Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Bonnie & Clyde

“Bonnie & Clyde” by Susan Brubaker Knapp (2012)
After International Quilt Festival in Houston this fall, Alex Anderson (of contacted me to ask if I'd consider doing a commission piece for her. She’d seen my piece, “Maximum Cat Nap,” and wanted a portrait of her son-in-law’s cats, Bonnie and Clyde) to give him for Christmas. I said yes, and she sent me this photo of them. It was perfect; well lit, with lots of detail.

But the background was a bit dull, with a few distracting elements. Alex said she thought that one of her quilts would make a better background, and I agreed. This is her quilt, Chopsticks:

I started by painting in the black:

And then the eyes and some of the rusty brown, and the pink noses:

 Then the tan:

And then the background, Alex’s quilt. Here is the piece with the painting finished, before thread sketching. It is a bit light compared to the photo of the cats; I knew I had to leave it this way, since the thread would add a lot of texture and color:

Here are some detail shots of the thread sketched and quilted finished piece. Some of these photos were taken under different light sources, which is why some look cool and some warm.

I hope he likes it. I managed to get it to Alex by Christmas Eve, but just barely!

Here are questions to commonly asked questions about my wholecloth painted pieces:

What fabric do you use? Either Pimatex PFD (prepared for dyeing) by Robert Kaufman, or Dyer’s Muslin (MDYE) by P&B Fabrics.

How do you transfer the design? I start by tracing the main lines in the image from an 8x10" photo on tracing paper. I enlarge this traced drawing to the size I want in PhotoShop, import it into InDesign, then print it out in tiles on my computer and tape them together to get a full-sized pattern. (You can also take your traced drawing to an office supply place and have them blow it up.) I position this under the fabric and start painting. I can see the lines through the fabric, so they provide rough guidelines for me. 

What paints do you use? I like PROChemical & Dye’s ProFab Transparent Paint. If you  are interested in trying them out, you could start with this set. I will be offering kits of these paints on my website starting next year. 

What brushes do you use? I use brushes with very stiff, short bristles by Lowe-Cornell.  I will also be offering these brushes on my website starting next year. 

What thread do you use? For thread sketching, I always use Aurifil Cotton Mako 50 weight, which is a very fine cotton thread with a lot of sheen. I also used the 50 weight to quilt this piece; sometimes I use 40 weight or heavier.

Can you teach this to my quilting group? Yes! I have several wholecloth painting and thread sketching classes. You can read more about them here. I am booked up for 2013, and starting to book 2014 and 2015. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Snowflake #3

Here is Snowflake #3!  The basic tutorial, which shows you how to fold the paper into sixths, is here.

Friday, December 7, 2012

2013 Once In a Blue Moon Fiber Art Retreat

Drumroll, please! I am pleased to announce that my 2013 retreat will be held at an exciting new location in Blowing Rock, NC. And Ive asked a friend and truly fabulous teacher, Lyric Kinard, to join me! Lyric Kinard was named the 2011 Teacher of the Year by the International Association of Professional Quilters (IAPQ). She is author of Art+Quilt: Design Principles and Creativity Exercises, and has created two DVDs (on beading and surface design).

The retreat will be held Nov. 13-16 at Meadowbrook Inn & Suites on Main Street in Blowing Rock. This is a wonderful town, full of fun shops and wonderful restaurants, and surrounded by natural beauty of North Carolinas Blue Ridge Mountains.

Susan and Lyric

Lyric and I will be offering two full days of classes, plus a half day on Nov. 13 for early arrivals. Subjects include wholecloth painting, surface design, elements of art for quilters, thread sketching, funky embroidery, and beading. You can sign up to take both of your classes with me, both with Lyric, or one day with each of us. Each class is limited to 25 students to ensure that everyone gets enough individual instruction. 

The base fee for the two full-day classes is $240. There are kit fees for some classes. Registrants choose their own accommodations and meals. We have reserved a block of rooms at Meadowbrook at a reduced rate (see retreat flier for details). And there are many wonderful restaurants within walking distance of the conference site.
Meadowbrook Inn & Suites in Blowing Rock, NC
My friend and conference facilitator extraordinaire, Joyce Mullis, is handling registrations and most of the organizational details. 

 You can download the flier – which contains detailed information and pricing — and the registration form by clicking here. We hope we will mark your calendar and make plans to join us!  


Choose one three-hour class (these are optional add-on classes are not included in the base fee):
Free-style Embroidery Apron (with Susan)
Stitch up a funky art apron using Susan’s designs and colorful perle cotton. You’ll start with a flirty hand-painted canvas apron, and embellish it, using simple embroidery stitches. A relaxing, no-stress class.  Class price: $55 (includes kit fee)

– OR –

Bead It Like You Mean It (with Lyric)
Come learn the basics of beading and create a fun little art quilt. You will learn techniques for adding beads of all shapes and sizes to your quilts and wearable art, easily and after you are done quilting. Here’s the prize: no knots or mess on the back! Learn to embellish in a way that adds to the overall design instead of looking like an afterthought. Class price: $55 (includes kit fee)

Choose one six-hour class: 
Wholecloth Painting: Botanicals (with Susan)
Learn the basics of creating wholecloth painted quilts based on photos. Choose from the four projects shown above, and work from line drawings and photos to recreate the image using acrylic textile paints. You’ll learn how to: select the right photos for great results; choose paints and fabrics to use; transfer your design to fabric; mix and blend paints for a range of values. We will also discuss how to thread sketch, quilt and finish your piece. Supply fee includes paints, brushes and fabric. $25 supply fee

– OR

Surface Design Sampler Platter (with Lyric)
Can’t choose which surface design technique you want most to learn? Try a taste of each! Make a small art quilt or bookcover while playing with paint, foil, photo transfer, screen printing and stamp carving, and beading. Techniques include printing and stenciling, stamp carving, screen printing, foiling, photo transfer. The supply fee includes everything you’ll need except scissors and an X-Acto knife. Lyric will have extra supplies available for purchase in class. $35 supply fee

Choose one six-hour class: 

Elements of Art for Quilters (with Lyric)
Kick-start your creativity and learn about the basic elements of good design. Learn why some colors fizz while others explode, why some quilts calm and some excite. A few simple tools from the artist’s kit will help you take your work, whether traditional or contemporary, to the next level. Students will discuss some of the basic principles of design, including focal point, line, texture, color, shape and motion. Quick, hands-on exercises will help you understand and implement these principles in your own artwork. No supply fee.

– OR

Threadsketching: Snowflakes (with Susan)
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! Whip up your very own flurry in this class, using thread, fabric and a tiny bit of paint. You’ll learn the basics of how to thread sketch, using Susan’s patterns for gorgeous, realistic looking snowflakes. Learn how to trace the design onto your background fabric, stabilize your piece to avoid draw-up, regulate your stitch for perfect tension, and improve your control while stitching. We will also cover free-motion quilting ideas for this piece, and discuss finishing techniques. $3 supply fee.

Detailed supply lists will be available in summer 2013. You can download the retreat flier and registration form
by clicking here.

Snowflake #2

Here is a pattern for Snowflake #2! The basic tutorial, which shows you how to fold the paper into sixths, is here.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Snowflake #1

After posting my tutorial for making paper snowflakes last night, I thought you might like some “patterns” for them. This way, you can see how different cuts turn out when you open them up. I’ll try to post them as I make them over the next few weeks.

The basic tutorial, which shows you how to fold the paper into sixths, is here.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Paper snowflakes, revisited

Note: This post is a mashup of several posts on making paper snowflakes that I’ve done in the past few winters. I’ve been so busy this year that I haven’t had time to make any yet! Perhaps I will have done this by Christmas; I’ll post photos if/when I do!

I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pa., where there never seemed to be a shortage of snow by Christmas time, but here in North Carolina, we haven't had a decent snowfall in years. Gosh, I'm tired of dragging my kids around on their sled in the mud and about 1/4 inch of snow! So my daughters and I decided to make our own blizzard this weekend – with paper snowflakes.

We stuck them up on our front window using double-sided tape and now we feel frosty even when the thermometer is not!

Here are my directions for making them:

Start with a piece of white paper, the thinner the better. Fold up one end so that the edges meet along one side and you have a nice point at the corner. Crease very well with your fingernail. (Sharp creases and precise folds are the keys to making nice snowflakes.)

Trim the excess paper so you have a triangle (a square if you open it up).

Fold the triangle in half again and position your new triangle with the longest side down, so it looks like a little mountain, like this:

Here's the trickiest part. You now have to fold this triangle into thirds. Start on one side and give it your best guess. Fold it gently, without creasing, because you will probably have to adjust it a bit before you get it right. (Don't worry, you'll get the hang of this after you've done a few snowflakes.)

Now fold in from the other side. Inspect it from both sides. You should have it folded into thirds. If not, go back and adjust it. Then crease well. Make sure the point at the top is sharp and precise.

Here's how it looks from the other side (I think it resembles a rocketship):

Trim off the "tails" (or the flames, if you are envisioning a rocketship) so that you have just a triangle again.

If you open it halfway up, you can see how it is folded into thirds (sixths if you open it all the way up):

Now, cut your design. Use the sharpest paper scissors you have. You can also use hole punches to punch circles in the interior. Remember that the shapes you cut into the folded sides will be doubled (a semicircle becomes a whole circle). You can cut smooth curves, or sharp angles. Have fun and experiment. Here's my design:

And here's the most fun part! Unfold your snowflake and enjoy. Don't you feel the chill in the air?

You can do this activity with fairly young children. With little kids, who sometimes have a hard time cutting through all the layers, have them draw the design in pencil, and then an adult can cut it out, and the child can unfold it.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Art of the Title exhibition

I am pleased to announce that “Hope is the Thing” is featured in Studio Art Quilt Associate’s (SAQA’s) online exhibition called “Art of the Title,” curated by Kathie R. Kerler. The exhibition celebrates works with “a well-chosen title that lends a new or additional layer of meaning.” Please check out the exhibition by clicking here.

Here is my statement about the piece, and how it was named:
On the morning of January 26, 2011, I started painting "Hope is the Thing" and was working on it when I got the call from my father that my mother had died in her sleep. She had not been ill, and her death came suddenly, of cardiac arrest, at age 74. My mother and I were very close. She was a traditional quilter and was a bit puzzled by the whole art quilt thing, but she was very proud of what I had accomplished, and was my biggest fan and supporter. I was in shock, and paralyzed with grief. But I had a deadline – I was making it for "The Space Between" exhibition – and as a journalist, I always met my deadlines! And so I had to start painting and stitching again. Through the winter of 2011, I worked on this piece with her constantly in my thoughts, and it became a deeply meaningful and spiritual piece for me, imbued with joy, sadness, grief, and love. I credit it with helping me come out of my funk and get working again.

The name comes from an Emily Dickinson poem that was one of my mother's favorites:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.
I chose the name because it expresses to me how hope can sustain us in the most desperate and challenging of times, how it comes unbidden and without asking for it, to force our chins up and our feet forward.