I was racing to complete my panel for the blanket project this week, and I knit so much that I gave myself a repetitive strain injury.  This has been annoying for two reasons: one, it hurts; and two, it means that I can't work on my art right now (it's in my dominant hand.)  I have a craft fair coming up in a couple of weeks and I'd like to crank out some stuff.  Or knit.  Or work on my drawings.  All things I need my dominant hand for.

I did manage to finish this set of napkins before the injury.
I also managed to help an artist with her work.  She is doing a project in which she has people write about a major illness on vellum tags and she will attach them to glass bottles in an installation.  Here was my contribution.
While I recover, I'm going to be working on my web presence and maybe watch some podcasts and stuff.  I already listened to an Art Biz Blog podcast, about the importance of a blog, and how Facebook doesn't replace a blog.  I think that's true, although Facebook certainly helps me a lot with my marketing.  My blog can help others in different ways though, like inspiring them to teach themselves or run their own business.

Well, I'm off to go continue to market my works!
 
 
So, although I've officially been back at school this week, I haven't really done any schoolwork.  For one thing, I'm waiting for my drawing books to come in.  For another, I don't yet have the supplies for my weaving.  I only have myself to blame for not having watched podcasts though.  I don't usually watch them while I work because most of the things I do when I work require attention.

I have finished one big commission, a tablecloth.  The clients seem pretty happy with it and hopefully I will ship it this week.
Tablecloths take a long damn time!  I am also working on a tablecloth and six placemat set.  It's taking a while too but it doens't have a strict deadline so I can work on other stuff as well.  I have three sets of four napkins that I'm working on now. I will also do some placemat-napkin sets of two for Valentine's Day.

At my last shift at the Museum, I got a million resources.  The one I looked into yesterday was RACC, The Regional Arts and Culture Council.  They have listings for jobs, grants, and all sorts of things.  I haven't finished looking through their calls to artists yet.  It's an amazing resource and I'll probably have to spend a few days wading though.

One of the things I found in the calls to artists was a call to knitters to knit panels for blankets that will be given to local homeless people.  I've been working on that to try to get it in on time.  It's probably going to snow this weekend and not everyone can get into shelters, so I hope I can help someone out. There seems to be a very active knitting-for-the-community scene here in Portland and there are many opportunities to participate.

I'm going to drop off some work at the Crafty Underdog consignment store today.  Wish me luck!
 
 
I have completed my first semester of my UnBFA, and it totally didn't go how I expected.  But that might be a good thing.

I set out an educational plan at the beginning of the semester.  First, I wanted to teach myself surface design.  I am proud to announce that I have achieved my goals in that regard.  My work is very much improved, and people seem genuinely impressed when I show it to them.  I get a lot of joy out of what I make.  Through practice, I have grown so much as an artist.  It's really weird for me to be tooting my own horn like this, but damn, I'm getting better!  I can't wait to see what the next few months will hold as I continue to grow.

I finished my design book.  There weren't as many practice opportunities as I would have liked, but I am starting to see the principles being applied to my work.  My skills have improved enough that I can actually explore different ideas, particularly in form and color.  So that didn't quite go how I thought, but it certainly has changed my work, and I think it's for the best.

I didn't get to work on drawing as much as I would have liked.  However, my drawing did improve.  This is partly due to the study of value in my design book, and partly due to having the tool of a blending stump.  I did not learn to draw from imagination (something I am currently weak at) but I will continue to work on my drawing from observation, at least for a little while.

I didn't get to Art History at all!  Fortunately I studied it a bit in high school, so I'm not completely clueless.

I didn't finish those business books that I intended to read.  I had to actually run a business, though.  I watched several Art of Photography podcasts, which did improve my photography a little.  I listened to Art Biz Blog podcasts and read some of the website.  This site is tremendously helpful and I hope to continue to study it.  I learn something every podcast or blog post.  Also, I am happy to announce my latest development in my business: I'm going to be in the Crafty Underdog craft fair!  It will be January 8th.  It's not a lot of time to prepare and I'm going to be scrambling trying to come up with displays and business cards and stuff, but it's a start.  I'm also working on three large commissions that are consuming my time and energy.  They are sort of like term-end projects.  Very exciting.  Furthermore, I am working on my first series that is intended to be more on the art side of the continuum and less on the craft side.  I am hoping to get into a show, somewhere, sometime.  So this business thing is going somewhere.

I did not get to go out to galleries and see as much art as I would have liked.  Practicalities of life made this difficult.  I did make it to one excellent lecture and one mediocre one (albeit with great art) and am keeping my eyes peeled for more.  I have gotten to volunteer at the Museum of Contemporary Craft a few times now, and I'm making great connections there and learning some of what it takes to run a museum (it takes a whole lot!).  One of the advantages of volunteering is that I also get to see the exhibits.

I am also taking it upon myself to improve my hand embroidery and am looking for a way to learn tatting.  I'm not yet sure how I will incorporate these things into my work, but I am sure that they are important!

I am starting to form plans for next semester.  I will have to continue to study surface design and am going to try my hand at some small shibori projects.  These will involve stitching a design, pulling the thread tight to bunch the fabric, dyeing it, and then undoing the thread to reveal a pattern.  I will have to do this on small pieces at first because it will take me a year if I try to do it on a tablecloth or something.  Additionally, I'd like to work on my weaving a bit.  I've only woven one project on my loom (due to lack of funds for suitable yarn) and would like to continue to practice.  I need to learn to dress the loom by myself, which is a little daunting but I've done it twice now with supervision.  So I will try to hunt down some yarn that will work.

In drawing, I need to actually get that drawing book out of the library and practice more.  I might continue to work on drawing from observation for the time being and learn to draw from imagination in a future semester.  Hopefully I will also be able to study art history this semester, but my focus will probably be on other things and I might have to let this slide a little longer.

Business study will continue unabated as I learn to run my business.  I think it will be much the same, bopping around finding what I need and then implementing that.

I will also be taking my first "continuing education" class this semester.  Really, it's just an hour or so class that cost me five dollars, and it's not even fiber-related, but there you go.  It's something and it's getting me out meeting people.  I will continue to listen to various podcasts (I probably have hundreds of hours of podcasts now) to learn more about the art world.  My husband has also tracked down episodes of Art:21 online, which is a great series and very educational in contemporary art.

So, that's my end of semester report!
 
 
I have been working on some new pieces.  Lately, I am into incorporating some of the ideas that I encountered in my design textbook.  First, I have been looking at color.  In this piece I was incorporating complementary colors.  Those are the colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel.
This one is a study of red and green.  It's not particularly Christmasy, which is a risk when working with those two colors.  The red was pole-wrapped and the green was tie-dyed.  I machine-embroidered in black on top of that.  I like the contrast of the two colors, along with the black.
This one is a study of analogous colors, or colors that are next to each other on the color wheel.  I started out with the yellow, which is pole-wrapped, and then pleated with green on top of it.  Next, I added the orange swirls, which are block printed.  This wasn't enough for the composition, so I added the machine-embroidered blue circles.  In doing so, I actually created complementary colors, the blue and orange.  I chose a circle for the embroidery motif because it was similar in shape to the swirls but not exactly the same.  In this way, I incorporated both harmony and variety.
In this one, I fold-resisted in orange, added glue-resist swirls, and painted with yellow.  Then I block-printed the orange swirls on top.  This one shows analogous colors better than the last one, and uses more harmony than variety.  I was a little disappointed with my glue-resisted swirls, because they are hard to see, but they turned out pretty well in the photo.

I am also working on a tablecloth for some friends.  So far, it has taken me half an hour to pleat it, and then 45 minutes to tie it for tie-dye, and another half hour to take the elastics out.
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After tying for tie-dye. It's kind of pretty like that, but really not practical for a tablecloth.
 
 
I had a fantastic week art-wise.  First, I am working on a series that I started with my wall hanging with the Proverbs passage.  I have decided to do a series that incorporates that whole story, the one of the capable wife.  I'm currently working on the next section and will need to do one or two more.  My husband and I decided to approach a few cafes to see if they would display the series when it was finished.  I'm very excited about this.  It was my hope to do more sort of gallery stuff along with my stuff for everyday use, and I'm glad I'm doing it.

I had my first shift volunteering at the Museum of Contemporary Craft.  It was amazing!  It was during an event called "First Thursday" in the Pearl district of Portland, where all the museums and galleries are free for the day on the first Thursday of every month.  It was very busy, and I helped checking bags and policing to make sure people didn't take flash photos or touch stuff or talk on their cell phones.  (Just a public service announcement:  you can't take flash photos in a gallery.  The flash damages the art.  Some galleries don't allow photos at all for copyright reasons.)  It was great fun.  The other volunteers are all amazing people, and I had a fantastic time.  I also got to see the exhibits (not get a good look, but a look nonetheless) so that was an added bonus.

Friday, I went to a public lecture that was put on by the Museum and the Pacific Northwest College of Art.  It was about one of the exhibits, Studio H.  The presentation was by a woman who had a non-profit design firm.  She wanted to use design to help change the world.  She got hired by a school superintendent in Bertie County, North Carolina.  The public schools in the county were doing really poorly, with not enough teachers and not enough funding and all the top-performing students going to private school.  It is a very poor, sparsely populated area.  First, the woman and her partner designed some classrooms to help create a better learning environment.  Then, they got a brilliant idea.  They would become high school teachers, teach a class design for the community, and then hire them over the summer to build something.  They hit a lot of road blocks, but eventually opened a design class in one high school.  The students had a lot of trouble in the beginning.  Some of them didn't know how to read rulers (like they didn't understand the concept of an inch), some were scared of hammers, and some had never taken an art class.  So they had to focus on the very basics in the beginning.  Then, students had to build a corn hole board.  They were given directions for the board, but they had to come up with their own design for the front.  They were given two colors and a verb to work with.  The verbs were things like "twist" and "stretch".  They ended up being very beautiful, and the kids got to learn about how precise they needed to be with building things.  Then they had a giant corn hole match.  Their next project was to build chicken coops, where they had to build models and design the coops.  The coops required a feeding area, a roost, and a run.  They built three coops (after very many models) and gave two of the coops to families in their community.  The last coop is in the museum.  Their final project for the year was to create a structure for the farmer's market.  Because Bertie County is a flood and hurricane area, they had very particular building codes they had to work with.  Because their floor had to be raised, it ended up being the perfect height to unload trucks from.  The local egg farms had bays with eight docks for loading the trucks, so the students made their structure with eight docks on either side for local flavor.  They made built-in tables so the vendors didn't have to bring their own.  It ended up being beautiful and the vendors and the shoppers loved it.  So the students got a great education and summer jobs, and the community got some much-needed building done.  It w
 
 
So, head on over to my store at icraft.ca/mouse-and-bear to catch my Black Friday sale.  Sale prices won't last long so if you're thinking of buying anything, now's a great time!

In other news, I have been working on a few more items for the store.  They aren't posted yet but hopefully we will see them there soon.  The first is a set of placemats that I made.  I originally intended to make them almost the same as another decorative cloth I had made, the one with the blue background and leaves.  This one.
However, since I'm not skilled enough with the dyes yet to create something that looks exactly the same as something else I've made, when I had finished the dyeing and the block printing the work didn't have enough depth.  Depth is something that I really want to have in my work, so I had to find another way around it.

I thought of doing machine embroidery, but it didn't really appeal to me with what I was doing.  I had, however, picked up some nifty stuff called Jacquard Discharge paste.  I had bought it a little while ago but I hadn't used it yet because my book said that I needed a respirator, which I didn't have.  I scoured the product website to see if they called for a respirator, but they didn't mention it anywhere.  So I thought I'd try it with an open window.  Anyway, the fumes weren't bad at all, much better than many household cleaners, so I was fine.

I had tried discharge before with bleach.  It was kind of cool but I wasn't crazy about it because it was smelly, messy, and hard to control.  With Jacquard Discharge Paste, it's thicker and you can paint it on.  I decided to try to print with it.  The prints were kind of messy, because the stuff kind of has the texture of raw egg whites rather than something thick like textile paint.  However, I liked the sort of ghostly images it made, and I feel it gave the work the depth it needed.
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These are a set of four placemats.
I also worked on a wall hanging that became a bit political.  I tie-dyed the piece in green, and then pole-wrapped it with red, and then made a flour paste and spread it over top.  Then I took a skewer and wrote Proverbs 31:10-16 in it.  Proverbs 31:10-31 is about "The Wife of Good Character" or "The Wife of Valor" which is used by both feminists and complementarians to describe the ideal woman's role.  I have always been shocked at the very different ways that it can be interpreted.  When I read it, I see that this ideal wife is hardworking, financially independent (through her own work, not inheritance), smart, and joyful.  Complementarians tend to read it as a demonstration of how a woman should be submissive to her husband and take care of the home.  I sometimes feel like I walk in a weird world as a religious feminist, with religious patriarchy on one side and feminists who believe that religion is necessarily demeaning to women on the other.  I personally find a lot of strength from passages like this, and I want women to know that they have the option of being both religious and egalitarian.  So this is a work of self-expression for me.  As such, it will not be turned into placemats (which would be really labor intensive anyway) and am going to keep it as a wall hanging instead.
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There's the whole piece. You can't make out all the writing, which is fine by me because it makes it look like an ancient document, as well as avoiding the kind of pushy evangelism that I hate.
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A close-up. You can see the slight crackle effect left by the flour paste resist.
 
 
I love books, and there's no reason why books can't contain my art!  Here are my latest set of bookmarks.  On all of them, I have done a zigzag stitch on the sides and allowed the ends to fray rather than seam them.  This is so they will lie flat in a book.
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Pleat-resisted and dyed, glue resisted and painted with dye.
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Pleat resisted and dyed, glue resisted and painted with dye.
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Scrunch resisted and dyed, glue resisted and painted with dye.
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Tie-dyed, glue resisted and painted with dye, block printed with textile paint.
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Painted with dye, glue resisted and painted with dye again.
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Pole-wrapped and dyed, glue resisted and painted with dye.
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Pole-wrapped and dyed, glue resisted and painted with dye, block printed with textile paint.
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Tie-dyed, glue-resisted and painted with dye, block printed with textile paint.
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Pleat-resisted and dyed, glue resisted and painted with dye, block printed with textile paint.
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Tie-dyed, glue resisted and painted with dye.
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Pleat-resisted and dyed, glue resisted and painted with dye.
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Pleat-resisted and dyed, glue resisted and painted with dye, block printed with textile paint.
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Painted with dye, glue resisted and painted with dye again.
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Pleat-resisted and dyed, glue resisted and painted with dye, block printed with textile paint.
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Pleat-resisted and dyed, glue resisted and painted with dye, block printed with textile paint.
In other news, I have been working on a piece that I'm very proud of.  I don't have a photo of it yet but I'll try to get it up as soon as I can.  I wrote part of Proverbs 31, which is about the Wife of Good Character.  It's a verse that is used by both feminists and complementarians, or people who believe that men and women have separate roles.  I use the feminist interpretation, which I take to mean that the ideal wife is economically independent and has a good work ethic.  It's my first sort of political work, and it was fairly labor intensive so I'm going to have it as a wall hanging rather than a placemat.  I don't want to be making four of these, unless they are a series for a gallery or something.
 
 
I have some things to show you.  I've been working on lots of stuff and I'd like to share it.
These are the placemats and napkins that I made for my brother and sister-in-law.  They have been pole-wrapped and dyed, school glue resisted, painted with dye, block printed, and machine-embroidered.  I stayed up until midnight the night before I left for my trip to Vancouver, BC in order to get this to them.  They were very happy with what I had done and actually took them into the party that we were at to show everyone, rather than leave them in the car where I had given it to them.  So I was very flattered and enjoyed everyone's interest in my work.
This is a fabric sketch that I did.  It is tie-dyed and machine-embroidered.  I usually do more to the fabric, but I am trying to learn not to do too much.  I sometimes want to create depth so badly that I end up overdoing it.  It is important to know when to stop in art.  I think this is a good example of knowing when to stop.  I love the color and the juxtaposition of the circles with the squiggles.  I also like how the black and orange contrast.
This is a bookmark that I made.  It is pole-wrapped and dyed, glue resisted, painted with dye, and block printed.  This is an example of where I wish I stopped before I did.  I think it would have been better without the leaf.  It's not bad with the leaf, I just think it would have been better without.  I did a zigzag stitch around the edge and left the frayed edge on instead of hemming so that the bookmark would lie flat in a book.  Otherwise I think it would add too much bulk and could fall out too easily.
Another fabric sketch.  It is pole-wrapped and dyed, glue resisted, and painted with dye.  I think the color combo works pretty well here, although I did the same combo on some other pieces and they ended up looking muddy.  I like the swirly thing too.  Usually when I'm doodling I do henna designs, which is great but I am trying to expand my horizons a bit because I've been doing henna designs since I was 15 years old.  This is an example of a shape or line formation that is inspired by, but isn't, a henna design.  It's still fluid and whimsical but not the exact same thing that I've been doing for 17 1/2 years.
Here is another fabric sketch that I did, a little larger than coaster-sized.  It is painted with dye, glue resisted, and painted with dye again.  The design is supposed to be cherry blossoms.
Another slightly-larger-than-coaster-sized fabric sketch, scruch-resisted and dyed, and then glue resisted and painted with dye.  X's are a little out of my comfort zone but I like them.  This one is borderline muddy but I think the X's save it.

So there you go!  I have many more items I have completed, mostly bookmarks, but I have to redo the photography.  More show-and-tell when I have done that!
 
 
Here are some more photos of what I've been working on.  Some of these are for my brother and my sister-in-law, and some are for inventory purposes.
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Painting yellow dye over the resisted cloth. It should turn out more yellowish when it's set, but it will still be a bit greenish.
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Printed.
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Printed. With the weirdness of the dye, I think this one is pretty much finished.
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Printed with fall colors.
I have had a few snippets of time to work on schoolwork, although not as much as I would like.  Here is what I've been working on.
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A warmup in which I altered a photo by dampening it, then coloring with water-based markers.
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Beginning of my crumpled paper drawing. I need to keep working to make it look like paper and not cloth.
 
 
So, I don't know how many people regularly read my blog, but those who do may have noticed that I haven't been posting much lately.  That's because I've been having less and less time for school.  My business is taking up a lot more time.  Instead of doing surface design for an hour every other day, I now have to do it for a few hours every day.  Now, according to the unschooling method, this is still school because I am learning things about surface design as I do it professionally, such as how to replicate a color I mixed in a previous batch, how to make new colors, and how to make items thick enough to be serviceable while using a fabric that's thin enough not to be a pain.  I am currently working on a batch of napkins and placemats for my brother and sister-in-law, who have requested green and brown for the placemats and yellow and blue for the napkins.  Additionally, they want something natural-looking.  I have made mistakes and had to start again, run out of supplies, and all kinds of adventures.  Also, I'm trying to focus a little more on the business side of things, such as picking up supplies, communicating with future clients about exactly what they want, recording expenses, and arranging deliveries.

Here are some photos of the project, part of the way through:
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Pole-wrapped napkins with glue resist drying. The mess you see around them is the typical state of my studio. I can clean it up (clean is a relative term) and it will be this messy again in an hour and a half.
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Close-up of the glue resist.
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Supplies.
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Pole-wrap in action! Most of the immersion dyeing takes place within the bathtub. I try to keep a bucket in the bathroom so that we can throw the supplies in there while we shower.
One day when I'm rich and famous I will have a separate studio outside my living quarters so that the bathroom can be for bathing and the bedrooms can be for sleeping.  Or at least for less-messy crafts.

In addition to business, I have added a fair bit of exercise to my routine because I find that my quality of life is so much better if I do.  I walk every day anyway, but I have also been adding running, pilates, and yoga.  This ends up being between an hour to two hours of exercise a day.  My back pain has disappeared, my concentration has improved, and my mood is so much better (doing something I love for a living doesn't hurt either).  I don't know if I'll lose weight or develop amazing lung capacity or anything, but that would be nice too.

I am going to be volunteering with the Museum of Contemporary Craft in the Pearl District of downtown Portland.  It's my favorite gallery here.  I have my volunteer orientation tonight.  I'm not sure how often I'll be volunteering, but it will be nice to get out more often and hang with people who love art, while supporting my favorite gallery.  My other volunteer thing is that I seem to have become a chaplain with Occupy Portland.  I didn't intend to do this, but like most things with the movement, it just kind of happened organically.  Really, this is very nice because I got my degree in Religious Studies because I wanted to help the world, and the mainline church hasn't really needed or wanted to use my education.  Here are some people who don't care that I haven't gotten my master's degree or gone through discernment committees, they just need some help.  So I'm happy to be useful in that way.

Hopefully, I'll have a little more time for school soon and I can keep everyone posted on what I've learned.  In the meantime, look out for more progress reports on my business projects!