Sunday, May 7, 2023

Queen of Hearts

I've always been fascinated with the art on playing cards, especially the face cards. One day when I was toying with the idea of making some ATCs out of a few old playing cards, I had the inspiration to make a giant card using some of Gwen Lafluer's new (and older) stamps.

I didn't want to mess up my good watercolor paper in case I stamped a little imperfectly, so I decided to stamp a few on tissue paper, then cut out the best ones, arrange them on the heavy paper, and glue in place.

I used stamps from both new and old sets:
    * the corner Q is from EGL16, Gwen's Art Deco alphabet
    * the collar and heart: EGL36
    * the crown and face are from EGL34 (I had a hard time choosing whether to use the heart from EGL34 or 36!)
    * the fleur-de-lis decorative compass is from one of the earliest sets, EGL03

After I stamped a bunch of each of the possible designs onto tissue paper, I cut and arranged them in various ways until I found something that I liked. Below is one of the possibilities. I taped them gently in place on my paper so that I could switch pieces in and out. You can see that I had thought of using the decorative compass cut in half, and that I had trimmed the collar a bit, but left it larger in the final version.

Here is the final design, and a playing card for size comparison and design inspiration.

On my almost final design, I had flipped the Q with the tail going the wrong way! 

When I was done with the design, I discovered that some of the ink had smeared and gotten messy from over-handling and from the addition and removal of tape. What was I to do? Rather than starting over, I decided to scan the design, tweak it in Photoshop, and print out a clean version. The unfinished version below was printed on high quality 28 lb. laser paper. I added color with brush tipped Tombow markers and posca paint pens.

I also added some dots to indicate earrings and a striped shape to the left of the face to make the Queen a little more feminine.

In photoshop, I added a thin black border to mirror what was on the design of the small playing card and unite the elements.

I have what some kindly call a "loose hand." My inner critic just calls it sloppy. I had some trouble when I added the diagonal sections of green and yellow background color, so again I scanned my almost finished colored design and tweaked it in photoshop to even out the color and make a precise diagonal line from top left to bottom right. Below are two copies of my final 5" x 8" Queen of Hearts cards ready to print on a standard 8.5" x 11" paper.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Stamped Blizzard Book

There were so many possibilities with Gwen Lafluer's new PaperArtsy stamps EGL34 and EGL36 that I spent a lot of time experimenting with them and ended up with quite a pile of collage elements and expressive faces piled up on the table in my studio. A light bulb went off in my brain when I realized that if I used ALL 15 of the stamps on a big sheet of paper, I could make an overall pattern and then fold it up into a blizzard book! The book The Art of the Fold has lots of creations that are done just by folding paper. Their blizzard book is my favorite style from that wonderful publication.

With the other elements I had stamped and painted, I decided to make cards to tuck into the eight pockets of my blizzard book.

I conducted a bunch of experiments with my new stamps and made quite a mess on my worktable!

I didn't have any really big sheets of plain paper to make the blizzard book. I needed a full sheet of strong, lightweight paper 13" x 29" that could be folded to yield the size book I wanted, 5.75" x 3.5". However, I DID have a beautiful full sheet of Florentine paper from Gwen's online shop. I decided it would be perfect to stamp the plain back of the Florentine paper since on a blizzard book, both sides show.

I used all of the stamps from both sets with sepia, black, indigo, and gray Archival ink, stamping them in every direction to create an allover pattern. They harmony of earth and neutral colors kept the design from getting too busy and added a vintage feeling. Here's how I did it:


And here's the finished paper before I folded it up:

I cut the stamped paper to 13" x 29". The Florentine paper is on the other side.

I used both the book The Art of the Fold and a YouTube video to get the blizzard book folded correctly. The first time I folded it too many times and had the inside where I wanted the outside.

On my first try, I had too many folds.

So, I reviewed the video and eventually got the book looking the way I wanted. One of the advantages of the folded pockets in a blizzard book is that they don't need to be stitched, glued, or secured in any fancy way; the crisp folds keep the pages in place and securely hold the cards, tags, or whatever you tuck into the pockets.

On some of the interior pages, the Florentine paper shows, on others, only the stamped paper. No stitching or glue is needed; the crisp folds allow the artwork to slide in and out of the pockets.

I decided to use the Florentine paper for the outside of the book because I wanted more of the stamped paper to show, which it does on all the inside pages. For the front cover, I chose a bit of a vintage music sheet and combined it with a brown kraft paper tag. Using versamark ink, I stamped the small sacred heart on the tag, sprinkled white embossing powder, and zapped it with my heat gun. I attached the embossed tag and sheet music to the front of the blizzard book with an industrial-looking brad.

Attaching the tag and sheet music with a brad allows the cover elements to be movable.

Now it was time to fill the book. Fortunately I had a bunch of small 3" x 5.5" pieces I had been working on with the many stamps in sets EGL34 and EGL36. I also added some elements from other sets to complete the book. Here's the whole creation:

The male face on the bottom left uses the same stamp as the female face on the top right. Isn't it interesting how a change of hair or face color can give a whole different look? The card on the top left uses a frame from set EGL14 and the green and yellow card on the bottom right uses stencils from Gwen's Boho Vibes StencilClub set plus the Cyrillic Alphabet stencil.


Thursday, January 12, 2023

Sari Scrap Deco Queen Doll

My Sari Scrap Deco Queen Doll came about quite by accident. It was one of those projects where an item on my worktable sparked an idea, and another nearby object built on that first spark. The ideas kept snowballing as I puttered and played. Some would say my Muse completely took over. 

She (I'm calling her Agnes) started with a cardboard tube from a roll of toilet paper. I had made a 3-dimensional paper doll a few weeks ago using a roll as a base so I had an extra one hanging out on my desk. I happened to be pawing through my bag of sari scraps (from Gwen Lafluer's online shop,) and a beautifully embroidered purple scrap landed on the table. It looked like it had been cut from the neckline of a dress, and the shape looked like it just might make a good circle skirt on the tube.

I tried it on and it was juuuust right. So, I used a little gloss heavy gel and glued it in place, securing it in back with a clip and small piece of parchment paper until it dried.

Yet another bag of scraps was on my computer table. It contained a bunch of test pieces that I made but hadn't used for my project with the September 2022 StencilClub mashup set created by Gwen Lafluer and Marybeth Shaw. Below is the StencilClub set that I used, as well as the project I made a few months ago with the BohoVibes stencils

I thought I might use some of the leftovers for doll parts, especially arms and legs. I saw the art deco floral medallion and thought it kind of looked like an Elizabethan collar, so I popped it in the tube.

Then I realized that if I added a face, it could look kind of cool. I rummaged through my bag of faces and found a few, auditioning them until I found the one that worked best. I used one from J Lee Loo's Etsy shop. I also found some gold and black scraps, cut arm pieces, and attached them with mini star brads.

I carefully cut the face out, aged the edges with a fingertip dauber and sepia ink, and glued it in place. So far, so good!

But Agnes' neck looked naked. I rummaged in my jewelry-making caddies for some bling. Purple might have been perfect, but I didn't have anything purple that worked, so I settled on some red vintage flat bottom gems that were a gift from my Lafluer ArtistTribe sister Jackie PN. There were small red accent beads on the purple and gold skirt, so the red beads coordinated nicely. Later I added gold acrylic between the beads on the bottom of the neckline.

Agnes was coming together nicely. It was time to work on the skirt. There was a little gap in the very front, so I painted it gold to match the embroidered flower on the center top. That wasn't quite enough, so I pulled out my stash of beads, found some gold ones, and stitched them on using a beautiful gold thread from Gwen's website.

I wanted the skirt to have some fullness and shape rather than just draping over the cardboard tube. So, I wound some inexpensive yarn around it to create a bell shape (thicker on the bottom) that the skirt could drape over. I loosely stitched the yarn to the bottom of the tube so it wouldn't fall off.


I debated whether or not to attach the top to the base, and decided to keep them separate. Instead of attaching the pieces, I added a bar that the "waistline" could rest against. Again I sifted through my jewelry-making components for a suitable solution. I decided to use a long headpin. With an awl, I poked a small hole, added a decorative gold bead to the headpin, threaded it through the tube, poked another hole, added a gold bead, and, using small pliers, twisted the pin into a tiny loop to secure the bead.

I was nearly done! All that remained was to gently press the wrinkles out of the skirt, and hand-stitch the hem.

Here's a few detail shots of Agnes, the finished Deco Queen. I hope she inspires you to save your scraps, "shop your stash" and see what can be created from little bits and pieces in your studio.


Wednesday, January 4, 2023

From Paintbrush to Digital

A long, long time ago, I came to New York to follow my dream of becoming a fabric designer. I loved art school, and after I graduated, loved working in the fabric business. We did everything by hand: the designs, the repeats, the colorways. It was magical when we could have designs reduced or enlarged on a copy machine, and even more amazing when the color copier helped save time.

This was one of the first repeating designs I ever made and screen printed; it was the spark that got me interested in a career in the fabric business.

I loved selecting designs, traveling to the mills and seeing thousands of yards of fabric rolling off the print machinery, watching as each color rolled through the screen and onto the cloth.

The years went on, and I had a family and didn't want to travel any more. I shifted into doing layout design, and later, writing. I never stopped loving art, and kept painting and designing in my free time. Fortunately, I learned to use QuarkXpress and Photoshop in my work as a layout designer, so I wasn't in the dark digitally. I explored Photoshop on my lunch break and created patterns that I printed and used in my artwork.

I also discovered stamps, stencils, geliplates, and mixed media. I made a lot of art quilts, and through a SAQA project (Studio Art Quilt Association), had work in shows and began designing my own line of fabrics. I printed my favorites at Spoonflower. It was really rewarding to see my designs go from paint and paper to actual fabric. I had some sales, but mostly it was just for the joy of creating. 

This art quilt, Eye of Panic, was in the Sacred Threads show as well a magazine, book, and newspaper article.

Along the way, I joined some creative teams, started blogging, joined Instagram, and started teaching local mixed media classes. 

In 2020, was fortunate to have StencilGirl begin producing my designs. Still, my heart was in fabrics. I used my Spoonflower fabric for art quilts, journal pages, collages, dolls, and journal covers.

My third collection of stencils, with samples of designs I created using each one

Meanwhile, the fabric business changed--companies went offshore and went digital. When I thought about re-entering the fabric design world, I discovered that I had a lot of catching up to do.

Surface designs made with hand drawn doodles that were colored and manipulated in Illustrator.

So, I took a couple courses in digital design with Adobe Illustrator. It's an amazing and powerful program. Maybe some day I'll master it. For now, I am puttering and seeing what I can do. Some things are super fast, like producing a repeat (once you have the design technically correct of course.) Trying new colorways is as fast as spinning a wheel. Some days I want to cry and break my computer. But some days I'm amazed at what I can create digitally.

The black and white shapes were scanned, translated in Illustrator, and used to create floral patterns.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Quilted Stenciled Apron


(This post originally ran on the December 21, 2022 StencilTalk blog)

Aprons are a signal to my brain that creative joy is about to commence. When I put on an apron, my inner child starts percolating with ideas and excitement. Whether I'm cooking a meal or about to start making a beautiful artistic mess with paints, or collage, or stencils, or a gelliplate, donning an apron means I'm sliding into my happy place, and ready for some serious fun.

Tucked into my very small studio space (also known as a corner of my bedroom!) is a special box, full of fabric scraps and samples. Some large, some small, and all dear to my heart. There are tests on fabric of almost all my stencil designs. Also in the box are scraps from fabric that I designed myself and printed at Spoonflower.

Here's a few of my original fabric designs that I printed at Spoonflower on 100 percent cotton.

One of my favorite stenciled fabrics was an allover design in bright, summery colors made with some of the designs from my Wyatt ATC MixUp, Blooming Violet, and Lemurian Leaves.

This is one of my favorite stenciled fabrics. It was hard to cut it up for the apron, but fabrics are for sewing, so I sliced it into ATC sized pieces! I also used a strip of it for the neck ties.

I decided to finally do something with the fabrics and debated just what to create...a throw pillow for my couch? A patchwork teddy bear? A tote bag? A blouse? I didn't want to make something that I would wear once, then tuck away in the closet, saved for special occasions only. It occurred to me as I was putting on my apron to prepare dinner that a patchwork apron would be just the right thing.

So, the next day, I took inventory of what I had. There were lots of little ATC sized pieces from testing my Wyatt ATC Mixup stencil in dark and light colors, brights, and pastels. Since I had so many ATC sized test prints, it seemed logical to make my patchwork rectangular (2.5" x 3.5") rather than the standard square shape. Using a piece of mylar, I cut my template 3" x 4", which allowed for a 1/4" seam on all sides. I also had stenciled fabric samples left over from the clothing I made for my Wisdom Doll last year.

I got out my green cutting mat, my metal-edged yardstick, and my rotary cutter and set about carefully cutting the blocks. 

Here's the old, worn, favorite apron that my mother made years ago. I love the way it fits and feels, so I decided to use it as a pattern. 

I measured the size I would need for the top and skirt of the apron. Next, I arranged the blocks, shuffling them to get a good distribution of dark and light, while being careful not to have the same stencil shape too close to itself. I took pictures so that I didn't forget what the arrangement was.

I tried to balance the light and dark fabrics, the large and small patterns, and have variety in the colors.

Once the arrangement of the squares in rows was decided, I clipped each batch together. On the right, you can see my notes, measurements, and sketches.

Here I have more of my Spoonflower fabric yardage, and in the background, some of the cut and uncut stenciled fabric pieces.

Next, I carefully sewed the rows together, pressing the seams open with my steam iron. When the rows were done, I sewed the top pieces together, then the bottom sections.

I pressed the seams open carefully on the ironing board after stitching each row.

I used chalk and a clear ruler to mark where I wanted my quilting lines to be. It easily brushed off when I was finished quilting.

I decided to quilt the top piece; it seemed a logical next step. I used a full piece of one of my fabrics, stitched a 1/4" seam on all three sides, turned, and pressed it. I cut a piece of felt to fit just inside, pinned it in place, and stitched.

The original apron has two patch pockets, which are very handy, but I decided it would be too busy and bulky with the patchwork fabric, so I omitted the pockets from my new design.

I hung the finished top and bottom pieces from a shelf and stepped back to see how the apron was shaping up.

The old apron had a gathered skirt, so I put in two rows of machine basting across the top of the skirt, pulled it until it was the same length as the top, adjusted the gathers so that they were even, and pinned it in place. Just to be extra careful, I hand-basted the gathered section to the top, removed the pins, checked to be sure the gathers were distributed evenly, then slowly stitched the pieces together.

The backside of the apron shows my mini paisley Spoonflower fabric that I backed the quilted top with, as well as the basting on the gathered bottom.

Here's the almost-finished apron. The finishing touch was adding long strips of fabric for ties at the neck and waist.

It was a bit of a happy accident that my stencil of the word ART fell right in the middle, above the waistline!

I'm really pleased with the way my quilted patchwork apron came out, and the best thing is that 100 percent own fabric designs, my own stencils, even my own pattern design. While I kind of want to save it for special occasions, I also can't wait to put it on and make some creative mischief!

Many thanks to Jeanne Waller for modeling my special creation!