Sunday, November 21, 2010

YT Galleria Show, Grand Rapids, Michigan

If you're in the area, please visit the show and even better, attend the reception on Thurs., Dec. 9, and meet Ann Willey.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Square Headed Women

Black Tan Big Circles
Woman in Tassels
Ms. X
Green Pink Leaves
Pink Green Leaves
Black, Brown, Tan

Cats and those who want to help you create your fiber artwork

Sweetie Pie catching flies!
My 7-month kitty is the best fly catcher I've ever had!  He's already proven to be a great mouser (a shrew mouse brought right to my feet to prove it).  He often helps with embroidery in the evening, especially trying to swallow the embroidery floss and grab the fabric collage pieces in order to make sure they're the right ones.  We have arguments over this but he always ends up taking a nap on my lap so I guess he wins.  "Dogs have owners.  Cats have staff." It's a saying that's becoming true again in my house with this new generation of cat.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Boisali Biswas and Her Perpetual Garden

Boisali Biswas, originally from Calcutta, India, and now living in West Bloomfield, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, shared with me pictures of her recently painted fences surrounding her house's backyard.  She calls these paintings, "Perpetual Garden," and you can see why.  Boisali is one of the most creative individuals I've ever met.  I had the pleasure of taking a workshop with her on screen printing using crayon resists through the Michigan Surface Design group.  Also, she recently spoke to the Lakeshore Fiber Arts Guild, a group I've belonged to since its inception in 1979.  Check out our guild's blog and her work at where you will find the link to her webpage and many images of her work.  As she said, "It will be interesting to see what it looks like in a lot of snow this cold winter."

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Painting and Printing Fabric: Making Stamps and Stencils

Hand cut stamp made from one
inch rubber insulation foam
Reverse side of circle stamp
Knit fabric using stencil (pictured
below--Squares) and stamp with
squares; and stamp with circles
I've been taking the last few days of good weather (sunshine, still in the 60's but barely) to paint and print fabric in my summer studio (aka my garage).  I try to paint outside so the mess is easily cleaned up and use the autumn, winter, and early spring for creating inside.  A lot of the fabric I'm using is knit, my choice for my one-of-a-kind dolls as well as the dolls that are poseable.  (Created because my hand problems needed a softer fabric that I didn't have to stuff hard:  that's knit fabric and it opened up a new world of dollmaking to me.  (Visit my website or to see my 8 patterns available.)
Printed knit fabric using circle stamps

I've also made many new stamps and stencils.  Stamps I make out of 1" thick insulation foam which I buy from the scratch pile at Grand Rapids Rubber here in GR on Chaffee Blvd.  It's somewhat expensive but the stamps last forever it seems and with a very sharp bladed Xacto knife any shape is easily cut.  For stencils, I've been using the pile of excess manilla file folders I have.  Again, the Xacto knife works the best with the folder laid on top of a pile of newspapers or a thick magazine.  To keep the stencil impervious to water after using it, coat it with a clear acrylic medium.

Note the dark knit fabric on which I stenciled the tiny triangles:  a lighter color on dark fabric, especially textured (herringbone on right), gives an interesting effect.
Printed knit using XXX stamp

Stencils, all my own design and hand
cut, except for upper left; purchased
stencils should be surrounded with
a wide plastic/heavy paper and taped
on both sides.

Woven fabric on left and knit on right with tiny triangle
stencil; note below how the light color stenciled onto a
dark fabric creates an interesting subtle effect.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Using the Old to Make the New: Embroidery and Collage on Monoprints

Bird Tracks in the Sky

Cobwebs in the Sky
When I first started painting and printing fabric, I was so hesitant that I decided to use old clothing that was so bad I wouldn't have even given it away.  I especially had an old hooded sweatshirt that was ragged but had been a reject at the store since its parts didn't match well.  I thought I would take it apart, paint it, and put it back and see what kind of wild garment I could create.

Well the taking apart and the painting got done, but the putting back together never happened since, again, I looked at it and decided to embroider over the painted images.  The sweatshirt material was a lovely sky blue and with the huge yellow squares that have blue/green coming through the polka dots, to me it was too tempting.

At the time I had just taken a wonderful 5-day workshop at Split Rock Arts Program (U. of Minnesota in Minneapolis/St. Paul) with Ilze Avicks, a contemporary embroiderer, on "Fabric Collage and the Stitched Mark."  I discovered that I love doing what I call exaggerated stitches (such as huge, open, long chain stitches) on small pieces.  So that's what I did with the first 2 pieces, Cobwebs in the Sky (left) and Bird Tracks in the Sky (right), which each measure about 4" x 3.5".

Mending the Universe
I also love to work on painted/printed knit fabric (used exclusively on my tall one-of-a-kind dolls), adding beads and embroidery.  This type of work lends itself wonderfully to a class where student print/paint in the morning (with textile paints) and then embroider in the afternoon.  "Mending the Universe" and the purple on pink with beads are examples of this.

Roses Swimming on Dots 2
Even before the Split Rock Arts workshop, I had been doing a lot of collage work, but mostly with free-form machine embroidery, as illustrated in "Roses Swimming on Dots."  The possibilities are endless.  I have a exhibit at St. Cecilia Music Center's Terryberry Gallery in downtown Grand Rapids (Michigan) for May through June, 2011, in which I'm planning on showing this type of monoprinted and embroidered fabric.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

You Won't Believe It: Saving Wipe-Up Paper Towels to Make Fabric Paper

I read about saving the paper towels that you use to wipe up paint and dye and was a little grossed out and exasperated---I save way too much already!  Truly, though, this technique not only recycles, but the scrunching of the paper towels as you wipe up paint/dye creates a pattern.  When you open the PT to flatten it out, you'll see the "tie-dye" pattern.  (Actually, it's a Japanese shibori resist technique---I mentioned "shibori" in one of my earlier posts about arashi shibori patterned scarves.)

Next time you plan to use textile paints or dyes, pay attention to how you scrunch the PT.  You can unfold, rescrunch it to get more color in a white area, unfold and rescrunch, etc.  Then carefully unfold it, gently pull out the painted areas to flatten, then let dry.  Once dry, turn it over on an ironing board (paper, etc., underneath may help to save staining your board), and with steam, adhere a lightweight iron-on interfacing to the back.  Voila!  You have made fabric paper.

The first image shows two of the wipe-up painted paper towels.  The second image shows two pieces that I purposely poured liquid dye pigment on, let dry, and then printed Lumiere paints with stamps.  Between these two techniques, you'll end up with a lot more fabric paper than you probably can use.

 I've sold a lot of these to people doing scrapbooking.  I use them to make dolls, such as my "Self-Portraits in Bloom" shown in one of my previous posts (July'10?).   So, another way to have more fun with your artwork than you thought possible!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Taking the Color Out--What Fun!

I started years ago with the oddly named technique of "discharge" dyeing (people think it's effluent or something horrible...) but really it's one of the most exciting ways to create pattern.  When you're standing in front of your washing machine and accidently realize that your black T-shirt or blouse has a white spot on it from the bleach you were pouring out---"Wow or ouch" as the case may be, but that's discharge dyeing--TAKING THE COLOR OUT!

I began with Kona cotton fabric which almost every fabric store sells.  They come in a huge variety of colors and almost every one of the colors discharges.  I also used black silk scarves to create a wild striped pattern using a polewrapping technique from Japanese shibori called arashi.   I use bleach, Thiox and Jacquard's Discharge Paste to create these patterns.  I also have Formosul to try but haven't gotten the courage yet since it has formaldehyde in it.  Classes on this technique of discharge dyeing are always fun and serendipitous since exact results can never be expected, just amazing pattern and color variations.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Gray Black Copper Jacket, 2008

Hand printed fabric has been a part of my work for many years.  Using clothing to create an artistic environment has been very fulfilling.  Below is "Gray Black Copper Jacket" and detail of front closure from 2008.  My website,, lists my classes.  The jacket painting/printing class is one of the most popular.

Self-Portrait in Pink Zippers, 2009

My 2009 artist-in-residency and exhibit at Forest Hills Fine Arts Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan, gave me the opportunity to work on a series of 7 pieces in the humorous vein.  Since I love pink (if I ever had a rock band, I probably call it "Pink Overload.")  On this one, long pink zippers were stitched together with a bustier underneath.  At the beginning of the exhibit the zipper was underneath the bustier, at the end of the exhibit it was down near my navel (therefore, there was artist-viewer interaction).

Self-Portrait with Pink Fruit, 2008

I realized at some point that I've been doing self-portraits (or purposely choosing myself as my subject) ever since college.  I began in 2008 to do photo transferred images of my face, hands and feet and adding them to this long rectangle and adding all kinds of items that were meaningful to me.  I never seem to be able to throw anything away that seems to have any meaning to nostalgia for me so those items have sat waiting for these pieces.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Pisces Woman 17 - Detail, 2010

Pisces Woman 17: Holding Striped Fish, 2010

In the mid-1980's I joined an artists' coop in downtown Holland, Michigan, called Black River Gallery---a great group of men and women.  That's where I really started making dolls and working on all different techniques using fabric to express me and the world around me and how I see it.  During my first year in the gallery, I wove tiny (3"x5") keyhole landscape tapestries using bundles of sewing thread.  There were many times when I wanted to be comical or outrageously humorous in the tapestries but I couldn't sustain the humor since tapestry is very labor and time intensive.  But when I began making dolls, the expressive quality of a 3-D figure in fabric was immediately satisfying.  (I did later go back and combine my tapestries and dollmaking, but that's another story for later.)