine's blog.
April 25, 2012 10 comments

The Painted Quilt (with apologies to the Kemshalls)

Good morning!

I'm sure you're probably thinking.... "What in the world...?|

But a bigger picture might be coming through for you now.  :)

To go back a little bit, after I left you on Monday, I used that acrylic paint to paint out my colourful brick pattern. As you can see, it's given that colourful and vibrant backgound a whitewash, causing it to look almost red, white and blue, wouldn't you say?

My original quilting of the shapes and lines didn't show up very well after the whitewash happened, I knew it wouldn't but had hoped for slightly more definition (next time I'll be using a thicker thread for those parallel lines) - but the other shapes were going to be over-stitched with embroidery thread anyway.

If you look VERY carefully at the picture above, you'll see the faint outline of a head, done in... is that encasutic?  Why yes, yes it is!

We're nearly there...

Come back on Friday for the big finish! :)


P.S. I'm joining the Needle and Thread Network and Freshly Pieced for Wip Wednesday. Please go and see the wonderful bloggers participating and check out what they're up to!
April 23, 2012 6 comments

It's Monday, so here we are at the beginning...

It feels like I'm developing a routine, but don't get used to it! :)

And speaking of getting used to things - don't be frightened by this combination of fabrics, you're just going to have to trust me!

 They're not going to be laid exactly like this, as you'll see - I was going for a brick pattern.

Once all of the pieces were sewn together it was time to quilt.  As usual, I'm doing background quilting first - in this case, very thin parallel lines, followed by the elements I plan to draw out later on. 

More spirals....

And some odd shapes...

And coming up next - some white acrylic paint and encaustic wax.  (Uhm, what? )

Method to my madness my chickens, I assure you! :)

See what's next on Wednesday ...


P.S. I've been insanely busy the last week (both at work and at home - I'm trying to get ten NEW pieces together for a submission that's due in ten - no - NINE days) so if you posted something you'd like me to see, please let me know and I'll go check it out - otherwise, I think you'll find me quiet for the next little while!
April 20, 2012 22 comments


Well, here it is, my little Tom (a yellow throated warbler), enjoying a wind bath in a convenient tree.

This piece is quite large for a sketch/journal piece (I think it's 32 x 15 or something like) but it's purpose was to learn two things.  One, to quilt better sprials (which  I failed miserably at, lol) and two to learn to make realistic looking feathers as I have had a piece in mind for a couple of years now that needs angel wings.

Here's a close up of that spiral quilting (as you can see it leaves much to be desired) but no sooner did I finish up the background, than I saw an article in Quilting Arts about how to make them.  By that time I had already started needle felting my branches, so it was too late to pick out my spirals and begin again.

The other reason - learning to make fiber feathers? I felt was quite successful!
Next week, I'm taking on something new again for another sketch/journal piece - I want to try two new-to-me  things: one involving encaustic wax (yup, I'm gonna give it another shot!) and the piece actually involves ::shudder:: hand quilting (!). And you know how I feel about that.
But the experiments are necessary because I have a piece in mind that's beautiful and scary and meaningful - and I before I try working with encaustic wax for that piece, I need to make sure that my idea works!


P.S. Hooking up with Tracy for Thank Goodness It's Finished Friday! Have a great weekend everyone!
April 18, 2012 18 comments

Anatomy of a bird in nine easy steps!

Here's Tom - skinny legs and all. 

So, to make a bird, you start out (as always), with a sketch.  Now as you know, I'm not a drawer by any stretch of the imagination...

...so don't be intimidated by the word "sketch".  No one's going to look at it except you (or in my case, you and me, but we'll just keep it between ourselves); and the point of it is, to be a guide - so that you know the direction you're going in.  You know, so that you'll be able to work with intention (hah! I bet you thought I forgot about my word of the year, didn't you?) :)

And then, the fun part - pulling fabrics from your stash! I actually pulled about four bags of white, but I figured there's only so much interest you could possibly have in bags of white scraps.

One of the bags contained all these delicate white fabrics that had already been cut into little squares for a super secret commission I'd done last year, and some of them were perfect for little Tom.  So, I fused some of those and some of the other whites, and then...

Commenced to cut out feathers.

That coin is a subway token (slightly smaller than a dime) so you'll get an idea of the size of all those tiny little feathers.  I blithely assumed the amount I had here would be enough to cover the bird, and I was wrong, wrong, wrong!

It wasn't even enough to cover the first layer!

Here's a detail shot so you can see how naked poor Tom was after two layers.  All in, I ended up using about 800 of those little tiny white feathers, which were painstakingly fused down about ten at a time.

(Keep in mind, however, that I chose to use very translucent fabrics and netting to get the look I was going for. If someone doing this technique chose to use opaque fabrics,  I'm sure they could get the look with 300, or even 200 feathers. )

When I was "done" this is what he looked like.

I didn't like that his body was so egg-shaped and he looked rather serious to me.  Despite BSP's ssurances that Tom was "perfect!" and "beautiful!" I decided that his upper body needed developing to give a better suggestion of wings, and that his head would look more engaging if it were tilted as in the original sketch. (This is why it's important to refer to your original sketch!) lol 

So, I painstakingly snipped off his head (no birds were hurt in the making of this post!), added feathers to his wattle, re-applied Tom's head at the proscribed angle and then fluffed up his body to get what you saw in the first pic.  Much better!

And because you've seen me needle felt tree branches about a thousand times now (if you've been with me since the beginning), I won't bother with that again.

But come back on Friday for the big reveal!

P.S. - Hooking up with The Needle and Thread Network and Freshly Pieced for WIP Wednesday. Go and see what everyone else is up to!
April 16, 2012 5 comments

It's that time again...

the beginnings of a new piece.   Here are the fabrics I've chosen...

and the grid pattern I've been quilting for the background. 

and your teaser:

The inspiration photo!

See you on Wednesday. :)
April 12, 2012 10 comments

Fly Fishing At Night

When I first saw this piece of fabric with its bleach discharged pattern, (how to here and here [something I was doing for And Then We Set It On Fire a couple of months back]) I immediately saw roiling waves - so of course, the thing to do was to add rocks for them to crash on.  

And then I decided that it also needed a water bird diving into the ocean, so I made a coppery-gold foiled kestrel with a golden moon shining down on it all. 

Of course, birds don't fly at night - much less do they fish - but let's suspend our disbelief shall we? (After all, just a short time ago, I introduced you to a flying rabbit. :) )

Or, if you're like my BSP , a self described "literal Libran", you think that this little technique testing piece depicts a monster coming to eat the bird.  So, "Fly Fishing At Night" or your interpretation in the comments! It's a Rorshach test. ;)
P.S. I'm linking up with with MR over at Quilt Matters for Thank Goodness It's Finished Friday and I'm also joining Meg and Sarah.  Click on over and see what everyone else has been up to!
April 11, 2012 12 comments

WIP Wednesday

This is the back.... ad you can see, there was a a lot of simple quilting involved....

And this came into play....

As usual, I'm linking up with the Needle and Thread Network for WIP Wednesday,

Come back on Friday for the big (?) reveal!

April 9, 2012 9 comments

Working on something new...

Happy Monday everyone. :) I'm working on a journal sketch/quilt right now. 

I started with a piece of black, heavy weight jersey cotton, marked it with chalk and then loosely stitched the markings with some white thread.  And then I pulled those same threads up tight and tied them off. 

(You'll note that I decided not to stitch up the circled area after all.)

Once I pulled the thread tight I used a small-sized squeeze bottle to apply undiluted household bleach along the pulled areas, and sprinkled drops randomly over the blank area.   I watched it carefully until it was approximately the colour I wanted (allowing for the darkness of the dampness) and then quickly, and very thoroughly, rinsed with cool water.  If you try this at home, rinse it a LOT - if you don't rinse out all the bleach, it will keep discharging.

In the end, I had this.

I also did a few more along the same lines - one of which is the basis for my next piece.  More on Wednesday...
April 5, 2012 19 comments

Don't try this at home!

Well, it's that time - I thought I would step up to the mic and tell you the sad tale of my abysmal failure.  lol

You may remember that about a month ago, I had an idea to see if I could do something similar to Riusuke Fukahori's resin work in textile. I was totally sure it would work, so after a errant step into encaustic, I shook off my paw and happily skipped off to get some resin.

The first layer turned out really well, and I was pretty excited.  The only problem I found was that it didn't provide enough depth to create the look I wanted, so I knew I'd have to do 3 or 4 more layers before I could start laying the animals out.  But, so what, right? Fukahori has to do like, a gajillion layers of resin - what's 15 or 20 layers for  me?!?

The next layer turned out equally well, although it took longer to dry. The first layer took about 12 hours, the second layer about 18 hours.  (You see where this is going, right? I didn't. I mean, I suppose I would have, if I'd actually thought about it, but I just kept blithely going on...)

But I soon realized it's inherent problem was built right in. It was a glazing resin. I was already through my 3rd box and my first layer of animals was only covered half way, and the drying time between layers was taking 5 or 6 DAYS.

This pic was taken at day 5 - and as you can see, it's nowhere near dry.

It was time for me to re-assess. 

I'd have to use another 3 boxes to finish the piece, and at this advanced drying time, it would take me months to finish the piece - not to mention, at $36/box, this was becoming quite an expensive enterprise.

Enter my new hero, CASTING RESIN.
At only $22 for the medium size, this was clearly going to be a far more economical enterprise, and it promised a drying time of only two hours!  I was practically dancing with excitement to get it done and show you the result.

I mixed according to directions, carefully poured it over my piece (made a comment to myself along the lines of "Wow. This stuff is WAY more smelly than the glazing resin") and then cleared a space to set it to dry. 

I began tidying up my room to start another project and became aware that the "chemical" smell was becoming quite unbearable. I opened windows throughout the floor that my sewing room is on, made sure all the doors were open, and got to work on the next project. 

About 1/2 an hour later, BSP came downstairs and "yelled" "Are you trying to KILL us??!! WHAT IS THAT SMELL???!!!" I went upstairs and discovered that the smell was all through the house. Oh-oh!  I opened up some more doors and windows, took a break to have a diet Coke and chat with BSP and then went downstairs again where I was practically knocked over by the incredibly powerful smell of the resin. 

With apologies to the Day Supervisor, There was nothing for it but to move the project outside.

Unfortunately, I knew it would be ruined. It had to have a mininum temperature of 70 degrees to set well and this was Ontario, in March. (eep!) We'd been having warmer temperatures than usual, but 70 was a lot to ask, especially at night.

I put it outside, covered it to protect it from anything that might fall on it and left it.  I mean LEFT it.

I knew it was going to be ruined and I wasn't psychologically prepared for that, so I left it there for a couple of weeks. I finally picked it up about ten days ago, brought it down to my sewing room and uncovered it.


So, until it's summer weather here, that's the end of my resin experiments. However, having assessed the time, cost and effect, I may not do this again.

Here's how it all worked out, re expenses:

1.    Encaustic wax, damar resin and electric frying pan  $160
2.    3 boxes of glazing resin @ $36/each                         $108
3.    1 can of casting resin                                                 $22
4.    Silk and other fabrics, batting, fusible, thread           $20

GRAND TOTAL:    $310

THREE HUNDRED AND TEN DOLLARS!!!!  (I'm glad BSP doesn't read my blog. lol)

Now, to be fair, I'll give the the encaustic stuff another whirl (I've already got an idea for something I want to try), so we can take $160 off that total price tag.  And our learnings have taught us that glazing resin is not the answer, so we'll just need casting resin in the future, and for a piece this size (8 x 10) I'd probably only need two cans, so that's $44 plus the supplies for the quilt itself at $20, so all told, it's $66 rather than $310. 

But still....

$66 for an 8 x 10 piece is quite an investment. And as you know, I usually work in the 20 x 30" or 30 x 50" size, so that price would probably be more like $150 which is getting a up there again.  I mean if I spend $150 on a quilt, I should be able to sell it for at least twice that much. But I've never sold an art piece before and I don't know what the market will bear...but I don't think it'll be $300 for an 8 x 10" piece!

And, the truth of it is, if you look at that first pic up there where everything was going so well, it looks fine, but it doesn't look awesome.  I mean, the addition of the resin made you go "Oh. Cool." but it didn't really add anything to it. 

Except weight.  A LOT of weight.  lol

By the time we got to the point where the piece was ruined, it was already about 3 pounds.  And that was prior to the next couple of layers being added on - don't forget - this was just layer one of the animals; there was supposed to be another layer of animals and then another layer of trees - this thing would have weighed about 10 pounds, possibly more (!) by the time it was done, and it was only 8 x 10"!! 

So, expense + weight + "not that cool after all"  = I probably won't do this again.

But, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?  Stay tuned for my next adventure!

And have a wonderful holiday weekend whether you're celebrating Easter, Pesach or just some time off!

I'll be golfing. :)
April 2, 2012 4 comments

From the "discard" files...

You start out with an idea... maybe even a good idea - "I want to make a piece about trees.  Ordinary trees that grow long and tall and develop feet; because they need to walk away from our polluted water table. So the piece will be called 'Walking Tall' ."

And you want the trees to be autumnal, so you think that if you cut strings of fabric in autumnal colours, fuse them randomly to a background fabri:

And then cut those fused strings into "tree top" shapes, you could lay them on your beautifully prepared background, and add the walking feet and have this really cool, post-apocalyptic (or pseudo-post apocalyptic) tree scape. ('Cuz as you know, I have this fascination - borderline obsession with trees.)

and so you put it all together, and you end up with weird, multicoloured clouds and you can tell immediately that they cannot be saved.

(But you save the background, and after a few days of thinking about something else, and having the background hanging around pinned up on your design wall, you realize that it could become THIS. )

And because that's happened too many times to mention - I never worry about it when my first, or second, or even third attempt doesn't work.

The beginnings of something new in a couple of days.

'Til then...