Friday, 28 June 2013

Adobe Illustrator: Dulse-o-rama

Dulse-o-rama © Karen Thiessen, 2013
Since the beginning of December, my hubby and I have been conducting a food experiment. At the end of November we started drinking green smoothies daily and it was then that I realized that we had a lot of food in our fridge and pantry that we never seemed to use up. In a previous life we moved every 4 years and as a result the pantry would be depleted regularly. So, on December 1, we started to consume the contents of our pantry until it is bare. We still buy fresh fruit and vegetables, yogurt, chocolate for Sundays, and frozen fruit and a few staples for our green smoothies. We are also eating out less often. Six and a half months into this experiment, all that remains are 6 packages of dulse, 1 package of wakame, and 1 package of rice noodles. Wakame salad is a new staple to our diet, but I'm not sure what to do with all that dulse since green smoothies have replaced our daily salads. It's been a creative, worthwhile adventure and we haven't gone (that) hungry. 

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Studio Series: Sketchbook collages

Blue sketchbook collage © Karen Thiessen, 2013
Eight months of intense studio production have left me with a need to refill the well. I'm reviewing old sketchbooks and filling new ones, I'm seeing old places with new eyes and exploring new places.
Blue sketchbook collage © Karen Thiessen, 2013
When I took Sandra Brownlee's Tactile Notebooks and the Written Word workshop in 2011, I learned to prepare sketchbook pages with colour. In a "use up old supplies" effort, I tinted pages with old inks and watercolours. What a difference a coloured background makes!

Monday, 24 June 2013

Lunenburg Opera House sill plate

Lunenburg Opera House sill plate rubbing © Karen Thiessen, 2013
Last year I visited Lunenburg, Nova Scotia with a plan to take rubbings from the Lunenburg Opera House sill plate as I had in 2011. Sadly, the sill plates were removed during a renovation, but while I was sorting through my collage papers, I found a small rubbing from 2011. Do you see what I mean? Isn't this beautiful? I wonder what happened to the sill plates. I hope they didn't end up in a scrap yard. The plus side of the Lunenburg day trip was that I discovered Dots & Loops Handmade!

Friday, 21 June 2013

Adobe Illustrator: digital plus analog

Seahorsey pattern with hand drawn texture © Karen Thiessen, 2013
A few weeks ago I shared my student experiences of hand drawing all the acetates for exposing my silk screens and yearning to be able to use Photoshop and Illustrator to generate the repeats. I am such a hypocrite! I took the seahorse-like motif that I created as a Sheridan student and generated Seahorsey and Seahorsey II patterns in Illustrator. Then, just for fun, I decided to print the Seahorsey pattern in outline and fill in the negative spaces with hand drawn texture using a fine Pigma Micron pen. I worked on it, off and on, over several weeks and the experience was calming and meditative. To be fair, this is a section of a 8.5" by 11" paper, not a 3' by 4' acetate for screen. I doubt that I would have enjoyed drawing and accurately positioning the motifs by hand. Okay, maybe I'm not a hypocrite after all.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Studio Series: image transfers

Merry go round collage© Karen Thiessen, 2013
Summer is soon upon us and I'm looking forward to changing up my studio practice a bit more. I'm dreaming of playing with image transfers, dyeing with indigo, and playing with sun prints. Wayne Allen is a local artist with whom I took a few collage classes. He is a master of the image transfer and I admired how he approached the technique with rigor and dedication in class. During our independent collage classes, I would look over his shoulder and watch the progress of his layering. He had the technique down to an art and I was in awe of the results.
Dartboard collage © Karen Thiessen, 2013
Since I only flirted with image transfers, my successes were sporadic and I can think of only four or five transfers that I was happy with. Spring is one piece that I shared in 2011. The key to image transfers is to make a lot of them since the results are unpredictable.
Oktoberfest men collage © Karen Thiessen, 2013
Image transfers have an ethereal, old quality, very Wabi-sabi.

Monday, 17 June 2013

An unconventional tourist in Leamington 2: Fonts

Leamington Sporting Goods Store sign; Photo ©Karen Thiessen, 2013
This post is for lovers of text. A highlight of our trip to Leamington was seeing this old sign. My family rarely went downtown, so I don't ever remember seeing this sign and I may have gone into the store maybe once or twice. We were never a sporting goods kind of family. It appears that the store is being blandified with stucco, so I'm sure that the sign will soon be covered up or removed.
Leamington Sporting Goods Store sign; Photo ©Karen Thiessen, 2013
Isn't that a nice solid font? It says, "buy your dependable baseball bats and mitts and jock straps here."
Leamington Sporting Goods Store sign; Photo ©Karen Thiessen, 2013
The "and" is also pleasing.
Leamington Sporting Goods Store sign; Photo ©Karen Thiessen, 2013
Okay, this is the absolute best part! The font for toys says, "hey, we have all the coolest dolls, trucks, and hula hoops that will delight children, young and old!" If a sedate word like mammogram were spelled with the toys font, would it make you want one?
Lebanese license plate in Ray's Ribhouse; Photo ©Karen Thiessen, 2013
One night we took my parents out for supper at Ray's RibhouseBoth the service and the food are excellentHis restaurant is located in a former mechanics' garage and the space is decorated with vintage car and music memorabilia. Our table was in the back room where I spotted this license plate. If only the numbers on Canadian license plates were as interesting.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Week 68: Adobe Illustrator

Hatmouth 1 © Karen Thiessen, 2013
I wish I could tell you where I found the repeat unit, but I can't. My mom probably wouldn't like it, and I'm all in favour of keeping mom happy. Let's just say that this is a very personal pattern, where I saw beauty where most people wouldn't. Making this pattern was a deep and profound experience and I felt a strong connection to the source of the repeat unit. That's all I can say.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Unit(y): Composition in Red 1

Composition in Red 1 © Karen Thiessen, 2013
My show came down on Sunday and I was honoured and humbled by the positive responses by the viewers. I'm slowly reading the kind messages in the comments book. 

Composition in Red 1 was my breakthrough piece. I have been working with the tag format for three years and was satisfied with what I was making, but was uncertain of how best to present it. I played with presenting them in a massive grid format or in a Mobius strip, but neither solution was satisfactory. Six weeks before the show, the Composition format came to me. It's my new take on the quilt and I'm excited about pushing the concept further. I was able to create four pieces, one I wrote about here. For this first piece, I linked the twenty tags with a grid of twill tape. Since it was my first piece, it was fiddly to make. Now I have a better idea of how to approach this, should I decide to make the twill tape grid again. Composition in Red 1 was well received and has a new home with a very nice person, an artist that I admire.
Composition in Red 1 detail © Karen Thiessen, 2013
This image gives you a closer look at how I've combined textiles, drawing, pattern, and collage.

Monday, 10 June 2013

An unconventional tourist in Leamington 1

Leamington tourist information booth; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2013
Years of living in cities have shaped me. As a child, Leamington was the place to be born, buy groceries, go to church, go to (the secular) high school, buy clothes and shoes, eat out, visit the doctor, etc. It was a happening place. Now that I've lived in cities, Leamington is boring. A Walmart has basically killed the downtown, and Walmart itself is boring, so what is there to do? On a recent visit, my hubby and I played tourist. We visited the Big Tomato, the Leamington Arts Centre, a few downtown stores, and had a picnic in Seacliff Park. We looked at the town with fresh eyes and took pictures.
Heinz display; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2013
The Leamington Arts Centre is located in the former Customs building and has been beautifully restored. It's a gorgeous space, not what you would expect a town to have. One room houses Dennis Jackson's private collection of H.J. Heinz memorabilia. I grew up picking tomatoes and peppers for Heinz. I was surprised that at one point they also made apple butter and peanut butter.
Leamington monarch butterfly "mural"; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2013
The monarch butterfly "mural" is a nice touch on a drab building. Leamington is on the migration route of monarch butterflies. 
Evergreen cemetery mausoleum; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2013
A few family members are buried in Evergreen Cemetery and I like to visit at least once a year. The cemetery has been part of my life since I was a young child. It's always looked like a sleepy, sedate park with all the stones flush with the grass. A few years ago one mausoleum was built, and then another came along. Still, the graves were all horizontal. When we visited recently, first I noticed how incredibly colourful the mausoleum in the back corner was adorned. 
Evergreen cemetery new corner; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2013
Then I noticed the back corner behind the colourful mausoleum. Hey, when did all those upright stones pop up? I had never seen such colour at Evergreen. The Mennonite section is plain, somber, sedate. Leamington is home to a large Lebanese, Italian, and Portuguese community. Clearly this is their section. This corner is fun, festive, over-the-top, and visited regularly. I'm sure these folks have the best parties, with lots of music, too much food, and plenty of alcohol. I'll bet they even dance at their parties. These folks truly honour their dead with flowers, rosaries, statuary, and mementos. After all this colour, I visited my family in the sedate section and my sweet husband cleared the grass partially obscuring two graves. It was good to experience both the colour and the calm.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Week 67: Adobe Illustrator

Quatrefoil 2 © Karen Thiessen, 2013
My show went up a month ago and it wasn't until two days after the opening did I realize how incredibly hard I had been working for eight months straight. It didn't feel like hard work when the work was flowing out of me. On the Monday after the opening I felt zonked. The next week I felt the same. Then I had an adverse reaction to a chemical that knocked me off my feet for two weeks. There went the month of May with me tired and wobbly. Yesterday I finally started feeling more like my usual self.

So, with all that fatigue, I took a break from my Adobe Illustrator practice and I switched up my studio routine. I cleaned and tidied the studio, and purged lots of paper and textiles. I fed my sketchbook and played with some mark making. Yesterday I tackled my office with its mounds of paper: notes and lists on small pieces of paper. I responded to old emails, and completed necessary business tasks that I had been putting off. While I was on a roll, I also practiced Adobe Illustrator for the first time since May 3. It was good to be away from it and equally good to be back.

I kept it simple. I took the Quatrefoil pattern that I designed in August 2012, altered the scale and removed all the colour. 
Quatrefoil © Karen Thiessen, 2012
The design above is a bit too bold for my liking, but the simplified version, Quatrefoil 2, was so lovely that I printed the pattern on the backs of my new business cards.
Business card with Quatrefoil 2 pattern on back © Karen Thiessen, 2013
The pattern makes my business cards feel special to hold. I can't stop looking at them.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Leamington Mennonite Community Festival Quilt Auction

Wisteria; Photo Credit: Karen Thiessen, 2013
Two weekends in a row I attended two Mennonite Community Sales. The New Hamburg sale is about ten times larger and features the distinct foods of various Mennonite backgrounds, including Swiss, Old Order, Russian, and others. The Leamington Mennonite Community Festival is small and Russian Mennonite foods are the main offerings. One hundred and eighty six quilts were auctioned at the New Hamburg sale, versus eighteen at the Leamington event.

Above is Wisteria, a 95" by 104" quilt pieced, machine quilted and donated by Robyn St. Denis. The quilter has a great sense of colour. I'd be happy to sleep under this quilt.
Jumping Jacks; Photo Credit: Karen Thiessen, 2013
Jumping Jacks also caught my eye with its strong design and pleasing colour palette. It is 84" square and was pieced by Ellen Warkentin and machine quilted by Mary Tiessen. Wouldn't it look fantastic hung on a large wall?
Dresden Plate; Photo Credit: Karen Thiessen, 2013
I wasn't present for the auctioning of the first two quilts, but I was lucky to witness that of Dresden Plate. Dresden Plate was pieced and hand quilted by Tina Friesen, Susana Harms, and Elisabeth Bartsch and measures 80" by 100". The old-fashioned colour palette and fabrics drew me to this quilt. It spoke of time past: of my Grandma's aprons, of brown bread and Zwieback baking in the oven, and laundry drying on the wash line. The quilts at the Leamington Mennonite auction rarely go for what they are worth. There isn't the audience to appreciate what goes into the making of each quilt. 
Auction of Dresden Plate; Photo Credit: Karen Thiessen, 2013
That being said, I was pleased that the quilt sold for $325. It's not much, but better than the $70 that I paid years earlier when I felt sorry for a similar quilt that would have sold for much less. My husband's 91 year old great uncle bought the quilt, so I'm glad that it's going to a good home.

Monday, 3 June 2013

New Hamburg Mennonite Sale Quilt Auction 2013 part 2

A Walk By the River; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2013
Last week I shared the feature quilt by Judy Pearce from the 2013 New Hamburg Mennonite Sale quilt auction. Today I share another quilt that captured my imagination. A group from the Hawksville Mennonite Church pieced A Walk By the River based on a design by Maxine Rosenthal
A Walk By the River; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2013
I've designed kaleidoscope patterns like this in Photoshop and Illustrator, but I've never tried to piece a quilt like this. Just from looking at this quilt, I imagine that it would require a lot of fabric, patience, and persnickety pinning and piecing. Still, I'm intrigued.
A Walk By the River; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2013
The quilt measures 87 inches by 102 inches. I wish the New Hamburg Sale committee would publish the sale prices of each of the quilts online, because I missed what this beauty went for.