What Is A Fiber Artist?

April 24, 2019

I recently retired from full time, paid work in a very intense & fast paced environment. Although my friends all assured me that it would take me “10 minutes” to get used to retirement, that has not been the case! It’s taken me 6 months to relax enough to take a day for myself…

When people now ask me what I “do”, I tell them I’m a fiber artist. Most people want to know what that means, and  it’s hard to explain. Basically, I play with fiber: yarn, thread, cloth. I dye it, bead it, paint it, cut it up and sew it back together again. I paint with thread on cloth or plastic. I recycle fibers into something that can be hung on a wall. I read blogs and articles on how to do more with fiber. Many of my friends do the same things with fiber and we all have a grand time showing off our work and talking about it.

I have a studio that is about ten minutes from my home. While I would have liked to be with other artists, it is a space that can be as peaceful or as frenetic as I wish. Mostly, that depends on what I’m working on. Sometimes the piece unfolds gently, other times that piece will do anything to be created and there’s just no stopping it. Sometimes it’s a slog. Sometimes I question just what it is I’m trying to achieve, other times I absolutely know that I am doing something wonderful.

All of this requires determination and a rather thick skin. In the first 4 months of this year I applied to no less than 6 competitions. I accumulated a lot of rejection e-mails but I got one acceptance and that is enough to keep me going. I also am working on selecting and/or creating work for a show in Nov/Dec of this year with 2 other local artists at the community library.

Just as in my previously paid work, I keep track of deadlines and costs (got to love those spread sheets!) I push through self doubt and share the triumphs with my wife. So, how do I explain all of this without completely boring my listener? Photos are good. Since part of the submission process is including photos of the piece(s) being submitted, I always have pictures of completed works as well as works in progress. A picture truly can be worth a thousand words.

So, I’m a fiber artist. Next time you meet one, ask how s/he got started and what they like best about it. I hope you enjoy their answers! Below are Copper Canyon Fire &

Weavings  whole shot 1

Weavings I detail view 1 Apr 2019

and Green Card IV whole piece shot

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Dye-ing & Painting

February 25, 2019

It had been a while since I had made some new fabric so in early February I decided I need to change that situation. I’ve been saving different types of bubble wrap from our move-who knew that there were big bubbles, small bubbles & tiny bubbles? I decided I wanted a good sized bubble this time as the material was nylon organza which is thinner than my regular PFD cotton.

Paint Day 17 Feb 19 3 in a row #1

The floor & rug were protected by a plastic table cloth and a muslin drop cloth that will eventually be used for other projects (once it’s soaked up a lot of colours from dye-ing & panting sessions). the bubble wrap was placed on top & the fabric to be painted was laid on top. I needed some blue for a project so the piece on the left was painted with blue. As you can see, the piece on the right was painted with grey mixed with some platinum fabric paint.

Once they dried I heat set the paint with my iron, laying down parchment paper, then the painted material and another piece of parchment paper to keep the fabric from burning. Sadly, I did not take pictures of the finished products but they will appear in future projects & posts.

In another paint session, I used a bubble wrap with smaller bubbles to jazz up some previously painted canvas-like fabric.

Paint Day 17 Feb 19-Bubble Wrap 1

Paint Day 17 Feb 19-Bubble Wrap 2

I was quite happy with these and will be using them in separate, future projects. The process was the same as described above and you can see how the different fabric produced different results-the heavier fabric had much more defined bubbles while the nylon organza above was more loosely bubble-ish.

Fabric Play

February 20, 2019

I’ve been preparing for a week long quilt retreat coming up next week.  I work intuitively so planning for these is always a delicate balance: do I have what I need? Do I have what I MIGHT need? How much stuff can I take without looking like a bag lady or a pack rat? I have spread sheets to help me plan for my two main retreats with a place to list what projects I plan to work on. Note the word “plan”. Planning & working intuitively do not play well together…

I decided to work with some plastic bags in order to incorporate them in an “Up-Cycled” piece. I took a number of thin plastic bags that I bring home from the local big box store, cut them open & layered them on parchment paper. I covered the layers with another piece of parchment paper & ironed the whole shebang.

Upcycled Plastic Bag process #1

You can see how the bags melded. Note that lovely crinkling happening also-this is why I love my iron & my heat gun! Here’s a close-up

Upcycled Plastic Bag process #3A

Isn’t that cool? I did have to open the studio windows as a precaution-I didn’t notice an odor but am increasingly sensitive to chemicals & their smells.

So what to do with this plastic fabric now? It was very plain, & in my world, “plain” is the antonym of “good”. I took this lovely sparkly tulle & covered a piece of the plastic

Upcycled Tulle over plastic #1

That looked better but it still was not where I wanted it to be. I then added part of an old, unsuccessful piece and was happy with the resulting section. I guess fabric can be loosely interpreted here

Upcycled Tulle Plastic and part of original piece #1

More will be needed-but that’s for another post and another day!

Oh CRAP!

January 10, 2019

Yesterday I was working in the studio, doing one last thing before I would leave for the day.  I was attaching a cuff of a white shirt that was too tight in the shoulders to one of my favourite tunics. Almost finished & then…my right index finger got in the way of the needle! I heard the needle break so I started to look for the broken piece. Couldn’t find it. Then I noticed that my finger hurt a bit.

Looking at the finger, I saw that the nail had been punctured. I began to wonder if the missing needle piece was IN my finger. Nah, couldn’t be. It didn’t really hurt & it wasn’t bleeding. Maybe I could just bandage it & keep on going.

But something told me that wasn’t going to be a wise move so I drove myself to the local Urgent Care facility.  The practitioner & I agreed that we needed an X-ray. Annnnd, there it was! Still didn’t hurt much…

x ray 3

It did not come out easily but after numerous tries from the PA & the attending doc, they managed to grab the end of the needle & pull it out. Obviously I’d had some local anesthesia but I could feel their attempts to locate the shard as it would snag on the instrument they were using to pull it out.

We took another X-ray to be sure nothing was left behind:

post removal x ray

All clear. Then came the tetanus shot, prescriptions for an antibiotic & pain medication (that was at my request, just in case, but appears to be not necessary), orders for Epsom Salts soaks twice a day & a finger splint to be worn for at least 3 days.

Of it all, the dang splint is the worst. It just gets in the way of everything. I’m giving myself the day off from the studio, aka Scene Of The Accident, but I’ll be back there tomorrow! We all know the moral of this story…

This is what was removed:needle fragment removed

What Do You Do?

January 4, 2019

Great question! Have you ever had one of those studio days where you wonder just what the heck you are doing? You call yourself an artist…

Had one before Christmas, had one last week. Nothing I tried seemed to be working, I felt like I was wasting time & not being productive. I didn’t like what I was working on & couldn’t talk myself out of the funk. I closed up the studio & went home because I couldn’t get my message across.

This is what I was working on. I loved the concept but couldn’t get the shadows right; I loved knew what I wanted to say but couldn’t translate it from my head to the fabric: not an alien-whole piece 1

The piece was based in part on an old quilt block called “Hole In The Wall”, appropriate for my intended immigration concept.

Nevertheless, she persevered! I returned to the studio the next day all fired up from an idea I’d had during the night. But once again, despite my best efforts, I could not translate the idea from my imagination to the fabric. The eyes weren’t right; the hair didn’t go the way I “saw” it in my mind. Amateur Day at the studio…and once again, I went home dejected.somos todos americanos whole piece 1

Two days later I decided I would give it one more try. The results were not perfect but I was at least happy with both the concept & the execution in fabric. The old axiom “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

where did your family come from whole shot

Paint Day at the Studio

December 3, 2018

The past week was a very productive week & this week is shaping up to be just as productive. I went to the studio today determined to finish the edges on 3 pieces for an upcoming submission (more later) and to begin painting fabric for a planned series on Fire.

I have been fortunate enough to take a painting class at QSDS. I had an old plastic party tablecloth that I used to cover the surface of my work table, then covered with a piece of muslin and then a layer of the organza I wanted to paint.

Paint Day table set upPaint Day table set up with underlayPaint Day table set up with organza & underlay

Then the fun began! I covered my shirt with an old T-shirt and dug through my stash of paints. I found the perfect colours and began to smush the paint around, blending the red and yellow as I felt appropriate. This will be cut up later & probably have more paint added so I wasn’t particular about how the colours landed. It jsut felt so good to make fabric again!

Paint Day 1Paint Day 2.JPGPaint Day 3.JPG

In the last 2 photos you can see the painted organza with the muslin underlay showing through (yes, I have plans for that too…), as well as a last minute inspiration of folding up an unpainted organza section onto the painted part. I’m hoping for a ghost image.

Fortunately, I planned work for the time the paint had to dry. Note to self-open the window next time you paint, even if it’s freezing cold outside…

The House Quilt Project

November 28, 2018

Have you seen the Oct/Nov 2018 (Issue #95) of Quilting Arts? Jaime Fingal has an article on a wonderful organization, Furnishing Hope. The House Quilt Project, founded by Jaime, is now in Phase 3: this phase began in 2017 & is currently ongoing. Usually these are women and their children who have broken the cycle of domestic abuse &/or homelessness.

The Project involves providing a 14″ x 14″ mini quilt to families who are transitioning into permanent housing. The quilts are bright & cheerful, designed to encourage and welcome families to a new chapter in their lives.

For more information on the House Quilt Project, visit thehousequiltproject.blogspot.com

For more information about Furnishing Hope, visit furnishinghope.org

Below are pictures of the piece I made this week & just sent off. It was so much fun to make, very freeing in that pieces are meant to be whimsical. I got to indulge my love of colour in a really fun way & make someone happy in the bargain. And it gave me an “excuse” to enjoy my studio!

Moving is Not for the Faint Hearted!

November 28, 2018

We are finally in our new home, after selling/moving from the old one, living in a  pet friendly hotel for 2 months while the new house was  being finished & then moving to the new house. Lesson learned: DO NOT choose a mover by looking at the BBB ratings-those are paid for by the companies themselves & don’t give an accurate picture of work quality.

While I retired from paid work last Friday, it hasn’t been much of a retirement so far. Unpacking boxes, moving things around & finding “just the right place” for things takes up a tremendous amount of time & energy. I want to be in bed by 8:30 most nights! But slowly, things are taking shape. No pictures yet,s till a tad chaotic here…

I Found A Studio!

November 28, 2018

We recently moved to MD’s Eastern Shore. This was a long planned move & I knew that I would need an off site studio to continue my art quilting/fiber art (more on that later). I searched actively for at least 3 months: e-mailed all the local quilt guilds & quilt shops, local artists, local art leagues, SAQA folks, etc. I almost had one but that fell through for several reasons.

Someone referred me to a local realtor who just happened to have two available spaces, 1 of which I now rent. It’s bright & sunny with lots of storage. More importantly, it was in my price range & it gets me out of our house! The side benefit is that many boxes have been removed from the garage, which makes us both very happy!

These are some photos I took prior to moving everything in:

Moving, as you can imagine, was quite a process. Part 1 of the actual move took place during a nor’easter. Yes, it did. If you’ve never seen a nor’easter before, it is a huge rain storm accompanied by howling winds. It’s hardly ever a warm rain & it sure wasn’t last week.

Because the studio is on the second floor, I parked in front of the building door & carried the boxes from the car to the outside steps. Then I carted all the boxes inside to the first floor, using boxes to keep open the outer door during this process. The same boxes were then used to keep open the door to the second floor stairway as well as the second floor hallway door. My FitBit was blowing up with steps!

Unpacking was the next adventure. everything needed to be placed so I could find it. Sticky notes came in handy as I labeled the lower cabinets with the items inside. Placement is still a work in progress but the area is now organized & use-able!

Window 2

Closet 1cornerCutting Table

At Last, My Studio Has Come Along

November 9, 2018

Apologies to Etta James for hijacking her title, but it seems fitting. After a long & exhausting search, I have finally found an off-site studio space. It isn’t perfect, in that I wanted to be around other artists, but it will work as it’s in the centre of town and about 5 miles from home. Berlin is state designated as an arts area so it will be exciting to have that atmosphere just steps out the door.

Move in date is in a week so I’ve been re-arranging & consolidating the boxes currently housed in the garage. In so doing, I found the kitchen mixer & the last box of cookbooks-those things I wake up at 3 AM wondering where they might be! Of course I found a lot of other things I’d forgotten, like finished pieces from 10 years ago as well as WIPs that will probably never move on from that status. Oh well, they can be cut up & re-purposed. Maybe…

These are the photos I took while looking at the space. It’s a guarantee that it will not look like this in a week! And the new studio will be revealed in all it’s messy glory-very soon!