Sunday, March 20, 2016

Keys to the Universe: How to Sun Paint the Big Bang from Your Junk Drawer

Starting with the end: I made this!

It's a quilted wallhanging, about 26" x 36"  Here's the center:
I made that key fabric! All by myself! Well, okay, not really, I didn't weave the cloth. But I did paint all those keys. Sort of.

It all started because I have shelves full of beads, buttons, rocks, dice, Scooby-Doo figurines, marbles, poker chips, ice cream sticks, corks, beer caps, Scrabble tiles - you get the idea, the j-word. (junk.)

One of my favorite compartments is devoted to keys. Old keys are like old friends  - I can't remember what they did, but I can't throw them away.

So one day I decided to trace some. I placed one on my sketch book, and then changed my mind and decided instead to lay them all out and take their picture.

So much character! So few memories! Mostly of  unwheeled family suitcases!
I started thinking that I might print the photos directly onto fabric.

But then it came to me: I live in Southern California! I can sun print them! Sun printing is also called sun painting or heliographic art. Certain fabric paints - like Setacolor Transparent  and Dy-Na-Flow - can be used to safely and easily print objects, The paints cost a few bucks more than craft store acrylics, but the special effects make them worth it.

Experiment #1: I painted a stretch of  wet white muslin with a mixture of green Setacolor Transparent paints, and arranged the keys (and some wee padlocks) on top....
...Left it in the sun to dry, and voila! 
Interesting, but the mossy green wasn't thrilling me.
In experiment #2, I laid the keys in a circle, smallest toward the center, on a Setacolor purple background:
Dry: 
I overpainted that with blue Dye-Na-Flow, and laid buttons in the spaces between the key shadows. Set that out in the sun: 
 Removed the buttons. Now the keys were light blue, and the button images were purple.   
What's not to love? It looks like an explosion in my junk cabinet! Running with the explosive theme, I tested button clusters....
...and plastic paper clips...and milk-box and seltzer-bottle lids,,,and various border fabrics)...
That earthy green-and-white key sun print above just didn't want to play nicely with the subtle center. Which led to experiment #3, sunprinting more small objects on fabric painted blue first, then green: 

The fabric above became one border. I selected three more borders, all prints.
Once the quilt was constructed, I started stitching things down for good. I started with tiny lavender and white beads toward the center, then the buttons, then colorful small safety pins (just pinned on, no need to stitch). Further out, I stitched larger multi-hued glass beads, and the paper clips...
Above, in the lower right hand corner , I also threw in a white glass sneaker bead. 

The sunprint border was quilted and embellished with hand running stitches and bugle beads. 

For another border, I used this Japanese-ish chrysanthemum fabric from an old skirt: 
 I dressed it up with iridescent lime green beads in each flower's centers, plus vintage white buttons  between motifs. (Too much is never enough!)

For a third border, I used an atomic fabric graciously gifted to me by the queen of All About Appliqué, (Thanks, Kay!) to which I added iridescent faceted beads....
Finally, to the fourth border, I stitched a variety of green bugle beads. 
Two outer borders consist of fabric that looks like graphed data. I added plastic alphabet and question-mark beads. and silver glass beads.  
For the outermost borders, I cut key fabric from an old shirt. I haven't embellished it at all (yet). 
The finished quilt is at the top of this post. 

Interested in trying sun painting?  I buy my Setacolor Transparent and/or Dye-Na-Flow from two places. One, the Dick Blick store near me. If I'm too busy to go there (parking is a pain), I buy it online at Dharmatrading.com. [Update: I am told that Dharma is out of many Setacolor paints right now. Setacolor transparents are in stock at Dick Blick's online store; at Pro Chemical and Dye; and MisterArt.com. No financial affiliation.]

Explore other sun printing possibilities using Dharma's handy search window. Select "Browse by Technique," then click "Sun Painting," You'll find several different products.

PS Shared on Nina-Marie Sayre's Off the Wall Friday. Take a look to see many links to beautiful and interesting art quilts! 

20 comments:

  1. This work has high impact, but also balance, thanks to the attention to details in every section. Just love it.

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    1. Thank you so much, Eleanor, that means a lot to me!

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  2. What a great quilt. Thanks for detailing your process. I've never done sunprinting--and I don't have your collections of things--but I've been looking for something new to try. My patchwork style is usually 'liberated' so I might be able to combine your ideas with my style--Thanks for sharing your process and photos.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Kathleen. Would love to see what you come up with!

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  3. What fabulous results and thank you for leading us thru your process.

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  4. I learn so much by following your detailed process. We're still in the grayer days of winter, but this process is on the radar for warmer, sunnier days.

    Over dyeing is the one process I find a bit intimidating, and I'm happy to see you just worked it until it suited you. I'll try it.

    Thanks for sharing it all here.

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Julie. Painting is soooooo much easier than dyeing. It's also possible that this technique may work with indoor lighting, just not as strongly - I need to test for that.

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  5. Wow! So cool! Beautiful and amazing.

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    1. Thank you, Margaret! It was lovely running into you!

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  6. Cathy, I have to say that I do not post comments enough. This is the first time I have commented on your blog. Every time I see you have a post, I open it asap, I love your quirky style and that you never seem to stop creating unusual quilts. I admire your creativity and go for it attitude. This post was fantastic I have always wanted to sun dye and perhaps because of you I will get to it. Your use of keys - well I was a locksmith for many years and I have collected keys forever - thus my blog Key Elements. I am going to give my key collection a try. I would have never put together the other fabrics you chose - you are such a free spirt. Your wall change is wonderful. What do you do with with all your designs? I would really like to know. Your house must be a fantasy land like "Cathy in Wonderland".
    Hugs,
    Julie

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    1. Julie, your "key" nickname startled me -how wonderful that you were a locksmith. You must have one heckuva collection. My house could be called a wonderland...or a disastrous mess...or both...thank you for your very kind comment. Would love to see what you make with your keys! Can you post the link to your blog? Looking up "key elements" gives me a zillion blog improvement sites!

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  7. I want to have a play date with you. I love to do this kind of thing. That atomic fabric is awesome by the way. I love where you took it after with the hand work and beads. LeeAnna

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    1. LeAnna, come over any time and we'll play! Thank you for your comment and for all the inspiration you create in the world!

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  8. As someone who simply adores old keys, I'm very impressed with your unique use of them. Great idea. Great results!

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    1. Susan, I also considered hanging them from my ceiling all over my house, a la Lenz! I might yet do that! Thanks so much for your comment, I am a huge fan of all your work!

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  9. That looks like such fun to make – and to rummage for treasures with interesting shapes to print.

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    1. Absolutely. Next I'm going to raid my jewelry box! Thanks, GMG!

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  10. I love your quilt Cathy. Thanks so much for your details on how you sun dyed the fabrics. It's on my list of things to do with art quilts but I'm a bit of a chicken when it gets to chemicals. I'll look into this. Thanks, Andrée

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  11. Andree, this is the perfect project for a chicken. If you don't like your initial results, you can paint over them to add another layer. It's relatively cheap and non-toxic, certainly compared to dyeing. You'll enjoy it!

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