I have been continuing to slowly add bits and pieces to my tree ‘specimen’ book. You can see most of the ‘blank’ pages of the book in this post and some pages that have had ‘specimens’ added to them here.
This is definitely a ‘slow’ project that I am working on very intermittently. It’s been fun to pick it up again and just add a few things here and there without pressure to finish it or make it look perfect.
I added some more machine stitched moss to the first page and a definition of mossy.
On this page spread on the left, I had one of my plaster coated pages but it had cracked significantly. I need to get some gesso to paint over these pages but since I haven’t ordered it yet, I decided to try something different. I layered different colors of paint on the cracked surface. You can click on the photo to enlarge it. The page on the right is a torn piece from one of my small sketchbooks. It kind of reminds me of pine needles. It was originally screen printed and I added colored pencil to enhance the look of the pine needles. Torn and messy is the point of this book so I ripped the sketchbook page and glued it down to a lightly painted background page. You can see the dark edges of the next page which is next up.
The page on the right is an eco print on paper that my friend Paula created. She has a big stash of these papers and kindly let me use a few.
This is the back side of the eco print above. I cut a window out of the painted background so you could see more of the backside of the eco print. I added a machine stitched tea bag leaf as well. The right side is another plaster coated canvas pages that needs to be gessoed and then drawn or painted on.
This pine cone on the right was stenciled ages ago. I pushed some kind of thicker medium through the stencil to give a relief effect. It didn’t work all that well and got a bunch of bubbles in it. I painted it green at some point but didn’t like that either. I got it out of my paper stash and decided I needed to finish it. I added walnut ink, sepia marker and matte medium to get it to a point that I was satisfied with it looking like a pine cone. It also needed more strategic cutting out than I had done previously. I glued it down to the painted background letting a little bit of the pine cone stick out over the edge of the page. This is a testament to never giving up on a piece of artwork!
Next to the feathers that I had shown you in my last post, I glued another one of Paula’s eco prints down on to the dictionary page. I can’t decide if this page needs something else but I will just leave it for now. I do want to leave more simplified areas where the eye can rest.
This one on the right is the last page that I worked on this time. It was originally a deconstructed screen print on paper all in the brighter green. When I was looking through the book, this page caught my eye as I saw a leaf in the middle of the page. I used Inktense pencils and then water on a brush to make the darker leaf appear more strongly on the page. I hope you can tell I am having fun with this. It is a very freeing process not worrying about the final outcome.
My next step in finishing the driftwood piece was to create lichen. I had made lichen before from Tyvek but alas, I had none in my stash. So I looked for other materials that could be shaped with a wood burning tool and that would shrink and make interesting shapes with a heat gun.
What I found was a fusible lightweight Pellon interfacing and nylon organza. The interfacing does not need to be fusible to work, it’s just what I had on hand. I can’t remember why I bought it but hopefully, it would work so I wouldn’t have to buy anything else.
I painted the small pieces of interfacing and organza with a light layer of acrylic paint. As you can see here, the paint was not heavy and the shade of blue green was very light in value.
Next, I got out my wood burning tool and a piece of glass to burn on. I made random lichen shapes in the interfacing. I also did the same with the nylon organza. Once they were cut out, I held the small pieces with a pair of tweezers and used the heat gun to make them shrink up and get curly. I also added a bit of brown marker to the edges of the lichen as there are definitely brown bits on the real stuff.
Here’s the result. Yay, it looks like I wanted it to. Success. Now to add it and the dead teabag leaves to the mossy driftwood. I glued the lichen in place as it was mainly on the wood itself. I stitched the leaves down to the felt in a couple of places.
Here’s the result. You can click on the photo to enlarge it.
And the close up views. I’m happy with how it turned out and it was a really fun project.
The moss has been getting filled in by hand stitching and adding the machine stitched moss I created. I am trying to decide how much more hand stitched moss to add. I think it needs more “trailing” knots in the “bare” felted areas. But I also need to add lichen in places but I haven’t created the lichen yet. I’m thinking I will try Tyvek lichen.
The next step was to create dead, desiccated leaves. I found a tutorial for making them out of tea leaves on Youtube. I had made them out of Lutradur before but not tea bags so I thought I would give it a go. I drink tea every morning so I started saving the old tea bags for this project. In the video, she used some type of stabilizer but I decided to try without one. I layered two flattened tea bags together and just started free motion machine stitching the veins. As you can see, you don’t want to stitch the outer edge of the leaf as it looks more natural without it. Then I cut them to shape with scissors.
The next step was to burn the edges and the holes. I found it was easier to get a more natural look when I was looking at photos of dead leaves. That way the leaves don’t all turn out the same. I used a wood burning tool for this operation (the video uses an incense stick). Obviously, you need to be careful when you’re burning things and it is pretty stinky too, you need ventilation. So I took mine to the stove and turned on the overhead fan to draw away the fumes. Plus the stove top is heat proof and won’t be burned or damaged.
So here’s the full piece with the leaves just placed on it. I will be stitching them down at some point to hold them in place.
Here’s a couple of close ups. You can click on the photos for a bigger view. I am happy with the progress and it is definitely looking very “forest floor”.
About a month ago, I showed you my handmade book that I created at our annual art retreat. I have since then been slowly adding “stuff” to the book. The theme is the forest and I am having fun finding things to add to the book.
I had this photo of morning light on trees printed on fabric for my class homework but hadn’t used it. I decided to hand stitch it in place on this hand dyed page. I then glued a piece of handmade paper to the page spread and added a definition of woodlands scrap of paper that Paula gave me. She had a bunch of definitions printed out on “old paper” and she kindly gave me the ones relating to the forest. As you can probably tell, I am not starting on page one and working through the book. I am adding things randomly through the book depending on what the page looks like and what I think works best. This way, I’m not stressing about each page being wonderful. I just find something that I like and add it in. So these pages may have more things added as I go along or not.
Paula also had some “old” labels and I used the Specimen Book label on the inside cover. And then I took a small piece of machine stitched “moss” that I had made for my moss covered branch and glued it on to the first page.
The pages that have been covered with a mixture of plaster and gesso will all end up with some type of drawing or sketch. This Aspen tree sketch was done with a charcoal pencil and then I sprayed the page with a fixative so hopefully the charcoal won’t smear.
I collect a lot of “stuff” when I walk through the woods around my house. I have a lot of turkey feathers but they were a bit too big so I used these smaller orange veined feathers to weave into the page of hand made paper. I’m not sure what bird these are from but they are much more rare to find on the ground than the turkey feathers.
I wanted to try a photo transfer on some pages. I thought this would work on the regular paper of the old dictionary page. So I tried to transfer a photo of this painting that I did of a chickadee. The transfer did not work out so I ended up printing the chickadee on to regular copy paper, tearing it out and gluing it on to the page.
Here’s another attempt at a photo transfer on to a watercolor paper page. It worked slightly better but came out very lightly. I used a black marker to outline the Oregon grape leaf but decided to just leave the lighter colors as they were from the transfer. I am not trying for “perfection” in this book. It’s about collecting “stuff” about the forest in one book. The rocks on the page in the photo above are just there to hold the page in place so I could take a photo. But perhaps I need a sketch of the rocks added in? I’ll keep that in mind for another page idea.
I’m enjoying this process of working randomly in the book. It’s a storage vessel for all my forest “finds”.
I had hoped to show you my finished Glorious Devon picture this post, but I’m afraid I’m not quite there yet so – (in the well known phrase from the kids’ TV show, Blue Peter) Here’s one I made earlier!
Just before our pantomime, The Little Mermaid, went into the first dress rehearsal, the wardrobe mistress asked me if I would have time to make a finalé crown for Maris. Maris was the sister of Neptune and Aunt of Serina, the little mermaid. It is our invariable custom choose specific colours for all the finalé costumes and this year they were to be predominantly royal blue with silver touches and for Maris’ crown I was asked to think of the effect that water makes when something is dropped into it from a height.
I had a look at Google Images for inspiration and collected together my materials ready to make a start. These consisted of a stainless steel headband, an empty plastic milk bottle, an empty Johnson’s Baby Shampoo bottle (the colourless ones they used before they changed the colour of the shampoo and thence the bottles) some royal blue organza, pale blue organza with silver/pearl embellishments, some silver lacy type fabric and some white/iridescent beads on wires that I had salvaged from old Christmas decorations (on the assumption that I’d find a use for them some day). You can see these in the pictures below (with substitute shampoo bottle as I’d cut up the original one before I remembered to take the photo). In the end I did not use the white braid that you can also see.
My idea was to make a double splash – a tall centre splash and a shorter outer splash. (I am pretty sure that I was not going to fall foul of any copyright since I don’t think there’s any such thing as a double splash.)
I cut the outer splash from the plastic milk bottle, stapling the pieces together; and the taller one from the empty shampoo bottle. As the shampoo bottle was not cylindrical, but flattened, I heated the cut out piece with my hair dryer and squeezed it until it became more cylindrical. Then I glued some of the royal blue organza onto it. I found this took quite some time to dry and fix itself so, as time was short, I painted both sides of the shorter piece with royal blue acrylic paint.
To represent sprayed water drops, I added some of the salvaged Christmas decorations to the outer splash, having first extended them by twisting two wires together. I used some silver glitter glue on fine wires to make similar “water drops” for the inner splash and added those. I also glued some of the embellished organza onto the outside of the tall splash. Then I fixed it inside the outer splash and stapled them together at the base. After cutting two slits in the lower edges of the crown through which the headband would fit, I covered the base inside and out with some of the silver lace type fabric to cover the staples and soften the edges a bit. I cut out some of the “wave” shapes from this fabric and glued them onto the outer splash.
Finally, I slid the crown onto the headband and it was finished.
Unfortunately, when I photographed the finished crown against a dark blue background, the silver came out gold in the picture – no doubt a trick of the light. The second picture was taken against a white background and some of the silver drops appeared black.
The wardrobe mistress was pleased with the crown, as was I, but I think it would have been better to have been much larger. It was a bit too dainty to be seen from the back of the auditorium.
My local group had our annual retreat in early September. We go out to a lovely lodge on Little Bitterroot Lake and spend a couple of days creating and playing with art stuff. This photo is from sometime in the past. Sadly, this year, the air was full of smoke and you could barely see the mountains across the water. This year, our activities included deconstructed screen printing, making a book and creating some “faux” rice paper.
These are a few of the paper prints that I created. Deconstructed screen printing is done with a previously prepared screen in which the thickened dye has been left to dry. Then you use more thickened dye or plain print paste to release the dried dye from the screen. It is a serendipitous process and you are never sure what you will get in the final prints. I teach this process on felt in my online class.
I usually use fairly thick paper so that I can wash out the thickener that is left on the paper. That way I can do other processes on top of the paper without it running. These are similar to some of the papers that I used in my recent collage challenge.
One of the fun things about the paper is that you can end up using either side. The photo on the left shows the front side of the printed paper and the right photo is the back side.
Here are some of the fabric pieces that I printed. If you click on the individual photos, you can see what type of fabric I used. The little scraps on the top left photo are what was left over after I used a piece of printed hemp canvas for the cover of my book.
These prints are all on silk. The left side is silk habotai, the middle is silk organza and the right side photo is the silk organza layered over the habotai. You could print on many types of silk and this would be a great way to create your own fabric for using in nuno felting.
I will be using these for my upcoming classes that I am taking as backgrounds for stitching, in collages and wherever else suits my fancy.
Next time, I will show you the book that I created while at the retreat. It’s not entirely finished but you will be able to see the deconstructed screen printed canvas as the cover and a piece of printed paper as the inside covers.
My local group met before our summer break and tried some caustic lino block etching. I have wanted to try this technique for a while but hadn’t gotten my nerve up to be playing with caustic substances (100% lye). Then I found some instructions that seemed straightforward on this blog. (I am just giving the basics here, click on the link for the full instructions if you want to try it.) We followed the instructions, didn’t have any chemical disasters and etched our blocks.
I decided to do some small samples to test out the process before the group meeting. I already had some small lino blocks cut, I think these are about 3″ x 4″. I transferred the design with pencil and tracing paper, then painted on the resist area using Golden GAC 200 medium and let that dry.
Here’s the set up with the blocks in place. You can’t use anything plastic or the lye will eat it.
Here’s the mixture of lye and wheat paste that is applied to the lino blocks. The areas that are not covered with the GAC 200 resist will be etched away. The trial run, I left the lye in place for about two hours. Then the goop is cleaned up and the lino blocks cleaned with a toothbrush in soap and water. Then I used a standard blue ink pad to print these as I didn’t want to get out my full print making ink setup.
Here’s the resulting prints. Interesting, they look so different than the usual hand cut lino blocks. Once the group was here, we repeated the process and etched four more blocks that were 4″ x 6″.
Here’s Louise’s block on the left and the print on the right. I love the organic feel these prints have.
This is Paula’s block and resulting print.
Poppies for Sally in her block and print.
And mine is based on tree rings. I’m thinking about this as a theme for my upcoming art and design class.
I thought this process was relatively easy compared to carving a block and you can really get some fine details and a very different look than carving. I will definitely be doing more etching of lino blocks. Next I will have to try and print with these on felt and see how they come out.
Recently, we had our in person exhibition in La Conner, Washington for the class I have been participating in for nearly three years. Many of you don’t live close enough to attend but we are also having an online Meet the Artists event that anyone can attend.
You are Invited to an Online Exhibition and
Discussion with the Artists of the
Bachelor Buttons Level 3
Advanced Experimental Stitch Class
Join Tutors Gail Harker and Penny Peters at a free online venue
Tuesday July 19– 10:30 am – 12:30 pm PDT
If you would like to attend this free event, you do need to sign up in advance. You can sign up here:
Join us online (no fee) to view our Level 3 Advance Stitch student’sexhibition of creative stitched artwork.It will truly have you dreaming of wonderful possibilities there are for people just like you.
Each of our participating artists will have a chance to talk about their experience working through this coursework, in spite of pandemic conditions! There will be time for questions and answers with the artists.
This piece is large, somewhere in the 30″ length and 18-20″ width. This is the layout and I have sprinkled the cut up orange nuno felt over the base layer of green wool. I made sure that the orange bits were roughed up so they would stick down better.
Here is the piece after felting. I have pinned some larger poppies in the foreground made out of painted silk paper. I was distracted by the yellow in the direct center in the sky. I decided to add more yellow so that the one area wouldn’t stick out as much.
I needle felted some yellow across the left portion of the lower sky and a few wisps up higher. I also added some lighter/paler silk paper to the poppies as I felt they were too dark in the first try. Then I added some green locks to the foreground for foliage.
And here it is after finishing and “matting” on green fabric. Now Remembrance is ready to go the framer. Now I just have to find a new gallery to carry my work, easier said than done.
Recently, a local woman asked me to create a river view in felt for her. I created several watercolor sketches she could choose from so that we agreed on what the landscape would look like and what to include. The client lives on the Swan River here in Montana and decided she wanted a view similar to what she has behind her home.
After hand carding and blending colors, I started on the layout. I used a commercial prefelt background and mostly short fiber merino batts. Somehow, I wasn’t thinking correctly on shrinkage as I went with the idea that it would shrink 30%. But I forgot that I don’t normally full my wool paintings very hard as they don’t really need intense fulling.
I continued working down the picture laying out the distant trees, the river with the trees and mountains reflections and then into the foreground grass and lupines. At the same time I was laying out the big piece, I also laid out a smaller sample. That way I could try different options with final details and stitching. This shows the birch trees from silk paper that I was trying to decide upon. Luckily, I had made the birch tree silk paper several months ago at one of our local group meetings.
Here’s the small sample that I made. I tried the left tree trunk in prefelt and then used free motion machine stitching for the dark areas. The right tree trunk used silk paper which was painted for the dark areas. I also tried out some FME for the branches and the lupines. I didn’t feel that the FME was what I wanted for this piece and opted for the silk paper birch trunks. I had also used some brown/tan wool for the distant shoreline which was way too much if included in the original wet felting process. I ended up cutting out a portion of this sample so that the brown wool was showing much less. I then stitched the two pieces of the sample back together to give the feel of what I wanted in the large piece. This sample really saved me from making some big mistakes!
Here is what I had after wet felting. I had to full this piece very hard as the request was for a certain size. I don’t normally worry about size on my wet felted landscapes and I ended up cutting the edges because I had not figured the shrinkage correctly.
Next I started adding in needle felt details. I added more definition to the distant tress, added a shoreline and added some lines in the water to simulate movement.
Then I stitched some grass in the foreground and stitched down the silk paper tree trunks.
I continued on with details. I added some paint to the tree trunks, I couched down branches and added leaf details with needle felting. I added hand stitching in front of the trunks and some leaf details for the lupine.
Here’s a close up so you can see a bit of the detail in the foreground.
Then I found I already had enough green fabric that worked to finish the piece. My client is getting it framed with barn wood, so this is how I delivered the piece. And the wonderful thing is that she loved it. I’m so happy it worked out the way that she wanted.
Recently we have acquired a new bookcase for our living room. It was actually made to fit in the space between the front wall and the door of the room. However it has a sort of lip around the top, the corner of which was banged by the glass of the open door if we were not careful.
Obviously we needed something to stop the door before it fully opened. After some thought I decided that it needed to be tall (so that we didn’t have to bend down too far to move it – the floor gets further away the older you get), but it needed to be thin too otherwise the door wouldn’t open far enough to let one of us safely into the room, especially with drinks in hand.
I wanted it to go with the colour of the carpet and I knew that I had somewhere in my stash a blue wool sweater that I had felted (on purpose) by putting it through the washing machine. I finally rooted it out and decided that I would use one of the sleeves, which had a pattern knitted into it.
Initially I thought that I would make a tall thin pyramid shape to fit in the gap between the side of the book case and the door. I sewed up the cuff of the sleeve and, to make sure it didn’t keep falling over, I begged a piece of flat lead sheet from my husband which I fitted into the bottom of the stuffed sleeve, and then sewed up what had been the shoulder to make the base.
Well it was ok, but I thought it needed a bit more interest and decided to turn the door stop into a cat.
Out came the felting needles and my scoured merino, which I use as core fibres. Then for the “top coat” I sorted through the blues in my stash – normally jealously guarded because I don’t have a lot now as I use them for sky in my pictures – and found some which almost matched the main blue of the sleeve. Obviously he wasn’t going to be a realistic cat so I tried to “cartoonise” his features, and rather than give him needle felted eyes as I might normally do I fished out some bright orange glass eyes from another stash which would go well with his dark blue face. I used some of the blue to make a wet felt sheet, out of which I cut his ears.
Having made his head, I attached it to the tall thin pyramid. It’s sewn as well as needled on, but even so I was concerned that if he was picked up by his head it might come off. I made a piece of blue cord and attached that as a loop behind his head so that he might be moved safely. And here we have him.
Not long after this, we acquired a new pinky-grey bathroom carpet and also new pink and grey towels to replace very tired old red ones. Until then we had been using the bathroom scales as a door stop – that door will slam very hard if the wind gets up when the window is open. So now I decided that we would need another door cat.
When we got the new carpet we did not change the basic colour scheme as we didn’t want the hassle of changing the suite (vintage Pampas) or the tiles. The colour scheme is essentially derived from the tiles, which are pink and grey with some crimson detailing. Originally we had a red-ish carpet and red and dark grey towels, but when I bought those towels I could not get a bath mat to match, so I made one by stitching two red hand towels back to back.
As the new carpet shed fibres quite a lot to begin with I thought of making the new door cat out of that fibre, but after a little more thought I realised that that would not be a good idea. We would keep falling over a camouflaged cat in the gloom of a late night visit!
So I thought I might find another felted sleeve, but couldn’t come up with something the right colour. Then, because we still had touches of red in the room, I decided that I would deconstruct the old red bath mat and use one of the pieces for the cat’s body. I had already given away the rest of the old towels to my friend for her dogs.
I felt that a “loaf cat” pose would be best, less likely to tip over if the wind caught the door, but I’d need too much lead sheet to make it a suitable weight. So I visited the garden and found a triangular(ish) shaped piece of rock, washed it and wrapped it in a couple of layers of non-woven cotton towels, secured with masking (painter’s) tape. I made myself a paper pattern of the body and cut out two body sides and a gusset for the base and chest. I cut out the pattern pieces from the towel and stitched it all up (first inserting the wrapped rock and stuffing it with polyester stuffing.
I had seen a cartoon of a smiling cat, which had enormous ears, which looked really cheeky. I thought I’d have a go at making one like that. I started with the core fibre again and got the head substantially how I’d like it and then thought about fibres for the coating.
I did not have exactly the right red, so had to blend a couple of pieces of pre-dyed merino tops which seemed to work ok. I did the same to make a pinky-grey blend for the chest, face and inside of the ears. I had decided that I would make the cat’s chest a similar colour to the carpet which meant that I had to make a wet felted sheet of the pinky-grey batt to cover the original red towelling. I cut the felt into the shape of the chest gusset, leaving enough for a pair of large ears.
I needled some of the red onto the back of the ears, and this resulted in a darker pink on the inside where the needles had pushed fibres right through, which was actually a benefit I think. I needled the blended red on to the back of the cat’s head and neck, and the pinky-grey onto the face, attached the ears and gave him a darker pink nose. I “shadowed” the smile and blinking eyes and I also gave him some laughter lines.
Then I stitched the head onto the neck, and the chest piece over his front, catching in the head at the neck. I covered the join with more needled fibres and, using another piece of towel, attached a handle to the back of his neck so that he could be moved without his head coming off.
My husband has already named him Yoda. We each confessed the other day that we both chat to him (in fact I pick him up and cuddle him too – he just fits into one arm)
What about the poor tatty sheep at the beginning of this post? Well, many years ago now, when I was a fairly new needle felter, I decided that I’d like to make myself a door stop for my bedroom door. I had acquired from our Guild a Jacob fleece, which, as it turned out, was ideal for needle felting. It certainly wasn’t a lot of good for wet felting – it wouldn’t, whatever I did to it. I suppose I must have had an old ram’s coarse and kempy fleece palmed off on me, when I was too naïve to know what I was getting – no wonder it was cheap!
Anyway, I got a body shaped pebble out of the garden, and washed it, wrapped it in some of the un- wetfelted fleece and started in with a No.36 felting needle (I only had 36 triangle and 38 star needles in those days- oh and a No.19 which was so thick it wouldn’t really go through anything I had with any ease). I bust quite a few needles before the pebble was covered. I added a neck to one end and then decided that my sheep would need eyes and a pair of horns. At that time I did not know that Jacob sheep often have 4 horns and wear them as if they had put them on in a hurry in the morning whilst still half asleep!
I made the horns and eyeballs using pipe cleaners and white Fimo polymer clay, baked and painted with acrylic paints. At that stage in my career I had not thought of using PVA glue on needled fleece to make horns. I needled a head shape around the horns and eyes, and then attached it to the neck. It did not occur to me to strengthen the neck with the ends of the pipe cleaners, I had cut these short and just put the horns on either end, and did the same with the eyes.
Well it all worked and for years he sat by my door, getting moved when necessary with my foot. Now he’s a sad old thing, but being sentimental I can’t bear to get rid of him, even though he’s lost a horn and is definitely the worse for wear. Perhaps I’ll give him a “makeover” sometime.