snowed in

I have come down to the wire, losing my last excuse to postpone the drudgery of art--putting on hanging sleeves, cutting mats, framing pieces. Next week we hang our show at Fine Line (details later in the week, opening 1/8/10).

But we came home from visiting family for Christmas to around 11 inches of new snow. When we got home, the roads hadn't been plowed. They have been this morning, but still it's on the 'you'd be crazy to get out in this' side of the fence as far as driving. I'll give it another day or two--one of the pluses of working from home.

So while I may be snow dyeing (this stuff is unbelievably lightweight), I'll also be knuckling down and doing the boring bits of art making.

Happy Holidays to all.

That is all.


getting it right

This piece was snow dyed last winter. It seemed to have too much going on with it, so I stamped it with discharge paste. The above picture is how it looked at the end of that post.

But it seemed too busy still, too much a bunch of parts and not enough cohesiveness--an elusive quantity I've come to believe. So, having not much to lose, I threw it in yet another dye bath:

It's getting better. But now I have to decide whether to proceed with a whole cloth piece, or cut it up. And how to deal with these artifacts of the cloth's previous life as a dish towel:

On the one hand, I would like to celebrate this and all the other holes, either making the piece see through, or layering something else behind the hole. But on the other hand, those holes are there because the fabric is weak and strained at those points. Would I be using something that will only deteriorate over time? Or is that time frame so long that it doesn't matter?

Don't know the answer to any of these questions. So the piece hangs on one of my design walls, waiting for its moment to shine.

That is all.


losing it

This is a brand new tea towel I bought at Woodman's grocery (our current favorite store) the other day. It was white when I bought it, for around $3 for a pack of 2. After prewashing, I was hard put to distinguish them from the old ones I have been collecting at rummage sales. They are very slightly sheer, so they can be influenced by the color behind.

Anywho, I threw this in a dye bath I had going the other day. When it was rinsed and dry, I hung it on my design wall. And promptly saw a raven in the mottling, waiting to be enhanced (stitching? paint? pastels?) and turned into another piece for FAC's 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird show. So using my brilliant techniques of working this morning, I took the piece down to work on the enhancing, beginning with ironing the cloth.

And promptly lost all sense of the raven. I know generally where he was, and I think I even know which way the fabric was hanging. But he's gone. If he was ever really there.

I constantly see things in mottled hand dyed fabrics. It's not something I necessarily want to do; it just happens. Sometimes I go with it and use it, other times I ignore it and leave it for the observant viewer to discover on her own. Sometimes using the accident feels like cheating. Sometimes it doesn't.

The towel is back hanging on the design wall, waiting until I see the raven again. I may have to turn it once in a while--come to think of it, I'm not entirely sure whether he was on the right side or the wrong side of the fabric. Oh, well.

Ruhroh. I just previewed this post, and now I'm seeing a grizzly bear cub. I'm doomed.

That is all.


layers on layers

This piece has been kicking around my studio since I did the snow dyeing last winter:

It's an old tea towel, with some holes in it (the black spots). Couldn't quite bring myself to do anything to it, probably because I couldn't think of what to do.

Then I read Cynthia St. Charles' blog about printing and overprinting, and it got me to thinking about trying something similar. But different. Not copying, being inspired by.

I took this stamp (which I carved inspired by a cross section of a hedge apple):

and, using Jacquard Discharge Paste, began stamping it:

I first tried some here and there, but I kept needing more--the funky peach color I was getting was weird when rare, nice when common. The current result is this:

Because of variance in the amount of paste I put on the stamp each time, and also in the amount of heat I applied to the paste, there are at least four levels of discharge in the piece. So I already have some layering going on.

The piece is currently drying (I find it best to wash out the excess paste before proceeding). When it's dry, I may add some more layers via paint--but the decision to be made is whether to use the same stamp, or switch to another. And what color to use.

Right now the piece kind of reminds me of diatoms swimming in a primordial sea. But that's just me.

That is all.


When Series Collide, aka Post #150

I tend to work in a series for several pieces, one leading to the next, with occasional side trips. Sometimes I make a radical leap into another direction, and never look back. Other times I go back where I left off and keep going down the old path.

And sometimes this happens:

Now I was plodding down the path of making some disperse transfer pieces for our Fine Line show in January (details about the opening later). It seemed that what the piece needed was this big blue circle just above center. Suddenly, my new moon series had collided with the disperse one...

Now the problem is that what I call a series isn't necessarily obvious to the dispassionate observer. In my mind, I have several pieces made in the new moon series. The thing is, the only thing they have in common is a large dark circle. Some are small, some are larger. Some are silk, some are linen, some are disperse transfer pieces. So maybe the problem is I'm thinking too linearly--I need to think of my work as more of a web of intersecting threads...

Remember this piece from an entry or two ago?

I realized the other day that I like the backside better:

The difference is subtle, but this version is more painterly or something...more ambiance as it were.

That is all.


happy accidents, taking advantage of

Before I visited the Shedd Aquarium last March, I didn't know that leafy seahorses (or sea dragons) even existed. Of course, since then, I have encountered them in several articles and TV shows. But they are fascinating to watch.

So when I hung the following transfer piece on the wall, I was predisposed to seeing the leafy seahorse in it:

I'll be the first to admit that he doesn't show up well. Yet. With some thread sketching, he will, maybe along with a fuzzier brother farther down the piece.

But doing this brings to mind a conundrum that keeps occupying my brain. Does taking advantage of happy accidents like this make me less of an artist? In other words, am I cheating? Or is it because of my art training and experience that I recognize such things and take advantage of them? I tend to think it's the latter--although I have been known to be so enthralled with a piece of fabric that I am afraid to do anything to it. One such piece hangs framed on my living room wall--I was unable to move on with it for fear of 'ruining' it.

I try to abide with the Doritos principle I expouse here occasionally (use it--I'll make more). But sometimes it's hard. I get a happy accident that I have no real way of repeating, and I'll be timid about using it. I need to work on that.

And sometimes I get good results by acting deliberately to cause those accidents, as here (sorry for the poor picture:

Here I was using up excess dye while playing with screen printing. I knew I was striving for a landscape here, but it came out better than I expected. Never disregard the things you paint casually--the artist within might be guiding your hand.

That is all.


endings and postponements

Part of this process called art is knowing when to stop. It's a hard lesson that I learned doing watercolor--things can be going swimmingly, and then you go back into the painting with just one more stroke, and it's over. In watercolor, there's not much going back. At least in fabric, you can often unstitch and recover--but if you're using paints or dyes, not so much. Time to use the only real solution I ever found in watercolor--cropping down to the best picture you can get out of the paper.

But sometimes, you realize just in time and stop yourself--pull back, set the piece aside so you can think about it, wait for another day. That's what I've done with this piece. Ann and I discussed it on Skype (me making her dizzy by swinging the laptop built-in camera around so she could see all the details), came up with some ideas. The next day I tried one of the ideas, kind of liked it, but in the end decided to fold it up and put it away for awhile. It's just not going in a good direction, and I want to think about how to correct the course before I go to far. I think it may be too late for unsewing--cropping may be the only answer. But I need distance and time to decide that.

Distance and time are the only ways I can objectively critique my art. Too soon, and the amount of work I've put into a piece or the adoration I have for a particular piece of cloth cloud my vision. Or sometimes I've tried so hard and failed that I just hate the piece. Given some time, I usually come back around to it, and often I find a way to make it better. Not always, but often enough.

And sometimes I get it right the first time:

That is all.


I get around!

My work is now being featured on the Jacquard Products gallery, thanks to my work with their discharge paste. I'm quite pleased.

I started discharging with bleach, but found that it was hard to get fabrics that didn't go to orange, and it was difficult to neutralize the fabric after. Discharge paste also works on silk, which bleach destroys.


on not making art....

Life keeps getting in the way of making art. If it's not fighting off a virus, it's raking leaves. If it's not looking for a comforter that actually fits our bed, it's moving furniture from one room to another. If it's not rewriting a website, it's taking photos for said website.

In the meantime, autumn is drawing to a close here in northern Illinois. The above picture is a couple of weeks old; that tree is now bare. Its leaves are chopped up and mulched. DST has ended, it's already dark at 5:30pm.

None of this means I'm not thinking about art, figuring out what I want to do with some pieces I have started. After the first of the year, I have two shows coming up fairly soon; that means time will have to be spent sewing on sleeves and cutting mats.

But somewhere in the midst of all of this, I'll find a way to make some art--it's what I do. I'm an artist.

That is all.


the wait is over

After much postponing, dithering, avoiding, I have launched a new version of my website. I think of it as BJ Parady 2.0.

Right now it's quite simple. No Flash, no music. That's a deliberate decision--I want the site to be about the art, not about how well I can--or cannot--write html. The navigation may be a little cluncky, but you can easily get about in the site.

Except for the front page, I went with a white background--again because of the art. It just looks crisper and better against pure white.

At the moment there are only 16 pieces of art on there--at least 12 of which have never been on my site before. In time, I will be adding more older work. But for now it is simply a portfolio of where I am at this moment in time as an artist.

That is all.


doing the mundane...

Haven't made any art this week. Instead, I've been sitting in front of my laptop, redoing my website. I think of it as version 2.0, a total revamp. Almost from scratch--although I had to go back to the original to jog my memory in regards to html. But I'm back in the swing, should be up in a couple of days--I'll have a big drum roll out here.

I've been rethinking the whole thing--decided I wanted something simpler, more of a portfolio than a catalog of every piece I've ever made. For now it will just have a few of my best pieces. In time, I'll add others.

But it feels good to wipe the slate clean and start anew--maybe it has something to do with the change in seasons. The view out my windows is undergoing its seasonal change--from a completely secluded backyard to one where I can see 13 of my neighbors' houses. This too shall pass.

Everyone talks about spring cleaning. But fall cleaning is a good thing, too.

That is all.


testing, testing

I have now made several panels for a project I have in mind, using the transfer method I've talked about before in this blog. I found a woven polyester that seems to work nicely at JoAnn's; it's not too shiny and has some substance to it.

So the next step would be adding some stitching to the pieces, probably by machine. But before that, I wanted to do a test sample--for once erring on the side of caution. So I did, and here it is:

It's actually a kind of a repeat image for me, I've done the same thing with hand dyed fabric pieced together, and with watercolor on paper. Each one is slightly different, but I do repeat myself.

That's ok, though. The scientist in me knows that it's better to just change one variable at a time in order to truly have meaningful results. The results here are that yes, I can pretty much stitch this as I'm used to, and thus I'm able to predict what the final piece will look like.

If I don't change my mind along the way. This piece, by the way, is for sale for $75, postage paid, unframed. It measures a little under 11x14 inches.

That is all.


disperse away

My work (play) with disperse transfer dyes continues.I've been refining my process, trying to make larger pieces with them by tiling and overlapping images. And making more and more papers:

By the way, turns out this is the perfect use for an old vinyl shower curtain. And I've been using the old sheets I started using in a workshop as table protection; they keep looking better and better.

I'm doing this because I don't know of another way to get this kind of look on fabric:

Or this:

There's depth and interest in the images, the hand of the fabric remains the same, the colors are unmuddied. It's my current favorite technique--until the next one enchants me...

That is all.


Change of Pace

Maybe I'm in an avoidance mode. Avoiding the final big piece of my gall series (final if only because there's only one big piece of the original silk left). But I needed a change of pace.

So back to the transfer dyes I went. One of my goals is to put together enough pieces for a show based only on transfer dyed pieces. To do this, I need more papers--they only make 5-7 prints each on average.

So yesterday I mixed up the thickener--it takes around a day to fully hydrate the powder. This morning I mixed up some dye solutions, and this afternoon I painted papers.

What fun. Not as much fun as doing it with Ann, but fun enough on a dreary cold day. I rolled the dyes on, I brushed them on, I plopped them on with a spoon. The thickener makes them behave kind of like fingerpaint--they move around, hold a line. I got swirls and interesting lines and color blendings. Today I only used yellow, orange, blue, and turquoise. The papers look really promising:

But they need to dry until tomorrow--I've learned the lesson of trying to iron them too soon. Maybe they'll work, maybe they won't. It doesn't matter a lot, because I have enough dye left to play again.

That is all.


repetition with variation

I've taken a lot of watercolor classes over the years--it's where I've gotten most of my 'art' training. One of the multi-day ones covered a lot about the principles of design, principles that I strive to follow in my fiber work.

One is sometimes called variation/alteration. It boils down to repeating a shape, a line, a color throughout the piece--but never in exactly the same way. The size or length varies, the color shifts a bit, the space between the lines varies. All of these tie the work together at the same time they make it more interesting--interesting meaning engaging the viewer for a longer piece of time.

As I mentioned in my last post, I've added some dark lines to a piece I'm currently working on. As I was stitching the last three lines in place, I suddenly discovered that I had mimicked the underlying yellow shapes perfectly--a pattern of 3,1,5,3,3. The lines look different--the yellow ones are fat and short, the dark teal ones are thin and long, so there is variation but there is also repetition. I had done what I was supposed to do unconsciously.

That's a good thing, I think--it means the concepts I have studied have finally started to take root in my brain.

And in other news, I am going to be a part of a show in Decatur, Illinois, in March 2010--details at a later date. Two groups of which I am a part have new stuff on their websites: Fiber Artists Coalition and the Fiber Art Alliance. Check out the group blog of FAC for insights into how fiber artists work. Sometimes I chafe at having to live with group decisions, but all in all it's good to be involved with like minded artists.

That is all.


can't stop stitching....

Now that I've hand quilted the whole piece--all 2 square feet of it or so--I'm finding that it isn't enough. That's right, I need more hand stitching. Most of this decision was made for composition reasons, redirecting the way the viewer's eye travels through the piece, repeating some lines, increasing the tonal contrast range. I'm couching on a dark thread:

Just through the process of making art over and over, I have developed some common symbols in my work. These lines, sometimes shorter, sometimes horizontal, appear over and over in recent pieces. They come in groups of threes or fives or one, or sevens--always odd numbers--unevenly spaced, with disparate spaces between the sets. I started it as a mimic of writing, conveying a human touch without using actual letters or words. Let the viewer write the story, whatever inspired me colors my work but not another's interpretation.

So when I knew that darker lines were needed here, I knew where to go--having a practiced vocabulary to draw from made the decision easy.

That is all.



I came to fiber art via traditional quilting. Made several bed quilts, including a couple of king sized ones. Hand quilted them all--got that hand stitch down to tiny, even lines. Messed up my carpal tunnels doing it, but I got it the 'correct' way.

When I discovered that free motion machine quilting existed, I embraced it enthusiastically. Never looked back. Of course, at the same time, I also started making pieces for the wall, eventually making art (not that there's anything wrong with craft) work. Didn't look back.

But slowly, more rapidly the last few months, I've been drawn back to hand stitches. Admittedly not the teeny even stitches of yore, but the look of hand stitches on the surface has been appearing more and more in my art.

And now, today, there's this:

Not only hand stitches, but they're actually holding 3 layers together, so technically they're quilting stitches. I tried some machine stitching on this piece, hated it and ripped it out. Tried quilting in a straight line, nope. But these random big stitches (we're talking maybe 2 to an inch) are doing the trick. So I'm coming full circle.

Well, almost. I'm sure the quilt police would disagree, but it is three layers held together by thread. A few years ago, not sure I would have thought I would be hand stitching again. But I have to do what the piece needs--listen to the inner artist and jump in.

That is all.


reinventing the wheel

I've been thinking a lot about sheers lately. Or semi-sheers. And the look of them with light behind them--which means an abandonment of batting, maybe even of more than one layer. Not on every piece, but some.

But the problem with this is the seams. Hiding ravelly edges, mainly. There's always techniques like the flat fell seam, or French seam. I've been looking at pojagi, but most of the pictures are full shots, no details of the actual seams. And many of the people using these techniques seem to want to make the seam not noticeable.

I want to celebrate the seam, have it become part of the art and texture of the piece. So I've been playing around with scraps, seeing what I can do--reinventing the wheel because I can't find instructions on building one myself.

This one involves a sheer between two silk pieces, done on the machine with an overcast stitch and a straight stitch--kind of what I think a French seam is, but since I don't know tailoring, don't really know. It's ok. Gets the job done. Need to work on tension (might have had the wrong needle). But meh.

Here's a couple of views of a hand done piece, front and back:

Hastily done, and fairly irregular. I know I could even out the stitching, go after that perfect hand made stitch that mimics machine stitching and confuses the viewer as to the tool used. But even though some may think it sloppy, or a sign of bad construction, I enjoy the unevenness, the obvious hand of the artist, varying the stich, celebrating the seam.

I think I could do something with this.

That is all.


new gallery

My work has been accepted into the Dempsey Gallery at the Fine Line Creative Arts Center in St. Charles, Illinois.

The gallery changes work three times a year, the pieces I am putting in now will be available for sale until the end of January, 2010.

This is a great art center, with lots of classes--including many fiber oriented ones. I recommend it to anyone in the area.

And they're hosting a two person show with Ann Miller Titus and me in January 2010.

That is all.


it was a very nice moon

I am working on one of the larger pieces in my new series. It mostly is a whole cloth piece at the moment--that is subject to change. And so it occurred to me to try placing a new moon (i.e. one that is dark colored) on it. I cut one out of my scraps from the big dye in the shape of a circle and let it stew for a couple of days. I like the piece better with it than without it--something I learned from some workshop or book in my past--anyway, it's a good gut check.

But how to fasten it to the background? Fusible web seemed the best choice--silk is so slippery, it's better to have some control over it. So I applied the fusing (not mentioning the brand because it is not the fusing's fault, it's mine).

Then I thought of using some discharge paste to create a thin crescent moon--you know how you can see the mass of the moon from the light of the thin fingernail moon? So I would use the Jacquard discharge paste with a paintbrush.

But first I need to stabilize the silk so I could paint that fine line. So I ironed it on to the shiny side of freezer paper and proceeded. Big OOPS. Apparently, and I probably already knew this and forgot it, the fusing and the waxy side form a permanent bond.

I discovered this too late. I tried soaking the paper off:

But no go. It came out pretty good, maybe I can use it in a future multi-media piece. But I'll have to do another one for this piece. Live and learn.

That is all.


absent on leave

I have been absent from my studio for going on two weeks. But for a good reason--vacation. Breaks are good, even for self-employed artists. Renewal of the soul, rest of the weary, that sort of thing.

But my brain, while relaxed, still thought in artistic ways. And some of what I saw will show up in later work. It stews in the back of my brain, waiting for the right time to burst out.

Here's some of what stands out:

One of my goals in life is to see the redwoods. Until I manage that trip, these tall pine trees will do. They were an unexpected sight at Lake Itasca State Park, MN.

This is the Mighty Mississippi River in its infancy--yards from where it tumbles out of its official headwaters, Lake Itasca. I walked across it on a bridge made of a single log. Here it is clear, reedy, slow moving, giving no hint to what is downstream. We crossed it several times in the next few days, and by the time it got to the Twin Cities, finally it was beginning to look like the river I came to know so well in Keokuk.

And it was in Stillwater, MN that I became fascinated with this old building:

Don't know how or when, but like every other experience in my life, these things will show up in my art some day. Until then, I've taken tentative steps back into the studio, and soon will be up to full speed.

That is all.


progress through improvisation

I continue to slog my way through this series of works. It may be counter-intuitive to the non-artist, but not all of art making is fun--some is drudgery, some is frustrating, some is boring. The end result, enjoyable. Some of the process, not so much.

And I constantly have to find ways to work through small issues--issues that loom large at the time, until I remind myself that there are multiple 'right' answers and I need to stop agonizing over them. Like with this piece--I decided early on that I wanted a row of cornstalks, barely visible, across the bottom of this piece. Easy enough to do--practice making them in a continuous stitch so I could do it on the machine, use white thread on top and bottom, stitch away. Done. But then I realized I had no idea how to proceed with the rest of the piece--and once you add batting and a backing, it has to be attached throughout the point. So I did what I usually do. I walked away from it.

After a while, I realized it didn't really matter. As long as I did something, it would be ok. Especially since it would be white on white, and the main focus of the piece is dark green on white. Probably no one but me will notice in the end.

So now I have two large pieces done, two more in progress, and several small pieces done. Here's a long shot (for details you'll have to wait for the whole portfolio debut):

And I've found a new prairie to walk--at the Dick Young Forest Preserve just outside of Batavia. Big skies, lots of prairie plants--including some new to me--and a nice lake which is supposed to host pelicans and sandhill cranes at certain times of the year. Here's a view of the Constable skies we saw last night:

That is all.


transitions and intermediaries

This far into the series, there are plenty of scraps and half-started pieces lying around my studio. Sometimes they inspire me...that, and a glimpse of another quilt somewhere that had lots of white space...and thinking about Rosemary Claus-Gray's use of sheers...all that finally percolated up to a piece still in progress, but here's a glimpse of it:

But the only thing it has in common with the rest of the series is the fabric--maybe the use of lines to symbolize grass, but in looks and feel it is very different from the other pieces. Not that this is a bad thing, but I was trying to make a cohesive series....

So I stewed about this for a couple of days. In the meantime, I took some scraps and plaed with them to develop a small piece--notice I in almost full avoidance mode in regards to quilting the large piece, although progress is being made there--that looks partly like this:

In my logic, the white space--and there is more than shows here--represents the absence of prairies. Anyway, while hand stitching on this piece (Yes, hand stitching. No other way to get the look I want), I realized that it could be a transitional piece between the new sheer one and the previous ones. What I need is missing link pieces.

So I can do that. It will all work out after all. No need to panic. And I have a towel handy.

That is all.


ending the misery

Sometimes you just have to stop. It's the ultimate consequence of the doritos fabric principle--use it, they'll make more--that sometimes you just have to realize that you've dug into a hole so deep there's no way out. And no amount of stenciling or fusing or layering is going to solve the problem.

I realized I was at that point on a piece I'd been having fun with after being away from it for a few days. It. just. didn't. work. The piece I was trying to layer on top ended up looking like what it was--a mask hiding a real problem. So I stepped away from the fabric. Well, first I slashed it once so I wouldn't later weaken and try to work on it again. Since it started out as a large piece, there will be salvageable parts in it. But I needed to move on...

So now I'm working on quilting one of the larger pieces. Except I forgot my plan and fell back into a quilting pattern that works, it just takes a looonnnnggg time to execute. In the end, I'll be glad I did it, but right now I can only work on it a half hour or so at a time. If not for NPR, I wouldn't make it that long. Here's a hint of it:

My circle pattern is morphing somewhat into a cellular wall pattern--I can tell by the fact that some bits don't close up, but instead take advantage of other bits to form a whole.

On another front, I'm close to having tomatoes thanks to this heat. But I had to pick them early to keep the squirrels from claiming them. This is an heirloom variety, and has the weirdest, coolest red color:

It's a red saddened by green--not bright, but it will be interesting to see how they end up. And how they taste.

That is all.


galls continue to grow...

Work continues apace on the series. The second large piece suddenly became quite smaller a couple of days ago when I realized it looked better cropped. This I did test first by folding off the extra, and then I let it rip...the result:

All the puckers are real, the result of using a fusible web to put the gall shapes on the silk--the galls are made of a translucent silk. I think that the next stage, quilting, will flatten the piece down as I can get it to lie flat with my hands. Hope so, anyway.

I also carved a block with a gall design. This is one of the small pieces resulting from that--I put a piece of silk on top of the block and rubbed with a Shiva paintstick:

The gall in front is also fused translucent silk. The quilting flattened it down, which is part of what makes me think the big one will work out, too.

I also tried doing some shiva stripes (rubbings over my stamps again), but I'm not sure that the color is right--it's too contrasty. Still mulling that over, but here's a peek:

So lots of things are perking along, but nothing's getting done. But progress is being made.

That is all.


living on the edges

The first big piece of my new series seems to be done, so I set about trying to figure out how to finish the edges--anything but traditional binding. My first choice would be some recycled silk yarn like this:

But this is red. I looked locally and on the intertubes, but either they didn't have greens or you couldn't choose a color. Then I thought to try dyeing it--knew I couldn't get green starting from red, but hoped for a nice neutral:


I did get a cool paper towel out of the deal--after I thought I had washed out the yarn enough:

Not sure what to do with that. So off I went to a new--to me--yarn store in nearby Geneva, Illinois, called Wool and Company. Way cool store. I came home with these two balls:

which are different in person--the small ball is less orange, and the big one is green. I cut two lengths of the small ball, and one of the green, and the result is this:

Quite nice, and close to what I was hoping for. And I have enough to use on as many of the other pieces as I want. A good finish to be sure.

That is all.