A TECHNIQUE DRIVEN Blog dedicated to mastery of surface design techniques. First we dye, overdye, paint, stitch, resist, tie, fold, silk screen, stamp, thermofax, batik, bejewel, stretch, shrink, sprinkle, Smooch, fuse, slice, dice, AND then we set it on fire using a variety of heat tools.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

So this is real life

I sure hope everyone checks out our blog tomorrow for the exciting new format for 2014 which will surely have our followers included and involved in the monthly techniques.

And now to put an end to this month's technique..
I know this has been a bit boring and a lot of the blame is that I've been pretty unwell, the weather is not cooperating with my need to have light and freezing me out of the wood shop. So sorry and I can guarantee I won't bore you again. My month next year will have us all up and active!!

I am still encased in ice and the temp was 3 this morning at 10. Part of the problem with my project was that the the color I painted the stretcher was off and the stretcher was a bit too big. Let's have a look.

These were the bags from which I chose roving.

When I tried to just using the Janome felter to joint the section they just raved and shredded

I knew I had to use some roving to cover the "seam' which seemed easy at the time and I do have to admit, if I was loving this I might have tried harder. I chose these two colors which actually matched well. I had to take these pictures in direct light but trust me they both looked good.

I picked this one

From a distance this doesn't look too bad. The color of the frame looks good in this pic but in reality it too dark plus I now want a 1/4" reveal and not an inch. I will use mat gel medium to attach it to the stretcher.

In this picture you can see the poor outcome with the needle felter. I cannot have UFO's. I don't know why but I have to finish everything and when I do - happy or not - will pop up the picture. Might be a while so in the meantime check our big announcement tomorrow!!!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Approaching the finish line and an announcement teaser

This piece will be done before the end of the week. I feel I should apologize for all the delays but when thinking about what delayed me, I realized this is most probably what happens to most (disorganized materials) people.
Ten day ago I started the worst health week ever and could barely get out of bed. Then I needed to cut my stretchers in the barn but it was -16 F. After the temps rose, I got them cut and spent almost an entire day looking for my BIG staple gun. Then came the ice storm so I am shooting photos with artificial light.

I will also start daily posts because we at the FIRE blog have some exciting news to announce and you may find yourselves quite intrigued by upcoming events for 2014!!

I have decided on a stretcher about an inch bigger on all sides to keep the image from floating yet not really "framed". 

I have actually used a plastic drop cloth - a miracle for me and glued and stapled the joints.

I tried an number of weights of cotton, canvas and linen and ended up with this medium weight linen. The directions (yes, another miracle, I read them) said not to stress the joints for 24 hours. I may or may not heed this warning. My room is very warm because I chill so easily during chemo so I may push the envelope, my usual MO and stretch later today.
Next up stretch as tightly as possible, gesso 2-3 coats then paint and use matte medium to attach. 
There will be other decisions so I will document them as well and the piece will hopefully be done in a day or two.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A supply question

These wool felted blankets are such a great find. Unfortunately many surface designers are buying them up. I do have a few places where you can get them.
I bought mine at an Army Navy Store years ago to use as batting in a HEAVY weight quilt. Now you can't find them any where but online...

Heavy weight and a bit on the pricey side here

Czech White Wool Blanket

A bit less money but with a small strip here

And here

Even if you just get one, You can use it as yardage to make a jacket, make small felted landscapes, purses or let you imagination run wild. Acid dye is cheap and gives beautiful colors. Party on....

Friday, December 20, 2013

My final answer is.....

Since color is such a critical part of this piece, I have been agonizing over getting the colors to "say" just what I want. I got out the Janome felting machine and the green and blue roving and started to experiment.

 This felted blanket was a dream to felt. This was just the smallest piece of roving and it covered the white fairly well. On the right is tulle which was a disaster. It just shredded itself into thin air.
Physically I am not up to snuff and the thought of having to completely cover the dyed pieces with roving was not a pleasant prospect.

I saw a DVD on Nienek's website, bought it, watched it (amazing) and then understood the necessity to add multiple colors to achieve the color you desire. So I went back to my wet studio (kitchen) and started mixing colors I thought would achieve the colors I wanted.

You can see the color I arrived at by mixing three colors (top of dish). It was sort of an olive brown.

 I took the vinegar water and added a bit of black, yellow and orange to bring these pieces of felted wool back to the colors I wanted and hopefully" achieve some sort of complex hues and values to the piece. I have to say I was pretty happy with the outcome.

These are both sides of the felted wool

I really love this blue and certainly provokes the feeling of cool and sky.

The green is not as obvious in this photo but when it is dry I believe there will be many values of green giving the cool impression of grass and a stable earth.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Roving and felting

I was lucky enough to see this offer on a yahoo group of 50 oz's of wool and silk roving for about $50.00. It 's been a while and the details are fuzzy but I didn't take me long to grab the box and start looking for greens and blues to give a better sense of the colors I want for this Rothko like piece.

The bag in the center above the blues bag is all silk roving.

These are my choices for the thin coats of roving to tone and cool the colors of the dyed felted blanket.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Initial dyeing

Acid dyeing wool is so fast and easy but of course getting the color you are looking for isn't as easy. I knew I would have a difficult time with the accuracy of the dyes so I will experiment with needle felting roving and fabric on top to get the color and dimensionality I am looking for.

I started with a felted wool blanket. Wish I could find more of these but they are getting hard to find.

Two square in different sizes. The larger will be for the top of the piece.

Soaking in a bath of vinegar water. The vinegar is the "acid' mordant of the acid dye

Of course I waited til I used the mixed dye before taking the picture. I mixed the yellow with drops of blue to make the green.

In an oven proof dish in the vinegar and dye bath. Now I just have to cover with cling film and punch some holes to allow the steam to escape.

Five minutes on 50% power should do it.

This is the blue

I know they seem a bit bright but I will tone them down and correct the color with needle felting.

Friday, December 13, 2013


I think one of the processes that is really keeping me from moving forward on this project is the choice of materials. I had every intention of conducting (fabric) paint experiments on various thin fabrics and use layers of these fabrics to create my squares. I am hoping one day to use paint on these fabrics but I am looking for a new material to use to make this piece. Today I had an inspiration and I think it will be the perfect material to make this piece (working name "Rest"). 
This morning while "boiling" the knit bag I am felting, I decided to try acid dyeing a bit of felted wool. Not only did it come out but it captured the complex multiple colors I wanted to use to create the "feeling" of  rest.
I am going to start a few experiments with needle felting as well although the effect may not in actuality create the "feelings" I am intending. However that is the nature of  experimentation.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Psychology of Color

I am certainly no expert on the psychology of color but I do love color and have spent a good deal of time "feeling" the colors I work with. I did do a bit of a search for the feelings associated with certain colors. I believe the reaction most people have to color is pretty much universal. 
The colors I have chosen to use on this piece are blue and green. There will be two square or areas of color with blue on the top and green on the bottom. The horizontal line connecting the two will denote that stability and "downward pressure" or rest I am looking for.
Here are a few of the comments from a website called Color Wheel Pro

Green is the color of nature. It symbolizes growth, harmony, freshness, and fertility. Green has a strong emotional correspondence with safety. Green has great healing power. It is the most restful color for the human eye; it can improve vision. Green suggests stability and endurance.  Green is directly related to nature.

I am using green on the bottom to suggest the earth, coolness and growth. The obvious suggestion of a landscape is intentional.

Blue is the color of the sky and sea. It is often associated with depth and stability.Blue is considered beneficial to the mind and body. It slows human metabolism and produces a calming effect. Blue is strongly associated with tranquility and calmness.

I think the use of these colors in the horizontal orientation will help create the feeling of stability and rest I am trying to evoke.

Now on to materials.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Molly Bang and her marvelous book

I have always been interested in the principles of design and I have never found a book which has so completely and simply described those principles as Molly Bang's book "Picture This". 
Immediately after reading this book, I saw these principles portrayed in every carry bag or graphic I saw. They just popped out and said, "SEE?"
When I first wanted to make this piece, I thought of the book and the main impetus behind what I wanted to "say" which was stability and rest.
When I think of Rothko's "Multiform" pieces, I immediately think of Molly's description of a horizontal line and I quote from her book:

"Gravity is the strongest physical force that we are consciously aware of and we're subject to it all the time.The force of gravity affects our response to horizontal, vertical and diagonal shapes, and it affects our response to the placement of shapes on the page."(1)

"Smooth, flat horizontal shapes gives us a sense of stability and calm.
I associate horizontal shapes with the surface of the earth or the horizon line - with the floor, the prairie, a calm sea. We humans are most stable when we are horizontal because we can't fall down. Shapes that lie horizontal look secure because they won't fall on us, either. Because of this, pictures that emphasis the horizontal structure generally give us an overall sense of stability and calm."(1)

Using the same principles in Molly's book I feel having a larger block of color on top brings a greater sense of security because it is "weighing down" the bottom block, protecting it and keeping it even more secure and protected. 
These are the design principles I am going to use to create this piece. 
Next, choice of color.

(1) Molly Bang, "Picture This", 2000, page 42.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Rothko influence

First let me assure you I am in no way an Art historian or an expert on Rothko or Abstract Expressionism. These are bits of information I have gathered while attempting to learn a bit more about what I want to say with this piece I am constructing.
Mark Rothko was one of the first American artist to be identified as an Abstract Expressionist although he never categorized himself as one. As he developed as an artist he started to use large blocks of color (Color Field Theory) in which the blocks of color were created to evoke a feeling.
This is a quote directly from Wikipedia about Color Field Theory:

Color Field painting is a style of abstract painting that emerged in New York City during the 1940s and 1950s. It was inspired by European modernism and closely related to Abstract Expressionism, while many of its notable early proponents were among the pioneering Abstract Expressionists. Color Field is characterized primarily by large fields of flat, solid color spread across or stained into the canvas creating areas of unbroken surface and a flat picture plane. The movement places less emphasis on gesture, brushstrokes and action in favour of an overall consistency of form and process. In color field painting "color is freed from objective context and becomes the subject in itself."

I will again quote from the Wikipedia about Rothko's "Multiform" pieces:

The year 1946 saw the creation of Rothko's transitional "multiform" paintings. The term "multiform" has been applied by art critics; this word was never used by Rothko himself, yet it is an accurate description of these paintings. Several of them, including No. 18 and Untitled (both 1948), are less transitional than fully realized. Rothko himself described these paintings as possessing a more organic structure and as self-contained units of human expression. For him, these blurred blocks of various colors, devoid of landscape or the human figure, let alone myth and symbol, possessed their own life force. They contained a "breath of life" he found lacking in most figurative painting of the era. The "multiforms" brought Rothko to a realization of his mature, signature style, the only style Rothko would never fully abandon.

I felt I had to do a little introduction of this style of art and the philosophy behind it to explain the reasons I am adopting it in this piece.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Anatomy of a quilt

Anatomy of a Quilt

I wanted to make a quilt for the surgeon who operated on my breast cancer. He is no ordinary doctor nor is my hospital any ordinary hospital. It is a real family - probably a concept beyond the imagination of those from large cities. This is a community hospital in every sense of the word.

The starting point

OK, now on to the quilt. I want to make a quilt that encompasses these feelings. You may say, feeling? Well... Judith DeMillo Brown has been working on her art classes at University and had to chose one artist to draw inspiration from. She chose Mark Rothco. My mind goes immediately to boxes in color. I did some research into why she found this man so inspirational. He painted pictures of feelings and invited the viewer to sit and look into the colors, many layers of colors until they could elicit the feelings behind the paintings. I decided to try my hand at doing the same with fiber.

I knew I wanted to use certain colors namely blues and greens which to me are cooling calming colors. My next dilemma was using the concepts of design and I could think of no other book the "Picture This". I personally believe this is one of the best books on design ever written so simple an elementary school art student could get it (smile) I hope everyone can get a copy of this fabulous book.

Don't laugh at the cover or even how she came upon these simple principles. They have been burned into my mind.

Next post, I will tell you about the principles I have engaged and a bit of my artist statement about this piece which had yet to be made. I am setting my intention.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Shibori Folding - no 28

And finally, remember this one?

Again multiple coasters packed into the fabric:
And because of the safety dots, it is not so tight and therefore, the patterning of the dye is even nicer, this is really my favourite piece!

I will see if I can make a nice quilttop out of all these pretty pieces, will keep you posted.
Hope that you enjoyed 30 days of folding fabric, and wish you happy dyeing!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Shibori Folding - no 27

Remember this one?
 Layering coaster gives more space for the dye to enter the fabric:

Do you see the tiny spots in the corner? Nice side-effect!