Monday, April 30, 2012

Open Studio Review

I had my first Open Studio event this past Saturday.  My studio is in my home and I spent much time cleaning the house to get ready for the event.

I set up my display wall in our living room so I could put out some more of my artwork.  I had several pieces hanging in the house and on the design wall.  I think it was good for people to see my work on the walls in my home; to see that this art made from fabric can be displayed just like a painting.

Snacks were set out with a vase of fresh flowers cut from my yard.

In my studio, I had my machine set up so I could demonstrate how I do free motion stitching (which you can also see in a video here).  At one point while I was demonstrating, someone realized that I did not have the design marked on the fabric; that I was actually just "making it up" as I sewed.  Yes, I do not pre-mark my designs when I'm doing free motion stitching and I think that is something I should explain in the future.

I had available my business cards, postcards for an exhibition in which I currently have an artwork, a mailing list sign-up sheet and a sheet with information about my current and upcoming exhibitions.

This open studio was not in conjunction with any organization or other artists.  It was something I did on my own to see how it would go.

I had sixteen people come, which I thought was a pretty good turnout.  I already knew most of the people, but not all of them were familiar with my work.  I sold one small piece.

It was a good learning experience and I am glad it is over.  I need to get back to actually concentrating on making some artwork.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Foray Art Exhibiton

The Treasure Valley Artists' Alliance's second annual membership show, called Foray, is opening tonight.  60 members will exhibit artwork in a variety of media.  The reception is from 5 - 8 p.m. at 220 E. Parkcenter Blvd. across from Red Robin in what is called the Yanke Building (look for Boise State Public Radio offices).  Parking is free for the event.

I am planning to attend and have one piece in the exhibit.  It is a smaller work called Summer Tree.  

Summer Tree
tea dyed and commercial fabrics,
fused applique and machine piecing,
hand stitched and machine quilting
approx. 10"x 6" unframed
© 2010 Lisa Flowers Ross

If you are unable to attend the opening, the exhibition will continue weekdays, Mon. - Fri. from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. through July 26.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


I have been noticing that there seems to be a plethora of tulips in Boise this spring.  The mild winter must have been good for them.  We even have a few in our front yard this year.  Usually, the critters chew off the buds before they open. This year, the critters came early and chewed off the tops of the leaves before the buds were developed.

I'm not sure if we have ever seen these white ones below, before.

These next photos are of tulips that are past their prime.  In some ways, I think they are more beautiful, in a subtler way, because there is more variation of color as the tulip fades and the shapes are not uniform and, therefore, are more interesting.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Functional Sewing

Even though I do a lot of sewing, I don't do a lot of functional sewing.  I've been starting to clean and get my studio ready for my Open Studio event this Saturday.  Yesterday, I did some functional sewing to spiff up one area of the studio.

Here is a table I have in the studio.  Since I don't use this table to sit at, (I only use it for storage and to prop up a board when I need to quilt large pieces) I store stuff underneath.  It doesn't look very attractive in this photo.

I purchased that curtain rod you see at the inside top a long time ago.  Yesterday was the day the curtain was finally made.  I had some commercial fabric that I really liked and thought I would use, but didn't have enough.

Then I pulled out this fabric I purchased from a quilt store going out of business (although it still wasn't inexpensive).  

This is a linen fabric made in Japan.  I bought a couple of yards, thinking I might make a skirt or bag with it.  How many skirts have I made for myself? 0.

Anyway, I decided this would be perfect because I would get to look at it all the time.  Much better now.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Painting Fabric

I hope everyone enjoyed Earth Day yesterday.  We had unseasonably warm temperatures yesterday - into the 80's.  It would have been a great day to dye fabric outside.  I'm not quite ready to do my annual warm weather dyeing yet.

However, I did need a large piece of multicolored fabric for a piece I want to start work on.  So instead of dyeing, I got out my paints.  I painted outside on my back deck.  I was thinking it would be great to be a plein air painter because you can be outside while you are working.  It's hard to have a sewing machine outside.

It was fun to paint without having a plan.  I'll show you my progression of painting.

1) I had to use an acrylic yellow paint because I had run out of the Setacolor fabric paint.  I slapped it on with a foam brush.  You can see my shoes in the upper left corner of the picture.  It might give you a sense of how big the piece of fabric is.

2) All the remaining colors were Setacolor.  I mixed some red into the little bit of yellow I had left over.  Notice that there are wrinkles in the fabric and plastic (which the Setacolor will accentuate).  It didn't matter to me.

3) The next layer I added the plain red, which is a little darker and added splatters.

4)  Then, I mixed some blue and white into the red.  (I was doing all this in one big yogurt container.)

5) I splashed some water on it and then went back in with the yellow again.  This caused it to become more blended.

6) I let it dry and it was interesting what the Setacolor paint did.  Here is a close up.

7) It also did some interesting things on the back next to the plastic.

In the end, you probably won't see much of this painting.  But I won't spoil the surprise.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Bits & Pieces Series

I have a series of artworks called Bits & Pieces.  The first Bits & Pieces artwork was made in 2010. Because I work with fabrics and they get cut up, I'm often left with little pieces laying on the cutting table.

One day, I think I decided to just play with putting them together to use them up.  Bits & Pieces I was born.  Bits & Pieces II which is very similar to I, has some hand stitching added.

Bits and Pieces II
hand-dyed and commercial fabrics,
machine pieced and quilted with hand stitching
© 2010 Lisa Flowers Ross 

As the series progressed, the bits and pieces of fabric have become more specific to just the leftovers from one or two particular artworks I have been working on.

For example, Bits & Pieces V has sections that were already sewn but got cut off my Leaf artwork.

Bits and Pieces V
hand-dyed and commercial fabrics
©2010 Lisa Flowers Ross

You can tell that Bits & Pieces VI really relates to my Color Fields series as the leftover fabric came from that.

Bits & Pieces VI
hand dyed fabrics, hand stitching
machine pieced and quilted
16 x 15"
©2012 Lisa Flowers Ross

There was a lapse of two years between V and VI.  I don't always feel like doing a Bits & Pieces work after working on something else.  The Color Fields series just inspired me to keep going with the next piece in the series.

Sometimes though, it is good to just take a break and play with fabric without any preconceived idea and see what I can come up with.  Now, I have completed Bits & Pieces VII.  I used some sections that got un-sewn from a very different artwork I just completed called Reflect.

Bits & Pieces VII
commercial fabric and fabric hand dyed by the artist,
machine pieced and quilted with hand stitching
17-1/2" x 15-3/4"
©2012 Lisa Flowers Ross

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Screen Printing Part 2

Last night was the second half of the screen printing workshop I talked about last week.  I was hopeful that my prints would turn out better this week.

Molly, the instructor, had washed the filler out of the screens for us (you need a power washer) so we had a blank screen to start with. Here is Zella painting on the drawing fluid for the second color of her print.

Since I had learned from my mistakes last week, I did better with the drawing fluid this week.  I also did better getting the filler on the screen.  Below Mary is trying to register the second color to match with the first color prints.  (Molly is holding the screen.) Mary had a great print of a paper bag.

I did better with the fluid and filler, but when it came time to print, I was having trouble (that was opposite of last week).  We could not figure out was was going on.  It seemed on one side, at mostly the border edge,  the ink would either not print, or it would print too much and "blob" and smear.  I did not get one good print.  Below is an attempt.

We think it might have been a combination of things (just like last week).  First, the design might have been too big for the screen and therefore was too close to the edges.  The squeegee was just barely big enough to cover the design and there might have been an issue with the height of the screen off the bed.  I also had a different screen than last week, so it could have been the screen.

What was frustrating wasn't the fact that the prints weren't great, but the fact that we couldn't figure out how to solve the problem.  Zella was also having some issues with her prints.  Mary's turned out great and I didn't stay to see how the last prints turned out.

I'm glad I got to try it at the workshop instead of getting all the stuff and trying it at home.  And I am learning to appreciate original prints more and more with each workshop I take.

On the brighter side, literally,  I was talking to Molly and noticing the beautiful trees as I looked out the window behind her and I saw a rainbow.  We went outside and saw this gorgeous arc all the way across the sky (couldn't get it all in with my camera).  It was very bright and also had a double rainbow (which you can just barely see in the corner of the picture.

One of the best rainbows I have seen.  I also learned it is kind of hard to take pictures of rainbows (at least with a  pocket camera).

It was a good experience and I enjoyed working with all the people there.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Deep Thoughts

Well, maybe the thoughts I'll be expressing today aren't so deep.  But they are some things I have been thinking about lately. 

I have been reading some blogs where the jurors have talked about the process of jurying for a show (these examples are art quilt shows).  Elizabeth Barton talked about her experience here.  I went back and read Virginia Spiegel's thoughts on when she juried here.

Much of what they had to say I have read before or already knew.  But what was making me think about it a little more was how Elizabeth said, "A message and a particular point of view are very important." and "The best work stays in your head and you want to look at it again and again."  

Virginia says, "Convince me that you, as an artist, thought about the theme long and hard. Show me in your artwork that you felt there was something you REALLY, REALLY had to say about the specific part of the theme you chose."

These are two valid points.  But I think my own artwork is not always something deep, or has a specific message.  And many times my ideas just come in flashes of an image.  I don't have to think long and hard about it.   I might have to think about how to accomplish it, but the thought is already complete.  It's mostly something that I want to show you or to have you look at something in a different way.  My artwork right now is simple in concept (not always simple in execution) and abstract.

Should I be making things with deeper meanings or a message?  Doesn't all artwork have some kind of message just by it's creation? Also, do I need to be creating artwork with more depth in layers or surface design?  Is that what jurors are looking for?  Do I care what jurors are looking for?

These are just two jurors experiences.  Every juror has their own vision of how an exhibition will look.  I bet if you did an experiment where you gave the same images to two different sets of jurors, you would have some different works being accepted and rejected.  (The lesson here is to keep trying).

My main goals aren't only geared for these types of exhibitions.  But it is food for thought, because I wonder if other people that view my art think it's too simple or too abstract.

I was happy to read Kathy Loomis' blog talking about the "plain old quilts" in the current Fantastic Fibers Exhibition (the show is not just geared to fabric).  These artworks are simple in construction and techniques with great use of color.  She would categorize her artworks as "plain old quilts" and I would put my artwork in that category, by her definition, as well.  But I think they are really more than that.

What is your opinion?  Do you like beauty for beauty's sake?  Do you want to be challenged more intellectually finding the deeper meanings in art?  Or both?  Or do you like something completely different?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Screen Printing Part 1

Last night I went to the first half of a screen printing workshop at Wingtip Press.  I have been excited about going to this workshop because screen printing is something you can do on fabric.

In this workshop we are using drawing fluid on the screen to create a two color print. We are working on paper.  I had drawn my image ahead of time and figured out where the two different colors would be.

The first thing we did was draw the design for the first color on the screen with the drawing fluid.  Below is mine.

After the fluid is dry, you add a screen filler.  Below is another student's screen with the filler on it.

The next step is to wash out the fluid after the filler is dry.  Then you can tape off any areas that didn't get covered and the screen is ready to print.

Molly, the instructor, is set up and ready to pull a print.

We were using an assortment of different papers to see the different results.  Below is another student's print.

Sounds easy, right?  Well, it was not that easy for the first time.  For several different reasons, my screen prep didn't turn out right and I had to start over and do another screen.  Very frustrating.

Even if the screen is prepared well, there can still be some issues with the printing.  Several people were having some trouble.

As with anything, the process takes practice and learning from mistakes.  Next week, we will do the second color.

Here is my first color print with my second screen.

I'm not sure how excited I am now about doing this on fabric.  But I realize this is my first time trying this and there are also other ways to do screen printing besides this way.

Stay tuned next week for part 2 and my final print.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

You Don't See This Everyday

Look at these cool flowers the neighbors left for Anna yesterday.  Yes, they are real.  I'm sure they used some kind of dye to do this.  I wonder how it was done.

Monday, April 9, 2012


My sweet, smart, beautiful girl is fifteen today.  Happy Birthday, Anna!  

Yesterday, I made her some birthday enchiladas similar to some she had in San Diego that she really liked.  They have avocado, rice and cheese inside.  I made a poblanos sauce for the outside.

I also made her birthday bread pudding, because we also had some awesome bread pudding in San Diego.  My first time making bread pudding didn't live up to the restaurant's, but we still had no problem eating it.

She'll celebrate with cupcakes and friends next weekend.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


I think I was in middle school when I received my first camera.  It was one of the kind where you had to buy the flash separately.  You also had to buy film and had to know which speed of film you wanted for what kind of pictures.

When you took a picture, you had no idea if it was good or not.  You didn't want to "waste" your film on unnecessary pictures because when you were done shooting the roll, you had to take it somewhere to get developed.  It would take a few days or a week to get the pictures back.

If you wanted to share your pictures, you would need to get double copies.  And if you were going on vacation and planned to take lots of pictures, you had to bring extra rolls of film.

Today with our digital cameras, we can see what our picture looks like instantly and take another one if the first didn't turn out to our liking.  We can take as many pictures as our memory cards can hold, which is a lot.  We don't have to worry about developing them.  We can just upload them to our computers.

Sharing our pictures is very easy, with many different ways to accomplish that.  Also, if are photos aren't picture perfect, we can edit them in different software programs to make them better.

What this means for an artist, and I'll speak for myself here, is that we can take lots of photos of the things that inspire us and have them right at our fingertips (no shoebox to get out and sort through).

What that means for you, is that I get to torture you one more day with some last pictures from our trip to San Diego.  The few I've showed you is a very small percentage of the number of pictures I took.  Someday, they will get sorted into my electronic files by category (i.e. flowers, trees, landscapes, animals, etc.).  Then, when I need a little inspiration, I can find them.

How do you use your camera?  Do you take as many pictures as I do?

Also, does anyone know what type of plant this is in the first picture with the holes in the leaves?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Aquatic Inspiration

On our last day in San Diego, we took a bus out to the Scripps Aquarium.  It was a nice aquarium with a great view but not as big as some we had been to in other places.

Above is a Bell Jellyfish.  It is an interesting color combination with the background.