Public art in Minneapolis. The boxes are here!


My utility boxes have all been installed! Andy and I took a field trip this morning to walk the neighborhood and see what they look like. I am so happy with how they turned out! I have created a whole new page for the project here on my website: I Spy Utility Boxes

IMG_3667I will add more behind-the-scenes posts, photos from the walkthrough and more to that page in the next few weeks. I also wrote a book to accompany this project! You can see the details of that there too.

Here is a press release about the project that went out today.

If you’d like to join us for the walking tour, we will be meeting at the corner of 29th and University Ave at 6:00 pm on Thursday July 14th. We will walk around to see all 3 boxes and then go over to Surly for a drink. I’d love to see you there!


A teacher’s life: My week at Arrowmont School

IMG_3597I just got back from teaching a week-long workshop at the Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts in Gatlinburg TN. Arrowmont is like summer art camp for grownups in all the best and worst ways. Each class is an intensive week. Studios are open 7:30 am – 1:00 am nearly every day. Students and teachers stay in no-frills dorm-like rooms; meals are provided at the dining hall. There are evening slide talks and open studios. Above is a view of the main building as I am walking down from my cabin.

IMG_3530There was a little snafu with a late shuttle and some very bad communication when I first arrived, so my week started off a little rocky, but things smoothed out as the week went on. I was teaching in the textiles studio, which is set up like the most amazing dye lab you can imagine. Only we weren’t doing anything with dyes, because I was teaching a whole week about digital fabric design with Spoonflower. Having this lab full of computers and scanners is not exactly the norm for Arrowmont, but it worked out just fine. We got to try some things in class which I almost never have time to do, so it was fun for me to be able to teach the students some more complex techniques.


Class started right away on Sunday evening and continued through Friday afternoon. There were 9 classes running during the week I was there. I had 6 amazing students in class; class sizes ranged between 3-15 people. Running parallel to us were classes in woodworking, paper, ceramics, mold-making, wire sculpture and mixed media jewelry. We had 37 hours of class time and we packed it full. We talked about color, patterns, making things seamless, effective repeats, scale, texture…

One afternoon we went for a photo walk around campus to collect photos of textures to use in our designs. We focused on work with Photoshop, but also explored a variety of other programs and tools that are really suited to fabric design. We made organic photographic patterns; we made geometric patterns from cut paper; we made faux batiks and digitally painted designs. Spoonflower worked with us to get fabrics shipped out lightning fast, so that we could create some designs on Monday and have the fabrics in our hands on Friday afternoon.

The gallery which was just outside of our classroom featured an exhibition of work by this year’s Arrowmont instructors. You can see my piece (my Wallflower dress) along the wall on the right. Arrowmont’s awesome gallery director came and filmed a little clip of me teaching to add to the interactive (QRcode) part of the gallery exhibition. I will post a little clip of that sometime soon.


Our class worked really well together and I think everyone left totally fired up about designing some of their own fabrics. Below is a few of them goofing around with their freshly printed fat quarters on Friday afternoon. I was so proud of what they accomplished. And they blew me away with how much they learned. One student had me sit down on Friday with her and she talked through a step-by-step plan she had made for how to finish her “final project” design when she got home. She had come up with about 18 steps and knew exactly what to do at each step. SO proud!


If you have ever wondered what this kind of workshop experience is like: intense, exhausting, focused. Part of the appeal is that you can come and have hours to use specialized equipment and facilities. With a digital class though, I had to be a little more on the ball. There were no special tools or equipment we needed to use; we all brought our own laptops. So the special and intense part of this class was having the one-on-one help and hands-on practice with the tools, with me to look over and remind you to check the checkmark or unlock the layer when suddenly something seemed to stop working.

One of the funniest things about Arrowmont is that just a 5 minute walk away is the tourist trap town of Gatlinburg, which is full of t-shirt shops, ice cream, deep fried food and old time photos. (There’s also a Starbucks and a Walgreens, which I found the first night I was there.) Arrowmont feels like a magic bubble in the woods; they really are odd neighbors. There is a really nice aquarium in town, which I visited on Sunday morning since I didn’t have much classroom setup to do. I took a selfie with a shark.


In our discussion about colorways, my class and I decided if you were going to walk down the street and then design a Gatlinburg fabric it would need to include these colors:

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(And if you are designing fabric for anyone under the age of 8, throw in some neon green.) I met some fascinating teachers, I had fantastic students to work with and I had some great conversations with the work-study students that were busy all over campus. Thanks to Arrowmont for a one-of-a-kind experience.

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.