Artistic Endeavors – Shona Skinner

The words Shetland and Scotland caught my eye as I skimmed an article in TextileArtist.org because I have a crush on Jimmy Perez, the detective in Ann Cleeves’ Shetland mysteries. After I looked at the photos of machine embroidery by Shona Skinner, who lives on Yell in the Shetlands, I investigated her work further.

The interview with Skinner centers on the creation of a small (15 cm by 11 cm or 6 by 4.33 inches) free motion machine embroidered seascape called “Low Winter Sky,” inspired by the aftermath of a big storm. I was impressed at the amount of preparation that went into the piece. She doesn’t just stitch over a photograph. Skinner says, ” I did several drawings and samples of layering fabrics before I started the piece plus I had photos to remind me of the day.”

Shona Skinner, Low Winter Sun, West Sandwick, 2017

Her creation process begins with a base of organdies fused to calico. The fusible stiffens the work enough no hoop is needed.

Work in progress

Machine work

The photo above really shows the scale of Skinner’s work. Note she works without a foot.

Here are other works by Skinner that caught my eye.

I’m drawn to the texture in the sunrise and can see enjoying it in my private space. It’s small enough you could pack it in your suitcase for a long trip.

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Fun With the Sun

Cyanotypes, which are actually photographs, are yet another way to create designs on fabric. A cyanotype “is a photographic printing process that produces a cyan-blue print. Engineers used the process well into the 20th century as a simple and low-cost process to produce copies of drawings, referred to as blueprints. The process uses two chemicals: ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide.”

You can coat fabric with those chemicals yourself or you can buy fabric already coated. After that, the process is the same. You choose materials you want to photograph and lay them on the treated fabric.

Then, you cover them with glass or some other clear object to hold the materials in place and expose the fabric to the sun for 10 to 15 minutes.

After you bring the fabric inside you remove the materials and rinse the fabric in water. Then you admire your results.

I had bought a packet of assorted color pretreated cyanotype fabric squares with a gift certificate from Dharma Trading, and was waiting for sunshine and warm weather. When those events aligned I set up my work area on the roof of my screen porch.  Why the roof? Because I can access it through a door from my bedroom. I suppose the people we bought our house from had visions of night star gazing, but it’s three stories up from the driveway and the railing isn’t very high. Also, wasps love to build nests on the railing. So I was happy to find a use for that roof.

I was pleased with my results, and have found many breathtaking examples of this technique online. How about this delicate piece by Linda Sterner?

I have no idea what I’ll make with my crocheted pieces, but I still have eight more treated fabric squares to play with.

 

 

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Artistic Endeavors – Name Recognition

A recent article about the power of a known name to guarantee acceptance in an art exhibition confirmed my dark suspicions. It seems that Banksy, the elusive British graffiti artist and prankster, submitted a work to the Royal Academy’s summer exhibition under the name Bryan S. Gaakman — an anagram of “Banksy anagram.”  It was one of over 20,000 works submitted, and was not one of the 827 selected.

OK, that can happen to anyone, but then the story became bizarre. When Banksy was contacted by the selection committee to submit a piece, he sent along a revised version of the rejected work. That work hangs in the exhibition. The revised version changed “Vote to Leave” to “Vote To Love.”

I don’t think this particular work is nearly as trenchant as many of Banksy’s other works, and probably deserved to be rejected. But, come on, folks, crap art is crap art, and a known bankable name doesn’t change that.

Here are some of my favorite Banksy works, which are often ephemeral and comments on society.

Yes, Banksy painted an elephant to carry out this installation, and was castigated for cruelty to animals.

 

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A Landscape Experiment

Back in 2016 I used a phone to take this photo of a downtown Akron intersection, drew up a sketch from it, and then did nothing with it.

I resurrected the sketch when I saw an announcement for a juried local art show called Against The Sky. While I haven’t had luck getting into all media shows, I thought I’d make up my work and then decide whether to enter it.

Luckily I had bought the perfect piece of hand painted fabric for a sunset, which I combined with simplified outlines of the buildings in the photo. I adapted the technique Heather Dubreuil uses for her cityscapes. She outlines buildings and architectural details with black thread by drawing her design on a Sulky heat-away product. She uses the drawing to place fabrics underneath, fuses the fabrics, and then stitches the lines on the iron-away product over everything. She tears away the product after stitching.

Instead, I drew a line design, made freezer paper templates from the design to cut out fused fabric, fused the fabric on my background sky and pavement, and then traced the line design on the Sulky product (I had purchased a package at a quilt show) and stitched over it. Because my fabrics were dark, I used a dark gray thread.

Sketch as line drawing.

Freezer paper templates before cutting out.

Thread color trials. I went with the dark gray that’s on the bottom.

Start of stitching over Sulky product.

Despite the product instructions NOT to use a permanent marker, that’s what I ended up using as wash away markers wouldn’t leave a mark. I was able to tear away most of the plastic so there was little to remove with heat.

I may glue the quilted top to a pre-stretched canvas with black painted edges. Maybe that will make it more appealing to a juror.

Final (before edge finishing) on stretched canvas.

 

 

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Artistic Endeavors – Contained Living

I’ll own up to a fascination with one-off home design shows, including ones that feature tiny homes. So, small abodes made from used shipping containers intrigued me. If I had made it to Tortona Design Week in Milan I could have checked out Containerwerk’s sophisticated reuse of containers.

The firm’s staff make several good points about their approach – reuse of the containers, adaptability, and affordability. You can tour some prototypes in this video from Design Week.

I went down a rabbit hole when I searched for shipping container homes. I knew they were popular when I found HGTV had a show about them. Even Akron, Ohio, is trying out containers for artist studios with Akron Soul Train.

While a single container doesn’t have a lot of space, you can get a comfortably sized home when containers are combined. Not all the homes pictured on Design Milk scream shipping container. Clever stacking and exterior cladding do much to soften the shoe box effect.

Obviously such homes have limitations. No one is going to transform them into a two story colonial, and they have a modern, industrial vibe. However, I’d love to remake one into a studio with a view. Now all I need is the land overlooking the ocean.

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It’s All About The Surface

Over the years I’ve accumulated a pile of fabrics I’ve created with paints, stencils, dyes, and other surface design techniques. Since I didn’t feel up to deep thought projects but wanted to make something after my surgery, I sorted that pile and cut up much of it into 5 inch squares. Then, I arranged the squares that seemed to go together into more or less traditional designs.

The resulting tops are totally about texture and color. I meant no discernible message. Each is about 41 inches square and has a border (gasp.)

“All Decked Out” is a trip around the world design made with fabric I designed or dyed, with one exception. The center is a paintstik rubbing of a glass salad plate, accented with embroidery. The surrounding squares are either Marcia Derse fabric (the darker fabric) or sun printed with a crocheted doily. The blue and white squares are from a silk screening class, while the multicolored squares suffered through four processes – dyeing, fabric collage, cheesecloth overlay, and stenciling. The dark and light rose squares are hand dyed, while the blue and white border fabric is from a photo of my deck I manipulated and printed through Spoonflower.

“Sur La Table” is made mostly from tablecloths I painted and dyed.  (Finally a use for high school French.) The yellow is damask that’s been printed with leaves, while the orange is a drop cloth I enhanced. The green strips are from a gradation and the outer border is linen I dyed. The diagonal strips are bias tape I made and some cording. The squares on the end of the green units are made from fabric I painted and stenciled. The thin green strip inside the border is Grunge fabric, the only fabric I didn’t mess around with.

I thought I’d do quick and dirty quilting on these, but already that isn’t going to plan. A group I belong to had lots of complicated ideas for quilting “All Decked Out.” Of course the ideas are much better than what I had envisioned, but also more work.

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Artistic Endeavors – Beauty Remains Project

Garage doors in Lithuania were the prompt for photographer Agne Gintalaite’s beauty remains project.

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