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>Miss Scarlet’s School of Patternless Sewing

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Video trailer for Kathy Cano Murillo’s newest novel Miss Scarlet’s School of Patternless Sewing

Kathy Cano Murillo, The Crafty Chica, has long been an inspiration to me, and many of us in the crafting community.  Her joyous can do spirit shines through everything she does, and I  love reading her tales of her crafty adventures.  It was only natural that she also turn her gift with words to ficition, and it was with great delight that I read her first novel Waking Up in the Land of Glitter when it was released last spring.   That story of friendship and crafting was so vivid and so inspirational that I was eager to read her second novel.

Miss Scarlet’s School of Patternless Sewing also tells the tale of a group of women, and the friendships formed around a common goal.  Scarlet Santana is a young designer who worships the designer Daisy de la Flora, and who writes a crafty blog dedicated to Daisy and her style, both in creating artwork and creating a life.  When Scarlet wins an opportunity to study with Daisy’s nephew, the well-known Johnny Scissors, she decides to teach a class in her signature patternless sewing style to raise the funds for the trip to New York City.

The women Scarlet meets in her class range from the high school students Stephanie and Jennifer, to young career-minded wife and mother Mary Theresa, to life-changing Olivia (pronounced “Oh Live Yah!”) and the mysterious Rosa.  Through the course of the class the women get to know each other and bond over their individual dreams and hopes.  They provide each other support and a cheering section for when things get overwhelming.  None of the women are the same at the end of the story as they were at the beginning, and all of them find that dreams don’t die, even when it appears all is lost.

I really enjoyed this novel, the depth of detail Kathy uses in describing each setting and character satisfies my desire for feeling like I’m part of the story.  Scarlet’s style, the design work of Daisy, the setting of Vega’s Vicious Vinyl and of course Nana Eleanor’s home all feel like real places.  Kathy also manages to  fit a lot of her “you can do this too” enthusiasm in through the use of blog posts written by Miss Scarlet, that have tips and techniques for living a fuller, more rich life.  Inspirational and entertaining, Miss Scarlet’s school is a place I would love to visit over and over again

MissScarlet-416x143

As part of the blog tour for Miss Scarlet’s School of Patternless Sewing, I am pleased to present this post from Kathy herself.  As someone who admires Kathy’s ability to transition from the world of making visual art to the world of creating with words, I asked how she handles this sometimes challenging shift in creating, and how each medium can feed the other. This was her answer:

“They both are about translating imagination, but in different forms. I draw from the same pool of creativity – choosing a color story, the mood, a message and then creating a background and foundation, the focal point and the accents and embellishments. Often, while I’m working in the art room, I’ll listen to music that my characters like and think about their storylines. And when I finish a project, it feels good to switch over to writing, I’m excited and ready to type away! I love that with writing, there is no mess. However,  it’s much more difficult to redo a 90,000 manuscript that it is to make changes to an art piece!”

To celebrate the release of Miss Scarlet’s School of Patternless Sewing, I am hosting a giveaway of Kathy’s novels.  One lucky winner will receive a copy of each novel, Waking Up in the Land of Glitter and Miss Scarlet’s School of Patternless Sewing.  Just leave a comment below, and answer the question, what is your favorite craft supply?  I will pick the winners on Monday, March 14.

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Posted by on March 8, 2011 in giveaway, inspiration, play, review

 

>From Start to Finish

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Sometimes art takes a long time to be created.  I drew this bird of paradise twenty years ago while finishing my undergraduate degree.  It is soft pastel on Mi-Tientes paper.  I still can remember the piles of pastel dust that formed on the easel as I worked.  Having a toddler at the time, I was concerned about her safety, and so the pastels went away.

bird of paradise drawing one

Two months ago, while cleaning in the studio, I came across the original drawing, as well as some photographs I’d taken of it at the time.  Since I’ve been working with machine embroidery on photo transfer, I decided to revisit the image.

20040101_21 

I printed out the picture onto Avery transfer paper, after flipping it in my paint program so that it was a mirror image.  I ironed it onto some white twill that I got at Dharma Trading Company, and backed that with several sheets of interfacing designed for machine embroidery.  Here you can see the piece in process.

bird of paradise embroidery 1

The piece, stitching complete.

 bird of paradise I detail two

A detail of the stitching.  You really can see the bird in the flower in this segment. 

I chose to finish this piece differently than the small water tower pieces, and chose some fabric from my stash to sew borders onto the piece.  Then  I stretched that over a 12” x 14” pre-stretched canvas I bought at Dick Blick.  I preferred to use a pre-stretched canvas because the fabric on the piece would be protected from any acids in the stretcher bars.  If I used plain stretcher bars I would seal them first.

 bird of paradise I

The finished piece, available in my Etsy shop

I once told a friend that time is never wasted making something we love.  This certainly was true for this piece.  Even though I never exhibited the original, it still makes me happy to see it and has inspired several pieces over the years.

 

>Tutorial : Our (Green)House

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Last year I made a set of house collages using materials at hand rather than going out and buying new supplies.  Granted, I spent many of the years between 2000-2006 making many “Mr. Toad” (wild ride) trips to Columbus to acquire supplies, so my studio is as well stocked as a small art supply store, but I didn’t look any further than the recycling bin for the base of this project.  (One admission: the frames and spray adhesive needed to be purchased new, and I had to make color copies of my family photos to do this project).

To make your own house collage, you will need:

1 cereal box, emptied and flattened

Gesso and acrylic paint (the $0.89 bottles work just as well as the fancy art store brands for this project)

Paint brushes, water cups, rags for cleanup, putty knife

Template (see sidebar or download the house template here)

XActo, or other craft knife

Scrapbook paper, preferably solid or tone on tone (12” x 12” sheet, plus smaller pieces of other paper, or pre-paint your own paper )

Color copies of family photos, landscapes, whatever catches your eye.  You can also get some great images for collage at ArtChix Studio .

Found objects (I’ve used things like bottle caps, doily pieces, embroidered appliques and small rubber animals)

Acrylic gel medium

Rubber stamps, stencils, bubble wrap, sequin waste, anything that will make a repeating pattern on your base

Dollar store picture frame (with glass) approximately 8” x 10”

Spray adhesive

Pencil or other marking tool, masking tape

1.  First, paint your flattened cereal box with the gesso, letting each side dry completely before adding the first coat of paint.  Let each layer dry, adding texture and details using rubber stamps, stencils, or sequin waste.  I paint both sides on my cereal boxes, using different colors on each side so I have more choices when creating my design.  Waiting for the pieces to dry takes patience, but end result of the funky layers makes the process worth it.  Don’t worry if some of the original cereal box ends up showing through, that just contributes to the charm of the project (or maybe the Lucky Charm; sorry, couldn’t resist).

house collage paint and embellish

2. When you are happy with the way your cereal box looks, trace the house template onto it, and cut out, using the craft knife or a sturdy pair of scissors.

3.  Cut a smaller triangle out of the opposite color/side of the cereal box, and place in the gable, for contrast.

house collage choosing elements

Here you can see the various images I could choose from.  I love making copies of old artwork and resizing the image to fit these little collages.  It really expands my options.

4.  Choose your images and arrange them onto the house.  When you get an arrangement that pleases you, glue the components down using the acrylic medium.  I press larger pieces down using a heavy object such as a big jar of acrylic medium or fabric paint.  Let dry.

house collage arranging elements

Here I chose a piece of paper I had painted last summer using a fish design that I turned into a silkscreen.

house collage gluing the elements

Gluing the elements using the gel medium and the putty knife.

house collage with embellishments

I found some commercial embroidered appliques to add to the image.  I really like how it appears that my daughter is studying her garden.

5. Measure the inside perimeter of your picture frame.  Cut a piece from the 12” x 12” scrapbook paper to fit the area.  Don’t worry if it’s a little larger than your measurement.  It’s easier to trim excess paper than make a piece that is too small fit correctly.

6. Mask off the frame using the masking tape.  Clean the glass in the frame and let dry.  Then spray the glass with the adhesive and stick  the scrapbook paper in place, using a bone folder or old gift card to smooth out any bubbles.  If there is too much paper, try sliding the excess under the edges of the frame with the gift card, then trim any leftover.  Let dry.

7.  Using a putty knife, slather the back of the house with a layer of gel medium (I use  Golden’s Extra Heavy Gel on my pieces.  It’s very thick and stays where I put it).  You will have some ooze, so put a lighter coat near the edges than in the middle.

8.  Place the house, gel side down, centered on the scrapbook paper in the picture frame.  Weigh down with heavy jars as needed.  Let dry.

house collage pressing the collage

 

9. Remove weights and voila!  Hang your beautiful collage in its new home.

house collage on the frame too

This is a great way to make a simple piece of artwork for your home or office.  Use copies of pecial photos and give as gifts.  The possibilities are endless.  To see some of the work I’ve made using this method, look at my Etsy shop.  Have fun!

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2011 in collage, house, ideas, inspiration, mixed media, play, tutorial

 

>One of My Favorite Days and People

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I can’t remember ever not liking February.  Probably because it is so short.  February has the best birthstone (amethyst) and of course there’s Valentine’s Day, with the pink and red and lace and chocolate and hearts!

This year I made some of my own valentines to give out:

valentines in color one

FInished valentines made with Portfolio Oil Pastels on a base of painted, silkscreened and stenciled oaktag.  The drawings were made with India ink.

valentines detail one

A detail of what the blank cards looked like.  You can really see the detail of the silkscreen in this shot.  One of these days I will figure out how to make an image of the wonderful paint scribblings left on my art table.

valentines two

A whole batch of the cards awaiting decorating.

Many of my favorite people were born in February as well.  (With lots of birthday parties and cake! Cake and chocolate, yay!).  My most favorite February person is my Grandpa, who was born today (February 14).  He was a designer at General Motors, and would bring home lunchboxes full of the Prismacolor pencils he used at his job for us to play with. 

grandpa in fishing hat

He also had a good sense of humor.  When he retired, he decided to let his beard grow, and told me he was going to let it grow long enough to tie around his head.

grandpa and shep reading the paper

He also loved his dogs.  Here he is at our house in Michigan, reading the paper with Shep on the sofa next to him and our dog Laddie at his feet.

And my Grandpa loved me so much that when I fell in love with the treasure chest he’d made for himself, he made me one as well.

grandpas treasure chest one

I took this photo when I was 19 and in my “arty photo” phase.  🙂  My Grandpa gave me his love of art and his fun sense of humor, and yes, occasionally his gruff demeanor.  Today would’ve been his 110th birthday.

Sometimes the best gifts are the intangible ones, though I wouldn’t trade anything for my treasure chest.  What gifts have your loved ones given you?

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2011 in inspiration

 

>You’re My Inspiration

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I was recently watching an episode of The Avengers on Netflix.  In this episode, high ranking members of the English military were given a child’s ball which had a hallucinogenic effect on them.  The sets of the playroom they saw while under the influence were graphic and colorful.  I used to watch The Avengers with my dad, and clearly, when looking at my work, I can see the influence of colors from tv shows such as this and Batman, as well as others (Laugh In, anyone?).

But one of the most obvious influences on my choice of colors and occasional fantastic imagery is the wonderful Peter Max.  His bold colorful images and detail filled work made my heart sing.  Imagine my surprise when I read in the 10th Anniversary issue of Veg News that he had been approached to create the Yellow Submarine film, but had turned it down.  The director hired another artist to work in Mr. Max’s style.  That explained so much about that movie.

I went searching for images to share with you and found this wonderful cake , inspired by the movie.  I think I know what I’m making for my birthday in April 😉

And now, some Yellow Submarine inspired artwork, from my work in a Moleskine Cahier notebook:

sketchbook project inside front cover

Pen and ink.

sketchbook project spread one

Collage from an old AAA travel guide, india ink, rubber stamp, acrylic and gouache.

sketchbook project spread one detail

Detail.

sketchbook project spread two

View out the submarine’s porthole.

sketchbook project july one

I decided to colorize this one.  I used Inktense pencils by Derwent.

sketchbook project july two

Here you can see the detail of the pencil lines from the coloring.  I used to hate those, I wanted the image as smooth as possible, but as I’ve grown as an artist I can see the value in letting the process be seen in the lines.  If I did want this image more smooth, I could take a wet watercolor brush into it and dissolve the colors.  I may try that with a future iteration of this piece, drawn with a waterproof pen.  (I used a Pilot V7 on this one, and they most definitely aren’t waterproof).

sketchbook project july three

Then I imagined the submarine and the views from it as a necklace, with a sea urchin as a background.

sketchbook project july four

Most of the time I freehand the drawings, but for this one I used a light pencil sketch first.  You can see the faint lines if you look closely.  If I were doing this for reproduction, I would use a non-photo blue pencil next time.

sketchbook project july five

These are what I imagine the really deep sea submarines would look like.  Or perhaps the fish have evolved to take on some of the characteristics of the submarines they see daily.

sketchbook project july six

I had a lot of fun with the scales on this one. 🙂

What inspires you?  Are there images or colors you can trace directly to an outside influence? Or is your inspiration more subtle?  It’s always interesting to hear how other artists get their ideas.  How do you work?  Feel free to download the free worksheet from the sidebar and go wild!

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2011 in ideas, inspiration, play

 

>What Color is Your Thinking Cap?

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duck tub

You’re the One  crochet and knitting with found objects

One way to cope  have fun with the switch between doing chores, whether they be household, or the daily to-dos for your art career, is to have different costumes.  Remember in grade school when your teacher would tell you to get your thinking cap on?  I was so disappointed that there wasn’t an actual thinking cap for us to wear.  Maybe it was just me, but I thought the idea of having something fun to wear could help a boring or difficult task more fun.

Who wouldn’t have a bit more fun if you did your errands dressed as a samurai?

tibetan temple

Tibetan Temple knitting and crochet, wool, soy silk and acrylic

Maybe did your thumbnail sketches under the boughs of a beautiful oak?

walk in the forest

A Walk in the Woods knitting, crochet and found objects, wool and cotton

Or even did your household chores dressed a little like Jackie Kennedy?

Jackie

Jackie wool and acrylic, knit and crochet

There is  something to be said for costumes.  Even Havi wrote about them at her blog.  Having one can help you be brave, to act as if (I am thinking of my “New Job, Model Citizen” dress slacks that I wear when I want to project that air of confidence and competence at events such as art openings).  Having one can help your brain transition from mundane work stuff into art making time. 

alice repose

Alice’s Repose crochet, i-cord, found object; wool and acrylic

I have a small wardrobe of aprons that I keep in my studio, and when I am having a hard time getting into the work on any given day, I put on an apron, even if I am not planning on doing any messy work that day.  This tells me that it is time to play, and I can feel my body relax and stop fighting the urge to have fun.

cake

Just Desserts wool, alpaca and cotton; knit and crochet.

Whether it is a thinking cap, an apron, or something more elaborate, a costume can add a lot of fun to your daily routine.  What roles do you play, and how could you dress them up?

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2011 in inspiration, play, process

 

>Time Travel

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Twenty years ago when I was in graduate school, I wanted to do a series on water towers.

I took reference photographs.

water tower route 33

Water towers on Route 33 near The Plains, OH.

andrews water tower master copy

Water tower on the grounds of Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland.

I took my two toddlers out and parked in the parking lot of the local credit union and drew in the back seat of the car.

water tower drawing one

Water towers, Route 33, Caran D’Ache Neocolor II watercolor crayons on Arches Cover Black paper.

water tower drawing two

Water towers, Route 33, Caran D’Ache Neocolor II watercolor crayons on Arches Cover Black paper.

And I drew from reference photos, in my studio.

Gaffney SC drawing one

Gaffney, SC, Caran D’Ache Neocolor II watercolor crayons on Arches Cover Black paper, 40” x 30”.

(I couldn’t find my reference photo to put in this post.  Ironic, isn’t it?)

That’s as far as it got at the time.  There were a few false starts at paintings that ended up covered over, but these images were all that I had for a very long time.  Then I decided to revisit the imagery in my quilts (blog posts here and here).

And, while searching for a way to make some images that fit the parameters of a show calling for pieces no larger than 5”  in any direction, I remembered a technique described in the book Freestyle Machine Embroidery by Carol Shinn.

Carol took her source image and printed it out onto transfer paper.  She then ironed it onto a stiff fabric and filled in the image using machine embroidery.

Which I decided to do with the old drawings.

route 33 autumn afternoon

Route 33, Autumn Afternoon  Machine embroidery and photo transfer on twill.  5” x 5”

route 33 summer afternoon detail one

Detail, showing the layers used to create the feeling of the undergrowth.

gaffney sc embroidery one - Copy

Gaffney SC II, still in process.  You can see the twill on the borders.  I also use several layers of interfacing to stabilize the fabric and minimize distortion during stitching.

gaffney sc embroidery detail one - Copy

Here you can really see the texture of the stitches and of the twill underneath the iron-on.

I am using Golden Extra Heavy Body Gel to adhere the finished stitching to the canvas, pressing the work between two boards weighted down with paint jars.   Once the gel is dry, I trim the image close to the canvas and then paint the edges of the canvas with a coordinating color of acrylic paint.  In the future I may experiment with making the edges of the canvas covered in machine embroidery as well.

I really enjoyed working this way, and am eager to make new source drawings (of various subjects) to work from.  What treasures do you have in your studio that could provide a springboard for new creativity?