Friday, 28 September 2012

Week 35: Adobe Illustrator

Starburst Spiral 1 © Karen Thiessen 2012
It took nine weeks of Adobe Illustrator practice to figure out how to make a starburst pattern and another eight weeks to learn how to create Ziggy Zag. Now I've discovered the twist filter and it is fun to play with. The above Starburst Spiral 1 is my take on a large lollipop except with a softer colour palette. Up until recently I've created most of my patterns using the basic colours offered in AI, but now I'm beginning to play with a broader range of tints and saturations.
Starburst Spiral 3 © Karen Thiessen 2012
Starbust Spiral 3 is my current favourite pattern (for now). I've layered two colour-ways of the pattern at a reduced opacity and I love how it shimmers. Lately I've made progress in subtle ways: colour palette, dotted lines, reduced opacity, the twist filter. There's so much more to explore and I'm eager to see how my designs will evolve and improve. Now I just need to consult the manual a few times a week to fuel the progress.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Svava Juliusson @ Supercrawl 2012

Svava Thordis Juliusson @ Supercrawl 2012; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2012
In a previous post about Svava Thordis Juliusson's exhibit at b contemporary, I mentioned that she was cooking up a grand installation for Supercrawl 2012. The above image of Avalanche/Corral is misleading: it looks like a knitting project still on the needles and mounted on a chequered wall. 
Svava Thordis Juliusson @ Supercrawl 2012; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2012
Nope. The "yarn" is braided nylon rope, the "stitches" are held together with plastic cable ties, and the "needles" are a metal rod acting as a hanging device. It's an impressive piece. To give you some context, the building is huge. I'm curious to know what the dimensions of Avalanche/Corral are, how much rope she used, and the weight of the piece. Looking at the people, I'd guess that the piece is about 12 feet high by about 24 feet wide. Update: Svava informed me that her piece is 40 feet wide by 30 feet high and that she used 2500 feet of 3/4" braided nylon rope and about 3000 cable ties. I love those sort of details!
Svava Thordis Juliusson @ Supercrawl 2012; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2012
Her statement for Avalanche/Corral reads as follows: "Lines that entwine a topographical map with weather systems are drawn by industrial ropes and cable ties that speak to the ubiquity of plastic in our natural and domestic environments. The bright orange of the safety ropes alert the viewer to the unpredictability of this landscape, one prone to avalanches and other disasters."

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Studio Series: Fire 1 quilt

Fire 1 © Karen Thiessen, 2012
Fire 1 has a modernist feel. It was as if Anni Albers' spirit was in the studio with me while I was designing this quilt. What do you imagine when I say "design?" Do you visualize me with pencil and paper, or sitting at a computer? I do neither. When I design a quilt like this, my "paints" are dyed fabrics that I have on hand. Often I'll have a few pieced modules to choose from. My "canvas" is my cotton flannel covered homosote wall on which I place the fabric pieces. There's no need for pins: the fabric sticks to the flannel. If you are older or went to a low-tech church or school, you may remember flannel board stories. Once I find the right combination of fabrics, I piece them together with the sewing machine. After a good ironing, I place the larger pieces or the quilt top back on the wall and then I look at them/it while riding my exercise bike. It's all very physical, especially with large quilt tops, as I stretch on tippy toes or climb a step ladder to put the top on and take it off the flannel wall. Beyond the physical aspects, designing quilt tops is mentally strenuous, like a chess match. It involves active focussed looking and testing numerous options. When I'm designing, I need complete silence so that I can fully concentrate.

Fire 1 is part of the Tangents series and I made it using fabrics that I dyed with onion skins or Procion dyes and printed (silk-screen & block) with dyes or screen-printing textile inks. Jacqueline Harris machine quilted Fire 1 with wandering grid, a pattern that I designed. Later I went in and adding some hand-stitching. The quilt measures 58.25 inches by 77 inches and was quilted with cotton quilt batting.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Modular Beauty @ Supercrawl 2012

Modular Beauty @ Supercrawl; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2012
Supercrawl 2012 is over but the great memories live on. When I look at this image of one of the Beehive Collective's Modular Beauty installations I realize that this section of James Street North in Hamilton, Ontario could pass for a street in Brooklyn or San Francisco or London, UK. It's remarkable that this street has undergone such a transformation in the last five years and it is thanks to young entrepreneurs who are buying and renovating the shabby buildings and starting businesses in them. 
Modular Beauty @ Supercrawl; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2012
Back to Modular Beauty... the red and white cluster has got me thinking even more about hexagons. At this rate, my addiction with English paper piecing sees no sign of dissipating.
Modular Beauty @ Supercrawl; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2012
Modular Beauty @ Supercrawl; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2012
The Bees did a fine job of installing the modules and no one fell off a ladder in the process! In the bottom image, hexagon clusters adorn Mixed Media, owned and operated by Dave Kuruc, one of the leaders of the rejuvenation of James Street North.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Quotes: Clarissa Pinkola Estés

"New seed is faithful. It roots deepest in the places that are most empty."– Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Friday, 21 September 2012

Week 34: Adobe Illustrator

Dotty Zigzag Balustrade © Karen Thiessen 2012
I finally surpassed the one hundred hour mark in my Adobe Illustrator practice! It's clear that I'm not pursuing this in my usual Type-A manner and this is good. Practice feels more like play than work and I usually quit while I'm still curious and having fun. This gives me a motivation to continue the next day. I do the same with my yoga practice: I stop before I've done everything that I want to do. The result is that I've practiced yoga more than 575 days in a row. Yoga is another day in & day out activity.

That I finally figured out how to make a dotted line shows that I haven't been reading my manual closely enough and this is okay. Just when I thought I was running out of interesting things to do, I discovered a new technique. You'll see more dotty patterns in the near future. Zigzag Balustrade was dull until I converted the stroke to a dotted line and Dotty Zigzag Balustrade saved the pattern from deletion. I'll return to old patterns to see how they look with dots instead of strokes and fills. Stay tuned for more fun.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Sandra Brownlee meets India Flint: Notebook

Sandra Brownlee Notebook; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen, 2012
In August 2011 Sandra Brownlee braved hurricane Irene and scurried down to Haystack to take a workshop with India Flint
Sandra Brownlee Notebook; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen, 2012
Sandra made an accordion book with fabrics that she dyed during the workshop. The off-white pieced fabrics with subtle impressions of leaves are beautiful.
Sandra Brownlee Notebook; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen, 2012
I don't know if the other workshop participants sewed the used plant material into their sketchbooks, but to me this is a true "Sandra approach." Here is the front of the notebook page with the plant material. Lovely isn't it? 
Sandra Brownlee Notebook; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen, 2012
On the back of the page we see the fabric that was bundled and dyed with the plant material.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Studio Series: Pieced hexagons

Hexagons installed at Supercrawl 2012 © Karen Thiessen 2012
Supercrawl came and went and it was super fun. In a previous post I showed you my contribution to the Beehive Collective's Modular Beauty installation. Here it is installed. I love that the Bees installed it on an orange wall. In a future post I'll share images from Supercrawl.
 White 3/4 inch hexagons right side © Karen Thiessen 2012
My obsession with English paper piecing continues and I may have found a way to incorporate it into my studio practice (a.k.a. my real work). Above is the boring side of a module I made with 3/4 inch hexagons. The blue module in the top photo is pieced with 1.5 inch hexagons and was much easier to hand-sew. 
 White 3/4 inch hexagons reverse side © Karen Thiessen 2012
By chance I caught a glimpse of the white hexagon module through light and immediately I was smitten with the shadows. The reverse side of the module with the raw edges and basting threads is very interesting and it has given me ideas of how to play with it.
 White 3/4 inch hexagons detail © Karen Thiessen 2012

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Sandra Brownlee Studio Visit II

Sandra Brownlee Studio; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen, 2012
Last week I shared part one of my studio visit to Sandra Brownlee's studio. Above is a vignette of blue that Sandra intends to show her students. The boro are beautiful. 
Sandra Brownlee Studio; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen, 2012
Looking at artists' inspiration walls is the equivalent of scanning people's bookcases: it's like slipping into their heads. Do you ever check out folks' bookcases when you are visiting them? I'm always curious to see what people read or hope to read.
Sandra Brownlee Studio; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen, 2012
B stands for Brownlee. The woven textile may be from Sandra's Unusual Animals Series. On the right window sill are bundles from an India Flint workshop that Sandra took at Haystack in August 2011. In another post I'll share images of the results of Sandra's workshop with India.
Sandra Brownlee Studio; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen, 2012
Before my August studio visit I'd only seen GRRRHHHH: a study of social patterns, a book collaboration between Sandra Brownlee, Warren Lehrer, and Dennis Bernstein, on the web. It's way beyond my budget. I donned white gloves to look at it. One day I'd like to spend more time looking through it.
Sandra Brownlee Studio; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen, 2012
Here's a close up of a weaving pinned up on her inspiration wall. I'm guessing that it is about 6 inches by 12 inches.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Quotes: Booth

"Where we invest our attention, that is what we become. So we need to notice our noticing and guide it into inquiries that fulfill our yearnings – things that attract, challenge, and satisfy us." – Eric Booth, author and actor. Quoted from his book The Everyday Work of Art, 1997, p. 71

Friday, 14 September 2012

Week 33: Adobe Illustrator

Diamond Ocean Wave © Karen Thiessen, 2012
Recently I read an article about the importance of productive failure in creating the character trait "grit" in children. Grit is the ability to persevere. The fact that I am finally learning Adobe Illustrator is thanks to grit. Diamond Ocean Wave is the product of failure. I set out to create a diamond with four rounded corners but so far have only managed to create one with two rounded and two pointy corners. Why waste a perfectly good failure when I could create something cool with it?

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Sandra Brownlee Studio Visit I

Sandra Brownlee Studio; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen, 2012
Have you ever been given the opportunity of a lifetime? In August a studio visit to Sandra Brownlee's studio was a dream come true. I had visited her studio in 2010, but this time she let me wander, look, and photograph while she prepared supper. I took my time to take in the colours, textures, and shapes. Above is a small loom on which Sandra is weaving a sample for a blanket that is to be a wedding gift. 
Sandra Brownlee Studio; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen, 2012
This is her main loom on which she weaves her exquisite drawings. It looks like she is just starting a new project. Through the window you can see her back deck over which she constructed a lattice of twigs. One day it will be covered in vines that will filter out the sun. Do you see the famous polka dot curtains to the right of the window? At least one has been sacrificed for Sandra's Deluxe Edition catalogues.
Sandra Brownlee Studio; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen, 2012
Her storage tins add colour to the space. 
Sandra Brownlee Studio; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen, 2012
This was a red and gold themed shelf.
Winnie; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen, 2012
Winnie is Sandra's studio mascot. She keeps an eye on things when she's not napping on the sunlit armchair.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Studio Series: Ocean quilt

Ocean quilt © Karen Thiessen 2012
Ocean quilt detail © Karen Thiessen 2012
In light of my recent visit to Nova Scotia, now is a good time to share Ocean with you. It's one of my favourite five from the Tangents series. 

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

TOAE 2012: Britt Randle

Britt Randle collage; Photo credit Karen Thiessen, 2012
I've been following Britt Randle's work at the TOAE for the past three years. He combines paint and collage with mastery. Every year his work evolves and I wish I had images from the previous two years to illustrate his development. Unfortunately, Brett is a low-tech guy without a website, otherwise I'd point you in that direction. 
Britt Randle collage; Photo credit Karen Thiessen, 2012
The more you spend time with his work, the more you see. The layering, abrasion, and washes of paint create create depth. Depth and mystery are two qualities that invite me to spend time with any artwork, and Britt's collages do that for me. I can't wait to see what he will exhibit next year.
Britt Randle collage; Photo credit Karen Thiessen, 2012
In the event that you love Britt Randle's work, he gave me permission to share his email address so that you can contact him directly at brittr[at]sympatico[dot]ca. Britt's a nice guy, so please don't go and spam him.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Quotes: Scudder

"It is through creating, not possessing, that life is revealed." – Vida Dutton Scudder, American writer

Friday, 7 September 2012

Week 32: Adobe Illustrator

Flower Bursts in Plaid; © Karen Thiessen 2012
Flower Bursts in Plaid was fun to make. It is a continuation of my quatrefoil explorations from last week. I played with layering, Live Paint, and opacity. With 32 weeks of learning Adobe Illustrator under my belt, I am approaching 100 hours of practice. If Malcolm Gladwell is right, now I just have to multiply this effort by 100 to reach the 10,000 hours to make me an expert Adobe Illustrator user.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Lobster with Sandra Brownlee

Supper table @ Sandra Brownlee's; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2012
One highlight of my 2012 Nova Scotia trip was a studio visit with Sandra Brownlee. She showed me what she was working on in her studio and then she let me explore it on my own and photograph whatever I wanted while she prepared a lobster supper for us. In a future post I'll share images of her studio. Isn't Sandra's supper table beautiful?
Supper table with lobsters @ Sandra Brownlee's; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2012
I love all the colourful textiles that adorn the chairs and table. 
Lobster @ Sandra Brownlee's; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2012
Another highlight of my trip was eating lobster for the first time since I was eight years old. Lobster prices are very affordable this year. Sandra showed my hubby and me how to eat them. Without her instructions, we would have been lost. We wore huge vintage embroidered French linens as bibs, but we still got soaked from the lobster juices. The lobster meal was delicious and fun. How sad that my hubby and I lived in Halifax four years and not once ate lobster.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Studio Series: Hexagons

Hexagons (English paper piecing) by Karen Thiessen 2012
When I heard about the Beehive craft collective's planned installation, Modular Beauty, for Hamilton's Supercrawl 2012, I thought I'd piece a hexagon or two to contribute to this awesome community event. The Bees generously shared their English paper piecing tips and I learned quickly. What they didn't tell me was that piecing hexagons is highly addictive– far more than single source dark chocolate. Most of the fabrics that I used were from my hubby's worn dress shirts and dress pants and everything is hand-stitched. For this occasion I bought freezer paper from which to cut the hexagon templates. What's great is that the freezer paper hexagons can be reused over and over again. The deadline for sending in pieced hexagons was August 31. In the meantime, I've started two more hexagon projects, this time incorporating the Japanese fabrics that I bought this spring!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Nova Scotia 2012: Peggy's Cove

Peggy's Cove Lighthouse; Photo Credit: Karen Thiessen 2012
While visiting the right coast, we headed down to Peggy's Cove for a day trip. The last time we visited was thirteen years ago when we still lived in Halifax. The lighthouse still stands but the post office is now closed. It was a hot day and not even the ocean breezes did much to cool us down. The rocks were teeming with tourists, many of whom were wearing flip flops. The sight of people precariously trying to climb steep and sometimes slippery rocks while wearing improper footwear was both amusing and nerve-wracking.
Peggy's Cove; Photo Credit: Karen Thiessen 2012
Aside from the lighthouse's closed post office and a new visitor's centre, it appears that little has changed in Peggy's Cove. The view is still exquisite.
Peggy's Cove laundry line; Photo Credit: Karen Thiessen 2012
Folks still hang their laundry out to dry.
Peggy's Cove boat; Photo Credit: Karen Thiessen 2012
This boat continues to decay. When will it simply be a pile of sticks?
Peggy's Cove floats; Photo Credit: Karen Thiessen 2012
It is possible that in the past thirteen years, the floats have become much more fluorescent.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Quotes: Monk

"Don't play everything or every time. Let some things go by. What you don't play can be more important than what you do play." – Thelonious Monk, American jazz pianist and composer