Friday, 28 February 2014

Week 81: Adobe Illustrator

Radio Grille Mandala pattern 1 © Karen Thiessen, 2014
For twenty years I've played with a radio grille that was once a speaker in a very large radio cabinet. The radio was gone long before I received the cabinet,  but the speaker with its grille was still intact. I had the speaker removed and now the cabinet houses books. Before our ancient speaker and receiver went up in smoke (literally) in early January 2007, the cabinet contained a cool 1970s Pioneer receiver inherited from an aunt, and a CD player bought with the income tax return in our first year of marriage. While I was a textiles student at Sheridan college, I silk-screened a reduced version of the radio grille onto various fabrics. Here's the radio grille motif in a quilt.

Since I've been learning Illustrator, I decided to revisit the motif and see how it looks in repeat. Last week's pattern is derived from a section of the radio grille put into repeat, and for this week's pattern, I simply rotated the grilles around a centre axis, thus creating mandalas. I like how the circles look like the doilies that my Oma and great-Omas crocheted.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Studio Series: Mennonitemare 4 textile

Mennonitemare 4 © Karen Thiessen
Mennonitemare 4 is a small hand-embroidered and machine-stitched textile, about 12 inches square. Some of the techniques, like stitching with felt, I developed while stitching my very first Day In Day Out (DIDO) project. The DIDO that professor Sarah Quinton assigned our Sheridan textiles class has been a massive influence on my studio practice, and on my life. It has shaped my thinking, making, and even my exercise.
Mennonitemare 4 detail © Karen Thiessen
When I look at Mennonitemare 4, I remember the satisfaction and pleasure of making it, and it makes me want to play with some of the techniques and images once again. If I do revisit it, I'll skip the metallic threads. They worked for this piece, but I'm not in that place anymore. One day I'd like to find silk embroidery floss and see how it behaves. In the meantime, DMC floss does the job.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Quotes: Kipling

"They copied all they could follow, but they couldn't copy my mind, and I left 'em sweating and stealing a year and a half behind."
– Rudyard Kipling, from The "Mary Gloster," 1894

Friday, 21 February 2014

Adobe Illustrator

Radio Grille pattern © Karen Thiessen 2014
A good and proper cold slowed me down this week, so my Illustrator practice was shelved in favour of naps. Although I didn't practice with hands at the keyboard, I dreamed about it a lot and I'm curious to see if I am able to replicate the patterns that I created in my dreams.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Studio Series: Mennonitemare 3 quilt

Mennonitemare 3 © Karen Thiessen
Mennonitemare 3 is one of my early quilts. It's interesting to revisit old work and see what I would carry forward into future textiles. The background of appliquéd silkscreened patches and stitched grid with buttons would make a strong quilt on its own, without the quilted church in the foreground. Often a series moves forward before I've had enough time to work through all my ideas. The nice thing about my new way of working is that it allows me to integrate old and new ways of thinking.

This quote by Barry H. Gillespie, an American Buddhist practioner sums it up for me:
"The path isn't a straight line; it's a spiral. You continually come back to things you thought you understood and see deeper truths." – Barry H. Gillespie

Monday, 17 February 2014

Mennonite Arts Weekend 2014

Pin Wheel; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
I've had a big week and now a cold is forcing me to rest. Last weekend I was a presenter at the Biannual Mennonite Arts Weekend in Cincinnati, Ohio. For two years it was constantly on my mind and I spent the last four months preparing images and what I would say. The weekend was a dream-come-true, except I hadn't heard of it until I was invited in 2012. I've been processing my experience over the past week and I continue to be in a state of awe and inspiration. I was only able to attend three presentations, so I stuck with the visual artists: Randall Stoltzfus, Kristina Glick, and Sarah Boyts Yoder. Sarah Boyts Yoder's mixed media paintings and collages hit me like a Mack truck. After seeing her presentation, all I wanted to do was be in my studio (instead of giving my own presentation). Her work resonated with me immediately and it's nudging my new series forward. Each of the presenters influenced me in surprising ways, even the music and drama. All week long I've been listening to The Steel Wheels in my studio. On Friday, I conceived of two Compositions that will be in homage to Yoder and Stoltzfus. Other work has been speaking to me slowly. I'm still sitting with Glick's work: how she integrates collected objects into her sculptures and jewellery inspires me. It's a mystery how some works resonate quickly, and others slowly and gradually. In all, the weekend offered me much food for thought and I look forward to attending the event in 2016 purely as an observer.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Week 80: Adobe Illustrator

Wallander wheel pattern 2 © Karen Thiessen 2014
I decided to revisit some old less-than-successful patterns to see if I could rework them in a pleasing way. I've adapted the Wallander wheel pattern that I first created in June 2012. The black-and-white version is an improvement on the garish pattern in the image below.
Wallander wheel pattern © Karen Thiessen 2012

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Studio Series: Singapore 1 quilt

Singapore #1 © Karen Thiessen, 2014
If I'm counting correctly, Singapore #1 is my seventh quilt. As the title indicates, I made this quilt while living in Singapore. My husband and I sold our house and car, and put most of our belongings into storage. I felt dislocated and homeless. This was simultaneously exhilarating and frightening. We had left behind an open landscape with lots of green spaces, forests, and fields in and around our mid-sized Ontario city. Singapore was loud, colourful, congested, exciting. This quilt illustrates the tensions of what we had left behind and where we were living during our year-and-three-day adventure.
Singapore #1 detail © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Here's a detail that shows what to do when a seam decides to fray while you are quilting it. Yay, a problem becomes an opportunity!

Singapore #1 was part of the Canadian Contemporary Quilts exhibition that toured Canada from 1998 to 2001.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Amsterdam: princess & laughing woman

prinses irene; photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2013
A sign for a Kindergarten named prinses irene. The crown is a nice touch.
laughing woman; photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2013
I met this laughing woman at the Saturday farmers' market in the canal district. The market was a nice combination of food and flea market stalls.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Week 79: Adobe Illustrator + Photoshop

Farmhouse with Birch repeat pattern © Karen Thiessen 2014
I spent my first eight years living in this ramshackle rented house. The driveway was a long walk for short legs to the main road, but the trek was well worth the effort. At the road was a ditch where my brother and I would collect tadpoles in glass peanut butter jars (and ruin our shoes in the mud, much to our mom's dismay). The yard surrounding the house was large. In one corner stood an overgrown common lilac bush into which I could wriggle to its core and hide, a natural fortress. My brother would climb up into the pear tree and pretend that it was a combine. I would sit under the elevated Fina oil tank and eat the ants. The fence along the driveway was electric (to keep the neighbours' animals contained) and for fun my brother and I would dare each other to touch it. We didn't need amusement parks or playgrounds – we created our own excitement ... and survived it.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Studio Series: Mennonitemare 1 quilt

Mennonitemare 1 © Karen Thiessen 2014
Mennonitemare 1 is the third quilt that I ever made. I dyed and/or silkscreened most of the fabrics. The background fabric is silkscreened with articles from The Mennonite Reporter (now called The Canadian Mennonite). I machine-pieced the quilt, added appliqué and reverse appliqué by hand and then hand-quilted it.
Mennonitemare 1 detail © Karen Thiessen 2014
In this detail you can see the text from the Mennonite Reporter articles.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Amsterdam Houseboat gardens

Amsterdam Houseboat 1; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2013
The Dutch love their gardens, real or otherwise. These homeowners clearly love their wine.
Amsterdam Houseboat 1 detail; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2013
 This shows that you can have a garden without a green thumb.
Amsterdam Houseboat 2; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2013
 Another houseboat, another garden: this one is living.
Amsterdam Houseboat 3; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2013
When we visited Amsterdam, I expected houseboats, but not gardens on houseboats.