Saturday, December 21, 2013

Using Postage Stamps in Artwork

Scroll #1: Flowers

Madonna and Child - not the postage
stamp but the picture on the self-
adhesive sheet. These images
are always large and very distinct.
I love postage stamps!  Growing up in Connecticut, I collected them since I was a child and sent away for catalogs from states faraway, like Montana and Florida, just so I would get mail and some new stamp I'd never seen before.  When they came out with commemorative stamps (when was that?), I bought all the beautiful ones I could afford.  Then when I studied in Japan I purchased them in lovely sheets.  Even better, my Japanese friends would send me letters and the front of the envelope would be covered with gorgeous stamps so the envelope with the stamp would be saved as well as the letter.
A number of years ago I wanted to include them in my fabric collage cards so I decided to cover each stamp with a piece of tulle, usually black when the stamp was dark (you can see a dark image below it very nicely), so that the stamp floated inside the netting.  For my most recent Christmas and holiday cards this year, I decided to just machine sew the stamp to the fabric and card below.
Earlier this year, the Surface Design Association (SDA) state group had a fabric challenge in which I used many of the flower and flag stamps from Japan.  Because scrolls fascinate me and I wanted to know how they were made, I created one out of obi and kimono fabric (see top image).  These stamps were each covered with a small piece of tulle netting to encase the stamp and allow it to float.

I'm looking forward to more ways to use the stamps I have, especially in themed pieces.

Saturday, December 14, 2013


"Extra Hands Available"
These three pieces are currently on show at the Holland Area Arts Council ( through Feb. 15 in the "Oddbodies" exhibit, an invitational of 10 West Michigan artists.  It's a small show in the Armstrong Gallery, but I am so honored and delighted to have been asked by Lorma Freestone, the Executive Director, to be a part of it.  She came to me last June and said, "We're going to do this ugly doll show for the holidays."  

Ugly dolls!  Me?!  Yicks!  Not me.  I had worked so hard for so long to do such lovely, serene, contemplative, pretty faces.  Well, I looked on the arts council website in October or so and discovered, fortunately, that it had been named "Oddbodies" with the description, "A total departure from the precious - this doll exhibit features figures created from the darker side of our artists' imaginations."  Now there was something I thought I could wrap my mind around, but not the dark side.  I've realized I don't have a dark side; maybe a weird or odd side, but not dark.  It still took me days of drawing and grumbling to realize that all those bags of heads and bags of body parts were finally going to be of use.  So, voila!  And, along with my photo transfer self-portrait pieces where I imagined myself in new bodies (longer legs for one!), such as "Self-Portrait in Pink Zippers", these attempts were unsuccessful, but who knows?  Maybe my next attempts will be prettier and not so odd.

I should also mention that Mary Sundstrom (Program Director at HAAC) has her newest series of "The 7 Deadly Sins" (wickedly funny and very apt) along with pieces that are from the arts council's permanent collection such as my good friend Alice Breese's handmade paper torsos, "Who Will Respond."

"My New Body:
Attempt #1"

"My New Body: Attempt #2"

Monday, December 9, 2013

Deconstructed Screen Printing, Part 2

One of my favorite images:  a snowflake or crystal.  The small screen
was prepainted with acrylic paint as a permanent resist, then painted
with Intense Blue dye.  This pale olive knit was first arashi shibori
resisted and dyed in indigo, then DSP'd for a deeper,
more complex image.
Continuing on with my first post on DSP, I printed so much fabric (all knits) and became so excited with the results.  Here are more images with descriptions of the process(es) in the captions. Near the bottom you'll see some images are the screen before printing with the resulting fabric.  Wish I'd remembered to photograph more screens! ---next time since, of course, I have more painted screens to be printed.
Black dots printed on fine turquoise striped knit
which had previously been dyed in indigo
using a knotted technique.

A fine purple striped knit printed with dark
blue stripes and dots.
Printed fabric.
Screen simply painted
with Fuschia
and Strong Orange.
Printed fabric
Screen has a permanent resist
of leaves painted with acrylic
paint, then painted with Intense
Blue and Strong Orange dye. 

Discharged, Dyed, Handprinted: Multiple Techniques

Chinese Red

I've been doing discharge "dyeing" for a long time, using Kona cotton as a basic fabric removing color to create patterns with bleach (neutralized in Anti-Chlor), Thiox paste and hot Thiox bath, and Jacquard paste.  Most of the patterning has come from shibori techniques, often arashi shibori (fabric wrapped on PVC tubes and scrunched down to create that wild lightning pattern) or the easy technique of knotting long lengths of fabric.  The above Chinese Red Kona was scrunched and tied in a ball, and dyed in hot Thiox bath; then sprayed with bleach.

I've taken a lot of these fabrics and added another layer of design to heighten the patterning.  For instance on the above red fabric, I printed squares and circles with Jacquard paste and then drew lines with thickened Procion MX black dye.

Original discharge print on
Emerald Kona with
crystal/snowflake stamp
Gold printed on top of crystal/snowflake images
 Sometimes, just the discharged images work beautifully, especially when the color modulates from very dark (the original fabric's color), through mid-tones, to very light colors.  This is so obvious to me in the fabric below:  Purple Kona which was scrunched and then discharged in a hot Thiox bath. 
"Purple Galaxy"
"Burgundy Leaves" with bleach sprayed background
and Jacquard printed leaves.
Midnight Galaxy
After discharging the Dark Rose Kona
above, I printed red/pink circles
with Bubble Wrap.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Lou Wolf's Indigo Dyed Pieced Quilt

My friend Lou Wolf sent me this image of her pieced quilt top using many of the small indigo dyed samples she made on our last May indigo dyeing day.  Wow!  My July 7 post has two close-up images of her samples from our May 4 dyeing day.  Lou also had a quilt piece in ArtPrize this year at Fountain Street Church.  See can find her at which gets you to her Facebook page.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Rusted fabric

Rusted white cotton jersey knit using crumpled
steel wool.

This past weekend I experimented with rusting fabric.  I used a heavy white cotton jersey.  I crumpled and pulled out pieces of steel wool (without soap) and sprinkled them on the sprayed fabric.  I covered the steel wool/fabric with another layer of fabric and sprayed it with more 50/50 vinegar/water, then covered it with black plastic.  I left it overnight (6pm to about 7am this next morning).  For some reason I didn't pull it apart but covered it back up and left it until late afternoon by which time it probably had gone farther than what I wanted but it still looked wonderful.  On another piece I put large round pieces of rust (from my old van...) which didn't do anything.  My friend Lou Wolf (mentioned in earlier posts with indigo shibori) said I was supposed to weigh it all down with something heavy which may be why the large pieces didn't do anything.  Crumpled steel wool seem to do well in either case.

I used mint tea leaves to continue the experiment (below) to achieve some irregular dark dots.  I did a previous experiment a couple of years ago on rusted white linen with well used wet green tea leaves (on dry fabric as I remember) and got gorgeous dots and splotches.  More experiments to do!

Rusted cotton knit sprayed with vinegar/water solution
and then sprinkled with mint tea leaves for dark dots.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Deconstructed Screen Printing, Part 1

The black stripes on screen prior to
printing the fabric.  So simple and I got
13 or 15 prints of the fabric. 
Black striped fabric on a heavy white
cotton knit.

I spent 3 weeks at the end of September doing deconstructed screen printing after not doing it for 5 years (took Kerr Grabowski's workshop with SDA in Detroit in March 2008) so I spent a lot of time trying to decipher my copious notes and reacquainting myself with Kerr's handouts.  It took me at least a day to find "my path" and what I wanted to print, the colors (love pink too much...), and how to achieve it.

Almost all of these fabric samples are on cotton or rayon knits.  I use knits almost exclusively for my tall, freestanding one-of-a-kind dolls, such as the Pisces Woman (see previous posts of Pisces Women using deconstructed screen printed knits).  I love printing and painting on knits because they already are cushy and usually don't need to be tacked down (only the jersey knits which tend to roll at the edges).  

Also, I use ALL (and I mean all ) of the dye that's on the screen so there's nothing left.  I go back into other prints that seem to be too blank or lacking pattern and use up all the dye from whatever screen I'm using.  This creates multiple possibilities that you can't get from one screen.  I put dye patterns/images on all of the screen I have (6 or 7?) and then go through and use them all up.  Isn't the first image a gas!!  It's on white rayon knit with multiple screens: leftover black stripes, black dots, fuchsia and orange painting.

Unfortunately, I should have done a trial steaming or batching on the very first group.  Batching doesn't seem too work well for me since nowhere in my house or even in my car do I get a constant 70 degrees for 12-24 hours.  I did put the first batch in my van's back (benches always are removed) but of course I had to use the van the next day and had to remove the boards with the plastic covered fabric.  

I did try the oven "steaming" method which worked very well:  Preheated at 285 degrees; pan of very hot tap water in the bottom; cotton fabric encased in pellon envelopes and rolled into a loose spiral; "baked" for 30 mins., unrolled and rerolled as well as turn up side down, and "baked" for another 30 mins.  (Thank you, Holly Brachmann for all the information in your "Surface Designer's Handbook.")  Very little dye was lost and this was the last of the black striped fabric.  On the steamed black stripes (galvanized metal garbage can steamer with propane heater below), the washed fabric on some of them did get wet at the bottom and lost lots of dye (maybe not the steaming; maybe I forgot the activator in the release paste since I didn't soda soak the fabrics).  These black striped fabrics actually turned dark purple (or was that from the reddish navy dye...).  As you can tell this was definitely not scientific in any way.  I do wish I had taken images of the first screens and kept track of what worked when.  Oh well, I have a HUGE pile of fabric now and I love all of it.

Pre-resisted crystal pattern (acrylic paint on screen) with
fuchsia dye on indigo dyed lavender-blue knit.
Pre-resisted spirals (acrylic paint on screen) with black dye
on indigo dyed cotton knit.
Orange-red texture from bubble-wrap with
yellow on white rayon knit.
Black dots on indigo dyed turquoise striped knit.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Art-in-the-Park, Holland, August 3

Glamour Girl with Grass Hair
and Rose Pin
Please join me for a wonderful day at the 44th Annual ART-IN-THE-PARK in downtown Holland, Michigan's Centennial Park.  I'll be at Booth #259 at the corner of Central Avenue and 10th Street from 9am to 4pm with many new dolls and hand printed fabrics, plus hand printed and painted jackets and silk scarves.  Look forward forward to seeing you there!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Indigo Dyeing - Part 3

Mokume (wood grain) piece by Lou Wolf
Awase-nui (linked circles) piece by Lou Wolf

Lou Wolf has been a part of the indigo dyeing group for the last two years here at  my house.  These two small samples, meticulously stitched and pulled, were done at this year's dyeing session on May 5.  Lou is a quilter using the kaleidoscope technique of making round mandala quilts.  Her work can be seen at Synchronicity Gallery in Glen Arbor, Michigan, as well as many quilts shows, such as the August 2012 American Quilt Society's conference exhibit here in Grand Rapids.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The July Garden

Cosmos in pink and deep carmine along with white
and blue larkspur hardly compete with the tall spires
of Olympic Mullein and lavender.
Summer is my favorite season and so far I have been spending a great deal of time outside in my gardens trying to not just get plants in the ground, but massive amounts of weeding, even still getting seeds planted.  This image below I just took from my deck high above the backyard.  ( Please disregard the hose....)  

My front garden probably gets more of my attention because it's easier to get to and I always walk out front first thing in the morning to see the sun come up.  The Olympic Mullein is blooming and filled with bees.  The lavender is truly beautiful and, with the Butterfly Weed blooming in brilliant orange across from it, this part of the garden is bursting with color.  I do love intense colors, and I will admit to loving pink.  I once tried to have all pink in my garden---really boring, since of course, it's the complement of opposing colors that recreates the dynamic effect.  So, as plants are added and they start blooming, I'll add more images; hopefully even some of fabric since my goal today is to not only finish trimming the last two yew hedges but to clean out the garage of the hated cottonwood tree's snow but to  organize it for my annual summer garage studio work of printing and painting fabric.

My backyard, heart-shaped garden features mostly Rose Campion right now.
The Golden Yarrow rises above in the back left and lemon-scented day lilies
just started blooming this morning (on the right).  

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Great Day in East Lansing

Thank you all so much for visiting me at my booth last weekend. 
Though the weather was hot all weekend, it was a wonderful
time to meet you and get to talk with you.

I'll be sending out emails soon about classes here at my
house, especially those that take place in my garage and
involve having fun with textile paints (jacket workshop,
printing and painting fabric) and discharge dyeing
(purposely removing color from fabric in patterns, often
using Japanese shibori/tie-dye techniques).  Please check my
CLASSES section on my website (link below) to see all the
different classes that are available.

Let me know what class you're interested in taking and what
day of the week/month you're available.  That's right---you
tell me when you want to take the class and then I work to
find other students (unless you're bringing friends with you
and the class is filled) and the right day of the week.  

Take care and look forward to seeing you, again.  Happy
Spring into Summer!

Indigo Dyeing - Part 2

The orinui pattern of "teeth or molars" that this stitch
technique produces.  I used a bright purple cotton knit,
and with the indigo blue, the purple looks pink.

One of the best (maybe THE best) part of indigo dyeing is the surprise of seeing the change in color from what you put in the vat, to the odd but lovely teal/turquoise as it oxidizes in the air, to the final lovely blue.

Adding the indigo powder to 3 gallons of water.  Then
Thiox and soda ash will be added, GENTLY stirred, then
left to sit for 30 mins. before starting the dyeing.
You start by soaking the fabric in water.  (Because water molecules are larger than dye molecules, when  put in the indigo vat, the indigo will only go where there isn't a resist, e.g., stitching, rubber bands, tightish wrinkles.)  The fabric/yarn, etc., is pulled out of the water in which it's been soaking, squeezed well, and put in the indigo vat.  If the vat has just been started, 1 or 2 seconds can be enough to produce a medium to dark color.  The more it's used, the longer time it needs to be left in the vat.

The vat can be resuscitated/revived that day if the color gets pale by adding 1 to 2 tsps. of Thiox.  (I've revived pre-reduced indigo vats 11 months after its initial used with this method!)

Lari's cotton yarn that she wrapped in
sections (ikat) to produce a varigated
striped yarn.

The white cotton yarn
goes into the vat.
The "white" yarn comes out seconds later
as a teal/turquoise, and....

The "white" yarn is oxidizing in the air and gradually
will come to its full blue color.  (Also wish it could
stay this lovely teal/turquoise....)
There are so many possibilities in using resists to create pattern.  At
the  left is a shirt that was wrapped around a PVC pipe (top wrapped
first and ending on outside is the bottom) then wrapped with string so
the most graphic part in which the indigo dye hit first is on the bottom.  The right 2 most pieces used folding and clamps to resist the dye.