Busking! Two buckets, an apron, freedom.

I have always valued a good bucket.

Opportunity for creativity never strays far from a good bucket. I mean, when there is a bucket near by, you can rinse brushes, soak stamps, do low water immersion dyeing. And that’s not all! When I was a kid, my dad upholstered a lid that fit perfectly on a 5 gallon bucket providing us a cushioned seat to rest on while fishing. I have never lost sight of this ideal scenario and it seems, I have cottoned onto an adult opportunity to utilize and make a new padded throne!

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See the mad glimmer in my eye? I just spent upwards of 25$ on a:

5 gallon bucket

2 5 gallon bucket lids

1 2 gallon bucket

and a 

Bucket Tool Organizer Extreme

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And I am about to upholster my bucket lids with Melly fabrics….

So, what, you might ask, is Melly up to?

I am going to try busking, as a textile artist in NYC!

Sometimes, you get a weird idea, that just won’t let you go. And when it happens, you kinda just need to do it. So, I am.

I love public displays of art. I love doing art, embroidery, stitch work and drawing in public, so why not try printing while out and about? I mostly work solitary, staying in my studio, but, recently, I have come to thinking, “maybe there is a way to be less solitary, and to still be able to print!

I have scoped out Washington Square Park, which I think will be a good entry into doing this. I may need to ask some gal pals to come visit and help me, at least the first time. But, I am going to do it.

I have bought the items, and now I will whip up a quilted blank to upholster the bucket lid! Wish me luck. I will keep you posted.

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Selfies in Stitch

Self Portrait of Melly Testa

We currently live in the era of the ‘selfie’. Participating in social media is almost akin to sharing a life in photographs. ‘Selfies’, photos taken of the self, by the self, are the go to method of getting images out there.

As a young artist going through school to obtain a degree in textile design, I was encouraged to make artwork based on self portraiture. We were shown images of artists who had simply painted themselves as if looking into a mirror, we talked about artists who painted themselves into the periphery of the painting- as say, a member of a crowd, and we discussed depicting ourselves well outside the identifiable, as perhaps a rabbit or a monster, relying on emotion and myth rather than depicting a realistic clearly identifyable image. 

At first, it felt egotistical to use the self as inspiration for artwork. Do you hang the piece in your home? Sell it? Would anyone want to purchase an image of your mug? Do you make self portraits and store them for posterity? How do self portraits fit into the context of the artists overall portfolio of work? Does any of this matter?

Over time, I have come to see the value and the sheer possibility of connection or communion with self when working with imagery that is just so known-to me. It is almost as if I am journaling, digging deeply and using words to explore ideas. But because I am a visual person, I instead get to slow down, take a single stitch and use that time to explore a moment in my personal, visual herstory. 

 

An Exciting Reveal: Crafting a Life LLC, Carol Soderlund and Melly Testa

It has been pretty quiet here and today is the day to break that silence.

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A project I have been working on, with my good friend Carol Soderlund, is coming to fruition. And better still, we can now reveal, we are working with Pokey Bolton and Crafting a Life, LLC to bring this project to life!

We are writing a book on multicolor printing using Procion MX dye, our favorite medium! My smile is so big, I can hardly stand it.

Carol and I are both fiends for color, we love quilting, cloth, printing and motif making. And we seek to lure you into our printed fold! In writing this book, we strive to present a seamless and easily approachable foray into printing cloth and using it-in your next quilt. (I would love to go on making puns, but, I will stop there. It gets tiring!) But it is true. Carol and I have been ironing out the descriptives to some pretty awesome techniques! (The puns!!!)

Soon, some time soon, we will have a printed book to show for our efforts. And Crafting a Life, LLC is printing our book. Can I say, OMG? Pinch me, please! 

We are all quite excited to tell you about this project!!

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This book will discuss motif making, loose and formal repeat printing and many other printing techniques. And it will act as a printers workbook. 

The materials used to print the cloth are readily available; carving rubber, fun foam, stencil plastic and Thermofax screens. We present a simple method of working with color and gradation that is both unique and accessible. Basically, we have removed the learning curve related to mixing and using color and set the stage for you to begin printing your own unique textile designs with ease.

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We’ve been diligent in finding solutions for those who have little space, but are still drawn to expressing themselves creatively by printing unique and personalized cloth. And we present methods to enable you to print yardage too. 

Fabrics combined with commercial fabrics

To say this makes me happy is an understatement. To work with Carol is an honor. To have finally figured out how to print in repeat without a fancy studio or special equipment? Priceless. The fact that Crafting a Life, LLC and Pokey are supporting our efforts by printing, what I believe will be, hope will be, the surface design book of a generation? This is a complete and total blessing.

Thank you Pokey.

As we come closer to day when you can hold this book in your hands, we hope you will visit our blogs and social media accounts. I will be printing and piecing a quilt top as blog content, with updates to my personal FB, my Melanie Testa-Artist page and my Instagram page.

Follow Carol’s blog, Living Color, here. FB. Insta

Read Pokey’s Ponderings, and her post about Publishing Again. FBInsta 

Base Layer!

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This is a sample for my upcoming online class called Stitch Journal, which I will present through my teaching site, The Clever Guild. In this class, we will create a stitch-able sample, using the techniques you see here, reverse machine appliqué, fusing, raw edge hand appliqué and Mistyfuse and more. And then, we will hand stitch and embroider it.

It feels great to get into teaching again. I hope my efforts are well received, and that you are interested in working with me.

I have been working and reworking this hand drawn nude for years. You may remember Repose, which won entry into Quilt National ’07, and if you poke around my quilt portfolio (I will update it. Soon) you will see a few more small work interpretations, like Repose in Blue. Recently, I recreated this image as Breastless Beauties, to honor those of us who have had breast cancer and body altering surgeries.

Little did I know when I originally drew this image that it would become a seminal work and a series to boot. I am well versed in this drawings needs, I know where the curves need to be just right, I know which lines are essential and which can be covered or altered. It is nice to know a drawing in this manner.


Abrupt change of topic:

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Please, go straight to Pinch of Yum and make this, ‘Life changing 30 Minute Masala Sauce’ Make an entire batch and dispense the paste to an ice cube tray, 3 frozen cubes works for a family meal, 1 cube makes a nice fry-up for one! It really is life changing. And versatile.

 

 

Stitching, embroidery and telling stories with thread

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Stitch is a gentle and impactful manner to tell stories, create imagery, and spend time. 

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Take, for instance this graffiti, a snapshot taken while in Barcelona, Spain, just over five years ago. I love birds, and am smitten with the quick, illegal stroke of the graffiti artists’ hand. Combine the two, and I definitely feel the need to snap a photo and go on to figure out how to use it in my own work!

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While most of the imagery I use in my work is drawn by myself, I don’t really feel badly about recreating a graffiti drawings in my work. I receive graffiti as an issue of the public domain, perhaps I am wrong in my thinking, I do not know. Beside which, I will not be selling any work with that bird in it, it is for my own enjoyment and personal use.

That trip to Spain was quite pivotal to me as an artist. I saw some graffiti that bowled me over and made me seriously embrace upon how to go about multicolor printing. That trip caused me to change course artistically.

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It made me start using stitch differently too. I began to use stitch as a means to journal, to use cloth as a place to store memories, thread as a medium to impart color, to draw and even to write. It made me start thinking of stitch as my own personal form of graffiti. Even if I am not doing it illicitly. 🙂

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It feels good to settle back into embroidery and stitch. In the next month or so, I will be creating content for my newly renovated teaching web site, The Clever Guild (there have been some behind the scenes updates and I am still fiddling with the particulars-but it is coming together, finally). I will be working with the idea of Journal Stitching and hope you might be interested in taking a class with me.

In the meantime, please read my rambles about the process here!

Jazzy Paper Dolls! (Make Art that Sells BootCamp 2016)

Recently, I joined the Lilla Rogers, Make Art That Sells, MATS Bootcamp 2016. This is a self directed 6 month class with deadlines, design ideas, many dedicated participants and lots of fun. (For the next 48 hours, you too can sign up for the class, if you would like to join in the fun). Please do!! I am having so much fun, it would be great to have fun with you too.

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This month, we were asked to draw faces with 1920’s hairstyles, which then turned into designing a coloring book cover using these drawings. The above is my contribution. You may not know that we moved one floor up this month. I signed up for this class and then quickly got busy moving. I was fearful that I would not be able to complete the assignment in time, but yesterday, I did it!

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I waited with bated breath to see my entry among my very talented peers. I find it interesting that I have little or no training in computer aided design. I sometimes wish I did, though I must say, I love designing and drawing, coloring and working by hand. My entry is hand drawn and colored.

I also find it interesting that I do not have training in graphic design. As I look through the other entries, I am learning much about designing, placing text, drawing the eye to ‘connect the dots’ of design.  I am unsure I will attain computer skills in support of this course, that isn’t my focus in taking the class, but I will keep my eye open and I am excited to be learning!

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I had to place a Uniboober Beauty in the mix! I took this opportunity to allude to Artemis, Greek Goddess of the hunt, often depicted with a bow and arrow, sometimes with a stag, protector of girls, and bringer and reliever of disease. It was fun to design an outfit for this body type. 

Below is a link to a PDF, containing these two coloring book pages. This is my gift to you. I would love if you were to print them out and color them!

AND!! If you feel inspired, design some clothing, with tabs, so we can play dress up with the Uniboober Beauty!! I would love to see what you come up with. Those of us who have different bodies do need clothing options!

Jazzy Paper Dolls by Melly <—- This is the downloadable PDF!

Enjoy!!

LESS, a documentary and help with funding it

Hello Good People, Friends and Family.

Many of you know that just over 5 years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I chose to forego reconstruction and to embrace my body as it is, without wearing breast forms or presenting a shape that is not my own.

Since my diagnosis and much to my chagrin, I have learned that almost 58% of women diagnosed with breast cancer, like me, choose -not- to reconstruct their bodies. Where many find comfort in reconstruction or the use of breast forms as a means to resume life after breast cancer treatment, many do not. I am happy to be a part of a growing group of women have chosen to embrace their bodies as the beautiful vessels that they are, simply and without the need or societal pressure to present an hourglass shape.

In the last two years, I have worked to increase visibility for the breastless female body. I have written articles on my own blog, worked with Play Out underwear and FlatTopper Pride to create editorial content that went viral twice, I have also posed for HuffPO and Women’s Health magazine. I was filmed by CNN and the Great Big Story, telling my story in video format.

I have done this in an effort to reach as many women as possible and to make space for those who, like myself, chose not to reconstruct their bodies after breast cancer treatment.

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Last September, in Berlin, I participated in a fantastic photoshoot with Esther Haase, a high fashion photographer, where footage for a documentary called LESS was also shot. Myself and 13 other women were interviewed, we poured out our souls, made bonds of friendship and created a tellingly beautiful array of images to help us embrace our own bodies while also giving us imagery for editorial content to be used in our social circles, countries and web sites.

LESS Trailer from Nondual Productions on Vimeo.

LESS, the documentary, needs funding in order to make it to the big screen.

PLEASE HELP US AND SUPPORT OUR DOCUMENTARY(!) and the Crowdfunding Campaign for the documentary LESS that features breast cancer survivors on the photoshoot of Esther Haase. LESS is not really about cancer so much as about these brave and beautiful women who – with the absence of breasts, quietly question society’s presumptions about what a woman should be and are calling for something all of us desire – an accepting and compassionate society where we can all be ourselves, no matter what.

Click here to donate, please.

Check out our LESS trailers and PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD & SHARE the Crowdfunding Campaign for this important project on fb, twitter and with your email contacts. Every little bit helps.

PLUS! I have donated three pieces of artwork to this fundraiser, I would love to see my work on your wall!

 😛 THANK YOU!
Melly

Gathering my color.

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The Gather your Sew-plies!! purse is just the right size to stitch, explore and complete. It is 6″ wide and 14″ long and given how it folds to make the purse, that can mean that you can stitch just the front area, making the stitchable area 6×7″ or so.

Of course, I like to stitch the entire purse.

The above blank, which is what I call these before they are heavily stitched, is a combo of my own quilted work and some previously stitched Indian cloth (at least that is what I think). The colors are rich and compatible. I seek to amp up the textural element, meaning my stitchwork, to integrate the Indian cloth with my own quilted fabric and soften the difference between the two. I may need some new thread colors…

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You may remember that Carol Soderlund and I collaborated on an article called Thread Dyeing 101 for Quilting Arts magazine last year. In the article we took two approaches to dyeing thread, we offered a color wheel, solid dye approach and a more fluid and playful manner of dyeing threads too.

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And while I think this thread is a bit bright for my current piece, I do like having all my threads ready to be used and accessible. Getting these floss off the StitchBow makes me want to wind some new hanks and dye some more thread in appropriate colors! I would love to have some browns, beiges, tans and soft, earthy colors in my thread stash!

Gathering my wits.

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I think I may have started this Gather your Sew-plies purse in 2012. This purse was made using this pattern (I call this Pattern #1), it is constructed differently than the pattern that was published in Quilting Arts Holiday 2014, (which I call Pattern #2). There will be an updated pattern coming out soon (Pattern #3), and I do hope you are interested in the upcoming changes.   😛 

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Back in 2012, I stitched the pink in the negative space, a scrolling flair with daisies.  When I got bored of stitching the scrolls, I began sewing a grid, also in the pink. Then, I put it down. The pink stitch work had taken a while, I had fallen in love with it, but I knew the design was unfinished and that I wanted to push it further.

I just did not know how.

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This week, after finishing the graffiti stitch Gather your Sew-plies purse, seen in this video (it’s from the post before this one). I took out this older purse ‘start’ and I could immediately see what I wanted to do. I could see these little green stitches, stacking up to color the negative space.

Stitch work is such a quiet and centering activity. Working, one stitch at a time really clears the mind of all activity. I bask in the quiet and apply myself to the task. It feels so good, like reading a great book whose characters are friends, anticipated, hoped for, at each turn of the page, the story unfolds like the glittering gems of a sunny day at the beach. Hearing the needle puncture the cloth, seeing the color of the fabric stitch and change as the stitches stack up is a blessing.


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 Just so you know, I am updating The Clever Guild, my teaching site. The first class offered will be free, and will demonstrate making your own Gather your Sew-plies!! purse using a new and updated pattern. After which I will release my first offering, Journal Stitch. Please stay tuned for more information. I really hope you are interested. 

I have had several people write to ask me to teach soy wax resist with paint. While I was at Craft NAPA, several students asked me to teach a course about color, and another about composition. If you have a specific idea about what you might like to learn from me, I would like to hear about it. Would you be interested in a class using Procion MX dyes? Thickened dye? Thread dyeing? What? Please leave a comment.

Gather your Sew-plies!! Part 3 and beyond!

The Gather your Sew-plies series continues with this video start, part 3. Above.

Intro, Click Here. Youtube VIDEO Content.

Part 1, Click Here. Youtube VIDEO Content.

Part 2, Click Here. Youtube VIDEO Content.

Pattern found in Quilting Arts Holiday 2014

Above links embedded in similar order:

and also: 

and then, Part 1:

Part 2

Phew. Are you still with me?

I have added more video content to the Gather your Sew-plies!! purse series! In the next few weeks, I am going to be updating my blog with post about stitch, acquiring inspiration for stitch, thread and needles. I will talk about building and sewing Thimble Pockets, Scissor Pockets and Straps.

I hope you will follow along.

I have hit a snag in teaching through The Clever Guild, please stay tuned on that account. It is coming together. Just slower than I would like.

So, will you follow along? I would love it if you did. Stay tuned here, at my blog!


For Christmas, I was given a set of Personal Training sessions.  😀 Haha!!

I chose a young woman, a really neat person, to organize my training for the next few weeks.  My overarching goal is 10 Pull Ups and 10 Push Ups.  An underlying goal is to efficiently and proficiently perform the Get Glutes program that I am now a member of. Since joining the gym, I have moved right into the hugely supportive community, forums and group run by Get Glutes; Kellie Hart-Davis and clan.

I love the Get Glutes members. Love checking in and getting inspired by my fella friends in glutes! I love lifting heavy and learning to use my body. 

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And, my goodness, every push-up and pull-up is so hard won!! Winning accomplishments in the use of my body is very exciting to me. I admire those who pump out a bunch of push-ups! I am getting there. (I jumped rope for 140 consecutive jumps!!) And cable rowed 32.5 pounds this week!! I am becoming a gym bunny! 🙂