Monday, October 27, 2014

Alex's Quilt

Alex's Quilt
85" x 70"

It's been long overdue that I share these pictures of my last quilt commission. Alex was a vibrant young boy who died before his time from bone cancer. His family gave me the responsibility of honoring their son by repurposing his clothing into a quilt for his bed. As difficult as this sounds, I have always been thrilled to take on projects like this. To me, this is what quilt-making is all about and I love the fact that I can help people create new from the old, beauty from pain. 

Here's Alex in his element, playing sports! This isn't the first time I have seen this shirt, I also made a quilt for his aunt, out of her boys' clothing, and we featured Alex there as well. Same shirts have popped up in multiple projects I've done over the years. Because I get all my business through word-of-mouth, it means that clients recommend me to their friends and family and I like getting a chance to learn their overlapping stories.

For starters, I wanted to infuse as much happiness into the project as I could. That's where the idea for the sun came in. I also had a very strict palette of red, white, blue, and gray that I couldn't help, so I knew I wanted to bring in a third color, and you can't go wrong with primaries. Oh, and one neon green was I going to balance that? The best way I found to organize the color of his shirts was to group all the red around the middle, buffer the blue with the white and grey in between and go darker to black as I worked my way out. Then my solution for the green was to make sure there was a little pop in each section. This way it wouldn't look so out of place to have just the one green shirt. In the end, I love all the green everywhere. Something that came from constraints that I would've never done otherwise. Love when that happens.

When I made my preliminary sketches for this quilt top, I played with the idea of some kind of animal anchoring the middle. When I approached Alex's mother with the idea, she brought me to Alex's memorial garden out back - full of turtles. Apparently, he loved turtles and it became a symbol for his memory. I was thrilled to learn this because I love turtles too, so there was my next idea. I documented the making of the turtle here, including the zippered pouch along the bottom of his shell. 

This was definitely my most ambitious t-shirt quilt to date. Crazy quilting with stretch knits?? I utilized freezer paper to help me construct each wedge between the sun's rays. And I made a tape layout of the entire quilt on the floor before I even started, and I barely had a floor big enough in my house to amply design this piece. See proof below.

I realized that my new studio is just not set up for making quilts anymore. In my last space, I had 2 large design walls that were fabulous! But when I tried to work on projects other than quilts (ie-sewing clothes) I found it much more difficult. My passion for making quilts had been waining and I was craving sewing projects that I could turn around faster. Not to mention, in the 4-years that I had been making quilts-for-hire, I had yet to really make enough money to call it a sustainable business practice. Let's be honest, it is a labor-of-love business that I was falling out of love with. And in the months since I finished this quilt, I have discovered the lightness of living without a long-term project in my life. As painful as it can be to turn your back on something you have loved so deeply, it's important to allow yourself to change, and reassess your true feelings in the now. Especially for an artist. To be able to find inspiration, get an idea, and act on it promptly is a dream I always lust after. For now, this is my last quilt. On to new, exciting adventures!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Basketball Moons

A new piece I zipped through this past week.  "Basketball Moons"
I've always loved drawing basketballs, their undulating design just appeals to me. Nothing to do with the actual sport, just the shape of the ball. But it's safe to assume that, growing up across the street from Duke, in the heart of ACC country, the game has gotten into my blood. I can never bring myself to touch the color baby blue (the signature color of UNC-Chape Hill), it just feels wrong!! 

I am so happy I finally managed to knit a b-ball. To be honest, I didn't even know what I meant when I decided to mix a ball with a moon. Their 2 shapes just fit well together -- moons being something that frequently appear in my work. After it was finished, and people started telling me they liked it, instead of "are you crazy?" I realized it made sense somehow. Those of us who base our lives around the cycle of basketball. The general acceptance of a society who treats "sports as life". Or maybe the way a game can push and pull us like the way the moon controls the tides.

I use the term "us" loosely cause you know I don't give a shit!

An inside shot of how I manage to pull back the ends of my knitting and get them to lie flat on the back of a frame. After this point, I glue a piece of fitted kraft paper to the back to make it look nice and clean. And sign the paper once more. This stitching may seem crazy tedious but I gain a lot of pleasure in doing it and it really doesn't take that much time.

I was inspired to knit up the basketballs after local Chapel Hill store, Thrill City, invited me to show some work on their Franklin Street walls. I went in and hung "Tig Ol' Bitties", surveyed their empty spots, and came back with "Dead, Dead, Dead" and the freshly-framed "Basketball Moons"

Their store is very sports-centered so, needless to say, you can see where the inspiration came from. Really thrilled to have some pieces out in the public and not shut up in my studio. Big thanks to the Thrill City guys for giving me a chance to get my art out to Chapel Hill! Just don't make we wear Carolina blue!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

I'm really excited to share that I will be teaching some classes this fall at the Sawtooth School for Visual Art in Winston-Salem, NC. This school is situated in the Arts Council building in the heart of downtown, full of inspiring art and crafts and some seriously lust-worth studio spaces. They have brought me in in an effort to revitalize their fiber programs, and I couldn't be more pumped to offer two new classes this fall:


Color Knitting Techniques will be a 4-part class and you KNOW I'm confident about teaching that. As for Wardrobe Rehab, this is a spin-off of one of my favorite classes that I have taught over the years, where I help people repair and alter their existing wardrobe, teaching fundamental skills that will allow people to do-for-themselves and use-it-up/wear-it-out instead of buy-trash-buy. It's also a great introduction to the sewing machine for those looking to build their confidence with this amazingly practical tool.

In preparation for my new class, I decided to turn towards my own wardrobe. I'm usually pretty good about doing a periodical purge, but lately I've been feeling my style start to change, and my closet has not been reflecting that. In the past, donated items meant things that didn't fit anymore. But now, I wanted to get rid of all the things that didn't represent the direction I want to be going in and really start to dress everyday in a style that inspires me!

The whole project started with me taking every lil' thing out of my lil' closet and piling them up in Adam's band room (hehe) I wanted to take my time really curating what I was going to put back in there so moving it all into a room that I could leave messy for a while was a great luxury. Then I started with the obvious, the pieces that I absolutely love and wear to death. They went right back in. Next were some pretty easy choices ready for the giveaway pile. Now what was left is all the hard stuff. Things that used to be my favorites, things that fit but aren't exactly the style I'm cultivating, treasured vintage pieces, and, of course, piles and piles of t-shirts.

I'm gonna be honest, this stuff sat around for a while.

Ugg, decisions! I knew that things needed to be tried on and examined: does it fit in a way that is flattering? Do I feel comfortable? Do I look the way I want to look in this? Do I have complimentary garments that can make an outfit?

Day by day I would find the time to try an article of clothing on and run it through the ringer. Second opinions helped a lot when I could get them ("you say my butt doesn't look good in this? Bye bye!") Soon I discovered a third pile of "needs-alterations/needs-repairs" that would become my launching pad for coming up with some great ideas to share with my class.

As soon as I get a chance to snap some photos, I will share what kind of updates I've made to my existing wardrobe! I'm having a lot of fun with this!!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

US Figure Skating Championships contest

 The city of Greensboro + Greenhill Center for the Arts held a poster competition for the US Figure Skating Championships, that Greensboro will be hosting in January 2015. At first, I wasn't sure if I was interested but the cash prize was enticing enough for me to get out my sketchbook and think of some ideas. I knew I wanted to design something that was a reflection of my personal artwork, so that meant it needed to be knitted. I ended up having a lot of fun designing this piece. It proved to be my most challenging original design yet! But, with this project, I finally learned a decent way to design my knits in the computer in an efficient manner, without buying a special program. That was huge! The Intarsia knitting was not too complicated for me but the scale of the final piece (18"x 22") proved to be quite time consuming. I spent several days cramped up into positions on the couch that took its toll on my back. Oh the sacrifices I make for art!! I turned in my piece yesterday and fingers crossed I make it to the semi-finalist round.

I'm really proud of how this piece ended up and really thankful that the city and the state create these kinds of initiatives to help support NC artists. I love my home state!!

In-progress, mega-knotted knitting. The biggest problem I had working on this was a single-ply yarn that had such open fibers, it wanted to grip and tangle with anything it touched including itself. The absolute trick for doing this kind of color knitting is working with short strands of yarn that are easily pulled through any tangles you might encounter. I would ignore the tangles until I literally could not move the yarn anymore and then sit down and untangle everything. Eek!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Can you tell what the image is?

Does the title of the post help??

This design was a spin-off from my very first knitted art piece, wherein I was drawn into the image of two hands shaking; a very dry way of reflecting a relationship between two people. An agreement of sorts to the commitment of being another's companion. In my first show, it was nice to show the 2 pieces side-by-side but (thankfully) "You House Wife" has a new home and this guy is left all alone to puzzle the viewer in understand what they're looking upon.

I FINALLY got a professional shot of this granny square crochet piece I finished last year. I love it more and more, every time I get a chance to look at it. Lately, it's been crumpled up in the office but even then I walk by and admire its colors. All the yarns were hand-dyed (with the exception of the black) with half being natural dyes that came from onion skins, turmeric, and alkanet root. The rest were MX Procion dyes that came from Dharma Trading Co. The whole thing measures about 7 feet wide and 3 feet tall! Alas, with all the fire places, windows, and build-outs we have at home, there's no wall to hang it. So it might just stay another cozy wool thing to stick your feet under on the couch :) and no one's complaining about that!

A dear friend's mother past away this month. She was an avid knitter and her passing inspired me to stop what I was doing, and knit something simply for myself - a project I had put in the queue months ago. I found the pattern online, while I was searching through photos of god's eyes, this being called God's Eye Mitts by Alexis Windslow. Naturally, I had to adapt the pattern a little (cause I just have to make things more challenging). I lengthened them to cover my wrists more and slimmed down the cuffs. It was a great project to knit, abet the obvious fussiness of using double pointed needles, and I feel they'll make the dropping temperatures somewhat more tolerable to face. Maybe they're not god's eyes but all the eyes of those we can't look into anymore, and they can be a reminder that those we love can still look down upon us, and remain alive in our hearts and minds.

Hope everyone is doing well! Thanks for reading :)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Slow Movement

I'm ever-so-slowly readjusting myself from a loaded summer schedule. I feel like there have been so many things to celebrate, I haven't had much of a chance to spend time in my studio. And I KNOW I should be so pleased that I have so many engagements and friends to laugh with, and I am, but I just don't get that "on-top-of-it" feeling when I don't have a chance to be at home, alone with myself - to relax in my favorite spots, to make myself a meal that's exactly what I want to eat, to sleep in my own BED, to get to do exactly what I want to do, even if it's just for a couple hours. I really need that.

Recently, I've starting hatching a plan to become an advocate for The SLOW Movement, specifically when it comes to those of us creating our own businesses and working for ourselves.

How many times do you hear a story about a freelancer who talks about how busy and all-consuming their days are with work? Where even sleeping becomes a chore that's challenging to fit in? Where their nose is smashed so hard up against the grindstone that they even lose sight of the joy and pleasure they originally found in their work??

Maybe, right when I got out of college, I would look up to these go-getters, (I mean they're getting SO much done, right?) but now I'm finding my opinions are changing. Sleep a chore?? I LOVE to sleep!! No joke, it's on my list of Top 10 Favorite Things In The Whole World! Why would someone choose to live a life where this daily (indeed, necessary) pleasure is taken away? No, now I find myself disheartened to hear of all these wonderfully-creative people throwing away their life balance for meaty portfolios and whatever kind of accolades they can find.

Certainly one of my goals in being a freelance maker is to counteract the mass-manufacturing of cheap goods that have proliferated in our world, along with humans' diminished understanding of quality and craftsmanship. There is definitely a culture of people out there, like me, who want to produce goods and provide services that center around these goals. High-quality, small batch, handmade, ethical, etc. What I don't understand is why those of us who are creating these alternative businesses still hold themselves to the rigors and demands of big business - make it faster, make it cheaper, grow, grow, more, more, more. When are we ever going to stop??

What I say is this - you make a product, you provide a service and you keep pushing until you find that sweet spot, where your materials, labor and overhead are covered, where your bills are paid at the end of the month, and you provide a quality result that makes you and your customer satisfied. And that's IT. You take on what you can handle and leave behind the rest for another day or another person. For some of us, there will be more work, for others of us, it will be less. But at the end of the day, it will be just right for you. And we can all still make the time to include life into all this.

Is that too much to ask? And, yes, I did ask myself if this was just a way for me to rationalize my laziness ... and I say "yes" and "no". I don't think I work at a rate that I'm completely satisfied with yet but I'm working to get there while also balancing the other things I deem important that are outside of the realms of a career. To always be balance will always be a fantasy but we can actively work towards it everyday. No one but you can understand what is truly important in your life.

I really like to work and move around and have purpose to my days. I also like to cook dinner every night and hike the nature trails near my house and zone out for long periods of time looking at cool things on the Internet. I don't like stress. I don't like staying up all night because I have to to meet a deadline. So that's why I'm deciding to not allow the Maserati-speed that society keeps pushing us towards to influence me or my work - to accept that this might mean I have less dough in my pocket, or achievements on my resumé, but know that instead I'm choosing a healthy lifestyle. 

With lots of sleep.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Summertime clothes-making

 No time to post, must get back to my studio and then I'm headed to Turkey for 2 weeks! Thought I would share some photos and a quick word before I'm off.

Now that the art show has closed, I have no other art obligations for the rest of the year. I'm instead using the time to work on my pattern-making skills and submerging back into the world of fashion. Working with clients on custom clothing and fleshing out my own wardrobe with original designs, means I have plenty of work to do!

Above is a custom bridesmaid dress made out of holographic spandex. This was a real learning lesson since I've never worked with a 4-way stretch before. New goal is to figure out how to accurately measure stretch factor before I make a pattern. Underestimated this fabric's ability to  s  t  r  e  t  c  h !!

A quick Hemlock Tee for myself before leaving on vacation earlier this month. The pattern came from Grainline Studios with some customization on the sleeve. As much as I want to stick to my own original patterns, I thought it would be a good education to see what others in the field are doing, and reward myself with less thinking and more sewing!

A friend's wedding called for some flower girl dresses. These were pretty easy to make -- the tutus only required matching lengths of tulle, tied around ribbon. NOTE: tulle will snag and tear on anything small enough to catch within its holes! Still, great fun to make, and the girls loved wearing them.

A shot from my family reunion last weekend, where I brought a custom cheetah print dress for my grandmother (far left). What a full circle, to go from having my grandma measuring me for dresses as a child, to measuring her! It fit her perfectly on the first try (WOW). I even surprised myself on that.

I won't be posting anymore until this summer slows down. Until then, enjoy your summer! I will be getting back to spending time with my friends and family and making some room for sewing and knitting, of course!


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A lil' needlepoint house popped up on my desk to live with all the other important things that have found themselves here. I never thought I would needlepoint but I found myself in a store where they had the coolest designs (and ladies). They got me set up with some canvas and needles and -- uh, oh -- it's way addictive! Just what I need, anooother hobby :)


Y'ALL, the Carrack show in Durham was a-mazzing! It exceeded my expectations and renewed my confidence in this whole crazy idea of making a career as an artist. We are so lucky to have a zero-commission art space in our town. That's right, we got to keep all the profit from sales -- that's virtually unheard of! And for a place like Durham that's great, because people aren't shelling out big bucks for art and we can price more affordably, knowing that we don't have to share :)

So I'm gonna do my best to provide a virtual tour of the space. It was not easy to photograph, and my long shots all turned out terrible -- due to the strong light coming from the windows.

 This was taken on the last day when we set up a fabulous bloody mary bar and chilled. Megan is stressing over her to-do list behind the desk and Mack is striking a pose. She is the third leg in our best friend trifecta, and we couldn't have put on the show without her help. It was so great to be in our hometown because it meant we had lots of friends and family around to lend a hand -- and we needed it!

There are two long walls that make up the majority of the gallery, one in brick and one in plaster. I loved the character of this wall as a backdrop to our pieces. It was especially crucial for the off-white lace banners. Otherwise, we would've had to paint a backdrop to enable them to show up.

The "Aloof"s intermingled with Megan's Bleach series -- a sequential set of digital prints taken of dioramas she made from some original watercolor paintings. Does that make sense? They're so cool because you read them as paintings but feel the perspective she created, so you're not totally sure what you're looking at..and that's always fun.

Some people expressed that they would've rather seen all my work together on one wall and all Megan's on another. I disagreed with them and told them to get bent!

I'm thrilled to say that all my toothbrushes sold! Coincidentally, all to people who live in LA, so they're cross-continental now. I'm happy that others will enjoy them as much as I have.

Here we reach the end of the brick wall, bookended by another crochet banner.

Ah, the geodesic dome. Full of unfulfilled ideas Megan and I had for a collaborative installation. Sometimes you are just ready to stop and be okay with where you're at, especially with the temptation of sleep. Turned out to be a fun place to socialize during the reception so I considered it a success! It was meant to play off my ideas of domesticity and the home and Megan's caves...

Melting Skull didn't totally fit with the theme of the show but had to put him in there somewhere. He got his own wall that was a bit indented out from the rest.

 Other side of the room.

 Love these two next to each other. Hammered/Enamored and Mind & Space.

 Mind & Space II and Full-On Meltdown

Hidden Places (blue) with a collage of some of my smaller pieces. I showed 4 Tiny Houses and they all sold. I think I hit on a good idea with those.

Hidden Places (pink) with Eons, Hand In Hand and the handshake rug. A lovely collage of purples.

That's a wrap! My only negative was that the Carrack cycles their shows out every 2 weeks. That means lots more people get a chance to show each year but lots of "dang! I missed it" from folks. It goes quick!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

My grandfather's laughter at this piece, once he figured out what it meant, was one of the highlights of the art show opening last Friday. Typically, those who don't already know what it means, tend not to appreciate its humor so I was totally entertained by his little-boy reaction.
We might even have gotten a little closer because of it :)