Tag Archives: Fabric Design

Take a tour of my Unexpected Art Exhibition

I know that not everyone can make it to Minneapolis to see this exhibition, so I am bringing it to you virtually. I walked through the gallery and took photos of all of the pieces and didactics, so you can walk with me and follow along.

Screaming Hairy Armadillos (or armadillos as the road to inspiration)

There is a lot going on in the world right now that makes some of us want to scream. I get it. But I think we need a little break from that to talk about a different kind of screaming.

Let me introduce you to Amber.

She’s a screaming hairy armadillo from the Smithsonian National Zoo. They tweeted about her last week. And my mom and I both saw it and were curious. Why was she called a “screaming” hairy armadillo? I get the parts about hairy and armadillo, but screaming?

So we Googled it.

And then we got the giggles. My dogs are now in love with Amber’s cousin-in-the-video and come running in the room when I play the sound. I told my mom “I think I need to design something with screaming hairy armadillos on it”. This might be the first fabric I have ever designed inspired by a sound. 🙂

So I thought about that for a couple of days. I have been working non-stop on grant/exhibition projects and I needed a day to goof off and design something fun. And I thought it would also be fun to talk a little about that process.

First I studied a bunch of armadillo photos and thought about how to make that great armor texture they have. Cut paper bits? Something photographic? Lace? Then I saw something pop up in my Facebook feed about making a paint texture with bubble wrap.

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So I grabbed a piece of bubble wrap and some double-sided tape and made myself a roller around an empty soda can. I squirted out some paint on the tin foil, rolled some on the roller and painted some sheets of black card stock.

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Messy, but perfect! Then I started drawing some armadillos. I did a quick pencil sketch and then drew over them with a fine sharpie pen.

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I thought I would just fill in their backs with the paint texture and have them be hand drawn. Turns out that they are perfectly cute little guys, but not very successful as fabric. I played with colors and fills and I just couldn’t get them to balance. The bubble wrap texture was so bold and dark and the lines here too delicate. Bleh. So I walked away for a bit.

Then I tried re-drawing them using layered shapes in Illustrator. That worked a lot better. The big blocks of solid color were much more balanced with the bubble wrap texture. I am kind of in love with them.

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The bubble wrap also got a little tweaking. I changed the transparency of that layer to be about 45% and put it over the same base color of the armadillo (turquoise in this example). The black in the bubble wrap print darkened the color up so that I got a nice related shade and you can still see some of the rainbow colors in the paint.

Then, we all know they are screaming armadillos, so they needed to say something. Only I couldn’t make up my mind what they needed to say, so I actually did two versions of the design: one with blank speech bubbles and one with “just do it” sort of positive messages: read it, think, love, believe, speak up, try, make good art.

I thought it would be fun to have options. Want your armadillos to scream Happy Birthday? or Congrats? Or Happy Retirement? Then you can fill it in with fabric markers, paint, embroidery, or sharpies. A friend sent me a list of “g-rated” swear words yesterday. She remembered that I talked about a collaborative print I did in a class with phrases like “oh piddle” and “son of a biscuit” and I now think it would be super funny to do a version with the armadillos politely swearing up a blue streak. But that’s another day.

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So I started with a blue and green colorway and did two color variations, one with bright earthy colors and another with pinks and purples. The background of the armadillos is a photo of peeling paint from a utility box. Sometimes amazing textures come from weird places. But it goes nicely with the other paint textures. I took the same bubble wrap scan and made a seamless texture out of it too. So you can also get coordinating “polkadots” that match the armadillo armor.

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I named them “Activist Armadillos” and I have uploaded all 16 designs to Spoonflower as fabric or wrapping paper designs. I have ordered swatches of all of the versions and I will post an update when I get them and decide if I need to make any tweaks to the design. I can’t wait to see them.

I think the screaming armadillos would make an awesome tote bag with a lining of armor polkadots. I might have to make that for me.

A Taste of Digital Fabric Design

Have you ever dreamed of being a fabric designer? Online services like Spoonflower.com allow you to digitally print fabric with your own designs, from just a swatch to yards of fabric. Led by co-author of The Spoonflower Handbook, this seminar will give you the basics to get started designing your own fabrics, from how to deal with colors to resolution and file set up. See lots of samples and create a collaborative fabric design in class. No laptops needed, just paper and pencil for notes.

Fabric Design Tutorial: Photo Collage Bonus Mashup

I posted a tutorial just a few days ago showing how to create a “scrapbook style” fabric design from a collection of photos. You can think of this post a variation on that theme. It’s a different way of using the same tutorial.

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In my last artist newsletter, the free download I sent to subscribers was a photo of a sunflower on a transparent background. It went along with the Prospect Park utility boxes project that I did recently; in fact, you can see that sunflower in the cafe scene and on the bicycle headlight on one of the boxes.

Maybe a fabric design with photos of your dogs or friends and family isn’t something you are interested in. What about flowers? This fabric design is a mashup; it uses that sunflower photo (and several other flowers) plus exactly the technique I described in the scrapbook style tutorial to make something totally new. I used the “color cell” option in the Background tool set (paint palette icon) to add the blocks of solid color to this design.

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What other variations on this theme can you come up with?

Fabric Design Tutorial: Create a “Mini Photo Scrapbook” Fabric Design

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 11.48.36 AMI am going to call this tutorial the first in what I hope will be a series of “Suggestion Box Tutorials“.

I got an email from a woman this morning asking for help designing a fabric to make a keepsake zipper bag. She and a collection of friends are meeting up this summer and she wanted a little something to give each of them to commemorate the occasion. She had a great idea for what she wanted the fabric to look like: a collection of photos and little graphics that were all significant to this group of friends. The photos should be scattered like postage stamps on a white background. She even sent me a sketch.

Her question was: did I know of anywhere there was a tutorial that could show her how to do this and how could she make sure that it was just the scale and size she wanted?

Could I think of anything? No. So, this seemed like the perfect tutorial for me to write.

What does your intention tell you about your design?

If you have had the chance to take a class from me, you know that one of my tips for creating really successful fabric designs is to design with intention. The intended use for your fabric can give you so many hints about how you need to set up your design files.

This fabric is intended to be a lining for a small zipper bag. So we know that will use pieces of fabric that are maybe 10-12″ square. If I create a repeating tile that is larger than 12″, I won’t see all of the photos that will be in the design because I will be just cutting out a piece. Maybe that’s ok. Or maybe you want to make sure that each bag has every photo visible. That’s a choice for you to make.

I also know that if my zipper bag is 10-12 inches, I probably need the photos to be pretty small in relation to that so that the scale makes sense. If the photos are each 6 inches, I will only be able to see a couple of them once I cut it out.

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Do the math.

So for this project, I am going to use that information to set up my design file (aka do the math). Why do I need to do that now? Can’t I just do the fun part (designing it) and worry about that math stuff later?

The number one thing I hear from new fabric designers is:

I uploaded my thing to Spoonflower and it was so awesome, but it was totally the wrong size! I thought it would be small but when I uploaded it, it was huge! I don’t know what happened. I was so surprised.

This is the step where you can make it turn out exactly the size you want it to be. It just involves a tiny bit of math.

  1. Decide what size you want your repeat to be. By “repeat” I mean the file that you will upload to Spoonflower. Spoonflower computers will repeat that file it to fill as much fabric as you want to print. Yes, you repeat your repeat. English is weird.

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I decided that for this zipper bag lining, I want my repeat to be 12″ because I want to be able to see the whole thing with all of the little photos when I cut out my lining piece. That’s my design choice. You make your choice.

2. The magic number is 150.

The only thing you need to remember about resolution for this project is 150. Resolution is the number of dots (or pixels) per inch that the file needs in order to print at the size you want. Dots per inch = DPI.

Spoonflower’s printers use a resolution of 150 DPI. That’s why 150 is our magic number. That means if you set your file to 150 DPI, you will get exactly what you expect to get. That’s a rule. 150 uploaded = 150 printed. In otherwords, if I make a file that is 12 inches at 150DPI, I will get a printed design that is 12 inches. No more, no less. So how do I set up the file?

3. Figure out how many pixels that is.

Resolution is the number of pixels per inch. Since we know how many inches we need (12″) and we know how many pixels per inch (150 DPI) we can figure out how many total pixels that is. And we need to know the total number of pixels because that’s the number our graphics program will ask for.

inches x resolution = pixels

12 inches x 150 pixels per inch = 1800 pixels

That means if I want a file that will print exactly 12 inches wide, I need to make a file in my graphics program that is 1800 pixels wide.

Remember that number. 1800 pixels. Write it down on a scrap of paper.

Create a new blank file.

For this design, I am going to use a program called PicMonkey because I think it is the ideal tool for this design. It’s going to make it easy. You can use any program you want to to make your designs, but PicMonkey has some built in tools that I know will work really well for this. That’s why I picked it. It’s a free online graphics software that works right in your web browser. You don’t need to download anything.

Go to PicMonkey.com. At the top of the screen you will see a menu bar.

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Click on the option on the right that says Collage.

Set up the Layout.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 1.22.09 PMThe reason that PicMonkey is such a great tool for this project is because of this collage tool. Look at the left sidebar on your screen for the icon that looks like a grid. If you hover your mouse over it, it will say “Layouts”. Click the Layouts button.

Feel free to explore the options in this panel! These are all of the different ways that PicMonkey can layout a collage for you.

(There are some options that are marked with a crown – those are part of the upgraded “Royale” package that PicMonkey offers, which is an annual fee of $40/year. We will use a free layout option for this project but that $40 per year membership is totally worth it. Note: I don’t get anything from PicMonkey for telling you that; it’s just my personal opinion. I just love PicMonkey.)

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 1.24.22 PMClick on the option called “Square Deal” out of that list and then pick the little icon at the very far right (a grid of 25 squares.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remember when I told you to write down “1800 pixels”. The very next thing you want to do is set this file to be 1800 pixels. Look at the bottom center of the screen and you will see where to type that in. I put in 1800 for both the width and the height, so I will have a 12 x 12 inch square as my file size. (See how easy that was!) Hint, if you click the Lock Icon after you do this, it will keep it at this size while you are doing the next steps and rearranging things.

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Add your photos.

The dotted lines in this layout represent the places I can drop in my photos and graphics to make up this design. But first I need to load them into Picmonkey.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 1.35.43 PMLook back again at the left sidebar. Choose the top icon that looks like a picture of mountains and is labeled “Images”. The very first thing in the panel of thumbnails will be a button (top left) that says “Open Photos”. Click that and it will pop up a window for you to find the files on your hard drive.Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 1.36.58 PM

A hint: It’s super helpful if you collect everything you want to use for this design and put it all together in a folder on your Desktop (or somewhere else handy). Then you can select and upload them all at once instead of needing to hunt and peck all over your computer to find what you need. Load all of the photos you want to use right now. You can click that “Open Photos” button more than once to keep adding photos.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 1.44.14 PMYou will see all of your photos pop up in the thumbnails along the left side of the screen. They don’t have to be photos. Anything in a .jpg format will work, like little graphics or screenshots. Just make sure you have permission to use them.

Now the photos are ready to use. I chose a bunch of photos of my dogs for this example.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fill in the blanks.

You can now click and drag the photos from the left sidebar and drop them in the boxes in the template on the right. If I look back to the sketch my friend made, she has photos scattered all around the design, so I am not going to fill in every box in the template, but I will leave some spaces.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 3.05.41 PMWant to vary the sizes of the boxes a little? You can click and drag to change the size and shape of the rows and columns. Hover with your mouse between a couple of boxes and you will see a double arrow pop up. You can drag with that double arrow to make the columns and rows bigger and smaller.

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Recenter a photos? Hover over a picture and wait for your cursor to change to a 4-pointed arrow. Now you can move the photo around within the box (to recenter it).

Want to add another photo and insert an extra box into the template? Grab a photo from the thumbnails, drag it over to where you want to add it and wait for a blue outlined box to pop up. When you drop the photo it will add a new box where that blue outline was. Now there are two photos in that space.

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Zoom? Click any photo in the collage to see an Edit button (top left) or an “X” (top right). Click the “Edit” button and a menu will pop up that will let you zoom and rotate that photo you have selected. Click the “X” to remove the photo.

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How do you know if the photos you are using are going to work and not look pixellated? Pretty much it is what-you-see-is-what-you-get. I could help you do the math to check that you have enough pixels in each of these photos and so on, but honestly, if it looks blurry, or pixellated, or in any way yucky when you look at it in this step, it’s going to look that way when you print it. It’s pretty simple. Your best bet is: if it looks yucky, choose a different picture. You can’t fix blurry or pixellated.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.