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.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Intent and Line

I don't know if you read comments or not but I have gotten a few comments about my use of dye to draw lines.  I think those are good comments and deserve some discussion. The technique I use for a line depends on my intent and on the quality of line I think will get the job done.

One artist said she uses a stitched or quilted line in her work.  My self-portrait above is a good example of using stitching to create a line.  As my mother told my soon-to-be husband, I have the "soul of an artist."  Now my mother meant that I don't clean house but I wanted this small wall hanging to show my artistic soul and downplay my physical habitation. That was my intent for this piece. So, I used ink to give the background some color, to move it into the background, and to ground the figure so it was not floating.   I finished the background with some meander quilting for texture without drawing interesting to the stitching line.  I used bold commercial fabric for the shadow to really make a statement but be dark enough to be the shadow. AND I used a stitched line for the figure because I wanted a thinner, more delicate line to show details.  Drawing a dye line would have been too strong of a line for the intent of the piece.  It would have said something different than I wanted the line to say.  So, I chose a stitched line in this case.

Another artist said that there are so many different options to make a good line why did I bother with the dye. Again that is a good point and is answered again by asking, "What is the intent for the piece and what type of line is needed?"  In this snow dye piece I saw a flower garden and wanted to enhance that.  For this line I used a micron pen.  It gave a solid consistent thin line that I wanted for the piece.  That worked well because I knew I was going to use some chalk (also known as fugitive media) to enhance the flowers so I could "fix" it all when I was done. A dye line would have taken away from the delicacy of the flowers.  A stitched line would have been difficult with so many individual petals.

So why am I using a thickened dye line in these pieces?  

First, Intent.  Right now in my art career I am spending more time in surface design than in sewing.  Right now my goal with each piece is to create an artistic design that stands alone.  Or in other words, doesn't need stitching or quilting or thread drawing to complete the design.  I want to create something that could be framed or stretched without adding any embellishment to it.  That is my intent so I am experimenting with a thickened dye line. 

Second, Quality of Line.  I want the line to be bold, obtrusive, an independent voice in the design. I want it to be free and loose and have some texture of its own.  I want it to have weight. I like the work that Ayn Hanna is doing and so I am experimenting to see if I can produce such a line to incorporate into my work.

Good news is that with practice my lines are getting less gloppy and blobby and are starting to say what I want them to say.  Stay tuned.

Brought to you by Judith.


  1. I love our (edited) self portrait and I didn't know the story about the "soul of an artist". What does "clean house" mean?
    I also like your in depth explanation of intent.

  2. Hey....this is great....what a fabulous use of ice-dyed fabric!!! Thanks for the tip!

  3. You are so articulate, Judith! I love your explanation, and it really does need to be said that lines are used in so many ways that there needs to be many techniques.

  4. According to my DH Clean House=Neurotic woman VBG

  5. Great post. I didn't see your lines as mistakes at all. Did you have multiple layers like the video? It could be that they soak up excess dye which would help keep the lines crisp if you move the fabric.

    I love surface design!

  6. Well stated. Line quality is something I also think about. Good luck on your artistic journey.

  7. Great reply. If all lines were made with the same tool and medium, what a boring world it would be!

  8. Thank you for this in depth reply to my question of why you were messing with this. I'm not one of those who just uses a technique because it's there and I can. I have to sort out a good reason - just the way my mind works. It's fun to play with all these different surface design methods, and there's always more than one way to get to where you want to go. But I often find myself enjoying the experiment but having no idea how or why I would incorporate it into my work.

    It was really helpful for you show the different examples where you have added line and why you chose which method for each. I still think there may be better or easier ways to get the kind of line you're looking for now using thickened dye and syringe (she says with a big grin) but at least now I understand more of why you are pursuing this. It may just be a case of practice practice practice to gain control over the technique.


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