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Author: tesivaara

How Do I Finish These?

How Do I Finish These?

One of my latest projects has been playing with Inktense pencils and pans. I used a 12” x 12” stencil that I had purchased from The Crafters Workshop to begin the outline for my buildings piece.

https://www.tcwstencils.com/search?type=product&q=city+building+stencil.

I traced the stencil onto a commercial cotton that had a pattern of newsprint on it. It was fun to give it some texture.

I don’t know how any of you work, but I’m not too good with planning my whole projects out from start to finish so I didn’t really worry about how I wanted to finish this piece while I was working on it. After I finished it, I decided that I wanted to put a border on it and incorporate stitched figures of people into the border. I decided at first that I liked the blueish space on the sides and the bottom and began auditioning border fabric with the idea of leaving that area as inner border.

Here are the little blocks of stitched figures that I hand stitched, and I washed over them using a watered down Inktense solution of Navy Blue with a bit of Payne’s Grey added to it. These were initially about 4 inches.

I tried a couple different fabrics and placements of the figures blocks.

 

I decided that I didn’t like the blue border all the way around it so I cropped off the two sides and the bottom and tried it with a darker inner border.

So far I’ve not been happy with any of my choices but I definitely like the blue outline being removed. But now the wash on the figures wasn’t blending, much too blueish. So after doing a bit of testing, I put a brown Inktense wash over the figures. They are darker in this photo because they are still wet.

Once I washed over them, it also changed the whole mood of the buildings and I basically had to start auditioning a whole new color palette. A big sigh was going on in my studio when I got to this point. What have I done??

AND THEN I decided that the little figures just weren’t going to work at all for me. I felt they detracted too much from the buildings.

 

So when I found the blue grey hand dyed fabric, I thought that one would do it. Sometimes simple is better! It kind of reminds me of when I’d stay in a hotel in the city and look out the window at the buildings across the way when the sun was shining on them.

Now what do I do with all those stitched figures?

I decided I would put them on the back of the building quilt. But when I got the back put together, I thought it could be a quilt on its own. It was too sad to think of them on the back where no one would ever see them. Especially after all the work I had put into stitching them all!

But it needed more work to be a quilt on its own. I took the whole piece apart and started over. I ended up cutting the figure blocks down to a finished 3″ square so I lost most of the white edges. A sad loss, but necessary so I could make both quilts the same size.

I have a lot of fabric, but do you think I could find anything to go with this weird blue/brown wash I had put over the figures?? I wanted to put the tree fabric in to give the feel of being in a park. But it also added to the weirdness of the colors.

It took me several days to get both of these little 18” x 18” pieces done. I’m happy with the finished pieces now but it was a rather agonizing process to get to that point. I have to admit I did learn a lot while going through it! Learning is good!

I call the building piece “Summer in the City” and the figures piece “Winter in the Park”.

Will I plan how I will finish my pieces better in the future? I doubt it. But now I have plans to create Spring and Fall quilts to go with these two using the Inktense pencils and I look forward to doing that and seeing what I learn from them.

Happy Creating!

Tesi Vaara

Inner Thoughts

Inner Thoughts

by Tesi Vaara

It’s been a long winter. In between the COVID isolation and the cold and rainy weather I have managed to stay somewhat sane by being in my studio on a fairly regular basis. I’ve had my first COVID Pfizer vaccine and am due for my second within the coming week. I’m thankful to the world of ZOOM that lets me see and hear from other creative people.

I have spent most of my time creating things OTHER than art quilts since my last blogpost. Comfort quilts and clothing mainly. Busy work.

 

In January I made the decision to restart the Art Quilt group in my local quilt guild. We had quit meeting because of the pandemic and because of some health issues that began for me in early 2020. We are meeting now via ZOOM once a month and started off playing with Derwent Inktense pencils or other watercolor pencils. I tried out several design ideas found from using a variety of inspirations. One inspiration came from my rather expansive library of Native American books that I’ve collected over the years.

Most of the books I have give permission to use the designs in “craft” work so I’m not infringing on copyright rules by using them in a quilt.

I live in the Pacific Northwest and the Native American culture is very present here. I admire their art and have always wanted to make a quilt using their designs. So, I started making some quilt blocks using my Inktense pencils and proceeded to show 3 of the blocks during one of my Surface Design ZOOM meetings.

An interesting question came up…” Should Native American art be made by non-Native Americans?” Never did this thought cross my mind although I am aware that their art is sacred and spiritual to their culture. That is what draws me to their work.

I thought about this conversation for several days and it was really bothering me. I was trying to justify the okayness of making Native American art to myself. Then my white privilege (non)thoughts slapped me right in the face! That initial question was quite eye opening and I am still working through all that this has brought up for me. How can I, a white person, think I can even begin to understand Native American art or their heritage? No possible way! 

I think I might be able to give myself permission to create my own vision of these beautiful and spiritual designs for my own growth and learning and viewing enjoyment. If I do continue, I don’t feel that I will ever be able to display this work anywhere but my own home. I don’t think I have that right or privilege.

I’m still struggling with it though and need to do more journaling around it. Journaling got me to another question, “Who do I make my art quilts for?” which has also been an eye-opening inner conversation based on people pleasing. Pretty heavy conversations going on within my head! I still have lots to learn and understand, in art and in life.

As one person I follow on Facebook (Beau of the fifth column) says when he signs off, “It’s just a thought. Ya’ll have a good day!”

The Eyes Have It – Part 2

The Eyes Have It – Part 2

A couple of months ago I did a blog about drawing eyes. I mentioned that someday I would like to rework  the eyes on a quilt I had made of my rescue dog, Koko. A Zoom class became available in September  from Lorraine Turner (https://calicohorses.com/) called “All About Eyes”. Lorraine sometimes uses Derwent Inktense pencil to make eyes for her animal quilts. I haven’t played much with my Inktense pencils so thought this would be a good opportunity to learn more about them and maybe find a fix for Koko’s eyes on her quilt.

Here is a close up photo of the quilt I call Saint Koko. The original eyes were plain fabric with a small bead sewn on.

 

Using an actual photo of Koko’s eyes, I tried to enlarge it enough to match the exact placement of her eyes on the quilt. Lorraine suggested making numerous sets of eyes to practice using the Inktense pencils on. I used a light box to trace the basic shapes of her eyes from the photo onto some plain white fabric.

What a FUN exercise! I went with the last set of eyes I had made. I then fused some Wonder Under to them and cut them out and lightly fused them to the quilt.

Right now, I am trying to decide if I like them or not. They almost look too real for my whimsical little quilt, don’t they? They definitely change things up, I think! They give her a totally different expression. I think more work will need to be done before I am satisfied. Perhaps more Inktense pencil work or thread painting. And I still may do some additional work on her face and body to lighten it up. Progress is being made though! Lorraine will be teaching more about Inktense pencils in November. I’m looking forward to playing with them and learning more about them.

Meanwhile, I’ve also been doing some dyeing with Procion Dyes. Jane Dunnewold (https://janedunnewold.com/ ) has had some great Zoom lectures lately. She is an awesome instructor and person! I mixed up 12 of the pure colors to play with, scrunched up fat quarters and then rubber banded them before dropping them into the dye bath for 24 hours.

I have been wanting to play with dyeing my own silk/cotton fabric (Robert Kaufman PFD Radiance) that I use as the background for my tile quilts. Robert Kaufman quit manufacturing Radiance for a time and I was so sad as I love it’s sheen.  When I discovered he had the PFD available, I bought a whole bolt of it!

Aren’t these such beautiful colors!

Next I will cut each fat quarter into 4 equal pieces. One will be left alone, the other three will be overdyed using a complimentary color, an analogous color to the right, and then an analogous color to the left. I may use a different fabric manipulation prior to their second dye bath or I may just scrunch them up the same way. They almost look oversaturated to me already, so I’m really curious how the second batch will look. Dyeing is a lot of work!  But what fun!

Thanks for reading! Happy creating!

Tesi Vaara

 

 

 

 

Little 12″ x 12″ samples

Little 12″ x 12″ samples

I was watching a video where Jenny Grant, a mixed media artist from Sweden, https://www.jennygrantart.com/ was using a credit card to push paint through a stencil onto paper. It made me curious about trying the same method on fabric. I have used acrylic paint on fabric before but thought I would try out some PROfab Transparent Paint I had purchased a while back and never gotten around to playing with. I’ve been making 12” x 12” size quilts to donate as fund raisers for a quilt guild I belong to called Contemporary QuiltArt Association https://www.contemporaryquiltart.com/. They are a nice size to be able to try out new techniques. I searched through my stencils and found this large one. Surprise, surprise it reminds me of my tile quilts. Right up my alley!

IMG_4320

I have been using a fabric called Radiance for my tile quilts. It is a fabric made by Robert Kaufman and is a 45% silk/55% cotton blend. I like that it is shiny and puffs up quite nicely to form what I call the grout in between the fabric tiles once they are quilted down. I used two different colors of blue for this one. This was my third sample. I kept smudging paint onto the edges so I decided to put masking tape around the edges of the stencil before painting to try to keep the sides free of paint, but then I was having trouble pulling the tape and the stencil off the fabric. Next time I’ll tape the fabric down first and see if that helps.

paint #1 original

Next, I copied the stencil onto heavy butcher type paper so I could number the pieces. These would become my pattern pieces. I wanted to make more than one sample, so I wanted to be able to reuse the pieces. Once numbered, I took a photo of it to keep as my reference master.

pattern pieces

 

I cut my fabric patterns out smaller than the painted shapes so I would still see the paint behind the fabric. I cut these out using an Xacto knife. Not very big pieces!

cut pattern pieces

I just started playing with colors that spoke to me. I seemed to focus mostly on fabrics that had circles or dots on them.

Here is the finished 12” x 12” quilt. I fused the fabric pieces onto the painted areas and then quilted them. I found that the PROfab paint was much easier to quilt over than acrylic paint and had a much softer hand as well. I’m a convert! It was a fun experiment and hopefully it will sell at our fundraiser. The exhibition is called Big/Little and we are to make a 12” x 12” quilt and a larger quilt for our entries into the show. I think I will now make my own stencil for the larger quilt and use this same method. I like how the paint peaks out behind the fabric.

Painted blue

Here is another one where I had used black and red PROfab paint. I used the same stencil and got to reuse all my numbered cut out templates for the fabric pieces. This one was really smeared around the edges so I had to put additional Radiance around the edges of it to try to clean it up a bit.

I am trying to educate myself about the Black Lives Matter movement and found myself working through some of the emotions that came bubbling up. What I am reading today is much different from the American history I was taught when I was in school and I find all of it quite disturbing.

No More

It’s not bright and cheery like the first one. I’m not sure I will offer it up for my guild’s fundraiser. What do you think?

As a footnote, I had mentioned in my last post that I was going to fix my dog’s eyes on my Saint Koko quilt. Well, that has not happened yet. Maybe by my next post!

Stay safe!     Tesi Vaara

 

 

The Eyes Have It!

The Eyes Have It!

Koko

This is Koko. We rescued each other years ago. She was my buddy for about 7 years. She was almost 16 when I had to put her down. I was so sad for a long time. She’s been gone about a year now and I still miss her every day. I use her photo quite a bit in my art work. I loved her eyes and ears and her companionship! She was pretty young in this photo and did not like to have her picture taken!

I made this small quilt of Koko back in 2015. It definitely didn’t do any justice to her beautiful expressive eyes in this quilt and I’ve always wanted to repair that. I just didn’t have any experience in facial features so I kept putting it off.  I want to change the value of her fur, too.

This winter I decided I needed to take some drawing classes so I could someday fix the eyes in this piece. The internet has so many wonderful classes available. I joined up with Matt who teaches via The Virtual Instructor.  https://thevirtualinstructor.com/ and took his class, Portrait Drawing the Smart Way. Wow! Did I learn a lot! The course was very interesting as we just used a graphite pencil and white charcoal pencil on grey toned paper. I learned a lot about value and shading and I also learned that smoother paper works much better when using graphite pencils. I still have much to learn!

Here are some of my attempts at facial features…definitely need more practice!

I am also learning from an internet site called Willowing Arts with Tamara Laporte. I joined her Life Book 2020 course. I was really attracted to how Tamara paints eyes on her lovely whimsical drawings. https://www.willowing.org/

This is my eye work from some of her lessons.


Another instructor on Life Book 2020 was Effy Wild. I did her lesson using Koko’s face.

This was a collage I made of Koko while I was taking Gail Harker’s Level 3 Art and Design course. https://www.gailcreativestudies.com/ Easy eyes for this one!

So I think I’m about ready to try my hand at repairing her eyes on the small quilt I made of her so many years ago. I may try fabric eyes or I may try painting onto fabric which I would then fuse onto the quilt. If I get it done by my next blog, I’ll post it for you to see.

I don’t know about all of you, but I am very grateful to be able to lose myself in creativity during these crazy times we are living through right now.

Stay safe!

Tesi Vaara

Listening (an AH-HA moment)

Listening (an AH-HA moment)

I struggle with the Winter holidays. The time from Thanksgiving through Christmas is tough. I was talking to my sister about when all this bah humbug stuff might have begun in my life and it boiled down to when my mother died in 1978. She passed when I was 23 and I realized that for the last 40 plus years I’ve been trying to find the magic that she created for me and my siblings and failing miserably at it no matter what I did!

But this year, right before Christmas, I had one of those AH HA moments. I did a bit of meditation and journaling around the issue, trying to listen for the wisdom of my Higher Power to come through. Volunteering to work in a public place is not a favorite of mine. My happy place is time spent in my studio. I like to sew, and I have LOTS of fabric. Hmmmmm….My passion is creating art quilts but why not make a traditional quilt for someone that really needs one and can’t make their own? I could use up some of my stash, try out different designs and color schemes (all very fun stuff!) and then donate the finished quilt. That sounded like a win-win to me.

And that is how I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day this year. I was so fulfilled and grateful to be able to work on a quilt for an unknown recipient!  I felt peace within. I decided that I will make comfort quilts over the holidays going forward. What a wonderful new tradition that will add meaning to my life. And I think my Mom would be happy that I have finally found some peace around the whole issue.

This is the quilt I made. It is a pattern by Karla Alexander from her book “New Cuts for New Quilts – More Ways to Stack the Deck” called Summer’s End. Not the best photo, sorry. It’s been very dark these past few days here in the Pacific Northwest!

Here is a detail photo. Also a truer sense of the actual fabric colors, too.

But then the story takes a bit of a twist…

After completing the quilt top, I sent it off to my longarm quilter. When I picked it up, she told me that I couldn’t give the quilt away and proceeded to tell me that this quilt was far too special for me to give away. She said that message came through to her as she was quilting it. We had quite a discussion around it because I made the darn thing to give away and I was trying desperately to not get too attached to it.

She then gave me a solution to help me satisfy my wish to donate a comfort quilt. She had a friend who had passed away but had unfinished quilt tops. So, she finished some of them and was willing to donate a top of my choosing and the batting, as well as quilt it for a nominal fee. I would supply the binding and backing fabric. We talked some more…

It was a tough decision but, in the end, I decided to keep the quilt I had made. I will use it on my bed when I go to my quilt retreats and reflect on the impact it has made in my life. I will donate the other quilt that was created by a woman who loved to piece quilts, a second woman who donated her time to finish piecing that quilt (and much more), and a third woman, myself, newly awakened to the gift of giving. Quite the collaboration!

Here is a photo of the collaborative quilt that I will be donating in place of the one I made. Kind of the same colors! The flower design that was used for the quilting is super cute!

I am also donating this little quilt to the preemies. I made it over 30 years ago and I hope it finds a wonderful new home!

I hope you have a creative 2020! – Tesi Vaara

Journey’s

Journey’s

Ruth has asked me once again to contribute to this wonderful blog. Thank you for the opportunity! Tesi Vaara

I started making traditional quilts in 1986. I was first attracted to Amish quilts because of their simplicity. Back in those days the fabric choices were pretty limited and the Amish’s use of solid colors interested me.

My sister led me down the path towards making art quilts. She had taken a class from Katie Pasquini Masopust http://www.katiepm.com/ and really enjoyed it. Katie held her Alegre Retreats in Sante Fe, New Mexico (they are now held in Gateway, Colorado http://alegreretreat.com/) and we started attending that together. Wow! My art quilt journey began…

In the Fall of 2008, my sister and I began taking a Design Essentials course with Lorraine Torrence https://www.lorrainetorrence.com/. This course was the first time I was able to learn about design elements and principals in depth! I realized for the first time that I could design my own quilts versus following someone’s pattern or technique. It was very freeing and also a bit frightening! I was intrigued with a book about tiles called the Tile Quilt Revival and one day the idea popped into my head that I could take a photograph and use a different version of their technique to create my own idea.

I wanted to do a series of quilts about my life journey. I decided I would make the first one, Memory Lane, based off the first 20 years of my life. I printed photos of my family and friends onto cotton fabric, drew out my design based off a photo taken while visiting the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert, California. All the fabric was fused to Wonder Under, then cut out. I used some corduroy fabric taken from a rag rug woven by my grandmother for the fence rails. It took me over a year to figure out how to quilt it because each tile had to be quilted down. I had lots of fear that I would wreck it!

Memory Lane 2011 30″ x 22″

The second quilt in the series. Ebey Slough, covers most of my married life up until my divorce in 2009. I live in the Pacific Northwest, north of Seattle, in the small town of Stanwood. It is an area surrounded by waterways. I drove by this view on my way to work for almost 30 years. It never failed to amaze me. It was ever changing due to the tide and the weather. My ex-husband was an avid boater and fisherman so I got to spend a lot of time on the water in our little boat. It was one of the things I missed after my marriage ended, along with the Dungeness Crab he used to gather! Not many photos in this one. Too painful to include them and I wanted to remember the good times.

Ebey Slough 2012 37″ x 31″

I have almost always had a dog in my life so of course they had to have a place in the Journey’s series! Four Legged Friends was an exercise in using black and white fabrics and a design of my own. Each paw print has photos of the dogs in my life. This quilt was accepted into an exhibit in Brazil in 2016 and spent a year there. You can see these and other quilts I have exhibited on the Contemporary ArtQuilt Association website. https://www.contemporaryquiltart.com

Four Legged Friends 2013 42 1/2″ x 34 1/2″
Detail of Maggy, my yellow Lab

For more information on my journey, I have three interviews on the Create Whimsey blog. The third one also has Ruth’s interview from our Gail Harker adventure!

https://createwhimsy.com/projects/spotlight-tesi-vaara-art-quilter/

https://createwhimsy.com/projects/working-in-a-series-with-fiber-artists/

https://createwhimsy.com/projects/the-gail-harker-center-for-creative-arts-inspires-creativity/

Thanks again for letting me share a bit of my journey with you! I hope your journey is as blessed as mine is! Keep on creating! I love seeing all of your projects and processes.

Tesi Vaara

My Grandma’s Lace

My Grandma’s Lace

Hi all of you amazing felting and fiber Creatives! My name is Tesi Vaara and I do not work with felt but I really enjoy following this blog and seeing your work and your processes! Ruth Lane asked me to blog about some recent machine lace work I have done, so here goes! I met Ruth in Feb 2017 when we both began a journey with Gail Harker in LaConner, WA. USA. We spent two plus years taking Gail’s Level 3 Art and Design course together. I really admire Ruth’s art work and her journey to express herself through her work.

My maternal grandmother was always working on some type of project. She was a weaver who also did pillow lace and tatting and other fiber work. She had her own “tribe” back in her day that would get together every week. The women in her group were an important part of her life. They were a pretty tight group. When I was young, I would take her hankies that had tatting around the edges around to all our neighbors and sell them for next to nothing.

I recently took a Machine Stitch class from Gail Harker. http://gailcreativestudies.com/. One of the techniques we learned was to make lace using our sewing machines on wash away stabilizer. I was playing with some designs in my sketchbook and remembered that I had a box of my grandma’s lace pieces stored away. I’d never really studied her work before. I had watched her create her work, but she never taught me how to do any of it. I’m not sure that she had the patience for teaching a young child to do such fine work.

It was interesting to study her patterns and figure out if I could mimic them on my sewing machine. I felt a deep connection to her as I studied her work. I have a greater appreciation of her skills now. I don’t know if her patterns were her own design or if she followed someone else’s design.

This first piece is part of a table runner. Back then the threads she used all seemed to be white or off white.

The second photo is my interpretation of her work.

Her second piece is also from a table runner. This is some of her pillow lace work. My grandfather made many of the tools and devices my grandmother used for her work. Lucky her to be married to such an ingenious man! He made several different size pillows that she worked her lace on and I think he even made some of her bobbins. They had beads and trinkets hanging off them. I can still hear them clinking together as she worked. I have fond memories of watching her work on her pillow lace. I had strict orders to never touch anything but sometimes I just had to fondle her bobbins when she wasn’t looking and take a closer look!

The following is my version of her pillow lace work. My first passion is creating art quilts and I had envisioned placing this piece on a fabric background and adding machine stitch in the open areas to mimic the woven look of her piece.

Then the vision of this piece becoming part of a garden gate popped into my head. I had to quickly sketch that idea out for future use. I can make lace flowers, lace leaves, lace stems, lace pebbles!! My very own rabbit hole…

I’m pretty sure my love of lace came from my grandmother. I had designed and crocheted a shawl for an assignment in my Creative Clothing class to create a statement piece to be worn around your neck. A few months after I made the shawl I came across the box filled with my grandma’s work and found a pink shawl wrapped in tissue paper. It was pretty delicate after all these years but I was so amazed at how similar the two were! In 2018 I participated in an exhibit at the Pacific Northwest Quilt and Fiber Arts Museum called “Making It My Own”. https://www.qfamuseum.org/. It was a great honor to be able to exhibit my work next to hers at the museum.

Create passionately and without fear!

Thanks for letting me share. Tesi Vaara

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