This is being a tough month.  It’s not like I didn’t expect it… but here I am in the midst of it and I’m feeling a little in overwhelm.
First, as most of you know, I’m share the head of exhibitions for the Contemporary QuiltArt Association and we have our “Salsa!” exhibit opening Memorial day weekend.  Our jury met on April 28 at my home… you’d think that once the pieces were picked out, it should be smooth sailing, right?  Wrong.

One of the wonderful things about the venue we’re going to be in, the Mighty Tieton Warehouse Gallery, is that they’re going to print a catalog of the exhibit. So, as soon as I know the juror selections, I needed to get the photos of accepted pieces to their printer, which meant I had to download 114 photos (a full and detail shot of each piece) from the place where the artists had submitted them.  However, I soon found out that not every artist had sent high-resolution photos.  This meant I had to contact those artists who had sent low-res photos and help them get high resolution ones to me.  I even ended up taking photos for one artist!

Once the photos were sent over, I had to start working on compiling all the information for the catalog… artist’s statements, sizes of artwork, materials and techniques used, photographer, price of piece, year completed, as well as artist and title of the piece.  We have 57 pieces in the show, so that’s quite a bit of info to put together.

On Saturday, we pick up the pieces at our CQA meeting.  We’re working on figuring out a way to best hang the works… the gallery has a wire hanging system.  At this point, we’re planning on using a heavy-duty fishing line to attach the quilts and art cloth from the wire.  However, we will need to tie the fishing line onto all the hanging sticks and haven’t fully worked out how we will adjust the length of the fishing line to make sure each piece is at the right level and even.  My husband and I have even gone to a couple hardware stores to try and see if there was some sort of hardware that we could put the line through and pull it and it would catch and not slip.  At this point, it looks like we’re going to just be adjusting it by hand and tying it off.

On the 20th, we head over to Tieton (about a 2 and a half hour drive) to hang the show.  I’m not sure how long it will take considering the tying aspect.  Then our Opening will be on Saturday the 25th, so another long drive that day (I may stay overnight for that one since it goes from 12-5 and there is an artist celebratory dinner afterwards!)

Oh, did I forget to mention that my two-year long program at the Gail Harker Center for the Creative Arts starts this month too?  I will be going up to La Conner from May 14-19 for my first class. We’ll be meeting approximately every three months and have a good deal of homework in between each session.  However, as you can see from the photos here, Gail’s student’s create some amazing fiber artwork!

All this said, I’ve decided to back off of my initial goal this year to create a 5 x 7 piece each week.  I’m a little disappointed, but I am working on my artwork daily, so I suppose that’s the real goal.  Since I’ll be staying up at our cabin on Whidbey Island next week while I go to classes in La Conner, I plan to bring my freemotion quilting sampler quilt that I’m working on for Leah Day’s Craftsy class to work on in the evening.  Having six days away from my husband and kids to just work on my art will be a real vacation!

Anna’s hummingbird from my sketchbook – Acryllic paint, watercolor pencil, silver ink

Barbara O’Steen, Marylee Drake, and Rosalyn Duffy at the
Contemporary QuiltArt Association’s (CQA) booth

This past aweekend I enjoyed going to Stashfest, the fund-raiser for the La Conner Quilt and Textile museum.  As a contributor in several ways for this event, it was exciting to see it come to fruition.

The biggest effort I was involved in was in making fabric with the Contemporary QuiltArt Association (CQA), as a vendor for Stashfest.  I got an early entry and have photos to share of all the fantastic unusual fabrics that were available at this event.

Donna DeShazo from CQA with more of our handmade fabrics

Ice-dyed and other hand-dyed fabrics

More of the CQA collection
Annie Lewis with her fabulous hand silk-screened fabrics

Hand-dyed Kona Cottons

Hand-dyed Kona Cottons

Vintage Kimono Silks

Margot Myer’s NW Batiked Cottons

Barbara Kanaya (of CQA)
working at Mary Ogwell’s booth

Mary Ogwell’s West African cottons

Patricia Beleya’s Japanese Yukata fabrics

Early-bird shoppers get a spring on all the unique fabrics!

Patricia Beleya’s incredible Yukata fabrics

Rack of “insider visits” for sale- studio tours
of NW Quilt Artists (mine on top!)

Business starting to pick up as doors open

I’ll be getting some photos up soon from a new fiber exhibition that I went to last week, as well as my finishing my Salsa quilt and the start of a freemotion quilting practice quilt.  Make sure and stop in this coming weekend and link your blog up for Design Wall Weekends!

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CQA Surface Design Party Viewing for Inspiration Designing, Stenciling & 
Making Marks on Fabric

Today was all about the High Fiber Diet… and I’m not talking about food!  Our local Bellevue Arts Museum or ‘BAM’ is currently hosting a Biennial exhibition which is featuring Fiber this year!  BAM has considered one of its roles to include recognizing “the enduring and uninterrupted role of craft in shaping the aesthetic landscape of the region” (from the High Fiber Diet exhibit pamphlet.)  Today they hosted an all day Symposium with incredible speakers and moderators which left me itching to come home and create!  Since today was our normal day for our Contemporary QuiltArt Association meeting, we choose to meet at the symposium instead… which gave BAM a sold-out crowd!

“Oyster Light” by Barbara Lee Smith
“Oyster Light” detail by Barbara Lee Smith

One of the well-known moderators was Barbara Lee Smith, a resident of a small island in the Puget Sound. Barbara’s piece, “Oyster Light” is made from painted, collaged, and stitched synthetic fabric- a translucent, non-woven industrial fabric that looks like Japanese paper.  Her sewing lines “echo the currents of sea and air, the topography of the earth, mapping the work with stitches that literally and figuratively finish it.”

Lorraine Barlow, Howard Barlow, Nate Steigenga,
Jiseon Lee Isbara and Barbara Lee Smith
(from left to right) at BAM Symposium 2/09/2013

Barbara moderated a talk called “Reinventing Tradition” with four of the other artists in the show.  It was fascinating to hear the viewpoints and how tradition has influenced some very cutting-edge fiber artists.

“The Infallible Accounts of the Tilapia People and the Dead Which
Soon Outnumbered Them: a Toile De Jouy” by Nate Steigenga

One of the artists on the panel, Nate Steigenga, won the John and Joyce Price Award for Excellence for the BAM show, earning him his own solo show in the future.  The fascinating thing about his piece is that it is reminiscent of a traditional quilt… sort of a tree of life feel, but when you get up close it’s much closer to something you’d see Hieronymus Bosch create with fabric!  It’s actually a twist on Toile de Jouy, a type of fabric with an intricate scene printed on it.  This artwork is made from bedsheets and pillow shams are backed with ironed-on drawer liners, which gives shade and depth to semi-transparent fabrics.  Nate uses an exceptionally fine collage technique (many of his pieces are tooth-pick wide slivers.)

While I appreciate the process that went into the piece, as well as the black humor, I find it somewhat disturbing… I could stare at Barbara Lee Smith’s piece all day, but this left me somewhat disquieted.  But perhaps that is the point.

Detail from Nate Steigenga’s artwork
Detail from Nate Steigenga’s artwork

 There really is so much to say about all the pieces at this exhibition that it will probably take me many, many posts to share them all with you.

In a way, it was somewhat daunting. Here are “real” fiber artists… at least to this museum’s tastes.  Art should be an expression of oneself and each piece in this exhibit is so different that it’s can be overwhelming.  A few of the people discussed the sense of the the exhibit being “loud” since there is so much (44 artists… many with huge sculptural pieces) and that it isn’t a body of work that all goes together.

I found some of the work inspirational, some of it to be admired for technique, and some awe-inspiring for the scale or complexity which the artist achieved.   But, most importantly, it was wonderful to be immersed in a community of artists with a “common thread” running through us all.  Seeing all my CQA friends, meeting many of the artists with pieces in the show, it reminded me of how important it is to get out of the studio from time-to-time and see others who are involved in your genre of art.

I’ll post more photos from the exhibit soon.

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Complex Threads 1 Complex Threads 2 Viewing for Inspiration

I’ve always found beaches to be an incredible source of inspiration for me.  We’re lucky here in the Pacific Northwest to be surrounded with water, mountains, and greenery. Every once in a while, we even get to bask in some sunshine out in nature.

This weekend, I was up at our getaway on Whidbey Island, a 2 hour trip from our home.  The day cleared up for a short while and I took our dog for a beach walk.  What a glorious day.  This great blue heron was a little far for my camera lens (and my dog was a little too close for his comfort to stay while we advanced towards him!)  But I loved the composition and think I could make a lovely pictorial quilt from this photo.

While I love beaches and sea creatures, one could imagine they might cause some bittersweet feelings for me.  Many years ago I was an extremely active scuba diver.  I was a certified PADI rescue diver and was working on my Divemaster certification.  I assist-taught classes for beginning scuba, which meant I was diving a minimum of twice a week.  I was a diver for the Seattle Aquarium, giving shows of hand-feeding the fish (even the 4-5 foot dogfish, a native shark) on a regular basis.  For those of your from warm climates, go ahead a shiver… the Puget Sound is about 40-42 degrees F. year-round.  But the diversity of sea life is incredible in our region.  It’s like going to the Amazon rain forest, only under water.

Unfortunately, while I was starting my second year in college in oceanography/ marine biology, I had a diving mishap and ended up in a decompression chamber.  It was never 100% certain that I actually had “the bends” or whether I had a pinched nerve from carrying the heavy tank on my back.  However, the result was that I needed to choose to either quit diving or risk the potential of a serious or life-threatening injury if I were to continue.

I chose to turn the page to a new chapter in my life.  I also still choose to find joy in beaches and the sea life that I can experience, rather than holding any negativity or resentment towards my loss.  Even though I won’t ever really get to have the incredible experience of being weightless and discovering the underwater world again, I cherish my memories.  I’d love to do more artwork based on our native Northwest marine life.

One of my friends from the Contemporary QuiltArt Association, Carla Stehr, makes incredible quilts based on photographs she takes with a scanning electron microscope for her job at NOAA.  She has even published a beautiful book of photographs called “Sea Unseen” of these microscopic organisms.  Here is a video of Carla speaking about her work and it’s influence on her artwork:


Note: If you’re interested in obtaining a copy of Carla’s book “Sea Unseen”, she does have a few copies still available for sale.  Let me know via a comment and I’ll get you in touch with her.

Another wonderful aspect of the beach is finding treasures, such as this rusty grate which I found this weekend.  I’ve been saving up some rusted pieces of metal that I’ve collected off the beach and this one takes the prize!  I think the patterning will make some amazing rust-dyed fabric.

How do you feed your creative muse?  Do you have special places to go to be inspired?

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Viewing for Inspiration Sunshine and Sand- 
Design Inspiration
Golden Hour at Penn 
Cove & Monet’s Haystacks

My first week’s piece for
the 5 x 7 Challenge

For those of you just tuning in, I not only have the 5 x 7 Challenge going on this year, where I make one 5″ x 7″ artwork each week, but I also actively show my fiber art work.  As the Exhibitions Co-Chair (along with Carolyn Hitter) of the Contemporary QuiltArt Association, I do all the planning and production of setting up exhibitions for our 100+ member group.  Currently, we have 19 members with work that will be shown in the Patchwork and Design Festival in both Rio de Janiero and San Paulo, Brazil.  The quilts have arrived there safely and in plenty of time, so my work there is pretty well done until it’s time for the quilts to come home.

Our next exhibition which I’m working on will be at Mighty Tieton, an artistic community in Eastern Washington.  Since the surrounding area is particularly known for their produce and fruit production (in fact the gallery is in an old fruit processing plant!) and the community has a large Hispanic population, they asked for our theme to reflect this if possible.  We’ve named the exhibit “Salsa!” and hope to get member entries that will reflect this theme in numerous ways.

I’m faced with the difficulty of  putting in lots of hours into setting up, doing logistics, getting entries, jurying the quilts and art cloth, etc. and wanting badly to also participate in showing my artwork.  But creating a piece takes time… a commodity that I’m a bit shy on these days!  So, here’s my plan… I thought what I could do is a coordinating 5 x 7 piece each week for 9 weeks, then put these together into a quilt.  I’m planning to do a thread-painting of the following fruits and vegetables:

  • tomato
  • onion
  • cilantro
  • lime
  • corn
  • tomatillos
  • peppers
  • avocado
  • chili peppers
Detail of quilt made from Guatemalan
fabric by artist Priscilla Bianchi
Then, each thread painting will be appliqued (probably with a bit of trapunto) to a quilted coordinating background.  I’m not sure about how they will all fit together yet, possibly with some of my hand-woven Guatemalan fabric, or even with machine-made lace.
What do you think?  I’d really love some comments on this idea… combining my 5 x 7 challenge with the Salsa exhibit seems to kill two birds with one stone, yet maintain the spirit of my challenge to create each week.
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Today turned out fantastic at our CQA meeting!  We had the following stations for making surface-designed fabrics to contribute to Stashfest:

Christina Fairley Erickson (me!): Shiva Oil Paintstick Rubbings, Stencils, Fabric Markers and Tsuneko Inks
Cameron Mason: Mono-printing with thickened dye
Colleen Wise: Thermofax silkscreening and foiling
Peg Swartzman: Oil Paintsticks with resists and stencil brushes
Kathy Cooper: Printing with Print blocks

Peg Swartzman teaching how to use Oil Paintsticks with
Freezer paper resists and stenciling brushes for an
elegant gradient effect

Cameron Mason (far right) teaching mono-printing with
thickened dyes to Roslyn Duffy (left) and Roberta Andreson (center right)
Roslyn Duffy’s mono-print with thickened dye
Flora Dalglish making Shiva oil paintstick
rubbings at Christina’s station

Debbie Babin designing with fabric markers after adding oilstick rubbings
at Christina’s station
Barbara O’Steen (left), Barbara Kanaya (center) and Debbie Babin (right)
working at Christina’s stenciling, fabric pens, and oil stick rubbing station
CQA President Marylee Drake (foreground) doing
Thermofax screen printing with Colleen Wise (background)
Some of our finished packets of fabrics to sell at Stashfest
We labeled each packet with the artist’s name who made the fabric(s), size(s),
and the processes used on each piece.


Stashfest Creator and CQA Member, Patricia Belyea
measured the fabrics and helped bundle them for sale

Want the chance to buy some of these wonderful fabrics?  Come to Stashfest April 6 and 7 up in LaConner!

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Making Fabric Viewing for Inspiration Making Fabric

Sketched in pencil first from a photo, then traced to
fabric and thread sketched by Carol

First, I want to share Carol’s first 5 x 7 Challenge piece. Check out Carol’s blog: LandscapeLady – Art Quilts from Vermont.  I think she’s done a wonderful piece and is working on a fantastic quilt of a dog in the style of David Taylor.

I recently saw a couple of David’s quilts at the Material Men show at the LaConner Quilt and Textile Museum.  They were truly breathtaking, at least for those of us who love pictorial / representational quilts.  The show featured 16 male quilt artists… not just because they are men, but because they are also exceptional artists.  I brought my husband and sons along to this exhibit and my husband was particularly intrigued with how he felt the men expressed themselves differently in the quilt medium than women do.  Some was thematic, some was stylistic, and some just gave a different impression or vibe than you might see at your local quilt show.

This evening I’m packing up my truck to bring a slew of surface design materials to the CQA meeting tomorrow morning.  We’re having a surface design party to make fabric to sell at Stashfest, a fundraiser for the LaConner Quilt and Textile Museum.  I made some last month with a few friends (see Making Fabric) and suggested to the group that we do it as a big group activity this month.  We’re going to have stations with thermofax silk-screening  Shiva oil paintsticks and rubbing plates, stencils with fabric markers for drawing and Tsukineko inks, foiling, and mono-printing with thickened dye.  We should have a wonderful assortment of fabrics to sell in April.

As part of my contribution to Stashfest, a tour of my studio will be up for sale!  Call “Stashfest Insider Visits” people can purchase tours of many different artist’s studios.  I’ve been working on studio organization, so now I’ll have to get really serious!

Last bit for this evening… I started a Fiber Artist Journey Facebook group, where we can also share photos and discussions.  Please click the link and “Like” the group to stay in touch!

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Making Fabric Viewing for Inspiration CQA Surface Design Party

You might want to start with a little history and look at Designing for a Theme: Innovation Part 1.

Artist rendition of Graphene molecules

With the topic “Fiber Artists Look at Innovation and Civic Action”, I personally decided to narrow down possibilities by choosing to represent innovation.  Since I’ve always enjoyed science, I started with looking at scientific journals and find out what some of the recent innovations have been that are expected to revolutionize areas of our lives.  This is where I found out about Graphene.

Graphene, a form of carbon only one atom thick and in a hexagonal cellular structure, is both the thinnest and strongest substance now known to man.  Scientists believe it will revolutionize technology from computer and mobile displays, medical devices, aerospace, desalination plants, electronics and countless ways which we cannot yet predict.  Since I’m a technology fan and my husband’s business is in aerospace, this seemed like a good place to start.  If you want to see a really cool futuristic video, check out this short YouTube “Future Applications of Graphene.”

So now I had a topic to try to represent to go along with the theme… but what could I do with it?  I decided I wanted to represent both the uniqueness of the material (thin, lightweight, hexagonal cellular structure) as well as some of the possible applications of the technology.

Another little aspect that I had to keep in mind was the unusual gallery space that this piece would (hopefully) be hanging in.  The walls were mostly all a deep dark forest green (with a hint of teal) and a couple that were a bright spring green.  Not exactly easy to hang anything on, but ok if you’re specifically designing for the backdrop color.

My idea was to have a thin sheer layer cut in a hexagonal pattern that would fiat above the quilt, which would be surfaced designed to tell more of the story. I started the quilted layer with white Pima cotton. I bought some plasticized wire garden fencing that had hexagons as its design, and started with placing it on top of the white fabric and spritzed jacquard Textile Paint through it. This created a resist, with a painted background (in blues and greens) with a shadowy faint white hexagonal grid.

Representation of a computer touch-screen made with a
thermofax silkscreen and hand-painted shading

I then created several black and white images from photos (using Photoshop) of things that will have future applications using graphene. These included a commercial airplane, computer circuit boards, a smartphone, and a computer touchscreen. I then turned these images into silkscreens using a thermofax machine. I layered these different images around on the background, using Versatex print ink.  I added some hand painting and when the paints were all dry, I finished the back/quilt with a diamond grid pattern for the quilting, as well as freemotion elements around each of the special elements.

Silkscreened computer circuit board with gold metallic
thread freemotion quilted to look like metal elements.

Now it was time to figure out how to represent the one-atom thick sheets of this hexagonal carbon molecule. I knew I wanted to have it be somewhat sheer (and black, since it is carbon, after all.) I thought that using a black organza might get the effect I wanted, so I bought some of each silk, rayon, nylon and polyester organza to test. I had a couple of different ideas on how to cut out a grid that wouldn’t ravel and could hold up, yet not be too terribly difficult or end up too uneven.

Some of my samples testing different organzas and ways to
cut and make sure they wouldn’t fray

The most consistent method and material turned out to be painting the nylon organza with matte medium, drying it, and cutting out the interior hexagons with small, sharp scissors. I’d been a bit surprised by this, thinking that a hot knife might cut and melt a synthetics edges at the same time, but it proved to be more difficult and harder to be exact than using my small Kai scissors.  Also, I tried treating with different products with varying degrees of success.  Some items made the organza too stiff (I wanted it still to be able to move in a breeze, to demonstrate the thinness of the graphene); others, like Fray Check, left a shiny plastic-like coating.

Close-up of grommet, copper pipe
& bead hanging mechanism
The organza hanging

You can imagine the time it took me to cut out each of the little hexagons on the finished piece!  The next step was to figure out how to affix the top layer so it would hang out separately from the quilted back piece.  This turned out to be quite tricky.  After many trials and errors, I was able to get a decent effect using some heavy-duty grommets, 1/8″ copper piping, copper wire, and beads.

Thankfully, my efforts were rewarded by the jury and my piece was accepted into the show!  Here is the final piece, hanging at the Seattle Center Next 50 Exhibition!  I particularly like how the hanging grid creates such interesting shadows with the gallery lighting.  The only disappointment to me was that the show chair who mapped out where each piece was to go, choose to put my piece on one of the couple spring green walls, after I’d designed it to go on the dark green ones!  Well, you can’t control everything!

“Graphene: The Miracle Material” by Christina Fairley Erickson
Whole-cloth 100% cotton background quilt hand-painted, silk-screened and machine quilted by artist.  Upper layer nylon organza treated with matte medium and cut into hexagonal grid attached with copper pipe, copper wire, beads and metal fittings by artist.

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Designing for a Theme… 
Innovation Part 1
Designing for a Theme Journeys Show at 
SeaTac Airport

I’ve been thinking once again about designing with a specific theme in mind.  If you have entered into juried shows that have a theme, you know the dilemma.  How literal do I need to make this piece to fit the theme?  Or perhaps you’ve just skipped entering those shows.

Since my preferred style in which to make art is representational or pictorial, I don’t usually have a great difficulty with making something to fit a theme.  My struggle is more about whether I really want to make a piece or not for that show.
As an example, I’d like to share about the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Seattle Center.  In 1962, Seattle was the home of the World’s Fair… the grounds on which the fair was held is the Seattle Center.  Most notably, Seattle’s best-known landmark, the Space Needle was built for this 6 month festival and exhibition.

Helen Remick’s “Spinning Out, Spinning In 1” (left)
and Margaret Liston’s “Save” (right)

Seattle Center put out a call to artists for large proposals to show during the 6 months of the Next 50 Celebration.  The theme of the overall exhibit and performances was “Illuminating Today’s Challenges, Imagining Tomorrow’s Possibilities.”  The call was set up as a two-tier process.  You sent in an extensive original proposal through Café (Call for Entry), including a series of images representative of your art.  


As I am the Exhibitions Co-Chair of the Contemporary QuiltArt Association, I prepared this proposal for our group.  The second tier was like a call-back for an audition.  Except now, you had to do an elaborate proposal, including budget, recommendations on where within the Seattle Center grounds that your exhibit would take place, showing how your art would benefit and reflect the theme of the Next Fifty, and finally a video to support your claims of your work.    

Melisse Laing’s “Sorok dva – Russian Collaboration II”


In the end, we did get chosen for an exhibition, but we did not receive any of the grant money… not a big problem as our group doesn’t typically get paid to exhibit.  But when it came down to the “theme”, they decided they wanted to be even more specific.  The dates chosen for our group’s exhibition were during September and October (2012).  Each month of the celebration had a focus… September’s theme was “Commerce and Innovation” and October’s was “Civic Action.”  So, the name given for our exhibit was “Possibilities: Fiber Artists Look at Innovation and Civic Action.”  Can you imagine trying to get a group of quilt artists to tackle that as a theme?  (Imagine a great big eye-rolling from me here.)

Artist and CQA President Marylee Drake with
her piece “Gearing Up for the Future”

But, somehow our artists always come through with a wonderful show as you can see from the photos above.  Tomorrow, I’ll talk about and share some photos of the process I went through to make my piece “Graphene – The Miracle Material.”

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Designing for a Theme
A Day of Art
Making Fabric