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!

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.

Stitches pile up, life and CraftNAPA: an update

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It has been more than 2 weeks since returning from the magical event called Craft NAPA. I feel blessed to have participated. I stood among friends, watched their connection to one another, ate chocolate covered strawberries and drank deep cups of coffee while also teaching and meeting new friends.

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This is the view from Pokey’s art barn. Like so many of you, I have watched the blazing beauty that Pokey spins wherever she goes. To watch her build this barn, to see Crafting a Life unfold, to participate in her first event is an amazing endeavor. I feel gratitude, and I am honored to know her and to be able to lend my talents to her efforts.

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Indigo Perez is such a lovely person. I have watched her unfurl her wings and fledge the nest of my good friend Judy over these last few years. I have to say, Indigo is so talented, such a good person, I couldn’t wait to hug her. 

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Here are Pokey, Larissa and I. Both of these women are crazy mad talented. Larissa took my, You Can’t Resist This! soy wax resist with paint class. Her color sense and use is amazing. Not to mention, she now owns a class sample I donated to raise funds for Okizu, an organization that helps families affected by childhood cancers. 

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Jamie Fingal, Leslie Tucker Jenison, Pokey, Judy Coates PerezJane LaFazio and I recreated a photograph we took perhaps 8 years ago at MIU in Long Beach Quilt Festival. What an amazing group of people. This photo mash up was taken by Jamie.

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Midge and Libby became fast friends. I now own pieces of art made by each of these women. Happy sigh.

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Cheryl Sleboda and I were able to connect too.  She is a powerhouse. Smart, sassy and fun. Go check out her website! I bought one of her skull tShirts!

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You Can’t resist This!! Class photo.

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Journal Embroidery class photo.

Unfortunately I did not get a photo of my Small Works/Big Impact class. I am sorry about that. 

My take away from participating in this great event? I can see Craft NAPA being a creative home away from home, one that I look forward to visiting yearly. The food offerings, 8 Noodle, OxBow Market, the Napa Valley Art store? The community and commeraderie in this event sparkled bright. I hope I am asked to teach again, and I would love to take a class too.

There are so many more photos that I could have put in this post. I think I am going to upload them to Facebook instead. 🙂 Great fun, friendship, learning, and wine blending! So good, I still feel the glow of having had a great time.


 

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Upon my return and in wanting to establish creative balance after the participating in this great event, I have been stitching away the days. I am compiling a new class content for The Clever Guild. It feels great to be engaged with my creative process again and I look forward to providing opportunities to connect and learn from one another. I hope you will follow along as I dust off the site and start having some fun with it.

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I am hoping a few of you might volunteer to take the class (for free-of course), I would love some help in making sure the content is amazing. Stitch work, questions and participation is required. If you are interested, please leave a comment on this post and I will contact you with more information.

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I have been pushing the limits of layering and stitch and am quite pleased with my results. The Gather your Sew-plies purse is a great format to learn about and play around with stitch. The main purse piece is 6×14″, which makes it large enough to make a great purse, but small enough that filling it with stitch is an enjoyable affair.

Please speak up if you would like to be on my Journal Stitch crew.


 

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And then we get caught up to last night, when Joules Evans arrived in Brooklyn to attend the opening at Site:Brooklyn called American Road Trip. This is the first time Joules has had a piece shown in a gallery, and for it to be a great Brooklyn Gallery is no small feat. Congratulations Joules.

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To celebrate Joules’s accomplishment, Isis Charise photographer of Grace, Joules and I attended the opening and then walked over to Bar Tano to toast, eat and be merry. These women have been a strength and a balm to me. 

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Life is better than good.

 

A video posted by Melanie Testa (@mellytesta) on

Neutralized Color

 

I am preparing for another Clever Guild class and these are some of the samples that I have been working on. I may be changing the name of that class, I am bot sure. I think the focus has shifted from being a boro inspired class to a embroidery and mixed media style class.  As I continue to create samples, I will work that part out.

When I dyed the threads shown in this post, I began thinking about dyeing a neutralized 4 step color wheel gradation of thread and I needed to work out the recipe to do so anyway. This seemed like an opportunity to expand my thread collection. And you know what? I still have not gotten the recipe down! So I will be dyeing even more thread in the next couple of days! My collection of thread is growing by 48 colors each time I dye. I see nothing wrong with this! What you see here is DMC 6 Strand Cotton, which is a favorite of mine. If you know where I can purchase bulk multi-strand silk, embroidery floss, PLEASE comment on this post.

I am a bit tired today and wanted to release a post about the podcast I recorded with Ricë, but that will have to wait until tomorrow. I will be conserving my energy for the rest of the day.

 

 

Thread Dyeing and other Fun. Also a Call For:

Yesterday, I was making coffee and who ran past the window? A black Squirrel. I immediately grabbed some granola and put it on the sill. Grey Squirrel quickly ran over and started eating.

It is funny! At our subway stop there is a transgender person and a shoe shine man who both ‘beg’ change, the shoe shine man is new to the stop, he has priced his shine at 1$ hoping his customers will give more. I gave some change to the transgendered woman and she asked me to give the shoulder to the shoe shine man as I walked by!

Grey Squirrel didn’t ask, he just shouldered right in!

I am dyeing a color wheel gradation of embroidery thread in four steps for each color of the color wheel, 48 hanks of thread in total. I am doing this in preparation for the upcoming Boro Bag/Hip Bag class at The Clever Guild.

And Look! what just fell into my cart over at Amazon. I have been doing lots of embroidery over here and I find that I like 6 strand floss the best! I love the look of a single strand of floss, I like the ability to use all 6 strands, three strands, two, I am forming preferences related to embroidery threads.

These ‘100 calorie’ zip tight bags, all in a row, happy sigh. I am so glad you can’t eat the content of these bags! That would be a lot of calories.

I don’t think I got the recipe for the gradation down pat. I will be washing these samples today or tomorrow and I will need to tweek it a bit.

The 4 red thread samples you see here, told me the middle two gradations were ‘too close’. But they are so pretty all the same.

Who doesn’t like a gathering of good stuff to get the juices flowing.


 

I now have a fascination with breast pockets. I have been making breast pockets, not the blouses to go with them, just the pockets. I am changing my wardrobe to printed, button down blouses and pockets are key! Really, I like the name breast pocket, I no longer have breasts, but I can wear breast pockets!

When breast cancer survivors wear breast forms or prothesis, they need pockets sewn into their bras, camisoles and bathing suits to hold the forms in place. And flaps? Some reconstruction techniques use the word flap in the description of the procedure. I am not interested in any of that, but I like thinking about parallel ideas. In talking about clothing, when breast pockets have buttons, I think of them as nipples. When they have snaps, those too are nipples, with the added benefit of the actual shape (the male portion of the snap is nipple shaped). And with breast pockets on shirts, you can be prepared to stuff them full and change out the size of your ‘breasts’ in minutes flat (pun intended)! It is always good to have some useful pockets! In fact, I was putting embroidery floss in my breast pockets while laughing my head off in this in this post.

Do you know anyone who has had a mastectomy without reconstruction, unilateral or bilateral? Say you or aunt (mother, sister, friend, wife, coworker) was diagnosed with breast cancer and didn’t have reconstruction? In her name or memory, make either a single or a set of pockets and flaps appropriate to her choice, unilateral breast pocket or bilateral pockets and send them to me. I would like a huge pile of of pockets, in effect creating actual ‘awareness’, with a physical object that represents a real person.

And in preparation of the ‘pink month’, I figured I would ask for some help in creating awareness that does not exploit, or misrepresent me as a survivor and to go further, to shed light on us half/flatties! Some of the half flatties call themselves uniboobers! Funny, right? So, I invite you to make pockets and help raise awareness and pride in a choice I hope none of you ever face.

You can make them out of cloth, paper, I don’t care how or what you make them with, just make them. If you are interested in helping me out, please comment on this post. I will let you know where to send your pockets.

Here is a pattern for  a BreastPocket, if you feel you need one.

Edited to add:

Here are a few examples of the pockets I have been making, showing some pockets with flaps and just flaps:

Dream Journal, new online class offering

I am putting the finishing touches on my first on-line journaling class Dream Journals and boy would I like to see you there. We will learn to use watercolors, resists, we’ll draw, paint, play and create journal pages that are richly layered and dynamic. All techniques covered in the class are taught in my book, Dreaming from the Journal Page, but that isn’t a required purchase. I do hope you might though!  The class stands alone, but also compliments and expands upon what is contained in the pages of the book. And beside that, we will be working in community with one another, helping and encouraging one another as we go.

The daffodil above, is an example of dry on dry watercolor painting, which is covered in two long videos (so far there are over 12 videos in all, more to come). Arrow to the left demonstrates the use of frisket as a resist. I will get you layering, building, drawing, painting and making pretty pages, using easily approachable techniques, in no time flat. I will get you drawing with fun and memorable warm up techniques, and if you have ever been heard to say, “I can’t draw”, you’ll prove yourself wrong.

And in order to get the word out about this new class offering, I would like to give away at least one spot in the class. 

Here is how it works:

1. Simply comment on this post to put your name in the hat.

2. To double your chances of winning, link to this post on your blog, Facebook, Pinterest, or your favorite social networking site. BUT, you will need to come back here and leave a second comment with a link to your post, for a total of two comments in your name. You are responsible for this (please don’t link to me on Facebook, as I won’t be able to keep track of that, the comments here are the easiest way from me to keep it simple) .

So please help me get the word out, will you? I will announce a winner one week from today, July 10, so please check back. Thanks a bunch.

Whirlwinds

This should be Flash Card Friday, but it is not. I called a fun day. I went to my monthly appointment, my Man accompanied, very helpful-the lad. 

A memory of the day, not fully explained:

X-ray box, perforated paper, square head man face, front top quadrant of the page-drawn by David. Me: Flipped, vertebrae, ribs, hips, femurs; his pen, mine pencil. RN comes in to find, then….Very fast walk uptown, stopped at Merrimeko…dreamy…. Then to Mood to paw through and daydream effectively. Rich!

I am fixated on getting this Gather your Sew-plies (chatelaine pattern)  right. I felt buoyed by a comment to this post and started to think about this purse as Sewing Jewelry, personal adornment, how would an artist with my skill dress herself?  I began designing this small purse because I want to sew -on –the —-go, embroider wherever I am. Although I merely keep the essentials (Thread, Thread Heaven, Thimble, Scissors, needles), the bag is heavy and it moves around with momentum as I walk. Form isn’t meeting intended function.


A need arose.

 So it needs an anchor. But I want it to be removable, because, well, who doesn’t like a convertible thing? A toy, a puzzle, deeply stitched object. It’s satisfying. 

I think I am just addicted to cataloging, collecting, collating, and jotting. This is an image of an idea book. I think it is different than an art journal, it supports and documents. They help me remember.

A need, and response.

So I am creating a belt and loop scenario. I keep wondering about changing the texture of cloth by stitching it. I would like to explore this some.

I think the hand stencil needs to be embroidered on the purse, somewhere. That stencil has been asking to be used all week.

 

Anyone in the Dallas area going to the Great American Scrapbook Conference, I will be teaching surface design techniques for paper. Come join me?

Flash Card Friday: Stencils

One Flash Card for every technique in the book!

Here is the scoop, Chapter 3 of Dreaming from the Journal Page contains a lot of the techniques I use to play around in my journals. I encourage you to mix and match these ideas by engaging with the concept of ‘Throw Downs’, A Throw Down is a challenge or a creative ‘Double Dog Dare’, where you will take 1, 2, 3 or more techniques and use all of them on a single page of your journal. This is a way to get you layering and building imagery.

What better way to learn about each technique that to make a set of Flash Cards for yourself. I am not going to go into detail about how to do each technique (I wrote the book and would love for you to get a copy) but I will talk about each technique and how I go about using them.

The card up above is an image of Arrow, my supercat. I created the image by making a stencil inspired by a photograph. I have been using stencils in some really creative ways and I will share samples of each  technique and its use, here, on my blog on fridays, Flash Card Friday.

You may also be interested to know that my first Clever Guild class is called Stencil Magic, please sign up today!

A sample from the Stencil Magic Class.

This is a sample from the Stencil Magic class. I fully illustrate how to create this piece of cloth in the Stencil Magic class.

Find inspiration where you are.

Here is an example of a stenciled image photographed on a walk in my neighborhood. 

I am about to use my Arrow stencil in my journal, and will post the image later in the week.

If you would like to purchase a signed copy of my book, please check out the sidebar on the right hand portion of the blog. And. Um. I was thinking of charging a small fee to create signed Art Sticker for those of you who would like a ‘signed copy’ but have already bought your copy elsewhere, is there interest for this idea out there? Leave a comment.

The Webinar and a travel journal update

A sampling of what I would take if I were traveling to France! Or anywhere else.

Oh my goodness! I just finished the Webinar with Create Mixed Media and I think it was a success. I was a bit nervous, but that is to be expected. If you attended, thank you so very much for coming and for checking out my website, blog and… ahem….

my new teaching website, The Clever Guild.

The questions were great and I wanted to address a few of them here. 

When I make my journals I have been using Saunders Waterford 140lb. Hot Press Watercolorpaper. I am fickle and can change my mind often but this has been a favorite for the last two journals made. When I went to F.I.T, my teachers were adamant that we use Cold Press paper and I can’t remember why. They helped me form a habit that I was just recently able to break. Using Saunders Waterford 140lb Hot Press paper is somewhat new to me and I really like its flat surface and ability to hold a puddle of water for a long time.

The one paper that I do not like is Arches and the reason behind this is, when wet, it has a funky smell. I have never liked it and can’t confirm that their paper still smells because I am not willing to purchase it again.

The last journal I made used 4 different watercolor papers (and if you would like to hear my thoughts on them, just comment here on this post and I will expand on the topic), and I made the book with 4 different papers in order to test them out and see what I thought. There was one paper in that journal that I really did not like. But the Saunders paper shone like a pretty nugget of gold, so I have become a fan.

Above you will see what I would bring as a travel journal kit. The little palette is brand named Jack Richeson and I bought mine through Roz Stendahl‘s local art store, Wet Paint (she turned me on to these palettes [and if you go ahead and order a few, please tell them Melanie Testa sent you-I don’t get anything out of this, they are just really good people and independant). The little guys are just two dollars fifty, so buy quite a few and give them as gifts to your favorite art buddies (I do this and you know who you are!) 

I also carry a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen, a refillable cartridge style pen with actual bristles in the brush (!!!), a mechanical pencil with 3B lead, my favorite, and a Lamy Safari Fountain Pen using Platinum Carbon Black Ink. One of the best waterproof inks out there. I also carry and empty dropper bottle and fill it when I get to where I am going.