Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Bead Journal Project ~ Christi C ~ A Sense of Place

Christi Carter, BJP, Aug, Shells, Sky
Above is a preview of a feast for your eyes which follows!

Christi C. lives on lovely Lopez Island, which is one in a chain of islands off the NW coast of Washington state, known as the San Juan Islands. This place is near and dear to me, as I also live here on one of the islands.

Christi Carter, 07-08 BJP participant
Christi joined the 07-08 BJP and completed her piece for the first month, which was June. Then life got in the way and for some months she didn't do any beading at all. After a while, she realized there was something missing in her life and that she needed to return to beading and the BJP. This year, in November, she is working on last year's November piece. She plans to finish all 12 pieces to complete the project.

Personally I very much identify with Christi's work, feel its pull on my heart and hear the songs in her designs... She's chosen to explore her relationship with the place where she lives, showing with found objects and beads what her island is like. I love the notion of art used to reveal a sense of place and her pieces do it particularly well in my opinion! Since she is another BJPer who doesn't have a web presence, I've photographed her pieces and you get to see them (all click-to-enlarge) below!

Bead Journal Project, Christi Carter, driftwood, water
^June ~ Driftwood ~ the beach and all the water that surrounds her.

Bead Journal Project, Christi Carter, lavender
^July ~ Lavender ~ Christi grows lavender as a business and July is the height of the growing season.

Bead Journal Project, Christi Carter, shells, sky
^August ~ Three Shells ~ about the sky.

Bead Journal Project, Christi Carter, Sept, Lichen
^September ~ Lichen ~ this lovely grey-green plant form becomes more apparent in early fall.

Bead Journal Project, Christi Carter, bark, Madrona trees
^October ~ Madrona Bark ~ distinctive tree with rust-colored bark, found only along the NW coast.

Bead Journal Project, Christi Carter, beach stone, fog
^November ~ Beach Stone ~ about fog and layers of clouds in the sky, both of which are common at this time of year. This one is still in progress.

I think it's fabulous that Christi is continuing to work toward completion of her 12 pieces for the 07-08 BJP! I personally know three other women who are also still finishing their pieces for the first BJP... I am so very proud of them (and many others unknown to me) for their perserverance!

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If you have any interest in seeing photographs of our islands, my husband, Robert Demar, also explores his relationship to the place where we live. You can see his photography here. Some of my favorite images are here and here. He's done two studies of Madrona trees (featuring macro pictures of their peculiar fracturing bark)... one in black & white and one in color.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Bead Journal Project ~ Christy, Donna & Lunnette!

Only about half of the 260 participating members of the 08-09 Bead Journal Project are active on the Internet. I'd like to introduce and show beading by three who are not... three who do fabulous work but do not have a web presence!

Christy H, Bead Journal Project participant 07-09
This is Christy H! She works full time, lives here on San Juan Island, is a mother and grandmother. We met through our husbands (both then were fire fighters) but quickly found that we had stitching interests in common. She encouraged me to come to the Quilting Retreat on Orcas Island three years ago, which began a bond that has grown, flourished and wandered into mutual beadlust!

You can see some of Christy's BJP pieces from last year on her BJP member page, here. She's still working on finishing, with the final piece underway now. Below are her recently completed pages for February through April. They are 3 inches square and solidly beaded.

Bead Journal Project, Memories & Dreams by Christy H
February ~ Memories & Dreams ~ features a heart-shaped piece of fossil ivory, a gift from her Aunt... old and new ~ it's all about relationships that claimed her heart in the past and her heart dreams for the future.

Bead Journal Project, Little Christy by Christy H
March ~ Little Christy ~ features a sea turtle for her love of the sea and yellow/orange colors for the exuberance and joy of her childhood.

Bead Journal Project, Moon & Sea Spiral by Christy H
April ~ Moon & Sea Spiral ~ this one is all about seeking peace and calm, also about the sea, sea shells, peacefulness.

Christy is now working on May, the final piece for last year's BJP! She has many ideas for the current BJP and plans to get caught up soon.

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Donna H is Christy's Mom. Gradually, we got both Donna and Christy's sister, Kathy, hooked on beading too. (I'll introduce Kathy and her work in a later post.) Donna, a very young, energetic great grandmother, lives in Cabo San Lucas (Mexico) during the winter and Homer, Alaska during the summer. She and her DH, Ken, drive back and forth twice each year, with side-trips to San Juan Island on the way. She quilts, sews and beads!

Bead Journal Project participant, Donna H, 08-09
Donna joined the BJP for the first time this year. Her idea for the year is very intriguing to me! She's making a color wheel! It won't be a totally ordinary color wheel. She intends to stitch the sections together and then bead across the seams, blending the adjacent colors to achieve an almost seamless wheel of color rather than the traditional color block wheel! Below you can see what she has done so far... September through Dec. The pieces are about 3 square inches each and placed next to each other for the photo but not yet sewn together. (Be sure to click this one!)

Bead Journal Project, color wheel in progress by Donna H
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Here is Lunnette HH! She, Christy and I get together nearly every Tuesday afternoon to stitch and bead. We have the most wonderful, comfortable, quiet, appreciative and non-competitive relationship. I cherish our time together more than I can say!

Bead Journal Project participant, Lunnette HH
Lunnette is mother to two grown boys, a volunteer firefighter (for nearly 20 years!), part-time clerk at our drugstore and an avid quilter. For last year's BJP, Lunnette went small because she didn't want beading time to interfere with her quilting time. You may remember her buttons (here and shown below)!

Bead Journal Project, buttons by Lunnette HH
Having enjoyed the journaling aspects of the BJP last year, she decided to go bigger and combine her beading with quilting, photo transfers and surface embellishment this year. She's making hexagonal pieces, each of which showcases something about her life, her passions and/or her joys. They are about 6" across and she will make them into a quilt at the end of the year. She's right on target so far, with three completed.

September ~ features her extended family with lots of subtle meanings to the way she's embellished the photos and her fabric selections.

Bead Journal Project, Family by Lunnette HH
October ~ honors her career as a volunteer firefighter on San Juan Island. As you can see, the "doors" open to reveal more of the story. The County's volunteer fire department recently celebrated its 50th year and Lunnette celebrated her 19th year of service! This is the piece that gave me the idea to make a "book" on the surface of my Nov. piece (butterfly, see in progress here).

Bead Journal Project, Firefighting by Lunnette HH
Bead Journal Project, Firfighting (detail) by Lunnette HH
November ~ the month of our annual quilt retreat, this piece showcases Lunnette's long-standing love for quilting and two of her quilting buddies (Christy H and Krispi S, both of whom are active BJPers this year and last year).

Bead Journal Project, Quilting by Lunnette HH
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I feel honored to bead with Christy, Lunnette and (when possible) Donna... to know them, to share a passion for beading and to introduce them to you! I will twist their arms a bit to get them on some one's computer, somewhere, to read comments you make about their work!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Painting Fabric with Dyes ~ with Ann Johnston


Four and a half yards of plain white fabric
turned into these
colorful (and color-fast), hand-dye-painted beauties:

fabric hand dyed and painted by Robin Atkins
Detail pictures follow... and all are click-to-enlarge.

Some of you know how much I love to paint decorative papers with layers of acrylic paint (see my website here and past posts here)! And some of you may remember my post about a brief opportunity to paint fabrics with dyes in Chicago a year ago (see here). To you it will be no surprise that, instead of going to our annual quilt retreat this past weekend, I took a 3-day workshop from Ann Johnston!!!!

Ann Johnston teaching fabric dying and paintingAnn describes herself as a quilt maker, who took up fabric dying to get the fabrics she wanted and needed for her quilts. I'd describe her as a quilt master, an artist with double mediums of dye and fabric. Below is a sample of her dyed fabrics showing some of the techniques we learned.

sample fabric painted with dyes by Ann Johnston
Three days was just barely enough to scratch the surface, to learn a little about the variables involved in immersion dying and painting with dyes. The confusing parts for me concerned mixing the four solutions:
  • Procion MX dyes ~ we mixed all of our dyes using only 6 colors (2 reds, 2 blues and 2 yellows) plus black
  • soda ash ~ fabrics need to be saturated with soda in order to fix the dyes
  • print paste ~ sodium alginate and other ingredients mixed with water ~ used to thicken the dyes for painting
  • urea water ~ used to thin print paste

Also confusing was the whole curing process involving time (4-24 hours for the dyes to set), temperature (72 degrees or more) and moisture. I need to take some time to re-write my notes so I don't forget so much.

We started with a selection of plain white, quality, cotton fabrics with no sizing or wrinkle-free treatments. My favorite of the fabrics were a Hoffman Indonesian lawn (the same as used for Bali batiks) and a medium-weight ultra sateen, by Robert Kaufman.

Our first lesson was to make a very light and a dark value of the same color by immersion dying. Then, also using the immersion process, we did a two-color blended fabric. Below are my light red, dark red and orange-olive blend curing (fixing) in their respective dye baths.

immersion dying, cotton fabric
For the remainder of the first day and the next two days, we painted dyes on fabrics using brushes, rollers, stamps, stencils and sponges. My favorites were done in layers. Each layer had to cure and dry (but not too quickly) before applying the next layer in order to preserve distinct edges. I didn't try to paint fabric sets, but have arranged pieces that look fairly good together for the detail images which follow.

hand dye-painted fabrics by Robin Atkins
hand dye-painted fabrics by Robin Atkins
hand dye-painted fabrics by Robin Atkins
hand dye-painted fabrics by Robin Atkins
hand dye-painted fabrics by Robin Atkins

My roommate and tablemate was Marie, of Z Quilts.

Marie J, my tablemate in Ane Johnston's workshop
We both had a great time... and it was fun and a privilege to get to know Marie better. You can read her blog about the class (here) and see pictures of the fabrics she painted (here).

Although 19 of us were crowded in a 3-car plus garage for this class (now I know how sardines feel), we all managed to have a great time and produce some wonderful fabrics. Some of the local women have already formed a study group and figured out how to buy bulk supplies.

Pleased as I am with most of my fabrics, the jury is out about me doing more of this. The number of variables, the expense of it and the space requirements are the downsides. The fun of painting and the often serendipitous results are the upsides. Time will tell...

Meanwhile, I'm already back to beading. You'll see more of that soon!


If you're a quilter, you may want to check out Ann Johnston's latest book, The Quilter's Book of Design. I've skimmed through all of it and find it one of the best ways to look at the design process that I've ever encountered. It easily applies to related art forms, such as bead embroidery, as well.


A thought about taking workshops ~ I've been teaching workshops and classes for 20 some years. Only a few times during these two decades have I found time to take a workshop taught by someone else. And what a pleasure it is to be on the other side of the room once in a while... not having to know anything, not having to be responsible for anything except my own learning process, not having to prepare all the kits (Ann's were awesome!), not having to pack and put it all away when I get back home!!!

Ann handled all the difficulties (crowded space, great variation in previous dying training by her students, trying to convey years of her experience and knowledge in just three days, empowering students to experiment and play with the basic techniques on their own) admirably well! It was really a joy to sit back and be a beneficiary of her efforts. Sweet!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

November Bead Journal Project ~ Mom & Me

Wow! I've been reading the BJP blogs, catching up after my week in Minnesota with Mom ... I'm vividly impressed with all the creative expressions of our hearts!!!! This just gets better and better, don't you think?

Before departing for Minnesota on Nov. 1, I gave some thought to my Nov. BJP. Since I was visiting Mom, who is a real a sweetheart, and since this important trip has been on my mind for several months, it makes total sense that my journal page for Nov. should be about Mom (and a little about me too).

With that decision made, visions of photographs of Mom came to mind... also the image of a butterfly. Mom was a scientist at heart, she studied entomology (insects) and ornithology (birds) in college and graduate school. She doesn't get into what things symbolize as much as I do. Yet, she's always been drawn to butterflies.

So, I googled butterfly images to see what might inspire me. At first I was impressed with the fancy ones. But after skimming 20 or so pages of images, I found myself repeatedly noticing a plain little yellow butterfly with a single distinguishing spot on the upper wing.

dogface butterfly, female
As it turns out this beautiful creature ( Zerene eurydice, commonly known as the Dogface butterfly) is the California state insect. Mom was born and raised in California. Although I considered using the more dramatic male version (see below), the more subtle and shy female coloring seemed more appropriate for Mom.

dogface butterfly, male
OK, I thought... now what? How can I use this image AND the photos of Mom? A book!!! I decided to make a book on my page, with a beaded butterfly wing for the front cover and the background fabric of the page for the back "cover."

I drew the butterfly on interleaving paper, and basted it onto some yellow dupioni silk from my stash. I basted around the wing and the along the veins to give myself beading guidelines (see back and front below).

bead journal project, Robin Atkins, butterfly outline, back
bead journal project, Robin Atkins, basted guides for butterfly wing, front
Here is an example of one of the inside pages of the book. I used Photoshop to make the images into vignettes and collage them onto a partially screened version of the wing. Then I journaled in the yellow areas, writing little thoughts that came to mind as I looked at the images.

bead journal project, Robin Atkins, butterfly book page
Basted silk, beads, yellow embroidery floss and the wing pages traveled with me to MN. Mom was quite impressed that she was the subject of this month's BJP page, also delighted to see some images of herself that she hadn't seen in many years. Here are two of them that are included.

Mom and me, taken in 1943 when we lived in Palo Alto, CA.

baby Robin and Mom, 1943
Mom, taken in 2004.

Robin's Mom, Ferne Cook, 2004
While I was there, I worked on beading the wing for the cover. I got it finished the last day I was there, but only have the in-progress picture below.

bead journal project, Robin Atkins, beaded butterfly wing
My sister-in-law, Julie, said I should consider it done... She said the silk has a papery-like texture, similar to the appearance of a butterfly's wing. I agreed with her, but decided to try beading the entire wing, giving myself the option to undo it back to how it is shown above if I didn't like it. You will see my decision in the next post!

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You know I'm a bunny person, right? One of my two totem animals is the rabbit, right? Well, arriving at the Seattle airport a tad early on Nov. 1, I decided to do a little window shopping. Look what I found at Fireworks!!!!! Is he cute or what?!

bunny with sweater
bunny with sweater
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While in MN, Julie, Brenda, Terri and I got together one evening to bead. We had a whee!!!! Brenda brought her beautiful gate (September's piece) and was working on her October pathway. Terri has 5 (or maybe it's 6) of her "pages" started, some nearly completed. Like her Pirate book from last year, this year's piece will be a sort of "book." Julie was working on a free-form woven bracelet for a sale she's having next month, but brought her BJP work to show'n'tell. I'm totally in love with the way she visually described her experiences in Yellowstone National Park this fall in her September piece (see below).

bead journal project, Julie Cook, Yellowstone Impressions
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Mom's doing fairly well, especially considering that she'll be 92 years old in a couple of months. We braved Minnesota's chilly night to go to my brother's house to watch the election returns... and celebrated with champagne during President-elect Obama's speech!!! Mom still reads the newspaper every day and was much relieved to know there will be some changes in the years ahead.

Having read and appreciated Obama's second book, The Audacity of Hope, a year ago, I was convinced we needed him in the oval office. A couple of weeks ago I bought his first book, Dreams from My Father, which I've been reading during the past week. It feels like an amazing privilege to be watching our new president on TV while at the same time reading about his struggles to find himself, to identify his authentic place within race and other issues, during his youth. I believe he has the potential to be a great leader!

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Long travel day to get home yesterday... I flew from St. Paul to Seattle, took a shuttle to Boeing Field, and caught a puddle-jumper flight, which landed and took off in Oak Harbor and Orcas Island before finally arriving at San Juan Island, where I live. Ordinarily, I'd enjoy the extra flying time (over beautiful emerald islands), but yesterday was totally weird weather... high winds at certain altitudes, three levels of clouds (the lowest of which barely skimmed over the surface of the land and was extremely fast-moving). Some of the middle layer was busy dumping a load of rain, and once we saw the most brilliant rainbow.

view from small plane over Whidbey Island
However, if you know about flying small planes, you may be able to guess at what a nail-biter it was to be landing and taking off. Rock'n'roll, you say? Bounce, you say? Swerve to the side, you say? Yup! Took me an hour for each of the three landings to calm down after getting home. Had to put the cat on my lap... But, here I am, safe and sound!