Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Felted Vessel Samples

 It is nearly the end of my first quarter in the Fiber Arts Certificate program at UW and I am working on my final project.

The goal is to create something you have never created before in order to learn new tasks.  I decided to work with a hollow vase form in felt, something I have been wanting to do since I started making 3-D forms to make into pillows.  I have also been experimenting using stiffeners and glues to make the pieces hold up and retain their form better.

I started with these 3 little bowls.  It is hard to get the felt into focus since it is so fuzzy.  The camera kept wanting to focus on the wood behind them. 

I felt good about the little bowls I made and so I ventured into larger territory.  

This vase is actually being donated to an auction next week.  The black spots were all done with needle felting but the rest of the colors were all felted in the wet felting process.

I used the fabric stiffener brand "Stiffy" to create a nice crisp edge.  My professor also recommended GAC 400, a Golden Artist's product, to try out as well.  I haven't gotten up to Daniel Smith art supply in Seattle to get any yet.  I don't think I can get it in Tacoma.  I might have to just order it online.

I love working with color in wet felting.  It is endlessly fascinating to me all the ways you can overlap color and blend.
I hope someone likes this vase and bids on it! Now I am ready to start my final project.  Fingers crossed!  It is going to be an octopus vessel.  Can't explain what that means really; you'll just have to wait and see when I get some photos of it!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Coffee Filter Wreath Tutorial

It's entering the season of holiday decorations.  In truth, I think of them more as winter decorations because I leave them up until at least February!  Wreaths are one of my favorite things to make.  They can be elegant, they can be whimsical, they can really liven up a space.

I made a cork wreath last year that I wasn't too keen on and wanted to make a bigger one for our new house.  I have been playing a lot with coffee filters in my fiber arts class and saw a couple tutorials on coffee filter flowers and decided to make a coffee filter wreath!

Coffee Filter Wreath

You will need

Coffee filters: I used about 220.  100 white and 120 brown.

Wire wreath armature: I bought mine at the thrift store for 50 cents.  I used a wire one because I wired my flowers to the wreath.  If you choose to hot glue yours then a cardboard wreath might make more sense.

Acrylic paints, fat colored pens, sharpies, etc:  I experimented with a lot of different ways of coloring my coffee filters. 

Large tapestry or darning needle
24 Gauge wire
wire nippers
Start by dyeing and coloring all of your coffee filters.  I experimented with put a dollop of acrylic paint in a bowl mixed in with a cup of water and dipped the filters into the paint.  Then I squeezed out the excess and laid them out to dry.   Watering down any acrylic paints is key.  You want it more like a stain than thick paint. 

I also tried painting the edges and coloring the edges with markers for contrast.  I found out bigger and sloppier and more coverage is better since you are going to cut them apart at the next step and lose half the design.  I made a couple of flowers first to make sure it would work and then I colored and dyed all my coffee filters in advance so I would have a lot of different colors and designs to mix up together.  The whole kitchen and dining room floor was covered with drying coffee filters.  My husband can't wait until I've got my new studio up and running!

When your filters are dry, lay them in stacks of 3 or 4, depending on how heavy duty your scissors are.

Fold stack in half and then half again so that you have a wedge shape. 

Cut out the petals.  These can be rounded or short and stubby or long and pointy.  I went for long and pointy.  

Stack 4 cut out rounds on top of each other making sure the petals don't line up perfectly.  You want a lot of texture.  

Squeeze and fold together at the center of the flower and secure with a staple near the bottom.  

Repeat, repeat, repeat!  

Next, it is really up to you how you want to attach the flowers.  It mostly depends what kind of frame you find.  I poked two holes at the middle of the flower stems and hooked in a 2 inch piece of wire and wired each flower individually to the frame.  I used the pliers to fold down any sharp wires. 

I am not sure where to hang the wreath now.  I can't permanently attach it to our front door because it is paper after all and I am worried about rain and wind but I am little worried not many will see it over the fireplace.  We are having our house warming party tomorrow so I might think of a way to attach it to the front door temporarily.  

I love how fluffy and soft it looks. I think you could make endless variations with little fake birds or pine cones.

Less than $7 to make, what are you waiting for?   

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My Body is Made of Soup

If you are what you eat, my body is made of soup.  This non-stop, soup for dinner, leftover soup for lunch cycle has been occurring for 2 reasons.

1) Our oven doesn't work (more on that in a second).

2) It's rainy out.  I always want to make soup when it is rainy out.  

Last night I experimented around and came up with carrot, parsnip, edamame soup.  The parsnip flavor is strong, but good.  It also has a lot of red pepper flakes in it and garlic that I threw in at the last stage of cooking so that flavor is nice and strong too.  Chicken broth and onions round it out.  Served with a dollop of sour cream.  Yum. 

But back to the broken oven.  The door won't stay closed on it.  We knew this when we bought the house and the owners gave us a concession for it but, sheesh, I didn't realize how glued to the hip I am with my oven.  I miss my oven!  My dad is a bit of a genius when it comes to mechanical things (maybe a touch more intuitive than scientific) and he promptly looked at all the specs and realized there were some clips missing from the hinges and so we had to order new hinges.  We have wasted a lot of time speculating how on earth the former owners could do this to an oven.  No idea.
We order new hinges.  They arrive and they are the wrong size.  Right part number for the right model on the packaging but wrong part completely.  Dad calls Kitchen Aid and patiently explains the situation to them for an hour.  They say they are sending the new part.  Eight days later the part arrives.

Still the wrong size.

So he calls them back again and gently explains the whole story again and the customer service person said that since he was so nice and patient about the whole thing she is going to send a repairman out and we are only going to be charged $129 no matter what.  If he has to come back 4 times, if he has to go to Mexico and pick up the part personally, they will get our oven working.  (Lesson of the story: NEVER get mad at a service rep!)  I promptly went out and bought my dad a gift certificate to our favorite wine bar for being such a champ.

Yay!  Fingers are crossed.  They can't make it out until next week but I feel like we are finally on the road to cooking again.  I have a no knead bread recipe I have been dying to try out and, damn it, I want some roasted potatoes and cookies!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Making Felt is Super Fun

 Last Sunday I taught another felting class at Tacoma Art Place.  This time it was a smaller group (6 students) and a much longer class (5 hours) and I taught the process of wet felting.  At the end of the day everyone had made a sample and a small scarf.   As you can see above, it was pretty messy and took up a lot of space.  Unfortunately the space was not the best for teaching wet felting.  It was a little too crowded with other art stuff crammed into the room and other members of the center kept coming in and out of the facility.  Crying babies in the back room is not the best thing for teaching.  More importantly, the sink is way too small and takes forever to get hot water.  So this is inspiring me to get my studio at home up and running the sooner the better!  I have a giant utility sink and lots of space to make a mess.  Yay!  Classes at my studio!

Here is an action shot of making the felt samples.  Towards the end of the process when the fibers have felted together but you are working them, "fulling" them to cause them to shrink, throwing them down on the table helps a lot, believe it or not.  Water was flying everywhere.

This is the sample I made to show how to make fringe, a scalloped edge, and Nuno felting: the use of silk in between the layers of wool.  

Here are the finished samples and I think they just look amazing!  I absolutely love how everyone's turned out so different.  

And here's my lovely students with their samples.  An awesome day!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Needle Felting Class

 Last Sunday I taught a beginning needle felting class at Tacoma Art Place. As you can see, it was packed and the students concentrated very hard to make their little works of art.

It is adorable what everyone came up with in such a short amount of time!  I think Aurora's tiny red owl looks a little sad.

Class portrait.  That is my friend La's one in the back with its hands out reached trying to get all the attention. 
Next Sunday I am teaching a felt scarf making class and it is full already and so we may need to add another class.  I love teaching felting.  I really love seeing what everyone does and how so wildly different everything ends up looking.

Self Portrait

The assignment was to create a self portrait using found ephemera and using the materials to their fullest capacity to express your persona.  It was tricky to work through all the art speak of the lesson and in the end I relied mostly on the color of the magazines to do the hard work for me.

I cut out a lot of the paper first and then glued it down without thinking about it too much.  Time flew by as I worked on it.

I don't do a lot of collage but this was a lot of fun.  Next assignment we are making more material studies but this time it is supposed to be with our most favorite medium and we have to play with it and discover something new.

I plan on felting some items today with some new techniques.  Will let you see how it turns out!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Materials Study: Using the Ephemera Around You

My homework assignment for my next fiber arts class is to make a self portrait out of collage and using everyday material that you would normally throw away.  Since we only moved last week, I don't have a lot of material on hand.

I have a lot of cardboard boxes and a little junk mail but then I found a whole pile of Dwell magazines that the former owners left in the house and decided that would be the obvious choice to play around with.  I have just been messing with a hole punch and paper cutter so far. 

I did splurge on a nice big jar of matte Mod Podge for all my collage needs. 

The studies are meant to be tests to see what we want to use on our self-portrait.  We are also supposed to push the limits of the materials we chose and find ways for it to give expression to our self-portrait.  I admit, I am struggling with this a little.  I have chosen on an image/theme/layout for my portrait but I am not sure how punched out holes express my personality.  

I was just gluing down dots and strips of paper here when I realized I liked how it looks to make a bit of fringe on the edge of the paper.  

I ran with the texturing and came up with this sort of shag rug look.  It took a couple hours just to get this far.  I am feeling the pressure to get cracking on my self-portrait but not sure where to start! 
Isn't that how it always goes though?  I am sure once I get glue to paper, the ideas will start flowing.  I love playing with cheap paper!  It really does free you up from taking yourself too seriously.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Mapping the New Terrain

 We are being careful about letting our cats go outside.  Even though they have been in the new house for a week, I am hesitant to let them run outside.   It's actually been funny watching them navigate themselves through the new spaces.  They have been on the hunt for the front door but have not found it yet because it is metal and they have absolutely no experience 

We decided the best place to start was the deck.  It is completely off the ground and so they can explore but not run away unless they take a flying leap.  (Which one has done before at the old house so it's not 100% safe)

For now they are very hesitant to go outside.  They want to and then they look out the door and then they get scared. 

Vincent, the tabby, won't step outside at all.  

Both Moneypenny (pictured) and Sack have gone out on the deck but were a little scared of the edge and the sound of the traffic on the bridge.  
Maybe tomorrow we can open the door downstairs and see what they think about that. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Week of Firsts

Every time I do some boring household chore around the house this week, I keep thinking, "This is the first time I have done this at the new house."  It's a little silly, I know, but I can't help it.  I think it because we love the house so much that we keep talking about how we live in it.  I never did this with my first house.  Is that what people go through with their kids?

So I have stopped to notice the little things.  First time making a fire in the fireplace.  First time cooking supper.  First time changing a roll of toilet paper.  First time using the compost bin.   (I'll spare from having to see a photo of changing the toilet paper!)

We had to have some serious debate about the compost bin.  What's to debate about a compost bin, right?  Well, the former owners left the bin way way down in the back corner of the lot, a serious walk from the kitchen: more like a hike, really.  We knew we needed to move it or our kitchen scraps would migrate into the garbage can.

We finally found a spot in the front yard that we thought wasn't too obvious.  But then as I was bringing in the mail, I saw that the bin is totally framed by our front entrance arch!  

I am thinking nobody but me will probably notice it there so this just may have to be a situation when form follows function!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

First Supper and a Trip to Ikea

Well we actually did it.  We were able to get everything packed and convince a boat load of friends to come help and we moved last weekend.  In fact, we managed to move about 95% of the house in under 4 hours.  But it is going to take 2 more weeks to get that last 5% out of our old house!

One of the big selling points for me on this house was the kitchen.  The big built-in butcher block plus stainless steel counters and a gas stove make me happy.  And a proper hood over the stove.  Who knew I would ever have one?  I can't begin to explain what a glorious step up in housing this move was but if you have been reading my blog for any length of time, you might know that our old house was too small, dark, and cramped for two people who worked from home.

The view from my kitchen couldn't be less cramped!  Right now looking at the water and bridge takes up a lot of spare time in my day.  Every time I am walking through a room with a view, I stop and look outside for a spell. 

After 4 days in the house I finally managed to unpack enough to make a big pot of Chicken Curry Stew.   I followed this recipe from Alisa Burke's blog and it turned out delicious.

The only problem with the kitchen is the lack of cupboard space. Now before you get all uppity that this is a fantastic kitchen and what is her problem, let me explain.  The work areas are great.  The layout is great.  But I swear the people that owned the house before must not have cooked much.  OR maybe they rarely entertained.  I have dishes and glasses to serve 20.  There is no proper pantry; it is all just open shelves and I usually hate looking at clutter on shelves.  (Also, it makes me feel compelled to keep everything perfect looking all the time, which I am not good at doing.)  And when you start to count the cupboards, I think I had more space at the old house.  

As you look at the cluttered, nearly full kitchen above, check out all of these boxes I still needed to unpack. 

This could only mean one thing.  IKEA to the rescue.  I am completely in love with butcher block island we bought there yesterday.  Granted, it took 4 (not a typo, FOUR) hours to put the thing together but that is now a faint and distant memory.  The front has 4 big drawers for my plates and bowls and baking supplies.  The back side is shelving for pots and pans.  I just sealed the top so that is why it is not covered in clutter at the moment. 
Now I just have a few odds and ends to put away and a new silverware tray to procure and I have to find a place for all our champagne glasses, but other than that things are looking good in one room at least!  And now I can cook, cook, cook, and no more take away pizza for me in the near future if I can help it!