4 October, 2019

Designing Fabric Workshop with the Museum of Russian Art

2019-12-18T11:40:02-06:00Gallery Exhibitions, Spoonflower & Fabric Design, Videos|Comments Off on Designing Fabric Workshop with the Museum of Russian Art

These are fabrics designed by students in my workshops at the Museum of Russian Art this week. I added a few detail photos from the work in the exhibition so you can see some of the shapes and colors that were our inspiration. I’ll be making an installation of origami dresses from these designs to display at TMORA along with with the exhibition so that people can see modern fabric interpretations of traditional designs. The students in my classes at TMORA were so much fun and I can’t wait to see all of these fabrics in person.

8 April, 2019

Thank you American Craft Council Show

2019-04-08T19:13:47-05:00Gallery Exhibitions, Out & About, Videos|Comments Off on Thank you American Craft Council Show

I hope that a few of you are visiting because you saw me or my work at the American Craft Council show and you wanted to know more! Thanks so much to everyone who attended: friends, visitors, return customers, colleagues, students, and people who darted-in-grabbed-my-card-and-moved-on-down-the-aisle.

I will have my Etsy shop updated in the next couple of days with all of the things you saw on display in the booth. I did a live video tour of the space; if you missed it on Facebook, here’s an encore (click Read More>>).

28 December, 2018

A Year in Review: My 2018 Design Challenge Entries

2018-12-28T18:32:04-06:00Gallery Exhibitions, Spoonflower & Fabric Design|1 Comment

I’ve never really participated in posting “something-a-day” challenges. The commitment of having to do something every single day just isn’t appealing to me I have discovered, especially when it comes to something creative. There’s not enough time to think about it and let it percolate, and it ends up just being a “do something quick so I can have it done”. So when I decided that I would participate in the weekly Spoonflower design challenge, I wasn’t sure I would stick with it. So I didn’t set a goal or make an announcement that I was going to participate. But I did. Every single week.

Wow. That’s a cool thing to have accomplished this year.

I mocked up a swatch of each design and made this slide show. (Note: If you are on the home page, you have to click the “read more” button on the this post for it to show you the video.) In parentheses you can see the design challenge theme for the week and at the very end, I made a collage of the top ten by number of “favorites” and my personal top 10 rankings in the overall pool of entries.

My highest finish was “Brine and Barnacles” at number 22 of 576 entries. (That’s the humpback whales design you see up above in the header to this post.) I didn’t manage to crack the top 10, but I would like to! The design challenge that week was a limited color palette, which I really didn’t like: Navy, orchid pink, maroon and white and/or black. I love navy, but the other two colors were not in my personal favorite palette. So I was feeling unsure about this design (because it was really navy and white with a tiny bit of the others). It was a delightful surprise to see how well it placed.

My lowest ranking design was the one for the Kilim challenge. If you don’t know, a kilim is a kind of rug. I thought my kilim stegosaurus were pretty cute, but I don’t think it came across very well in the challenge voting. (You can also see them in the header of this post.)

What did I love?

Having a weekly challenge was fun. I always had one to think about and I could take the time to think about it. Spoonflower announces them about a month ahead of time, so sometimes I would work ahead. Most of July’s entries I did in one long afternoon.

I loved that I hated some of the challenge themes. “Gender Neutral Nursery Wallpaper” was super boring to me. The color palette for “Holiday Elegance” was awful (eggplant, burgundy, mint green). I wasn’t super excited about tacos or sloths. But I came up with something for every one of them. And it felt good to take something that was not inspiring me at all and to find a way to deal with it.

I’ve designed some things I am really proud of. Some because I just love the design (Leafy Sea Dragons). Some because they were really HARD to figure out the technical part of the repeats (Through the Emerald Forest). Some because they have been great sellers (Chasing the Sheep).

What did I not love?

There is a style that always makes the top 10 in the design challenges and I just am not in love with it. It’s not my aesthetic. But it is very popular and I totally can see why it is. So I had to keep reminding myself that I was designing things that made me feel good and that felt like they were true to my style, not things that were popular. The top 10 is about popular designs. And I don’t design to that popular aesthetic. It’s easy to feel discouraged when there is a “contest” involved and scores published. I think I could totally make my designs match that popular aesthetic and maybe boost my rankings, but do I really want to do that? Not really.

One of the quirky things I learned is that the scale that I would actually make a fabric design at and the scale that shows up in the design challenge voting are very different things. The piece of the design that voters get to look at is only about the size of business card on a computer screen, so if you make your repeat too small, it gets lost. I started designing things at much larger scale than I really would ever want them printed, just so they would make a great impression in the contest preview and then I scale them down to a more realistic size for actually making something after the contest is over. Not the most efficient process, but I think it shows off my designs more effectively.

What surprised me?

My pineapple salsa entry for the “Recipe Tea Towel” challenge was a total surprise for me. Honestly, I felt like I phoned it in on that design. I didn’t have an inspiration that was really calling to me. I had a busy and kind of stressed out week that week it was due. So I designed the whole thing at very nightowlish hours in about 45 minutes. It was a very quick cut paper design, scanned and assembled, and a recipe I knew off the top of my head. Instead of doing something clever with repeats, I just made one large pineapple to fill one whole side of the tea towel. It ended up being my number 6 finisher and is in the top 10 of my “most favorited” designs for all time at Spoonflower. Who knew?

I also was really surprised at the huge jump in sales/favorites/views/comments that happened because I was participating in the contests. That was an unexpected and much appreciated outcome. I more than doubled the commissions I made this year and I think it was directly traceable to the fact that I was consistently posting new designs every week. I LOVE the comments from people and I have connected with some other great designers and have had some great conversations in comments on IG and FB.

In a year (because of other reasons) that I had not a lot of other content to post to my social media channels, I always had a design challenge design to talk about. It maybe wasn’t the most varied content for my friends/fans/followers, but it was consistent. And I think sometimes that is a bigger challenge. It kept me from getting in to the cycle of not posting and then apologizing for not posting. Because every week I had something to post. Some weeks I could even turn it in to several different posts: I designed two circles designs and couldn’t choose between them or I asked for suggestions for some of the color limited designs.

Will I do it again next year?

I am pretty sure I will. The whole thing just had so many positives for me that I can’t see any reason I wouldn’t want to continue. I have participated off and on in the design challenges for many years, but never in any consistent way. That is fun, but I think the ongoing nature of doing it every week is really a bigger creative kick for me than entering a contest once in a while to see if I can “win”. I’d still love to make the top 10 sometime. A mosaic design I did in 2017 finished at number 11 in that contest. So I think I can get there.

Want to study them some more?

I put all of my 2018 challenge designs in a collection at Spoonflower so you can see them without the video slideshow if you want a little more time to explore or zoom in. I made most of them for sale. I have a few that I think need more work because I didn’t like the proof or something about the print needs a fix, but they are all there to view.

You can also explore all of the design challenge themes and see all of the top ten finishers on Spoonflower’s Design Challenge Page. If you are dreaming about designing fabric, I can’t encourage you enough to jump in and participate. I tell my students that the best way to get better is to DO IT. (It’s just like exercising, you have to do it and not just think about it if you want to see a result.) And finishing a design once a week is a great way to make sure you are doing it. You don’t have to submit it and participate in the contest part, but if you post it on FB or IG and tag me, I will check it out and leave you a comment.

26 November, 2018

No Bah-Humbugs here.

2018-11-26T11:00:46-06:00An Artist's Life, Gallery Exhibitions|Comments Off on No Bah-Humbugs here.

One of the most fun partnerships I work on is designing pieces for the Guthrie Theater Store. Last year I did a whole series inspired by Sunday in the Park with George. I have made designs inspired by the Guthrie itself. The photo above shows one of those Guthrie-inspired designs in an ad in the program and one featuring some new designs in another program.

This year they asked me to do designs for their annual production of A Christmas Carol. I know the story, but I hadn’t seen their production, so they sent me photos from last year’s production. Such fun to study all of the details and colors! Several themes or scenes jumped out at me right away:

  • Time is a big element in the story and there are clocks prominent in several of the scenes.
  • In a number of scenes I noticed actors writing with white feather pens.
  • In one scene of people singing carols around a piano I noticed the wine glasses lined up on the piano.
  • Bright streetlamps and a tiny bit of snow.

We decided to go for something that was “seasonal” without being holiday specific, so I chose rich vintage-inspired colors and bigger ideas from the story. All of the designs are made from cut paper illustrations using recycled paper.

I started with a design I called Timeless. It is made up of pocketwatches and watch chains. The colors are all soft twilight shades. The chains are also an echo of the chains on the “Ghost of Christmas Past” from the show. The papers I used for this illustration were primarily colored art paper, but “grunged up” with some alcohol ink spray to give them a more weathered texture. The background of the design is a scanned piece of hand-marbled paper, which is also a visual theme I used throughout.

Next, I designed Quills. Quills refers to the feather quill pens you see throughout the show, but is also a little nod to Charles Dickens, the author. The pens and inkwells are all made from recycled paper from vintage issues of Hennepin History Magazine. Hennepin History Museum last year gave away copies from the 50s-80s that were excess in their collection. I also gave these some texture with alcohol ink spatters and a little wash of paint to obscure the text a little bit. I cut the feathers on the diagonal, so the lines of the text on the pages gave the texture to the feathers. The background of this design is a piece of marbled fabric I made and scanned. I chose marbling because that is very often used as the endpapers in old books and I felt like it was a nice fit with my writing theme.

Mistletoe and Forget-Me-Nots started as just a little zipper bag. But Kay (the shop manager) and I decided that we liked it so well that I went back and reworked it into a repeating pattern at two different scales, so that I could make bow ties and larger zipper bags as well. In the Victorian “language of flowers” mistletoe and forget-me-nots symbolize fond memories and a connection that lasts through time, which are strong themes in the story. This illustration is all cut paper overlaid with snow made from spattered paint.

We also wanted a couple of tea towels because those make great gifts, so I pulled two quotes from A Christmas Carol that I thought were great messages for gifts you might want to give. Singing Carols and Lamplight are the two tea towel designs.

The piano keyboard is all made from more history museum magazines and the pattern from the inside of a security envelope (like the kind you get bank statements in). The wine glasses are made from tracing paper, so they had some translucency. The snow is more paint spatter. The woodgrain on the piano is more marbled paper.

It is really fun and exciting to put together a collection like this based on a theme, especially when you have such a rich story to draw from. All of these designs are available exclusively at the Guthrie Shop for the holiday season, both in the theater shop and in their online shop. The collection includes three sizes of zipper bags (velvet), clutch purses (velvet), neckties and bow ties (twill and crepe), and tea towels (linen-cotton).

4 October, 2018

Faking It.

2018-10-07T22:36:03-05:00An Artist's Life, Gallery Exhibitions, Out & About, Spoonflower & Fabric Design|4 Comments

I was invited to show three pieces in an exhibition called Fiber Art in the Digital Age at the WI Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts. The theme of the show is fiber art that incorporates innovations of the “digital age”. I created three pieces that include digitally printed fabrics and laser cut wood and acrylic. This is the first in a series of posts talking about those pieces.

Faking It
Sometimes a comment about your work sticks with you for years. One of the first digitally printed fabric garments I made was a dress that I wore to an art gallery opening. Two visitors came up to me and struck up a conversation about the dress, asking if the fabric was made using batik. When I explained with excitement that it was actually digitally printed photographs of ice, they looked at me and said “Digitally printed? That’s cheating!”

I have discovered that the relationship between fiber art and computers is often misunderstood. There is an assumption that if you use a computer, that it does all of the work; you just press a key and Photoshop magically creates art. Because I used a computer to create part of my piece these commenters, and several others throughout the years, decided that it wasn’t real art.

So, I decided to make Faking It a celebration of “fake” art made by computers. I started by creating imitation mosaics from recycled magazine paper with images of computers and technology: an iPhone, charging cables and even a vintage floppy disk signed with my initials. I surrounded the mosaic tiles with a border of ransom note style words that all are synonyms for fake: false, swindle, hoax, hokum, spoof, flim flam, bogus and so on. The background is made from tiny strips of paint chips in colors titled “pixel white” and “high speed access”. I scanned all of this paper art and the design was then printed on to polyester faux suede fabric. The button on the coat is a costume jewel made from a recycled circuit board embedded in resin. And finally, the dress and coat were made using a commercial knock-off pattern of a couture designer dress worn by Melania Trump at the 2018 presidential inauguration.

Digitally printed faux suede.

Here are some detail shots of the fabric design. Each one is made from pages of magazines and catalogues. You can see a video about how I made one of the mosaics for this piece in this post.

Many thanks to my friends and fans on Facebook who helped me come up with the “fake” word list that makes one of the borders on this print. I posted something asking for help thinking of alternate words for “fake” and they came up with awesome suggestions.

The button on the coat was made for me by Amanda at Circuit Breaker Labs. This isn’t a super sharp picture of it because I forgot to take detail shots before I shipped this piece off for the exhibition, but check out her Etsy shop to see how cool these are. (She made this one for me as a custom request, usually she offers them as pendants, earrings, keychains and more.) It was the perfect addition to this piece.

A little secret that you can’t tell by looking at this piece. There is actually an extra seam on the back of the jacket because I ran out of fabric. Spoonflower discontinued this faux suede just days after I ordered the fabric for this dress. When I realized that I needed a little more, I went back and they were sold out. Even though I knew it was going to be discontinued soon, I really wanted to use the faux suede in keeping with my fake theme, so this dress really is one of a kind and almost zero waste. I used every scrap I could.

I love this piece. I worked on it for months and I really enjoyed every bit of it. All three of the pieces I made for this exhibition have good stories – things I wanted to talk about, things I had been thinking about and conversations that I wanted to have with people. It felt really good to make pieces that weren’t just about pretty or fun or design challenges, but pieces that were talking about something.

Do you have a comment about your work that has stuck with you? Something that people often misunderstand about what you do? Have you ever been accused of “cheating”? Tell me your stories!

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