Trajectory: Escape Velocity

I wrote this blog post for IAmSciart, which I hosted at the end of last year.

I Am SciArt

This guest post was written by Joni Seidenstein. Joni (@artcollisions) was our curator from November 27th to December 3rd in 2016. To learn more about Joni’s textile art or to purchase your own, visit artcollisions.wordpress.com. All photographs in this post are by Ron Freudenheim.

My daughter says I have six social lives — quilting friends, art friends, twitter friends, dancing friends, and singing friends (and then of course whatever my kids are up to). I tell you this by way of introduction. In my creative work especially, I have a finger in every pot and I’m happiest when some of them interact.

In 2015, I worked for most of the year on 8 panels that tell a story of evolution. I was inspired by a specific call for entry on the theme of Diaspora (the spreading of a population outwards). As soon as I saw it…

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Kintsugi

2016 was a pretty terrible year for me. I experienced heightened anxiety that randomly started in April and it was August before I realized it wasn’t “just going to go away.” I spent another two months adjusting to meds before I realized how impaired I’d been. I cannot tell you what a relief it is not to have to worry that my body is going to dissolve when I go out though.  The meds do not “take the edge off”: they provide a sort of prosthetic skin.

So, when I got a commission in November, I was a bit cautious, wanting to understand what the person wanted, especially as it was for a usable quilt and I’ve not made anything other than strip quilts for a couple years.

The person wanted a strip quilt, as I’d done before and color preferences were for green, blue, and purples. So, off I went.  When I make strip quilts, I try not to think too much ahead. I just work with the colors I have in hand and make sure they work next to the colors around them.

This is good therapy for me. It’s useful for me to not overthink when I’m creating and let’s my subconscious do the driving.  I noticed as I got about half way, that it was no longer straight on both sides, so I added a sliver of orange/red, inspired somewhat by Leonard Cohen’s death and his lyric about the cracks being where the light shines in. That is why I call this quilt Kintsugi.  It’s about being made of pieces and mending the broken or wonky parts when we need to. It’s about letting all the parts of ourselves exist in harmony together, even if they seem disparate. We contain multitudes and we are star stuff.kintsugi

Beth’s Garden (Dragon)

A dragon in the style of a crop circle in a garden.

A dragon in the style of a crop circle in a garden.

When Juan first approached me about the dragon quilt I finally finished this year, I was surprised that someone was interested in such a highly personal piece for themself. In fact, I asked him what it was he was interested in.  He told me that dragons were really significant for him and his wife, who died two years ago. He was also interested in the spirals.

So, I told him that I could probably modify the design and put it in an affordable price range and off we went! This was truly a co-mission. Juan gave me lots of personal details and I tried to weave them into this piece.

At the beginning, I was thinking of this as Beth’s dragon, but as time went on, I realized it was Beth’s garden.  Beth was a gardener (and quilter), and I wanted the base to be produce prints.  I checked with Juan to make sure there were none she hated or if there were any that needed to be included. Beth loved potatoes (and Juan still does), so I had to include those. I didn’t have any in my stash, but when I asked around in the quilting community, someone generously sent me more than I needed so I was able to make the back with potatoes too.

I used the same stencil for the dragon, but arranged it differently. You can see that I started with a more similar layout in the first tweet, but felt the second layout was much better.  Juan’s dragon is in a garden, not a field.  It’s much more intimate than mine.  

I am pretty sure the dragon comprises both Juan and Beth. It is gold for the sun because Beth was Juan’s sun, but the tail is all Juan, with the sharp, glittery black band and dots. The head is Beth, with the circlet of stars and all the bejeweled flowers (that she probably grew in her garden). Also, Juan told me they met because she lived across a field from him. There is already wheat and flowers in the background, but I wanted to bring the feeling of the field more to the forefront.

I wanted to include a yin yang in this dragon and when I went to put it together, I placed the two pieces separated. To me, they represent Juan’s broken heart. He carries her in his belly. But also, I think she’s in his throat (the bejeweled flowered piece).
Although there are many spirals in this quilt, the three central spirals represent their children. The youngest is the shiny spiral at the bottom and the two on top of that are his sons.

I feel honored to have been chosen to bring this dragon to life.  It was pure joy to work on and helped me find my mojo again.

Dragon Crop Circle Quilt

cropcircle

In 2011, my local quilt guild ran a challenge based on food. I got bread. I thought bread was awfully pedestrian and asked if I could do some free associating. I was told yes and off I went.

Bread, I reasoned, is made from wheat. Wheat is a crop and there are these things called crop circles (I was thinking corn mazes), so I went home and googled crop circles. Boy was I blown away. They were awesome. I found a great serpent one and that got me thinking about my favorite lizards: dragons! I have yet to learn how to draw, so I asked around and a friend offered to draw me a crop circle inspired dragon.

dragoncropcircle

This is what I had to work with. I figured out how to get it the size I wanted and set to work making it into a stencil. Because of the way it was designed, I figured I would adapt it some for fabric and embellish with beads.  I didn’t realize what I was committing to when I started this project, which is why it took so long to complete.

So, the dragon is in the middle, surrounded by fields (made with the Bargello method, for those who know what that is).  There are flowers at the edges because you find flowers at the boundaries. The binding is blue for the sky.  The last touch is the glittering red spirals at the corners because what’s a dragon without a little magic?

Trajectory: Escape Velocity

I have started a new project I’m calling Trajectory: Escape Velocity.  It is a story of evolution, beginning at the very beginning (let’s ignore what quantum physics tells us in favor of telling a more linear story for now) and ending with people leaving the planet. I don’t know all the steps in between. I won’t know until I’ve created them.  I post pictures of things in progress, if you are interested in those.  I am going to attempt to post as each phase is completed. So, here is phase 1.

In the beginning, there was darkness:

This is a little one inch black square.

This is a little one inch black square.

And then there was light:

Starburst

Starburst (19X19 inches)

Next up: The Primordial Soup. See a teaser DNA picture on Twitter.

Artist trading cards: how to decorate them

So, now you’ve got your “blanks”. How are you going to decorate them? The sky’s the limit!

I’m going to back up here a little bit and talk about why I just did so many. First of all, after I did the first two, I thought, “hm, these are ok, but I clearly haven’t mastered this. I want to see if I can do better.”  Then, I thought it’d be fun to send them out with my holiday cards. Well, for select people anyway (I’m not making enough to send everyone who is getting a card one.)

So, I started to churn them out. I decided to limit myself to a few images and think of it as a series. Series work is good exercise for me because I like to switch things up, so I figured out a couple fun things during the process. One, not all the elements need to be contained on the card. (Probably this makes it technically no longer an ATC, but I don’t think the ATC police will notice.)  I did a bunch of different mushrooms. I found that changing out the fabrics lead to some interesting mushrooms! Also, I got the idea to do a bigger quilt with a bunch of teeny tiny elements (like a field of mushrooms).

I thought the work I was doing was pretty simple, but making ATC’s made me realize it wasn’t.  This was a good realization. It’s great to embellish and be doing complicated work, but it’s also good to get back to basics. I think of it like a palate cleanser 😀

sixcards

In this picture, I have selected six ATC’s that I felt represented different techniques. I have a planet with a spiral orbit stitched around it, eyes that I used metallic paint for the pupils and then stitched a sort of figure eight around to give the impression of a mask, butterfly hanging off the edge (this doesn’t compete with the beautiful flower on the fabric and it looks cool, hanging off the edge there), jellyfish with stitched tentacles, mushroom that has stem and cap satin stitched, and finally, lightning which is only stitched. So, you can really do whatever you want. You can combine fused elements and stitching or just use stitching to decorate your ATC. I like to stitch over all fused elements. I wouldn’t want to fuse and not stitch it down. Finally, if you have decorative stitches, they can be fun to play with. You don’t necessarily have to do an outline of every element. Sometimes you can just stitch over something with a decorative stitch (see the last picture in the post). As always, please let me know if you have any questions. These posts are not meant to be viewed as instructions set in stone, but more as a road map. Do what makes sense to you!

By the way, you don’t have to stick to the 3 1/2 by 2 1/2 inch size. You can make postcards (bigger) or inchies or twinchies (smaller)!

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Tutorial for textile Artist Trading Cards

I have been incredibly remiss in talking about ATC’s here. I have posted most of what I’ve made so far on Twitter. I promise I’m going to do a mass ATC post here soon, but today, I have in mind to make a tutorial. It occurred to me that I had not seen a tutorial about making fabric post cards or ATCs in a format that appealed to me, so I thought I’d try my hand at a tutorial.

What you will need:

  • sewing machine
  • thread
  • microtex or denim needles
  • fabric
  • fusible web (I use Steam a Seam 2 lite — no affiliation)
  • Timtex
  • rotary cutter
  • ruler
  • scissors

atcstack

(Note: this method will work for larger pieces, like postcards (and smaller, as you can see on the stack). It gives you a finished blank canvas on which to work. Anything goes!)

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Liminal spaces, heterogeneous communities, and letting go of fear

A few months ago I was wanting to write a piece on living on the edges, in the liminal spaces. I started that post at least four times and abandoned it every single time. I could not make it cohere. It wasn’t until some time in the last week or so that what I was really trying to express had to do with where I felt most fully myself.

For years I thought I had no communities that I really belonged in, but what I’ve come to realize is that communities that are heterogeneous are much more comfortable spaces for me. I am not neatly defined by most labels (without qualifiers) which is why I thought I just existed on the edges, but I think what’s really going on for me is some sort of Venn Diagram. Forgive if I’m using the term incorrectly. I can’t think of a better analogy.

Finding the #sciart community has been nothing short of amazing for me. No one is out there with a ruler checking your scientific knowledge nor are they judging your art pedigree (no matter the format). We are all just excited about art and science and trying to express that in our individual ways. As I said to CartoonNeuroscience (on Twitter), it’s a way for me to start a conversation.

Finally, I was reflecting on wanting to let go of fear specifically as it relates to my art. I went to a meeting of a fiber art(ists) guild. I was so inspired! It made me realize that groups that represent more than one monolithic Thing are where I feel more comfortable and where I am more likely to not only be inspired, but also supported. As 2015 approaches, I say to the darkness, I have many questions and I want many beams of light to shine towards them.

In the spirit of the season, I’m posting a picture of the Deconstructed Santa I made last year. May we continue to ask questions and have interesting conversations.

Deconstructed Santa

Online Advent Calendars

‘Tis the season for Advent Calendars. I used to buy my kids one (cheap) Advent calendar with terrible chocolate in it that they would then fight over who got the miniscule tidbit. After a few years of this, I quit cold turkey. Probably because I forgot to buy one. This is where the internet comes in.

I think it was two years ago that we found the Royal Institute’s Advent Calendar. Alas, they are not doing one this year. They have a mini-series Things To Do With Stuff instead. I have not checked it out yet.

So, for actual Advent calendars, I found a chemistry one, a geology one, a general science one (that is not the RI), and a British Sign Language one.

Compound Chemistry (Explorations of Everyday Chemical Compounds)is focusing on chemicals found in Christmas related things. Find the 2014 Chemistry Advent Calendar here.

The Geological Society of London has their Advent Calendar here.

Cosmic Genome has different short videos for each day, in the style of RI’s past Advent Calendars, but I can’t speak to thematics. I think they are just generally science themed. Find the Cosmic Genome Advent Calendar here.

I cannot recommend the BSL Advent Calendar because it makes my browser crash. Every time. 😦

So, what good Advent Calendars have you found online? I would love some cartoony ones. Or art ones. Throw your links my way and I’ll update the entry.