The sun will come out tomorrow.

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I am walking the city, doing my thing, enjoying myself as I go. I prepare for a full day of Playful Fabric Printing.  My dyes are mixed, my stamps, stencils and TFax screens are ready. I will begin printing as soon as I get there.  In the meantime, it is Thursday and I like to do self care on Thursday mornings.  

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I like that it appears I am growing out this clay persons head. This is my selfie for the day, so you take selfies?
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The above is a You Can’t Resist This! Soy wax batik sample.

Today is another dance in public day. I must say, dancing in public is a public service. It is a smile generator!

Last week I was dancing in the subway. Two men were listening to big bubble headphones. The tall black man, who was so stylishly dressed, took his ear piece off to ask what I was listening to. I told him, ‘Shamir. Go buy everything he’s done’. 

I asked what he was listening to, Beyoncé’s Lemonade.  He was sheepish when he told me he was going to class and hadn’t listened to the music yet. I asked if he was taking a singing or dancing class, his response- no, a Black Lives Matter class. Now I want to purchase the album!

There was a scrawny white man wearing big bubble headphones too. He took his ear piece off to ask what I was listening to and I told him too. When I asked in return, he told me he was listening to Howard Stern. (Double YAWN), no dance possibilities there.

David and I are going to our first silent rave this weekend. 4 DJ’s, everyone wears headphones and dances. This means if we want to talk, we will be able to hear each other! Pinch me! This sounds like heaven on earth.  And! Disassociated dancing!

Hey!! Have you preorder a copy of Playful Fabric Printing? Please do.  I am cooking up some fun over here and I want you to play with me. I plan to create a teaser today! Stay tuned  

 

Being inspired.

Sometimes I love nothing better than to open my eyes, and create the ability to see. What I mean by that is, when I go for a walk, I hope to see things the average ho-hum day might not reveal. I try to see peripherally, as if my sight was a one hundred and eighty degree bubble. I open my perception to what is all around me. I listen far, high, below and over. I challenge myself to remain fully open.

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When I came upon these bird prints in the sidewalk, pigeon prints, I assume, I was struck by how deep the imprints are. I imagined the surprise the bird must have felt as its feet sunk and smushed into the wet cement. As ever, I imaging similar footprints randomly printed on cloth.

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Our favorite local wine store is called Smith and Vine. We have been going there for years, they give us the local discount. 😉 We know the people who work there and laugh and joke around as we pay. Smith and Vine is moving closer to us. When the guy behind the counter told us about this, the painted tin walls popped out and became exciting again. I will miss this and I hope the next tenant values it.

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My good Man and I took a nice walk to Green-Wood cemetery this weekend, it’s my favorite place right now. We have spent many a great moment enjoying the quiet beauty of cemeteries, this is  a streak of calm within the realm of memory. Green-Wood is a particularly nice cemetery containing some historic remains, beautiful mausoleums, and interesting head stones. 

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The above two photographs were taken from the same head stone and we delighted in it. The oldest headstone (pictured in detail) was tightly surrounded by familial stones dating to today. This cemetery sprawls, gives great views of Manhattan, and provides quiet.

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I couldn’t resist the colors in this twig arrangement, olive green, salmon red, taupe and density. Being inspired is an activity. It is something we conjure, it is magic, fuel, faerie dust. It is no small thing.

What and how do you go about being inspired? How do you lean into inspiration and open your person to magic? Inquiring minds want to know.

Listening to quiet. 

   

Stitching is a quiet and soothing activity. It is meditative in nature, the world becomes each stitch. The needle emerges, gets a small tug, and then is pushed back through, again and again. It is a slow and steady activity. Expressing ideas with needle and thread is rewarding. Lines become images, small stitches become marks, flecks of color.

Peach likes to sit on my work.

 

I am recovering from a loss. It has not been easy to connect with my creativity, to access and engage with my creative center. I find solace in stitch, it is helping me re-member. Stitch is  populating my mind and pushing the old and stale to the perimeter, and out. Thankfully.

Quiet is helping me reconnect, rebuild and be present. 

Since being diagnosed with breast cancer, I have felt a sense of panic. It is as if I fear not having the time to do my ‘life’s work’. As if I need to do all of ‘The Things’ -right now-, because I may not be able to do them later. This has the effect of putting pressure on myself to perform. Making, art, being an artist takes time, it can’t be rushed or forced. My husband, my Man, gave me a great pep talk this weekend, he reminded me just to make stuff, not to think about what I want to do with it, but to just do it. I needed to hear this. It is so good to love a good man.

So. 

I am just making stuff. I may not even call it art. I don’t want to do anything with it. And even if I just go through the motions, I trust I will find comfort, solace and peace in simply making. I am willing to watch ‘this’ unfold.

Paint, sand, paint.

  

I have been feeling creatively stifled, lately. And when I think about what might help move the energy and spark change, painting with acrylics keeps coming up. 

   

I don’t really ‘know’ how to paint with acrylics, which is good, it means the playing field is wide open and I get to make the rules. When beginning any painting, I just fuss, paint around and lay color down. I have fallen in love with painting thick layers, one atop another, then sand layers away to reveal previous layers and color.

 

I would say this is a decent and interesting start. To what, I don’t know, but that does not matter. At the same time, it has made me want to play around with the idea while playing with heavy body gel mediums. I appreciate the Sparks that occur when you try things out without expectation. That works for me.

Dots, Patterns, Quilts and Inspiration

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I have been seeing pattern and dots everywhere. I love them. It started because I bought a copy of Victoria Findlay Wolfe‘s book 15 minutes of Play, and I fell in love with one of the quilts displayed in her book. The quilt is called Dot Calm, and was made by Karen Griska

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I have been seeing dots everywhere! Today while traveling the subway, I saw a man wearing a printed purple dots in an irregular pattern and then I saw a woman wearing dotted tights! And being a Mad Men fan, I have to say, Season 6, Episode 5 had Peggy wearing a red polka dot pattern seen here (scroll down). I have been daydreaming about those dots since I first saw them.

Anyway, dots are all the rage in the land of Melanie Testa.

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This graffiti could be considered a dot. I know it is a stretch, but as I said, I have dots on my mind. Lots and lots of dots. This week, I strolled the aisles of Mood and I saw more dots. 

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So, I have been printing dots, and have begun to sew and quilt while using them. I have not honestly quilted in years. I love to seam and piece. I love sewing a scant quarter inch seam. I love the meticulous nature of wanting to do a good job, of compensating of a short seam, I love trimming the cloth and ironing the seams open. I love the smell of the iron, even more I love the smell of the sewing machine after hours of having it on-it smells like warmed oil. I love piecing. I forgot all of this.

I have been visiting The City Quilter and hesitantly looking at the newest books on the market. Books with a modern quilting flair. I am hesitant because I do not want to be too heavily influence in the direction of another persons style. I would like my own style to emerge and formulate. The overarching current day method, from what I can tell, is improvisational. So, I embrace dabbling and trying this block, that stripe, a little bit of solids, lots of printed cloth.

After printing so much cloth over the years, I find using the cloth to be invigorating and inspirational. I remember printing each piece, the studio I used to print it in, I track the learning progression from one piece to the next. I am wowed. My brain is quiet. This is good.

SpainGraffitiI am putting this image back up on the blog. I took it while we were in Barcelona, Spain. This image has changed the trajectory of my creative life. This helped me to see the possibility of multicolor printing and I am forever grateful to have seen it, had a camera and to have taken a photograph of it.

 

Two Years

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Two years ago today, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. What a roller coaster this has been. Diagnosed, book contract, chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, making art, writing about it, Switzerland, Dreaming from the Journal Page, getting used to being a flat chested woman. Oh, did I mention the love and care that I was showered with while doing all of this? No. Well, I was, and am, really. I often think that cancer teaches me that I am loved beyond my ability to grasp or comprehend. There is grace in cancer and this is the gift it gave me.

Today, this month, I am focusing on settling, releasing, accepting who and what I am now. These last few months have been filled with anxiety and depression, neither of which I handle very well. None of us do. So instead of focusing on what I cannot change, or even the things I can change, I choose to immerse myself in making. I am focused on The 20 Common Birds in Decline, because I love birds, they calm and center me, I have a physical memory of drawing their heads, wings, evaluating where light hits their eyes. Making helps me to relax and relaxing is what I seek. 

It takes a fair amount of time to let go of the intensity of medical need, appointments, follow up visits, managing side effects and I am not out of the woods yet, I still receive monthly shots, infusions once every six months (next week will be the 3rd out of a total of 4), and I experience the effects of medically induced menopause. Ugh.

So I am making a concerted effort of focus on immersing myself in what makes me happy, content, able to look beyond this difficulty and to balance the crap with the fantastic. It is time to reset my outlook. Cancer sucks, but life, life does not and that is what I have now. Thank goodness.

Thank you for your love, care, appreciation and support. It has not gone unnoticed. I tend to keep the cancer narrative to myself, but I find I start feeling quite alienated by doing so. So there you have it. These last few months have been tough and I am ready to let it go.

 Phew. 

Breath of Fresh Air

Last week I took myself out for a much needed day on the town. I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where I stumbled upon what is probably the smallest exhibit there, Gems of European Lace. It took me about 5 minutes of trying to locate room 599 before asking a guard where the room was. When I finally found the room, I was quite pleased to be alone in it.

OMG. Usually when I go to a museum or gallery, it is my hope that something will affect me deeply. I hope to be able to have a physical response to what I see. I shed some tears, I was so deeply affected. 

One of the pieces on display was presumably used and worn by Marie Antoinette. I took photographs of every single piece. I tried to imagine who might have made the lace, man or woman. This needle lace piece? Those hexagonal supportive stitches that hold the piece together? 7 stitches per bar. Um. Wow. 

Ever since I was a child, I have held textiles, lace, embroidery, crochet, cloth, the items that are considered ‘feminine and female’ in the art world, in high reguard. I mean, just look at the story told in the lace above. Angels, a fountain, birds, flowers, tassels, bugs. All the good things, represented as a story and wearable too.

Experiencing a hand made item like this, one that is as old as it is, makes me want to be a better artist. It gives me something to  strive for. It might also suggest that I need to employ an army to get all the things I want to, done!

I am dyeing threads and trying to work all of the kinks out. See the threads in the box? The manner that I dye threads creates these white undyed spots (that show up as lightly colored flecks), which occurs every 6 inches or so. This week I am working on eliminating that undyed spot. It takes alot of time, because I am dyeing thread in groups of 48 colors. I think I figured it out, but, I need to wait for this last batch to soak and dry before I can confirm this.

And because I need something to embroider, now having gads of colors and thread options available to me, I started making what I am calling Breastplates. The rabbit from earlier this week is part of the Breastplate at lower right. I will stitch, sew and print these plates for some time to come.

The party begins.

Please don’t feed the hipsters.

Once a week my Man and I walk up to our favorite coffee joint and help open it. And now, as the weather improves, I have begun to walk afterward. I love walking. I walk fast enough that you might call it running, I can’t slow it down.

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But when I bring my camera, that will make me stop long enough to enjoy cobblestoned streets.

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Oh! Pigeons meet wet cement.

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And, please don’t feed the hipsters. That stencil looks like Woody Allen, right? He is the ultimate hipster. And that red down there? Roses? I am inspired by this.

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This church door reminds me of the embroidery I am doing on the Female Mag blouse

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And finally, the reason for walking down into Red Hook, this Duke Riley poster. Maybe a year and some ago, I went gallery hopping with the Journal Study Gals. Pat pulled a strip of paper off a telephone pole, tore it in half, handed me a section. I went home to glue it in my journal and made a page featuring it (see the last image in this post).

But I had no way of connecting the scrap of paper to the original artist. And you know I have a thing for posters and poster art, you can’t restore vintage posters for 6+ years without acquiring an affection for paper, posters, and wheat paste.

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So this morning I went back into Red Hook, photographed the poster in-situ and then took it off the wall. 😈 I brought the poster home, in pieces, and washed it in the tub, it is drying now. I don’t know what I am going to do with it, but I like this man’s work and I think I might need to meet him. I bet he lives in Red Hook. He is a tattoo artist, he makes me want a tattoo.

Different poster, collaged and completed in my 8" journal, melanietesta.com

I saw a real rat today, running from a dumpster into a building that is being renovated. I love seeing rats in the city. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them. Beside which, they clean up after us!

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So, there is a blog hop going on and I am just now catching up with it, you should too.

April 30 – Tracie Lynn Huskamp
Stenciled & Stitched: A Special Occasion Greeting Card

May 1 – Traci Bunkers
Gelatin Printing

Script Lettering/Tattoo style using Sakura Calligrapher Pens

Fun Little Resist

May 4 – Melanie Testa
Thimble Cinch Sack

May 5 – Lyric Kinard
PSE for Thermofax Screen Printing

May 6 – Jill Berry
Pop-Up Heart Map


 

Finding Inspiration

Books I find inspirational.

Textile Design and its history is fascinating to me. I would love to gather more books on the topic, but in the meantime, I would like to share a few books with you just in case you haven’t heard of them before.  Textile Designs: Two Hundred Years of European and American Patterns Organized by Motif, Style, Color, Layout, and Period has been in print for more than 20 years. It reads like a catalog and each section and page is focused on a style, type of repeat and motif. Flipping through this book is pure eye candy.

Twentieth Century Textiles is a gorgeous book. The cover is a printed cotton design described within the pages of the book, each design is described in detail and artists are discussed. I think we easily forget that artists design the fabrics we use and wear, so when I am able to read about the artist, inspiration or even techniques used to paint the textile design, I get happy.

Boro – Rags And Tatters From The Far North Of Japan isn’t a ‘textile design’ book so much as visual inspiration in the realm of hand sewing. Whenever I take out my favorite textile books, Boro-Rags and Tatters comes out too.

I would like a few more tomes and if you have a suggestion, I would love to hear it.

I take these books out at the start of a creative day and page through, looking at color inspiration, motif, texture, any detail that pops out and says hello. Then I close the books and go on my way. All that history and color is bound to affect me somehow and I welcome it.