Baroque Scarf

I’m not sure why the first word that popped into my mind when I considered what to call this scarf was ‘baroque’, but when I did a google image search on the word plus ‘patterns’ lots of diamond shaped repeats in blues and grey/silver or gold appeared, so my subconscious seems to know what it’s talking about!

Technically, this is another sampler scarf. I want to see what the same yarns I used in the last scarf will do if I reduce the blocks to four ends, and if the floats weren’t overly long I might head down the route of making a garment.

Since it had been six months since I’d put a warp on a loom, my mind felt oddly stiff, as if I was waking up unused muscles. Fortunately, everything I needed to know came back to me and I was soon weaving again. A couple of weekends later it was done.

And I had come up with two more projects. Both scarves. One using the grey boucle, the other using a coppery-brown and an orange boucle. Seems I forgot all about making a garment. Well, I have enough garments. I’m on a roll with these deflected doubleweave scarves. A slow roll, but a roll nonetheless. Let’s see how far it carries me.

SketchBox June 2023

It was a surprise when the June Sketchbox arrived on the 2nd, because the previous two boxes had arrived in the middle of the month. I don’t know if it was due to the Sketchbox organisers sending the international subscriber’s boxes out early or the couriers being extra efficient, but I was certainly delighted to receive it around the same time as other subscribers.

The only down side was that I’d just opened the January one and was still testing out it’s contents, so I waited a week before opening the June box. Initially the box seemed similar to the January one in that they both contained brightly coloured ink, but that’s the only way they were alike. June’s box contained reactive inks.

Unlike the permanent Inktense inks, the Hero Arts inks are meant to rewet, mingle, bloom and bleed. And they certainly do. The sampler I made didn’t hint at how much more reactive they could be.

The behaved themselves in the first artwork – leaving a gap between the background and the objects was a design decision that turned out to have an extra benefit.

It was only when I painted these marbles that I experienced some dramatic bleeding when one colour met another, even when the earlier colour had dried. Fortunately, the marbles were small and have no precise internal edges, so it didn’t matter.

I don’t see this volatility as a fault. It could be rather thrilling in the right situation. I know how it behaves now and can take advantage of that. Which is what I’m enjoying most about getting and exploring these subscription boxes.

The paper in this box is my favourite so far, because despite painting the entire sheet for the lorikeet artwork it stayed perfectly flat. Not the slightest buckle. I want more! The brush was excellent. I’d never normally consider outlining with a pink fine liner, but the Copic pen looks great. The white gel pen didn’t make a completely opaque line, but it was kind of cool how the colour underneath stained it. I used it four ways: as a correction fluid on the white surface, multiply coats to make white highlights, a single coat to lighten an area, and as a barrier layer to stop a new layer of colour bleeding into the one underneath.

I had subscribed to a three-month subscription, but since I’m having fun trying products that are new and/or new to me, I’ve let it tick over into another three month block. It’ll be interesting to see what comes in the next boxes – and if they’ll arrive at the start or the middle of the month.

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Looking over all the Daily Art pieces and considering what was worth framing had me thinking about what sort of art might sell. Recently, I refreshed the items I had for sale in the Guild shop and that got me thinking along similar lines.

Of the six items I put in the shop six months ago, two sold: a pink flannelette rag rug and a grey and white shadow weave cotton scarf made from the extra yarn in a kit. The four items that didn’t sell included a black t-shirt fabric rag rug with a multicolour twill warp and three cotton twill scarves. I couldn’t help but note that all the scarves had been stashbuster projects and wonder if my intention in making them was weighted too much toward using up the yarn than making something saleable. Perhaps I would have been better off culling those yarns.

I also noted that those four items weren’t my best pieces in the “to sell or gift” chest. When I considered which items to put in the shop this time, I put the nicest ones back in case I needed them as gifts. That is silly. It’s not like I give handwovens very often. So I’ve decided I will take the best pieces for the shop in six months. I only waste my time and fail to make space for new creations if I sell nothing because I didn’t put the good stuff in!

However, I do stand by my decision to keep the nicest flannelette rag rugs. They took a ridiculously long time to weave and in these tough times I doubt anyone would be willing to pay even a quarter of what they’re worth. Eventually mine will wear out and I’ll have something to replace them with.

SketchBox January 2023

Why am I writing about an art materials subscription box from six months ago? Well, waiting two weeks for the April one to arrive had me feeling a bit twitchy and impatient, so I figured if I ordered one of the previous boxes it would arrive right at the start of May, and distract me from the wait for May’s one.

Best laid plans, as they say. According the the tracking, the extra box didn’t ship until after the May one did, and yet the two arrived together mid May. So I decided to save the January one for the start of June, to keep me entertained until the June box arrived. Of course, the June box arrived two days after I opened the January one. By then I was pretty busy, so I waited another week before opening that one.

January’s box is all about Inktense products: pencils and paint pans that are water soluble when you apply but permanent when dry. It’s an appealing idea, especially for making a wash that, once dry, doesn’t shift when you overpaint it. Though I’ve done this with the acrylic inks that came with the Paletteful Packs box, bottles aren’t as portable as little paint pans.

I have to admit to being sucked into the internet culture surrounding these boxes, from watching YouTube videos of unboxings and testing to trying to take nice photos of the contents and the art I made and posting them on Instagram.

But by doing so, I’m learning about art materials that I probably wouldn’t have tried otherwise. The Inktense pans came up quite dark in my swatch and yet when I used them on the background of the bird painting they dried paler than I expected. The Inktense pencils, however, laid down intense pigment that stayed so when water was painted over them. I wound up layering pencil over paint. Which was a faster way to fill the background than colouring it all in with pencil then painting over it.

The paper buckled with use, but then watercolour paper does that if not pre-stretched. I didn’t like the brush – not even for the background – so only used it for the backgrounds. I tried applying masking fluid for the white spots on the mushrooms and was pretty happy with the result.

I can see myself using these products again, probably for laying down backgrounds in watercolour sketches. Maybe also for initial water-soluble guidelines, and when I need to quickly intensify colour in an area. Definitely worth adding to my travel sketching kit.

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We signed up to a streaming service recently, which has given me a rich vein of art and handcraft reality tv programming to binge. I’m not normally a fan of reality tv, but I love the Great British Bake Off, the Great British Sewing Bee, Good with Wood and Portrait/Landscape Artist of the Year. It turns out there is another show in the same vein: the Great British Pottery Throwdown.

I learned pottery between ages 6 and 12, then later it was included as part of my secondary education when I was 16-17. The last time I did any was in my 20s, when I did a terracotta sculpture short course. I had an idea that I would do it once every decade of my life, but my 30s and 40s passed by without me getting my hands covered in clay, and it’s doubtful my back would cope with it now.

So when the show gave me an itch to play with clay, I turned instead to coiled basketry.

This has many advantages. It’s entirely made from recycled materials – strips from old denim jeans leftover from weaving rugs and cotton thrums. It’s portable – I’ve been doing it while visiting Mum in aged care. There’s no need to find a kiln for hire. The materials produce only a little dust and don’t require safety equipment. You can take your time and it doesn’t dry out. And if you drop the object you’re making, it doesn’t shatter.

I had no idea what I was making when I started; I just coiled and sewed until I ran out of denim strip and found I had a little basket. Then I started another. That became a lid.

I’ve started another piece. This time with black denim and blue thread. So far I have a growing disc. I’m thinking maybe it’ll become a trivet or a wide bowl, but in truth I’m happy to let it become whatever the moment leads it to become.

SketchBox May 2023

Having seen unboxing and testing videos of May’s art supplies, I was keen to try them, but I knew the box wouldn’t arrive until mid-March. A week before, I started picking reference photos from my phone and tested drawing the subjects in pen and watercolour marker. Of course, when it did arrive I was already ‘over’ those ideas and entirely different photos caught my attention.

The box contained graphite pencils, a white pastel pencil, liquid graphite and a lovely warm gold glimmer ink. There was also a pad of toned paper, a sharpener, a brush and an eraser pencil. The only supply I didn’t like was the eraser pencil, which was rather hard and scuffed the paper surface, so I used a standard eraser instead.

The first artwork was of a cat stretching, because it captured the feeling of “gimme, gimme right now”.

It didn’t come as well as I hoped, but it gave me a feel for the materials and taught me to avoid drawing with pencil until the ink or graphite was well and truly dry. Two days later I had a bit more time and did three pieces that I like much more. The suggested theme was “shadow”, so I looked for reference photos that might suit. The first was of our cat gazing out of the window. Most of it was drawn with pencil, with the liquid graphite added for the deepest shadow on the cat and day bed, and of course the glimmer ink watered down a little.

Then I found a reference for a sports car. After an initial sketch with pencils, I explored mixing the glimmer ink with the liquid graphite. It makes a useful greenish tone. By diluting, layering or mixing the graphite, ink and white pastel I could get quite a range out of what was a quite limited colour palette.

And finally, I tackled one of a heritage building at night. This took the longest, because of all the decorative details. The darkest areas are painted with liquid graphite – even the 14B pencil couldn’t approach it in blackness. I diluted the glimmer ink quite a bit to get more of a yellow shade than shimmery effect on the stone walls. The white pastel was used only on the light, and love how it conveys the glow.

Overall, this was a much more ‘arty’ box of materials, and much easier to use, than the previous box. I can see myself using everything in it again. Even the eraser pencil, which might prove more suitable on a different, stronger ground or be good for tweaking the surface colouring on a sculpture. My favourite was the liquid graphite, but I was most surprised by the versatility of the glimmer ink. SketchBOX have hinted that the next box will contain them, which I would very much like.

Posted in art

Boucle Chains Scarf

I sold my modified Katie loom late last year. It didn’t make sense to have two 8 shaft table looms, and the Jane was the keeper because it’s wider and has a supplementary warp beam. I won’t say I didn’t feel a few pangs of sadness to see it go.

Since most of the second hand looms I’ve bought have come with free yarn, I decided to do a cull of my cone yarn stash and came up with a box of cotton, linen and wool to accompany the loom. Spreading the keepers over the kitchen table meant it was suddenly obvious that some of what I assumed were solo yarns were actually the same brand and type as others. Putting like with like back into the cabinets made it all look much tidier.

I have quite a bit of boucle yarn, which got me thinking of something I stumbled on in the 8-shaft course sampling. I really liked mixing boucle with smooth yarn in Deflected Doubleweave. It gave the fabric a lovely texture, and for some reason – probably just because there wasn’t a lot of texture explored in the course – I am drawn to texture and simple weaves right now.

A shawl or rug appealed, or maybe a tunic top, but I decided to do a scarf first as a test piece. I chose a pattern in the DDW sampler I’d called “Cha-cha-chains”, tweaked it in Fiberworks, chose the yarn, wound it, warped it and started weaving.

It was as dream to weave. Swift but not boring. It took me six months to weave mainly because of many, many distractions. It felt lovely on the loom, and thickened up slightly after washing.

So cosy.

I’ve worked out the specs and picked a pattern for another one now. Just need a free weekend to get it on the loom.

SketchBox of Goodies

Having sampled one art material subscription box, I decided I liked the experience and wanted to try another. I settled on SketchBox, which had a far more reasonable postage charge. The first box I received was the April one, which arrived mid-April. The extra time it took to get to Australia meant the reveal happened long before I received it, but that’s fine. I’m in it to try some art materials I might not usually pick up, especially those not available in this country, and have fun.

They’d given some pretty strong hints on the website what the contents would be, so it wasn’t a surprise when I opened it to find… Pantone markers. And an extra colour as an ink for refilling markers or working with directly. Plus a marker pad, pencil and brush.

The boxes come with an art sample and a prompt, the latter being “blossom”. I made a sample chart then dutifully photographed some dahlias in the garden and painted… drew… them. The markers were, well, not that great to do this sort of art with. The markers are water-based and it’s supposed to be possible to blend them with water straight after application, but I found they dried fast and wouldn’t reactivate. Painting some water on first helped a bit. The inks don’t all match the lids, and some dried lighter again. They have a chisel tip on one end and a brush tip on the other. at the small scale of the marker pad the thinnest lines I could get were quite thick. I wound up using the brush with the ink to outline everything so it wasn’t so chunky. Too late in the process I realised I could dab the brush on the pen tips and paint with that.

On the up side, the range of colours created when mixing the colours was surprisingly broad, and the saturation of the green was great. The lid of one of the pens had popped off during transport but the pen wasn’t at all dried out. They didn’t bleed through the paper unless applied in several layers and never marked the next sheet.

I found a pile of videos of other artists reviewing them and found most had the same core group of issues, and came up with interesting solutions. Some ‘drew’ into palettes to make puddles of ink they could apply with a paint brush. One had much better results blending and reactivating on watercolour paper.

The pens felt like ones that, (mumble) years ago when I did my tertiary art/design course, were in the kit we were required to buy. They were used in architectural and fashion drawing, applied like fancy highlighters. The look was very 80s. It feels like these would suit that application very well.

Would I buy more? Probably not. But they were completely new to me and I had fun trying them out, which is the whole point of getting these boxes.

Posted in art

Chambray Dress

A year or so ago I saw a woman wearing a denim dress and found myself fancying a garment like that. It was essentially a shirt dress made with chambray, and I had some of that from a destash sale. I went looking for patterns and settled on Simplicity 8014, which had been voted best pattern of the year on a sewing pattern review site.

Having made the mistake of buying a pattern in US sizes that were too small for me, I took care to check the eBay seller’s information carefully and there was no indication it was in US sizings. So of course, only when it turned up was it possible to see it was was. I had to buy it again, and by the time it arrived I’d moved on to other projects so this one got put aside.

Recently I got around to making it.

I have to admit, I wondered how the pattern managed to be voted Best of the Year. The version I happened to want to make involved so many switches back and forth in the instructions that I eventually had to scan and print it so I could cut them up and put them in the right order. Even then, I had to tweak the order on the fly as well because I was top stitching in another colour and didn’t want to be changing the thread constantly.

Then there were some oddities with the collar instruction. The only time the seam allowance is mentioned on the pattern pieces but not on the instruction sheets is for the collar. The collar is the last part to be sewn, and the instructions are incomplete and in one place don’t match up with the diagram. Also, there is no mention of overlocking edges to prevent fraying, and the number of buttons for the view I did was two short of what was needed.

It seems like the manufacturer has decided to truncate the instructions so they took up less pages, and whoever got that job really didn’t care how they got it to fit.

New Art Challenges

My year of Daily Art happened at just the right time, finishing a month and a half before life got too difficult to accommodate such a challenge. I had meant to take a break and start again after a month, then changed that to three, and before I knew it six months had passed and it was clear painting every day is no longer practical.

Which is fine. I do want to paint at home with some regularity, however, and the Daily Art challenge made me realise I really like and want to continue painting still lifes. To do that regularly at home I needed a permanent painting space where I could control the light and it didn’t matter if I got paint on the floor, so I have converted half of our big laundry into a mini-studio.

This is where I did most of the ink-making. It was such a cosy nook I decided to keep using it. We removed a drawer unit and inserted shelving and drying racks above the desktop. The cupboards to the right now hold most of my art materials.

This is an old pine table I restored twenty years ago. I have a new light with an amazing variety of controls and a shadow box set up cobbled together from mdf, aluminium channel and perspex sheeting.

I’m exploring painting different materials. At the moment it is glass, and I intend to focus on wood, ceramic, metal, paper and plastic in future. I’m not exploring grounds or mediums and will probably stick to oils and gouache. But there’s a new aspect that I’m focussing on: saleability.

There’s a lot of work from the Daily Art challenge that isn’t worth trying to sell, which I don’t mind because it was fun to do and I learned a great deal. Now I want to include end use into my plans. In particular I’m considering what makes a piece more likely to sell or be adopted by a friend, and letting that guide my choices. It’ll be interesting to see if I’m right or wrong – either will just be another part of the learning process.

I have also given myself another challenge: keeping art for weekdays, work and family-related matters and restricting hobbies to weekends. For a while now it’s felt like the balance was wrong. So far it has felt surprisingly right to divide up the week this way. I guess old habits die hard.

And while on the subject of imbalances… I’ve been reading articles about AI and finding it all rather fascinating but also sad. Like most new technologies it has potential to be a useful tool, but if it can be used to exploit people someone will find a way. Until the copyright issues are worked out, I’m going to avoid posting images of my paintings online.