44th Anniverary of the RFK Assassination

Tomorrow is the 44th anniversary of RFK’s assassination. Very sad to think about that, and how things would be different now if he had lived. His words are going to be a powerful part of my January 8th piece I’m working on now.

This is how my latest paper lamination turned out, I think it has real potential. I mad a collage of photocopies of photos I took of the RFK grave site at Arlington National Cemetery and laminated them on top of some saguaro fabric I screen printed last year with a thermofax screen.  I burned some of the photocopies. Here’s a close-up:

I feel less enthusiastic about the mountain fabric, here it is layered on top of more mountain fabric:

I’m slowly getting all the fabric together…soon this piece will start coming together because I have the finished work in mind. More screen-printing ahead this weekend!

Latest Fabric Designs

I don’t mind the trial-and-error involved in art making; I just prefer the trial part, it always seems more open ended at least. The error part stinks!

Last weekend I made some fabric that didn’t turn out as well as I hoped. Drat!

I had this idea to make fabric with a large mountain motif. Here in Tucson, the Catalina Mountains are a familiar sight, so I drew a large shape of the mountains and then traced it onto contact paper (what you’d use for kitchen shelving) using my “light table” a.k.a patio door:

Here is a rather dim view of what the contact paper shapes (white) look on white fabric out on my patio on a hot day when the glare from the sun, even on my patio, made everything seem very white:

Here are the same shapes with dye screen-printed on top. Warm weather is very good for dyeing. The 4% ambient humidity might frighten some folks who dye, but I find that by adding enough urea to my dye solutions, that seems to be just enough of a wetting agent. As I’ve said before, I don’t batch my dyed fabric. It’s usually sun-dried and tossed in the washer within hours of being dyed.

I usually have better luck, but the above fabric didn’t turn out very well. I was planning on getting a fabric that I’d screen-print again, but what I got isn’t worth it. Sigh.

Though before learning the outcome (before it went in the wash) I made some foccacia, following a recipe in The Olives Table cookbook which I just got as a gift from my Aunt Mary. I find making some yummy food in the middle of a day of art making feels very luxurious. The focaccia recipe in that book is fantastic, here are how mine looked, slathered w/olive oil and peccorino romano and about 5 minutes from being done:

Anyway, a whole work week went by and today I picked up from where I left off, this time trying a different spin on the whole mountain theme. Here we have a panorama view of the Catalina mountains, made from color photographs photocopied and then taped together. I burned the edges of the bottom one and will do the same for the top one, as I like the effect:

Here they are on top of some previous screen printed fabric, also of the Catalina mountains. My plan is to laminate these photocopies onto silk organza, and then to layer the silk over the original fabric:

This is the roughly 20″x30″ piece of organza, pinned down on foam core with one of those contact-paper mountain shapes stuck on top. Not giving up on that idea! This fabric was screen printed this afternoon but not washed. Since it’s a sheer, and since the yardage is smaller, I’m hoping for a better outcome since the effect is supposed to be subtle. We’ll see tomorrow!

Shadow Fabric Part 2

I took the fabric I made last weekend (see previous post) and pinned it down today and stuck some more contact-paper shapes on top. Then I applied another layer of screen-printed dye paste. This is how it looked before the dye:

A close up…I’m a bit tired of cutting out the same shapes!

Once the first layer of dye dried, I carefully unstuck the shapes and reapplied them in different spots on the fabric and screen-printed on more dye. Here’s the yardage drying out on the patio. I don’t “proof” or “cure” or “batch” anything; most advice and tips on dyeing fabric calls for the dyed fabric to be sealed in a plastic bag overnight to get the maximum amount of dye.  Sometimes I’ll let something sit that has a lot of nuance; but in this case, after a few hours in the sun this fabric was tossed in the wash. Once dried, this is how both pieces of fabric look:

Here’s a close up:

And another close-up:

I’m generally quite pleased. I’m able to see how everything is going to fit together now; I just need to keep at it and hope to have this project done by the end of summer.

Honey Bee Fabric

One of the women in my quilt group works with honeybees in a government lab; she likes bugs. When there’s a birthday in our group, that person gets a piece of fabric (generally a fat quarter) in their favorite color or style. Diana requests fabric with bugs. I totally spaced out her birthday last year, so I thought I would try making her something this year for this week’s meeting.

First I drew a bee with pencil, so I could make a thermofax screen:

Here you can see a piece of my hand-dyed pink fabric pinned down to some foam core out on my patio; I’ve just screen printed the honeybee shape on the fabric, and you can see the small and rather sloppy screen–with a “frame” made of duct tape– off to the right. I’d say the bees are about 3″x5″.

To make up for missing last year’s birhtday, I also screen printed a similar-sized piece of orange fabric using fuschia dye this time:

I kind of sponged around the areas where I glopped on some dye paste during the printing process. Sloppy! I figure this fabric could come in handy for some picky-piecing, if one wanted to highlight bees for some reason in one’s quilts.

Dye Painting Experiment

There’s a traditional quilt block I’ve always loved called “Memory”, and I made a few of these 12″ blocks for my first ever “sampler” quilt, which I made 16 years ago. I liked how the blocks, when placed together, created very different shapes:

I like the idea of using this block in my new project. Obviously, the name of the block–memory–is something that makes sense in the context of an art quilt about the January 8 shooting.

Rather than piece together fabric to make the quilt block, I drew the shapes on fabric using a disappearing fabric pen with the intention of painting the shapes with thickened dye. Instead of a 12″ quilt block, my version is about a 5″ square; I drafted multiple versions of it. So as to avoid confusion when I painted on the dye, I took a color-by-number approach and made sure each shape had a number so I’d paint it the right color:

This was a project I could do inside on a weeknight. I added dye powder to some print mix and started filling in the shapes. I waited for the dye to dry and then painted some more. I should add that I treated the fabric with a coat of Jacquard’s No-Flo first, which prevents colors from bleeding when painting dye on fabric:

Here’s the finished piece; it’s always brighter before you wash out the colors:

And here it is after I washed it:

One thing I’m not keen about is that the brush strokes are visible. In fact, I don’t like this at all. I’m already coming up with a different plan to get this design on fabric with dye with no brush strokes. I think I’ll have to use screen printing, and I’ll have to mask out the shapes with masking tape.

Bread Baking and Paper Shredding

I started working on the collage fabric I’m making for my new quilt project about the January 8 shootings; above are ripped up photocopies of photographs I took of the memorials to the victims.

In between bouts of paper ripping I made a batch of bread with the stand-mixer I recently found on Craigslist for a steal.

I used this recipe I got from my mom:

place 1 cup whole oats and 1 cup polenta in a bowl, pour in hot water until grains just covered, allow to stand, then:

2Tbsp fresh yeast and a bit of sugar dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water; allow to stand in a warm spot for 20 minutes or until nice and bubbly, then add:

oat/corn mix, 1 Tbsp salt, 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup good quality olive or safflower oil, 1Tbsp lecithin dissolved in a small amount of water, mix:

then, slowly add 4 cups organic whole wheat flower, mixing with a dough-hook. Add up to 1/2 cup more flour if needed until dough in mixer is nice and smooth to the touch, not sticky, but still moist. I’d say 7 minutes for sure in the mixer once the flour is added. Then place dough in a large greased bowl, brush top of dough with oil, cover with a cloth and let raise in a warm place for an hour or until double. Punch down, divide, knead each piece a minute and shape into loaves and place in loaf pans, brush with oil, let raise for 45 minutes or until loaf-sized, almost, then bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees. This is what my bread looks like:

I was surprised how good it turned out. Very yummy.

Screen Printing Revisited

Finally, back to an art quilt project. I have this idea of a piece about the January 8th Shooting in Tucson.

I made print paste mix yesterday to get ready for screen printing, as it’s best for the mix to sit 24 hours before use; it’s just sodium alginate, water and some urea. I’ve read several recipes that call for 8 Tablespoons of sodium alginate per gallon of water (a whole gallon is made because it stores well in the fridge); however, this is what the paste looks like with those proportions:

Yep. Very runny for a paste that you’re supposed to actually drag across a silk screen. So I added sodium alginate, increasing my total number of Tablespoons to 11:

And while it thickened some more after this effort….it was still too thin. I’m going to add 14 Tablespoons next time and see if I actually get a paste.

I then cut out some stencils of human shadows; I had this idea of creating fabric of the silhouettes of a man, woman and child to represent the different people hurt and killed at the shooting:

I settled on the shapes of a girl and a man; although it’s not my intention, I think this creates a more sinister feeling, and ultimately this may be very good for the piece, given the subject matter.

Here are the freezer paper cut-outs ironed on to the back of a silk screen:

Here’s my “outdoor studio”: plywood on top of sawhorses makes for my work space, and the patio table is my work area. Check out the wildflowers in the background!

Here’s one run:

Unfortunately, the freezer paper stencils didn’t stay ironed-on to the silk screen; they remained in place for the first run, then started remaining stuck on the fabric midway through the second run due to the wet conditions and the thin print paste mix. I just carefully unpeeled the stencils and stuck them back on the fabric. Here’s what the fabric looked like, wet, after 4 runs. I seem to remember from past practice that the fabric really can only absorb the dye from 2 runs, possibly 3 but not much.

I should make it clear that I have poor screen printing technique, and that I do all kinds of short-cuts and chaotic things while I print:

Here’s the finished fabric; it’s pale (I used very old dye to see if it still worked, I used Procion MX cold water dyes I’d mixed 4 months ago and left in the fridge, just to see how they’d perform:

I think the shadow idea worked well; the shapes are distinct. I like the colors, too, but I think I’ll mix fresher dye next time:

Tubac Center for the Arts Member’s Juried Exhibit

I joined the Tubac Center for the Arts earlier this year, and I entered an art quilt in their annual Member’s Juried Exhibit, which is showing now through January 2, 2012. I went to the opening last night, and there were so many lovely paintings and photos on display. The show was put up very well; it’s a very beautiful space.

New Thermofax Fabric

Below is a not-very-good photo of my first thermofax screen; the smaller, bottom screen is the first screen, and the one above it has the same image but is larger–and, more importantly–has a blank space on the very left before the design starts, and this space is necessary so you have somewhere to put a pile of thickened dye before you scrape it over the screen. I didn’t put this blank space–kind of an improvised “well”–on my first screen, which is why it was so hard and frustrating to print.

Here are a couple of new screens I made of saguaro cactus shapes; you can see the black and white photocopies I used to make the screen on the right.

This is what I jokingly refer to as my “wet studio”: my patio table and a bunch of buckets, old towels, yogurt containers and thickened dye; here I have the screen with some dye on the left, ready to be squeegeed:

This is what the print looked like:

And here I’m starting the next run…

…which looks like this:

Below, the fabric after multiple runs:

I also did yet another layer of mountain-shapes after I was done printing the saguaros, here are all four panels getting a bit of late afternoon sun before they go in the washer:

This is a part of the mountain fabric, as it looks now…

…and here is the saguaro fabric:

Not bad, I think. I’m slowly getting the hang of printing with these screens.