Work in Progress: Everyday Objects from Everyday Objects

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 11.24.05 PMI’ve been wrapping up two huge projects this week and this is my favorite one. I started working on this “I Spy” artwork last year as part of a grant from a local neighborhood. Together we are creating wraps to cover 3 sets of utility boxes; I make the art, they get the permits and approvals. I have told you a little about the program that makes these art-covered-utility-boxes happen and my original concept for these designs, now I can tell you a little more about where that ended up.

I collected hundreds of photos from the neighborhood and started playing with the designs I could make from them. I use photos in my work all the time. One of the designs I put in my proposal to the neighborhood was something like this one, which is created from a photo on pencil erasers.

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But these boxes are big: 77×44 inches. And thinking about that pattern covering the whole box was boring. I like the pattern, but that wasn’t going to draw people over to look at my art. That pattern was designed for a garment (I have a dress made out of it.) and that’s what it works for. The new patterns I was playing with were kind of the same. I really wanted people to connect with this art and these weren’t cutting it.

The theme of my project was making art from everyday objects. As I was driving somewhere and thinking about it, I suddenly had an idea. (Driving is the best place to work out ideas.) What if I made everyday objects from everyday objects? Make a fire hydrant, but make it all out of “I Voted” stickers, roses, and bolts. Butterflies from coffee cups? I liked where this was going. So, I started with a blue jay.

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I noticed that I had a lot of blue things in my collection of photos and I think bluejays are beautiful and they are certainly everyday in my neighborhood. I found a photo to use as a reference and started assembling my bluejay. He is made from the wheel from a dumpster, a faucet handle, a ball of yarn, a rotary telephone dial, a latte, a pair of scissors. I thought using all circles would give him a feathery texture. His branch is made from a stack of rusted springs from the antique store in the neighborhood (also the source of the telephone). It’s all photos from the neighborhood: the yarn came from the Weavers Guild of MN, the latte from the coffee shop, the faucet from the community garden. I cut each of the images out in Photoshop, so I had just the object with a transparent background and then placed them all into a bigger file. And let me tell you these were big files (and that caused some problems). By the time I was finished, several of them were at least 1GB. A typical photo is 1/1000th that size.

More to come…

NEW Spoonflower Handbook Master Class in August 2016

Greenhouse-masterclass2-Register_BLOGThat’s right, we loved it so much, we are doing another one. It’s a summer session of the Spoonflower Handbook Master Class!  You can read all of the details here. This session will focus on working with Photoshop instead of Illustrator and I have a bunch of fun stuff planned for you. Registration is open and it is filling up. Let me know if you have questions and I hope to see YOU there.

Tutorial: Color schemes from photos & using Creative Cloud Libraries

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 10.10.31 AMI write a newsletter for the MN chapter of the Surface Design Association and each month I include a color scheme for inspiration. I know color is a hard thing for a lot of people. I work very intuitively with color and I personally don’t put a lot of thought into color theory or color wheels; I just go with what feels right to me. But not everyone can work that way. So I like to provide a little jumping off point by pulling a set of colors from a photograph to use as color inspiration. Maybe you can use it as a jumping off point for a new design. Maybe it makes you look deeper at a photo to see the way colors work together. Maybe it makes you think about how there are unexpected colors in shadows. I think there is something for anyone to relate to.

As a dyer or surface designer that works with paints, dyes or pigments you can look at the palette and mix up your colors to work from there. As a digital designer, I can import these colors directly in to my graphics program. It doesn’t really matter if I am working with the exact colors from the photo for a single design, but where that is handy is when I want to make a set of coordinating designs where matching colors is important.

I start by pulling colors from the photo using a program called Adobe Color, which is also part of the Adobe Capture app, so you can use it in your web browser (Color) or on your phone/tablet (Capture).

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Go to Adobe Color and look for the camera icon that says Create from image (green circle) or click in the center of the screen. Choose the image you would like to use.

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When it pops up the photo, it will automatically choose 5 colors, shown by little bubbles on the photo. You can click and move those bubbles around to adjust the colors. On the top left, there is also a palette marked Color Mood, which gives you options for “colorful”, “bright”, “muted” etc.

You’ll need to have an Adobe ID to save this color scheme. If you already have a subscription to Photoshop or any of the other Adobe software, you should use the same ID. Once you have a set of colors you are happy with, click the Save button.

A little note: No Adobe account? If you don’t want to have one more account name and password to remember, I totally get that. If that’s the case, just take a screenshot of this screen instead of saving. You can work from a screenshot almost as easily.

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 10.17.15 AMGive your color theme a name and choose where you want to save it. Creative Cloud is the subscription service that you get your Photoshop subscription from. (Because this is always a question I get asked when I talk about this in a class, it doesn’t have anything to do with “The Cloud” or saving things to “The Cloud”, Creative Cloud is your Adobe account. It’s just badly named.) By default, you have a Library named “My Library” but you can create a new one and give it a different name. You have the option of making this color scheme part of the public gallery if you choose “Publish this theme to Explore”. That’s up to you.

Why save it this way and not just on my hard drive? This is the cool part. Anything I save to My Library is available to me in any other Adobe program. So once I have captured this color scheme, I can switch over to Photoshop.

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When I open the Libraries panel in Photoshop, there is my Dandelion color theme right at the top. I can click on those colors and use them just like the regular color palette. (If Libraries isn’t open look in the top menubar for Window -> Libraries and that will open it up.)

It works exactly the same way in Illustrator. If you mouse over one of those color chips, you will also get two more pieces of information. The top number (example above #D8923A) is the hex code for that color. The bottom number is the RGB values. You can type those numbers into any other graphics program and get the same color. Here’s what that looks like in PicMonkey.

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If that hexcode looks familiar to you, it’s because that system is also what is used on Spoonflower’s ColorMap.

If you didn’t save to Creative Cloud and are working from a screenshot, you can open the screenshot and use the eyedropper tool to get the same hexcode and RGB information.

Want to see it in use? Here’s a very quick and simple example of patterns of chevrons and polkadots drawn in Illustrator, which use colors pulled from the photo. This could be the front and back of a pillow. Or the outside and lining of a totebag. Or some coordinating quilt prints.

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A New Class in August & A Look Back at the Spoonflower Handbook Master Class

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This is seriously the best class I have ever taken. Tons of great information presented clearly and enthusiastically. Inspiration everywhere from Becka, and Spoonflower!

It was one of the best classes I have ever taught and I wrote about it for the Spoonflower blog. It’s up today! I laughed at that photo because I look like I am wearing a Pen Tool Party Hat.

Also I am thrilled to announce the next Spoonflower Handbook Master Class in August 2016! You can read up on all the details here and registration opens tomorrow.


Find your sound.

Spoonflower posted this video today and I am re-posting it so I can find it again. It’s fun and I love the sneak peeks at all the little parts of the process of printing, cutting, shipping.

New Work: Shadows, Spoonflower & Davie




Digitally printed polyester pique.

I had the photo studio set up for another big project shoot, and I realized that I hadn’t had a chance to talk about this dress that I made this spring. The pattern is a modified version of the Davie dress by Sewaholic. I love the way this one fits and I have made several versions of it. The fabric is Spoonflower’s performance pique.

The design is a combination of cut painted paper and text. The paper design started out like this and I actually used it in a fabric collection of “Fish Market” designs that I have up at Spoonflower.

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I layered two copies of that cut paper together and then cut text from one layer. The text is the closing speech delivered by Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

“If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear…”

Why that text? Because I like it. And Midsummer is my favorite Shakespeare play. I wanted to do a text based design, where it wasn’t something necessarily readable, but text was a design element.

I manipulated the colors, but you can still see all of the texture of the painted papers in the design. The tie is made from a small repeated section of that aqua with black polkadots pattern you see below.

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A little note about the fabric. It’s polyester, and I feel like I spend a lot of time defending things for being polyester. This is awesome polyester. Seriously. Comfy, soft, breathable, unwrinkleable, machine wash, amazing print quality. There’s nothing negative on that list. I understand that there are yucky polyesters. There are also horrific wools, nasty nylons and even some unwearable cottons. So this is a little bit of a soap box and a little bit encouragement to not judge a fabric by its label.