Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Drifting Off

Every time I turn around I have a new art project to share with you guys, it's a wonder I even sleep.

Remember the little woven paintings I discussed last month? While I enjoyed making them and thought they were a good solution to my "what is fiber art?" question, I ultimately decided I needed to try something that fit in better with my current paintings.

A trip to Houston and all the galleries that I love there got me back to thinking about making puddles again, but this time I came up with a better idea, partially due to seeing the works of Paul Flemming and Harumi Shimazu.  With Paul's works, while hard to see in the photos, he creates little ceramic basins that he then fills with a colored resin.  As for Harumi, her installation of the wax petals and floating orbs really made me want to try similar.

Paul Flemmings

Harumi Shimazu

My recent paintings have been branded (by me...) as "Tide Pools", despite the fact that are representative of more than just floating forms in water.  To me, they are a representation of thoughts, ideas and memories and how we are always gaining new ones while old ones just sink and float away.  But that's a discussion for another day.  Where am I going with this?  Well I decided I needed to push the envelope for that show here in town and propose a small installation.

Trying to achieve the idea of water before seemed hard, as creating free form puddles wasn't working with any material I tried.  But seeing Paul Flemmings' works reminded me that I don't have to have free-flowing puddles.  They can be contained.  Well, one thing led to another and the next thing I knew I had this:

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present my first physical tide pool! Created using paper mache as a base and filled with a polyester (and really strong smelling) resin to represent the water, I think this could really be the installation step I've been needing.  While my other installations have been fun and simple, this really is unique and interesting.  

This project was a complete experiment for me.  While I have used paper mache before, this was a whole new realm of sculpture.  Building up the pool and filling it with resin got messy and smelly, not to mention expensive.  I wish I could have added more resin to fill it up, but I just couldn't afford it this time around.  Playing with the placement of the knitted forms within the pool was also an experience.   As usual for me, I left the whole thing white, so that I can shine colored lights on it and play around with the mood.  

Photographing these with random lights was so much fun.  I am sad to say, though, that the light is not this prominent in real life, or at least not in a daylight setting.  Can you imagine these at night?? 

The plan is to have this in a gallery setting, with more balls hanging from the ceiling at various heights to represent new forms falling in.  It was really hard to photograph that in my apartment, so I don't have that yet.  

I am really really proud of this and want to make more when my budget allows.  I really hope it gets into that fiber show!

I hope you all had a great week.  See you next time.  ;)


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Measuring Success

Well, I did it.  Last Friday I officially launched my hand-dyed yarn to the world...erm... local community.  

With 14 skeins total, I posted everything on Etsy and advertised to my local knitting groups, offering free shipping because I would deliver it the next time I saw them.   Let me just say, I love the community that I am a part of.

By the end of Monday night, I had sold all but 2 skeins! Which put me at enough revenue to order more yarn and do a second go. Of which I will of course be doing.  

I ended up with three colorways for my first run: "Mushroom Petal Bloom", "Fallen Moon Drops", and "Morning Garden Stream".  What I really enjoy about each of these is how they are all very different, yet would be perfect for a "fade" type project all together.

The yarn base itself is a gorgeous 2ply light fingering yarn, which dyes up really well.  As of right now I am using food dye and liquid watercolor.  I've had a lot of people question what I mean by liquid watercolor.  To clear the air, it's a dye based, highly concentrated painting material.  In the classroom we use it like regular watercolor, squirting it into a paint tray.  But I did some experimenting and it turns out you can use it like you would food dye to color yarn! I am loving the oranges and violets I am getting with it.

There has been some sceptism about using "safe" dye as opposed to acid dyes, most of which has been about fading.  I'm not sure if that's true or how it will all work out. I do know that I should switch over eventually, but my current situation doesn't really allow for it.  

What do you think? Would you buy yarn if it was made using something beside acid dyes?


I'll be dying up more soon and posting it on Etsy for the whole world, not just my local friends, so keep an eye out! Also I'll be vending at a small local fiber festival in November.  The East Texas Fiber Fest should be a good chance to get my toes wet.

One step closer to owning a yarn shop/art gallery!


Monday, July 31, 2017

July Projects

And here's August.  I say it every month and mean it every time: Where did the time go?  At this time next week I'll be in teacher in-service for another school year.  Really....

I wanted to just take a moment and discuss the things I've finished this month, which has been plenty despite how fast it went. 

On the knitting front, I have a couple projects off the needles. The first was "Gray Gardens", a cowl/shawl hybrid that I really enjoyed making and enjoy wearing.  The shape is nice because you get the drape of a cowl without having to deal with it falling off or trying to find a place for those ends.  My only complaint is that I wish I had bound it off looser, so the lace edging wouldn't curl in so much.

The other project off my needles for July is my pair of socks - "Striped Panda Socks" - with some left over panda sock yarn I dyed to stripe a bit.  I thought I would enjoy these more, but somewhere around sock two I got anxious.  So much that I ended up making the foot too long and binding off too loose.  Soooo instead of ripping out I tucked the toe in and sewed it.  That's how much I wanted to be done with these.  Can you even tell in the photo? (Hint, it's the sock on the right)

Probably the biggest accomplishment of the month is the completion of my latest oil painting, thus completing the series.  The "Glowing Tide Pool" Series is officially complete! And I love all three together so much.  The are definitely my strongest works to date and I plan to play with this concept more coming soon. 

PS: You can buy prints on my Etsy if you want!

And finally! I dyed more yarn this month and settled on a Launch Date for my yarn selling.  This Friday, August 4th, I will be officially listing my handpainted yarns on Etsy.  Word of warning though: It will only be available to those near me for the first weekend or so, so that I may give those who have been supporting me the most a first pick and so that I may hand deliver it.  Whatever is left after that launch will be made available to the whole internet community.  And after that I'll be dying more!
(2 of the 4 colorways I'll have)

Starting a small business has been an adventure so far, and based on reception among friends and followers, I can tell I'm in for a ride!


How was your July? Did anything exciting happen? Any great FOs?? Do share!


Monday, July 17, 2017

Fiber Art Defined

What is "Fiber Art" anyway? I'm sure we all have our own definition.  Those who do simple scarves with knitting or crochet could be considered fiber artists, but in the eyes of the "professionals", maybe they aren't as much.  And those professionals can be loosely defined as well, as people who choose to create something fancier, more unique or just plain crazy that one wouldn't be likely to wear to Walmart. 

A good definition of Fiber Art that I found is: 
"Fiber art refers to fine art whose material consists of natural or synthetic fiber and other components, such as fabric or yarn. It focuses on the materials and on the manual labor on the part of the artist as part of the works' significance, and prioritizes aesthetic value over utility."

Where am I going with this? Well, I've always considered myself a fiber artist, despite the fact that my paintings have no physical fiber in them.  It can be argued that my scarves, shawls, etc are all fiber art, but I wouldn't put those in a gallery show.  My paintings, however, depict images of knitted forms and are created by looking at a still life created from the actual knitted forms, so shouldn't they be fiber art?  

I've never really worried about this until now, and I haven't had much opportunity to display my works in a fiber art show.  But as of late it's been on my mind a lot, as a local gallery in town is hosting a juried fiber show and, to quote a good friend, "A fiber art show in Downtown Bryan without Lisa Urban in it is just wrong".  

I've experimented a lot the past few months with what I want to do to enter this show, as my normal oil paintings just won't cut it. I've tried attaching knitted thread to create "clouds" on top of my paintings.  I've tried physically knitting a panel and oil painting on it.  I've tried sewing threads in certain spots of a painting.  None are convincing enough for me.  I was about to give up when I had the honor to teaching a "kids fiber arts" camp a couple weeks back.  Teaching the kids some techniques gave me an idea.

I was teaching the kids to weave one day on small, cardboard looms and the next thing I knew I was joining in on my own little wooden one.  Using handspun yarn scraps, I created a few small coasters. I got to thinking that they'd be cool to sell at the shop I work in, and considered making more.

But then something clicked and I realized I had a solution to my fiber art problem.

Little woven canvases! I have a ton of this old rug warp and linen yarn that a friend gave me.  I never thought I'd use it, in fact I debated donating it or selling it at one point.  I'm so glad I didn't!

Using scrap sock yarn as the warp, I'm weaving with the linen (I think it's linen) yarn to create little squares on my little wooden loom. 

Once the squares are created, the ends are woven in and a small coat of primer is applied to the front side.  I am then using gouache to paint a small version of my knitted landscapes directly onto the surface.  the result is a surreal, woven painting.  I showed this to several people and they all agreed this is a clever, cute way to create 'fiber art' that is unique to me. 

The four blank ones above are going to be my next ones, with the color scheme of the painting matching the yarn I used to warp.  The final projects are then mounted on a black square of mat board and placed in a simple frame.   Along with the local show, there are a few other shows I think I may enter if I can pull this idea off.

What do you think? What is fiber art to you? How fun is this idea? 


Monday, July 3, 2017

New Designs

I hope you all are having a fabulous summer.  It's hard to believe that it's already half over - my school job starts back up August 1!

I'm really excited to share my latest FO with you all, as it is something that I've been working really hard to perfect the last few months.

"Morning Garden Stream", which is named after the painting and yarn used, is a fun shawl that I have been working on designing since May.  Using the handdyed yarn that I matched with my painting, the idea was to recreate the painting in knitted form.  

The shawl features an asymmetrical design created by strategic increase placement to create four wedges. The body of the design features triangular bands of seed stitch, openwork and a band of blue at the bottom, all of which were added to emulate the colors and textures found within the original painting.

You've have probably all seen this painting a million times by now, but I wanted to share it once again just as a reference point for the design.

It was a fun little knit.  I took notes the whole time and plan to type it up soon, so that I can release it along with the yarn when the time is right.  


If you're in the United States, I hope you are enjoying this holiday weekend - I know a lot of people have today off for Independence Day.  If you're out shooting fireworks, stay safe :)


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Summer of Art

Being out of school for a few months sure feels nice.  I've been able to travel a bit, get some major knitting done, and most importantly - make some new art!

I decided today's post is going to be about the art that I've been working on as of late, since it seems like it has been a while since I've shared anything from that side of my life.

First up is an oil painting I finished last week.  "Green Sea Tears" is the first in a series of at least three 20x16 paintings where the viewer is looking down and one of the forms is glowing.  I think I pulled it off well.  I do plan to make the next ones have a bit more of a glow to them. 

The second one has been started.  I have decided this series will have paintings that are all radically different in color from each other.  I haven't done a straight up orange painting in ages, so it's about time.  For this one the top right circle will be the glowing form - I just haven't added the yarn on top yet. 

Figure drawing group is every Wednesday night and I get to run it for my boss. It's given me a chance to really hone my drawing skills (and enter some shows - see here).  I really enjoy this style of layering all of the night's poses on the paper.  I just wish photographing drawings on white paper were easier.

Finally, a project I'm working on for my solo exhibition in September at the Village Cafe (pictured above).  As it will be my three year anniversary of moving to Texas I am going around and taking photos of places that have held significance to me during this time and then "yarn-bombing" them.  The cafe has this one wall that I plan to just plaster with these photos.  It's been fun so far!

Art is a thing that will never leave my life, no matter what form it decides to take.  I'm just too creative for my own good sometimes.  What about you? Do you ever create anything that isn't knitting? Any art happening? I'd love to hear!


PS: For anyone interested, I recently changed my artist website again. It's a lot cleaner and more  professional looking. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Mid June Updates

Well here we are, half way through the year.  Really, what is happening?

I didn't get a chance to blog last week because I was still on my iPad, and I don't enjoy trying to add photos and update from the iPad interface.  But never fear, my computer is back and I am happy to report I am back to blogging!

I figured the best post for today was a quick update on my WIPs for June.  

First up is my year of sock update.  Pair 6 took me a bit to get motivated to cast on, and as such I chose to do simple ankle socks.  I need more pairs of those anyway.  This pair is with some Panda sock yarn (Merino/Nylon/Bamboo blend) that I dyed back when I was starting out on my dye adventures.  I decided I didn't like the heathered, pale look for what I wanted, but the minis I practiced on are the perfect size for my socks.  So I've been striping the four balls to make "rainbow panda socks".  I love how this yarn knits up.

On the discussion of my dye experiments, the shawl I am designing for "Morning Garden Stream" is coming along nicely.  Asymmetrical with bits of seed and openwork to emulate the overall painting's theme, it will be ended with a band of dark blue to further represent the original inspiration.  I cannot wait to finish this up :) 

After finishing my first crochet tank, I decided to cast on another with Berocco Cotton Twist, which is discontinued.  Turns out I don't have enough of the yarn to finish the back side, so this has been sitting by my chair untouched for about a month.  I finally got on Ravelry and contacted someone selling some, so hopefully it will be done soon.  I do like crochet tanks for summer, I just need to finish this one up before moving on. 


What are you working on? Anything exciting? I've had a lot of free time lately with school out, and it's allowing me time to really get creative.  Hopefully the summer won't fly by!


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Dye Pot [Attempt Three]

I'm updating from my iPad today, as my computer Is in the shop due to a stupid move on my part.  I just couldn't miss a week blogging when I've been so good this year. So please ignore any typos and the non-formatted images. 

I've been dying again. This time the focus is on "Fallen Moon Drops", a painting from 2014. I love the violets and knew this would be a good seller when the time came.  

I've tested it before and had very little luck with the violets and blues. As this painting was sold I haven't actually seen in person for awhile and for some crazy reason thought there was more teal in it, even tho the above photo is very accurate. Luckily I borrowed the painting back and finally figured out the colors. 

Using a beautiful violet watercolor paired with a fuscia watercolor and a sky blue food coloring (NOT TEAL!)  I did a couple of practice mini skeins yesterday. To my delight both turns out nice. 

The one on the left is a closer match, as the one on the right still has too much yellow. I'm thinking g the the yellow will really just have to be small drops of I don't want it taking over. But I love my blues and purples. And is r it crazy how the way you twist a skein can really affect the impact? I love how the skei stripes on the right just because of how I twisted it. 

I Am also working on a shawl design for the color way I have figured out. "Morning garden stream". It's asymmetrical and has some fun stitch variation. I can't wait to ha e it done and ready to send to testers. 


Summer is here so Im hoping to get lots of progress I. On this dye endeavor, plus lots of knitting and painting. Anyone have any fun plans? 


Monday, May 22, 2017

Scrap Happy

Well I have a week of school left.  Not even that actually, one full day and three half days.  How crazy is that? It seems like I just started and now it's the end of May.  Should I be ashamed to say that I spent a good portion of my last period today looking up the patterns below? 

It being the end of May, I wanted to talk about this month's socks, which have been oh so much fun to work on this month.  So much that they are influencing the entire topic of this post and possibly a summer project for me. 

For May I decided to make a pair of "Spring Cleaning" socks, utilizing small bits of sock yarn from previous socks and shawls.  I'm using the Vanilla Latte Pattern to add a small amount of interest and it's been so much fun reaching in my bag and randomly picking a color.

Sadly, I have barely scratched the surface on my sock scrap collection, if you want to even call them scraps.  Look below and see for yourself.  Practically every color I have has slightly under half a skein left.  I must have small feet, because I usually make pretty tall cuffs.  How is this possible? Will this yarn EVER disappear?

While the scrap socks have been fun playing with complete randomness, as I look at this photo I am noticing a lot of colors that are very similar.  So much in fact that I could very easily make something that transitions between them all.  And as such, the pattern hunting has begun for a summer project using scraps!

Photo (c) Jenn Wolfe Kaiser

My first choice is, oddly enough, a crochet pattern.  I don't know, but lately I've been on a crochet kick.  And what better way to use my scraps and feed my kick (is that a thing) then the Spill Shawl by Jenn Wolfe Kaiser.  It's meant for gradiated yarns, but I could pull off the transitions pretty easily.

Photo (c) Alex Tinsley

The Bad Oyster Shawl has been on my mind again also - I made three of them already a while back - and it would be so fun to use random stripes and create a fringe, right?

Photo (c) Outland (on Ravlery)

\Dreambird is on my mind also, as I have a good amount of black sock yarn I could use and do each wing with a different sock yarn.  Again, how fun would that be?!

Photo (c) Mysistersknitter

And then there's always the influence of the knitting community that pulls me in too.  For example, the Patchwork Blanket by my blogging friend Andi has me drooling every time she shares photos.  Who wouldn't want one of these?  But I have a feeling that if I started one it would NEVER get finished!

What do you think? I am very heavily leaning towards the Spill Shawl right now, because I really want to test my crochet skills.  Plus I like the shape a lot.  

My next post will be on the first official day of summer vacation.  Crazy right?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Time Flies...

... when you're having fun.  And fun we have had! Eighteen years of it.  What am I talking about? Well this past weekend I made a quickie trip home to Kansas for a very momentous event - my baby sister's high school graduation.

Eighteen years ago my little sister, Miranda, came into the world, and it has been a journey ever since.  Some days we'd do nothing but fight, other days we'd love each other to no end.  But regardless, we have always had each other's back.  Watching her walk the stage on Sunday as she enters a new phase of her life was definitely a bit surreal. 

She has accomplished so much in the last four years of High School, including major roles in several plays, school honor rolls, being a part of the top choir group and being the leader for her school's marching band. 

This fall she will be attending my alma mater, Kansas State University, to major in Music Education, with hopes to go on and get a higher degree and work at a university level someday.  I have no doubts that she can pull that off - she is a PHENOMENAL french horn player. 

Between me, my brother and her, we've sure made our parents proud.  It's hard to believe that life is going by so fast. 

I mean, it's going REALLY fast!


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Dye Pot [Attempt Two]

I told myself when I started this blog back up again in January that I would post every week on Monday or Tuesday without fail.  I almost forgot this week, which is sad because the post is so exciting! Luckily I decided to sit down and whip it out really quick for everyone to read.

I'm back in the dye studio (AKA My kitchen) this week with some really exciting news!

Remember these? My idea to dye yarn based on my paintings? Well I am not giving up! I was able to get a cone of my yarn - light fingering, sw merino - and got five 450 yard skeins (with 330 yards left for a smaller skein).  I dyed up three a few weeks ago in the first two and the last one above.  The first colorway - Morning Garden Stream - turned out perfect, the other two were close but not quite there.

The pink/green has too much color variation and the teal has a purple that is too neon to match that painting.  Regardless, my LYS Ladies loved them all.

So I took the last two and half skeins this past week and focused mainly on the colorway I knew I could replicate.  Attempting to do two full skeins of the same colorway was a bit scary at first, but I knew it needed to be done if I ever want to scale.

With the other "half" skein I decided to play with the teal color.  I've decided that those two are going to be my main focus going forward.  Let me just say, getting the perfect purple with food dyes and watercolor is becoming difficult.  I think I finally got it with a mixture of grape koolaid and violet watercolor.  

The results are above, taken badly on my phone camera.  The two gold skeins turned out perfect! I am so excited that this colorway is working.  The teal one is getting closer, but I put too much gold in this skein to truly match the painting.  Next time. 

I went ahead and printed some bands and skeined it up, just to show how it will look all ready to sell.  I plan to get the ball bands printed better than the ones above - my printer was low on ink - but you get the idea. 


I am so excited! I need another cone, or two, or five, to really get going on this, but I honestly think I have a thing going for the summer :)