Saturday, December 17, 2011

Wrapping Things Up

I can’t believe a month has gone by since my last entry to this blog. Actually, in truth, I CAN believe it’s been that long. I’ve been in the “thick of it” with my grant project. The presentation and first workshop are less than a month away (January 14, 2012). I’ve been photographing hundreds of samples and working on the Power Point. I’ve also been trying to squeeze in holiday shopping, wrapping (a whole day’s worth!), sending off gifts to various family members, birthday celebrations and baking Butterscotch brownies. Of course, I managed to throw a workshop at G Street Fabrics into the mix as well! Last Sunday, I taught an adult and child class called “Wrapped Wire Animals”. I’ve taught this for quite a number of years at G Street and at The Art League School’s summer camp. I was inspired by the brightly painted wooden animal carvings from Oaxaca, Mexico. The workshop is always a fun experience and one in which I always learn something new. I let the students create any animal that they wish. I’ve worked out the chenille stem “skeletons” for many animals, but there is always at least one student who introduces me to an animal that I haven’t done before. In this class, I had two new animals…a hippo and an otter!

 Students start out by creating an armature (skeleton) for their animals.

Next, they add stuffing to fill out the shape.

Then they wrap with a special gauze wrap that clings to itself.

I bring ½” cotton fabric strips to class in bright colors to mimic the Oaxacan animal carvings. The students use glue sticks to cover one side of the strip and wrap it around the gauze.

Some students add colorful wool yarn to their animals

Here are the completed animals from the class.

Friday, November 18, 2011


I’ve just finished up my 7 session “Exploring Surface Design” course. I had a really nice, hardworking group this semester…a real pleasure. The session before this last one, I brought in gelatin plates so the students could do some monoprints. I usually do this for the final class and it has been very successful. Students have really taken a “playful” approach and made some wonderful prints.

This time was amazing to me. It was as if the work flowed out of people. Print after incredible print. And each series so different, you could “hear” the voice of each particular student. To me the prints were like Haiku…beautiful, complete poems. One student began to place two prints next to one another..I read them as pages from a book. This was so very close to a spiritual experience. It was as if each student had found her “voice”.

We talked about the experience in the final class this week. I was not the only one who felt this way. It was if the whole class had been in synch. It was the kind of session every teacher dreams about!

My students have encouraged me to teach gelatin monoprinting as a separate workshop. This is something I want to pursue. I believe it could be a way to open up others to listening to their own voices, to connecting to some wonderful, natural, creative “flow”.

The photos below are a sampling of monoprints from that very special class.

Betty Ford
Janice Knausenberger
Janice Knausenberger
Mary Ellen Campbell
Mary Ellen Campbell

Mary Ellen Campbell

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"Carve It Up!" Challenge

I spent some time today getting an entry together for the Cloth, Paper, Scissors Magazine, “Carve It Up!” challenge. In this challenge participants were asked to design a hand-carved stamp and then send in the printed image with information about the material carved and the tools used. I decided to send in a print of my shell design block. I also uploaded the design on to the “Carve It Up!” gallery. This is the first time that I’ve entered a challenge or uploaded something to one of their galleries. I noticed a “Swatch” gallery of fabric swatches. So that might be a future gallery on which to upload some photos. I know that I haven’t taken full advantage of getting involved with online “communities”. I guess I’ll have to think about that more while I’m getting together a book proposal about the resists. I contacted Lesley Riley and we will be working together again next year. I told her that I wanted to focus on a book proposal. I gave her my blog address and she is already making suggestions about how to improve it! I’m really looking forward to working with her again.

 Below is the black and white print I’m sending off to the magazine along with two pieces of fabric I printed using the block. The block design was based on sketches of a broken moon snail shell which I simplified to make it more “graphic”. I added the small snail shell design to the center for additional interest. I designed this block to be printed in quarter turns on fabric…which is something I enjoy doing with my symmetrical blocks.

Print on paper with printing ink of shell block design
Shell block printed on fabric overprinting an embossed moldable foam block design
Another piece of fabric in which I first painted color washes then printed with an embossed moldable foam block and finally overprinted with the shell block design

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Mixing Things Up

I’ve been working on some half yard color pieces for the grant project. Unlike the smaller color pieces where I’ve been trying different application techniques using the same resist; in these larger pieces I’m layering different types of resists while using different application techniques. This sometimes leads to interesting surprises.

A couple of years ago I “happened upon” salt resist. You might say it was a “happy accident”. I had started out doing the usual salt effect on fabric; painting a wash of color using my Pebeo Setacolor transparent fabric paints and then sprinkling salt on top. I often do this technique as a class demonstration. I had tucked the sample away, not bothering to wash out the salt. As a result, the salt “recrystalized” on the fabric. The salt seemed almost embedded in the fabric and the crystals shown like a layer of transparent frost. I decided to paint another color wash of the transparent paint to see what would happen. To my surprise, the salt resisted the paint in a beautiful speckled pattern. I then intentionally misted a piece of fabric and sprinkled salt, let it recrystalize, wiped off the excess salt and painted a wash of color. The salt again resisted the paint in that wonderful speckling effect. I tried overprinting the recrystalized salt with Pebeo Setacolor opaque fabric paints and the effect was even more pronounced.

For this half yard of silk, I decided to try another experiment. What would happen if I did a layer of recrystalized salt, then monoprinted with blue glue gel before doing a color wash? 

I started with a wash of pale orange transparent paint. After that was dry and heat set, I re-wet the fabric with my plant mister and sprinkled on table salt. Once the salt had recrystalized, I applied the blue glue gel. After monoprinting with the glue, I had an "uh-oh" moment. The salt seemed to be leeching the moisture out of the glue and distorting the designs. I was worried that the results were going to be one big mess.

Fabric with recrystalized table salt and blue glue gel monoprints. Notice that the moisture is leeching from the glue designs.

To my surprise (and delight), once the glue had dried and I applied a wash of orange-red transparent fabric paint, the speckling effect appeared in the monoprinted glue designs. I’m looking forward to trying more experiments with these two resists in combination. I think the next experiment will be block printing with the blue glue gel on recrystalized salt.

The fabric after applying the red color wash over the resists. The fabric was heat set and the resists washed out.

You can see the speckling effect of the salt within the glue designs.

A close-up of the speckling effect.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Printing at the Corcoran

For the past two Monday nights, I’ve been substitute teaching for Candy Edgerley’s “Surface Design for Textiles” course at the Corcoran College of Art + Design in Washington, D. C. The first evening, we focused on creating “texture” blocks: blocks made by cutting simple designs from adhesive craft foam and adhering them to thicker craft foam or corrugated cardboard; blocks made by applying textures to corrugated cardboard such as rubber bands, rice and burlap; creating blocks by drawing hot glue designs on corrugated cardboard, embossing moldable foam blocks with textures and making “brayer rubbings” with textures placed under the fabric. The second evening of the class focused on carving blocks from Speedball Speedy Carve (Stamp) and combining those blocks with the texture blocks from the previous class to make multi-layered “sampler” fabrics. Below are a number of photos of student samplers from the two evenings. To see more student work go to

Next Sunday, I will be out of town so the post will be a bit late. My husband, Mark, and I will be continuing our “bridge trekking” adventures with a walk over the New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia. This bridge is the second highest bridge in the country! There is a festival next Saturday when the bridge is closed to car traffic. We will be walking…but others will be “base jumping” i.e. parachuting off the bridge…should be interesting!