200 posts and I'm out of here...

Well, only out of Blogger. I've been told that it's better to host one's blog on one's own website (mainly by Alyson B. Stanfield). But then Google went and added the 'latest' filter on it's search engine--which if you click it, allows you to look at the latest time your search term has shown up on the web.

This means, in practical terms, that if I keep my blog on blogger, it will show up on the first page or two of results, but my website won't. If, however, I move the blog to the site--and update it just as frequently--the site will show up early in the results.

I don't have a 'follow' button on the new site, but hope to have one soon. It will be changing in appearance over the next few weeks as I learn word press, and tweak it to what I like. I know that some people actually master word press to the point that their whole websites are really WP based...that may take a while in my case.

Anyhow, mosey over to the new BLOG, bookmark it, and look for my fiber notes there.


wordless Wednesday

© 2010 BJ Parady


Learning difficulties...

So I decided to take a couple of classes this summer at Fine Line, both in techniques I thought to use to add texture to my pieces. Lately I've been using a lot of different yarns and threads to stitch with; it seemed that the next logical step was turning those into my own trim pieces.

Let me state that any mistakes or failures to follow are of my own doing; both instructors (Heather Winslow and Michele O'Reilly) did a great and enthusiastic job teaching.

The first class was in card weaving (aka tablet weaving). This ancient method of producing narrow decorative but strong narrow bands involves some dexterity and awareness of things like opening the shed (a weaving term I knew but apparently didn't appreciate enough).

© 2010 BJ Parady

Here's the setup, but not in action. There are 16 cards, four holes each, so four threads each. They are strung following a chart. One end of this mess, I mean setup, is fastened to something solid, like a table leg--something that won't move. The other end is fastened to the weaver's waist. You lean back, turn the cards to open the shed, and throw a shuttle of the weft across. The key words in that sentence were, in my case, 'open the shed.'

© 2010 BJ Parady

If you're trying to discern the decorative pattern in this piece, stop. Towards the end I figured out that my problem was I wasn't being careful enough about the shed--some of the threads that should have been under the weft were above it. With practice, I could get there. I'll probably work on this some more, see what I can do with it.

My shoulders and back were a little sore afterwards; but part of that, I think, is because I was tense from the concentration needed to learn a new skill--proficiency breeds relaxation.

The second class was the next night--no recovery time, but that worked out ok. It was on split ply braiding, a technique developed in India, and brought to artists in the west by Peter Collingwood in the 1990's. It is similar to the way fishermen make nets, but also results in decorative braids.

This one I was better at. I even have a finished piece:

© 2010 BJ Parady

It's an about 6 inches long, twisty doodad. The cords were spun out of hand dyed cotton and tencel fibers by our instructor. They were way cool in themselves.

I caught on to this technique must more quickly. Since the class, I have been exploring other patterns. Michele uses them to trim her art clothes among other things--and the fact that you could dye the cord at the same time you dye the fabric for a piece lends itself well to the work I'm currently doing.

© 2010 BJ Parady

So, am I glad I took the classes. Yes. Will I use the techniques? Probably. The one issue I see with both of them is the cooperation of my body--arthritis in the fingers is impeding on my doing either one for very long at a time. As long as I can remember where I left off (or am able to reconstruct it from staring at the unfinished piece), that is not a deal breaker.

But the main lesson is don't be afraid to try new stuff. I have ideas matriculating in my brain just from seeing the class samples...


wordless Wednesday

© 2010 BJ Parady


stuck in place

I'm stuck. Well, mired down. Mostly over a couple of big pieces I've been working on...

© 2010 BJ Parady

These are parts of the largest piece I've tried to make in a while...it's a piece I have targeted for submission to Quilt National--which is the reason this is all you'll ever see of it (until after I get my rejection that is). I have the vision, just don't know how I want to realize it. I have 3 or 4 ideas in mind, but if one of them really felt like the right one, I'd probably be doing it instead of staring at the pieces on my wall.

And then there's a piece I'm trying to make about the Gulf Oil Spill...it's coming along, and I want it to be political in the sense of depicting the despair I feel about the situation. But. I'm having trouble making the leap between worrying about composition and value and technique to message. Maybe the message isn't resolved enough in my head yet...

So I putter around doing other things. I'm making small pieces to give Etsy another go--mostly 8x10 pieces that will sell for around $100. I had to move a bunch of stuff in my studio to make way for a repairman, then move it back. I weed. I do household chores.

© 2010 BJ Parady

But always, just at the back of my mind, are the nudging prospects for these two pieces--when will I just jump in and finish them however? Maybe the details don't matter as much as I think they do. Maybe this will be the year I get accepted at QN. Maybe.

In the meantime, I need to watch the stink horns grow under my maple tree.


Random small thoughts

Over the last couple of days, I've accumulated some random things that don't merit whole blog posts in and of themselves, so I've lumped them together, well, randomly.

© 2010 BJ Parady

At the spring, 2009 (!) IQF show in Chicago, I bought this bag of stuff. I've pretty much been looking for it ever since. There's a guy here today installing a gas log setup in our fireplace, and I had to move things so he could get to the places he needs to get to. There it was. Notice that the wool roving in back is the palette I'm using now--it's been on my mind, tickling it, for some time.

This is the book I currently reading, Beatrice and Virgil, by Yann Martel. I loved the Life of Pi, and this is starting out to be just as good. I bring it up because he's essentially talking about the making of art. For instance,

"A work of art works because it is true, not because it is real." and
"Those who carry a knife and a pear are never afraid of the dark."

© 2010 BJ Parady

Why would I be so careless as to touch a wet paint surface to a finished piece? I have no answer to that question.

© 2010 BJ Parady

And why do I see the coolest compositions from scraps that have no fusible web on them? No way would I put fusible on all these skinny shapes now...have to figure out another way to do it. Sigh.

So that's my life today. Lots of random things, no time in the studio. But time to catch up on paperwork, which is why I'm writing here instead.


wordless Wednesday

© 2010 BJ Parady


My Quest for Knowledge Continues...

Back in days of yore, when I was a wee one, one of the methods of reproducing a page involved a thermofax machine. Teachers used them to make transparencies or blackened copies. The invention of the plain paper copier was a big advance, if copies are what you want made.

The thermofax has found a new life with artists, though, both of the fiber and of the tattoo variety. We use them to make stencils that can then be printed with--a version of silk screening. So the old machines (nobody makes them any more) have become rare and expensive. Not necessarily something an individual like moi wants to own. I'd rather use someone else's.

At Jane Dunnewold's workshop last year at the Fine Line Creative Arts Center, this subject came up. One thing led to another, and soon a fund was created for the purpose of buying a thermofax for FL. Several hundred dollars later, and thanks to the aggressive bidding skills of one of the artists' husbands, FL now has a machine in perfect working order. They are offering to make stencils from your images at reasonable prices.

And on Saturday last, Susan Infante (an excellent art cloth and art clothes maker who doesn't have a website) led an introductory workshop. Very fun. I tested the limits of what would and would not work, and came home with a pile of stencils to play with:

© 2010 BJ Parady

Here's some test prints (not necessarily great prints):

© 2010 BJ Parady

And a blurry picture of a print that pushed the limits on detail:

© 2010 BJ Parady

So another notch on the tool box, something else to play with. Progress in being able to grasp what I reach for is being made.


Looking at Roots....

The Morton Arboretum, in Lisle, Illinois--about 10 miles from my house--is hosting a great exhibit this summer called Steelroots. These large steel sculptures are by the the artist Steve Tobin, and are spread throughout the Conifer Collection.

The first one you see when entering the Arboretum is this one:

It was made by digging up an actual tree root system, and casting it, I think, using a lost wax method. Even though as a trained botanist I had knowledge of the size of the roots of large trees (often almost as big as what's above ground), this piece brings that home. And introduces the concept that these natural shapes can be made into art.

Other pieces are made of steel, some colored white:

You can walk under and through the steel roots:

Some are left unfinished to change in the environment:

Morton seems to have a big commitment to art--they hold a lot of art classes, have a lot of shows. Every summer they have some kind of large pieces that relate to the natural world--last year it was huge versions of various types of animal nests.

The walk through and around these sculptures was quite nice--spotting a new piece in the distance, standing under one to look up at the sky. If you're nearby, go. The pieces are there until the end of January 2011--hmmmm, wonder what they'll look like with snow on them...


wordless Wednesday

© 2010 BJ Parady


Wordless Wednesday

© 2010 BJ Parady


I am Grasshopper

because I have much to learn. Sometimes a little sloppiness, a.k.a. unevenness, is ok. Like here:

© 2010 BJ Parady

On this piece, the unevenness looks fine. It adds interest and texture to what will be the background of the finished piece.

But other times the sloppy overcomes the texture, outcompetes for attention. As in:

© 2010 BJ Parady

I know I was in a hurry. The paint may have been too thin. I had been using those makeup wedges to apply the paint to the stamp, but I am out of them and used a brush instead. Did that make a difference? Don't know.

I do know that while I like parts of this piece from a distance, up close it has real issues. There are parts I'll be able to use, but it will only be useful if I learn something from it and don't repeat whatever mistakes I made here.

Sometimes the problem is just poor decision making:

© 2010 BJ Parady

Way too much pink. I might be able to save this piece by overstamping. Not sure it's worth the bother, but who knows down the line.

The lesson here? You don't jump from knowing nothing about a process to being an expert without some pit stops along the way. Sometimes I get lucky and can use the 'mistakes', make them look intentional. Sometimes they get put in the drawer of missed opportunities, waiting for a future salvation.


wordless Wednesday

© 2010 BJ Parady



I don't buy a lot of fabric these days--at least commercially printed fabric. I start with white or black fabric, and go from there. So while I maintain a stash of commercial fabrics acquired before I really got into dyeing and painting--just in case someday I need them--I wouldn't spend a lot of time in fabric or quilt stores. Except, they sell thread.

I could dye thread, but so far it seems like too much trouble. Not when there are threads I can buy that do what I want done. Like this one:

© 2010 BJ Parady

It's one of the blendables by Sulky. I love these threads. They come in two weights, 12w and 30w, and unlike some variegated threads, the color changes are gradual and seem to be uneven--you don't end up with stripes. I use them for thread painting and for building satin stitched edges.

But I was having trouble finding them locally, so I went to a store I knew of in Evansville, IN (where I was anyway), SewTech. They sell thread. A lot of thread. And I knew they had the Blendables because that is where I bought this spool, which was nearly empty.

They had other temptations, too. Also by Sulky are these black and nearly black 12w threads--which I want to use for thread painting like this and this by Terry Grant.

© 2010 BJ Parady

I'm really looking forward to trying the nearly black one--I had a treasured dark brown/black thread by Mettler that disappeared from the market that I hope this replaces.

Then there was the stuff on sale:

© 2010 BJ Parady

Note that these are mostly in the same color palette I've been using lately...

Of course the new additions mean that I need more storage as my little drawers are stuffed to the gills:

© 2010 BJ Parady

The moral to all this? Thread has become one of the staple ingredients in my art. I can't--well won't--make or dye it myself, so I need to have it in stock when the muse hits. That's my story, I'm sticking with it.


limiting the palette

For a variety of reasons, some known, some unknown, I've been working with limited colors lately--the main ones being an acidy spring green, an earthy brown, and a purpley magenta. I do know this is inspired by my seasonal magnetic attraction to the sight of blooming redbuds (Cercis canadensis) on brown hillsides where new leaves are just appearing in the tree tops.

So when I started playing with silk screens and such, I limited my palette to these colors. And it turned out to be a good thing.

© 2010 BJ Parady

The first reason is fairly obvious--all the pieces I'm making go together.

But the best reason is that having one decision controlled--color--I seem to be more free to experiment with other things. I know the color is going to work, so I concentrate on getting the composition right.

© 2010 BJ Parady

But then, of course, value comes into the picture--although the acid green I'm using is light, and the browns are darker, so this isn't a big problem.

These colors, near opposites, work together well--to my eye at least--when there's a lot of green and brown and very little magenta. This may well be because of the inspiration from which I'm drawing these pieces, where the flowers are vastly outnumbered by the other elements of the landscapes, but still manage to dominate. The few pieces I've started where the magenta covers most of the space just look too pink to me--maybe a prejudice against pink? Not sure.

© 2010 BJ Parady

I've managed to find a quick way to make 'silk paper' my own way--just laid the silk roving on fusible webbing, ironed it, then cut it to shape.

© 2010 BJ Parady

And this work is producing some interesting pieces--so far all small. I realize this picture is rather keystoned and dark, but I think it has a lot of promise. I'm even thinking of opening back up my Etsy shop to sell these small pieces...

So far I'm not tired of the palette--maybe because I'm simultaneously working on a large, summer colored piece--but maybe because summer is slow to come in Illinois this year. I think I'll continue on this path for a while.


wordless Wednesday

© 2010 BJ Parady


more deconstructing

The playing with/experimenting with/learning deconstructed screen printing continues. To keep things simpler, I'm using just one color of Procion Mx dyes--khaki. That started, I admit, because it was out. But I like it and the way it breaks down.

There were some lousy attempts when I explored what would happen if you just painted the thickened dye on the the back of the screen--rather than screening it through--and letting it dry. The answer? Not good things, in that there was too much goop there and it came off in globs and there was little patterning.

Another thing I have learned is that it is hard to judge what they really look like when you first print pieces--the thickened soda ash can throw you off as to how much dye and texture is there. So you have to wait until they are batched and washed out.

And burlap makes a nice texture to screen into--basically a grid, but an uneven grid, an organic grid. Let's go to the pictures (these are representative of successive pulls on similar screens--IOW, I did two screens the same, hard to tell which print came from which screen):

© 2010 BJ Parady

© 2010 BJ Parady

© 2010 BJ Parady

Pretty cool, huh? I see a lot of potential in these pieces.

These just had scrim scrunched up on the screen:

© 2010 BJ Parady

© 2010 BJ Parady

I'm not sure where all of this leading, but even in the experimental stage I'm getting usable fabric. It's messy, requires some time, but the results are worth it.


Book review for a change

I'm a sucker, I admit, for Amazon's free shipping. The only problem is you have to spend $25 to get it, and sometimes what I need to order isn't that much. So I keep a list of interesting things and when I need to, I order one of them.

Connecting Art to Stitch by Sandra Meech was one such book. I don't remember adding it to my list, but when I needed something, I picked it. And I'm glad I did.

The book contains a lot of kind of standard art exercises--composition, use of line, color--with plenty of examples and suggestions to try. These exercises are useful for a lot of aspiring fiber artists--in my humble opinion, a subject not studied enough.

But this book differs in that a lot of the examples and ideas are geared towards the fiber artist, using the stitch as line. Texture making, emphasizing, filling space, lots of uses for the stitch.

It celebrates the stitch, and proves that fiber art is art, just art with a needle rather than a brush.


Wordless Wednesday

© 2010 BJ Parady


you just never know...

I surprise myself sometimes.

Months ago I carved a stamp:

© 2010 BJ Parady

I think it was inspired by some sketches I made of palm tree bark (or maybe it was insect tracks in the palm tree trunk). Anyway, I remember not being very impressed with the stamp.

But then the other day I picked it up to modify one of the silk screen prints I had made. And I liked the results:

© 2010 BJ Parady

I like it a lot. I think it's organic and yet interesting, varied enough that the repeats aren't obvious. The piece of fabric I stamped was kind of small, so I'm making a box out of it:

© 2010 BJ Parady

Nor sure why I'm into making boxes these days...but I am. In between paperwork and gardening and cleaning, I'm feeding the muse playing with little boxes.


wordless Wednesday

© 2010 BJ Parady


new discovery

I occasionally teach a beginning workshop on silk painting. We use fiber reactive dyes, silk scarves, and Elmer's school glue (the washable kind) as a resist. It's kind of a play date for adults; there are no 'bad' results, and fun is had by all.

Last week when I went to buy the glue for the workshop, I noticed that they are now making washable glue sticks. OK, truth time, turns out that when I got home I discovered I already had one in my glue drawer. Bought it, never used it. But I thought that maybe one could get some cool marks by using it.

I just ran it across the demo scarf, pressing hard in some places, not so hard in others, hoping for a dry brush look. When I painted the dye over the scarf, it looked as if there was some resisting going on, but it was hard to tell. I don't think any of my students ventured to try it.

But they should have. Here is a peek at one result:

© 2010 BJ Parady

I love the way the colors separated out, the white spots, the yellow crackled area. I think I could do something with this. Or you could. I'm sharing the idea because I'd like to see what could be done with it, and I haven't all the time in the world to do everything I think of.


on originalness

© 2010 BJ Parady
A friend of mine gave me an old copy of Beadwork Magazine because I was interested in a technique in it. But I read through the rest of it, too, and discovered that the beading world is wrestling through some of the same issues of copying/ copywrite/ originality that the art quilt world struggles with. The SAQA group list is currently discussing whether or not an award winning quilt is original; the Quilt Art list just got done with its semiannual discussion of copywrite. My universes collide.

I'm not sure that very many would-be artists set out to copy someone else. They do it because they need to follow a template to learn, or they don't think they can do it on their own--having been convinced somewhere in childhood that they're not 'artistic'. And that's ok at the beginning

But I believe that if you're going to grow as an artist, if you're going to find your own voice, you have to be willing to take that step off the cliff and hope that there's a ledge not too far down that will shelter you until you are ready to make the next step.

In addition, once your artistic voice starts to make itself heard, you may not be able to copy anyone anyway--you'll have to add your own touches, change things up here and there. That's why I left traditional quilting, why I started to believe that maybe I could be an artist after all.

My current inspirations are wispy, organic, hard to describe. If you asked me what inspired a certain piece, I could often only speak in generalities--the work I've been doing in the last couple of weeks was inspired by a hillside of blooming redbuds--but you might have a hard time figuring that out from looking at the work on your own.

So if you're just starting in the artistic life, step away from the safe. Try something on your own. It'll be fine, no matter how it turns out--no lives will be lost here. You'll learn something. And you might surprise yourself.


Wordless Wednesday

© 2010 BJ Parady