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Finding inspiration isn’t a problem for me.  In fact, it’s almost the opposite.  I am compelled to create things and I am never lacking for ideas.  Sometimes it is difficult to actually finish something because I always have a better idea in the middle of what I am doing.  My mom will attest to this.  She tells stories of elaborate schemes presented to her in order to get her to take my sister and I to the local hobby store. No one was bored at my house.

There’s an expectation, or perhaps a social media inspired trend, that I am feeling right now that when you are an artist that you do a lot to find inspiration.  You create a mood board or a journal or you collect things that inspire you.  You put things in your space to provide inspiration.  In fact, you have a specific inspiring space where you do your work.  And you post photos of your inspiring space to help inspire others.  And you pin photos of other people’s inspiring spaces.

Abby, a blogger who I follow, just posted something the other day about a comment left on a photo she posted of her laptop at the kitchen table:

This question really struck me. I started to wonder what people might be imagining it looks like here at my house when I’m writing or sewing or podcasting or working on my business. Do they think it looks somehow different than this? Sexier than my kitchen table? And if they do, why?

What makes us want to imagine artists in beautiful light-filled loft studios surrounded by a rainbow of paint tubes where even the drop cloth is color-filled and brilliant? Or writers sitting in bustling coffee shops sipping espresso and effortlessly dashing off inspired tomes?

In fact, this has been somewhat of a recurring theme for me lately.  In an art group I belong to, we had a discussion about journaling.  One of the artists is in a mentoring program that does not require, but strongly recommends, that you keep a journal of your experience.  She wasn’t sure where to start or how she could do it without it becoming something she felt obligated to do, rather than inspired by.  Another group meeting recently had an activity where we were each asked to bring our sketchbooks and talk about our process.   A friend stopped me at an art show and was disappointed when I said I didn’t have a studio that I work in.  (I get asked this a lot)

I actually find all of those things the opposite of inspiring.  I don’t like to have other people’s work in my space.  I have art all over my house,  but nothing specifically there to “be inspiring”, just things that I love.  I don’t want to have a photo clipped from a magazine that I can copy.  I don’t keep a sketchbook or a journal.  In fact it was very awkward for me at this meeting with the sketchbook activity – I felt as though I had to defend myself for not having one.  I keep a notebook of notes, but it’s all math and technical notes.  I write down RGB and hex codes for colors.  I write out the math for determining how much ease and the size of the facing on my wrap skirt. It’s practical and it’s information I know I might need again.  I also keep meeting notes in there and stuff I write down while on phone calls.  It’s not very inspiring.  I like working in my house and being able to scratch my dogs and go make tea or a piece of toast when I feel like it.  Sometimes I work in my sewing room, but it’s small and so sometimes I spread out all over the dining room table.  There’s a card table set up in the dining room right now too because I am working on a big project and I feel like I need the space.  Sometimes I spend the whole day at the computer, which is on a big messy desk cluttered with coffee mugs, earrings and camera equipment. And I am not talking business chores on the computer, it’s a part of my art process and one that I love.  But not exactly inspiring either (at least to anyone else.)  Believe me, erasing pixels is exactly as exciting as watching paint dry.

I think about the artists who I know and love and none of them have Pinteresty workspaces or processes.  My friend Donna works with buckets of frozen rhubarb leaves and stews made from a whole lot of other things that most people would compost.  There is nothing romantic or pretty about that.  (I imagine some of them smell bad, too.)  Another friend’s studio is a mish-mash of storage space, staging area and place to make a mess.  She doesn’t want the mess at her house, so the studio is the place to make the mess and it invites you to do it.  I work in the dining room or at the kitchen table or on the back porch or sometimes all in my head.  I may or may not be wearing a matched pair of socks while I do it.

Do I burst your bubble by admitting this? Are you sad that I don’t have a secret artistic sketchbook to show you?  Do you want me to have a studio and a pretty Pinterest-worthy wall?  (I am curious now.)  Do you have a sketchbook of inspiration?  Does it work for you?  Or do you do it because that’s what artists do?

 

 

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It ‘s #MuseumWeek on Twitter this week and that seemed like a great excuse to talk about my favorite museum in the  Twin Cities: Hennepin History Museum.  Museum Week is a fun celebration of museums behind the scenes.  Yesterday the theme was “behind the scenes secrets” and today the theme is “souvenirs”.  And I have some great souvenirs from HHM!

I visited the museum a few weeks ago and brought along my camera.  HHM is housed in a turn-of-the-century mansion that is full of beautiful details.  When I was there taking photos, an exhibition of hand fans had just opened to coincide with a “Fireside Chat“, an afternoon lecture by a local fan collector.  HHM holds these chats every other week and they feature local authors and history experts talking about everything from beekeeping to baseball.

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I was really enamoured with this painted feather fan.  It is made from white goose feathers which are painted with a floral spray and tipped with peacock plumes.  Since I have been designing skirts non-stop the last few months, I looked at this and saw a skirt (naturally).  My wrap skirt design is a 3/4 circle, which is a tough shape to work from, but a fan is already a 1/3 circle shape.  It was a natural fit!

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IMG_3262I love those peacock feathers around the hem!  The museum staff was so excited that I was making things inspired by the collection that they invited me to have this skirt on display along with the fans.  It was neat for me to see the two side-by-side and you can see them too if you stop by.

I also took some photos of the woodwork details in the Fireside Room.  This helix patterned trim is featured throughout the room.

hhm-3And that also inspired a design.  I haven’t stitched up the sample of this one yet, but you can see the sketch.  I used this bit of woodwork trim to make radiating stripes from the waist to hem.  I also designed a basic stripe based on this woodwork pattern, which I will hopefully be printing to make silk scarves for the HHM shop a little later in the spring.

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One visit and two pretty awesome designs!  I feel like I found buried treasure.  I can’t wait to go back and see what else I find.

I had never actually heard of Hennepin History Museum before a year or so ago, even though it has been around since the 50s.   My friend Cedar is their new Executive Director and I think she has some pretty awesome ideas and the enthusiasm to bring their knowledge and collections more into the community.  In fact, I joined the Board of Directors in January, so I can help her out with that project. If you are in the Twin Cities area, I hope you will stop by and visit or come for a Fireside Chat.

 

 

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If you are signed up for my Digital Keepsake Tea Towel class starting on March 25, you might not have gotten your supply list yet.  Sorry about the snafu!  Hopefully it is being emailed to you today, but you can also download it here.  DigitalKeepsakeClass

Looking forward to seeing you at class.

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My niece drew this picture of a sewing machine for me.  Her message “Don’t miss the sniff” is to let me know that not only is there a scratch and sniff sticker there, but she drew it using smelly markers.  Important stuff when you are 4.  I am in love with this picture.

“Kid art” is a really hard thing to translate into fabric design.  And honestly, I look at pretty much everything anymore and think “How can I make fabric out of this?”  So I wanted to capture this fabulous drawing in fabric.

via gofugyourself.celebuzz.com

via gofugyourself.com

The new fall line for Dolce & Gabbana offers this.  Which I honestly think is hideous.  If you click that photo it will take you to a whole slide show of their runway show, which has a whole collection of “kid art” prints.  They all look like they are printed on shiny satin besides, which also doesn’t make any sense.  Formal crayon wear? Ugh.

So instead of trying to go with a literal interpretation, I decided to use Mia’s drawing as inspiration instead.

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So, I drew the sewing machine and all of the other doo-dads and shapes in Illustrator, making it into a vector design so I could rearrange, resize and so on to make a repeat.  This one is about 18″ because I wanted it to be big and bold.  I wanted some textures to overlay on designs like this, so a few weeks ago, I spent an afternoon making fibery textures.  This one is perfect for this design.  I also used Mia’s drawing for the color inspiration.  I think my version has enough pink in it for her to approve.

I don’t see this is a clothing fabric (although she would probably wear it) so I decided to think of it like a craft/quilting fabric instead, which meant I wanted to have a collection of coordinating prints to go along with it.  Solids with the same fibery texture, “cheerios” and little banner flags so far.  I think I need one more.  Any ideas?

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I know it is sewing machines (and you do now too), but I think this also could look like tribal/tiki/monster as I can see a few faces in there.  And that also works for me.

 

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I had a sort of annoying day.  And so when I saw a Facebook article on Craft about making a font from your handwriting for free, I clicked it.  That sounds fun.  I am sure there is a gimmick.  Or it won’t work.  But it would be a fun little project.

It totally works.  And it’s fun.  And it was fast.  I might seriously have to do this with a class some day. I didn’t overthink it, I just wrote.  I might do another one now and do something fancy.

The lovely Christine has written up a tutorial on how to do it here.  Or you can just go to the website and figure it out.  It’s that easy.  MyScriptFont.com, you are genius.

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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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