Thursday, March 24, 2011

Rambling Thoughts on a Series

For some reason my brain has been quite chaotic lately.  So many things to do, negative thoughts, feelings, new ideas and old ideas all swirling around.  Even my trustworthy yoga and exercise haven't been helping much.  I don't know why.  Maybe it's the thought of spring and possibilities. 

For the past few days/weeks, I have had some recurring thoughts about this latest series I'm working on called Color Fields.  I showed you the first two pieces (with some not so good photos) and am just about finished with the third piece.  The fourth is already on the design wall. This third one has given me a little bit of trouble.  When you see it, you will probably wonder why?

And that brings me to some of the thoughts I've been having.  One day my husband walked into my sewing studio and asked me what I was doing.  I think I replied I was making something.  He said, "It looks like you are making stripes."  Well yes, as a matter of fact I was.  But it was/is more than that and I had explained that to him previously.  I'm sure he was just teasing me (at least I hope so!).  But then I started thinking . . . well, maybe that's just what everyone else will see when they look at these.

When I posted the first piece, I mentioned that they are inspired by aerial views of tulip fields in bloom.  How will anyone know that, if I don't write it in a statement?  Does it matter?  Color Fields can mean a few different things.  Have I taken the abstraction too far?  Is it too minimal? Will anyone get it? Does it matter? 

Ultimately, and I know it sounds a little flippant, but it doesn't matter.  I have to make the ideas I have.  And this seems to be my style right now: abstract, minimal and geometric.  I don't even think about entering the "big" art quilt shows like Quilt National because I don't think this style is what they are looking for.  I think the "in" things for the past couple of years for those types of shows seem to be an emphasis on surface design, lots of texture and new techniques of construction or materials (disclaimer: I haven't been to a lot of these shows.  I do have quite a few of the Quilt National books and see images in magazines, etc.)

My construction technique is quite traditional.  I mostly do the machine piecing because I think it makes a nice, strong graphic line.  I use 100% cotton fabric - very traditional (although I do dye it).  I haven't gotten into surface design or embellishment because, once again, I like the strong, graphic quality of the solid color.  Most of my pieces don't have a lot of texture right now, just the machine quilting.  These Color Fields pieces have even less texture because most of the quilting is straight lines.

Where is this leading?  I don't know.  I guess I'm thinking this series may not be for everyone.  But I'm going to keep working on it because I am kind of excited about it and have a plan.  So, here's to stripes!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sunny Day

Sunny Day
hand dyed, hand stamped and commercial fabrics
fused applique, machine quilted
9-5/8" x 13-1/4"
© 2011 Lisa Flowers Ross
I was so happy to see the sun this morning.  Didn't realized how much I had missed it.  We've been having that rainy spring weather.  

Above is a piece that I dug out of the closet while I was trying to clean it out.  I can't remember why I made it.  I think it might have been because I had some fused fabric I wanted to use up, or maybe I made it for my demonstration at the gallery (I didn't bring it), or maybe it was just for fun to take a break from something else. I'm guessing it's a combination of the first and last reason.  Anyway, I had the outline quilting done and the grass.  I just needed to fill in the background, which, as you can see, I did.  

I was planning to put a binding edge on it, but I didn't have a backing fabric on it and didn't want to hand sew into the batting.  So I went for the couched cording around the edge.  I didn't have a backing fabric because I liked how the stitching on the back looked.  That white is the batting.



Thursday, March 17, 2011


Happy St. Patrick's day!  I'm taking a little break from the reds and pinks of the Color Fields series to bring you some Irish green.  Yes, this is a picture from our trip to Ireland last year.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Color Field #2

Here is the second in this series.  Another not-so-great point and shoot photo.  There is some hand stitching in the green square.

Color Fields #2
hand dyed fabric, machine pieced
machine quilted
34-1/2" x 20"
© 2011 Lisa Flowers Ross

Monday, March 14, 2011

Color Fields #1

I was waiting to show you some of the pieces I have finished since the beginning of the new year until I had taken good photos of them.  But that requires some involvement of other things, so I've decided to just show you the point and shoot version right now.

Color Fields #1
hand dyed fabrics, machine pieced
machine quilted
41-1/2" x 27"
© 2011 Lisa Flowers Ross 

I am working on a series of these "color fields".  They are inspired by aerial views of tulip fields. Hence the colors that I don't tend to use very much (pinks and purple).

Although I think the spring season and thoughts of new blossoms also might have had some influence.  I have noticed that the last couple of years I have been working in colors that kind of go with the current season. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Unlike much of the country, we have not been buried in snow here this winter.  We are experiencing our spring weather now and, as Anna said, the "lion" has arrived.  The last few days we have seen all kinds of weather within the span of a day - snow, hail, rain, sun, sleet.  Today, however, eventually turned out quite nice.  Perhaps the "lion" was resting for a day.

At one point I was in the kitchen.  I looked out the window and saw two small spots of yellow in the yard. Our first flowers.  I think these must have been transplanted by a squirrel or something. 

I went outside to take a closer look and found many sprouts poking out from underneath the winter debris.


The Twelve by Twelve's next color challenge is chartreuse.  Perhaps I could find some inspiration here somewhere.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Leftovers II

Last year I participated in the Leftovers Print Exchange that local artist Amy Nack hosted.  There were many artists involved in creating prints that would be exchanged, with one set being exhibited in different locations (Eagle, Idaho, Reno, Nevada and Salt Lake City, Utah).  I believe there were around 65 artists. I created a linocut bird for that exchange. 

Amy is hosting Leftovers again this year.  This year she has over 130 artists participating.  I can't wait to see all the work (I'll have to wait for one of the exhibits because we only get 12 works in the exchange).  I decided this year I was going to use leftover fabric scraps to do my prints on, instead of leftover paper scraps (the premise is to use leftover paper scraps from other prints that are no more than 5" x 7"). 

I chose to pull out scraps of fabrics in warm colors.  Then I carved a "stamp" out of eraser like material and block printed on the fabrics.  I printed more than I needed as I knew some prints would not turn out so well.  I used a Speedball printing ink.  What I was really excited about was I had planned to do hand stitching on each one so that each piece would be different.

As I was doing the hand stitching, I realized there could be infinite combinations with different color threads and stitches on the pattern I printed.  I printed them all in black but could continue with printing with a light color on dark fabrics or different color inks on different color fabrics.  See? Infinite possibilities with just one pattern.  Anyway, I had 14 to drop off to Amy and I have four leftover (ha, ha).

 Crossed #5

Crossed #7

Crossed #12 

Crossed #10
(this one is a brighter red than shows up here)

 All are block prints on hand dyed fabric, hand stitching
approx. 4-1/2" square
$25 each 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Brown, Sage, Blue

hand dyed and commercial fabrics,
machine pieced, machine quilted
19-1/2" x 12-3/4" 
© 2011 Lisa Flowers Ross

First, I just wanted to note a correction from yesterday.  I had said that I thought it was easier to do a free motion straight line by pulling the fabric toward me, but what I meant was the opposite. I think it is easier to do the straight line pushing the fabric away.

Now that that is clarified, the piece above is my "play-along" piece for the Twelve by Twelve group's latest color challenge of brown, sage and blue.  Please visit their blog to see the variety with which this color scheme was interpreted (scroll down to see artwork).  (Did you know that they just had a book released about the first two years of their project?  Info. on their blog.) 

When they announced this color scheme, I thought it was great because I love sage green and earthy browns and blues are good, too.  Nothing specific came to mind, but living in Idaho I see those colors all around in the landscape.  As with Terry, I tend to think of sage green with the more silvery gray color like the sagebrush we see so often.  But as I pulled out fabrics, I realized I also see it with the more yellow hue as shown in Deborah's paint samples.

I wanted to use up some of my scraps for this, so just started pulling out what I could find.  I have plenty of sage green.  As I was laying them out to see what I had, I liked the way they were layered on top of each other and decided to create the artwork just as it was.  I ended up with what I like to call a Layered Landscape.  These colors also suggested landscape to several of the "Twelves".   

Sometimes while I am working on a piece a title will come to mind.  Nothing did for this one and I kept referring to it in my mind as BSB (for brown, sage, blue) and therefore, that is what the title is.  Or maybe it should be BBS or SBB since that is the order they are in in the artwork. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Ruminations on Plant-a-day

I did it - something every day for a month.  Here are all the plants together.

I have read somewhere, as I'm sure you have too, that if you do something for 21 days in a row it will become a habit.  I did these for 28 days in a row, but I don't think it is a habit, just something I committed to do.

Process:  Before the first day of this project, I cut up all the fabric and batting squares.  I chose a 6 x 6" square as the size in an effort to use up scraps of both.  Having 28 cut and ready to go made it much easier.

After I had decided on the theme, I looked at pictures I had taken of plants and did some sketches in my sketch book.  I did sketches of several different plants at one time so I wouldn't have to do this part of the process everyday.  Each day I would grab a square and my sketchbook, sit down at the machine and decide which sketch to use.  Once in a while I would draw another sketch just to practice the shape before doing the free motion stitching.  Below is one of the pages from my sketchbook.

After completing the stitching I would press the square, scan it and put it on the blog.  On average, it would take 15-30 minutes for me to do the stitching depending on the choice that day.  As I mentioned one day, there was one that took 45 minutes.

Intention:  I have been trying to decide exactly what my intention was for this exercise, or why the heck was I doing this?  I think the main thing was just to see if I could do something everyday for a month.  I also wanted it to be something art related that would help me practice something.  Originally, I thought about doing a pencil drawing a day because it is always good to practice that (and I don't do that much) but I wanted it to be more relative to fabric since that is my medium of choice right now.  So, fabric drawing it was.

I saw this as an exercise, not necessarily something to do to end up with a finished piece of artwork.  Although that was in my mind on many days and I just had to push it aside.  I also thought I could experiment with adding color later.

What I learned:  What did I learn?  I learned that drawing with free motion stitching is different than overall free motion stitching with patterns.  I started out doing more of a "coloring book" outline because I was thinking of filling in color later.  As the month progressed, the idea of doing the shading with stitching started working it's way into the squares.

I also tried to draw with one continuous line, as you do with the overall pattern stitching.  At first I would try to figure out how to draw without going over a line twice.  When that wasn't possible, I would go over a line two or three times which created a thicker, darker line and some nice variance, but it didn't necessarily end up in a place I'd want (but I didn't worry about it too much as it was just an exercise).

Looking at something repetitively really makes you notice things.  While sketching and stitching, I noticed the shapes of leaves and flowers and the lines of veins.  I noticed that I tended to have more interest in leaves than in flowers, but that could have been from my pictures.  Most of the pictures I used were some I had taken at the Missouri Botanical Gardens when I was there last fall.  When I was there, I noticed how many different types of leaves there were with different patterns on them. If I had been there during spring or summer when there were more things flowering, I might have noticed all the different types and shapes of flowers.

Since I didn't pre-draw anything on the fabric (I just looked at my sketch once in a while while I was stitching), I had some trouble ending up with a centered drawing or the scale was smaller than I wanted.  Part of what contributed to this problem was that it is hard to hold the fabric and still stitch right to the edges (I didn't use a hoop or anything).  If I did this again, I would cut bigger squares to have the extra fabric to hold onto if I wanted the design to be 6 x 6".

It is also harder to stitch the details on something that small.  I had to go slow and make fine movements which is not always easy to do on a sewing machine.

One day I had mostly straight lines and decided to use a straight stitch.  I didn't like that as much.  It didn't seem to have that hand drawn feel with those lines.  Even though it is hard to do a straight line in free motion, it gives it more expression.  I find straight lines are easier to do if you are pulling the fabric toward you as opposed to pushing it away.   Correction: I meant it is easier to do a straight line when pushing the fabric away as opposed to pulling it toward me.

Another thing I learned it that the fabric around the stitching would sometimes "puff" up because of the design and no background stitching around it.  If I want to finish these pieces, I think I need to go in and do some background stitching.

I already knew this, and it was evident several days over the month, but just because you commit to something doesn't always mean you are going to want to do it or enjoy it.  Several days I just wanted to get this thing done and I would pick a super easy design so that I could move on to something else.  I'm sure you can find those days in the picture above.

In addition, there are some drawings that I like better than others.  That's a given and that's why we practice and do these exercises.

Do you have any "days" that are favorites?  What would you do with all these squares?  Hope you didn't get too tired or bored with an entire month of plant-a-days.  Now, it's time to move on and I can start showing you some of the other things I have been working on.