Sunday, July 25, 2010

Photos from our Midwestern vacation

Our art destination: the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.

Ross with Calder sculpture (two)

(The Spinner by Alexander Calder)

Chris and Ross with Spoonbridge and Cherry

(Spoonbridge and Cherry by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen)

Then it was off to the Upper Peninsula to visit our family.

Cathy and Arlene on Mackinac Island ferry

Funny Smith family at Fort Mackinac

Judy and Cindy on Mackinac Island ferry

Family fireworks lighting

Family fireworks - Chris and Cindy

Fireworks and milk crate

Fireworks head

Fireworks rocket trail 7-2010

I'm grateful for all the smiles, laughter and adventures we shared with our Michigan family on our vacation.

Guerrilla art: "Elegy for E"

I've been intrigued by the idea of "street art" or "guerrilla art" for a long time. Cloth Paper Scissors magazine recently ran an article by Fred Free on the topic, which reignited my interest in the subject. In a nutshell, this is free art placed in public spaces, often anonymously. Sometimes it has a political message; sometimes it's meant to surprise the viewer; sometimes it's an experiment in finding the boundaries of what is art and what is "real" life.

Well. An event during my vacation rose up and smacked my sensibilities around a bit. And I ended up processing it by creating a piece of guerrilla art. It's a simple stitched-paper garland (unsigned) that I called Elegy for E.

Three flowers - Elegy for E

Four flowers - Elegy for E

Elegy for E

I quickly installed it on a small phone box, snapped a couple of photos, and left the scene.

Elegy for E (installed, front)

Elegy for E (installed)

Later, I did happen to see someone looking at the piece as I was driving by, which was a bit of an adrenaline rush. Yet I didn't create the piece for anyone else but myself. The act of creating it helped me process my thoughts and feelings. The act of putting it outside was my signal that the process was complete.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Crocheted Car Cozy!

Etsy posted this photo on their facebook page, and I thought that it's a must-see for fiber fanatics.

Crocheted Smart Car

Photo by StartTheDay at

That's some serious crochet!

P.S. Vacation photos coming soon. We'll be back in Spokane Tuesday night.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Packing for vacation

So, what do you bring in the way of art/craft supplies on vacation?

I've brought various things over the years: jewelry components, handwork on small art quilts, and even an altered children's book for a trip journal. This year, I don't have a project that seems portable enough, and I'm not interested in "just" doing an art journal. What intrigues me is the idea of bringing a few tools and supplies and then making stuff with whatever is on hand.

Travel supplies

Everything fits in a lidded plastic container, and can be carried on the plane (except for the large pair of scissors, which will go in my checked bag).
  • needles
  • thread: upholstery & beading (Silamide)
  • embroidery floss & perle cotton -- just a few colors, in a slightly different palette than I usually work in
  • thimble
  • scissors, large and small
  • a few markers & pens
  • glue stick (must go in the liquids baggie for security)
  • 3 pairs of baby socks -- in case I get the urge for plushie making!
Now I'm in the mindset of looking at lots of objects as possible art supplies . . . I'm hoping it'll be a freeing adventure.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Vinyl flowers

Two words for you: sign vinyl.

I was walking down the street and noticed workers taking down a large vinyl sign from a business. I asked if I could have it to make crafts (like tote bags), and after they called their boss, they happily gave it to me. I took it home and washed it in the back yard. It's mostly a lovely blue, with white on the back.

My brain started to whirl with the possibilities. Tote bags would be useful, but what else could I do with this stuff?

I took out my stash of inks, and chose Pinata, Staz On, and Adirondack alcohol inks.

Inks and brushes for vinyl

I worked with cheap foam brushes -- I didn't want to try to clean the ink off, so I could throw these away easily. You could work with rags or sponges, too. I dripped ink from the bottles onto the vinyl and spread it around. Of course you could use rubber stamps and stamp pads with these inks, as well. Spraying rubbing alcohol (or a mixture of rubbing alcohol and water -- I used a ratio of approx. 1:1) from a squirt bottle onto the wet ink creates interesting mottled effects.

Inks on vinyl

I worked outside (some of these inks are strong-smelling), and I let it dry for a full day. The inks come off a bit if you rub the vinyl with a damp finger, and it'll scratch off a little, but that's okay for my purposes. I also doodled on top of the dried inks with a Sharpie marker, which seems more stable than the inks.

On to the flowers: I traced two lids with pencil to draw circles on the vinyl. I used 2-3/4" and 4" circles, but I wouldn't use anything larger than that. Bigger circles are very difficult to work with, because the vinyl is fairly stiff and it doesn't "gather" nicely. (You'll see what I mean if you keep reading.) I cut the vinyl easily with scissors.

Vinyl circles and lids

To create a flower shape, I sewed around the edges of the circles with a sturdy needle and strong thread, such as button or upholstery thread. A thimble is very helpful. You could also pre-punch small holes with an awl. Leave a 3-4" tail of thread when you start sewing, and be sure to have at least that much thread at the end, after you've sewn all the way around.

Needle and  running stitch on vinyl circle

Now you start to pull on both ends of the thread, causing the vinyl to gather in ridges. It's a lot like making fabric yo-yos. If the thread is too weak, it'll snap.

Vinyl circle gathered (side view)

You'll need a little patience at this stage. You'll need to pull the thread, then manipulate the vinyl to make the ridges, then pull more, and so forth. When you've got the circle the way you want it, tie the thread with a square knot, and cut off the excess.

Vinyl circle gathered (final)

Once I'd gathered both circles, I punched a small hole in the center of each of them with an awl. Then I cut a long piece of floral wire and poked it through both holes.

Poking wire thru vinyl flower pieces

I chose buttons for the flower center.

Threading buttons on wire

After poking the wire through the buttons, I pushed the end back through the vinyl.

Two wires at flower bottom

I pushed the wire as close to the top button as I could. I squished the wire loop together to make the fit more solid.

Buttons on vinyl flower center

At the flower's bottom, I wrapped the shorter wire around the longer wire with pliers. It works best if you push the wire right up against the vinyl. You can wrap additional wire at the base as needed.

Wire wrap at flower bottom

Finished! You could create leaves, too, if you wanted.

Finished blue vinyl flower

Here's a flower with more ink colors and white thread.

Multicolor vinyl flower

I wouldn't leave them out in the rain, because I think the ink would eventually fade and/or wash away, but they'd make a fun centerpiece for an outdoor party.