Sunday, April 29, 2012

I took the weekend off

It has been a nice couple of days and I have not been in the studio. I helped my daughter with the Saturday morning swimming lesson routine, then stopped to check out a huge neighborhood yard sale I had noticed earlier on my way to the swim classes. I strolled from yard to yard, purchasing a bag of binder clips for .25 and perusing the books—I have to say I am always rather shocked by the trash people read! I never find good books, except for the time I found the cute little bartenders guide, but I always look. Then I spotted a rug, all folded up on a table full of old sheets and towels and what I could see made my heart skip a beat, so I unfolded it to find a beautiful Mexican Zapotec wool rug. Hand woven. Warm, wonderful colors.

I can't tell you how much this is my kind of thing! (Well, if you have read this blog for long, you already know that.) It was in perfect condition and priced at $9 and I did not think twice. It was mine. As I carried it back to my car a couple of women stopped me to admire it and an elderly man called out across the street, "nice find!"

When I got home I carried it back to where Ray has been diligently converting my old sewing room into a place for him to hang out and play music/guest room. It looks perfect with the green wall he painted and the new fake wood floor. How often the universe seems to provide just the thing I didn't even know I needed.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The elements - Earth

Fire is finished. I have been working on "earth". Here are some phone photos of the quilting I worked on yesterday. Intense quilting, but it makes such a difference.

Here I am stitching on some bulbs. Amazing, to me, that a few lines of stitching takes them from flat and, well, ugly, to a real approximation of a dimensional bulb.

Bulbs, roots, leaves and grass done. Now I am working on layers of soil and little rocks.

What kind of bulbs? Agapanthus.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Waiting for birds

Lucky me! I have been given two wonderful birdhouses. The first was a birthday gift from my friend, Beth. Beautiful teardrop shaped ceramic birdhouse. I hung it from a tree limb next to the creek. I can see it from the yard and the studio. So pretty!

Then my friend Muriel came to visit yesterday and brought me this crazy chicken birdhouse.

It is painted wood and I thought it best if it was somewhat protected from the elements so I hung it on the porch of the studio. I know the proximity of the studio and greenhouse might discourage birds, but I have had birds nesting near my front door before. I also wonder if the big, giant chicken might scare them off! I hope not. I love this guy.

These join the wonderful birdhouse my neighbor gave us and their gorgeous birdhouses. I think birds might feel very welcome here and will have a nice variety of homes to choose from.

C'mon, birds! We are ready for you—

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cracked: the secret sauce

Continuing with my flour paste resist experiments. I  tried both wheat flour and rice flour. They were different, and each had strong points and weak points. This time around I tried a mixture of both rice and wheat flours in equal quantities.

I pawed through my stash and found this lovely piece of fabric. I don't know where it came from—perhaps one of my dyeing or painting experiments, or perhaps something I bought.

It is laying on my painting board. I had a good feeling about this round.

I glooped on my mixture of half rice flour, half wheat flour, mixed with enough water to make it about the consistency of pancake batter.

Using my small squeegee, it spread nicely and did not pull up in sections like the rice flour paste did.

I let it dry for about ten minutes until it would hold a line when I marked into it with a bamboo skewer.

I let this dry well, cracked it a bit and then painted it and let it dry. It dried with some dimension as the all-rice paste had and was nearly as easy to remove as the rice paste. I removed most of the paste dry. Here it is with most of the paste removed. I really love it.

I will let it cure a bit, heat set the paint and then wash out the residue of the paste. This is my favorite. The combination of rice and wheat flour had the best properties of both—the spreadability and elasticity of the wheat flour paste and the bolder pattern and easier to remove qualities of the rice flour paste. I will take both kinds of flour to our retreat and let my friends choose. I will certainly recommend the mix.

Answering some comments:

1. In response to Gerrie, who commented that thickened dye might work better. (Unfortunately I deleted her comment accidentally—one of the hazards of moderating comments on my iPhone) Back in my batik days I used dyes with flour paste resist and they worked great! For this project I was looking for a way to achieve good results on our retreat without the mess and longer process of dyeing. With the exception of the paint that I diluted too much, I am pretty happy with what can be done with paint.

2.  Del wondered why I was using acrylic paint instead of dye or fabric paints. Regarding dye, see above. Regarding acrylic paint—fabric paints are acrylic paints. Fabric paints supposedly have some additives that keep them softer than traditional acrylics. I have both and mix and interchange them without noticeable differences. The paints I used for these experiments include both.

3. Jean S. suggested a bench scraper would be a larger working scraper than a credit card for removing the dried paste from the fabric. Since fabric is not a solid surface for scraping and dried paste is not as malleable as greasy goo, the scraping process is a little different. I found that even my credit card was a little too large to work very efficiently and the best tool that I finally settled on was a spoon, using the edge to scrape. It is a matter of finding something that will catch the edges of the cracked surface and pop those pieces off the fabric. Most tutorials and instructions I found recommended soaking the pasted fabric in water and scrubbing the softened paste off. I tried that and it was icky messy and difficult to get it out of the fabric once it was wet and sticky. The rice flour does not stick as tightly as the wheat flour, so it is relatively easy to crack off most of the dried paste, then scrape off the more persistent chunks.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Cracked: the sequel

I posted the results of some rice flour paste resist experiments the other day. After those I decided to try similar work using wheat flour for the resist. Working with the wheat flour was noticeably different from the rice flour. Wheat flour paste is harder to mix. The flour has a tendency for lumps, unlike the rice flour, but I managed to get the stuff pretty smooth and about the consistency of pancake batter. It was easier to smooth onto the fabric than the rice flour, which isn't as sticky as the wheat flour, so efforts to smooth the rice flour paste often result in simply picking up sections of the paste on the smoothing tool (I tried my squeegee, the back of a spoon and my finger—same problem with all of them) and leaving uncovered segments. This was not a problem with the wheat flour paste. I made two pieces, one with nothing added after smoothing the paste on so I could just see what kind of crackle I would get. The second had a pattern of stripes made using a bamboo skewer. Here is the first after drying, painting with acrylic paint and then removing the paste.

Similar but less "chunky" than the rice paste piece that was done the same way.

Here's the one I drew in with a skewer. I used red fabric for this one.

I really preferred the boldness of the rice paste pieces over these wheat paste pieces, though these are OK and quite usable. The worst thing about the wheat paste was removing it from the fabric. The stickiness of the wheat paste (would that be the gluten?) made it spread smoothly and stick nicely to the fabric, but also made it much more difficult to remove. The wheat paste dried very hard and was firmly stuck to the fabric which made it impossible to scrape the dry bits off the fabric. It had to be soaked in water, which made it gummy and slimy and not easily dissolved. Added to the gooey character of the wheat paste was the acrylic paint I had painted onto it, which combined with the wheat paste to make a really tenaciously gluey, sticky surface. I ended up laying the piece out, wet, on a flat surface and scraping, with a credit card, the gunky paste off as well as I could and then washing it with soap.

Today I went back to the rice paste to see how it would hold a line drawn into it with a skewer. Since the wet paste does not stick to the fabric, but instead just sits on top of it, I found that when I drew into it, it tended to pull up bits of the paste along the drawn line. Here is what the dry pasted fabric looked like. I used yellow fabric this time.

You can see that the drawn lines opened as it dried. Then I painted over it with multcolors of acrylic paint.

Those cracks and lines were so deep I really had to work the paint into them After it dried the paste was easy to remove. I figured out that most will come off while it is dry, then the residue is easily washed away. Here is how it looked after it dried and the paste was removed.

Eh. Not great. There are some nice areas, but overall I am disappointed.

In this detail you can see that there were areas where the pattern was completely lost. I think this was because in my efforts to get the paint to go down into the lines and cracks I thinned it with too much water and it simply wicked into the surrounding fabric instead of just defining the crackle and drawn pattern.

Each of the pastes has strengths and weaknesses. Now I think I want to try a mixture of rice and wheat flours to see if the problems are compounded or counteracted.

Friday, April 20, 2012


I never intended to collect frogs. I don't even much like the idea of having "collections" of things cluttering up my house, but somehow I have accumulated a lot of frog things, some purchased, some received as gifts. Why frogs? Good question. I don't have an answer.

Silkscreen print by Earl Newman

Even out in the garden

Out there we have real frogs as well, often heard and seldom seen. The little guys show up among the hydrangeas occasionally.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Last week I proposed to the STASH group that when we go on our annual retreat next month that we do a surface design project. I suggested flour paste resist on fabrics, which we have discussed before as something we wanted to try. Our retreat will give us the time to work through the process with plenty of drying time between steps. I volunteered to coordinate the project so I have been doing some experimenting to narrow down our options.

Here is my first experiment:

I have done resist dyeing using wheat flour and wondered if rice flour might yield different and interesting results. I found several recipes online. The first one I tried involved cooking the rice flour with water until it boiled and thickened. I spread it on a couple of pieces of white fabric. The first, above, I did nothing to. The second, below, I used a bamboo skewer to draw in the wet paste. Then I let both pieces dry thoroughly.

When they were dry I scrunched each one up to crack the paste, then I painted a layer of acrylic paint over one side and let it dry. When the paint was dry I washed out the rice paste. The results were pretty disappointing. Neither developed an interesting crack pattern, though the one with the scratched away pattern did show the pattern. My assessment was that the cooked rice paste spread too thin and penetrated the fabric too much to allow for good cracks.

Next I mixed the rice flour with water to form a paste and did not cook it. The paste went on thicker and began to crack as it dried. Here's a closeup of one little section of the fabric with the dried rice paste.

Once it was really dry I painted this piece with acrylic paint and let it dry.

When the paint was very dry I washed the rice paste out of the fabric. The paint that was sitting on top of the rice paste also washed away. The paint that seeped into the cracks left a wonderful pattern on the fabric.

This is what I was hoping for! Love those crackles.

Closeup view.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

"Oh, what a beautiful daaaaaay"

Busy Saturday started with a meeting of the planning committee for the Washington County Open Studios tour at my house this morning. It was a great meeting, but that meant we all left with stuff to do. I am handling the registrations. Ray went off with his guy friends on another mission of the Burger Project. They call it "the quest for the perfect Burger," but it is really just an excuse for five old guys to get together and eat unhealthy food. They seem to have fun. Once we got all that out of the way we headed south toward Aurora, Oregon for a garden show and sale out in the farmland. They called it "Gardenpalooza."

Great day for a drive in the country. The farms and fields south of Portland are amazingly beautiful all times of year, but springtime is the best. We parked out in a field and headed for the tents and big glass house. Lots of beautiful plants and flowers and garden art.

What the heck is this thing? Amazing looking. I have a feeling it is not native to Oregon.

Such great color.

We bought a tiny Japanese maple that may someday be as big as this beauty.

Tulip magnolia. The smell was divine.

The only crabby person I encountered was the purveyor of these cast concrete leaves. She came lunging at me snarling, "no photos, NO PHOTOS!" just as I snapped this photo. I guess she believes this has never been done and someone might steal her idea. Umm. OK.

The guy selling these pieces just smiled when I took the photo.

We took the back roads home, through farm country and several small, quaint towns, with a stop in Aurora which has an interesting history, having been founded as a utopian religious commune in the mid 1800s. It is now filled with old, restored buildings and houses and antique stores.

As we headed homeward, we turned on the car radio and Garrison Keiller and friends were closing the Prairie Home Companion show with a rendition of "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning." Indeed.

Friday, April 13, 2012

STASH Yesterday

Was a beautiful, sunny day here. The STASH group met at my house and we met up in the loft of the studio. It was comfortable and nice. It was an extra small group with Gerrie and Beth missing. We are not feeling sorry for them. They are both traveling in warm, sunny places. I have been pushing the group to do more at our meetings than drink coffee and catch up on our lives—not that those two things are not important! But I always like a little challenge or activity of some kind that adds something to our artistic purpose.

My friend Deborah Boschert posted a little video tutorial on her blog several weeks ago that I enjoyed. Deborah uses bits of fabric in her work that has her handwriting on it. I have always liked that, so I emailed the group and told them to watch Deborah's video and bring a permanent fabric marking pen with them. I prepared the fabric and we took about 10 minutes to write on our fabric. It got very quiet! I started writing a sort of stream of consciousness narrative about the beautiful day and summer coming. Reva wrote remembered poetry, Gale wrote about birds. Mine started too neatly and legible, I soon decided, so it got more exaggerated and stylized as I went along. All four were so unique and very personal. Suzy, who loves all things red, wrote in bright red ink in a very small script. It looked so wonderful! Had I remembered to take my camera to the studio I would have photos of all of them, but you will have to make do with mine.

I challenged everyone to now make something using their fabric.

Since my birthday was just a week ago (and I like to celebrate for as long as possible) we went out to lunch after our meeting. Gale brought me a gift of a handmade, felted pincushion. Isn't it great?

Have I told you how much I love this group of women? Oh yeah, about a hundred times, I suppose. But I can't say it enough. They are lights in my life.

Monday, April 09, 2012

I may have found it

I did a little more research on drawing apps for my Kindle Fire and found Sketchbook Pro. It seems to be the drawing app iPad users prefer and is available for the Kindle. It wasn't free. It cost all of $2.99 and seems to be much friendlier than those other apps I reported on yesterday. I will need to take some time to delve into all the features and, of course, try out everything and practice them all a bit before I feel competent with it. But here are a couple of very quick tryouts.

Nice painterly effects and a simple, straightforward way to do some blended shading.

I can work with this.

Joanne said I should have gotten the iPad. Well, maybe in a perfect world, where it doesn't cost 3 times what the Kindle Fire cost. It's main advantages would have been the slightly bigger screen and the 3G or 4G connectivity. The Kindle requires Wi-Fi. It is the small price to pay for saving $400. It's a toy. I don't fool myself about that. So is an iPad—albeit a slightly fancier toy. For really precise drawing, I have Illustrator and Photoshop on my computer. What I was looking on for in the Kindle was an app that would allow me to make quick, simple sketches on the fly. Maybe it won't turn out to be anything I will really use, but I rather like the idea of fooling around with quilt ideas or just entertaining myself with it. And, really, if you haven't, you should look at a Kindle Fire. It is very cool. I can read my email and blogs and Facebook with the greatest of ease and the screen shows photos on web sites and blogs beautifully. Most of the apps out there are available for both iPad and Kindle and other tablet devices, so those are the same and work the same on either device. Angry birds and Words with Friends are super on it. I do wish they would get the Kindle version of Draw Something  out there, though!

On a very, very low tech drawing note, I just had to show you this Easter egg, decorated by nature.

I dyed a dozen eggs in solid colors. On Easter morning my son hid them out in the yard for my grandchildren to find. This egg was solid red and placed outside in a bed of damp sedum, branches of which imprinted themselves onto the egg, along with fine speckles I suppose from the dew. It couldn't have been better designed if it had been done on purpose!

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Digital Drawing

I have been playing the greatest game on my phone. You may have heard of it, or discovered it yourself. It is called "Draw Something." It is played between two people. I may begin by drawing one of three possible words that the game presents. There is an easy, medium and difficult option. I try to draw the difficult one when possible. Sometimes it is a pop culture person or reference that I don't even understand, but there is always something in the three that is doable. Here I have just drawn "diaper" which I will send to Brenda in Australia.

It will show up on her phone (or iPad) and show the image as it is being drawn. She will have an assortment of letters to choose from to guess the word and fill it into the blanks that are given. Then she will choose a word to draw and send it back to me. When it is my turn I first see her guessing as my image is being drawn. She guessed diaper before I had even drawn the diaper on the baby! Then I see her drawing begin to draw on my screen. This was how it looked at first.

I can see that the word has four letters and they will be four of the ones below. Can you guess it?

Now that the drawing has progressed, I'll bet you can.

It was "halo." Some are harder than this one.

The game is fun and the drawing tools are pretty simple, yet effective. You can draw with your finger. On my tiny iPhone screen it was tricky. I got a stylus to use and that makes it a bit easier. I can see that using an iPad would be a great advantage. I think all of us playing have learned some tricks. At first I was trying to draw outlines then fill them in with color. That is difficult because it is so easy to obliterate the outline if the fill-in color accidentally goes over it. Much easier to block in the colors, then draw the outlines on top.

One of my birthday presents last week was a Kindle Fire pad. It is not quite as big as an iPad, but considerably bigger than a phone screen. I have been quite covetous of an iPad, but honestly just too thrifty to spend that much money on one. The Kindle Fire is a good compromise. I was, however, disappointed that the Draw Something app is not yet available for it, but the game has made me interested in digital drawing apps and I have been trying out a few for the Kindle. Some are free, some cost a small amount. The most I have paid is $1.99.

The first one is called Sketch n Draw. It is quite fun to play with because it has a variety of different brush types.  The one called "shaded" creates a variable line with feathery crosshatching that magically appears as you draw. You can't control the added "shading" so it pops up sometimes unexpectedly, like the little pyramid on the top of his head. I really like the variable character of the line, though. But is is random as well.

Other brushes are interesting, but not terribly practical. The one below might be useful for drawing earthworms.
You can add color, but it is really cumbersome. Here I started with a spattery paint brush for the color, then switched back to the shaded brush for the outlines.

Switching back and forth between colors was hugely awkward and time-consuming. Rather nice effects, but for me too cumbersome. Also hard to control. None of the brushes are really straightforward draw/paint tools.

Next I tried an app called "Drawing Pad." Hated it. There is an assortment of brushes and pencils and markers, but the sizes are limited and the colors limited as well. It does not seem possible to simply draw a thin, clean line with any of the tools.

So far the most fluid I have found is an app called "Picasso." You can switch up the brush size, colors and opacity fairly easily and it has a little tryout so you can see how it will look before you add it to your drawing.

 This may be the best I will find, but I keep hoping there is something more natural and intuitive. Have you found a great drawing app?