Classes On the Road: Handweavers Guild of America Conference 2016

11zfixitIf you are in the neighborhood of Milwaukee, WI, I will be there a LOT this year.  Coming up in August is the Handweaver’s Guild of America conference, Convergence.  It seems like it’s a little early to talk about this one, but I know that attending a big conference like this takes some planning ahead. I have never been to the HGA conference before, but I have heard stories from many of the weavers I know.  I am looking forward to being a part of it!

What am I teaching?

Thursday August 4 is a “super-seminar” called Marketing Yourself Online.  In this session, I do a roundup of all of the popular social media platforms and talk about how you can make them work for you as an artist.  Whether your social media goal is to sell your work or get gallery exposure, there are platforms that are going to help you with that better than others. Basically my goal is to help you compare and contrast and get the start of a social media plan that will help you narrow down your options (because we all know you can’t do everything!) and start a plan.

In the afternoon on Thursday, I do another super-seminar called Photo Basics.  In this session, I am not going to teach you how to take photos but rather how to work with the ones you have.  Every call for entry or online submission, has very specific specifications that they want your photos to follow.  300dpi at 5×7, sRGB, <3MB.  If all of that looks like gibberish to you then THIS is the session to decode that!  We will talk about simple edits, cropping, resizing and most importantly how to set up the photos so you don’t get disqualified for not following instructions.

Friday morning is a seminar of Intro to Digital Fabric Design.  This is a quick and dirty intro to everything you need to know to get started designing and printing your own fabric.  See lots of samples and ideas and participate in a collaborative fabric design in class.

spotheal1Friday afternoon is Photo Boot Camp.  This one gives you strategies for taking better photos.  We will talk in depth about lighting, equipment (both professional and DIY), and quick edits that can make all the difference.  We will also practice looking at shots and diagnosing what to do to make it better.

Saturday is my favorite of the sessions.  It’s an all day class about Designing & Printing your Own Fabric.  It will cover the basics just like we do in the seminar, but this class lets you work hands-on all day.  We will complete several small design projects throughout the day to give you ideas and techniques you can use to create your own designs and coordinating prints.


I Spy Utility Boxes Project: Collecting

everydayWhen last I posted about the utility box wraps project I am working on, I was on my way to the meeting of the neighborhood advisory group for their approval on my designs.  They loved them! (Thank goodness!)  So I can share a little more about them now that we have made it past that step.

I spent several afternoons walking around the neighborhood taking photos of things in the neighborhood: manhole covers, address numbers, bricks, peeling paint, leaves and plants.  Then I spent a couple of afternoons at home photographing everyday objects.  My idea for this project is that the designs on those utility boxes should be made up of things you might see every day and not notice them.  They might be things you have in your house or business.  They might be things laying on the sidewalk.


I also looked for texture, like peeling paint and weathered styrofoam, that I could layer on top of designs.  I really like to work in layers.  And these are some textures from some pretty definitive buildings in the neighborhood: Pratt School, Tierney Bros, the Witch’s Hat Tower, Cupcake.  So I wanted to include those as well.  I had about 450 photos collected when I got done.

Once I had collected all of these images, I started to make designs.  These were the first two I came up with.

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The first is made from leaves that I picked up and scanned in patterns, combined with all of the circular objects I had in my photos: wheels, flowers, latte, outlets, yarn, masking tape. The second is a photo of a pink rose with a honeybee.  These roses are iconic to me as they grow all over the neighborhood in road medians and they are always full of bees in the summer and fall.  I love these patterns, but then I imagined them covering a 4×5 ft box and I thought….  snore.  It’s interesting, but it’s not enough to draw people in.  It looks like a quilt.  Which is beautiful, but not exactly exciting. And it seems cliche. I am usually a fabric artist and what do I design when I get a chance to do something a little unusual? A quilt.  Argh.  It just wasn’t working for me. It was definitely a love-hate relationship that struggled with for days until I had an idea.  But that idea is a story for another post.


Upcoming Classes: Artist Development in March!

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I have three different artist development classes coming up in March: Etsy Behind the Scenes, Marketing Yourself Online and Photo Basics.

Etsy Behind the Scenes (March 1) takes you on a tour of my Etsy shop.  I show you what it’s like to run a shop from behind the scenes and how to use all of the special tools and features built in to Etsy.  It is a fast paced class, but packed with information for beginners or artists on the fence about opening a shop.

Marketing Yourself  (March 7) is a compare and contrast of more than six different social media sites and how you can make the most of them as an artist.  I will help you decide which ones really can be used to meet your goals as an artist whether it’s making sales, educating, connecting or reaching a broader audience.

Photo Basics (March 28) isn’t about taking photos, it’s about what to do with them once you have them. It seems like every place you need to upload or submit a photo needs to have it in some special size and format.  This class shows you how to make your photos work for all of them by cropping, resizing, converting and understanding what the specs are asking for.

I hope to see YOU there.  And in case you are curious, that mandala design up above is something I am working on for a class proposal.  You’ll see it again.

Digital Fabric Tutorial: Taking your design up a notch

I posted a tutorial last week to make your own Valentines hearts design.  Today I want to talk about how you can take this basic design and make it better.  In the original design tutorial, I cut and scanned 6 hearts and created a repeating pattern from that little motif, which I have outlined in blue below so it is easy to spot.  Those 6 hearts repeat over and over to make the pattern.
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If you step back and look at this design, it works, but the purple hearts form a grid-like pattern that is pretty obvious.  Your eye is drawn to that regular pattern; it gets kind of stuck and doesn’t move around the whole design. There is maybe even an illusion that the purple dominates the design a little bit.

One technique you can try to make your repeat tile have better flow and seem more dynamic is to make it bigger.  For example for the repeat below, instead of 6 hearts, I made a larger canvas and copy/pasted the same hearts so I had 24 hearts instead of 6.  I also added 4 more colors to my palette, taking the total from 6 to 10.  I used the same method to paint and overlay the texture.

Can you find the repeat tile now?  I think it’s much harder to do.  There’s more variation with colors and more distance between two elements of the same color.  I repeated some of the colors, so they form a less grid-like pattern.

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Here are the two designs side by side, first showing the repeating tile and then the designs on their own.

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Starting with 48 hearts would add even more variation to the design.  I could also try varying the hearts themselves a little bit.  That could be as simple as flipping a few of them horizontally or even by cutting a few more hearts at the beginning of the design before I scanned.  I could also choose to have it repeat using a half-drop or half-brick pattern which would shift the tiles and add a little more variability. (You do have to plan ahead for half-drop/brick to make sure that your pattern matches up when shifted 1/2 tile.)

I often work this way when I am doing a repeat.  Start first with the small version and get it close to the design look and colors I want.  Then I increase my canvas size, put four copies of the design on the canvas and start to create variations.  Sometimes I repeat that process one or two more times until I have a repeating pattern that I like.  I check it often to see what it looks like when it is repeating and to see what stands out.

A Vacation: St Augustine FL


When you live in Minnesota, sometimes you need to take a break from winter and go south.  We just spent a week in St Augustine, FL with my parents and it was a lovely getaway.  St Augustine is the oldest settlement in the US, with lots of sandy beaches and interesting things to go and do.  It wasn’t what I would call balmy on our trip.  The weather was cool and windy, but still warmer than what we left back home.  No complaints.

IMG_5215We spent a day at the Castillo de San Marcos fort.  The view from the top was beautiful. We eavesdropped on the tour guide who was in charge of a huge group of 4th graders. (She was really great.) My favorite part there was the bright turquoise verdigris on all of the cannons.

We visited the Alligator Farm and the Pirate Museum.  Both are awesome even though they sound like they will be totally cheesy.  The quirky Lightner Museum was also a highlight.  We were there for the mechanical musical instruments demonstration.  They are known for housing a collection of collections. What other museum do you know about that has a collection of banana stickers, antique buttons, mechanical musical instruments, shaving mugs and 23 varieties of glass salt shakers?


We walked all the way to the top of the St Augustine Lighthouse. 14 stories high! We ate fresh fish (the boys went fishing), gelato, minorcan seafood chowder and local chocolate.



We drove up to Jacksonville to see the zoo one day.  Some zoos are depressing and the animals look sad.  This one is beautiful and big and open.  We chatted with a zookeeper who was feeding the small-clawed otters (who like shrimp better than smelt) and the nice train operator held the train for us when we scrambled to get tickets that we didn’t know we needed. It was bright and sunny that day and all of the animals were out basking in the sun.


We walked on the beach and picked up shells.  We even got takeout pizza and let my husband watch the SuperBowl (he’s the only football fan).  It was a nice break to recharge and relax.


Digital Design Tutorial: Painted Valentine’s Hearts Repeat

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 1.06.19 PMUsually I write tutorials with fabric in mind, and although this would make very cute fabric, I have an idea for something a little different with this one.

Making the Hearts

To start this design, I cut the hearts out of black paper, taped them on a white background and scanned them.  I set the scanner to capture 300 dpi, because I hadn’t yet decided what size to make them and that gives me some flexibility.  I like the wonky quality of handcut hearts vs something I drew digitally, so that’s why I did it this way.

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I opened the scan in Photoshop and adjusted the contrast a little bit to make sure the hearts were crisp and black.  Then I selected the white background with the Magic Wand tool and deleted it, so that my hearts were on a layer all by themselves and I could add in a separate white background layer.

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Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 12.02.12 PMNext I colored the hearts using the Paint Bucket tool.  I chose pinks, purples, red and gold for my design.  Choose the Paint Bucket tool, choose a color from the palette and then click on each of the hearts to paint it.

Adding the Paint Texture

You could actually stop here and this would be a good design all on its own, but I wanted to add something special to this design: a watercolor paint texture.

I created my own paint texture as a separate file.  I painted with watery black craft paint on a piece of watercolor paper, let it dry and scanned it.  I built up several layers of the same scanned paint and created a seamless paint texture.  (You wouldn’t necessarily need to make a seamless texture for this project, but I wanted to reuse this paint later, so it was worth that little bit of extra effort.)


Then I turned this painted texture into something I can use as a Layer Overlay.  To do that, I select the whole image and then choose from the menus: Edit -> Define Pattern.

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Now switch back to the file with the hearts design.  Select the hearts layer, then choose Layer -> Layer Style -> Pattern Overlay from the menu and it will bring up a dialog box with some settings you can adjust.


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You can choose the pattern by clicking the tiny arrow to the right of the pattern swatch box and it will bring up a palette of patterns, including that paint texture you just defined.  I adjusted the opacity and made my pattern partly transparent because I wanted the colors to show through.  You can also adjust the scale of the pattern.  When you click OK, you will see the new pattern overlay, which I think looks pretty cool.

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Options for finishing

  1. You could stop right here, save and have a repeat ready to upload to Spoonflower to make fabric or wrapping paper.  You might want to check the crop (to make sure you have even spacing around the outside of the hearts) and remember that we scanned at higher resolution than we needed, so think about the finished size you would like and adjust the size of this file.  (For example, I chose Image ->Image Size and resized this to 4 inches wide at 150 dpi, so I know exactly the size it will print when I upload it.)
  2. Make wallpaper for your iPad!  I thought it would be fun to make a pattern that I could upload to my iPad and use as a wallpaper background pattern.


To make an image to fit your iPad, you want a larger image that is filled with several repeats. First I selected my single repeat of the hearts design and chose Edit -> Define Pattern from the menu.  This is another way to use that same tool we used to create the paint texture.

Now create a new file that is about 2000 pixels on a side.  Select the whole canvas and choose Edit -> Fill.  The Fill dialog box will pop up.  Choose Pattern from the top menu dropdown and the same pattern selection box will pop up, click the tiny down arrow and your new heart repeat will be one of the options.

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Save your new file.  There are several ways to get this image to your iPad.  Email it to yourself and then save the image to your camera roll out of the email.  If you have a Mac, you can use AirDrop.  If you have another kind of tablet, just use whatever method you use to transfer other files to your device (ie sync).