Friday, 31 January 2014

Photoshop Friday

Oooo pattern © Karen Thiessen 2014
Do you remember this? This week I performed some Photoshop magic on it with the help of my magnetic lasso tool and a lot of rotation and repetition. Oooo pattern adds a cheery warm note to this unusually frigid winter here in Canada. The highlight of January has been binge-watching seasons one and two of Call the Midwife while stitching most evenings.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Studio Series: First. quilt. ever.

Katja Elizabeth quilt © Karen Thiessen 2014
We all start somewhere. Katja Elizabeth is my very first quilt. I made the quilt during my second year of marriage when my husband and I had no money and empty walls that begged for art. Framing was expensive, fabric was inexpensive. The photograph is terrible. I took it a lifetime ago. The hand-stitching within the black sashing is gorgeous. I used embroidery floss.

I hand-painted the silk panels whose designs I based on art deco ornamentation. The black sashing and purple corners are poly-cotton, before I knew better about using polyester. My grandma gave me one of her old quilt frames, the stands, and the appropriate tacks, and showed me how to put a quilt on a frame. This quilt would not have turned out as well as it did without her help. She was proud of me to carry on her skills, although with a twist. Later, whenever she saw this quilt on our living room wall, she would comment that if my husband and I got cold at night we could take it down and sleep under it. There was never any need because the log cabin quilt that grandma made for our wedding served us well. 
Katja Elizabeth quilt detail © Karen Thiessen 2014
When I made the quilt, I was studying interior design. Although I learned a lot, it was not a good fit for me. I submitted the quilt into a juried province-wide show and it was accepted. This was a sign for me to pursue my dream and study textiles at Sheridan College's School of Craft and Design. One day I should count all of the quilts that I have made. They all started with Katja Elizabeth and the helping hands of my grandma.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Great design: Centro bag

Centro Garden bag detail; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
My friend Jen manages Centro Garden in Burlington, Ontario. It's a gorgeous space that reminds me more of Brooklyn than Southern Ontario. Recently they had these bags printed, and the design is so pleasing that I'll likely hang it on my studio wall. Whenever I buy or receive something from Centro, I'm always blown away with the small details – an understated bow here, or a few chunks of molten glass nestled in moss at the base of a plant to add subtle sparkle. Small details really do make a difference.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Week 78: Adobe Illustrator + Photoshop!

Dotty hexbridge on Tea Stain Pattern © Karen Thiessen,  2014
Well, I finally did it– I created a pattern using both Illustrator and Photoshop. The Dotty Hexbridge pattern is old, but the tea stain pattern using triangles is brand new. As I combined the two patterns, made independently of each other, I realized that I can't just slap two random patterns together and make them work. This new discovery is a work in progress. If I stick with this newfound knowledge, I'm curious to see how my work will evolve over the course of a year. I had to relearn (by bumbling and stumbling of course) how to create triangular selections in Photoshop, and eventually I made it work. The trick was to draw an equilateral triangle using the polygon tool and then draw over it using the Polygonal Lasso tool. I had never used the lasso tool in this way and I still haven't figured out what the polygon tool does, other than provide a template for the Polygonal Lasso tool. Progress!!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Studio Series: Chortitza oak pattern

Chortitza oak pattern © Karen Thiessen 2014
Since January is turning out to be "sit at the computer" instead of "play in my studio" month I'm making the most of it. Learning Adobe Illustrator has occupied much of my computer time over the past two years and in the process my Adobe Photoshop skills atrophied. So it's time to dust off my manual and start playing with making patterns in Photoshop again and maybe one day I'll learn how to create patterns using both Illustrator and Photoshop. Chortitza oak is a very basic pattern of a tree that I am obsessed with at the moment.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Tammy Sutherland: Festival

Tammy Sutherland Festival, 2012
Tammy Sutherland's stitched and screened textiles are among the work that I am looking at for inspiration for my new series. This image is from a card of her work. The echoes of colour (red and yellow) and shape (circles) knit Festival together. I'm in awe of how the child resembles one of her sons. Brilliant work. The emotional and visual feel of Festival offers me much to consider.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Week 77: Adobe Illustrator

Ukrainian crosses © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Another upside to spending January in front of a computer is that I am back to learning Adobe Illustrator again after a hiatus of several months. I'm curious to see how my AI skills will develop this year. It's been a while since I used a manual and now it's time to go back to learning new skills from a book and then playing with those skills.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Studio Series: 8 Stripe collage pattern

8 Stripe Triangles © Karen Thiessen 2014
Normally I like to spend the month of January in my studio feeding my sketchbook, making samples, and playing with new work. This hasn't happened for two years and I miss it. Last year I was working toward my solo Unit(y) show and this year I have a whack of office work to tackle. Basically my image files on the computer were an unorganized mess and many of my files were quadruple what they needed to be. In just three days I dumped 8 GB of unnecessary files, and there's still more to be done. In the process of cleaning out my files, I discovered work that I either hadn't quite finished or hadn't shared. I just finished 8 Stripe Triangles after starting the pattern five years ago. It's based on my 8 Stripe 1 collage It's inspired me to play with triangles again.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Studio Series: Children's Community Quilt

Children's Community Quilt © Karen Thiessen, 2013
Ta da! Here is the culmination of two-and-a-half years of joyful labour. I finished this sucker in early December 2013 with the help of few weeks of all-out effort. Although my neck and shoulders didn't care for the long hours, it was well worth it. I had about 20 pictures to work with and had the difficult task of choosing only six. I scanned all the pics and performed some Photoshop magic to remove names and scale them to all the same size, then printed off the batch and taped them to my hall walls. Once up on the walls, I looked, arranged, rearranged for a few weeks until I decided on the above configuration.
Children's Community Quilt: flowers © Karen Thiessen, 2013
I then digitally printed each of the pictures onto a special fabric, then painstakingly pieced the quilt together. Thank goodness for the striped fabric to guide my cutting and sewing.
Children's Community Quilt: rainbow 1 © Karen Thiessen, 2013
Once I decided on a backing fabric, I assembled the top, cotton quilt batting and back sandwich on my quilt frame and then spent an entire year hand quilting it. In theory it would have been faster to machine quilt parts, but I knew that the likelihood of me wrecking it was minute with hand quilting.
Children's Community Quilt: rainbow 2 © Karen Thiessen, 2013
I quilted all the borders first and then stitched each panel, saving the best for the last. 
Children's Community Quilt: orange sun © Karen Thiessen, 2013
I must say that I worked on the quilt while I was preparing for a solo show and a group show, so at times I worked on the quilt to procrastinate. At other times, I had to put the project on the back burner while I tended impending deadlines or was travelling. 
Children's Community Quilt: hair © Karen Thiessen, 2013
This was the last panel that I embroidered and I must say that the hair was the most fun to stitch. Then all that was left was to remove it from the frame, trim it, cut and piece the bias quilt binding, machine stitch it on one side, hand stitch the other side, create a label and sew it on, make two hanging sleeves and sew them on, and cut two hanging sticks (one is a weight stick), drill one, photograph it. 

The Details:
Children's Community Quilt 2011-2013
Materials: cotton fabrics, quilt batting, and embroidery floss; polyester sewing thread, hanging sticks
Techniques: Drawings by Ava, Kate, Rachel and Sarah digitally printed onto special fabric; machine-pieced; hand-quilted and embroidered by Karen Thiessen (2012-2013)
Dimensions: 96 cm wide by 115 cm long

Friday, 10 January 2014

Week 76: Adobe Illustrator

Ukrainian butterfly © Karen Thiessen 2014
We are in the midst of a deep freeze here in Canada. For a few days it was so cold that the squirrels stayed tucked in their dreys. For those who are missing the warmer weather, here's a cheery pattern to brighten your day. As for me, this is my favourite time of the year. Christmas is over, the light is bright, crisp, and clear, and the tree skeletons are revealed. It's all so ordinary and beautiful. 

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Studio Series: Arrow mug

Arrow mug © Karen Thiessen, 2013
Early in 2013 I grabbed some boring mugs from the coffee cupboard at church and drew on them anonymously and then replaced them. Could I call this coffee mug bombing (an alternative to yarn bombing)? I used Pebeo Porcelaine 150 china markers. They are available at Curry's in Ontario.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Studio work: New Series

Amsterdam: Patterned bicycle skirt; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2013
A funny thing happened over the holidays: a new series took over me. I'm feeling rather invaded by this as-yet-unknown work. What I know so far is that it has its own playlist (a first for me) and reading list. Both lists are expanding as I ponder them. The new series is about a certain "feel." Pretty soon, it will have its own flavours, even though the new work will be purely visual.

How did this come to be? I'm certain that finishing a whack of pressing deadlines and giving myself time to work on and complete personal projects had a lot to do with it. Since early December I had been gathering images that had a certain feel and shared some of them in two Visual Research posts (Dec 9 & 11). My mind was at rest and I was removed from my usual studio routine. On December 31, I hand-wrote letters to seven friends and on New Year's Day I realized that a new body of work wanted to be made when the soundtrack epiphany came to me just before a hike with friends. Later that day the reading list started to form. I have no idea where this series is leading me, but I am along for the ride and am hanging on for dear life. All I know is that this series is starting from a very different place compared to most of my previous series.