This Shrikes my fancy!

I really can’t wait for The Book that Carol Soderlund and I have been working on to come into print! While I can’t go into specific detail about this, I can give broad overviews as to what you might expect to learn. So here goes.

IMG_5533

As artists, it is suggested that we find a subject matter we are passionate about and to apply ourselves and our artwork to this. We do this in order to work in series and to show continuity of subject matter. I have chosen birds and even more specifically, the Audubon list of Common Birds in Decline as my focus. (Unfortunately, Audubon has not updated their web site in such a way that all the links work properly, the above link shows the full list of birds, at least).

IMG_5534

Loggerhead Shrike is number 18 on this list. Delving deeply into acquiring knowledge of this bird began by drawing a Shrike from the pages of a birding magazine. From there I went on to inform myself about this bird, learning that it is a meat eating songbird who uses tools, like barb wire to kill it’s prey. This bird can sometimes be misidentified as a Northern Mockingbird, because of its color and size. It can also be mistaken for a hawk because its meat eating beak is sharply curved, to make it all the easier to eat its prey.

When bringing these facts to the design table, it is important to illustrate just the essentials. As you can see, when looking at the stamped image of the print, above, I chose to illustrate the curved beak and this birds propensity to use tools to kill it’s prey. These are two things that distinctly differentiate the Loggerhead Shrike from the Northern Mockingbird.

Note: A ‘strike off’ is a first printing of a stamp or tool.

IMG_5687

I love printing cloth to be used in quilts, so the Loggerhead Shrike print was paired with two differently sized feather prints and some commercial solids to help fill out the yardage necessary to make a quilt.

Melly quilt

And while, I have not illustrated how to make the tools for this particular design, the above quilt will be featured in our upcoming book with Crafting a Life, LLC. Directions on how to place your own most favored subject matter into repeat will be covered-in detail.

I know that I often choose some pretty detailed imagery to work with, so I followed Carol’s suggestion to teach the effective use of motif and repeat by using more simple and approachable motifs than Loggerhead Shrikes! That is what working with a coauthor and friend does!! I hope you are as excited to learn these techniques and ideas as we are in being able to share them with you!

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.

IMG_0404

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!!

IMG_4244

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.

IMG_4251

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 

Gathering my color.

image

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…

image

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.

image

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!

Printing up a storm

This week has been great by way of multicolor printing. I am working out the kinks of putting images in repeat, carving rubber, cutting foam and making stencils. 

Yardage

I love upholstery yardage sheets, whenever I see them, I nab one. I love the tiny drawings of chairs, chaise lounge, sofas, sectionals. Such great shapes cultered together. The above is inspired by a yardage sheet and is printed on paper, using Tsukineko inks. Working in paper before moving to cloth seems to be crucial to my design process right now. It is a quick way to make sure the print set is working together, allows me to figure out which segment of the image needs to be printed first, and shows me how to align each print. Getting to know an image on paper also allows me to play with color choice. 

Polkadots

 

On a side note, I bought a copy of Victoria Findlay-Wollfe’s 15 Mintutes of Play. I L-O-V-E this book. I am inspired by it. Love what the book discusses. I love the mechanisms that Victoria suggests to get your quilts flowing, like I said, I really love this book. These polkadots are a direct result of Polka Dots Squared on page 43 of the book. I need many variations of polka dots, from dark to light. I want to make a throw using my own cloth.

So, I have been printing up a storm!

ReadChair

Yep. True to my obsessive compulsive self, I have been stamps in every size, shape and variable that I can imagine. All that I learned while getting my Associate’s Degree at the Fashion Institute of Technology is coming to fruition. It has been fun to experience and great to grow visual and technically while doing so.

The work I am doing with Carol Soderlund is helping me grow and expand too. When me moved to Brooklyn, I convinced myself that working with dye is not possible given the constraints of apartment life. Carol has shown me how to compact the process, while really getting the results I want to see. I feel reinvigorated in my use of Procion MX dye!

I have signed up to take Carols Color Mixing 2 at ProChem October 21-25. There are 4 more spots open (I just signed up and a friend is going with! The web site has not been updated yet and still says there are 6 openings).

I bet you want to go! I hope you do.


 

PeachAndYou

Would you like to know how much I love this little bundle of Peach-y goodness? This cat is a badass. I am sorry to swear, but this word sums up Peach to a T. She is soft, gentle, centered, intelligent, curious, amazing, belligerent, athletic, pretty, satisfied and awesome.


 

MellyTestaTigNotaro

I saw Tig Notaro at The Green Space/Sound Check a couple weeks back.. Just being near Tig, who is also a Flattie, was like being a kid in a candy shop. I crave connection with other women who have been through bilateral mastectomy, without reconstruction and who choose not to wear breast forms. 

Tig Notaro is one of my heros.

I got totally flustered and couldn’t say any of the smart or sincere things I had rehearsed in my mind prior to forcing her to take a photo with me! She doesn’t look much worse for the wear, so I think I can forgedaboudit. But geez does it make me happy that I got the photo!


 

By the way, that Tshirt I am wearing? It says

Sew?

underneath the machine and was given to me as an ironic-flat-pride-type statement. It was printed by and can be bought from Diane Muse. I love this tshirt and am going to wear it to tatters.

Nothing is black and white

Earlier this week Angelina Jolie wrote her op-ed piece about her decision to have bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction due to a positive test for the BRCA1 gene. I admire Angelina for her bravery and honesty in being open about her choice. I am sorry she needed to make it, of course. But happy that she has offered her talent and power to the cause. If you want to inform yourself about gene mutation, Force is a good place to start. The facility where Angelina had her tests and operation has written a recap of her treatment, which can be helpful as well, I was surprised to see some of the protocol that Angelina received.

I wish that non-reconstruction was acknowledged as an option and I think it is high time that us ‘Flatties’ had an advocate, but I understand that Angelina is doing the best she possibly can and I am ever so grateful that she is as courageous as she is. Here is a decent discussion of the types of reconstruction spurred by Angelina’s decision.

The20MultiStamp

My work with Carol Soderlund continues, I am so glad to have initiated the work. Carol has been opening my mind and perspective on using dye. She has opened up a new approach to applying dye, and has been cleaning up some bad habits that I have accrued over the years. I took Color Mixing 1 from Carol through ProChem years ago. Carol has since begun calling this class The New Color Mixing for Dyers. What I am learning from Carol now uses the book we made together in Color Mixing 1 and expands upon it, and she call this class her Color Mixing for Dyers Part 2. So, I am learning to use the book from Color Mixing 1 to apply the colors I would like to see in my work, and all of the information has begun to ‘click’. Learning is hard work and for a week or so there, I was Ms. Grumpy Pants. Carol’s teaching skills and patience is commendable.

I don’t know why the blog went centered, sorry about the formatting.
Yesterday I took a walk, bought a breakfast sandwich and a cookie (for later in the day) and then went out for press pot coffee at my favorite local dive. I have not yet gone there for a beer and sandwich, so far this is a favorite morning coffee joint, but they have great beer and I would like to try it out. Problem is, my Man doesn’t like beer! So, I will look for a gal pal who needs a night out.
I really like this piece of street art. I will have to check it out again, I think she is carrying a music mixer. When I see this type street art, art applied with wheat paste, I always want to go back on a rainy day and peel it off and take it home. I find it interesting to have found two wheat pasted pieces of street art within such close proximity. I wonder if there is an insurgence of applied street art right now. I also wish I could find out who the artists are.
I would like to create a multicolor print of birds that is stylized, like this dress, photographed through the window of a local boutique, The store isn’t my kinda thing but they do have some great prints right now and I love me some prints. I struggle to get myself to loosen up to the level of this print. It seems my comfort level is realistic looking. But I will push myself past this and try my best to loosen up and get playful. This weekend I plan to make multicolor print patterns during every free moment.  This may be a challenge as it is a long weekend and David’s birthday weekend to boot! However it goes, we will have fun this weekend, it will start with a meet up at Moma in about 2 hours.
I continue to read and research ideas related to gender and found this interesting article called Who Owns Gender, which I think is quite interesting. If you have the time or interest in reading it, I would like to hear your thoughts.
Deborah Boschert brought this article to my attention and I love it.
I am going to respond and communicate through the comments in the blog. I enjoy this, so check back if you want! Now I am off to let the fun begin.

A New Day

In the Many Mellys post, I stepped quite squarely into a hornets nest. I would like to apologize if I have upset or harmed anyone by my use of the words gender queer. While I think there are many similarities and points of connection between being a flat chested woman (as a result of breast cancer) and to be confronted with expectations about my body from anyone other than myself and the ‘spectrum’ of what it may mean to be gender queer, I understand that transgendered people may feel angry and resentful at the manner in which I used the words and for that, I apologize. I mean no disrespect.

If you get to know me in a personal way, you will know that I sometimes PUT my foot in it, I can be quite a bull in a china shop. I do not have a problem sussing through my mistakes, or apologizing if need be. I will continue to talk on the topic of opting out of reconstruction, what that can mean as a woman in our society and my feelings about being flat chested when appropriate. I am not an intellectual and my discussions will, for the most part, be from a personal stand point. I appreciate discussion and remain open to your thoughts.

And this is where I will leave the conversation for now.

DSC_0062

My work with Carol Soderlund is progressing.  We are narrowing the controls of our study. I want the color I want to print and Carol is helping me sift through the media and materials so that I can print the color and value I intend. The work we are doing together is amazing. I am seriously considering taking her ProChem workshop on the topic. I don’t know that I will NEED to take the class after I finish my work with Carol, but I do love the work she does and would like to have the experience.

DSC_0066

 We are working through the ideas and methods of batching, seeing if steaming is a good approach to setting the dye while using my current obsession of multicolor printing. I did get a bit excited last week and made some printing errors, this week, I don’t want to make any mistakes, although mistakes sure do help with the learning process.

DSC_0069

I love the pace of the work I am engaged in. I cut one yard of cloth into 16 pieces, which ends up being about 8×10″ each. This size is very easy to complete and I am blowing through cloth. When we are done establishing a methodology to get the results I want to see, I am going to have a boatload of cloth to use. And I have been wanting to make easy-peasy, jelly roll sized quilts, because who doesn’t want a stack of quilted pretties to snuggle up with? Having several Jelly Roll sized quilts, being able to switch them out and create a new, quick look in the living room? Priceless.

I guess I need to measure the Jelly Roll quilt I made last year. This quilt won’t be strips, so I guess I am just using the size as a reference and not the name or style of the quilt.

DSC_0071

working out the kinks

MTestaFruit

I am working hard behind the scenes here, at Studio Melly.

A few months back, I was printing some birds from The 20 only to find that my wash out rate was too high while printing with Procion MX dyes on cloth. I wasn’t getting the intensity of color, or the bold, bright colors I had come to expect. All printing with MX dyes came to a halt as I looked for help. 

MTestaFruitC

I contacted Carol  Soderlund, telling her of my frustrations. I have been a student of Carol’s, I took her Color Mixing 1 course and have and use her book of 1000 repeatable colors. I use the nine colors she uses so that I can mix and use colors from her book if I choose to. Beside which, I understand the usefullness of working in a limited palette and the 9 colors Carol gathered together and uses in her classes have equivilents in the other media I use, so, she did the work of gathering the colors and I use them! I am a good student that way!

I connect with Carol as my teacher, and happier still, as a friend.

I reached out to Carol, seeking help in identifying and applying solutions to my lapses in Procion MX dye use.  

And, OMG. Thank goodness I did!

Carol is tutoring me through most of  Color Mixing 2 class ( which she will be teaching at ProChem this October, and, even though I am being tutored, I want to sign up and take!!!).

What a resource!

Carol is leading me through ‘Procion MX bootcamp’ (I made that up, I am reading too many fitness blogs!). It is fantastic. I am now getting the results I expect to see. And it wasn’t that I didn’t know all of these things before, I got lackadaisical. Not a good idea, Procion MX dye requires our full attention when we use it. 

MTestaFruitT

It seems I need Tune Ups all over the place: One of the things about cancer or living with the effects of treatment, is facing the need for acceptance. Self acceptance. I accept I had cancer. I accept my energy levels, intentions, focus, abilities have changed as a result of cancer treatment.

I have never had to manage energy before! And as a result, accepting these changes as I experience them is interesting to say the least.  Contemplating these changes can be a burden, and sometimes even a joy, I suppose it is down to the moment and whatever emotions are present at that time. But even still, I now have discussions with myself about my abilities and limitations. (and yes, I understand my output is above average, so I am mourning the loss of a small percentage of ability but this does not mean that I don’t continue to hold myself up to previous standards). I am able! Thank my lucky stars. I am just changed. 

My cognitive function is just, well, different. I hope that mental function in those realms will increase, open, expand and think that working with multicolor printing from start to finish is great mental food. Creating these images is like mental candy, they are very stimulating to make. I love figuring out what needs to be white, how I might add shading, what needs to stay and what needs to go. And it does not escape me that I am building little puzzles. Little intricate puzzles, I am thinking from the back, forward. I am mentally stretching.

In fact, this is intentional, I want more and better brain function! And I figure, if I can nudge the process along while having some good visual fun, why not?

So, not only am I learning proper printing technique with Carol, I am hoping to expand my brain box at the same time! Not too shabby.

MTestaRoses