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I am so excited about these skirts!  Here is a slideshow of some of the designs I have been working on.  I don’t know if all of them will make the cut but I wanted to share my favorites so far.  Each mockup has a couple of detail “swatches” so you can see a little more about the print and a very brief description of where the print came from.  Which is your favorite?

skirtVideoI spend so much of my time behind a computer screen that it is hard to show “behind the scenes” shots of what I do.  And I know that people love to see works in progress.  I do too. So I made this video which shows my process in about 3 minutes. I captured it in 2 sessions and sped it up 1500%.  This is a wrap skirt that I designed that should be one of the ones for sale at the American Craft Council show I am participating in.  I just finished it so I haven’t seen the fabric in person yet.

The video shows the whole process from drafting the skirt in Illustrator to adding the photos in Photoshop.  In this case it is a wrap style skirt and I used 3 photos: long exposure shots from a nighttime “parade of lights” we watched at Disney several years ago.  This is a simple design relatively speaking. The photos are so cool that I didn’t need to do much manipulation to them.  I left in all of the things I tried and rejected. You will see that I thought about a row of polkadots at one point.  It’s tiny – it’s not meant to be a tutorial, but just so you can join along in the process.  Enjoy!

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I have had scissors on the brain lately.  Maybe because there are always several pairs of them on the dining room table.  (And yet, never any when you go to look for them.  But that’s a rant for another post.)

I started drawing this set of scissors to make earrings.  I do a set of fiber art related jewelry for a local shop.  Button earrings, zipper earrings, earring made from snaps.  And I wanted to add something new to the collection.  I love making laser cut doo-dads and I had a brainstorm to make little tiny scissors from mirrored acrylic that look like Gingher sewing shears.

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Those were so much fun that I also drew some little embroidery scissors and stork embroidery scissors.  I did all the artwork in Adobe Illustrator because I was making vector shapes.  That’s what you need for laser cutting.  But the cool thing about vectors is that once you get them drawn, you can scale them up and down without anything getting rough and jaggedy.  So then I thought, since I have these scissors I should also make a fabric design.  So that’s the design at the top.  Which I think will make really great project bags and I might even make a t-shirt.  Why not?

So then I made it in another colorway.  And then I got on a roll and did a knitting design to match the style of those scissors.  And then a design for lacemakers with bobbin lace and tatting.  (I get a lot of requests for lacemaking buttons through my Etsy shop, so I know they are out there looking for things!)  And then when I showed off these designs to a friend at Textile Center, they gave me a hard time about not having a design for crochet and weavers, so those are in the works.  I’m even considering a skirt design all made of scissors shapes.

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So one drawing of one pair of scissors has now turned into 9 different designs and more in the works.  Stuck in a rut?  I don’t think so. By taking the time to draw those vector shapes, I have now added them to my toolbox.  It’s like finding a new color in the crayon box.  I did the tedious work of making the vector shapes but now I can just drop them in anywhere and play with them.  I am sure that I will get tired of them at some point, but for now the variations seem to just keep coming.

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This is a recipe written in my Grandmother’s handwriting, which I turned into a linen tea towel.  Cool huh?  This was inspired by a post a couple of years ago on Spoonflower’s blog and I have turned the idea into a class, which is coming up in March.  We will scan a recipe card and learn how to scale it up so it fills a fat quarter of fabric, perfect for a tea towel.  Don’t have a recipe?  You could also use a handwritten note, a signature, a quote, or a poem as long as it is something about the size and shape of an index card.

My recipe cards weren’t quite the right size ratio to fill the whole fat quarter – there was a little white space around the edges – so I made this simple gingham pattern to fill in the gaps and add a pretty border.  You will learn how to do that too!  This class is broken up into 3 class sessions.  There is a gap before the last session so we have time to order our fabric and then meet back one more time so we can show and tell (or troubleshoot) and then I will demonstrate how to hem them (with pretty mitered corners) and show you some more great designs based on this same scanning and scaling technique.

You can register at Textile Center.  Dates are Wednesdays March 25, April 1 and April 29 from 6-8 pm.

Often when I teach an intro fabric design class, the students and I create a collaborative fabric design during class, which I have printed and mail to them after class.  This most recent class played along with me and made this design using speech bubble shaped post-it-notes and wrote their favorite “clean” swear word.  I thought it would make a funny fabric, especially given the day I had before I got to class.  So I scanned our design and got ready to put it into a repeat and it just seemed sort of blah.  We needed a much more colorful fabric to match our colorful language.  So I added some color and after I sent the swatches, I told my class I would post a tutorial about how I did it so they could check back.  My screenshots for this are in Photoshop, but many other design programs have the same tools you can use.

We started with a scanned image of post-it-notes on black paper.  I scanned this at 150 dpi because I wanted to print it at the same size and that is the resolution I need for fabric.

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 9.47.06 AMThe first thing I wanted to do was to move the speech bubbles to a layer all by themselves.  This way I could insert something into the background and have them float over top.  When I open the image in Photoshop, it automatically makes it a locked background layer. (See the lock icon?)  When I go to the Layers palette and double click the layer that says Background, it will unlock it and convert it to a regular layer (Layer 0), which is what we need.

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 9.50.26 AMNext I want to remove the black background and leave just the speech bubbles by themselves on this layer.  Choose the Magic Wand tool and click anywhere in that black background.  You can see what’s selected because Photoshop traces around it with dashed lines.  Once you have it selected, hit the delete key.  Your black background will disappear.  The checkered pattern you now see indicates that this part of the design is transparent.  (It won’t show on your finished design.)

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Next I will add a new background layer back in, by choosing the new layer icon (looks like a page with a bent corner) to make Layer 1. Then choose Edit -> Fill from the menu to fill it with black.  You will probably also have to put your layers in the right order by clicking and dragging them in the palette to make sure the bubbles are on top and the black layer on the bottom.

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 9.52.10 AMSo it doesn’t actually look like we have done much at this point, but what we have done is split the design into two layers so that we can now insert something in between them.  Next, I am going to add a Text layer, by clicking the text tool and dragging a text box to fill the design space.  Now I can type text into this layer.  I filled it with cartoon style swear words (*&%$!!@) to match our theme.  It doesn’t matter what color they are, we will change that next.  Drag the text layer so it is sandwiched between Layers 0 and 1.

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Now the color!  If you double click the Text layer in the Layers Palette, a window will pop up giving you options for Layer Styles.  We are going to use a Gradient Overlay to add a rainbow to this text.

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The last little tweak I made to the design was to add a black outline to our speech bubbles to help make them pop out from the background a little more.  That is easy to do with the same Layer Styles tool.  Double click Layer 0 with the speech bubbles and choose Stroke from the style options.  I added a 3 px border of black.

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And this is the finished design.

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 9.57.24 AMNow I understand that this is a pretty silly fabric and you aren’t probably going to run right out and order yards of it.  But by using the same steps you learned here, you can create fabrics like these:

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These sheep are drawn with a fine tip sharpie and scanned.  I cut them out from the background the same way and added a white Stroke to the layer so they have that white outline.  The background for this design instead of text, is a piece of painted paper that I scanned and added a Color Overlay (from the Layer Styles Palette) in green.

Or dancing sheep on a knitted background.

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The very first thing I did when I struck out on my own this fall was to apply for a grant to the MN State Arts Board.  Applying for a grant probably is one of the more nerve-wracking things you can do as an artist, and not only because you are putting yourself out there for pretty intense critical review, but instead of communicating about your art in the way you know best (by doing it), you are having to communicate through answering essay questions and budgets and photographs.  It’s like stepping back and looking at your work from the other side – describing it in ways that someone else can understand the significance and motivation for what you are trying to do.  It’s also about trying to remember to describe all of the things I know about what I do to someone who is not familiar with my field or practice.  Will they understand what I mean when I say I will be digitally printing on fabric or do I need to explain that more?  Will they trust me that I can get from Step A to Step B or do I need to tell them how I will get there?  If I only have 500 words to answer this question, what will I choose to emphasize because I can never go into as much detail as I want to.  Will they understand what I am trying to do?

I have a somewhat unique experience, I expect, because I have also sat on the other side of this process, having served on a number of panels reviewing grant applications very similar to this and having been on the administrative end of processing grant applications and working with applicants.  I have been the panelist who has read and re-read trying to find the answer to the question that I have.  I have scoured the resume looking for the experience and Googled definitions of dance terms to make sure I am understanding what I am reading about.  I know how hard it is to review them, just as well as I know how hard it is to write them.  I think this helps me be a better writer for sure.

My application was a fairly straightforward one for this grant.  Some money to help support making new work and showing it in an exhibition.  It had a community component of mini workshops, which would allow the public to make fabric designs along with me.  It included some equipment (dress forms) for a professional display of my work. I talked about an exhibition theme of ice, because the work would have been on display in January and February and how this would connect with the audience I was hoping to attract. I worked on it really hard for a couple of evenings and had several helpers who read things over for me and made suggestions.  The process is all online with a series of forms to fill out and files to upload.  It easily took me more than 15 hours to write it and upload everything.

I applied in August; we got the results in January.  We were invited to come and listen to the panel review our applications in person (Minnesota has an open meetings law which lets you do this.)  I debated about going to listen. I had something else scheduled that day, which I could have moved and I chose instead to go the “chicken” route and not go.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to listen to them tear apart my application.  This was the first time I had applied after all and really the first time I had put my work out there in front of strangers and said “Tell me what you think!”

I got the email in early January with the news that my application had not been funded.  I was disappointed and a little relieved.  A couple of friends who I much admire did have applications that were funded.  I am happy for them.  The email from the Arts Board said “Email us and we will send your scores and comments and the audio recording of your panel review.”  I thought about that for a while. I was an arts administrator for many years and I know how valuable the feedback can be from panels & jurors.  And I totally didn’t follow my own advice.  I had a moment of wavering confidence and decided I would just be done and I didn’t want to hear the recording or know the scores.  When I submitted the application, I was still employed at my former art center gig and I hadn’t even had a minute to think about what my next artistic step was going to be. Or if I was really even going to do it.  I knew that showed in my application and they would see I was all over the place.  I knew they wouldn’t be able to see how being at my former job wasn’t just one opportunity after another for me.  Chalk it up to experience and move on.

So today I got a note with the official “Sorry we didn’t fund you” letter.  And it totally changed my mind.  The program manager for the program I applied to took the time to write a personal note on my form letter.  And she said (in a nutshell), “Your application was really great especially since it was your first one.  Email me for your scores – you were so close.  Way to go!  Apply again next year and I would be happy to read it over for you and give you some feedback.”    Wow.  Really?  So I emailed her.

The takeaway…

Don’t be a wimp!  It ends up that I only missed getting funding for my project by about 1/2 a point.  That’s right.  I was super amazingly close.   And I would have had no idea.

I listened to the audio recording too because I was suddenly feeling a little more confident. They were super complimentary of my work.  They had thoughtful comments about my project plan.  I inspired them with my description of the community project hands-on. (Yes!) They had a difference of understanding about what is cutting edge in the field of digitally printed fabric – they weren’t wrong in any way, I just need to tell my story a little better. They liked the ice theme and how it seemed really relevant.  In fact, I wish they had talked a little more, because I don’t actually have many concrete suggestions for ways that I could improve that application.  It is great to hear the affirmatives, but I would have loved a “I wish she would have explained more about….” kind of comment too.

Every panel is different and the group next year might have totally different things that they love or hate, but knowing that I connected with this panel is a pretty great feeling.  One thing I miss about my old job is the opportunity to be a mentor.  I used to write those personal notes, because it seemed like the right thing to do.  I was right.  That also feels good.

Think of this as an “artist behind the scenes” post.  My brother in law and I talked this morning about how alike our jobs were in some ways.  He is a sales guy and his success entirely depends on what he is doing to make it happen.  Art is the same way.  Every day you have to get up and make it happen.

Thank you to two awesome classes at Dakota County Libraries!  I promised my Etsy class tonight that I would post a link to a tutorial for making your shop banner. Here it is.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 4.22.33 PMIt’s the month for classes for me.  Another fun class you can come to is a panel discussion called “Digitizing for Dollars” that I will be participating in on January 29 at 6:30 pm at NE Bank Community Room in Minneapolis.  It is presented by WARM (Women’s Art Resources of MN).  Several panelists will be talking about digitizing your original art and selling it online.  I will be talking about Spoonflower and using your original art to make fabric.  The other panelists will be talking about things like making patterns, digital prints and putting your artwork on objects (totes and coffee mugs).  I have worked with this group before and there is always great discussion and good questions, so I am looking forward to it.  (The event is free for WARM members, $5 if you come as a guest of a WARM member or $10 for the public.)

I am teaching two classes for the Dakota County Libraries this month.  They are a little outside of the Minneapolis area but they are free classes (funded by a State Arts Legacy Grant) so it might be worth the drive.

First up is “A Taste of Digital Fabric Design” on January 22 at 6 pm at Wescott Library.  You can register here.  (It’s free, but we like to know who’s coming.)

This class is like the “get your toes wet” experience for designing your own fabric and printing it through Spoonflower.  We will make a collaborative design in class and I will show you all of the steps to get it printed: scanning, resizing and setting resolution, uploading, repeats and so forth.  You don’t need to bring anything – it’s presented demonstration style so you can take lots of notes and follow along without your laptop.  I hope it will be just the right amount of information to get you started and give you confidence to try your first design and not so much technical stuff that you will fee lost and overwhelmed.  After class, I will order some of our collaboratively designed fabric and I will mail you a swatch of it so you can see it in person.  If you have ever wanted to try your hand at making a custom fabric, this is the class to get you started.

Here is a sample of a fabric we made in another class.

Valentine Grid repeat at Spoonflower. Collaborative class project.

Valentine Grid repeat at Spoonflower. Collaborative class project.

On January 26th, it is “Etsy Behind the Scenes” at the Farmington Library at 6:00.  You can register here.

This class is a tour behind the scenes of running an Etsy shop.  Not just tips and tricks, but I log in and take you on a live tour of what my shop looks like from the seller’s perspective.  I will show you how to use the built in tools and talk about options and ways you can run your shop.  I have had an etsy shop for more than 9 years, so I will give you a wealth of ideas from what I have learned:  what works, time savers and time wasters, Etsy vocabulary and more.  If you are on the fence about opening a shop or you have one and aren’t sure what to do next, I think you will find something in this class to help you.

I hope to see you there!

 

I bought myself a present of a pretty skein of handspun yarn at the Weavers Guild fiber fair…

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I started knitting it at a band concert…

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And I finished it last night. Pattern is Multnomah.  The yarn is by a local spinner (who seems to not have an online presence) and it’s merino.  It blocked out really nice and smooth and just barely fit on my dining room table.

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