“Bonus Becka”

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 4.58.53 PM

My blog software shows me all kinds of statistics about how many people visit the site each day (hi everybody!) and what pages you are looking at.  One of my favorite things is to see the search terms that got you here.  I know a lot of you look for sewing machine reviews.  (Glad I posted those.) You are often looking for weaving advice.  (I am not very helpful with that, sorry.)  My favorite one today was the search “bonus Becka”.  I am not sure what you were looking for with that search but I am glad it brought you here and it made me smile.  I will see if I can provide some bonus Becka.

It has been a hard week.  Not a feel-sorry-for-me-because-my-life-is-so-rough week, but it was the week after a huge week of important projects wrapping up.  And I won’t pretend that isn’t a big let down. Let’s be real. That’s part of being an artist of any kind. I remember doing theater all through college and the week after a show everyone got sick.  You spend the whole time leading up to the show running on caffeine and adrenaline and then when it’s over, you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck.  I am happy with how everything turned out with my exhibition, I’m pretty proud of my work and I love the response the book is getting so far, so please don’t think I am not appreciative!  But this week I am regrouping and resting and letting everything do its thing without me a for a few days. Because I can.

The question I have been asked a lot lately is “what’s next?”  The answer is, I don’t know.  I am not too worried about that because that’s part of my plan.  It’s been just over a year since I left my full time job as an arts admin and I said, when I did that, I was going to take some time to explore and try things.  In the last year, I have done 4 new-to-me art shows in a variety of venues both large and small.  I have applied for several exhibitions (I didn’t get in.)  I won a Jerome grant.  I didn’t get a state arts board grant.  I finished the book and it felt surreal to finally have it in my hands.  I have applied for some awesome teaching gigs; one I’ve got (ARROWMONT!) and several I am waiting on.  I am waiting to hear about 2 other grant applications.  (There’s lots of waiting going on right now.)  I got a grant to do a school residency in November.  (I am great at teaching kids, but is that even my “thing” anymore?  I don’t know.)  There’s a whole list of things that I didn’t get done in this year that I thought for sure I would have time for. I said no to a few things and yes to some things I probably shouldn’t have.   I also had things fall through or experiences that just did not live up to my expectations at all. (And that’s really hard for me because I set a very high standard for myself and I assume others to do the same.)  I have learned a lot about myself and the ways I do my best work.  All-in-all, I had a fantastic year, I got to do some amazing things and I LOVE being my own boss.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 5.38.17 PM

Some bonus Becka?  I can show off one other piece of unofficial art.  This is the dress I made to wear to the opening reception for my show.  The pattern is Davie by Sewaholic (with a tiny modification that I added the “knot” at the keyhole neckline.)  I screwed it up with a rookie mistake (seam allowance!), although it ends up that I fixed it just fine. (Don’t ask why I am catawampus or being silly posing like one of my dress forms.)



This design was made using these 3 photos.  The sunset (thanks Mom!) is the background, adding a beautiful gradient and those peachy colors.  The butterfly is cut out and transparently layered many many times over that at very large scale.  Then I put it at actual size on the shoulder, as if it was a pair of butterfly brooches.  They each have a few translucent sequins stitched on them for a tiny sparkle.  Finally the last layer is a greyscale version of that asphalt, just to add an organic bubbly texture to the whole thing.  I very carefully laid this out like a border print to be able cut the dress and have the print exactly how I wanted it.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 5.48.43 PMThis one doesn’t have a title yet.  Got any great suggestions?  I would love to hear them.


Tutorial: Seamless Arrows Pattern, Part Four

(This is part four of a tutorial for making a seamless arrow pattern.  Find Part One and Part Two and Part Three here.)

Proofing and touching up the pattern is the finishing step to create the seamless arrow design and I am going to do that with the Photoshop pattern tool.  The first thing I do is select the whole design (Edit -> Select All) and create a pattern tile by choosing Edit -> Define Pattern and click OK.

Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 10.46.34 AMIt will look like nothing has happened.  That’s ok!  The tile that you selected has been saved in the patterns palette, which is kind of hidden.

To proof the design, I create a new blank file that is the size of a yard of fabric. That’s an arbitrary size – I just think it’s nice to look at a large number of repeats.

Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 10.46.58 AM

Then I choose Edit -> Fill from the menu.  From the pop-up Fill menu, choose Pattern from the contents drop down menu.  Just below that in Options there is another drop down and in it, you should find that pattern you just saved.  (See what I mean about a little hidden.)

Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 10.47.25 AM


Now you can see what it looks like when the tile is repeating across a whole yard of fabric.  And right away a couple of things jump out at me.


Oops.  I didn’t think about the edges and I have a blank space where there aren’t any arrows.  I can fix that by cropping out some of the blank space.  The other thing that jumps out is a seam where the color changes. The color change is kind of abrupt and it makes a dark line.  I can fix that pretty easily by going back a step to my original file.  I select the photo layer of that flower because that is where the color is coming from.  The easiest way for me to make that contrasting line to go away is to just use a paintbrush to just touch it up. I choose a green color from the bottom of the image and paint some at the top where that really deep green was, hiding that seam line and blending the two together.


After I do those two little edits…

Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 11.23.29 AM


I have a pretty good finished design.  I save that tile and that is the repeat that I can upload to Spoonflower and print my fabric.  This is the version that I used for my grant project exhibition, which I will post photos of very soon.

Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 11.26.11 AM



Tutorial: Seamless Arrow Repeat Part 3

(This is part three of a tutorial for making a seamless arrow pattern.  Find Part One and Part Two here.)

For Part Three, I am going to move over and work with the design in Photoshop now.  Why?  I could easily add color in Illustrator, but the effect I want is to cut those arrowheads out of another photo, which will give it a very organic color wash instead of a solid color.

Open the file in Photoshop.

So first I open that file we just saved in Photoshop. I first double click the Layer marked Background to unlock it (making it Layer 0).  Then I use the Magic Wand tool and delete to remove the white background and just leave the pattern of black lines.  (Make sure the option marked contiguous at the top center is clicked off and you will select all of the white in the image and not just the parts touching where you click.)

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 10.11.41 AM

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 10.15.30 AM

That will leave a checkerboard pattern in the background.  That is Photoshop’s way of telling you that is now transparent.

Add the photo layer.

Next I will add something to create that colored layer.  For my grant project design, I used one of the layers from the photo created by my design partner, so that her print and mine would coordinate.  But really anything will work, as long as it has the colors you want.  So for this example, I used a photograph of a columbine.  Choose File -> Place Embedded and pick your image.  Size/resolution is not really important.  Once you have placed it, click and drag it to resize and fill the space.  Make sure the photo layer is on top and your arrows on the bottom.

You can add filters or adjust colors or edit this layer if you want to.  For example, I might blur it to make it look more watercolored and less photo sharp.  In my grant project design, I added a few pops of magenta with a paint brush to bring out that color in the coordinating fabric.

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 10.14.23 AM


Create a clipping mask.

Select the Layer with your image and right-click it to bring up a pop up menu or choose Layer -> Create Clipping Mask from the top menu.  This will cut from the photo in the shape of the layer underneath.

Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 11.54.48 AM


Add a background.

I will add a new layer to give the design a background color. You can click the new layer button in the palette (looks like a page with a bent corner) or choose Layer -> New from the menu.  I can choose Edit -> Fill from the menu to fill this layer with color and then drag it in the Layers palette to be on the bottom of the stack.

Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 12.00.47 PM


The last thing I did was to add a little texture to that flat grey layer.  When I double click the layer in the Layer Palette, I will get a menu of Layer Style options.  I chose an asphalt texture that I had saved previously and set it to be only 19% opaque.

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 10.20.08 AM


In Part Four, I will show you how to proof your design and touch up any little flaws in the repeat and then it is finished and ready to go.

Tutorial: Seamless Arrows Print – Part Two

(This is Part Two of a tutorial for creating a seamless arrows print.  See Part 1 here.)

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 10.06.48 AM

Part two of the tutorial is all about making the design seamless.  What does that mean?  I want these arrows to look like they are traveling all over the fabric without having a a start and stop.  Even though I only made a small section of the design, I want it to look like I designed something bigger and disguise the edges of the repeating element.

Check and adjust your lines.

With this design, one way to make it look seamless is to make sure that any line that extends off the edge of the drawing, joins up with the design again.  In orange I circled two lines, which go off the edge at the top of the repeat, and then show up again at the bottom.  When I make this tile repeat and put two identical tiles next to each other, those lines will match up and look like they are one continuous line.  I should also say, you don’t have to always work in a repeat, in fact I don’t make repeats very often, but for this particular project I just needed some yardage and not a specific shape.  So a repeat was the easy way to go.  Make sense?

Try the Pattern Tool.

Illustrator also has a Pattern Tool which you can use to get a preview of what that repeating element will look like.  Select all of the elements in your design and then go to Object -> Pattern -> Make.

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 10.09.17 AM


repeattoolThe pattern tool has lots of options for the kind of repeat style and the spacing, which you can play with.  I am using the tool in this screenshot to just show me what it looks like if I were to see 3×3 tiles.  And I can see when I have everything repeated that there are a couple of edits that I would make.

What do I look for?  Think about how your eye travels around the design.  My eye keeps going to and stopping at two arrowheads that are lined up side by side.  I think I need to move one of those around and break that up.  I also look for negative space – is there somewhere that is blank or has a gap that looks out of place?  Then look for things that are unique – there is only one line that stops (it’s between those 2 parallel arrowheads).  That might be a quirk that I want to leave in, or it might be distracting.

So my next step is to make all of those adjustments and then save this tile.

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 10.08.21 AM

I am going to save it as a .jpg and check the box that says “Use Artboards” which will crop it to fit the tile (in case I have anything that hangs over the edge.)

In Part Three, we move to Photoshop to add color and texture to the design.

Tutorial: Seamless Arrows Print – Part One

It’s a busy week for me with The Spoonflower Handbook coming out on Tuesday and the opening reception for my grant project on Thursday, so I thought I would combine the two and give you something fun:  a fabric design tutorial based on one of the prints from my grant project.

The third project for my grant was a dress also created in duet with another artist.  For that design, she created a layered photo image and sent it to me.  I created a coordinating print and the two were combined in the final piece.  The photo she created had lots of organic shapes, transparent layers and abstract imagery, so I decided to create some contrast by making a print that was the opposite of that: geometric & somewhat representational.

Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 11.26.11 AM

The inspiration for this design is actually a software engineering tool that helps designers collaborate by tracking the different versions of the code and where things merge and branch off.  I saw this graphic representation of that over my husband’s shoulder while he was working and I loved both the look and the metaphor.

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 10.45.42 AM

I decided to make arrowheads instead of dots and to use a layer from the photo to choose the colors in my design (which I will show you more about later.)

Creating the Arrowhead Design

Open a new file in Adobe Illustrator.

For this tutorial I did just a small repeat so it was easy for you to follow along.  (My finished design was about 18 inches square.)

I turned on two options in Illustrator that really make this design easy to do: Show Grid and Snap to Grid.  You can find both of those in the View menu.  You can adjust the spacing of your grid lines under Illustrator -> Preferences -> Guides & Grid.

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 10.52.02 AM


Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 10.53.39 AM


Draw with the Pen Tool & adjust lines.

I drew all of the lines in the design using the Pen Tool.  (If you need help, there’s a great tutorial here for drawing straight lines with the Pen Tool.)  The grid will help you see where to place lines and the Snap to Grid option will make them stick to the intersections of the grid – making it really easy to make straight lines that are very precisely spaced based on your grid spacing.

Once I had a line in place, I selected it and went to the Stroke Palette to adjust the look of the line.  I made the line weight heavier at 6 pt and added an arrowhead at the end by choosing one from the dropdown.

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 9.59.28 AM

Add extra arrowheads with the Polygon Tool.

I did all of my drawing in black and white because I am going to add the color in a later step. Once I had all of the lines in place, I wanted to add some extra arrowheads, not just at the end of the lines.  To do that, I used the Polygon Tool (which is one of the options under the Rectangle Tool).  I chose a 3 sided shape with a .5 inch radius, which matched the arrowheads pretty perfectly.  I adjusted the fill to be black and the outline transparent.


Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 10.04.02 AM

Adjust the fill and outline in the bottom of the tools palette. It’s the two overlapping squares.

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 10.05.26 AM


In part two of this tutorial, I will talk about how to make sure that this design is seamless and check for a balanced repeat.


Jerome Grant Projects: Duet #2

My second project for my Jerome Grant is all about the story.  My partner Dawn and I have been friends since the 7th grade.  Dawn is now a professor, teaching art at a community college.  She isn’t a digital or fabric person at all; she gravitates towards printmaking and book arts.  I thought it would be fun to go “offline” with Dawn and write a series of postcards to one another.  I bought several packages of blank cards and a bunch of stamps and we mailed our conversation back and forth with one side of the card for words and one side for a sketch of something. She block printed, I water colored with tea and we talked about art.  Why do I hate working with the color red?  Do you have a “go to” doodle that you always draw when you don’t know what to draw?

Dawn really inspired me to do something hands on and get away from the computer a little bit.  So I started a series of designs based on cut paper collages made from found paper and junk mail.  I now have about 6 designs based on that idea and I am really loving that whole set of work.  We talked a little at the beginning of the project about making a garment that told a story. Could a dress be a book?

dots 2


This design is the base I started from.  Two sizes of circle punches and a stack of catalogs and envelopes.  I made 4 like this that became the final fabric design.  They alternate between bright colors with no text and grey/black/white with text on them.  I wanted to incorporate text into the design to refer to that book idea, but I didn’t want it to be a literal story that you would read.  So I used text as a design element throughout.

What kind of a story would a dress tell you?  It would have to be a “choose your own adventure”, where something you would do would be like turning the pages of the story.  So I created a text design from a torn up choose your own adventure book from the thrift store.  More text, but used in a textural way.  That is what makes the texture on the hem of the dress, which is shown here.  This is a screenshot of the actual dress panels as I was working on them.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 12.23.23 PM


The origami butterflies came next.  I had made some fabric butterflies as a way of using up some pretty scraps for a show early in the spring.  And I loved that this design was evolving entirely from paper, so I made two kinds of butterflies.  These above were folded from origami paper and photographed to be layered into the design. And then I made 3-D fabric origami butterflies that embellish the dress.  (I have an affinity for origami butterflies.  My engagement ring was an origami butterfly folded from shiny silver paper.)

Finally I wanted to get our postcards incorporated into the design, so I scanned the text from several and created a final text design that is our handwriting with a color gradient over top.

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 4.31.11 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-26 at 4.31.48 PM

This design was printed on 2 yards of silk crepe to make a “scarf”.

Where does the “choose your own adventure” come in?  The dress is designed to be rearranged by the wearer.  Like a magnetic nametag, the fabric butterflies have neodymium magnets stitched to the back and another stitched to a felt backing.  The magnets let you put butterflies anywhere you like.  Up over the shoulder, all along the hem.  They also hold the scarf piece in place, so you can add a cowl back or an extra strap or a hood or a piece draped grecian style.

This one is called “Choose Your Own Adventure”.  (And I will post finished photos also after the show has opened.)