Saturday, March 31, 2012

My Very Own Dog Art

About two weeks ago, I had a sudden crafty urge, brought on no doubt by a whole lot of Pinterest and DIY blog hopping.  The crafty urge happened to coincide with my changing the look of the master bedroom, and I'd been thinking about changing the art on the walls for some new interest.  And look what I made!

You might recognize the subject, our lab-weimaraner mix Gemma.  Then again, you might not.  But trust me, it's her.  I spent a lively hour one afternoon following her around, camera in hand, trying to get just the right profile shot of her.  You know, when you try to get down on a dog's level to take its picture, the dog usually rushes right toward you.  I have the dog nose prints on my camera lens to prove it.  I finally enlisted the help of Miss C, to put Gemma on a leash and walk her around until she stopped in a good profile pose.

(Nope, this isn't the one I used but you get the idea.)

I followed the great instructions I found on Karah's DIY blog "The Space Between," and all I needed was the canvas (I didn't have an old one lying around, as she did).  I've got tons of acrylic paint and it's always nice to do a project that uses what you already have.  So I got to be crafty AND virtuous. 

You'll notice that her dog pictures featured a very flat background.  I wanted a streaky look, which is a good thing because that's what I got.  And now Gemma (so quiet and obedient!) stands watch over the bedroom dresser. 

One of these days I'm going to paint that dresser.  But I'll have to wait for a big crafty urge to come along.

Friday, March 30, 2012

South African Drumbeat

When I was at Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, England this past summer, I met Magie Relph, the delightful owner of the African Fabric shop.  I bought a basket and a bit of fabric from her, and Magie admired the 12x12 quilts, and before I left I'd agreed to participate in a mini challenge with some of the other Twelves using some South African fabric called "Shweshwe."

The fabric is not what I'd have recognized as African, and when I did a bit of research, I learned why:  although it is now made in South Africa, it originated as discharged indigo fabric which was imported from England.  A South African textile company eventually started manufacturing the fabric with help from a UK investor.  And while it started as primarily indigo and brown fabrics, it's now also made in vibrant oranges, pinks, purples, and reds. 

At any rate, that quilt up top is what I did.  My inspiration was the patterns from other South African textiles, sort of like this:


I started by cutting a variety of shweshwe prints into strips and piecing them together.  They're so pretty, aren't they?  I tried organizing them them randomly...

and then I tried doing a light-to-dark arrangement...

and that's what I ended up using, so sewn they looked like this:

Look, even the scraps look pretty in these bright colors:

Then I layered the strip pieced under a layer of black fabric, and onto batting and a backing.  I'd drawn my design onto tracing paper, aiming for a loose and primitive use of patterns.  I arranged the patterns to create (in my own mind anyway) hills at the bottom, then grass, then flowers, then huts -- a symbolic landscape of sorts.  I layered the tissue paper on top of all of the fabric, then sewed through all of those layers with small stitches. (It made a great crinkly sound when wrestling it all under the sewing machine!)

Then, I started peeling the paper away, and cutting away parts of the black fabric to reveal the shweshwe fabric underneath.  (Yep, I know -- why did I put the paper on the black layer?  I had a reason at the time -- which I can't remember right now but trust me, there was a reason.  But after having to pull all those teeny bits of white paper off of the black fabric, I was wishing I'd sewn from the back where the teeny bits wouldn't have shown so much!)  And look -- my very sharp Havel scissors go perfectly with the color palette, don't they?

So here's the finished quilt again.  It has the sort of hand-drawn, primitive look I wanted.

Here's a detail shot.  For some reason I really like those hilly shapes and how the blades of grass look.

You can click on their names to see what Gerrie and Terry did with their shweshwe fabrics!

If you'd like to use some of these beautiful fabrics, they are available through online ordering.  In Europe, do try Magie's African Fabric shop.  In the US, Magie will ship here ... but if you want to avoid international shipping, a google search will show you where you can order them within the US.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

I break for games

You know how sometimes you just need a little break from reality?  (You do, right?  It's not just me?)  Lately I've found that a few minutes of Iphone and/or Ipad game playing creates such a happy little break.  Here's what I've been playing:

Draw Something

    This is sort of an online version of Pictionary, where the goal is to draw something that someone else can guess.  In Draw Something, you can link up with friends (via email or Facebook), then you take turns drawing something and guessing what they've drawn for you.  It's not real time -- you open the game and if someone has taken their turn, it'll be there waiting for you to play at your leisure. It's very fun, with drawing skill far less important than identifying the visual cues that will trigger the answer.  I've played it both on my Ipad and my Iphone, and it's way harder on the Iphone's small screen.  (My friend Kristin drew an amazingly detailed 4-person illustration of ABBA with an Iphone and her finger.  I'm still marveling over that!)  

Zed's Alchemy

My sister Laura turned me onto this very clever and addictive game, and I've not been able to stop playing it since.  (Thanks, Laura!)  It's another one for the Ipad and Iphone, but it seems to work equally well on both devices.  The idea is that you start with four basic elements: earth, air, water and fire.  By dragging one onto another, you create more things.  For example, fire + earth = lava.  Fire + water = steam.  The more you drag and drop the things you have made, the more things you create. (The game says there are 380 things you can make, starting with those 4.  I'm up to about 120 so far.)

But it's a riot.  And there's a funny sort of logic to it.  If you find the "Life" element (a little DNA strand!), you can add that to stuff to see what you get.  Life + dust = mites, as it turns out.  It gets you thinking... let's see, how can I get mammals? A tree?  From a tree, what can I get? 

The simplicity of this game is what makes it brilliant -- that and rather funny humor.  Can you create a beetle?  If you get one beetle and drag it onto another beetle, you find yourself with The Beatles.  It's very charming with lots of fun surprises.

You can thank me (in a few hours after you've gotten sucked into one or both of these... )  I just heard Miss C shout from her room that she created "omelet." 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Swirl, Sniff, Sip

Quilt content!  Bet that's a surprise, huh?  But I recently finished a submission for an exhibit on the theme of "Rituals," and I thought I'd show you. It's 24x60 inches, which is 5 feet long.  Big!

As I thought about the rituals theme, I found myself thinking about the rituals associated with wine tasting.  I live in the wine country of northern California, so the wine industry is a huge part of life here.  When we moved here, we weren't huge wine drinkers... well, no more than the average household, I'd say.  But once we settled here, we made so many friends in the wine business -- wine makers and grape growers and buyers and  tasting room employees -- most folks here have some connection to the business.  We used to joke that we were the only people on our block that didn't own our own winery, which was almost true.

In any event, our wine palates have become educated and we have learned a lot about wine without even trying.  It's a way of life here.  So I got thinking about the shapes of wine glasses, and how there are reasons for using a specific shape for a specific wine, and the steps involved in properly tasting wine... and of course, it occurred to me also that a wine bottle was the perfect base shape for this tall, vertical size! 

Here are some of the progress shots.  I started with hand-dyed fabric, onto which I stenciled a swirly grape vine.  I stitched down a bottle, then used tulle to create the effect of a transparent champagne glass.

Here it is with all three glasses in place (I was wishing I'd put that white wine glass a bit more to the left, but oh well...)  I'm very pleased at how the tulle worked to make the glasses.  Each glass is a double layer of white tulle, which I outlined with white oil pastel crayon.

Using tissue paper outlines of the words I wanted to add, I tried various placement ideas.

And I ended up here, having stitched through the tissue paper, then pulled the tissue away to paint the words on with Lumiere gold textile paint.  I love that stuff.

You can see in the finished quilt above that I add some more swirls with a stencil, painting them in with a purple-gold Lumiere paint that gives a really interesting irridescent effect, and then I machine quilted it.  As usual, I got started in with machine quilting and ended up with a pretty dense quilted texture.  Here's a close-up:

I had a very fun time making this.  Gosh, I'm in the mood for a nice glass of zinfandel.  Wonder why?

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Out of the Comfort Zone

If you find yourself in Northern California, anywhere near Ukiah (which is straight up Highway 101 from San Francisco, just beyond Sonoma County, on the edge of Menocino County), I urge you to go visit this beautiful exhibit of art quilts at the Grace Hudson Museum.  I attending the opening of the show last night, and served as a juror for the exhibit, and so I can say with assurance that there are some stunning quilts in this exhibit. The theme for the show is "Out of the Comfort Zone," and there is a good array of work with different styles and materials.

After carefully examining the slides during the jurying process, I so enjoyed seeing the quilts in person.  Despite how detailed slide images are, they just can't measure up to seeing the real thing!  I was especially delighted to meet the artists.  I talked at length with Lisa Bowles, a young artist whose pieces you can see here (Vegas the Wonder Dog) and here (Point of Departure) and ended up spending my juror's honorarium on another small piece of hers!  I also so enjoyed meeting Leila Kazimi, whose quilt "Messenger" won first prize (it's on that link page if you scroll down).

So if you're up for a trip to Ukiah, the exhibit is worthwhile -- as is the rest of the museum which is a little gem of history.  While you're up that way, you can find delicious sushi at Oco Time, or have a bistro dinner at Patrona's (which is what we did after the show.  Asian chili cod dinner to DIE for!)