Thursday, December 14, 2017

Shifting Gears

I've been so focused on the exhibits and the physical therapy that I am just this week addressing Christmas preparations. Not so my neighbors, including the one that shares the other half of my townhouse duplex and cleared snow for me. This is what their side looks like, and I wouldn't mind at all if they continued that string of lights across my garage as well!

They even hung a lighted garland over the spot where are trash bins sit.

Once the cards are written and a few decorations up, I'll be starting on a quilt for my god-daughter's baby girl born the day after Thanksgiving. I have an idea based on a quilt kit I saw in the AQS catalog. It uses a white background but I want to use up some of that lavender that wasn't lavender fabric I dyed up earlier this year. Studying the picture and taking some measurements, I think I have the dimensions of the block and its components figured out. Yes, I was still getting exhibit stuff ready but couldn't resist mocking up the block and its setting. It verified the change I thought I wanted to make. Of course, the strip colors are just random ones I picked. It will take some pulling from the stash to figure out what the color scheme will really be. I'm hoping not to make this too complicated so that I don't have to spend too much time getting it made. As my friend Michele noted in an email "The good thing about baby quilts is that they tend to work up fast -- much faster than a full-size bed quilt. That is -- unless you are my friend Sheila and you over-think things!" Exactly what I was thinking as I read along. When do I ever NOT over-think things? :-) Let's hope I can keep it simple and fast.

I'm hoping the turnout for tomorrow night's opening reception for the Rooted in Fiber exhibit is better attended than last Friday's opening reception for the Power of Renaissance exhibit. It was mostly the die-hard POAC supporters who showed up. I was surprised that there was not more art, and that art was only hung on the main floor. I did get several comments on Eisenberg Fountain's "commercial" appeal. I've always thought that, that it would look good hanging at a business, but these comments were also encouraging me to contact a local home decor designer because they could see it in someone's home as well. I may follow up with that after the exhibit is over. I also noticed a couple studying it close up, pointing at the stitching near the top that depicts the cascading water. I wish I'd gotten a chance to talk to them.

POAC is trying something new with the incorporation of  Artist Talks at the opening receptions. Here is Bonnie Shields talking about her evolution as an artist, showing some quite early pieces. I got brave and asked if they had anyone lined up for the winter exhibit, and they were quite eager to have me do it. So tomorrow night, I'll be talking about my work and answering some specific questions posed by the organizer of the talks. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Edge Finishes and Rooted In Fiber Exhibit

Leaf Cluster VII - Sheila Mahanke Barnes ©2017
While I was not as diligent keeping to a daily "stitchvember" practice as I was to a daily "Inktober" one, the personal challenge did keep me regularly in the studio to complete the chosen leaf clusters for the second December exhibit I am participating in. Besides today's looming deadline for dropping them off, I also knew I'd be losing studio time to physical therapy sessions starting around Thanksgiving. They've been taking about 2 hours out of my day, three days a week in an effort to clear up a nagging leg pain that is probably tendinitis. It's a little bit of a mystery as to how I injured myself and quite irritating that it is so slow to respond to treatment - definitely tiring of the 3 times a day icing that I've been doing since late September. At any rate, both Leaf Clusters got completed by the end of November/stitchvember, completed that is, except for readying them for framing.

Leaf Cluster VII - detail

Does anyone truly enjoy the edge finishing process? I know I never have, even though I know it is the final design decision one can make before the quilt is done. There's the squaring up process which can get off, and if adding a binding, crossing fingers that the edges will not be all wavy once it is stitched on. I can sometimes avoid the tedious hand-stitching to the back but if not, I have to keep checking the front to make sure I haven't allowed the needle to go all the way through, leaving a bit of thread showing where it doesn't belong. Satin stitching or some similar decorative machine method can end up uneven and stretching the edge into the dreaded wave. When I started putting smaller pieces into frames, I thought that would solve having to fuss over these raw unfinished edges, but I was wrong. I still end up having to do something with those edges before attaching the quilt to something somewhat rigid. Sometimes that has been a loose zigzag stitch (still having to be careful not to stretch those edges), sometimes that has been Fray Check, sometimes that has been wrapping the quilt over stretched canvas. Every thing I do makes me nervous until the quilt slips into the frame and looks perfect.

This nervousness came back to me as I embarked on framing these two pieces, and it dawned on me that my reticence to take that last step was actually fear that during the process I would irreparably damage the piece and I'd have nothing ready to take its place so close to deadline. I could easily place the ruler wrong, especially on Leaf Cluster VI, where I was dithering on exact placement of the cluster within the frame. But I had to start cutting, deciding to do things in a slightly different order than I usually do. I had the pane of glass from the frame so set that on the quilt and marked around it with a permanent pen. Then I applied Fray Check along that drawn line and let it dry before cutting. I've always found it tricky applying the Fray Check to the cut edge which never fails to have a few stray threads sticking out along it. Fray Checking first worked really well on this piece.

A strip of 1/2" Scor-Tape has been applied to the top of the illustration board

Now to attach it to illustration board which would keep it stiff inside the frame, a must since I would not be using that pane of glass or a mat to hold it in place. I've done this different ways too, including machine basting around the edge, using an acid-free glue of some kind (applying a thin line of it around the edges and a few lines through the middle to keep the center from sagging), but also trying a double-sided scrapbooking tape. The tape didn't always adhere well to the fabric, and glue is inherently messy, so I perked up when I started seeing a product called Scor-Tape being demoed in the videos on She often uses it to attach canvas to paper and warns that once it is down, there is no going back. It comes in a variety of widths and strikes me as a little expensive, but it is archival (which I've always been careful about) so when it was included in a store-wide discount, I ordered some up. I find it much easier to use than the scrapbooking tape I'd tried, and it appears to stick well to the felt backing of this quilt. I applied strips along the outside and across the middle which held the quilt in place just fine.

You can see that this is an inexpensive frame with no rabbet to speak of which is why I used the illustration board - easy to bend those metal strips over to hold the artwork in place. I did my usual of stamping my logo/initials and inking "label" details directly on the board. A business card with the rest of the exhibit-required information will be taped to the lower right corner.

Leaf Cluster VI - Sheila Mahanke Barnes ©2017

Add some eyelet screws and hanging wire and this one's ready to go! Leaf Cluster VII went through the same series of steps except it was Scor-Taped to foam core board because of the wider rabbet of the Nielsen Bainbridge metal frame it is placed in. Seriously, so slick once one gets over that fear of making a terrible gaffe during the process.

Idaho Maple - Sheila Mahanke Barnes ©2011

I'm allowed three pieces in the "Rooted in Fiber" exhibit so I spent Sunday afternoon looking through my documentation binders for older pieces that would fit the theme and look good with these two, then digging said quilts out of a storage bin. I decided on Idaho Maple which is a 2011 piece using one of the squares of fabric printed during a 2006 experiment with stamping using actual leaves (see this post). Remembering the brief series that I did with those leaf prints back then is what prompted me to try another series with a different type of leaf cut into a stamp. It seemed a nice connection to make. Here's the Artist Statement I devised:  

My love affair with fiber is rooted in my earliest memories, watching my mother and aunt sew at the machine and hand-embroider tea towels, running my fingers over the motifs on the fabric in a quilt made by my grandmother, delving into my mother’s supplies at a very early age for a scrap of fabric, floss and needle to crudely embroider a mother’s day greeting to her. Since then, I’ve tried just about every needle art and sewn many pieces of clothing before discovering my true creative outlet in quilting. With everything else, I mostly followed someone else’s design and directions. With quilting, I found myself easily making changes to patterns and eventually striking out on my own to execute  original designs.

I worked my way from traditional quilting to contemporary “wall quilts” incorporating patchwork blocks to “art quilts” made of fabric enhanced with surface design techniques such as dyes, paint and stamping, sometimes embellished with beads and specialty yarns, and increasingly more often presented in a frame. Underlying my creative journey has always been the love and feel of textiles and an appreciation of the long history of the needle arts.

"Rooted in Fiber" is just one part of this three-part exhibit. Come join us if you can!

"Works in Miniature, Rooted in Fiber, & Beyond Form"
12/15/17 - 03/16/18
This exhibit features three themes in one. "Works in Miniature" will feature miniature art pieces in 2D and 3D, no larger that 8" x 8". "Rooted in Fiber" will feature the many wonders of the fiber art world.  "Beyond Form" will feature a gathering of abstract works.
Please join us for a reception at the Sandpoint Center (former Columbia Bank building on the corner of Fifth Ave. & Church St.) Friday,  December 12th 5:30 - 7pm

Thursday, December 07, 2017

The Power of Renaissance Exhibit

Liberating a quilt from under the bed - is it still in one piece?
Since I finished the quilting on the two latest leaf cluster quilts, I've been spending studio time prepping them for framing and dealing with exhibit paperwork. In my time exhibiting with POAC, I think this will be the first time I've had art in two simultaneous exhibits that open just a week apart. Luckily, for this exhibit that sees POAC's return to the Power House, I could pull a quilt from under the bed that hasn't seen the light of day for several years. It had the first drop-off deadline, so I interrupted my framing to tweak its Artist Statement to more closely fit the theme (Renaissance - rejuvenation, rebirth, revival), and unwrapped it from its plastic bag and protective sheet to make sure everything was still properly fused and holding together.

Eisenberg Fountain: The Healing Power of Water ©2015

I always liked the gallery space at the Power House and was sad when circumstances led to POAC finding a different office and gallery space. The businesses in the Power House have missed us though, and we've secured it for gallery space once again. I'm pleased that Eisenberg Fountain: The Healing Power of Water will be hanging there until March.

Click photo for readable size

I've seldom been able to bang out an Artist Statement quickly, and I spent particularly long on this one, partly because POAC is allowing us to fill an 8-1/2 inch x 5-1/2 inch space rather than a 3 x 5 inch one, and partly because I'd be printing it out myself so might be able to include a photo of the actual fountain. I ended up reducing the opacity of the fountain photo and superimposing my text over it and think it is still readable. With quilt checked and all paperwork filled out and collected, the only other thing I needed to do was be sure I was taking the right quilt to the right location!

Eisenberg Fountain was well received on its first outing at the Columbia Bank gallery, and it will be interesting to compare that to the response at tomorrow's opening reception. As always, if you are in the vincinity and can drop by, don't forget to say hi!

"The Power of Renaissance"  12/08/17 - 03/02/18
This will be POAC's first exhibit back at The Power House.  An exhibit celebrating a revival of art at The Power House, as well as, the artist's own personal revival or rebirth.
Please join us for a reception at The Power House on Friday, December 8th 5:30 - 7pm

Friday, December 01, 2017


I can't lie; I was disappointed that the design for the December spread in my pocket calendar was not more Christmassy. Where are the poinsettia blooms, the ivy and the holly leaves? So I made do with trying to color up the blooms with pointy petals to look a bit like poinsettias. Don't ask me what Christmas flower is purple though. I just thought it might be a good second color.

I thought this would be the last of the spreads to color in, but no. This is one of those calendars that gives you a few months into the next year, and they've included one more spread to color to ring in the New Year. I thought perhaps IT was supposed to be for December but the flowers in that one are even less about the holidays. But it looks like it will be fun to color in.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Tamping Down the Second Guessing

Should I or shouldn't I? The safe bet was to do nothing, but I didn't feel like being safe. I wanted to add a little stitching along the edge of the fused center square. My sewing machine has minimal embroidery stitches by most standards, and still far more than I ever use. I had it in my head that #40 on the second row would give the jagged look I wanted, even though I had vague memory of thinking the same before and ditching it for another stitch. #41 turned out to be the ticket, although not at default stitch and width it turned out, and not without trying other options first. (Click on any photo for a larger view.)

When in doubt, stitch it out. I started with the short sample on top and right away, my chosen stitch was too dense and didn't look all that jagged. I also tried numbers 17 through 20, this time remembering I could fiddle with changing the default settings. Everything looked too regimented or too dense, until I went back to #41 and experimented with stretching it out. Oooo - onto something there! So I started stitching it out on a longer strip, inking the settings on the fabric with each change.

I'd already done the "visualizing" stare-down with Leaf Cluster VII on the design wall, and knew I needed those samples up there to aid in my visualizations. That's how I came to a fairly quick conclusion that nothing on the first sample was right. Now it was a matter of deciding which of the settings for #41 would do what I wanted, if any of them would. As I sat pondering it on the wall, I actually said out loud, "Come on, Wild Woman. Where are you when I need you?" It would have been very easy to back out at that point, but the Wild Woman in a bottle said, "Oh for Pete's sake. GO for it!" She even allowed me a minute to apply some design logic to the choice, just to make me a little more comfortable.

That logic was one of repeating a motif or shape throughout a design. As I studied the quilt and the stitches, I saw the similarity in the pointy shapes the stitch pattern made to the bits of cutaway texture from the stamp that had printed here and there, and the pointy ends of the diamonds in the border fabric. It all went together.

It's a subtle addition, that round  of jagged stitching. It would have been fine without it, I think, but if I'm not going to try out things in the course of finishing up the leaf clusters already printed, where will I? This will have about a half inch trimmed off all around for it to fit in a 14 inch square metal frame. When I use this kind of frame, I usually attach the quilt to a piece of foam core board, but wouldn't you know it, the leftovers on hand are not big enough and I don't have another full-size board in the closet. Luckily, an office supply store is minutes away. I'm moving along with less dilly dallying over details and options it would seem, and thus with less anxiety. But Tick Tock, exhibit deadline is not far off so must stay focused. Which made this recent cartoon in my newspaper so apropos.


Wednesday, November 22, 2017


While waiting to make the final decision on positioning what will be Leaf Cluster VI in its frame (see previous post and the comments for the outcome), I moved on to the next one. I've been fussing with it off and on ever since I held my breath and placed the stamp down on a carefully cut and arranged group of triangles that were fused to a batik background. I wasn't happy with the paint color, as I recall, and I don't think it was a very even print either (I can't find any post-printing photos). After printing up other fabric with unmixed red paint, I decided to try overprinting with that red paint to bring back some of the red that was missing in the first attempt. I came very close to landing the stamp in the exact same spot as the first time, close enough to be happy.

But when it went up on the design wall once the paint was dry, I noticed that at certain angles, I was getting a sort of glare off the paint that wasn't happening on any of the other prints. I still don't know for sure what caused it, although I think I may have mixed too much textile medium into the acrylic paint. But I do know that it has kept me from taking the next step.

I tried several things to get rid of the shine/glare/milky look that wasn't there looking straight on at it. And since the leaves were now quite red, I did a bit of stippling over it with a black permanent brush pen, hoping that it would also have the effect of getting rid of the glare. I like that addition of black, but it did nothing to tone down that glare (again, no photos).

But I'd determined that it would be one I'd definitely finish for the upcoming exhibit. Time to dive in. I'd already mulled framing over binding (it will be framed in a metal frame that gives the look of binding), and backing it with Decor Bond only vs layering with felt. I'd pulled it from the wall and was about make that last decision about stabilizer or felt when I was hit with that glare again. Arghhhh - I couldn't do it. I had to see if I could rid the glare.

Leaf Print overpainted with Marabu Textil plus
And this is when the reckless part kicked in. I do not know where it came from because I'm usually ruled by caution if not actual fear, but perhaps this is the beauty of working in a series. Suddenly, no one piece becomes precious because you have a ton of them you're going to play with. I was never going to be comfortable with it and that glare so a what-do-I-have-to-lose feeling came over me. Next thing I knew, the piece was laid out in my paint area, the batik border masked off, and I was getting brush and acrylic paint out - neither of which I feel adept with. First I tried the same acrylic paint I had stamped with, except without any textile medium - no need as this was paint on paint. It had no effect, probably because it is not an opaque paint. But wait! I'd recently purchased a few colors of Marabu opaque Textil plus paint including a red because I'd been so disappointed with how my Liquitex Acrylic had failed to pop off dark backgrounds. If anything will work, this will.

Both of my cameras struggle to capture the true colors in these batiks

And it did! I carefully painted it on and it started to cover the black pen stipples. When dry, I tipped the cloth at an angle to catch the light and no glare. I re-stippled to tone down the red a bit, and spray-basted it to felt in preparation for stitching.

Funny what I wild woman I felt, wielding my paint brush over my shiny leaves. I wish I could bottle that feeling to counter those times when I'm stuck in my usual timid approach to my textile art.

Maybe a bit of that wild woman confidence stuck with me though. I haven't spent nearly the time pondering the quilting and the color of threads to do it in as I did on the other leaf clusters. I outlined the leaf cluster in the burgundy thread but did not echo it. It doesn't show much but it doesn't need to. Then I traced around the irregular lines in the batik with my finger to get a sense for which ones to follow so that the quilting would more or less spiral into the middle rather than make concentric squares. It too doesn't show a great deal unless you are close up but again, it doesn't need to.

If I had used Decor Bond to stabilize this, I would not need to stitch out into the border at all - the main reason I started experimenting with it. But I went with the felt because I instinctively wanted to run stitching around those diamond shapes. I was a tiny bit iffy about using the same color of variegated thread out there as used against the rusty batik, but it only took a few lines of stitching to know it was just fine, pulling me away from my usual matchy matchy inclinations.

I've finished quilting diagonally in both directions now, those wonkily placed diamond shapes now reminding me of fluttering leaves which strike me as the perfect backdrop for the leaf cluster star of the show. It certainly wasn't on my mind as I audition fabrics to properly set off the square upon which that cluster would be stamped. Happy accident? My next step is to test a satin stitch that alternates varying lengths of stitch width to give a jagged effect. I'm thinking I want to add that to the edge of the square where it meets the "border" batik, done in the burgundy thread. The vision in my head says it is the final touch while my cautious side wonders if I should leave well enough alone. Perhaps I'll get reckless again... 

Thursday, November 16, 2017


"The whole culture is telling you to hurry, while the art tells you to take your time. Always listen to the art."

I love it when I run across a quotation that validates my view or way of operating that doesn't seem to be "trending" in popular circles. I was about to embark on adding the last of the parallel line quilting on the latest Leaf Clusters piece, those very short runs between leaf and stem in the last of the gaps that you can see in the picture below. I'd first done all the lines that ran edge to edge, then went back in and quilted from edge until I ran into the edge of a leaf or the stem. When I'd done the first round of quilting, spacing the lines the width of the presser foot, I didn't pull the thread tails to the back and tie them off until all the stitching was done. That left me with quite a mess on the back, sorting out threads that had tangled and in some cases been run over as I quilted along. This time I quilted up to the leaves on one side, then paused to pull tails to back and tie them off before doing the same on the other half. Much better. 

Note those very small areas between upper leaves and stem yet to be stitched

But those short runs - I remember accidentally pulling a thread all the way out, undoing the 4 or 6 stitches altogether and having to restitch. They also demand precise placement of the needle at beginning and end so no gaps show between the end of the line and the leaf or stem it is headed for, and in the case of the stems, lining up with stitching on the other side of the stem. So with the addition of these lines, I stopped after each pass to tend to the thread ends.

Slow going. And I knew it would be. But I didn't care because I did not want to be backtracking over previously stitched lines to move from one area to the next, and I didn't want to do the "tacking" stitch at starts and stops, preferring instead the clean look of the even stitches. It's my personal aesthetic and I don't care if it takes me longer. And it was nice to run across Junot Dias's quotation (from a The Daily Beast interview) that validated my decision to work this way. In this "hurry up" society, and part of the quilting world that is always flashing "quick and easy" methods at us, it's nice to be reminded that speed is not always necessary, and how much you produce is not always relevant. It's ok to take your time. And for me, taking my time is part of enjoying the process.

Through the magic of Paint Shop Pro, one positioning option

So here's a question for you. When I stamped this leaf cluster on that test print scrap, I specifically placed it down in the corner. I even made notes along the edges of the fabric about placement and which way was up. I decided it would look good in this frame, bought with several other frames when I wasn't sure which would work the best on the first Leaf Cluster I finished. It was a 10 x 10 frame, the same size I've been working with for the ones that went over stretched canvas before going in the floater frame. The piece of fabric itself is about 11 x 12 which is not big enough to wrap around the canvas, thus the decision to use a regular frame. But when I got the frame unwrapped to audition how it would look, there wasn't a lot of my little quilt showing through the window, certainly not ten inches. I got a ruler out to discover that the outside of the frame is 10 x 10 with the opening for the art being only 8-1/2 x 8-1/2. That's way more cropping than I thought I'd be doing. I decided that wasn't an altogether bad thing, so I'm proceeding with that frame, positioning it with the leaf cluster down in the corner.

Second position option - subtle shift to center

But of course, in the midst of moving things around, I suddenly had the frame positioned with the leaf cluster centered in the opening. And now I am torn, unable to decide which looks best. If this was your piece, or if you were a viewer at an exhibit, which would you think is the better positioning for this particular textile? I really want to know what you think.

As I've gone back and forth over the various decisions I've had to make on just this piece, I once again found a reassuring quotation to make me feel better about the time I've spent mulling my options. And I am taking it to heart:

"Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely."