Archive for the ‘Reviews’Category

Giving Sue Reno’s Video a Whirl for the Pi Project


If you are looking for a way to add your own personality and interests to a quilt, then Sue Reno’s Surface Design Essentials for the Printed Quilt video will set you on the right path. Bottom line: If you want to try four easy printing techniques on your next quilt, here’s where you can buy the DVD or download it directly to your computer. I don’t believe you will find a better teacher to start you on your printing journey.

First of all, Sue is obviously an expert in all of the printing areas she demos: Cyanotype, Heliographic prints, Collography, and Thermofax. Not only that, she also shows you her own artwork incorporating the printing techniques and talks about what makes an effective design. Sue was also very clear in her words and samples about how much thoughtful stitching adds to the successful conclusion of an artwork.

It’s easy for someone showing four techniques to show TOO much detail and lose a beginner who just wants to try a variety of techniques. This is not the case for this Quilting Arts Workshop video. Sue keeps it simple, so all the processes can be understood and easily tried. Sue’s “You can do it” attitude is one of the delights of this DVD. Don’t have fresh foliage to lightly press for heliograph printing? No worries, she uses some foliage from a florist and you can do the same.

Sue encourages experimenting and so even though I didn’t have the same paint or set-up she did, I thought I would give heliographic or sun printing a spin. Have you heard about the Pi Project?

I adore quixotic projects like this:  Next March 14, the date will be 3/14/15, which matches the first five digits of Pi: 3.1415. Pi, the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, is arguably the most significant number in history. Many celebrate Pi Day each year, but this next Pi Day is special. This alignment of digits will not occur again for a century.We are celebrating the number Pi by creating a fabric ribbon of its digits, stretching as long as we can make it, whether that be 20 feet or 2000 feet. The digits will be sewn on in the actual order they appear in Pi.Help us by creating as many numbers as you can for this fiber happening.

Sue recommends Profab Transparent paint for Helioprinting, but I had Pebeo Setacolor Transparent Paint. I didn’t have a plastic covered piece of insulation board, so I used a small bulletin board covered with a piece of butcher paper, shiny side up.


I used a large stencil to trace my number on a piece of Bristol board. Something heavier would have been better, but, hey, good to try it. Now I know. With the number pinned down, the bulletin board was carried outside.

Unfortunately, 2 p.m. sun in Illinois in October isn’t the strongest, but it WAS sun. And as you can see below, the Bristol board made a pretty good resist:


I’m happy with the result. Sue says not to worry about pin holes, so I didn’t. I used a market to make little red dots all over my number which disguised which dots were pin holes:


So, there it is, my unique heliograph 9.5″ square with one numeral on it – sent on its way to the Pi Project.

Please stop by Cynthia St. Charles blog tomorrow for her take on Sue Reno’s extremely useful and helpful video: Surface Design Essentials for the Printed Quilt.


11 2014

Pam Carriker – How To Create Art at the Speed of Life

CreatingArtSofLife Creating Art at the Speed of Life by Pam Carriker
Published by Interweave/F+W

I’m reviewing two books today by the same author/artist, Pam Carriker.  Both books are full of can-do optimism, a very personal and lively voice,  handy tips, and mainly achievable projects.  These books are best for those new to mixed-media and/or art journaling, for those with experience who are experiencing a lull in their creativity, or for those seeking new techniques to add to their skill set.

Let’s start with the newer book (shown above), Creating Art at the Speed of Life. What a great way to start a book : You first create a journal in which work through the seven chapters with lessons about color, texture, shape, perspective, form, line, and shading.  In 30 days, you will learn not only some art basics, but have a handbook of various techniques you have tried. Each lesson is well-organized with an objective, a short description, a supply list, and step-by step directions.

Kudos to Pam also for including a self-critique sheet for you to copy and include with each lesson in the book.  She even critiques a few of her own pages to show you how self-critiques work as a key to making better art. Pam has also created a Facebook page on which readers/artists can post their work from the book to receive feedback or ask questions about techniques. How generous!

Although the book uses some specific art materials, there is an EXCELLENT Glossary in the back of the book that offers substitutes for many of the basic supplies.

I hope readers skip over the included clip art. Better to use Pam’s techniques of using your own photos OR even do a less-than-perfect self-portrait/drawing.  We have all seen plenty of generic looking women in art journals – best to go for something unique even if it is less than perfect, no?


Art at the Speed of Life by Pam Carriker

Pam’s first book, Art at the Speed of Life, was published in 2010  and is different enough from the sequel to be included in the library of mixed-media artists who are just exploring mixed-media or are contemplating making art as a more serious endeavor.  It’s all about finding the money, time, space, and motivation to be a practicing artist.  Instead of the the 30-day art journal developed above, this book invites you to create a seven-day journal with specific techniques.

The rest of the book is as though nineteen other successful mixed-media artists and Pam sat down around a big round table and shared with you some of the realities of making art/living as an artist.  Each of the essays is lavishly illustrated with artwork and many of the artists share a special project.  It’s a book that takes some time to digest and that makes it perfect for those seeking “motivation +inspiration for making mixed-media art every day.”




05 2014

“Intentional Printing” and the Java Art Exchange


Let’s just cut to the chase.  If you don’t already have Intentional Printing:  Simple Techniques for Inspired Fabric Art by Lynn Krawczyk, just go ahead right now and order it from the publisher, Interweave/F+W Media, here.  Four reasons why you will be glad you did:

1.  It is a great book for someone who has never tried printing.  Lynn really does share simple techniques that can result in very complex designs.  But for those familiar with printing, there are pages full of inspiration and encouragement to try something new.


Photo from Intentional Printing courtesy of Interweave/F+W Media.

2.  You don’t need to invest in a lot of new “stuff.” For instance, you don’t need a pool noodle to do decay printing.  Use what you have is Lynn’s motto.  However Lynn does names names (one of my pet peeves in other books that do not) of products she likes and uses.

3. Her message is very positive.  Try this and see what YOU like, choose colors YOU like, don’t let other dictate what YOU think is beautiful.

4.  Most importantly, Lynn talks about the push-me, pull-me aspect of printing fabric which to me is crucial to printing interesting fabrics. By this I mean that she discusses how to create a layered printed design that is simple, yet evocative.  But she also shows you how to keep pushing – to really think about how to bring aspects of the printing to the fore or to push them back with different colors, images, or lines.

I have my own way of painting and printing fabric honed over more than a 1000 yards of white fabric, but I decided to try and print intentionally on small pieces of fabric (one of Lynn’s tips for success).

fabricdetail400A printed fabric to use as a background in three easy steps!


Then I made a screen from Lynn’s coffee cup graphic in Intentional Printing (enlarging it a bit since I wanted to mount it to a 10×8″ stretched canvas) even though my Thermofax (on its last legs) didn’t make a very good screen. I just filled  in the cup with paint, did a little hand stitching, followed her clever directions to MistyFuse the artwork to a canvas and voila, a new artwork for my coffee art wall.  I might still paint the edges of the stretched canvas per her directions, but I do like the stark white around the artwork. It’s shown on my work table, but now it’s on my coffee art wall.

I had so much fun with the coffee cup graphic that, with Lynn’s permission,
I brewed up the
***Intentional Printing Java Art Exchange***
All the details for you to participate are here.

Jamie Fingal’s blog
is the next stop today on the blog tour for Intentional Printing.  Check out the small art quilt she made using Lynn’s techniques.


04 2014

People and Portraits – A Sequel That Surpasses the Original



Well, OK, Art Quilt Portfolio: Peoples & Portraits isn’t a sequel like the ongoing saga of a blockbuster movie.  However it is the second, following The Natural World, of a series of books about art quilts with both books being authored by Martha Sielman, Executive Director of Studio Art Quilt Associates. The topic is, as with the first, self-evident.

Safe in Suburbia

Safe in Suburbia by Lori Lupe Pelish

There was a lot to like about The Natural World (my review here), but in this new volume Sielman has really developed the perfect format for a portfolio book.  I read it all in one sitting and found myself wishing it were longer.

The book is divided into thematic chapters:  Happiness, Contemplation, Community, Icons, Family and Friends, Work, and Play.  Within each chapter there are three featured artists and then a gallery of artwork about the theme.  There are more than 100 artists featured in the galleries.


John by Margene Gloria May

Each of the 21 featured artists has a short and perceptive introduction by Sielman and then the artists “talk” about their work in a series of brief essays. Sielman’s steady hand is shown in the editing of these essays. Each artist comes alive as she writes about her artistic journey, her inspirations, her personal symbolism, her sources of inspiration, and more.   Each artist also writes about the process of one of  her featured artworks.  More than once (you have heard this refrain before), I longed for even just ONE detail shot that would clarify something the artist had said about their process.


Tango by Colette Berends

Having said that, I much preferred it when the artist focused on their inspiration and purpose in making art, rather than the technical details.  That’s why I read this book straight through.  What could be more interesting than hearing artists “talk” about their work in a meaningful way with plenty of artwork interspersed?

There are a few featured artists (Cheryl Dineen Ferrin, Leni Wiener, Mary Pal, Lura Schwarz Schmidt, and Kathy Nida) who have been favs of mine for a long time, but it is always great to see and read about unfamiliar artists. All the featured artists have singular voices and definite points of view and you can’t ask for more than that in a portfolio book.


George by Pat Pauly

Art Quilt Portfolio:  People & Portraits is published by Lark Books and available through the usual vendors and SAQA.  It is 192 pages and retails for $24.95.  All photos courtesy of the publisher; artwork on book cover by Lora Rocke.


05 2013

Gloria Hansen’s New Book – A Surprising and Beautiful Journey

I have followed the career of Gloria Hansen for a long time and thought I knew her as an artist. Apparently not! Her new book, Gloria Hansen:  An Evolution in Stitches, Paint, & Pixels reveals an artistic journey full of unexpected influences and is an amazing catalog of her art-making career.  It reveals Gloria as a true renaissance woman, skilled in many artistic media and inspired by the world around her.

I love to see other artists’ studios and Gloria’s book opens with an introduction featuring several pages of her work spaces and materials.  It’s glorious to see the sheer amount of stuff she has crammed in to her workspace; it’s reassuring that someone who makes such pristine artwork works in such a material-heavy environment.

Here was the first of many surprises about Gloria.  She works in many media; her sample of a dog sketch in one of her journals was a revelation to me.  You can see she really works in her journals and sketchbooks.  The stack of books is huge and many of the books are lumpy with mixed media. Everywhere you look in the photos, you can see color and experimentation.

But, of course, Gloria is best known for her use of digital images printed on fabric and used in art quilts.  The book begins with artwork from 2002 –  present, including many of her awards, special exhibits, and her previous book, Digital Essentials. Gloria’s editorial voice is lively and she shares many photos taken at exhibits and events.  It’s a personal book in the very best sense.

Gloria wisely devotes fifty-four pages to her newer artwork before turning to artwork and publications from three time periods 2000 – 2001, 1992 – 1999, 1986 – 1991, followed by a section on her embroidery work.  Gloria’s talents as a writer were utilized early in her career and she also began winning awards for her innovative designs and beautiful stitching very early in her artistic career.

Surprise #2.  I honestly didn’t know beautiful and integrated the stitching is on Gloria’s artwork.  I appreciated the detail photos of the artworks featured as full-page photos and the frequent appearance of a small blurb about the artwork’s inspiration.

I appreciate how hard it is to sustain and grow a career, but Gloria has succeeded by working toward her strengths and evolving the complexity of her designs through her computer skills.  The story of how those computer skills developed is also integral to the book.

The biggest surprise for me was the section about her embroidery work. Who knew? You can see the same attention to details and color that later appear in her art quilts.

Her “Closing Stories and Thoughts” begin, “I struggle . . . ”  This typifies the tone of the entire book.  It shows that great careers are made by experimenting, never giving up, being true to one’s skill base, and working, working, working. Kudos to Gloria for having the courage to share the entire journey of her career to date, rather than just the highlights.

The book is available as a PDF download directly from Gloria for only $15 or from Blurb book for $60 with standard paper or $67 with premium paper.

I read it as the PDF file and it took me awhile to grasp the structure of the book; I kept going back to the Table of Contents to see where I was in Gloria’s journey.  But if you are use to reading books on various tablets, I don’t think this would be a problem.  Once I read the book, I read it again backwards.  I agree with Gloria’s strategy in starting with the present and working backwards in time, but it was fun once I knew the whole story to see the growth and evolution of her artwork from the very beginning.

This book is not only inspiring, but it also a fine record of the career to date of one of our most well-known artists working with art quilts.  If only mainstream publishers realized how important it is to record the history and development of pioneers in our field, such as Gloria.  I’m thankful that Gloria made the time to create this record of a 30-year career and shared it so generously with us.



09 2012