Saturday, November 26, 2016

Developing Your Creative Voice

A few years ago I brought this art quilt to a small critique group I belonged to.

One of my friends commented that it was different from my other work, but “It still looks like you!” I took this as a very high compliment. It meant I was using techniques, ideas, elements, materials, and themes that were truly my own. I had a unique creative voice.    

Artists often struggle to find their own artist voice. Sometimes people say if you make tons of art eventually you'll develop your own style. That’s part of it, but it’s more than that.  

I came across this quote from St. Francis.

He who works with his hands is a laborer.
He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.
He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.
—St. Francis

To develop your creative voice, I think you have to fully incorporate your head, heart and hands.

Thinking about these ideas and my experience easing into my own unique personal style, I developed several exercises and ideas around the concept of creative voice.

I put them together in a 29 page workbook includes exercises to fully explore how to use all three -- your head, heart and hands -- in your creative pursuits. It includes prompts, lists, check lists, word-webs and other ideas for artistic exploration. There are follow-up tips for every exercise. Plus specific ideas about how to use what you learn by completing the exercises in the workbook. 

Here's the Table of Contents.

It's available as a pdf download or a hard copy in my Etsy shop. Several of the exercises can be completed over and over as you continue to build your creative muscle and explore possibilities. (The pdf download will let you print individual pages as desired.)

One of my favorite exercises is the "Like List." When I've used this exercise with students, they instantly realize they have more of a creative voice than they thought -- and they have some words to describe it.

Are you ready to put your head, heart and hands to work? 

Download the pdf here.

Or order the spiral bound workbook here.

Did you notice I didn't use the phrase "finding your voice?" It's not hidden! You don't have to find it, you just have to develop it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Creating with Layers of Fabric, Paint and Stitch -- five day workshop!

Join me for a five day workshop at Quilting Adventures in New Braunfels, TX! It's called Art Quilt Collage: Designing with Layers of Fabric, Paint and Stitching.

Here's a short sneak peak video of the kinds of techniques and projects we'll be working on.

March 26 to 31, 2017 -- Beautiful springtime in Texas!
New Braunfels, TX -- Just 30 minutes from the San Antonio airport 
$1425 -- Includes five nights lodging, all meals plus class fees.
Open Studio in the evenings -- I'll be using this time myself!
What to bring? -- Check out the supply list here.

Questions? Email me at 
Deborah (at) DeborahsStudio (dot) com

or Debby at
Debby (at) quilting-adventures (dot) com

Here's that quilt pictured behind me, Waiting for the Light to Change, 20x20.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Step by Step Creative Process

A week or so before International Quilt Festival, I decided I really wanted one more art quilt collage to bring to share with students as an example of my process layering fabric, paint and stitch. I posted all these in-progress pictures on Instagram and Facebook and it was super fun to get day-to-day feed back and encouragement from my followers.

Here's a review of the whole process.

I started with a simple idea of a line of trees. I sketched the trees on parchment paper.

Then transferred the line to pre-fused fabric and cut it out.

I was left with two strips of red trees.

I was initially thinking I'd create two quilts and I auditioned some fabric palettes and color stories.

I liked the light green, but wanted to make it a little more interesting. I printed a weird blobby shape with a toilet paper tube on one piece of the green.

I added handwriting to the other strip of green.

Additional fabrics were gathered.

After much back-and-forth, arranging, rearranging, slicing, adjusting and fretting, I finally settled on this very simple composition for the background layer of design.

I decided to return to the ladder motif that I've used in other quilts lately. I created a sample ladder to think through color, size and placement.

I was a tiny bit concerned about the contrast of the bottom of the legs of the brown ladder sitting on the red strip.

I solved this by adding a wavy very light tan strip at the top of the red.

Waiting for ladders to be constructed. By this point, I'd abandoned the idea of creating two quilts before my trip to Houston. Not enough time. (But I'll get back to that second strip of red trees soon.)

Slow and steady fusing of ladders.

I've got four ladders fused in place. Now what?

Seriously, I didn't really have a plan at this point. Eventually, I decided to create a large tree that would go from the top to the bottom of the quilt, probably painted using a freezer paper stencil. First, I'd need to draw the tree. I spent more time on this than probably any other step in the process thus far. "Drawing" is not easy for me.

Eventually I mostly settled on this. I've sketched on parchment paper so that I could place the drawing over the quilt to think carefully about how the tree will interact with the other elements already designed.

Then I transfer to drawing to freezer paper and mark the pieces so I can put it back together after it's cut out.

Here I've fused the tree shape to the quilt just to see how it looks. This is the "positive" part of the freezer paper stencil. When I add the paint, I'll be using the "negative" part.

I decided the tree was a bit too full, so I pruned some of the branches. See the difference?

Oops. Before I painted the stencil, I remembered I wanted to add stones in the blue section at the bottom, so those got cut and fused in place.

Then I fused the freezer paper stencil over the whole quilt. This part feels a little scary. Once the paint is added, there's no going back. (See what I mean about positive and negative parts?)

I love how the stencil nestles right over this one tree in the red strip.

Begin adding paint, very light at first.

I've peeled back the stencil to check the contrast between the blue paint and the dark green top section. Surprisingly, it shows up really well. I was concerned I'd need to make it lighter, but the blue worked just fine.

I did need to make the roots section lighter using tan paint.

Here's the entire painted tree!

Notice how the tan roots blend up into the trunk section. I designed the roots to overlap some of the stones. I love this layered effect.

I wanted the quilt to measure 20x20, so I'm checking as I go to make sure none of the element will fall off the edge when cropped, or be too far from the edge making the quilt look off center.

Here I've taken a picture of the quilt and printed it out to mark up possible stitching designs for both free motion quilting and hand embroidery.

It seems like I didn't take too many pictures as I was stitching. Here I'm auditioning thread colors.

And all the stitching is finished! For hand stitching, I did yellow stars at the top, several red French knots nestled in the stones, and a simple line of green stitching connecting that wavy line to the background. For machine stitching, I added my beloved arch at the top. I outlined the red trees in yellow to make them stand out a bit. I stitched a leaf motif in the light green area with a matching thread to add very subtle texture. The trees and stones were also outlined with free motion stitching and additional stones were stitched into the blue section.

Squaring up.

I finished the edge with a simple zig zag with a beautiful top stitching thread.

And it's finished! Limbs, Ladders, Roots and Rocks 20x20"

A few details. Here you can see the free motion stitched leafy motif in the background.

An angled shot shows the French knots.

Want to see the back?

I really enjoyed the whole process of creating this quilt and I'm delighted with the results. Many of the techniques are straight out of my book Art Quilt Collage: A Creative Journey in Fabric, Paint and Stitch.

If you're interested in exploring this sort of creative process with me, I'll be teaching a five day workshop at Quilting Adventures in New Braunfels, TX from March 26 to 31, 2017.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Twelve Days in Houston

Where to even begin about my trip to International Quilt Market and Festival? Many of my friends have already written blog posts, FB updates and shared pictures. I'm finally getting back to normal and processing my thoughts.

Let's start with the biggest and most thrilling news! I won first place in the Art Quilt Miniature Category!
I was particularly thrilled that it was sponsored by Janome! I've sewn on exclusively Janome machines for years. I'm a Janome girl!

The awards ceremony was such an impressive, exciting event. You can tell I was really happy to be there. And this is even before I won.

As each first place quilt is announced, a curtain is lifted and a spotlight shines directly on the quilt. In this photo, you can't see my quilt, but you can see the spotlight.

After all the winners are announced, everyone circles the room looking at the quilts. You can see the black curtain above the quilt that was covering it before the announcement.

I was able to squeeze in for a photo. I'm so red and squinty... and I was actually a bit weepy. It really is absolutely thrilling and humbling to think that the fabric, paint and stitches that I put together to create this small quilt were appreciated so fully by the judges. 

The next day, the quilt was back on the show floor with its ribbon. Do you also see the red dot on the label? It sold! 

Later in the week I was invited to attend the winners lunch where the top seven big prize winners each spoke about their quilts.

I'll share just a few more things and people that made me smile during my time in Houston. 

Cindy Grisdela and I arrived early to promote our books at Market.

We did a "school house" presentation the books to shop owners and offering suggestions for classes and events related to the content of our books. 

 We presented with Fox and Case authors of Transfer, Embellish, Stitch.

It was a delight to talk with Carrie Bloomston. Her gypsy caravan tent/booth introducing her new fabric line was amazing!

I loved these two little vignettes.

Also really fun to see Valori Wells and watch her print from this wonderful hand carved camel stamp.

The Dinner at Eight exhibition is always one of my favorites! I was thrilled to be included. 

Do you remember the beetle pin cushions I made for Leslie Tucker Jenison's new fabric line? Her booth looked amazing. You can see three of my little beetles pinned to the wall.

I did a book signing at the C&T Publishing booth. It was pretty exciting to have a new release just in time for Festival!

Kristin LaFlamme came to Festival too. I picked her up at the airport and we went straight to our favorite Tex-Mex place, Ninfa's. 

It was my first year on the faculty for Festival and I loved all my teaching gigs!

The students in my Small Stitched Landscapes workshop really made some wonderful little quilts!

The bunch in the Creativi-Tree Art Quilts class were also amazing!

I had a big surprise on Thursday of Festival week.  I was doing a book signing at the book vendor on the show floor...

... and I looked up to see my husband, Jeff! What a wonderful surprise! He's a Southwest pilot and had the day off, so he just jumped in an empty seat on a quick flight from Dallas to Houston to take me out to lunch. We walked the show floor looking at my quilts and several of the other amazing quilts! We walked through the vendor hall just a little... I don't even know how he found me, it's so massive! I don't even really know how he knew where I'd be or when. He's pretty crafty.

My trip to Houston was the culmination of lots of time and effort ... my book release, teaching classes on the national level, winning a big prize! He knew it was a big deal and wanted to be by my side even for just a few hours. It was a great afternoon.

Over the weekend, I did two "samplers" where I demo'd a technique for two hours and participants rotated around the room.

The first was Captivating Compositions.

The other was Creating and Printing with Foam Stamps.

Here you can see my demoing a new technique I've been perfecting using a toilet paper tube and a paint roller. Kristin LaFlamme was a big help at both of these events keeping me on track, engaging the audience and selling books.

Here's Kristin and Susie Monday enjoying a margarita!

Kristin's quilt got lots of thoughtful viewers at Festival along with others from the Quilt National exhibition.

I didn't take too many pictures at the special dinner for Dinner at Eight Artists. Just one of this lovely light installation, one of my smiling friends, one of the (spectacular) menu, and one of my dessert.

I was invited to shoot a short interview with Ricky Tims about my quilts and my book for The Quilt Show. So fun! I knew Ricky was a big Hamilton fan and we had our own little sing-along and gushed about how awesome it is before we got back to quilts.

Yes! Big thumbs up to the whole event!