Sunday, June 27, 2010

What I Did on My Summer Vacation - Part One

Japanese Friendship Garden, Balboa Park, San Diego
It has been a mad house around here lately. A lot of commitments at work, preparation for a solo show, trying to keep up with the yard, etc., so I really needed a break. This year it was California here I come. If you are a woman of a certain age, perhaps you had a big crush on the Beach Boys as a teen, I sure did.
Torrey Pines State Park, La Jolla
Living in the middle of Ohio, about the closest we came to an ocean was Lake Erie, so California had a certain cache for all the kids in my neighborhood. We wore beach attire, listened to songs about woodies and little deuce coops and rode our skate boards on our flat as a pancake geography and imagined we knew what it was to ride the big one with Gidget and the Big Kahuna. I dreamed of being a "California Girl." When I actually met a real person from California, I was in the ninth grade. She was frankly pretty square (as if I wasn't?) but it didn't matter, she was from that magical state and must have achieved Nirvana at the age of 14.

San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, La Jolla
Anyway, my son and his girlfriend moved to San Diego last fall so she could enter a doctorate program, and he hasn't been able to wipe the smile off his face since. When I ask him on the phone how the weather is, he just giggles and tells me it's 70 degrees and's always 70 degrees and sunny. I stayed for four days and was able to see a lot of interesting things. La Jolla was beautiful, I loved Torrey Pines State Park. We went hiking and the views of the Pacific Ocean were stunning, as well as the pines themselves, which are extremely rare and very photogenic. The hills were covered with succulents and apparently also sprinkled with two varieties of rattle snakes, which we luckily did not see... or hear.

Harbor Seals in La Jolla Cove
We also visited the San Diego Museum of Modern Art. They had one of Andy Goldworthy's cairns on the lawn. If you don't know who Andy is, you've got to check him out on google. He is the most amazing sculptor who uses only natural material like vines and rocks in the most spectacular ways. When I got home I reserved as many of his books as I could find, as well as a video documentary about him from the public library. Unfortunately, I did not get a photo of his work in La Jolla.

San Diego Museum of Modern Art in La Jolla.
We also drove to a wine growing area called Temecula, about on hour north of San Diego and tasted wine all day. I had my fair share, but at least half of what I tasted was dumped in a jar designed for just such a purpose. We also visited the San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park. I had been dying to visit the Japanese Garden there and it was very peaceful and calming.
No trip would be complete without including textiles somehow. This time I visited the Quilt Visions Gallery not far from Dan Diego Bay, and was really impressed. The gallery is dedicated to art quilts only, and three artists were exhibiting, including Valerie Goodwin. I have seen photos of her work in SAQA bulletins and Quilting Arts magazine, but let me tell you, photos just do not show the amazing layering and detail of her work. The women that run the gallery are volunteers and like all the quilters I've met, were very friendly and informative. They let me know that anyone can join Quilt Visions and have the opportunity to apply to their shows. They also had a nice gift shop with hand dyes, books etc. I bought an art quilt pendant that I can't wait to wear. I also got a hot tip on a fabric store called Rosie's, but ran out of steam and money before I could get there. Next trip it will be at the top of my list. Anyway, I did a little California dreaming and came home rejuvenated and ready to get back in the studio and back to work.

Monday, June 14, 2010

I'm in Love (It's not what you think)

Original Photo
Don't get too excited, I'm talking about a new art technique that I absolutely screening. My art friends and I tried silk screening at last summer's art retreat, with only minimal results. It sure seemed a whole lot more trouble than it was worth. We used directions featured in Quilting Arts magazine and after doing some of my own research on the topic, I found out that the directions were, shall I say, variations on a theme. Not recommended for the beginner and frankly, I'm not sure I would recommend the technique at all. The article suggested using gel medium to drag through the screen, and if you have used this medium, you know how thick and goopy it is. Physics alone would indicate there is going to be a problem trying to force it through the tiny holes in the screen.

Thermofax Screen
After reading about the subject, it seemed as though we did not give this technique a fair shake. Other problems encountered were not using the proper screen size, correct mesh size and not degreasing the screen before use, all important facts that were left out of the article. For this summer's retreat, I really wanted to try silkscreening again using the thermofax method. I still remember the smell of freshly mimeographed work sheets and tests from back in the day, sort of an elementary school high that was almost as good as eating paste (yes, there's one in every class, but I'm not sayin' it was me). The thermofax uses the old fashioned mimeograph machines to cut an image into a plastic film. I did an Internet search and found that Lyric Kincaid,, had the best prices and has what has to be the fastest delivery anywhere, except perhaps McDonald's. You email her your image and she must burn them the minute they plop into her inbox. I had the returned thermofax in two days.

Thermofax quilt top on the design board.
I purchased Photoshop Elements 8 last winter and used it to alter the original tree photo above. You could just xerox it, but if I'm going to lay out some cash for a new program, I'm going to use it. Besides it was really fun. Keep in mind that high contrast makes the best images for thermofax, and you can snail mail your image to Lyric with a check instead of doing the online route. An advantage to the thermofax technique is that you don't need to use a screen, just put some duck tape around the edge and you are ready to go. You will need to purchase a squeegee. I got mine at Dick Blick.

Regular Silk Screen of Trees with Fabric
Since we couldn't get the regular silk screening to work last year because of the gel medium problem, (my friend Peggy said it took so much strength she thought she would throw her back out), I was determined to give it a try too. I had equally good results this time and just used a tree stencil on the back side of the screen to make a long horizontal row of trees. It was windy the day we were working, so there are some black marks in between the trees, but when quilted, these will become undergrowth.

On the design wall

I got the idea to make the trees reflect the changing of the seasons by dropping various colors of snippets on the screened trees.

On the Design Wall

I screened the original tree on to some different background fabrics, again with the idea of representing the seasons. I haven't had time to do much else but look at these beauties on the design wall, but I hope to get at least two of them quilted for my solos show in July. It would be fun to screen some trees in different colors and perhaps on different fabrics like silk. I see pillows here, and I'm thinking Christmas gifts. So if you are attempting something new, the old adage, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again., " may just be the answer to your problem.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Entropy Revisited

32W x 27H
Many of you expressed an interest in seeing what became of the rusty train photos I shot a few months ago. Well, they morphed into my first SAQA Show entry. I had already taken these photos when SAQA posted a call for entries for No Place to Call Home, a show with the theme of homelessness. I may have shared that in real life I am a clinical social worker, and as such, I deal with this issue and many others in an all too real way. So, about the last thing I had any intention of doing was entering this show. I do make an attempt to keep my professional and personal life as separate as possible and this felt like it was pushing the boundary. Then I got the bright idea to base my quilt on all the homeless men, women and over 250,000 children that "rode the rails" during the Great Depression. I had heard much about this period from my parents, who both lived through it as children. They had it tough, but were never homeless. I remembered hearing a piece on NPR (my favorite) about the boxcar kids and an author who was researching their plight all these years later. It was a very touching piece, and all of a sudden I was on a roll with this quilt. I tossed all my other work aside in order to get it done in plenty of time to enter.

Detail 1933
I was already in possession of some old quilt blocks I bought at a yard sale 20 years ago that looked like they contained depression era shirting material. So, I used some of them whole and others I cut up and mixed with new batiks. I went down to the Goodwill and bought some old jeans, cords and wool tweed pants and threw them in the mix (my friend Jessica would not let me use the zipper, she said it was too distracting, if you know what I mean). Then I printed out the rust photos on cotton fabric. I bought Photoshop Elements 8 last Christmas, battling for weeks with Walmart and my computer to get the darn thing to work. All in all, it was a great move, but I've gotta tell ya, I had to quilt just to calm myself down from the frustration of being so technologically challenged. Thank the lord I've got a calling plan that allows me to call my two boys every five minutes asking for help, and two sons who know that their Mom is dunce in this area, and don't care. Anyway, I'm starting to get the gist of it and it is amazingly fun to play with. So, I altered some of my train photos and printed them out too. While I was doing research for the quilt, I learned that hoboes actually had a whole set of symbols they used to communicate with each other to warn of barking dogs, police and Railroad Bulls or to give each other the low down on a handout. These symbols were hidden in the quilting. I decided on a deconstructed look that would mimic a torn blanket, perhaps carried in a bedroll for warmth on the boxcars. I topped the whole thing off with an old spoon I found smashed in the road this winter. It reminded me that many people found their meals in hobo jungles. Well, technology was used to digitally enter the show today and will keep my fingers crossed, but frankly I'm just too darn busy to worry about it. I'll keep you posted.