Tag Archives: #spoonflower

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. For those that are local, you can see the show in person at Hennepin History Museum through April 30.

Lots of work.

Argh. It’s great to be busy. I haven’t been able to post as much here as I want to lately. I have all kinds of things planned, but the things with deadlines have been taking the top of the priority list. In the meantime, here’s a little look at one of those things. I got a grant from the MN State Arts Board this year to do an exhibition and series of workshops. With grant funds I was able to purchase a mobile computer lab (aka 6 Chromebooks) so I can teach classes and do activities with people who don’t have laptops. This is awesome. I have started the workshops for the project and I made this video about the recent sessions at the Museum of Russian Art.

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.

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.

New Work: Shadows, Spoonflower & Davie

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Shadows

2016

Digitally printed polyester pique.

I had the photo studio set up for another big project shoot, and I realized that I hadn’t had a chance to talk about this dress that I made this spring. The pattern is a modified version of the Davie dress by Sewaholic. I love the way this one fits and I have made several versions of it. The fabric is Spoonflower’s performance pique.

The design is a combination of cut painted paper and text. The paper design started out like this and I actually used it in a fabric collection of “Fish Market” designs that I have up at Spoonflower.

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I layered two copies of that cut paper together and then cut text from one layer. The text is the closing speech delivered by Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

“If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear…”

Why that text? Because I like it. And Midsummer is my favorite Shakespeare play. I wanted to do a text based design, where it wasn’t something necessarily readable, but text was a design element.

I manipulated the colors, but you can still see all of the texture of the painted papers in the design. The tie is made from a small repeated section of that aqua with black polkadots pattern you see below.

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A little note about the fabric. It’s polyester, and I feel like I spend a lot of time defending things for being polyester. This is awesome polyester. Seriously. Comfy, soft, breathable, unwrinkleable, machine wash, amazing print quality. There’s nothing negative on that list. I understand that there are yucky polyesters. There are also horrific wools, nasty nylons and even some unwearable cottons. So this is a little bit of a soap box and a little bit encouragement to not judge a fabric by its label.

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.