Sunday, March 2, 2014

Tea-flora tales

This is my contribution to Cas Holmes' collective art piece to raise awareness for the Plantlife charity. Anyone can make a small panel and send it to Cas for inclusion in the artwork.

The 'rules' are explained on Cas' blog but in summary Cas wants pieces that incorporate paper with text, floral fabric and a tea-bag or wrapper. I don't drink tea so Cas extended this to 'beverage of your choice' on our course last week, hence my use of my water bottle label. I hope she approves!

My reason for creating this piece is to highlight the fact that water is vital for all plants to grow and although we have had more than our fair share of rain this winter in Britain, we all have to conserve and make efficient use of water - we can't leave it up to others.

I have used some tea-stained calico as the backing and then added a patch with an umbrella from my daughters' cot quilt. This dictated the colour scheme for the rest of the piece and the black and white edging to the umbrella patch also drove me to use more graphic fabrics. I used scraps of dressmaking fabric and lace and overlaid them with some glitter spot tulle to suggest rain. There is a strip of sari silk down the left. I stitched on the water bottle label and then added further hand-stitching for the rain. Finally I found the words 'Water Fairies' in a child's book and added my own text above. The background for this text was too yellow, so I dulled it down with Inktense pencils before sewing the paper on.

Cas Holmes course

West Dean College
Last weekend a friend and I attended a course at West Dean College near Chichester. The tutor on the course was Cas Holmes, author of The Found Object in Textile Art, which readers will know is a favourite of mine.

The course ran over 3 days and was pretty intense, leaving us all exhausted at the end of each day. The college, its gardens and workshop facilities were excellent and I would recommend anyone to try a course there.
Cas demonstrating

We started by exploring textures in donated textiles. A theme of the weekend was the giving of pieces of fabric to each other, either willingly or randomly, to see what we could make of them.

I discovered that very interesting and subtle designs could be achieved by making rubbings of fabric with  fabric pastels. See example bottom right using white pastel on previously dyed fabric that was donated to me.

I also had success applying the pastels to lace and then ironing off the image onto plain fabric, even though these were not transfer crayons. On paper you can do the same with wax crayons.
Next we explored printing from fabric. I have several pieces of curtain fabric, that were given to me by a local shop, with a raised texture so I experimented with those.

You can either apply acrylic paint direct to the fabric and print it or brush paint onto a sheet of thick plastic first and press the fabric on to pick up the paint and then print.

The advantage of using the plastic is that a monoprint is created on the plastic which can also be printed. E.g. bottom left is the print from the fabric far left and the piece of fabric mid left above it shows the mono print.
Then we moved on to creating texture in fabric ourselves to print from. These were some examples that Cas had made previously. The joy of this is that you can use up any old fabric that you wouldn't know what to do with and it becomes useful.
I used a piece of old denim as a foundation and attached an off cut of fabric that had tucks sewn in and a piece with a lace edge. I sewed a fold in the fabric for extra texture.
We were also encouraged to sew pieces on the back to give a 2 sided printing block.
Then to print from it using acrylic paint, the same way as above using paint on a plastic sheet. I also used pastels to make rubbings of my block. A couple of these pieces have been stained with blue Brusho.

I also added extra detail by adding some free-machining.
As before, taking a mono print from the paint left behind on the plastic was equally fruitful. These print were on 'tea-bag' paper, which is very thin.

We were then encouraged to start assembling pieces of fabric together to a theme. I had taken along this image from the New Scientist magazine because I liked the colour combinations.
After much changing of mind this is what I assembled and then stitched. Another theme of this weekend for me was to be resourceful - we couldn't take all our threads, fabrics and trimmings to the course so we had to make the most of what we had. I wanted something more muted for the background so turned some fabric over and used the back.

We also tried out Cas' technique for using wallpaper paste to temporarily secure layers of fabric and paper together so that they can be stitched, printed on or otherwise worked into. I have tried this before - see my previous blog.

Another joy from this course was to see all the waste paint from my work mopped up with this drop cloth, which I also used to test out a few prints first. It could be cut up and incorporated in a future piece of work and this is one of the ways in which Cas works, she explained to us - keeping a thread from once piece of work to the next to spark new ideas in the future.

On the last day I gave up my blue/brown theme and moved on. I had taken with me some items of clothing from my daughters and so I focussed on making a piece with these. It would not have dried in time if I had pasted it so at the moment it is still pinned.

On the course I was most taken with the techniques to be able to create your own prints using stitched print blocks. finding uses for previously un-useful fabrics and discovering fabric pastel crayons.

Photo canvas

I have been driving myself crazy making photo canvases for a number of significant birthdays since Christmas. I love looking back through all the photos so it takes a long time to select the candidate pictures. I did this on Picasa, which is the photo editing and organising programme I use from Google. You can 'star' your best photos to narrow it down and then I created 'albums' within Picasa to get it down to the final selection and crop them to shape.

I bought 50cm square canvases and painted the backgrounds with acrylic paint. For this canvas I cropped the photos to a square and then sized them all to 12cm squares to print out on ordinary copy paper. I used Matt Gel Medium to stick the photos to the canvas and also applied this over the top to protect them. I found through trial and error that it was less likely to wrinkle if I applied the gel medium to the back of the photo rather than the canvas.

For my daughter's canvas below I wanted a less formal look so I printed out the photos in rough so that they were no larger than 9cm if they were rectangular and made up my design on a piece of brown paper first. I could then work out if any photos needed to be re-sized to fit better. I made up the canvas in the same way, finishing with a couple of wooden tablets I bought, that had special messages on.

Inktense Printing

I had an Intense Printing kit for Christmas using Inktense ink blocks. The kit comes with thin dense foam, ball embosser, water mister, print roller and 6 Inktense blocks.

I cut a piece of foam to fit my card blanks and using a piece of dress fabric as inspiration I sketched out a design of leaves and flowers using a pencil. Then I went over the lines with the ball embosser. You have to go over the lines quite a few times to get a strong line. I added in some random dots in the background and a border to complete it.

To print, you spray the foam lightly with water and then just rub on the blocks, mixing the colours as required. I added extra colours/details using my Inktense pencils.

Then I placed cartridge paper on top and pressed hard with the roller and got some great images. Re-spraying with water for a second image worked well and then you can wash the foam under the tap and use again with completely different colours.

As you can see from the top left image it also works well on calico so I can see this technique being very useful to create prints on fabric. I love Inktense! I made 2 really nice birthday cards from these prints and I also have the potential to make a lot more from the same block.

Next I made a 'shaker' card for my friend's 40th birthday. This is a type of card where you have sequins and beads moving freely behind an acetate window. Start by cutting out an outline of a champagne bottle with a scalpel.
Then attach a piece of acetate on the back using double sided tape. I always put a piece of green mirror card over the top of the bottle neck to make it look more realistic and provide somewhere for the beads to go when tipped. You can see the back of this in the picture below.
Then build a 'wall' of foam around the outside of the shape, making sure there are no gaps. As you can see this doesn't have to be neat as it will all be covered over at the end. I also added a line of double sided tape down the leading edge of the card to neaten up the back when the final backing card is stuck on.

Next fill your bottle with sequins and beads. I use the minute beads that have no hole - I have seen them for sale recently for use on nails for a 'caviar' effect. I also put in some small irredescent star sequins and some 40 sequins. I like to make sure all the 40 sequins are upside down so they look right from the front.
Finally, remove the backing from the foam and double sided tape and stick on a piece of silver mirror card. Then decorate the front with stars, crystals and 40 sequins.
This was her cake using Smarties and retro sweets - how brilliant is that!