Decay, Disintegration, Distortion

Charity Janisse recently posted a picture of rusted metal on Twitter, which got me thinking about decay. I realized that I tend to focus on themes of vitality in my work and working on the flip side could be interesting.


Flame taken by Charity Janisse and posted in this online article.


Then Lorie McCown came and gave a talk about her work to my quilt guild. She uses a lot of textiles in her work with frayed edges. Boy did she get me thinking about disintegration (as well as making your mark). You can find some great detail shots of her work on her Instagram account here.

And I’ve been talking to people who do computerized generative art. I think it was Anders Hoff who got me thinking about distortion when he posted these.


So, when I found myself with a week with one kid who was going to be gone from 9-4:30 every day, I jumped on the chance to work on a series of 5 panels which I dubbed “Obsessive Stitching 1-5”.  My initial idea was to work with all over patterns, as I had done in the Trajectory: Escape Velocity initial and final panels, but after two days of that, I got bored.

Here is day 1 and day 2.


I had hoped that the above finished panel would be more buckled (as it was promising to do below and like the panel from day 1), but it smoothed itself out in one dimension, while warping the shape!

Day 3. Here’s what happens when I do the same thing over and over. I have to change it up. This one needs more quilting, but I wasn’t able to finish it in one day.


Day 4 I decided to go back to the all over pattern and not worry about distorting the fabric. I was focused more on accentuating the pattern that the dye had created and adding texture. I used two metallic threads (black and red) in one needle (one eye, not two). Here is the result. It’s very subtle. I am quite pleased with how this turned out and think I might add some beads before I call it completely done.

By Day 5, I was exhausted, had run out of food, and had other things to attend to, so I only had a couple hours in the studio. I decided if I worked small(er), I might be able to get something substantial done. Initially I was going to make coccolithophores in space, but that seemed too daunting by Friday afternoon, so I switched to jellies instead. This picture is a bit of a cheat because I only made three jellies the first day. Also, the tweet is misleading. There are 12 jellies on that panel.

All in all, I have to say it was an interesting week. I rarely get concentrated time like that to work, and certainly never 5 days in a row. Working only with hand dyed panels felt very different to me. It is certainly a way to more easily incorporate organic patterns into my work. I also don’t usually focus on the stitching. That has typically been a way to just hold the thing together and add color. Using stitching as way to get to texture was very satisfying, especially as I think of my work more and more as 3d.

I look forward to playing more with stitching and themes of decay, disintegration, and distortion.


Making mistakes work for you

Many of us have this notion that mistakes are things we learn from so we can do something better, but what if you make a mistake and you can’t fix it? As an artist, this is an opportunity to make your work more exciting.

Usually we have this idea that when we make a mistake, we learn from it so we don’t do that thing again. For instance, how many times did you sew two pieces of fabric together in the wrong orientation? Didn’t take too long to figure that out, right? Or how many times did you cut improperly? These sorts of mistakes are good because they make us more careful in our work.

But, then there are the “mistakes of planning,” I’ll call them. They aren’t caused by the same inattention the above errors are. When these mistakes happen, your stomach drops because you feel there is no return from this sort of mistake. Don’t get me wrong, I still get that feeling, but it doesn’t last as long because some of these sorts of mistakes have lead to the end product being much more interesting.

This quilt, with the spiral in the middle, I’d initially intended to have bugs and music on it. When I went to the store, the best I could do was this lobster print. It was black and the lobsters were big, but they were important and I couldn’t release them. Instead, I worked them into the design and put them into the flying geese, which was when I discovered another mistake: one of the lobster parts was flying backwards. Baby quilts are a great place to experiment with design because the baby won’t care.


Another mistake turned into a feature was when I made my older daughter’s bed quilt. I got to the borders and discovered I didn’t have enough of the fabric to go all the way around. Ok, fine, I thought, I’ll just do one edge pink and the other salmon. Which worked if I didn’t have any fabric in the corners. Back to the drawing board. That’s when I realized there was a secondary pattern in the main pieced part of the quilt that was a sawtooth star. Great, problem solved! I would just put sawtooth stars in the corners! It’s now my favorite part of the quilt.


Fast forward a few years and my work is diverging from traditional quilting. The mistakes I’m making now are real opportunities to stretch as an artist.

My normal mode of operation is very “think out loud.” I try not to fasten anything down permanently unless I’m sure, but sometimes things happen that I didn’t prepare for and then I have to adjust.

The last panel for Trajectory: Escape Velocity, in my head, was going to be quilted in the same manner as the first panel. So, off I went and quilted the panel — without looking at the first panel. This time, I quilted it much more densely than I had done with the first panel. Oops, it buckled like mad. I figured, I’ll cut a hole in the middle and then it will be flat and then I can figure out how to cover up the hole. I remembered someone talking about doing something like this. And the panel was unique; it was made from a piece of hand dyed fabric. I couldn’t just scrap it and start over.




Well, I cut the hole and it was still wavy. And that was after I enlarged it at least twice. I put it down and went to bed. The next day, I came back. I couldn’t bring myself to cut into it more. Then I found myself thinking, it’s fabric. Why does it need to be flat? What if I make this work for me? I decided to go with it and it has become a dimensional panel with a hole in the middle. These are special features of this panel. It suits the message I’m trying to get across and it actually is much more interesting than if the panel had been flat with no holes.


So, sometimes mistakes are an opportunity to practice flexible thinking.

Warping the Fabric of Time and Space, panel 8 of Trajectory: Escape Velocity

Studio Session-017

Here we are, the end. The last panel of Trajectory: Escape Velocity. Starting from the beginning of time, we have skipped and hopped, stroboscopically, from the Big Bang through early life and some key points of evolution (at least from the human perspective) to the future. Or one possible future.

In this panel, rockets are leaving earth, heading for the depths of outer space. This panel differs from the others in that it was hand dyed.  As soon as it was done, I knew it would be the last panel. I never expected it would look like this. I will have a post about that issue in the future.

This picture was also taken by Ron Freudenheim.

Here’s a picture I took yesterday which shows how much warping there is. I sewed 16 gauge wire to the each edge to get that effect, among other things. Again, more on that later.


Black Smokers: Part III of Trajectory: Escape Velocity


I was reminded the other day that I had not posted this yet. Sorry! Family life overtook me for a while there and I forgot to blog.

This panel represents black smokers, where early life was thought to have originated. I felted roving on top of silk to create the black smokers which I then appliqued onto the background. Then there was white silk sticking out, so I painted around the edges with a metallic blue fabric paint.  I also put a big plume of smoke in the middle, its base hidden.

The ribbon that is couched on represents streams of smoke or bubbles.  I fused some very small metallic pieces I picked up at Scrap DC to represent those early single celled organisms.  They start out small in number, but as they rise to the top, they become much more numerous. Look for this theme in future panels, as populations rise and create tension over habitat space.

These are tweets of the black smoker in progress:

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.

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.

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


(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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Now On SquareUp Marketplace

Early this year I made an Etsy account and then found out that last year, Etsy had changed their policies so that vendors could outsource labor. I don’t know all the history behind it, but I went in to it believing that it favored small vendors. After I found out about that policy, I held off on listing anything anywhere. I wasn’t established on Etsy and I was focused on producing work for the Society of Neuroscience convention.

I recently discovered that I could list items on SquareUp’s Marketplace, so that’s where you can find my work to purchase online. I have changed the webpage to reflect this and the link will take you to my page on SquareUp’s Marketplace.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to ask! I now have a contact form in the “about me” page or you can email me at artcollisions at gmail dot com.

Not too late to buy an original Artcollisions’ artwork

Now that my two shows of the season are over, your opportunity to acquire one of my pieces in person is gone, but thanks to the internet, you can still get one or more through the magic of electrons.

I’m going to list all the available pieces here, under a cut.  At the moment, I do not have an online store setup, but I can easily email an invoice.

I have edited the post to include dimensions and prices. If you click on a small picture, it will take you to a bigger one.

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Another synapse quilt and a blood brain barrier too!

I have neglected to announce here that I will be in the Art of Neuroscience Exhibit at the annual Neuroscience Convention in Washington, DC from Nov 15-19.  Greg DunnLia Cook, Megan McGlynnMichele Banks, and Kathleen Childress will also be there. There are two sessions open to the public, the first is on Saturday, the 15th, from 11 am to 1 pm and the second is Tues, Nov 18 from 3-5pm (I believe).

One of the things I love about creating art in the neuroscience field is how wide open it is.  I can choose any number of things to focus on, from experimental subjects (like jellyfish and octopuses) to data (as in the action potential graph I did) down to the matter on a microscopic level.  These two quilts were inspired by images that were taken under a microscope. If the green one looks familiar, it should. It was inspired by the same image that I used for the black and white synapses.  The second picture is my rendition of a blood brain barrier inspired by this image by Ben Brahim Mohammed.

If you are looking for more pictures, I have posted a bunch on Twitter. (note that not quite all the pictures/videos here are my quilts, but most of them are.) Please feel free to ask me questions!