29 November, 2021

On Sondheim: “Anything you do, let it come from you. Then it will be new.”

2021-11-29T21:45:36-06:00Everything Else|1 Comment

You might not know this about me, but I was a theater major for a few years in college. I was a huge highschool theater geek; the queen of the costume shop. I worked for five summers at a summer childrens’ theater and I fell in love with my husband in a truly ridiculous show where I played the Damsel in Distress and he played the giant sea monster that ate me. (It did have a happy ending.) That’s us in the photo above, right in the center.

I never wanted to be an actor; I was a designer. Sadly, I didn’t have the self-confidence I have now and when faced with the larger-than-life personalities in the department, I never found a place where I felt like I was contributing anything other than endlessly washing paintbrushes. So I drifted off and changed my major and found other creative channels.

But it was in my first class as a theater major that I met Stephen Sondheim. I don’t mean that literally of course, but the first thing we studied in “Theater Appreciation” was the musical Sweeney Todd and it was the first Sondheim musical I’d ever seen. I remember that we watched […]

8 November, 2021

New Book: Native Plants of the North Woods

2021-11-08T22:05:54-06:00Book Reports, Everything Else|0 Comments

I started this collection of native plant illustrations in an art residency I did with The Bell Museum, a local natural history museum. My project was to study their herbarium collection of preserved plants native to Minnesota and create art inspired by it. I wrote all about that project here.

When I started to make my plant illustrations I realized there was something missing from the plant specimen sheets. You can see one pictured behind my mask, shown below. The plant’s habitat and person who collected the plant were well-documented by the museum. However, even though I could study the shapes and sizes of the plant from the preserved sample, they all looked dull, flat, and brown; there was very little information about the color or texture. As an artist, those two qualities are very important to me!

I went in search of more reference material. I studied local field guides and resources from non-profit organizations that focused on native plants, like MNWildflowers.org. I looked for shapes, colors and tiny details that make each plant unique. By using these details to craft a more complete picture of each plant, […]

15 July, 2021

Sewing with Spoonflower’s Cotton Lawn

2021-07-15T16:12:37-05:00Everything Else|2 Comments

I was really excited to get a yard of Spoonflower’s new Cotton Lawn to try out. This new fabric is a very finely woven lightweight cotton. It’s very smooth and has a crispness that makes it feel really nice in your hand. I got just a yard of fabric printed in one of my designs and decided to make my favorite tank, which is the Gemma by Made By Rae. I have probably made a dozen of these tanks over the years and if you have ever taken an in-person class from me, you probably have probably seen me wearing one. It’s my go-to teaching outfit.

Usually I make this tank in the poly crepe de chine because it has always been the lightest weight and most drapey of Spoonflower’s fabric options (I am not counting chiffon, which is very transparent and not so appropriate for this kind of garment.) So I thought that lawn would also be a great option, but I have to say that I have mixed feelings about this version in lawn.

Print Quality

The sharpness and color of the printing on the cotton lawn is just outstanding. As I talked about in my earlier review […]

9 June, 2021

Fabric Review: Spoonflower’s Minky, Celosia Velvet and Performance Velvet

2021-06-09T15:02:49-05:00Everything Else, Fabric Reviews, Sewing & Design, Spoonflower & Fabric Design|2 Comments

Spoonflower just introduced their new Performance Velvet fabric and I thought that it was a great time to do a fabric review of the Three Plush Fabrics of Spoonflower. As always with my other reviews of Spoonflower fabrics, I just want to say that these are my own opinions and experiences with these fabrics. I don’t get any kind of promotional, incentive, or other kickbacks; I just like to be able to share some in-depth info with students in my classes and all of you out there trying to get started designing your own fabrics.

Spoonflower has three great fabrics with a napped or plush finish: Minky, Celosia Velvet, and Performance Velvet. You can click through any of those links to see the detailed specs on each of those fabrics.

What they have in common.

All three of the fabrics have several things in common. All three are 100% polyester and 54″ printable width. All three have a plush or napped surface, which vary in pile length from .5mm (celosia) to 2mm (minky). All three are heavier or thicker weight fabrics compared to quilting cotton.

All of the printed designs are technically sharp, because the plush fabrics move around […]

12 May, 2021

When did you learn how to sew?

2021-05-18T10:49:18-05:00Everything Else|2 Comments

I saw a thing going around Instagram recently asking people to tell their stories about when they learned how to sew. Many many of them were stories about how people either learned when they were 11 years old from a family member or they learned during 2020 because it was 2020 and they decided it was time to figure it out. Both answers are pretty awesome.

So I thought about what my story would be and the answer is: I am still learning.

Just this past couple of weeks I was making a new piece for an exhibition I was invited to. It is always completely delightful to be invited to show your work and I wanted to make something new. The opportunities to get my art out there have been pretty scarce this last year because nothing was open, so there just wasn’t much demand. So I haven’t been really making exhibition pieces; I’ve been focused elsewhere.

When I make a piece for an exhibition, I usually start with a story I want to tell. I have had an idea for series of pieces in my head for a while; the story is about having conversations about mental health. As my […]

22 March, 2021

How I take Photos & My Studio Setup

2021-03-22T13:09:33-05:00An Artist's Life, Everything Else, Tutorials|1 Comment

I thought it might be really appropriate to start off with a “How it started; How it’s going” kind of meme to talk about photography. When I first started making my art to sell or to show at gallery exhibitions about 20 years ago, the first and worst stumbling block was getting good photos. I had a camera, but I had no experience in what it took to get great photos of objects and I absolutely couldn’t afford to hire someone to take photos for me. So I needed to learn how to do it myself. This was before Etsy was really around, so there weren’t a bunch of tutorials to help you or recommend photo white boxes that were easy to find. (Wow, I am making myself feel old!) So everything I learned was by trial and error and I mean LOTS of trial and error.

The felted dragon shown up above was one of the first photos of my art that I found when I went digging through my photo archives. This is the photo straight off my camera. You can barely see the little guy because the image is so dark. I thought a plain background […]

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