BadAssHerstory: I AM HER(E) NOW

 

When Shannon Downey put out her call for BadAssHerstory, I knew I wanted to participate.

Initially I started doodling, so to speak, on these two pieces which were left over from aikido uniform jackets. I had this idea about cloud chambers and a secret code being representative of different stages of my life, but when I got to the top of the left side, where I start to spread my wings, I didn’t know where to go from there. So I put it down. (The blue side was dyed with indigo a year after I did the stitching in blue, and then I just started stitching in white as a contrast to the other side.) This piece is more about mark making than it is about me or my story.

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In the meantime, this past spring, in April, I decided to start a bullet journal. The idea was never that I would use it faithfully every day. In fact, I barely touched it over the summer, BUT I have used it regularly and one of the things I use it for is to write down or (gasp!) sketch ideas. One day, I had this very strong idea of just presenting myself in mountain pose saying  in bold letters I AM HERE NOW.

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Wonder: Establishing and Maintaining a Creative Practice

I have blogged about this before, in part, but yesterday I gave a talk and I know some of my friends who live in the ether wanted access to it as well.  I departed somewhat from the script and talked about specific mistakes, but basically, this is what I talked about.

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Because I was talking to a group of quilters, I started with my first quilt. I will note I have not attempted piecework this complicated since.

Take what works for you and leave the rest behind.

Start with the basics: get enough sleep, eat well, exercise. Take your medications.

Commit to your creative practice — REGULAR PRACTICE. Good writers go and write for X many minutes/hours or whatever it is a day. If you want to be creative, you have to do it. Not all of us have the luxury of doing it every day, but for me, even if I’m not in my studio, I still spend part of the day thinking over ideas.
Three main components:

Structure (physical, chronological,)

Inspiration — many sources

Challenges — how to challenge yourself and what to do when big challenges (ie, mistakes) occur
Structure:

Physical: have a dedicated space — it doesn’t have to be a whole room. Some people manage to work out of a tiny corner. I find having a whole room dedicated to my practice enormously helpful. I can maintain an organized stash of materials that are at the ready when inspiration strikes. Or when I need to just force myself to sew two pieces of fabric together.

 

Having the machine set up and ready to all the time made a huge difference in my willingness to get down to business.

Time: Commit to your practice.  1 day a week every day for an hour.  Whatever works for you. Know what time(s) of day work for you and don’t sacrifice them.

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How to price your handmade textile artwork

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Today I was asked how do I price my artwork. After a few exchanges, I was encouraged to write up a blog post about it. So, here is my two cents. I don’t think it’s original.

So, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Put a price tag on your artwork already!

  1. What are comparable items selling for?
  2. What’s your market audience willing to spend?
  3. How much time did it take you to make the thing?
  4. How much did the materials to make it cost?
  5. Don’t forget to factor in time you spent designing the thing (if it’s original, which it most likely is, if you are reading this).
  6. And don’t forget that you have overhead costs (commissions, listing fees, rent/mortgage, food, travel, classes, etc).
  7. Don’t underestimate the amount of skill you have, especially if you have been doing the thing (whatever it is — writing, baking, embroidery, sewing, quilting, etc) for years
  8. Feel free to pay yourself minimum wage. (Personally, I don’t keep track of how much time I spend on a piece because my time is so broken up and it would drive me crazy to keep track of it.)
  9. The gap between what you want to make and what people want to actually pay for to own can be huge.
  10. Charging less for your work than what it’s worth doesn’t benefit you or other craftspeople. It actually harms them, even if you don’t *need* the money.
  11. It is AOK to make things as gifts for people. You do not have to try to sell every piece you make.
  12. I suck at marketing. I got no tips for you there, but if your work is not selling well, it may not be the quality of your work or the price you are putting on it.

Here are some blog posts that might be of interest (and which are much better written than mine).

Sewmamasew writes about placing a value on our quilts.

Mooreapproved writes about the real cost of quilts.

Hunterdesign studio has at least two great posts about pricing work. First is here.

 

I’m now going to end with a couple random quotes:    “Fungal mats are awesome.” and “It never hurts to have fresh hair.”

PS: check the comments for helpful links to further reading!

Neuron collection: 3 new neuron quilts

Last fall I made a little purple neuron which caught the eye of Jennifer Wells (aka Jenthulu) on Twitter. After SfN14, she asked me if I would make her a new one as well as another one like Dancing, but in different colors.

Even though the request had been for a purple neuron, I got distracted and made a grey neuron highlighted with green flashes. For me, it is reminiscent of the micrographs with GFP (green flourescent protein).  Then I went and made the purple one, using different fabrics on the back as I had done before. I wanted it to feel fresh and as I said on Twitter last week, I’m not interested in reproducibility of results. I am constantly tweaking.

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Grey neuron quilt about 6X9 inches with metallic green flashes

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Purple neuron, dancing on a black background

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“Electricity” A green and pink neuron interact on a field of blue. Size is approximately 20in wide by 18in tall.

Then I set to work on the pair of interacting neurons. I wanted to try something different, so I used foil for the flashing synapses instead of angelina and where the connection was farthest, I added beads in the hopes of conveying the idea of little bits of information crossing (this is more along the lines of artificial intelligence, really, but I’m a fan of scifi too).

Initially I wasn’t sure how the different colors would play out.  I thought the red-pink background I’d made before with black neurons would be the only way to showcase them properly, but with a little time, I was able to figure out another solution. It was good to stretch outside my preconceived notions!

The Skeleton and The Skin: Annet Couwenberg

The Skeleton and The Skin

Annet Couwenberg is a fiber artist whose art work is based on the concept of clothing as a metaphor for examining the precarious balance between the body/skeleton and the outer membrane/skin.

Dr. Lynne Parenti studies the comparative anatomy and distribution of tropical freshwater and coastal marine fishes mainly from Southeast Asia.

Annet and Lynne worked together during the summer of 2014 for a unique Fellowship experience studying the Division of Fishes’ collections through the lenses of both art and science.

Annet Couwenberg's Puff #2, made of laser cut buckram and wood

Annet Couwenberg’s Puff #2, made of laser cut buckram and wood

Last week I got an email with this description from my fiber arts guild email list. Gosh, it was right up my alley. I had to go. So, I traipsed into DC, ice and puddles notwithstanding, and listened to what they had to say.

Couwenberg has no formal science education (beyond your usual secondary ed, I assume). She’s got two degrees in fiber and a background in fashion design, but has long been interested in the relationship between the skeleton and the skin. We saw corset inspired art, for instance. But listening to her talk about her fellowship at the Smithsonian was great.

She really dove into the rich source material on so many levels. Not only was she inspired by how the fish looked, but she was looking at histograms (slides of tissue) and manipulating those and then creating art based on those.

Couwenberg works with a variety of materials. I was particularly taken with her laser cut pieces. Some pieces are lacey, others are stacked (layers and layers (HEY NEURO PEEPS, think about this for those stacked images you guys get — juicy stuff, am I right?)).

Origami is a rich source of inspiration for her too. She had all this folded buckram which was pretty neat (laser cut dots to help with the folds!). And yet, she holds she’s not a sculptor but a fiber artist.

I was struck by a couple thing she talked about. At least twice she talked about how it’s about the process for her. This is how she learns. Finally, someone else like me! I asked her if she could have learned science in this way, might she have been a scientist? She agreed it might have happened.

Someone asked if the technology allowed her to do things she wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. Her answer was interesting to me because she talked about how it didn’t make things easier, but I also have to wonder, if like me, she’s drawn to trying new techniques to help create her art, seeing the possibilities in them.

Dr Lynn Parenti was her science partner and this woman studies fish. I asked at one point if the difference between a scientist and an artist was that the scientist takes things apart while the artist makes things. I think fundamentally, at least in the sciart community, a lot of us are asking the same questions, but approaching from a different viewpoint. The goal is still to learn and communicate and educate.

It seems what Parenti got out of the partnership was the idea to take slides of a coelacanth brain and 3D image it!! How cool is that?

Finally, someone else asked Couwenberg if she thought about working with exoskeletons and exploring that relationship. The answer? She was just starting to do that!

Very exciting work. I’m so glad I went. So, what do you think? Would love to chat about it.

Letting go of fear

Nuno felting experiment

My phrase for this year is “letting go of fear”. I’m afraid of a lot of things. Most of them are quite silly. One of the reasons I love science is that it is all about facts. I find it very comforting to look at statistics, for instance. And I also love the spirit of investigation.

Last May I saw my first nuno felted scarf. I had no idea what it was, but I fell in love. I wanted to know how to do that thing.  In December, I met a woman who agreed to teach me and two weeks ago, she did indeed teach me. I took home four samples. It was so much fun.

Blue merino on silk, green yarn on blue merino, purple pleated, and red and purple grid

My life, with two kids with activity plus my own interests, is busy. I haven’t had the mental space or time to do something new, but I was starting to feel the pressure build. Use it or lose it. I went to two different yarn stores and bought supplies and today, I dove in. I let go of expectations and just tried, encouraging myself as best I could.

I am thinking this may be the chaotic, organic process my work needs. It’s messy, but easy to clean up, and unlike stitching with a machine, you lose a lot of control (over the shape of things). I love the textures you achieve in nuno felting.

I have no idea what I’m going to do with these pieces. They are experiments, but they are also building blocks.  Every time I can sidestep fear, it’s a good moment.

Dolphins on the beach, finished

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Dolphins frolicking in the water under a sliver of a moon.

Turns out the quilt just needed a little moon and voila, it is ready for show time! I had thought I was going to add a bunch more stuff, but after talking with a variety of people, got the idea that the only thing missing to make it a perfect visit to the beach was the moon.

Dolphins and shells: teasers from a work in progress

Now that January has come and gone, I am hoping that the schedule will more amenable to some quality studio time again. On that note, I am posting a couple teaser pictures, which I posted earlier today, from a WIP.

This little quilt is about 12X 17 inches and is part of a group challenge. The pathway (mine is seaweed) connects all seven little quilts. It starts in the forest and ends at the beach. We were tasked with using two techniques we’ve explored in our group since we started. I have used paint and foil (so far), but have also incorporated some techniques I learned or taught myself since last year as well.  The curved piecing is courtesy of Karen Eckmeier, and the little tulle tube that encloses the sea shells is similar to something I did on the Blood Brain Barrier quilt I made last year.

Dolphins leaping in the waves. Stitched down with metallic thread and embellished with foil.

Real sea shells on fake (fabric) seaweed. Contained by tulle and then sewed down with a free motion quilting meander to make individual pockets for each shell.

When mine is done, and everyone else’s too, I will do a blog post that shows all seven together.

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

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(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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