Hello, Spoonflower!

pinwheel flower fabric samples hanging

I know. I left you hanging in my last post. Possibly even consumed with suspense. I promised to explain how this embroidery project led me to a totally different creative venture. And now, here I am, ready to divulge.

It started with Spoonflower. Do you know this custom printing website? If not, you are in for a treat. Any user can upload their own work and have it printed on a variety of fabric, wall paper, or gift wrap. Even better, anyone can browse and shop from thousands of independent, user-created designs. If you like surface design and/or textiles, Spoonflower is pure enchantment.

lattice embroidery

After dreaming, clicking and generally wasting time on Spoonflower for years, I knew a lining fabric for this embroidery was the excuse I needed to attempt fabric design. I had a definite vision for the lining fabric – delicate aqua-colored pinwheel-shaped flowers on a white background, almost an inverse of the embroidered design on the outside.

I borrowed a few books on fabric design from my local public library, painted several designs with watercolors on paper, and got to work.

watercolor fabric designs

I used photoshop to clean up my artwork and turn it into a repeating design. (A Field Guide to Fabric Design by Kimberly Kight offers an excellent tutorial on how to turn a design into a repeat, by hand or with phtoshop.) It took some time to clean up the design, orchestrate the repeat and generally fiddle around with all the details, and in the process, I gained a new appreciation for photoshop.

pinwheel flower fabric samples 1

Once I uploaded my designs onto to Spoonflower, I adjusted the scale, and then I ordered test swatches. (I chose to print on the cotton poplin fabric.) There they are, freshly laundered and pressed. Now, I just need to choose which design I will use as lining fabric for my embroidery project. For now, I’m leaning towards the scattered, random flowers, though I’d love to hear your opinions.

In the weeks since, I’ve been tinkering with my Spoonflower shop interface where all these designs are now available for anyone to order. Please go visit – I haven’t had many visitors! I’ve also been working on a few unrelated designs. To keep up the suspense, I will tell you about those designs another time.

P.S. Spoonflower also offers a color changing feature, where you can alter the color ways of a design. Of course, I had to try it! The result: a few designs originally rendered in shades of aqua, now in shades of periwinkle. In truth, I am happier with the designs in their original color. To alter the colors, I had to reduce the number of shades. Since the charm of the watercolor depends in a large part on the subtle variations of color and shade, I found these version a bit boring. But still, It was a fun exercise.

periwinkle pinwheel flower samples

White line print: succulent

making a white line print

When I posted a white line print a few weeks ago and mentioned that I was super-excited about my next printing project, I wasn’t kidding. Here it is – a more detailed close up of a succulent.

close up succulent print

This time, rather than work form one of my own instagram photos this time, I scrolled through the many amazing succulent photos on instagram (hashtags: #succulentlove, #putasucculentonit) and fell in love with a beautiful photo by holly, whose instagram feed is jam-packed with stunning photos of succulents.

I’m really loving making these white line prints and feel like my mind is crackling with ideas for designs. Assuming I can keep up the momentum, there will be more to come!

white line print succulent

New white line print: Succulent garden

white line print and block I’ve just finished a new white line print and I feel like I’m finally starting to get the hang of thie printing technique. I posted last summer about taking a white line printing class. Since then, I’ve been dabbling away at printing, but my efforts have been invigorated by joining a white line print maker’s group organized by Amy McGregor-Radin and my summer instructor, Lisa Houck. I am thrilled and grateful to be a part of this wonderful group of makers and artists. For my latest print, I went to my favorite iphone app, instagram, for inspiration. (If you’ve been reading this blog for long you know that I love instagram in a way that borders on unhealthy.) I picked a photo of my succulent planter. IMG_0711 Looking back at the photo now, after spending so much time working on its facsimilie, I feel both surprised and a little disappointed. I had thought it a better photo the first time around. white line print - succulent 1 I won’t go into details of the printing process, since (1) I am hardly an expert (2) I’ve already posted a rough outline of the process here and (3) I am already thinking ahead to the next one. While I love the soft washes of color, I’m already planning what to do differently for my next print. But that’s the creative process, isn’t it?! Always thinking, planning, making, and moving on.

Printing Project: Soap Bubbles

IMG_2979

I was thinking about bubbles a lot this past summer. In addition to blowing colored bubbles with my kids, I also made a bubble inspired silkscreen.

EZ print bubblesFor the first time, I used an EZ print screen. It certainly was quicker, lighter, and easier to manouever than the wood framed screens I’ve tried in the past, though I think I managed to scrub mine too hard in between printings and destroyed the screen. Somehow it seems fitting that a screen of something so ephemeral as soap bubbles should be short lived itself.

printed bubble towel

Once again, I printed on small hand/ kitchen towels, though I used cotton, rather than linen this time. I felt like soap bubbles print needed to be printed on something more utilitarian, something that could be used in a kitchen.

soap bubble tea towel

I wrapped a few up for my little sister for her birthday. The rest are wrapped up to be presented as a hostess gift this weekend, and so as I really, finally say good bye to summer, I say good bye to the last remnants of this bubbly summer project.

wrapped soap bubble towels

Folly Cove Designers and the Sarah Elizabeth Shop

folly cove solomon's seal
Solomon Seal by Margaret Nelson. From the Cape Ann Museum.

One of the places I had planned to visit during my month on Boston’s north shore was the Cape Ann Museum. The Cape Ann Museum holds the largest collection of work by the Folly Cove Designers, a group of local designer-artisans who produced stunning lino-cut block prints from 1938-1969.

Round Robin by Eleanor Curtis
Round Robin by Eleanor Curtis. From the Cape Ann Museum.

Led by children’s book author and illustrator, Virginia Lee Burton, the Folly Cove designers printed and sold many household textiles like placements, table runners, and napkins. Originals have become quite collectible.

NattiLK_gulls.jpg.500x310_q85
Gulls by Lee Kingman Natti. From the Cape Ann Museum.

The Folly Cove designers’ work is vibrant and dynamic and filled with inspiration from local nature – New England plants, birds,  lighthouses, and fishermen. The balance of design and detail is mesmersizing.

Conventional Flower by Louise Kenyon. From the Cape Ann Museum.
Conventional Flower by Louise Kenyon. From the Cape Ann Museum.

When I showed up at the Cape Ann Museum, only to discover it closed for renovation until late August, I was disappointed to say the least. But lucky for me, I came across the Sarah Elizabeth Shop, in nearby Rockport.

Sarah Elizabeth Shop 3

The Sarah Elizabeth Shop is the inheritor of the Folly Cove Designers. It was founded in the early 1970’s by Sarah Elizabeth Halloran, a long time member of the Folly Cove Designers guild, and has been passed down twice, first to Isabel Natti, and later to the current proprieter, Julia Garrison who continues to print and sell Folly Cove, Halloran’s, Natti’s, and her own designs. (You can read a more complete history of the store on the website.)
Sarah Elizabeth Shop 2

It’s a charming shop packed with locally produced pillows, table runners, placements, cards, and more, all printed with original artwork, using the antique Acorn press used by the Folly Cove designers. Designs range from bold and playful nautical New England themes, to softer, more abstract repeating prints on natural linen.

Sarah Elizabeth shop printing blocks

What a thrill it was to peruse all these wonderful prints. What fun it as to see the linoleum blocks lined up along the wall. Of course I came home with more than a few.

from sarah eliz shop

If you’re far away and fear you’ll never make it near Rockport, Massachusetts, don’t fret! The Sarah Elizabeth shop also sells printed textiles via etsy. So no matter where you are, you can procure yourself a piece of New England art for the home.

How to use masking in fabric stamping

printed frens on tea towel

I’ve been printing again! It all started on a visit to my mother’s house in woodsy Maine where I caught site of a fern printed tea towel I made for her last summer. With a thrill of recognition, I thought, Hey that’s not quite so bad looking as I remember… I kind of even like it! So I decided to try it again.

hand carved fern stamp

I used stamps I carved from “speedy-carve” material last year, but I had to relearn how to use a technique called masking in order to create the look of overlapping leaves. This time, I took a few pictures to document the process and I’ll share a bit below. I learned mostly by watching about 1000 you tube videos – some good, some bad, but none standing out as exceptional. I also learned through a lot of trial an error.

First, I used ink pads and stamped out the design on paper to make a template for printing the entire design. I lightly spray glued this template to a piece of cardboard. Then, before laying the fabric over the template, I lightly spray glued it again and let it dry until it was tacky. I then smoothed the fabric out on top (see photo above). The template showed through the fabric, guiding me where to stamp in order to to replicate the design. Next, I stamped the “top” ferns on (see second photo above).

I made a paper to mask these “top” ferns by (1) stamping the design on paper again, and (2)  cutting around the stamp shape, cutting especially close where I knew the designs would touch. After cutting, I sprayed the paper lightly with a acrylic spray so it wouldn’t disintegrate with too many uses. After the “top” ferns dried, I placed the mask on top to prevent any new ink from landing on the areas that had already been stamped.

fabric stamping

Finally, I used the same stamp, this time inked in a slightly different shade of green, to stamp the “bottom” ferns on. Notice how the stamp lands partly on the masking paper, which blocks the areas that have already been printed. Also notice that I used painter’s tape to attach the blocking paper to the fabric – I don’t even remember doing that. Masking makes ferns appear to be overlapping without stamps being printed on top of one another.

hand stamped ferns

This time around, I’m thrilled by this little stampy project. Maybe its just that my learning curve was not quite as steep as it was last summer. Maybe being able to do it faster meant I didn’t get sick of looking at those ferny leaves. Maybe I’ve just learned no to focus so much on the flaws in my own work. Whatever the reason, it was a pleasure to revisit those ferns and think about those Maine woods.

ferns in maine woods

Beets, beets, and more beets

beet print
Print by Haley Polinsky – click to see etsy listing

It seems I am not the only person who uses beets as a motif/inspiration/subject matter. My recent etsy search revealed beet linocut prints (see above), beet napkins, beet notebooks, beet onsies, and even other beet inspired tea towels.

notebook by burdock and bramble - click to see their etsy shop
notebook by burdock and bramble – click to see etsy listing
root vegetable tea towel by Jenna Rose - click for etsy listing
root vegetable tea towel by Jenna Rose – click for etsy listing

Nor am I the only person who loves beets. Many thanks to all of you beet lovers and blog friends who left comments on and thus entered the drawing for last week’s beet tea towel giveaway. Its truly a delight to receive each comment – thank you, thank you, thank you! I hate having to choose only one winner! But I did (using a random number generator as in my last giveaway) and entry #6, Britt, is the winner! Congratulations, Britt, this little scrap of linen is coming your way.

beets tea towel

Printed beets tea towel giveaway.

photo 1-7

Last summer, I was obsessed with beets: Growing them, photographing them and eating them. So, its no shock that I used them as an inspiration for one of my summer printing projects.

To make these tea towels, I carved a couple of beet stamps out of  “speedy carve” material, cut the “leaves” off from the beet part, and then used water soluble fabric inks to stamp each section separately.  I printed golden beets, beet colored beets and a few beets with twisty trailing roots.

all.beets.folded

Like my other printing projects from the summer of 2013, I gave most of them away, so it was a surprise when I found this “bonus” tea towel, left over from last summer’s printing spree, and stashed in with my printing supplies.

photo 2-8

I’m not sure if I’ll revisit this project in the next few months, or try something new, but I’m thrilled to have found this ‘bonus’ tea towel and thrilled to be giving it away! I’ll send this last beet- stamped tea towel to a randomly drawn winner. To enter to win this 100% linen, hand printed tea towel, please leave a comment below. Since there’s a holiday weekend coming up (in the USA atleast) I’ll randomly select a winner next Friday, July 11. If I don’t actually know you in person or Facebook, please make sure you include your email address in the comment form so I can contact you. (It won’t appear online.) I’m pretty sure the competition will be sparse so give it a try!  I can promise you it’s really fun to win a giveaway, no matter what the stakes.

 

P.S. Looking at this now, makes me dream of the beets of last summer. Sigh.

IMG_6857

White line wood cuts

 

1st.print.2.finished

Despite living in a city with an exceptionally high concentration of institutions of higher learning, I never mange to squeeze in any type of continuing education class. Usually, school schedules, family life, and general inertia get in the way. So it was a treat when, earlier this week, I attended a workshop on white line wood cuts offered through the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

What is a white line wood cut? As I quickly learned, the white line wood cut is a visual arts chimera – part print, part painting. A woodcut printed with hand-painted watercolors, the white line woodcut was invented by Blanche Lazzell in the early 1900’s and it remains the only printing technique invented in the United States.

Led by the talented Lisa Houck, a painter, mosaic maker, white line woodcut artist and maker of many beautiful things. (visit her blog here), my classmates and I learned the basic steps of the white line wood cut.

Since I am hardly an expert, I will refrain from offering specific instructions. The basic steps can be found here, though if you get the chance to take a class, do! (Especially if you can take a class with Lisa.)

Instead, I’ll say my white line wood cut workshop was a delight. Not only did I learn a new technique, I thoroughly enjoyed the camaraderie and uninterrupted creative time. Most of all I learned that I clearly need to get out and make things more often.

Below are the two prints I created during the workshop. Its still a bit hard for me to look at them and not think of all the things I could have or should have done differently… the expression “an hour to learn a lifetime to master” comes to mind. I’m not sure I’ll ever reach a level of mastery, but I hope I’ll find the time to make some more white line wood cuts.

white line prints