Following my favorite blogs

Aug 30, 2010

I started following blogs on a regular basis when I started my own blog about a year ago. Like many readers, I either used blogger or google reader to get the latest posts.  Then I discovered feedly, which lays out all my favorite blogs in an orderly and eye-catching fashion.

To read an article, you just click on the title, and a window opens with all the images and text in the post.  All the links are still active, and commenting on a blog is as easy as clicking on the title again.  I can browse titles of new posts in less than a minute, which is quite handy for catching the latest giveaways!

Pikaland, one of my favorite art blogs, is actually running a great giveaway right now.   Up for grabs is a spot in one of their online classes! This Fall, they are offering a few different courses for artists who are wanting to hone in on their style and develop their online presence.  A winner will be chosen this Wednesday, so head over here for more information.

New works, "Spirit" and "Feather Lake"

Aug 28, 2010

When I start a new piece, I rarely work from a sketch.  I lay down a watercolor wash first and work in the details as I go.  This was the case with my latest piece, Spirit, which I had been working on for the past few days.  

I usually use pen, ink, and marker for detail work.  I like using ink when I am wanting an opaque look, like the chevron design.  One kind of ink I use is shellac-based, so when it dries, it's like hard candy.  If you look at the right image below, you can see that the red ink is more reflective than the other colors. 

Unfortunately, the shellac-based ink doesn't show up as well on prints. I went back and forth on uploading this piece in my Etsy shop as an original or print.  I ultimately decided to sell the work as a limited-editon print with hand painted features.  So, after I make a print, I touch up some of the colors by hand. 

Also new to my shop is an original piece called Feather Lake.  I like how it shows the different elements I normally incorporate in a composition, but in a more simplified way.  I picture this scene at a lake in the quiet hours of the morning. 

Five lovely swaps

Aug 25, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, I ran a swap-a-thon on the blog.  In exchange for a handmade or found item, I was offering one of my art prints.  I ended up swapping with five readers, including one from England!  Here's a look at my new goodies.

1.  Recycled felt circle garland by Katie.  Adorns the girls' space perfectly.  Now they're ready to throw a tea party!
2.  Handspun yarn (merino wool and tencel) by flyhoof.  Absolutely beautiful. I love the mix of colors, and it's so soft. 
3. Handmade dish towels by Annmarie.  Not only did Annmarie sew the towels, but she made her own stamps to use in the design.  Love it!
4.  Handmade gift card holder by Charissa.  Brilliant idea!  And it's so cute, I don't know if I want to gift it to someone. 
5.  Vintage Austrian napkin holders from Richelle.  Couldn't resist these in Richelle's Etsy shop.  The designs are so sweet, and they look great on my red dining room table.

Thanks again to everyone who participated!  I had such a blast with the swap-a-thon, I'm actually thinking of making it a biannual event.  I've penciled in early February for the next one!

Artists I like: Gunta Stölzl

Aug 24, 2010

Outside of quilting, I don't have much experience in the fiber arts, but I secretly fantasize about owning my own loom and knitting machine one day.  I even periodically check craigslist ads just to see if there's a "meant to be" sale (shh, don't tell my husband).

And then the logical side of my brain eventually kicks in, and I realize that I don't have the space or time to learn another art form.  So I wait, and I continue to drool over amazing wall hangings like these.

What is it about textiles on the wall that make me so weak in the knees?  Kathrin from Annekata first introduced me to the works of Bauhaus artist Gunta Stölzl, and my heart skipped a beat!  How could I have not known about Stölzl's art after years of art history courses?  I questioned the academic integrity of my alma mater for a moment while I was in utter awe of Stölzl's works.  

Everything about Stölzl's wall hangings excites me- the colorful palettes, the dynamic pattern displays, and the various woven textures.  It's hard to believe that the works shown here were created in the 1920s.  They still look so contemporary in design.

Stölzl's wall hangings span over six decades.  I love these two pieces completed in the later years of her career. In the second piece, the movement of lines is so much more organic.  And the colors pop against a neutral background, creating a sense of dimension. 

Stölzl's beautiful wall hangings and fabrics are catalogued here.  Also included are Stölzl's design studies.  Here are a couple of my favorites.  The one on the right looks like it could be a quilted piece.  I can see different block patterns, like the flying geese and the nine patch block. 

New work, "Midnight"

Aug 21, 2010

The scenic mountain ranges in Oregon never cease to amaze me.  Earlier this week, my husband took our girls backpacking in the wilderness near Mt. Jefferson.   I had some business in Bend to tend to, so I dropped them off here.

I spent the next two days with a dear friend of mine, and we had an art and projects retreat.   On the second day, I started this painting, "Midnight."  While I was working, a huge thunderstorm rolled in.  It dumped rain for the next few hours, and I couldn't help but worry about my family.

Fortunately, everyone was okay and stayed dry in the tent.  On the drive home, I enjoyed listening to all of their stories.  My husband described the beautiful lake, and the girls shared their adventures.

Yesterday, I decided to finish my painting "Midnight,"  and it took most of the day.  It was a lot of stop and go (i.e. blank stares and repainting).  The dark color palette kinda threw me off a little, but I am actually very happy with it now. 

I titled the work "Midnight" because this is what I envision the lake to have looked like at night.  A print of the painting can be found in my Etsy shop here

Simple solution to taking better product shots

Aug 20, 2010

My friend recently opened up an Etsy shop and wanted to know how to take decent photos of her journals.  She has a SLR digital camera, but her pictures were turning out dark.  This is a common problem that many encounter when taking product shots indoors.  The solution to brighter photos is relatively simple, and quite affordable!  Here's the advice I gave my friend:

1.  Take pictures by the brightest window.  This can change depending on the time of day.  Set your product within a few feet from the window and at a height that maximizes the light.  You don't want direct sunlight, however, coming in through the window. 

2.  To soften shadows and reflect the light coming through the window, use a tri-fold foam board (about $5 in a general store).

3.  For a white background, place a white poster board (non shiny side up) under the product.

4.  You'll most likely need to stand on a step stool or chair to take a product shot from overhead.

5.  With your camera on automatic, snap a picture and assess the light in the photograph.  You will need to adjust the shutter speed setting in manual mode if the white background looks blue or gray.  (The blue in your photographs can also be due to your white balance setting.)  

6.  After uploading your photographs, you may have to do some tweaking of photographs with a photo-editing program.  At the least, check the levels and make sure that the right arrow meets the right edge of the curve.

My art in a new green boutique

Aug 18, 2010

I'm excited to announce that my art can be found in the new gift and art shop, Feather’s Edge in Bend, Oregon.  They carry handmade and eco-friendly goods, including one of my favorites, Yellow Owl Workshop.  On the walls are original works of art for sale.  Above is a snapshot of some of Rachel Austin's paintings.  Now you can find several of my mixed media panel pieces, such as Kites, in the lovely shop.

Turn your old jeans into a laptop bag

Aug 16, 2010

Jeans are a staple in my closet.  It's pretty much what I wear every day.  This summer I replaced my white jeans with a newer pair,  and I decided to salvage the old denim.  I went back and forth on project ideas, including a picnic blanket.  Ultimately I decided on a laptop bag, and here's how I did it.

First, I chose a complementary material for the bag's lining.  I just happened to have a nightie made from vintage linens that I was going to deconstruct.  I proceeded to cut out two 13"x 16" blocks of fabric.  (The bag is designed to fit a Macbook or any other laptop equivalent in size.)  I then created two 13" x 16" blocks of denim by piecing together scraps.

To protect the computer, I added two layers of batting.  With the right side up, I pinned one of the denim blocks to the double batting.  Repeat with the other denim block.

Wait to trim the batting until after you have stitched the layers together.  Using a non-permanent marking pen, draw a design on the denim.  (I digitally enhanced the blue marks in the photo so that you can see the chevron design better.) This design will hold the three layers together.

Stitch over your marked lines, but leave 1/2 inch allowance at the top (you will be folding the top edge under).

Before sewing the lining fabric together, I added a little pocket feature. You can see it best in the first set of photos above.

To sew the lining of the bag, pin the two lining fabrics right sides together.  Sew all sides together except the top.  Notice that I used finished edges for the top.

To create a wider base on the bag, sew a 3" line perpendicular to the bottom seam.  The new seam should be about 1.5" from the corner.

Now, for the most challenging part of the project.  You're essentially going to repeat the above steps with the two denim/batting blocks.  Your machine will be put through the ultimate sewing test as it sews together two layers of denim and four layers of batting at once! Remember to leave the top edge open and to sew the additional seams in the corners.

If you made it through this part, congratulations! You're almost there.

Turn the denim and batting so that it is right side out.  Fold, press, and pin the top edge down about 3/4 inch.  Carefully cut the excess batting so that it is 1/8 inch shorter than the denim edge.

It's ideal to have the straps cut from one long piece of fabric, but I had to piece mine together with denim scraps.  The width should start out at 3.5 inches to 4 inches and the length depends on your preference (no more than 24 inches for each strap).   Just iron each outer edge to the center of the fabric, and then fold the fabric in half.  Press and sew along both edges.  Attach the strap ends about 3 inches from the side of the bag.  (Another idea I had for a strap is the waist of the jeans!)

Once all the strap ends are pinned, sew along the top, about 1/2 inch from the edge.  Secure the ends of the straps by sewing an "x".  (See the very first photo.)

Take the lining and place inside the bag.  Make sure that the side seams are aligned.  (I took in my lining seams a tad at this step.)

Pin and sew about 1/8 inch from the top edge.  Your new (well, recycled) laptop bag is now complete!

My recent drawings and sewing project

Aug 14, 2010

At the end of each week, I feature on my blog my latest work, which usually ends up in my Etsy shop.  This week, I don't have a particular piece to showcase, even though I have a pile of drawings on my desk.  For one reason or another, these drawings haven't gotten the stamp of approval yet.  Some seem unfinished to me (like the above piece on the left), and others I'm not totally convinced I would want to add to my Etsy shop (like the one on the right).

Here's a closer look at the pile of recent drawings on my desk:

A couple of these pieces I might edit and mount on birch panels.  You can see that I already cut out one image.  Now I just need to wait for a wave of inspiration!

Yesterday, I was inspired to sew something.  I wanted to salvage a pair of old white jeans and a cute nightie that was made from vintage sheets.  But, instead of mending the items or altering them into other wearable fashions, I decided to use the materials to make a laptop bag!  Here's how it turned out:

On Monday, I'll post more pictures and instructions.  Monday is also the last day of the swap-a-thon.  There's still a chance to win a swap, so make sure you post your comment by Sunday.  Again, I'm open to swapping my art for anything handmade or found.

Modern rugs felted with tradition in mind

Aug 11, 2010

I first discovered Peace Industry's felt rug collection three years ago when shopping for rugs for my store.  It was love at first sight.  The rugs are designed by owner Melina Raissnia, who studied painting.  Each rug is exquisite in design and craftsmanship.  I was fortunate enough to visit Melina's shop in San Francisco a couple of years ago and admire her collection up-close.

Each rug is handmade in a fair-trade workshop in Iran owned by Melina and her husband, Dodd Raissnia.  Using the oldest rug tradition from Iran, layers of wool are pressed together, creating a very dense and durable rug.  And only biodegradable vegetable dyes are used in the process, so Peace Industry's rugs are chemical-free. 

[image sources: Peace Industry]

Sadly, with the latest sanctions against Iran, Peace Industry may have to close their doors.  By the end of September, Peace Industry will no longer be able to import rugs from Iran.  Their shipment in middle of September may very well be their last.  For the latest news and to learn how you can show your support, go to Peace Industry's blog here.


Aug 9, 2010

Swap-a-thon Winners!
Thursday, August 12: Charissa
Friday, August 13: Katie
Saturday, August 14: flyhoof
Sunday, August 15: Annmarie
Monday, August 16: Richelle

Thanks to all for participating in the first swap-a-thon! 

To celebrate new art prints that I've added to my shop, I thought I'd run a giveaway- well, more like a swapaway.   The idea behind the swap-a-thon is to swap my art for something you made or have.  To enter the swap-a-thon, all you have to do is leave a comment below listing the item(s) you would exchange for one of my art prints.  (Please keep the value of your item under $15.)  On Thursday at noon (PST), I'll randomly choose a winner who will in turn choose the next swap (i.e winner).  By the end of the swap-a-thon, there would be a total of five swaps.

Still confused?  Let me give you an example.  Say Suzie leaves me a comment saying that she'll exchange some handmade wrapping paper for my art print Eureka.  On Thursday, chooses her listing as the winner of the first swap.  I'll announce Suzie as a winner on the blog as well as notify her via email.  Suzie emails me back her mailing address and her choice for my next swap.  The next winner's name will then be posted on the blog and emailed.  And this cycle will continue until there are five determined swaps.

Below are the art prints you can choose from.  For more information on each print, go here.

Some things to keep in mind:

1.  You can only leave one comment and be chosen once.  Comments will be accepted until the last name is announced.

2.  Make sure I can get a hold of you! It's best if your name is linked to an email address.  If you don't feel comfortable adding your email address in the comment box, then make sure you check back every day starting Thursday to see if your name was picked.

3  If you are a winner, but don't get back to me within 24 hours with your choice for my next swap, I will go ahead and randomly choose the next winner.

4.  Winning swaps will be listed each day for five days starting this Thursday, August 12th at 12 pm (PST).
5.  I am willing to mail art to any location if you are willing to pay for postage to Portland, Oregon.

6.  I would like to do a follow-up post on what I receive in the swap-a-thon, so by entering your name, you are giving me permission to feature your item(s) on my blog.

7.  The swap is for my art prints only.  The suggested swap item must be equal or less in value than the art print.

8.  Comments may be moderated due to length or content.

Okay, enough talkin' - let's start swappin'!

UPDATE: It looks like comments with links are not posting.  For now, please just use the title or general description of your product in the comment.  Thanks!

New work, "Eclipse"

Aug 8, 2010

I am always inspired by the natural landscape of the Oregon coast.  While away at the coast this week, I found time to work on a few drawings. I've had some requests lately for more prints, so Eclipse is my latest design. 

This weekend, I also made prints of these originals.

With all this art action, I'm thinking it's time to do another giveaway event.  I have something new (and hopefully fun) planned.  Be sure to check back tomorrow for details!

Inspired by sashiko

Aug 4, 2010

My favorite pair of jeans had been stashed away for nearly a year due to an indecent tear on the backside.  Several weeks ago, I finally felt inspired to mend the tear when I came across an image on sashiko stitching.  Sashiko is a Japanese technique of mending clothing using the running stitch.  It is usually identified by cream colored stitching on indigo colored fabrics.  Sri Threads has an amazing collection of sashiko pieces here.

I absolutely love all the geometric patterns!

You can tell sashiko has been on my mind lately, as seen in my most recent art piece, sunset.  I'm also thinking that I'll use sashiko stiching in the border of my latest quilt project. But, maybe a pillow is more realistic? I do love the example below. 

[image sources: This and That From JapanTiny Happy, and Fancy Tiger]

I am currently reading The Ultimate Sashiko Sourcebook as a how-to guide, and The Purl Bee, as usual, has a wonderful tutorial

New work, "sunset"

Aug 1, 2010

I've been trying to fit in a few hours here and there at my art desk.  It's been challenging to find uninterrupted time with the kiddos out of school.  I managed to finish this piece yesterday.  I tend to use a lot of blues and greens in my art, so the pink and purple is a nice change of scenery. 

I'm also trying to work on some note card designs, and I like how this little drawing turned out. Hopefully I'll have something to reveal by the end of this month. 

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