Flat-Out Fabulous, the New York Post

Today, an article about my breast cancer journey appeared in the New York Post. The hard copy version is named Flat-Out Fabulous, which is, of course, my preferred headline. 🙂 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And just to brag? The quilt pictured in the article is my latest! I printed the dot fabric and combined it with commercial prints and it is slated for a feature article in a fabulous quilting magazine. You have seen it first, here!

All of this aside, I would like to say, it is important to me to tell my story. I do it for myself, it helps me heal. But I also do it for those who come after me. I am glad to be strong enough to withstand what I did during my diagnosis and time of need. But no reconstructive option should be weighted more heavily than any other. Bias should not play a role in the options a doctor presents.

I want the words, ‘flat reconstruction’ to be part of the breast cancer lexicon.

If we start using this term, doctors will use it, if doctors use it, insurance companies will use it-and pay for it.

Also? Flat is reconstruction, it takes skill to deconstruct breasts and create a flat surface. When we ask to forego (breasted) reconstruction, we do not mean that we want skin sparing mastectomy, we mean ‘Flat Reconstruction’. Flat. Too many of my friends have asked for ‘flat’ and gotten skin sparing mastectomy (which, in my estimation, is unethical). Neither do we want ‘dog ears’, or flaps of skin under of arms or in the center of our chest. We want flat.

It’s hard enough to come to terms with a changed body, chemo brain, medications and the effects cancer treatment takes on a person. Struggling to accept surgical results should be the least of this equation.

Between the Post article and the CBS Sunday Morning piece, ‘my secret’ was revealed (I hadn’t intended to maintain a support group, but CBS caught on. So there you have it! ).

I have begun a group called, My Flat Friends. This group is intended to support women (we are LGBTQ inclusive) who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, or have been made aware of their BRCA status and are also artists-whatever that means to them. Although the name of the group references ‘flat’, ALL reconstructive options are welcome in the group, because we all have flat friends. 

If you need or want support and you fit these criteria, friend me on Facebook and Private Message me through FB, and I will add you to the group.

Check out the My Flat Friends Pinterest Board

And thank you for standing present to my needs and wishes for the breast cancer community at large.

 

Great big thanks to Bethany Kandel, the reporter who worked doggedly to present my story in such a great light.

 

CBS Sunday Morning +


This week on CBS Sunday Morning they presented a themed show on the topic of cancer. A group of women, myself included were interviewed for a subsegment named, “The flat movement”. Read the CBS article related to the segment, A Matter of choice: Mastectomies without Reconstruction.

And watch the individual segment here.

I love the women I am surrounded by in this piece. Rebecca Pine of the Breast and the Sea is a gentle giant. Read this New York Times article, ‘Going Flat’ After Breast Cancer, where Rebecca is pictured. Thedra Cullar-Ledford is an amazing artist!  Samantha Tiger West is a local friend as well as audio and visual artist. Marianne DuQuette Cuozzo is an artist whose big heart can be seen alongside Debbie Sue (here is her FB page, no website) in this video:

 

I took this photo, last month, after filming for this segment. Samantha West had to cut out before we took this photo in front of the Equinox ad which is featured in the CBS Segment. The ad features Samantha Paige, of Last Cut, whom I follow through social media. This ad is epic! It is an epic contribution to the ‘flat narrative’.

If you have arrived here due to the CBS Sunday Morning show interview. Welcome. Poke around. Check out my art galleries and my breast cancer advocacy resume. Soon, I will resume my regular program of art making here on my artist’s blog. 🙂 Until then…

 

 

Take a long sigh, steam and boil.

This week in Studio Melly, processing has been happening, it is time to steam and boil fabrics! I kind of think about these things as, designing, printing, processing. And right now, I am at the processing stage. The studio needed some clean up and neatening too. So I went through my backlog of printed fabrics, and liberally placed as many pieces in the steam pile as possible. I got through most of it. I have one more soak and boil, and I will be done for a while. Phew.

I boil fabrics, I prefer it. I am an apartment dweller and we do not have a washer and drier. It is just easier to soak and boil fabric, if you ask me. 

While sorting through my back log, I came across this gem, it is a ‘rag’ or trial piece. A piece of fabric where I try out dye viscosity, stamp ideas, ghost printing, whatever crosses my mind. I curate these pieces and tuck them away from myself judiciously. 🙂

I think it will lend itself nicely to embroidery! …Do I feel an embroidery fit coming on?

I came across this print, featuring a Loggerhead Shrike. I drew this bird, originally, from the pages of Birder’s World magazine. I have used this image in so many different and varying pieces, I love working with the same image over time and in series. This Shrike print was featured in a quilt seen in the link above.

And I have a Speed Print session drip drying in the shower. The tiles make that snapshot a bit yellow, but I assure you, the colors are much more bright and snappy than what you can see here.

You know, this is part of processing!

This weekend in Studio Melly

It started with tickets to Jazz at Lincoln Center , a happy couple, and some great lighting.

The show was amazing.

My weekend continued with a request by my Man to change my cellphone lock screen to this image of David Bowie. And I couldn’t agree more. I remain ever grateful to have walked the earth during David Bowie’s lifetime. When he died, all of them died.

Long live the many lives, and personal recreations of David Bowie.

I am working on my Threads of Resistance piece. It speaks to women and ‘the female body’, using recent news headlines to highlight matters of gender oppression. Decorative elements abound, of course.

This is a work in progress, I will update the blog about it as I progress it. It will measure 20″ square and will have a knife edge finish. It will have machine quilting, and (I hope) embroidered elements. I haven’t made a piece in this manner for a very long time. This is fun!

At the same time, I am printing up a storm with Melly Marks Kits.

Sunday, I gathered as many printed items that could be steamed together. By the end of this week, I will have processed a new batch of color triangle swatches, a Speed Print session related to all the Melly Marks repeats, and more. I love steaming, because it means lots of printed cloth, ready to use!!

So? How about you? What were you up to this weekend?

 

 

Out and about while binding a quilt

When I was a child, one of my favorite books was called, We Were Tired of Living in A House. Much like it sounds, the children in the family, packed their bags and headed out to make house in a tree, on the beach and so on. Ever in my life as an artist has this concept been of great favor. I do everything in my power to Gather my Sew-plies, or bucket as the case may be, and hit the town. 

And today, I must complete a quilt slated for a magazine article. 😜

What better way to drink a bit too much coffee and get out of the apartment, than this.

Considering Color and Placement

In learning to use the concepts Carol and I present in Playful Fabric Printing, I have done a lot of experimentation (we both have). In retrospect, as I ponder  my approach to using dye paste and printing as is described in our new book, I would say, at first I was exuberant, I threw caution to the wind, I tried every combination of color and value. And I made many printing errors and color missteps in the process. All of this experimentation has had the effect of helping me build color preferences and forge an understanding of how value adds a visual pop to a print.

In Playful Fabric Printing, we illustrate how to mix color in four gradations, Dark, Medium, Light and Pale (Pale is my favorite). In the above prints, (using this Kit), the purple print uses color much more judiciously than the right red brown print. For one, purple and orange are complementary colors, they reside opposite one another on the color wheel. Because of this, the color sizzles, the purple and orange push one another around, seeking dominance. Also, where the purple is a Medium, the orange is a combo of Pale and Light values, which adds to the zing.

The red brown print is quite nice, but the color choice is a bit flat. These colors are analogous and close relatives in the color wheel. A more effective background color, one that pushes the daisies to the forefront of the design would make this print even better. I am not saying that you ought to work on opposing sides of the color wheel in order to make a great print, though. Rather, a cleaner color choice within the analogous range or a more effective use of value might help propel this design forward.

These two prints, (using this Kit) are both quite pleasing, in my opinion. The differences in color choice are quite interesting. The left most prints’ background is a crisp cheddar while the print on the right is an earthen ochre. The print on the left is bright and chipper, with its flash of light green, while the print on the right has a bit more muscle. Would I use them in the same quilt? Perhaps. It would depend on their fellows. Just looking at them side by side though, the print at right makes me want to create a quilt top with an autumn appeal, and the two would not go well together, if that were to be the goal.

I am happy to say, all the the experimentation I have done has lead me to a more purposeful and considered use of color. Being exuberant has helped me to understand the difference between printing green on top of a crisp yellow-even before I apply dye paste to tool and then print the cloth. Which is why I encourage you to play, experiment and try out every combination you think up.

Printing away the day.

This is a day of off-set printing and I am using the StencilGirl L498 Vine Swirl to do so. 

As an aside, when I was at the Fashion Institute of Technology, I took a screen-printing class. I loved it. My first print was a design based on shoes and I got to cut rubylith, which is such fun to do. My teacher was disappointed in my final print because he felt it would benefit by off-set printing. Or printing the same image, one on top of the other, but offset slightly.

He gave me a B+ for my effort. SD 181 (Surface Design 181) at left, its more recent interpretation (at right) went on to live among its fellas in the Meadowlark by Windham fabric line.I love seeing the original artwork alongside its current interpretation.

At the same time, I am playing with some hand cut stencils too. It was been fun to experiment with the many ways to apply dye through a stencil in order to color cloth. My current favorite method is by way of squeegee-ing dye through the stencil. I find this really saturates the cloth and allows for great penetration of dye.

So, I think perhaps I will be playing with value/color choice and off-set printing. (I would like at least 8-10 more of this print, so I gotta get busy.)

Using a white foam roller works well too. (Page 82 PFP)

Please note, I love using tags here on my blog. If you have questions on a specific topic, please search this blog, there is a search bar at right. A very handy feature.

And! Please join the Playful Fabric Printing Community page on Facebook! It has been so much fun to see what my fellow textile design artists are doing while learning from Playful Fabric Printing.

 

Lace Swirl print job (almost) complete.

There is some crazy mad Speed Printing going on over here. Thus far I have printed 29 Lace Swirl. Not all are pictured here, there are reds and purples that didn’t make the photograph. I need to round this job up to 30!

This multicolor set has proven to be an easy 3 layer color application. It was easy and meditative to print this many. I think printing is extremely medative. Repetition is satisfying. New approaches to using tools reveal themselves easily. There is exploration and release all at once.  It is easier to print 12 than 1, if you ask me. 

Earlier in the week, I tore through swatching all 28 colors in the Playful Fabric Printing color triangle. As such, I have gads of newly mixed custom colors. My goal has been to keep this printed grouping mostly in the reds, orange, purple and yellow area of the triangle. I did throw in two turquoise and two Kellie green(, also not photographed). But I can withhold them if/when it comes to making a quilt top with this.

I may steam and put these samples in my new Etsy shop! (Even if I am also feeling greedy… and wondering what quilts could be made with them.)
I just need to say, I am so excited about my emerging store front! Please bear with me as I learn how to input, weigh and manage the shipping of items. I will always refund overages when they occur and as quickly as possible. I have been daydreaming about supporting myself as a textile printer and designer and this initiative is part of that effort. I hope you are interested in my wares. I don’t know if you will want my handprints, but I honestly hope you do. I will soon post some watercolor prints for sale too. 

I look forward to sharing all of this with you. 

 (I am thinking of hosting a Motif-along, soon-ish. Please leave comments about what you would like accomplish or learn in joining and doing such a thing. What you think of this idea? Do you have a blog? Insta? Do tell.)

 

Stencils, Stamps, Thermofax, oh my!

Earlier this week, I started a Speed Print job using my Lace Swirl Kit and I spoke about the difference between using the L498 StencilGirl stencil and the Thermofax screen to color the swirl portion of the design.

So, today, I wanted to update you and show you the difference between the two.

The StencilGirl stencil allows us to color a single swirl. This gives these prints a bit of a unique appeal because they take longer to complete than the Thermofax layer (speed print-able), but this very fact also means, that I can use a diverse selection of color to complete each print.

And as such, these prints stand out when it comes to using them. (I get very excited to use these unique prints when it comes time to sit in front of the sewing machine needle.) 

But you know? Squeegee-ing two colors through a Thermofax repeat layer is a pretty snazzy way to add visual jingle too! 

This, is Playful Fabric Printing. Where we push the limits of our tools by printing sparkling, playful and surprising bits of cloth, that is so much fun to use! 

(Please use our hashtag #playfulfabricptinting , that way, we can find you and your work.

Carol and I are keeping Playful Fabric Printing Pinterest boards and we would both love to pin your posts into our boards (we want to build community)!!! Please check check our boards out!

Also! Please join our closed Playful Fabric Printing Facebook Community page, we now have 200+ members and many are doing great work, asking interesting questions and uploading photos of their work! And its some really good work too!

 

A video posted by Melanie Testa (@mellytesta) on

Threads, Resistance and being an art blogger

I am really happy to be a member of the group calling themselves, The Artist Circle.  We are concerned people, also artists, who think civic duty is admirable. At the same time, being artists, we often depict our experience visually.

These two ideas merged in this Call For Art on the topic of resistance.

Threads of Resistance <——- Click it!

We have a Facebook page too.

I consider myself an art blogger. I have recently come out with a book. And, I am a political person. I am also an outspoken person; I post nude photos of my body and I challenge societal norms by doing so. I do all of these things through my blog and web site, melanietesta.com. Briefly, I considered refraining from putting my name in the footer of  this Call For. I wondered if, because I have just published a book, perhaps I should remain neutral. But ultimately, I decided, art is a perfect medium to explore ideas of resistance, and Procion MX dye is the perfect media to do that, and well, I am an artist in need of goals.

After thinking all of this through, I placed my name on the list of organizers.

It is frightening to live out loud, to express our opinions and then remain present to the experience of having done so. Cancer in particular has shown me, it is time to live, out-loud-proud. In-all-respects. In light of this, I would like to say, let us please find the means and the self restraint to speak to one another and express our views without reacting to our fellows, so much as seeking to find common ground, learning to laugh together and trusting that full understanding will unfold. 

Let’s all be civil, and have discourse.

And please, let us all make art, like our lives depend on it. It does.