Thursday, January 26, 2012

No One Died. I Just Dyed.

I dye the fabric for my dolls' "skin" in my basement.  I started doing it because I couldn't find many solid browns that weren't too gray, or too yellow, or too purple.  I had been hesitant about dyeing my own fabric, but once I got the hang of it, it was easy.  It has even become a joke with my children.  I will say to them, mournfully, "I'm going to the basement to dye."  They put on their sad faces.

Once, my mother-in-law called while I was working and my daughter ran to answer the phone. "Can I tell her you're dyeing?" she asked excitedly, relishing the prospect of a good joke.  My mother-in-law is 82.  No.  Another time I told a friend, without thinking, "I'm down in the basement dyeing.  Can I call you back?"  The absolute silence on the other end of the line gave me enough time to correct myself.  "Dyeing fabric! Not dying!"

Recently I went to the basement to dye, thinking I could do a couple of yards between dinner and falling asleep in front of the TV.  The area I work in has a utility sink, our washer and dryer, a chest freezer, assorted laundry baskets, a rolled-up old cream-colored rug, and -- on this occasion -- my husband's clean dress shirts hanging up over the freezer.  (Do you hear the foreboding music yet?)

Utility sink

I use these small plastic containers to mix my dye slurry with a tiny whisk, but I usually end up giving them a quick, vigorous shake just to make sure the dye is completely dissolved. I measured out varying amounts of rust brown, chocolate brown, golden brown, ecru, and water in several of these containers and mixed.  Let's note that both rust brown and chocolate brown contain a lot of red pigment.

Containers for dye slurry

Tight grip?
And then I gave them all a good shake, checking to make sure the lids were secure.  Plus, I hold them like this to make sure the lids don't fly off.

What happened next was...unexpected.  Mid-shake, I felt liquid on my face.  Running down to my mouth.  I saw liquid the color of dried blood running down the freezer, on the laundry baskets, on my shirt, on the old rug, and on the cuffs of two of my husband's dress shirts. For the record, dye slurry is salty in that split second before you start furiously spitting it out.

And that's when my husband came home -- in the middle of the frantic clean-up -- walking in on what looked like a grisly crime scene.

Not blood on the rug!

I did the best I could with the shirts, but it is fiber-reactive dye.  As long as he keeps his jacket on, you don't see the stains.  That and my shirt are all that still bear the marks of the Massive Dye Accident.  Wearing my not-bloodstained t-shirt is now truly appropriate when I go down to dye.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Book Review: Masters Art Quilts, vol. 2

Several months ago, I submitted my name as a potential reviewer for Master Art Quilts, Vol. 2.  I had enjoyed the first volume and really wanted a crack at the second.  Then I forgot about it.  So when this beautiful book arrived, I was as surprised as if someone had sent me an unexpected gift.  And truly, it is a gift.

Published by Lark Crafts and curated by Martha Sielman, this book is 400 pages of art quilts with something for almost every artistic taste.  There are abstract quilts, representational (though not necessarily realistic) quilts, quilts using only fabric and quilts that stretch the definition of quilt itself.

Each artist was given 10 pages, with one page devoted to an artist statement.  I was not familiar with all of the artists represented here, and I enjoyed the alternating feelings of discovery for new-to-me artists (like Reiko Naganuma and Leslie Gabrielse) and reacquaintance with old favorites (Carolyn Crump and Alice Beasley).

There were, of course, others with whom I did not quite click. I appreciated being exposed to their work, admiring their technique, and understanding their inspiration, but still being left cold by the work itself.  Other artists will respond differently.  This is one of the book's strengths, presenting a wide variety of work without pushing a particular style or point of view.

The pictures are presented simply, against a white background, that makes a trip through these pages easy on the eye.  That is not to say, however, that this book is easily finished.  I read a lot, and the goal is to finish the book and find out what happens, so I approached this book in the same way. I realized, after viewing the works of about 10 artists in a row, that this can cause headaches.  Better to slow down and visit thoughtfully with one or two artists than to try to cram it all in at once.  As a quilter, I did wish for more detail pictures so that I could better see how the artist achieved a particular effect.

For me, this book is more than a compendium of art quilts -- it is a reference guide, inspiration point, and kick in the pants all at the same time.  After seeing all of the excellent work in this book, it's time to get busy myself.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

More Faces

Part 1 of today's assignment was to scribble (really scribble) ten faces from real life.  In her video, Carla did this at a coffee shop.  Well, I had to take my mother-in-law to an eye doctor appointment, so figured I could use that time to camp out at a coffee shop and scribble out ten faces.

The problem?  Once I sat down at a stool by a window and got out my paper and pencil, I felt like everyone would see what I was doing and demand to know why I was drawing random people, and doing such a spectacularly sloppy job of it.  At least no one would be able to say that this is a picture of them.  Here are the scribbles:

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Staying Class-y

New year, new challenges and opportunities!

I started 2011 with a class by Carla Sonheim, The Art of Silliness.  I try to act like a responsible adult, but I'm actually rather silly. The class was 30 days long, with a worksheet to do each day.  I made it to about day 7.  I still have the other worksheets...

This year, I am starting with a class by Carla Sonheim.  Again.  But not the silliness class, because that would be just too silly, even for me.  No, this one is Faces 101.  The "101" in the title does not refer to any introductory status like Econ 101 or History 101; it refers to the 101 faces we will draw by the end of the class.  Did I mention that this class only lasts five days?  That's a lot of faces.

We are using different media for each assignment, and so far I have over forty from the Monday and Tuesday lessons.

On Monday, we were to do 8 watercolor faces.  Because these were imaginary people, it was easy to just let the paint tell me what the person was going to look like.  The two girls in the middle are my favorites.

On Tuesday, one of our assignments was to use acrylic ink and a dropper to draw 10 people from pictures.  I used a high school yearbook from 1980.  The ink was kind of hard to control, but it forced me to work in a very loose way.  I ended up liking what I did, except for some of the smearing.

Off to today's challenge!