Saturday, March 31, 2012

Jellyfish Attempt

As you may have guessed from the previous blog post, I was kinda stalling on starting on the jellyfish in my totem, and this was partially because I wasn't sure how to take all the scraps of sheer fabric, yarns and rick-rack shown above and turn it into a jellyfish! I knew I'd probably sandwich two sheers together and somehow get some yarns and other strings to hang down in a squiggly, tentacle-like way between them. But since the background "water" fabric is sheer, I wasn't sure how I was going to secure everything together. When you're stitching onto a solid fabric background, you can just stitch right over any threads to hold them in place. I thought about possibly stitching some yarns onto a white netting, but would I fuse them down first? Pin them? Baste them by hand? Then I remembered that I had some Sulky Solvy water-soluble stabilizer in my stash!
The Solvy is like a thin plastic sheet that can be dissolved in water. I looked through the package instructions and realized you can fuse loose yarns between two pieces of Solvy and then stitch over them to hold them in place!
The stabilizer washes away in only a few minutes in warm water. I did place the yarns on the netting first and then cut most of it away. All in all, I think it's working for me and will make putting this whole totem piece together that much easier! So one jellyfish is done and I've got two more to go...
Some other exciting news: I posted the photo of my stitched button charms (from my previous post) on the Yahoo artcharm website and it was chosen for this week's Homepage picture! Check it out by clicking here!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sewing Charms

Despite a busy month at work and striving to make progress on my "totem" project, I couldn't resist joining another charm swap! The theme of this one is sewing - anything that pertains to sewing, including fabric, button, snaps, zippers, safety pins, bobbins, spools etc. It was impossible to pass up! Today I ended up spending most of the day in bed with a head cold (my colleagues at the library were gracious enough to step up and fill in for me) and, being without a good book lately, I had to keep busy in bed somehow! I quickly fused this colorful tweed onto some Timtex and stitched a simple grid over it with the machine. I cut the squares apart, then hand stitched a button on both sides and did a quick whip stitch around the edges. As long as I was hand sewing, I opted to stitch on a jump ring, rather than put in eyelets. They're colorful and fun! I like the way they look all together, springy and bright. I've already completed 14 of the 21 needed, but I needed to rest my hand; My thumb and index finger are getting sore from pulling the needle through the thickness of the Timtex.

While that project is nearly finished, my totem has been languishing on my worktable downstairs. We were away last weekend visiting with family (my sister celebrated a Big Birthday - see a picture of it here) so the focus of my time and energy was elsewhere. I did manage to cut out some fish and pin them onto the sparkle tulle, but I haven't even started on the jellyfish. Maybe this weekend.
Now I'm back to bed for some more rest. Maybe I'll pull out my copy of "The Secret Garden." It's uplifting to read any time of year, but always seems especially pertinent in the spring.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Welcome Spring!

We've been enjoying some beautiful spring weather here in the Northeast, and it's delightful and distracting at the same time! Several times last week, I spent an hour or more in the afternoon outside with the girls and the dog soaking up the fresh air and sunshine. It's great for the spirit, but not so conducive to getting indoor things done!

I am still plodding away at my "totem" piece which is due in early April. I bought a couple of yards of this sheer sparkle tulle when JoAnn's was having "coupon commotion" and knew it would be the base fabric for this piece. It will be viewed from both sides, so I figured the sheer quality would be an asset. I thought I could stitch on some wavey stripes of these other sparkly sheers to create the look of water, but as usual, things don't always go according to my vision. For one thing, the sheers both have so little body, that it's hard to pin them or keep them from shifting and pulling while stitching. I tried fusing one piece with Misty Fuse, but it doesn't stick well to the tulle and it's visible, which I want to avoid.
Since everything will be seen from both sides, choosing matching bobbin thread is important. I chose a metallic thread for the top and put a matching rayon thread in the bobbin, but even with a metallic needle, the top thread was making my life difficult. I ended up switching the positions of the threads, even though I had already wound the rayon thread onto a bobbin. After that, the sheers were easier to work with.
I decided to use three different colors of seaweed to match the three seahorses. I found just enough of this batik in my stash to make three long kelp-like leaves. The batik is also great because it looks the same front and back. I added a little veining with the machine but ended up hand stitching them in place. I'll go over everything with the machine when it's all positioned.
With the beigy-brown-copper seahorse, I had trouble finding a good material for the seaweed. I found this great "vintage" lace ribbon in my stash, which I thought I could dye or paint, but there wasn't enough yardage and I couldn't find it on the internet or anywhere nearby. I've been making a real effort to use what I have, rather than running to the store anyway, more to save time, gas, and storage space than money!
I thought about it for a day or two and ended up going with this sheer fabric that I layered with a coppery tulle and stitched with yarn by hand and with thread by machine. I ended up with a decent looking seaweed-like plant that I think will work for seahorse #2.
Because of the way this piece will be layered, the next things I need to work on are cutting some small fish out of the ribbon below. . .
. . . and making some jellyfish out of the assortment of white sheers, laces, and yarns seen here. Luckily, I just found out I have an extra week to finish this. The days just fly by and I'm lucky if I get an hour or so to work on it daily. I'm kind of glad this is the last big project that I've committed to. I'm starting to feel like I need some down time to just read, lie in the sun, or nap if I need it!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Bone Chilling, Heart Warming Event

Yesterday my daughter Alana jumped into Lake Mahopac for "Freezin' for a Reason," the local fundraiser that benefits the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. It was a sunny day, but quite brisk for a swim! We arrived early so Alana could enjoy some pizza and time with her friends at the pre-jump party. Then we followed the bagpipers down the hill and across the street to the beach area. Alana was given this cool tee shirt designed by her friend Jacquelyn, who has CF. Below is a close-up of the shirt. Jacquelyn drew pictures of all the team members, her friends who raised money and jumped in the lake:
Isn't it great? While all the jumpers were making their way to the beach area, it got pretty chilly so Alana's sisters bundled around her to keep her warm. Temps were probably in the low 40s.
Here is everyone milling around the beach for a few minutes before the jump. The sun was getting ready to set in the west, so it was a little hard to see. It was also very crowded. There must've been hundreds of people there.
Now they're all finally running for the water. You can see Jacquelyn's mother, Christine, leading the crowd with her arms up in the air.
There is Alana in the upper right corner of the picture, running in with some members of Jac's Pac . . .
. . . and here they are running out again! Some people went all the way in, over their heads, and some ran in up to their waist.
Here I am wrapping Alana in a towel and hugging her after the jump. I'm so proud of her for doing such a great thing for her friend! Her feet and toes were really cold!
Her sisters warmed her up again too!
After she dried off a little, we headed off the beach to this grassy hillside in the sun. Then Jacquelyn came running up to visit with her team. She was only allowed to go part-way into the water. She's wearing a robe printed with the "Freezin' for a Reason" logo.
She wrapped the robe around Alana and thanked her. She's such a great kid! The life span for someone born with Cystic Fibrosis has gone from 29 to 39 since she was born, thanks to the donations for research and advancements made. A new drug was recently developed that will be a great help to Jacquelyn and 4% of people with CF, but Jacquelyn's family intends to continue raising money. . . there are still 96% of people whose lives depend on new research.
This final shot was of Alana, Jackie, and two other friends who actually got completely wet, head to toe! What a great thing to do for their friend!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

PAC Members Show

The sun came out yesterday afternoon, just in time for the annual members show at the Putnam Arts Council. Below is the wall where my piece was hung. I chose to exhibit "Portrait of the Viewer with Found Objects," the experimental (and not really typical of my style) piece I made last year as part of my exploration of conceptual art. I still think it's a fun piece because just about everything on it was truly found - actually picked up off the street. I also like the way the entire thing is gray, until you stand in front of it and it reflects whatever you're wearing, making the viewer part of the art. You can see a better shot of the piece by clicking here.
The show was really impressive this year. There were many drawings and paintings, but also photography and collage. Below is one of my favorites, "Textures of the Sea" by Beverly Wallace. Of course, I love those shades of blue and green, as well as the textures she achieved with the various lace and other fibers she included in the piece.
Below is another colorful collage: "Birds of a Feather" by Susan Zoon. I'm not really wild about the skull motif (I think it's overused and morbid) but I like the repetition here, and the variety of materials.
This is "Moonscape" by Erica Chambers. It's not a great photograph, but this collage looks like it was made up of pictures cut from magazines. I like the variety and how they combine together to make a sort of surreal landscape. It's a good example of why I like collage - how an artist can take so many varied images and combine them into something cohesive and new. It gives the viewer a new way of looking at things, as well as a kind of puzzle to figure out.
This artist, Margaret Zeitlin, has a style that is very recognizable. I see her work there every year. This one is called "Joie de Vivre" and when you look closely, you can see the magazine pages she cuts up and glues down in these patterns. This must've taken hours to cut and glue!
Below is "Witness" by Jean Tock. Sometimes I don't get the symbolism in some of these assemblages, but I think I understand this simple one. The small bowl below is filled with bullet shells. The juxtaposition of found objects in her pieces is always intriguing and environmental issues seem to be a recurring theme.Here was an interesting addition - a mask painted on a large, hollow piece of what looked like driftwood. This is by Wendy Isler-Alvarez.
The batik below is by Heliodoro Santa Coloma. He lives right here in Mahopac and creates these amazingly beautiful works of art. I've never tried batik - I find the whole process complex and mystifying, but I love the results. Isn't this gorgeous?
I really liked the abstract simplicity and various shades of purple in the piece below. It's called "Morning - Hudson" and it's by K.A. McNally.
I like the texture that Cindy Katz achieved with pastels in her piece below titled "Autumn in the Great Swamp." It seems to shimmer, doesn't it?
And below is a watercolor by my good friend Clair Moritz-Magnesio. She donated this piece to the library as a parting gift (she now works in the high school library). It shows one of our favorite programs in action, ARF, which stands for "Animal Reading Friends." Therapy dogs come in every two weeks and elementary age children can sign up to read with one for 15 minutes. It's a great way to get reluctant readers excited about reading. Clair has a degree in fine arts as well as one in library science. She'd make a great picture book illustrator!
Now onto some photography. I completely fell in love with the piece below, titled "Sweeping Shadows" by Rebecca Tocci. I love the lighting, the texture of the stairs in the background, the reflections in the ceiling, and the whole mood of the piece. I think it's stunning.
And finally, below is a photo by my good friend Tabby Marshall, titled "Fog on Lake Gleneida." It's interesting that it's a photo of fog, but you can't really see the fog - everything in the background just fades to white. But the absence of background really accentuates the foreground where you can see amazing textural detail in the dried grasses and weeds. Beautiful!
It's a great show and if you live anywhere in the area, don't miss it! It'll be up for the month of March, Tuesdays thru Saturdays, noon to 4 pm.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Keeping up Spirits

The weather here has been very gray and dreary since my last post, and although I did pretty well thinking positively for the first six weeks of the year, the last few days (and weeks, even!) it's been a challenge. There seems to be bad news everywhere, from gas prices to economic forecasts locally and internationally. I try not to let it get me down, but this week I feel like I've been bombarded from all directions. I'll try to be like those daffodils in the snow, and just keep reaching for the sun and looking forward to brighter days, mud season or no.
At the grocery store this morning, I saw these cute potted daffodils for a good price, so I decided to splurge a bit and brighten the table as well. That put me in the mood for changing the mantle decorations too.
I finally got rid of the (pretty, but out-of-season) Valentine's Day decorations and put up more silk daffodils and other cheerful things. Seems like a breath of fresh air, doesn't it?
I also took the leap and joined the "Springtime in Paris" swap! I tried out a few things that didn't require much time or money and came up with these three designs. I'm not sure which one I like the most - maybe the bead made of rolled grosgrain ribbon and black trim. The other two are made with the same stamp, believe it or not! The middle one was stamped on shrink film with black ink, and the one on the right on polymer clay with a dusting of pewter "perfect pearls" powder. Even though there are no Eiffel Towers or fleur de lis, I think they look French enough, don't you?
I had so much fun making those, I went and made a whole pile! They really go fast and are not too messy if you do them in batches. I already made more than enough to swap, and they're not due until April 1st! Now that I've got that out of my system, I can get back to the seahorses.
I also think I'm in desperate need of some chocolate therapy, despite the fact that it's Lent! I baked these yummy Ghirardelli brownies this afternoon. Now the house smells delicious and things are starting to look up...
Have a great weekend!