Monday, July 27, 2009

Fabric altering fun can be life changing

For the past few weeks I've been enrolled in Lyric Kinard's Quilt University "Playing with Paints" class. I certainly got my $36 investment's worth. First of all she helped me get over my fear of failure.

It is all good. There is no 'failure' with fabric, paints, and Lyric. Each piece we design, no matter what technique, whatever turns out is usable.

At worst we learned what doesn't work.

But more often class members demonstrated surprise at the outcome -- pleasant surprise -- and a renewed interest in duplicating it or jumping off from that effort onto the next.

I learned to 'play' again. Dabble with paints, marvel at sun printing, and the effects salt has on paint flow. Perhaps the best part of this class has been the connection it offered for my husband and I. Of course you know that he's battling a killer disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. There was a time when he could fix anything with a screwdriver, but the disease has stolen his grip, his smile and his song. It has been difficult to find something he could succeed at and enjoy. But fabric painting brought his smile back. We have spent many a delightful weekend oohing and aahing and laughing together over our creations.

Surprising what unexpected blessings come when we try new things, step out of our regular lives and just give art a try.

A couple of days ago Kelli Perkins new book "Stitch Alchemy" arrived in the mail. It is published by Interweave Press. Unlike Lyric's class, this book is based upon combining fabric and paper for mixed media art. Yet many of the techniques are the same. I seem to have quite a bit of both fabric and paper. The idea of combining them into something lovely and totally different speaks to my renewed need to create.

OHHHHH MMMY! Kelli has taken what I learned in Lyric's class and expanded it. Since readers don't have Kelli to discuss the projects with as in a class, she has given a photo of a project using each technique and then told exactly how to reproduce it. Basically she has opened up her journal that she has kept while experimenting with the various mediums and techniques and given us a leg up on how and why and what to expect.

Each fabric and ingredient is described and what results you will get. Then she goes through the techniques with visual aids and examples to make. She writes with brevity and clarity and I could easily follow her how-to instructions and which products or tools to use and what surprises to expect.

Number one warning: "don't press directly on the project" otherwise you will have just covered the bottom of your lovely iron with glue. Other than that, pretty much anything goes.

Experiment is the operative word for both Lyric and Kelli. Kelli adds a second half of the book filled with encouragement, galleries, special projects and more. Of course going right along with these two women is Rayna Gillman and her book "Create your own hand-printed cloth."

Whether a serious artist or just someone who needs to push past a drab existence and your own self-enforced limitations, fabric painting and design really is a freeing experience.

What I learned from Lyric and now from Kelli has carried over into other aspects of my life. It didn't really hit me until this morning that I'm trying new recipes and looking at life so much differently. Now I don't see the same old same old. I see the empty cookie container as a potential rubbing or the wind chimes as potential stencils or the paper clips as beautiful sunprints or that old toothbrush as the perfect tool for spatter painting. And when I look at things differently, I look at people differently.
I expect them to do more, be more, and even to surprise me. And when I'm open to such things -- they happen! Art is not just about making lovely things. It is about experimenting, trying, and letting the kid out to play more often. It is about sharing and being and expanding and embracing. And most of all it is about euphoria and the wonder of clouds coming from salt and finding that even mistakes can be the basis for something beautiful.

With the right tools, the right technique, the right attitude, and a never say die attitude -- any disappointment can be reused, renewed or cut up and made into something totally unexpected.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention Lyric's book "Art + Quilt" that's just coming out. I saw a full-page ad in Interweave's magazine "FiberArts." Lyric offers basic principles of art and design and shares secrets and insider tips to design success.
Photos: I've included photos of my first efforts in painting fabric and the various techniques. The first photo is a wall hanging I started making from the blue fabrics that I painted using a wet technique, scrunching and salt. I incorporated my favorite nine-patch and some photo transfers. Not sure where it goes next. I'm thinking it needs a poem on there someplace about the ocean or shorebirds. Photo 2: I did a wax resist using a yellow crayon for the Tic Tac Toe design and my name, and rubbed across my little cheese grater for the cross hatch design. A wet technique for the background colors, just dabbed on paints Jacquards I think, and let them do their thing. Photos 3 and 4 kind of go together. I wet the cotton fabric, dabbed colors helter skelter over it, scrunched it up and laid it in the sun to dry. Voila! For the 4th photo, I protected my workspace with a piece of butcher's paper and the colors bled through the fabric onto it. When it dried I took a firefly stamp and scrapbooking inks to add the little figures to it. I thought I could cut out the cute parts and adhere them to gift cards, spruce them up a little and I can turn 'waste' into something useful. Photo 5: Since I can't draw, I am drawn to stamping. Lyric encouraged playing with our food, so I tried a lemon, but forgot the first rule to set it on a paper towel to soak up some of the juices. So my fruit prints are little juicy. But with a fabric pen, I could probably make them look edible again. The rooster print came from one of those wooden cutouts I bought at Michaels a long time ago. I tried outlining one with a thick fabric pen and one with a fine point metallic pen. The metallic pen seemed to glob and go in fits and starts so that I didn't have much control and it was quite frustrating. I'm seeing my three roosters as a rough draft. I live in a farming community where chickens free range all around town. Why not get a couple more of those wooden cut outs, decorate them in various ways and adhere them to a fancy or perhaps black and white squares design paper, frame it and hang it in my kitchen? Simple yet striking, I think.


Lorraine said...

thanks for all the info on your blog and great art visiting it

Dawn said...

Hi Lorraine,
Thanks for your kind words and I'm so glad you enjoy the blog. I'm not sure I have 'great' art posted in today's blog, but it is certainly ummmm enthusiastically made. :)


LynnDel said...

Those three books are at the top of my next-books-to-buy list!

Carol Wiebe said...

I think part of the reason that making art is life changing is because you look at everything in a more positive, creative light when you are having so much fun all the time!