Friday, 27 February 2015

Attribution & Link love

Snow; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2013
This winter weather has offered perfect conditions for reading under a warm quilt, and this week I finished Debbie Millman's How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer, a book of interviews with the best in the field. Many had me laughing out loud. Debbie Millman wears a lot of hats as a designer, author, educator, and brand consultant. She is also the host of the radio show Design Matters, with 213 programs available for free via podcast. 

The other evening I listened to an Design Matters interview with Maria Popova from Brain Pickings and her concept of the Curator's Code to honour attribution caught my attention. I knew that it was only a matter of time that images from my blog would be taken and used with neither permission nor attribution. Lately it has been happening more and I've been surprised to see my images on Tumblr and other sites without a link to my blog or crediting me as the creator of the content. One Tumblr site in particular never honours attribution. As I looked through this site, I realized that although the (stolen) images are well curated, it's not interesting because I don't know where they came from. There's no connecting the dots and learning the deeper story. 

If you Pin or repost other people's images or words, remember to link back and give proper credit. Asking permission is always a good thing too. Better yet, try creating all your own content. From scratch. For two or three or five years. Make something yourself, from your own imagination. Not "inspired" from Pinterest or Tumblr or blogs. Go ahead and do this. Write two or three posts each and every week of the year, whether you are on vacation or not. Go ahead and make something original. I dare you.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Studio Series: Zwieback & textiles

Studio wall and Zwieback © Karen Thiessen, 2015
The Zwieback drawings are further evidence of my Lent 2014 mark-making practice. I see these becoming a two colour silk screen print in the near future. I'd like to make Zwieback again. My husband thinks that this is a very good idea.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Quotes: D.T. Suzuki

"Emptiness which is conceptually liable to be mistaken for sheer nothingness is in fact the reservoir of infinite possibilities." –– Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki (1870-1966), Japanese author whose books and lectures on Zen Buddhism had a profound influence on John Cage and many of his contemporaries.

* Recently I heard about The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo and I'm itching to read this book when it is rereleased in paperback. Maybe an emptier space offers infinite possibilities. My studio seems to suggest the opposite.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Found Pattern

Snowy Door Mat; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
Recently we had a massive snowstorm and our front door mat became snow-encrusted. Normally the mat made of recycled tires (made and purchased in Nova Scotia) sits on a concrete grey background. Snow provided welcome contrast and allowed me to see the pattern with new eyes. A new flat pattern design may result from this inspiration....

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Lent 2015

Experimental stitching © Karen Thiessen, 2015
Today is the first day of Lent for 2015. As usual, I'm beginning a new Lenten practice for the next 46 or so days. Lent is considered to be 40 days long–– Sundays are celebration days. If you include Sundays, it adds up to 46 days. This year I'm recording at least three moments of appreciation per day and I've been "auditioning" this practice for a few weeks to see if I could do it consistently. I can. Earlier this month I "auditioned" changing my bedtime. I couldn't. There's no point in setting myself up for failure.

As for my Lent 2014 intuitive mark-making practice, I'm still doing it and it continues to develop. Today is day 351 of my aforementioned practice and above is some experimental stitching that I just finished. I used linen/cotton paper yarn from Habu Textiles and various DMC threads.

Textile artist Helen Terry gave a nice nod to my 2014 Lenten practice here. She has started a daily mark-making practice and I look forward to seeing how it evolves. 

Monday, 16 February 2015

Quotes: Malka Marom re: Joni Mitchell

"She lives with a great respect for the mystery and with an openness inviting this mystery. This is her greatest strength because I think it requires tremendous strength to really believe in something you cannot put your finger on." –– Malka Marom (b. 1939), Toronto-based author and journalist (re: Joni Mitchell)

Source: Joni Mitchell - Woman of Heart and Mind (2003) documentary written and directed by Susan Lacy.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Studio Series: Pieced Triangles

Perfectly pieced triangles © Karen Thiessen, 2015
Reading John Cage has been good for my approach to piecing triangles. I'm embracing imperfection and when perfect piecing happens it's a bonus. A benefit is that I'm relaxed while sewing and as a result I'm having more fun and am apt to continue. 
Wabi sabi pieced triangles © Karen Thiessen, 2015
The imperfect or Wabi sabi piecing is more interesting. The colour combination is an experiment. Some of the colours are a bit too hot and as the piecing progresses, I'll add more greys. It's all good.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Studio Series: Poetic Memory Collages

Poetic Memory collages © Karen Thiessen, 2015
This year I've been painting, stitching, and collaging with my Poetic Memory series in mind. The colour palette, spacing, and feel of my work has changed. One day last week I did 50 two inch square collages while listening to Beck's Morning Phase CD. The collage blitz allowed me to get a feel for the series. Altogether I've done 81 of these collages and 60 are to my liking.
Poetic Memory collages © Karen Thiessen, 2015
I've put the strongest collages in slide protectors so that I could hang them on my studio wall and then look at them while riding my exercise bike or practicing yoga. The use of so much white space is new for me. The collages have room to breathe.
Poetic Memory collages © Karen Thiessen, 2015
I've screen printed some patterns onto acid-free bristol so that I can collage over them. The Poetic Memory series announced itself on January 1, 2014 and after a year of reading, research, writing, sample-making, and incubation it is finally moving forward. I'm curious to see how I'll translate the two inch collages into finished textiles and collages. It's still a mystery.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Quotes: Joni Mitchell

"Anytime I make a record, it's followed by a painting period. It's good crop rotation. I keep the creative juices going by switching from one to the other, so that when the music or the writing dries up, I paint. You rest the ear a while, and you rest the inner mind, because poetry takes a lot of plumbing the inner depths. I mean, the way I write anyway, it takes a lot of meditation. Without the painting to clear the head, I don't think I could do it." –– Joni Mitchell (b. 1943), Canadian singer-songwriter and painter. Source: Joni Mitchell - Woman of Heart and Mind (2003) documentary written and directed by Susan Lacy.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Studio Series: Screen prints

Dots and Optimism screen prints © Karen Thiessen, 2015
This week is the half-way mark of my winter screen print class and I'm stressing a bit because there is so much more that I want to do. Above are three successful prints. The blue Dots print is on a security envelope and the purple is on a black-and-white design. The chartreuse Optimism print is on plain off-white art paper. As I was printing with the chartreuse ink, I learned that it looked terrible layered over other colours, but looked fantastic on its own. HINT: If you wonder how to mix chartreuse, add a tiny drop of black to yellow and mix. Add white as necessary to achieve the desired opacity and lightness of colour.

This semester I've had more failures than successes, but because I print so very much, I have more than enough to collage with. The so-called failures are bases for future prints. Already I'm anticipating the beginning of the spring screen print class. 

Wednesday, 4 February 2015


Upholstery fabric; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Lately I've been learning how to piece right-angle triangles. An obsession with piecing hexagons naturally led to the mysteries of triangles. To prepare myself for the rigours of precision piecing (and the high probability of imprecision as I learn), I looked through my Gees Bend Quilt books to remind myself of the beauty of relaxed piecing styles. So far only one in four of my blocks of triangles match, but I've come to prefer the Wabi-sabiness of slightly mismatched points. As I play with piecing triangles, I've also been testing colours that are new to me. The upholstery fabric in the above image covered benches in the eating area at the California St. Whole Foods in San Francisco and it inspires me to push my piecing into new directions.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Quotes: Susan Sontag

"Do stuff, be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration's shove or society's kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It's all about paying attention, attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager." –– Susan Sontag (1933-2004), American novelist and essayist