learning, always learning

Far too often, my reach exceeds my grasp. I can picture how I want a piece of cloth to look when I'm finished with it, but can't figure out how to get from here to there. So I find myself exploring new techniques. This time it's deconstructed silk screen printing.

© BJ Parady 2010

The technique has been covered frequently online; I'm using Rayna Gillman's book, Create Your Own Hand-Printed Cloth as a starting point.

The process takes some time outs as you have to let the screen dry before you use it, so I've got them sitting on the drying rack until tomorrow.

© BJ Parady 2010

As usual when learning a process, I can see all kinds of ways to use this--things to try as resists, overprinting other fabrics, etc., etc. Probably I need to get more than two silk screens.

Will this be the technique that solves all my problems? No. Will it solve some of them? Maybe. Does having more techniques in my tool kit open up possibilities or confuse me to point of inaction? I think the former...or maybe I should say I hope it's the former. I can do the inaction thing already.


naming things

This is what the fabric I use to make art usually looks like when I start, a big white blank canvas. A big part of the design process for me is adding color to this cloth.

But when I'm finished, what do I have? What do I call my medium? I vacillate a lot on this issue. Here are some of my options, along with pros and cons for each:

1. Art Quilt
pro: most people can figure out what I mean by that
con: most people will start talking about their dearly departed grandmother, the quilter. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but my pieces are neither for the bed nor traditional in any way.

2. Fiber Art
pro: art made out of fiber--what could be simpler to understand than that?
con: the general public has no idea what that means.

3. Textile Art
pro: at least now it's clear that we're talking about fabric and not basket making.
con: they still don't get it.

4. Textile Paintings
pro: some well known artists (Lisa Call, e.g.) use this term
con: I think it's still kind of ambiguous

5. Art
pro: it's concise
con: could be talking about anything

In the end, if I'm trying to explain my art in the absence of my art, I have to use more than one sentence to get the point across. It helps to have pictures with me at all times...but in practice, I don't always do that. So I work on honing my 'elevator speech', and spread the message as I can. The upside of having to explain my medium in order to help someone understand my art is that frequently they think I invented it all...I tell them I didn't, but if they want to believe it, well, who am I to insist?

my elevator speech:
I make fiber art about the disappearing Midwestern prairie, using white and black fabrics that I dye, paint and discharge, hand and machine stitching, resulting in abstract expressionist wall hangings.

If I can remember it.


If I could turn back time...

© 2010 BJ Parady

Sometimes I make the wrong choice for a piece. In cases like the one above, when the puckery quilting stitch I was doing turned out to confuse the piece rather than improve it, I could easily undo the stitches and return to the previous state of the piece.

© 2010 BJ Parady

A little time and patience, and I'm left with a pile of threads and an unfinished piece, ready for the next mistake--or improvement--never quite sure which it is going to be.

But some changes are permanent.

© 2010 BJ Parady

I had this piece I snow dyed last year. There was a high contrast level in it that I wasn't too pleased about--I'm usually a low-mid contrast kind of artist. So I tried applying some paint. In my defense, it looked good wet.

© 2010 BJ Parady

The loss of white just deadens the piece. The direction I was thinking of going with it has been blocked, must take a detour. Which probably means it will hang on my wall for another month awaiting a revelation from the muse.

Such is life.


attention must be paid

A large part of advancing one's artistic abilities is learning and trying new things. Ideas can come from anywhere, from any medium. Sometimes they come from fellow art quilters.

©2010 BJ Parady

Like this one from Frieda Anderson. I heard her discussing this technique with a couple of people before it sunk in enough that I filed it away in my brain. She marks a line of quilting with a watercolor pencil (sometimes a darker shade than the thread). Then she quilts along it. After that, wet it with a spray bottle and smudge it a little with your finger--if you want. Iron it dry to heat set it.

You end up with a more distinct line that, if the color is carefully chosen, adds more apparent depth to the surface. Cool, huh? She--and I--don't worry about the fastness of the watercolor pencil because our works--like most works of art--will never be washed.

Continuing on the same piece, I wanted some stronger lines on it. I pulled out some silk ribbon I had had for eons, and it needed ironing. Some of it ended up crinkly:

©2010 BJ Parady

After a few choice words wondering why it did that--and confirming that the package did indeed say silk--I realized I actually preferred the crinkles. So, you know where I'm going with this--of course I couldn't make it crinkle consistently.

But I ended up with enough to do what I wanted. Here's a quick shot of the almost finished piece:

©2010 BJ Parady

The morals of the story:
1. Pay attention.
2. Seize the moment.


always learning

I spent the first part of this week at the Siena Center in Racine, WI. I was there for a seminar sponsored by PAQA, and taught by Alyson Stanfield. The subject was marketing, with an emphasis on using social media.

I had expected to spend a good part of my off hours staring at the lake. This is the view I had instead:

©2010 BJ Parady

Oh, well. At least I learned a lot, came out with plans of action, things to do to improve my online presence, avenues to explore. That's a good thing.

Because the thing is, most artists don't want to do the things you have to do to sell art. They--We--want to make art. Anything we can learn to make it easier to market that art is translatable to more time in the studio.

Did you know that most artists are introverts? That doesn't help the situation. In addition to learning all the other business stuff, we have to overcome that.


©2010 BJ Parady

But now, thanks to some focused learning at the seminar, I feel the fog is lifting and I know where I want to go. Keep watching this space.



We had a well attended opening Friday night; downtown Decatur really hops on First Fridays. And the show looks great--Sue Powell did an excellent job of hanging it--and of picking the artists for it.

This picture shows the work of four artists--, Leandra Spangler, David Johnson, Peggy Wyman, and me.

What struck me most as I viewed the show for the first time was how well the work went together--palette, visual language, style. There are five distinct voices at work here, but five voices that are able to communicate with each other.

Here Leandra's vessel relates almost perfectly to the blue slashes in two of my pieces--the free form shape of her vessel (for which she first wove a reed basket, then covered with handmade stamped paper and paint) even echoes the free form slashes I cut out of silk.

Again Leandra's vessel brings out the firey orange in my piece on the right, and Ann's framed pieces on the left. Peggy's pine needle objects echo the color and shape of Leandra's piece. David's kimono shaped tapestry on the left connects to all the pieces.

And here again my piece and Leandra's play off of each other.

Sue chose all of us from the internet, without actually seeing any of our work in person. I think she did a marvelous job of picking five very compatible artists. Thanks, Sue.


Breaking news...

Two news stories of interest to my followers:

1. I have been selected as one of SAQA's Featured Artists of the Month for the month of March. Not sure what it all means, as they're working their way through all the Professional Artist Membership, but maybe new eyes will see my work and like it.

2. Yesterday I delivered my pieces for the show Fibers by 5 at the Madden Arts Center, 125 N Water Street, Decatur, Illinois. The show runs from March 4-30. Gallery hours are M-F 9am-4pm, and Saturday 10am-2pm.

The opening is this Friday night, March 5, from 5-8pm, artists talk at 6:30pm.

The other artists are my friend Ann Miller Titus, David Johnson, Leandra Spangler, and Peggy Wyman. For an article about the show, look here.

So lots of things are happening with my art at the moment. Guess I need to ignore the sunshine and warming temperatures and head for the studio....