14 May

Dinner@8 Artists Exhibit 2014


I am happy to finally be able to share this quilt, “Selfie: a portrait of the artist as her stash.” It was made for, and has been accepted into, the Dinner@8 Artist’s 2014 exhibit “Reflection.” The exhibit is an annual one that shows at the Festival of quilts in Houston and is curated by Leslie Jennison and Jamie Fingal.

I began this project not really knowing if it would work. I have several other things in the works that I didn’t want to take time away from unless it was for a good cause, and I just didn’t know if I could pull this off. But, I liked the idea of playing off the popularity of a Selfie as a modern self portrait, and the idea of my peculiar fabric stash being a reflection of myself. I shared a few peeks early in the process on Facebook, but here’s how it all came together.

Selfie test


I took a lot of photos of myself (with my phone, of course), in the car, in the mirror, with the phone turned toward me… Duck lips were mandatory.


Selfie 1 pix2Selfie test 1


Next, I cropped the best photos and tried several degrees of pixellation in Adobe Photoshop. I ran these by my trusted friends who helped me decide which was most easily recognizable as a selfie. The photo on the left won, but those squares represent 2″ blocks which were definitely too big. Even 1″ squares on the right were too big for the facial details.


Stash strips


Once committed to the project, I spent four days cutting strips from each fabric in my stash and sorting them by value. I’ve been contemplating making a scrappy Trip Around The World quilt with my whole stash, so I cut with that secondary project in mind (no, I haven’t gotten to it yet).


Stash grid bw

I took lots of photos with my phone along the way, turning them black and white to check my accuracy. I put the strips in bags marked with corresponding value numbers to keep everything sorted and tidy.


Stash crazies


What makes this portrait special is that I’m a fabric omnivore. The concept wouldn’t be the same in all solids, batiks, or natural colored hand dyes. I had to cross my fingers and hope that it would still read as a portrait even if the fabrics were this wacky combination of hand dyes, reproduction prints, novelty prints, florals, Kaffe Fasset favorites, and whatever else that makes up my stash.


Selfie Grid WIP


My road map was a grid I made in Adobe Illustrator. I decided to use 1/2″ squares for the facial details, 1′ squares for most of the quilt, and 2″ squares for the distorted foreground area and flat background. I assigned a value to each pixel in my photo which would correspond to a bag of strips of the same value. Initially I thought I could pick one strip randomly from the appropriate bag and make this a kind of charm quilt as well. As it turned out, once I got going, it helped to use warm and cool colors strategically, keeping generally to green eyes, red lips, brown hair, and so on. And,¬†while large, my stash isn’t large enough, so I had to use many fabrics several times.


Selfie WIP

And here it is as I built the face. I had a grid on my design board, but I didn’t include seam allowances, which rendered it pretty useless.

I chose to quilt the piece very simply as I wanted all the pixels to have equal importance. I didn’t want to try any overworked thread painting or end up with a nose that stuck out. This is all about the fabric.

I am so pleased with the final quilt! It was a great relief to see that my initial idea actually did work, and having it chosen amongst all the other fine art quilts for the show is good validation. Please, visit the blogs of the other accepted artists and look forward to posts on the Dinner@8 blog in the coming months. Maybe we’ll even see each other in person or in the cloth in Houston this fall.


12 Apr

Catching Up

Sorta. The last self portrait I did was number 365:104, but I skipped days 100 to 103, and then I’ve done nothing since and it’s been about two weeks.

My excuse is that I’ve been working on quilts, but really, I just spend too much time farting around and not focusing.

About the same time I decided to do the portraits, I also decided to see what I did with my time. That has turned out to be something I’ve kept up with.

I’m not marking how much time I spend doing each thing, but I do write what I do each day — including most of the mundane little things. I’ve found that taking a little time each morning to set out my goals does help the focus a bit, and keeps my to-do list realistic. I’m also really liking having one place to keep that list, rather than having separate papers all over the house.

Zeitgeist is at a bit of a standstill right now, but not for long! As I made it, I was pretty sure it would be most appropriate to have a long arm quilter quilt it. The person who came to mind was booked solid though, so I kinda resolved to quilt it myself on my home domestic machine. Friends came to the rescue with recommendations and I asked at the local quilt shop while browsing potential quilting threads, and, lucky me, a lady nearby will be able to fit me and my kitty into her schedule (I think the photo I sent convinced her that she couldn’t pass on this one — it’s probably the most fun quilt she’ll do ever!). I am relieved that I won’t have to cram that grumpy cat into my sewing machine, and I’m excited that I will probably be able to enter it into IQF Houston’s World of Beauty show. I know I’ve said that my work doesn’t fit into traditional “pole and drape” shows, but Zeitgeist isn’t my normal work, and I like the idea of it being seen by a large crowd. If it doesn’t get in, I’ll still have plenty of time to try the art quilt route with Art Quilt Elements too.

I’ve applied for several show dates at the MacGuffey art center for my Army Wife series. Now I just have to be patient and wait for the committee to sort out who will be showing and in what gallery in the next 12 months.

Which brings me to my other work in progress. With marriage equality in the news lately, one can’t escape the pink and red logo, which to me, looks like a quilt block! I whipped up a few blocks, liked them, and decided to make a marriage equality wedding quilt. As I work on this, I’ve been thinking of options for it.

Option 1: Take the finished quilt to my husband’s side of the family reunion this summer and have all the relatives sign it, then give it to his cousin and her wife as an anniversary present. Easy-peasy and a very nice gesture for two wonderful ladies, but kinda small thinking.

Option 2: Find photographers (because I’m no portraitist on canvas or film) who will photograph committed same sex couples across the country, with the quilt. Create a questionnaire to for them to fill in and present the photographic portraits, along with the stories (names, type of union, how long, is the union legally recognized, and what does marriage mean to you) on a dedicated blog. I like the larger statement of this, and I think working with a variety of photographers would be more practical and professional than trying to travel and take the photos myself. I’m just not sure I know enough of the right people, or have the resources to do this. I suspect some grant writing could and should be involved too. Thinking too big now?

Option 3: is really an extension of Option 2. A friend asked if she could make blocks too and what were the specs. I hadn’t considered making it a group project, but it does lend itself to such a thing. My fear is that I would end up not just with enough blocks to make the one queen sized quilt I envision, but enough for ten quilts! I’m not ready to finish ten quilts — and then what? But… I could finish my quilt and publish instructions so that other individuals and groups could make their own. They could send photos of the quilts with their recipients and stories to the dedicated blog. I’m not sure of the likelihood of pairing other quilt makers with professional photographers, but if I took it down a notch and the photos were snapshots from those involved, it could still be interesting, and potentially cover a lot more ground than I could alone.

Hmmmm, lots to ponder as I sew.

24 Mar

Self Portrait Sunday (or what I’ve been working on this week)

I injured my elbow a couple of weeks ago. I suspect it may have had something to do with marathon knitting sessions with a cat sitting on my left arm while I was trying to knit my Butterfly Forest Shawl for the third time. I backed off on the knitting, the embroidery, and the gym. It became the perfect time to do some simple piecing with a fabric jelly roll I bought probably a year ago and planned to make into a charity quilt or something. So that’s Monday, Self Portrait 365:93.


I continued to work on the quilt on Tuesday, 365:094.


But at the end of the day, after a conversation with my man, I posted this on Facebook: “I just had an idea not in any way related to my recent art, nor any current needs, but is so crazy I’m pretty sure I need to drop everything and do it.” And so followed the rest of the week.

365:095. One of several sketches. The others were on the computer, working through my inspirations. This one kinda sums it up.

365:096. At least one Facebook friend suggested I sleep on my crazy idea and see if it still seemed plausible in the morning. It did, so in I dove, choosing fabrics and auditioning them on a make-shift design wall.

At this point, I knew I wasn’t going to be drawing portraits this week. I’ve been fully immersed in this new quilt. Here’s the trail of fabric on the floor as I worked things out. 365:097.

365:098. Glue-Baste-It and pins — some of my favorite tools.

…and piecing traditional half square triangles. It’s amazing how quick they go in comparison to yards of embroidery or a bajillion machine embroidered stars! 365:099

I’m being a bit coy about this new quilt because i’m not yet sure of it’s proper context. It has nothing to do with my usual houses and roots or Army Wife series. I actually think it would blow some minds at Quilt National, but I can’t keep it under wraps until 2015. This is au currant. I think I’ll show it when the top is done and maybe a plugged in reader or two will know of the perfect venue for it.

17 Mar

Self Portrait Sunday

I did better with the portraits this week than last, but when this 12 month project is over, I definitely won’t have 365 portraits. Oh well — I suppose that’s part of the experiment too.

365:86 I was in the mood for some pen and ink, but didn’t want to jump right in. I drew a portrait in pencil first, and then traced it with my ink pen onto decorative rice paper and added some modeling with water.

365:87 started as the pencil sketch for number 86, but it was going pretty well so I finished it off and let it be it’s own portrait. It’s far sweeter than I see myself, but a nice respite to all the grumpy looking portraits. Luckily the traced ink portrait is not so saccharine looking.

365:88 I went to the dentist and they were very effusive about the lovely state of my teeth. Gold star for me! So I came home and drew a tooth with a gold star. BO-ring. But done.

365:89 I had to make up for the previous day’s boring tooth, so I drew a whimsical take on it. The star is much more important than the teeth.

And then life and procrastination set in. There are no 365:90, :91 or :92 portraits.

To make up for some of the lack of self portraits, here’s another view of my hand knit shawl. I’ve been wearing it a lot as a scarf and I love it.

Butterfly Forest Shawl

10 Mar

Self Portrait Sunday

Not much to post this week. Self Portraits 365:080, 81, 82, and 83 never happened. I let myself get caught up in the discussion about the fine line between spec work and charitable donation, between respect for the artist and the realities of who actually does more work, which ultimately became a back and forth about who dissed who (though that makes it sound worse than I think it actually is). Anyway, that emotional quagmire (for me) has also been tempered by some movement on the gallery side at MacGuffey, a request to be included in some educational material, and a well received trunk show at the local Fiber Arts Guild. Perhaps my self portrait this week is the introspective time spent thinking about what my place in this field, or world is, and what I have to offer. I have no answers.

I did pull myself together to make two portraits.

365:084 is a portrait with the shawl I have essentially knit three times plus some (If you’re on Ravelry and want to know details, it’s here). I finally finished it and I think it looks great! There are flaws, but I finally got it to the point where I knew I could be happy with it and then apply my lessons learned to the next endeavor.

And, after the previous week’s cop-out photo portraits, I brought out the oil pastels and made an actual drawing. I tried smiling a little. It’s extremely hard to hold the same smile between looking at the mirror and then concentrating on the drawing — and to keep that up for 15 minutes. I know, wa wa, whine, whine, excuses.

Here’s to a more productive week ahead!

04 Mar

Self Portrait Su… Monday

This was a week of photo portraits. Mostly because I was focused on finishing a project and spent the majority of the week sitting on the couch knitting a shawl that, while it appeared to be the project closest to completion, actually refuses to be finished.

So, last Sunday’s portrait, number 365:072, combines the shawl (as I finished it and realized that in order to utilize the full range of the yarn’s color changes, I needed to start over and add more in the center section) and a photo of me hanging myself with it.

365:072a is a bonus since I couldn’t NOT try the Cutout filter on my layered portrait.

I am very curious about drawing and painting technology on phones and tablets. I tried out the Brushes App on my phone, using my finger (I totally need to get a stylus with my next Amazon order) for Portrait 365:073. The simple style is inspired by a bookmark the kids left on my desk.

365:074. The kitty has been enjoying my sedentary lifestyle this week. He’s decided that sitting on my arms best helps me knit. I think I used the Paint Daubs filter.

Speaking of kitties, I made hubby a Grumpy Cat pillow for Valentine’s Day and he reciprocated with a Hello Grumpy T-shirt for me! I model both for 365:075.

Found the lens flare filter and made 365:76 a fake hipster portrait.

365:077. I made duplicate layers and played with transparency, colors, and filters (like the cutout one), trying to change up the previous day’s portrait, and ended up with something pretty darn similar to the previous photo.

Saturday was spent as an Appraiser for our regional Destination Imagination competition, a fun and creative extra-curricular activity for the kids. The group I worked with had a film making theme, so all the officials dressed up. I wore a sparkly gold wig which I made even more sparkly with the Glowing Edges filter for 365:078.

My view on Sunday (yesterday). I got to the last color change, but this time, ran out of yarn just before the end of the bind-off, and ultimately ripped back the day’s work. 365:079 is desaturated, as is my enthusiasm for this (knitting) project.

24 Feb

Self Portrait Sunday

It was a flaky kind of week. As any year-long or daily project naturally is, there is ebb and flow. I just wasn’t that into it this week. That said, here’s a few portraits:

365:65. I had been looking through photos of my art and decided to see what happened if I layered that with a portrait photo. Fun exercise. Obviously I could go on forever with different combinations of art, portrait, erasers, and levels of transparency.

So, I did another one for 365:66. Photo of branches, photo of me, cutout filter.

There are no 365:67 or 365:68 portraits. I blew off those two days (for no particular reason).

365:69. I had a good morning with watercolor pencils on pre-painted backgrounds at life drawing group, so I came home and did a portrait in the same manner. As I worked, I saw that I was obliterating the stenciled hand, so I didn’t expand the self portrait much beyond my face. Now it looks like I’m choking myself!

365:70. I went to the American Craft Council show in Baltimore with a friend and we had a great day looking at fine art and craft, being inspired, and taking mental notes. We each splurged on one purchase. I got a fun handmade dress which I am very excited to wear someplace. Anyplace.

365:71. We got dressed up and went to a wedding, but didn’t take any photos. We did take a post party, happy mood photo though.

17 Feb

Self Portrait Sunday

365:58 The artist who runs the Wednesday night life drawing group almost always works in black Sharpie pen. I love the boldness of his work. So I tried a bit myself. I used a really fat chisel point pen which is a bit unwieldy. I probably should have stopped with the pen only and not added the paint, but this is all about trying stuff and not worrying about whether it will be pretty or not.

Since I wasn’t happy with #58’s paint, I took another stab at Sharpie only in 365:59. I also stood at the bathroom counter to draw this one so I actually have a torso! The drawing was too small to support that big fat pen though and it looks pretty goofy. Oh well, live and learn.

I got a little fat fingered texting on this day and gave my emoticon a double chin. I’ve been noticing the beginnings of a similar familial trait while doing my portraits, so I saw a bit of myself (or my future) in the emoticon as well. 365:60 kinda cracks me up.

365:61 is the day before I get my hair cut. It’s kinda droopy. I think I used the Photoshop Poster Edges filter on this one to emphasize the lines in my hair (or lack thereof).

Naturally, the following portrait, 365:62 is after my haircut. Yay, bouncy curls!

There’s no 365:63. I wasn’t in the mood.

I was still feeling a bit lazy with yesterday’s 365:64. I used the Crosshatch filter at my daughter’s request (she loves watching the various filters do their magic — especially when I adjust their tolerances). I added a border too. The more I play around in Photoshop the more I realize I really need some instruction in the program. There is so much I don’t know how to do.