Monday, August 25, 2014

From Synesthesia to Peonies: More Artist Trading Cards from Wonderful People!

I belong to a wonderful group of artists who make (mostly paper) Artist Trading Cards. We had another meeting a couple of weeks ago, and my last posting showed the cards I made for it. Now it's time to see the goodies I collected!

John Tallackson, a gifted young printmaker and community organizer, dropped a bombshell at this meeting - he told us he's recently learned that he has "synesthesia." What, you may ask, is synesthesia? It's a neurological gift - he sees numbers and letters has having specific colors. For his batch of cards, he translated words into the colors they represent to him. My card's word is "KISS"
 - Can you make out the outline? He sees "K" as a brilliant red, "I" as blue, and "S" as shiny white. John has been talking with a university-based expert studying synesthesia, and is just starting to understand more about his lifelong learning style and how it relates to his extroardinary artistic gifts. See more of John's  work on his Facebook page, or at Learn more about synesthesia and the role it has played for many different kinds of artists (including musicians) here.

John T. Watson is a pastor as well as an artist, and in this card, he posed a question raised by the whitewashing scene in the book Tom Sawyer - What is the social value of "clever?" Clever can be cruel. Where is the love? I never liked that scene in the book. This card captures it.
 Karla  Vasquez is a community activist who brings farmer's markets to low-income neighborhoods. Her compassion was no doubt influenced by the fact that she has Type 1 Diabetes. Just as John Tallacksen makes the most of his synesthesia, Karla here turned her health condition - and in this case, her used blood test strips - into fascinating art - specifically, a mandala.
There's real blood in this card. It's incredible.

Marian Sunabe is a wonderful artist with a busy day job as a school counsellor. She loves to make collages with vintage photos. In this exchange, I lucked into her ATC about the U.S. President I most love to hate, Tricky Dick.
 Some of today's political figures actually make me miss Richard Nixon.

Finally, Sue Ko made charming representations of game pieces that her Korean grandmother used to play. The game immigrated from Japan to Korea during the Japanese occupation in World War II.  It's known as "Flower Cards," "Go Stop" or "Hwatoo" in Korean. The cards are organized and named by month, and the peony here is from the June set. Sue has warm memories of the clicks the plastic tiles made when she played with her grandmother's set. Her version is made from cut paper.
More images of the game and explanations of how it's played are here and  here.

My gratitude to my fellow ATC "players", and especially to Jenny Goto for hosting a beautiful event!
For more, Click on "Artist Trading Cards" or "ATCs" in the word cloud on the right.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Remember Film? Artist Trading Cards from Photography Ephemera

You meant to  do something creative this summer, but the weeks slipped by. Despair not! Here's the solution: Inform 3 to 8 of your least craft-o-phobic friends (or casual acquaintances) that you will be swapping Artist Trading Cards at, say, 3 o'clock next Sunday.

Artist Trading Cards are a bona fide international movement, and it's no wonder, because anyone can do them and they're addictive. They measure 2 1/2"  x 3 1/2", you can cut them out of paper, cardstock, quilts, more quiltsfiber, chocolate bars, titanium plates, or whatever. Embellish them in any way you please, swap them and have each person talk about them, and voila, a low-stress way to have a lot of creative fun and get to know people quickly and profoundly.

And speaking of stress, they're also, as it turns out, a way to repurpose few ounces of the stuff from closing down your parent's home of 50 years.

I'm a member of a wonderful ATC group has met about 4 times over the last couple of years, and we had another meeting/afternoon potluck scheduled for last weekend. About two weeks before I found myself with some extra time and went digging through my paper ephemera bins.

I found some old photographs, photo mailers, negatives, and failed photos from the 1950s-1980s saved from clearing out my parents' house, that  I couldn't quite throw away. The mailers had fabulous graphics, like this elephant,

The negatives, and many of the photos, were shrouded in mystery - the person above is possibly my mother, and I don't have a clue as to who these two boys below might be..... (If you recognize them, let me know.)
The film mailers went to all kinds of far-flung places, including to Lincoln, Nebraska! (our family lived in New York at the time)
The postmark above is 1957. Mailing cost: two cents. I put more of the mailer on the back.
The quotations came from my disintegrating copy of Bartlett's familiar quotations.
 (Here's the front of the book - not dated, but from the style, I'm guessing 1910s?)
Since it is falling apart, I bought it with the idea  that it would be okay to cut up the pages. But I couldn't bring myself to cut it, so I photocopy the pages I want and cut out the quotations. 
 The next card started as a blurry photograph of geese. It's dated March 1964. So I added a vintage JFK stamp (he had died 4 months previously), and the quotation from Isaiah: "All flesh is grass."
Next, a 1964 horse, with the same grass quotation.
Buildings cut up and alternated with negatives. 
 Eisenhower, below, is also now grass. The figure in the negative below is my mom in long plaid shorts, lying on the grass, I believe. (She's now 87.)
Next: I had no idea that printing photographs involved pure artesian water. So this portion of the mailer seemed to call for an old sailboat. Note the bargain prices. 
 Quotation, plus someone sledding down a hill. The figure is probably my brother.
 Woven negatives, prints, and mailer.
Decades pass. The next mailer and photo is from the 70s or 80s. That's my glamourous mom. Prices have risen.
If nothing else, these ATCs are a reminder of how challenging and labor-intensive developing photographs used to be.

Next week: The extraordinary ATCs I received in exhange from very talented and creative people!

Some earlier postings:

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Flip Flop Coffee Dots, or Symmetry Fun with Novelty Prints

How do I love novelty prints? Let me count the ways. They're fun. They're wacky. And you can cut them up and play symmetry grames with them.

As I mentioned in a blog post a couple of  weeks ago, I recently acquired this frenetic coffee-themed fabric, 40% off:
I woulda bought just a half yard, but when it's on sale, the LQS makes you buy the whole yard. (So much for savings.)

Also on the sale shelf was the opposite fabric, which is to say, it had white figures on a black background. When I first saw it, in the name of economy, I left it there, but couldn't stop thinking about making reflections between the two fabrics. So I finally caved, went back to the shop, and bought a yard.
I took it home and started lining things up. In the next picture, the white-on-black fabric is on top; I matched the design along its bottom, and stitched the BACK of the black-on-white fabric to the bottom edge.
The design reflects along the center line.That was interesting, but not interesting enough. I cut a strip of the black-on-white and placed it toward the upper right, matching designs (It goes most, but not all of the way across.) Can you see it? It has the words "coffee" and "latte" on it.
I added another pattern-matched stripe just above the lower edge of the top fabric (where you see "Yes!"), and I cut and reversed a white-on-black strip through the middle of the lower half. 
Then, just for the heck of it, I chopped a piece vertically off the right, and stitched it to the left side, upside down. (I tend to do this whenever I'm stuck.)
I raw-edge appliqued the strips down with invisible thread in a three-step zigzag. Done? Not yet! More experiments. I made a coffee cup pattern
 and cut the pieces out from red-on-white and white-on-red dot fabric. 
I placed giant coffe beans down the left side, and cut wavy edges. Those cups needed ingredients. I used white-on-black and white-on-grey polka dot fabric to make long ovals to fill them.

I photographed a small plastic spoon, put it in Corel Draw....
...And generated a row of flip-flopped spoons. (Below it's on paper, testing different sizes.)  I also used the leftover borders from the large coffee cups, using the FRONT of red-dots-on-white fabric alternating with the BACKS of white-dots-on-red fabric. (They're reverse applique, with the cup black-on-white fabric as a backing): 
Too much! Got rid of the cup column (they'll become another wallhanging, you'll soon see), and decided not to use the spoon strip.

Here's Finished Project I, all quilted. I used a "foamy" bubble fabric for the upper horizontal and right vertical border.
It's okay, but I think I like the next one even better. Here's Finished Project II, made from the leftovers. The borders  alternate between black-figures-on-white-background and white-figures-on-black-background. The cups  reflect across the horizontal midline (more or less). It has a white-on-grey polka dot binding.
I especially like the second cup down.
Total accident. The "coffee" fabric had widely-spaced large black circles on white. It wound up looking like an evil eye amulet, warding off bad coffee! I'm definitely going to run with this idea.

As you can see from that cup, most of the stitching is raw-edge zig-zag applique. (A school-glue stick and Stitch-and-Tear stabilizer helped). They give the piece a frenetic energy appropriate to the subject.

For more caffeine-driven experiments, click the word "coffee" in the word cloud on the right side of this blog. Does this make you want to buy matching novelty prints? Or run away from them screaming?

UPDATE: Here's music to go with today's column. Thanks, Debra!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

My Big Jewish Quilted Wedding Canopy

You get a call asking if you can do an assignment that would normally take nine months. It sounds like a great gig, and you're excited. So when's the deadline? 

Two months. Uh oh.

That's how I felt when an imminent bride contacted me after seeing the sushi chuppah (wedding canopy) on my Judaiquilt website. She wanted something like it, including sushi fabric; a shining gold star in the middle; and fabrics related to herself, her fiance, and their children's many activities and passions. They will have a sunset beach wedding. 

It was a dream commission. But the timing was tight - the call was in early June and the wedding's in mid-August! That sushi chuppah had taken me maybe nine months! 

Yet the more she told me about her fiance and herself and their children, the more I fell in love with her and the possibilities. Their avocations and passion ran the gamut from country music to Chanukah to tequila to skiing.  

So I said "yes." Then I sent her directly to (no financial affiliation). It's not that equilter has the best fabrics or prices - they're comparable to other high-quality quilt fabric sites - but equilter organizes the novelty fabrics better, by topic, which is ideal if you're making a quilts representing someone's interests. She gave me a long list of favorite fabrics from the site. 

She also gave me a sense of  favorite colors - teal and pink, cream and gold - and I used those to send her images of fabrics from my LQS or my stash that might work for the central circle. 

With her approval on most fabrics, I constructed the central medallion. I created strip sets, then used a Marilyn Doheney 9 degree wedge-shaped ruler. Here's the view from the back. I often find I like the back as much as the front! 
I set the circle in the middle of the chuppah, against a sunset fabric, and the novelty fabrics in rectangles in the borders around the center. Without further ado, here is the finished quilt. It's about 63" square. 
Below is the center of the circle. The central star is gold lame - it's surrounded by floating seashells. That's on top of musical note fabric, followed by sushi fabric, and followed by a whole constellation of fabrics evocative of  beach, ocean, and sky/stars. There are 14 fabric in all in this circle (and about 55 in the entire quilt.)
Here are some of the novelty fabrics in the borders. Below, cowboy hat fabric with fabric transferred  photos of the bride and groom (I blurred them in this photo for privacy purposes) along with travel fabric,  Chanukah and Rosh Hashana fabric: 
Next, record albums, crackers, Hostess cupcakes, fortune cookies, New York style pretzels: 
Motorboating (with an appliqued photo of the family in kayaks), beach with an appliqued country music star's photo (that's Kenny Chesney, in his blue rocking chair), donuts:
Winter sports, light house,
 Same country music star, guitars:
Salad, s'mores, bagels, donuts, tequila....
(And yes, they asked for shrimp on their chuppah. Who am I to argue?)

Grilled cheese sandwiches, black-and-white cookies, hot peppers, record albums (remember those?) I added the pomegranates as a symbol of fertility and Torah. (To counterbalance the shrimp). 
Pets, football, lacrosse, soccer.
Each corner had fans made from leftover wedges from the central strip set, and in the lower right corner I put a phototransfer of the wedding invitation. 
The back features bigger pieces of the novelty fabrics for people to enjoy. 
I put the label on the lower left corner, on one of the strip sets that made up the central medallion. 
I had a wonderful time, worked night and day, and finished early! It was a joyful collaboration with a delightful client and fun fabrics, and I loved every minute of it! 

(To see more of my chuppot, go here.)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Almost Vegan Quilted Gifts

In our last installment, I was heading for a summer reunion AND needed a creative jolt, so I made some coffee-themed potholders to give as gifts.

Since I do have friends whose lives, enigmatically, don't revolve around caffeine opportunities, I also made a couple of fruit-vegetable-and-egg-themed potholders. Why eggs? They're elongated polka dots, and polka dots make everything better! The only downside to adding the eggs is, of course, that you can't give these to vegans. Here's # 1:
 And # 2.
I know. It's a little wonky. I'm not sure what happened over on the left. What can I say, I was working fast.
The back:
The egg fabric has been in my stash for a while, but all of the luscious fruit and vegetable fabrics are from the Farmer's Market collection by Fabri-Quilt. Previously, I made a large quilt from these fabrics, which you can see here. Click on the "Farmer's Market Fabric" in the word cloud to the right to see many more. There's a quilt and free potholder pattern on my pattern page that uses fabric like this (scroll down on this page). 

You don't need a pattern for today's potholders, because it's stunningly obvious, right? Cut nine 3"squares, plus a border of however wide you need to show off the eggs!  

I put a double layer of Warm'n'Natural inside my potholders, but one of these days I'm going to buy Insul-brite, which presumably protects hands better.