Part of the Gallery with the Natural Geometries Contemporary QuiltArt Show at the WA State Convention Center

It’s hard to believe that we’re almost at the middle of March… almost 1/4 of the year is done!  However, with that in mind today, I thought I should review and see how I’m doing on My Goals for the year.

“Best Friends” by Christina Fairley Erickson
Commercial and artist hand-painted cottons, machine applique, machine free-motion quilting
My first goal is to work on finding and defining my artistic voice.  I’ve outlined several steps to help myself with this.  First, is to work with Gail Harker, of the Gail Harker Center for the Creative Arts.  You might recall some of my previous posts about the fantastic exhibit, Complex Threads, which featured the work of students of Gail.  I’m set for this part of my goal, starting next week when I’ll be taking her Experimental Hand Stitch 101 course. This course will complete my 100 level series classes, and I’ll be continuing on the path starting in May with Studies in Design and Experimental Hand and Machine Stitch 201 which will meet approximately every 3 months through the end of 2014.  
“Best Friends” detail by Christina Fairley Erickson
Next, I decided to kick up my production to help with defining my artistic voice.  To do this, I’ve been making my weekly 5 x 7 Challenge piece.  So far, I’m keeping up with this (one week I didn’t finish, but then did two in another week.)  I also wanted to do my small art quilt group’s challenge every other month.  I’ve only got a couple weeks to go to finish this and I’m not sure that I’m going to make this one.  The theme of the current Fiber Funster Challenge is “Waiting.”  while I have designed a piece, I haven’t even started it in production.  Maybe I can get it going this weekend.
Finally, I planned to document my progress in my blog, which I’ve been doing.  This also has helped me with my second major goal, which is to ramp up my pictorial quilts.  I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress through the weekly production of 5 x 7 pieces, both with my technical skills and composition.  I do still need to start working on a plan for creating a body of work.  
My third goal has to do with studio organization.  Here I have made some progress, but not enough to be proud of… I am at least working in my studio almost daily, rather than my studio being such a disaster area that I end up pulling my work out into other areas of the house!
My next goals, opening an Etsy shop and working towards a solo show in 2015 are still in the thought process, although I have looked through Etsy and think I can stay on track to open by mid 2013.  Beyond that, I’m on track for completing my piece for the Salsa show (entry due in mid-April).  I haven’t yet decided upon my second medium-to-large sized piece to create, although I may go back to my roots and make another horse-themed quilt.  I won a first place (and cash prize!) at an equine art-show two years ago and just received the call for entry for this coming summer. Alternatively, I may shoot for finishing one of my works in progress, such as my Waterfall quilt or Cathedral Visions.  
I’m scratching the final goal, completing a driftwood art sculpture in time to enter in the May show.  Although I love the driftwood art, I’m not having the time to do it as well as my main love, fiber.  
Well, I’m in a bit of overwhelm now, with all that I need to do.  Guess it’s time to get back to sewing!
Dharma’s Retail Store in San Rafael, CA

I’ve purchased many supplies at Dharma Trading Co. over the last few years.  So, when I found out that Dharma has a retail store in San Rafael (about 45 minutes outside of San Francisco, where I’m visiting), I decided to make a trip.  If you haven’t visited their website, they have almost anything and everything that you could need to dye, paint or do surface design on fabrics.

Fabric Paints

The one thing that you will find at Dharma’s retail store that they don’t have on their website is a wonderful wide supply of incredible yarns.  While I’ve so far been able to restrain myself from catching the knitting and crocheting bug, I do still love beautiful yarn.  I like couching yarns for different effects.

Dye Supplies

You can also purchase both silk and cotton garments (generally in white, but also in black and a few in other colors) to use for dyeing and painting.  The prices are very reasonable, which makes them great for resale after you surface design on them.

Shiva Oil Paintsticks, Rubbing Plates, and Metallic Pigments

Fabric Dyes and Paints

Dye-na-flow and Dyes

Custom Yarns

Custom Yarns

Custom Yarns

Custom Yarns
Silk and Cotton garments that you can dye and paint
Trees- 2 of my UFO’s that could use
more paint and completion

Now that I’ve seen all their wonderful products, I can’t wait to get back home to break out my dyes, paints and other supplies and finish up a few of my UFO’s, such as these trees.  I have a few projects that I think that can be salvaged with a little overdyeing or adding some paint.
 Hope you enjoy!

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Berkeley and San Francisco 
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Check out Leah Day’s FreeMotion Quilting Project!

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

Between link parties from WIP (work in progress) Wednesdays at Freshly Pieced and Freemotion Fridays on the Freemotion Quilting Project, we’ve got a great start in generating interest in the 5 x 7 challenge for 2013!

Hand-painted and block-printed fabrics and papers
by Christina

I’ve been struggling with how to juggle getting a project done while designing and/or conceptualizing one or more others. It’s not like I don’t do this all the time in my everyday life… What woman doesn’t? Even my studio has a minimum of 4-5 things going at a time-some on the design wall, others in various states of completion. But when you come down to a commitment to produce a finished product each week, my stomach gets a bit tight, I wonder if I’ll be able to persevere throughout the year, and I feel a bit frantic about wanting to work ahead and get a bunch done, so that if things come up, I won’t end up with nothing to show for the week.  But that seems a bit off-target.  After all, the idea is to learn to consistently produce art, right?

Christina’s gradation run of sunshine yellow Procion MX dye

So, I’m taking a deep breath and thinking about how I’m going to do my next piece.  I also think that I’ll allow myself to work on design ideas in my sketchbook, which I can then decide whether I want to produce in a more finished form at a later date.  But I won’t actually have more than the current week and the coming week’s projects in any phase of production.

What I’m wondering is what would be the best way to balance getting my “other” projects complete.  After all, I do have other goals for 2013 which I need to make progress on.  I didn’t even put in additional time for dyeing and surface design in my goals, nor did I mention any of the pieces I have in various stages of completion, other than a vague mention of “ramping up my pictorial quilts” and having a couple pieces completed to enter in various shows.

As an example, in a little less than two weeks, my small art-quilt group (the Fiber Funsters) has our next meeting where we reveal our second challenge quilt.  (Details about this challenge are posted on my blog post “The Fiber Funsters 10×16 Group Challenge.”)  The current challenge is based on the word “Celebrate.”  It seemed appropriate for the holiday season and I had hoped to incorporate something which would work both for this theme and “Salsa!” the theme of the CQA Mighty Tieton show coming in early summer.  However, it just didn’t really work for me.  I designed a piece using photos from a cathedral door with a chili-pepper wreath on it, but when it was shrunk down to 10″ x 16″, it just didn’t work for me.  I may still create that piece in a larger format for the Salsa show, however.  So, now I’m working on something more abstract and playful with my hand-dyed and painted fabrics.  With time running short, I’m going to have to get a lot of time in behind my sewing machine this weekend!

Hand-painted and block-printed fabrics and papers
by Christina

Realistically, what I’m talking about is time management.  With my background in business, I understand and can get focused when I think about it in this way.  I can schedule my sewing sessions, make a timeline for when I have to get things complete, and have to-do lists for each step of each project.  The main thing is not to get mired down in the daily muck of being run by your plans and schedules.  That, after all, doesn’t really allow for free-flowing creativity.  However, it can be very useful for managing showing your artwork and possibly for getting more accomplished (I haven’t really tried it for managing my work in the studio.)

How do you manage your time, projects and priorities?  Do you work on one project or many?

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