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Wednesday, 26 January 2022

Getting Down To Beesiness

When a friend encouraged me to enter an upcoming exhibit, I was surprised and asked if she meant with jewelry. She - who also happens to be the curator of the exhibit - said that the bold, sculptural style of my pieces would be perfect. Wow! Her description of my work totally resonated and has become how I describe it - mixed media jewelry in a bold sculptural style.

The idea of entering kept tickling my brain and after giving it more thought, I decided it would be a great way to grow and stretch my skills since I've only been making jewelry for a relatively short time. The exhibit is called The Pollinators and runs from April 30th to July 2nd at the art gallery in Salmon Arm, BC, Canada. 

I'm really glad I entered. Working to the theme has engaged me with the pieces and the process and I've been learning new techniques while developing them. And having fun. I typically begin with a general idea and a working title and then, once the piece is far enough along that I know where it's going, I give it an official title. This first one is called Getting Down To Beesiness.

The focal element is a three dimensional daisy. I imagine that as a child I made all kinds of sculptures but this is my first one as an adult and it turned out fabulous. I was so pleased with it that I was hesitant to take it forward and practiced some of the other ideas on a bead and a bracelet before getting back to work on this piece.  

One valuable lesson I've learned with art making is the importance of sampling. It doesn't prevent all issues but it does allow me to move forward armed with information that is more likely to work the way I hope. It absolutely saves time and frustration. 

Along with the focal daisy, there are three large beads covered with flowers on each side of center and six bee beads - two by the daisy and four by the clasp. The bees are metal charms that were embedded in epoxy clay. All of the parts were painted black, highlighted with a mix of silver and antique gold, and sealed with clear acrylic. The necklace has a double hook clasp in antique copper. 

I mentioned in the last post that this feels like a pivotal piece, one that looking back will have some significance and yet I can't quite put my finger on why I feel that way. Perhaps because it seems even more authentic in some way. I remember talking to an artist years ago who made quilts, and sometimes made art quilts, and when I asked her what differentiated the two she said that the art quilts had soul. Perhaps that's it. 

I'm working on several pieces at once and have project plates laid out on my jewelry station to keep the parts separate. I picked up a pile of these at the thrift store and they're perfect for parts and for painting. When I checked the dates for the show, the description mentions only birds, bees, butterflies, and bats. Not flies. That's different than the original outline I read so I'll need to check with the curator before I use those. The key and the heart are for a piece called At The Heart of the Matter - another statement necklace. It's partially finished as is...

… this ring called Hey, What's Going on in There?. I've been struggling with how to securely attach the ring band to the main element and finally came up with an idea yesterday that is going to work. YES! I can now take this piece forward. In fact, since this picture was taken, I've added a first layer of petals around the outside. 

Other than an appointment on Friday, I've scheduled the entire week to be in the studio to working on these pieces. I've given myself until the middle of February to finish them since that's when I want to focus on sewing my workshop wardrobe however, ideally, I'll finish them by Monday. I'm in the zone right now and the energy and the flow of ideas is delightful. 

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - zone, energy, flow, a first piece finished

Monday, 24 January 2022

Design Details of The Trio Refashion Bag

There are endless options to use for the starting point of a new bag. The only time I've had an issue was with an old sweater I covered in free motion stitching as the first step. With use, the knitted stitches began to fray and run and the surface deteriorated badly. Luckily - not for her but for me - I'd given it to my daughter rather than sold it so I knew this was a no go before disappointing a customer. I made my daughter another purse. 

With the original textile piece, there was one large section that I cut in two to form the back and front of the bag. They were slightly too short and too narrow for the design and although I tried working with them, I was making too many compromises and eventually took it all apart and started over knowing...

... that I would need a way to add width and length. I cut each of the front and back pieces into three sections with a narrower middle and then...


... cut narrow strips for another part of the original textile piece to add the extra width. I shuffled the pieces around until I had two combinations of five pieces that I thought were the best of my options. To join the sections, they were butted against each other and zigzagged together. Before stitching, I added fused interfacing strips on the back for additional strength. 

To add the extra length, I quilted a remnant of denim that was big enough but needed to be reconfigured. After quilting, it too was cut into sections that were butted and zigzagged together before the seams were covered with additional strips of denim fused in place and the raw edges zigzagged to hold and to prevent fraying. These choices eliminated as much bulk as possible. 


The bottom looked quite plain so I unpicked some of the circles from the remaining bits of the original textile piece and re-appliqued them to the bottom. In the end, all of the sections were butted and zigzagged together to get the one large shape of the entire bag. Broadcloth was added to the back before covering the seams with fused fabric strips that were appliqued in place with a narrow zigzag stitch through all layers. This, again, added strength to the piece. 

I find a project like this tends to create a mess and occasionally I need to stop and clean things up before moving on so I'm not overwhelmed. In the image above, all of the parts are complete and ready to be assembled. The lining...

... was made from remnants left over from a pair of pants I made a few months ago as well as some fuchsia quilting fabric from long, long ago that was used as pocket linings. There is something very satisfying about using scraps of previous projects in a completely new one. It's like a free project!


I mentioned in the last post that there is one slip and one zip pocket in the lining and that the zipper is black only because that's the best choice from what I had in stash. I would have loved a fuchsia one however, I wasn't going shopping. This was an easy, yes or no, decision however, something that happens often is that I will debate how to proceed with a project and finally conclude that I need a specific something to finish it. I think I've thoroughly weighed all the options and there is no other choice so I'll go buy the item only to come home, not use it, and use something from stash. The new item does go into stash to be used at some point down the line but I'd really rather eliminate that stage and work from stash without the shopping trip. I can't figure out if this "dance" has become just one of the steps or if there is some way to break the trend. It happened again this weekend with another project I'll tell you about in a future post. 

To make the straps, I used more denim scraps pieced to the needed length, interfaced the entire width and added another heavier interfacing to half the width. The edges were pressed toward center and top stitched and then a strip of the black and white lining fabric was fused down the middle and... 

... appliqued in place with a zigzag stitch. With this method, there is no bulky seam and the back of the strap is as neat as the front. Below, you can see how they line up on the bag. 

This weekend, I worked on the pieces for the exhibit in April. The theme is Pollinators and I am making some mixed media jewelry pieces in my bold, sculptural style. I've been experimenting with ideas over the last few months and now they are coming together. One piece is complete, another is well on its way, and the main section of a third is ready to move forward.

When I applied for the show, we didn't discuss how many pieces I'd make and since it's not a solo show, I have no idea how much space is allotted for me BUT... so many fun ideas are dancing in my head and I don't want to abandon any of them so I'll make the ones that tickle the most over the next few weeks and let the curator decide. The piece I finished this weekend feels pivotal, like feel something shifted significantly. I want to show it to you but need to check with the curator if I'm able to post those images now or must wait until the show opens. I'm talking to her today so I'll ask and we'll see.  Hopefully.

Talk soon - Myrna

- a very progressive weekend

Friday, 21 January 2022

The Trio Refashion Bag

The last workshop I attended was in June 2019. Any I'd registered for in 2020 were cancelled and I didn't even try in 2021 but now, I really need a road trip, a workshop, and some creative energy. I've signed up for the Design Outside the Lines Retreat in Ashland, Oregon in March and that's already been energizing. It is FABULOUS to have something to look forward to, to prepare for. 

The workshop is always taught by Diane Ericson who I've studied with for years and by a guest teacher. This time it's Paula Kovarik, a quilt artist. To help prepare, I ordered her book and it was fun to see what we have in common and even what we don't. Before I returned to sewing fashions, this is exactly the kind of work I used to do and - like her - I was known for my threadwork only last year when I started making a textile piece, the initial enthusiasm wore off quite quickly and I packed it up and put it away with not even a niggle of regret. I am not feeling drawn toward textile art at all which makes me quite curious about what I will get out of her part of the teaching. Something for sure. There is always something. 

Although textile art feels long ago and far away, I want to be open to whatever I can use in my current work. One of the things Paula and I have in common is that we cut up previous pieces to make new work. As a way of representing my openness, I decided to turn a previous piece into a large bag to hold workshop supplies. 

This is it in progress when I initially made it for my last exhibit in January 2010. Even though it's been tucked away in my bits & pieces of potential box for quite a few years, I haven't outgrown the colours, the flowing lines, or the dense threadwork and it was fun to evolve forward. 

In the next post, I'll show some of the design steps. This one is about the finished bag. With the exception of some purse foam, I had everything I needed and all of the fabrics used were from a previous project and cleared space in my scrap basket. 

The shape is commonly referred to as a doctor's bag or a Mary Poppins' bag with a folding frame. It's one of my favourites with large pieces to design on and simple shapes to sew. The frame slides into a casing at the top that opens wide making it easy to access the contents. It's perfect for workshop supplies. 

I added one zippered and one slip pocket to the lining. The zippered pocket has a black zipper because I didn't have a fuchsia one and wanted to use what I had. The slip pocket has fuchsia edging. Both have a fuchsia lining. I really like that pop of colour against the black and white. 

The bottom and straps are made from quilted denim remnants. These circles were appliqued on the original textile art and I removed them and re-appliqued them to the bottom. And added purse feet. 

My grand-puppy Astrix as visiting when I worked on the bag. She was of the opinion that since she "made" it, she should get to take it home but that's not how it works! She left before it was completely done so there was no real debate - VBG. As you can see, it's a big bag - 16 1/2" wide by 6 1/2" deep by 18" high. I have it sitting on the sideboard in my studio and every time I see it, I'm excited about the upcoming workshop. YES YES!

The weather here - like in many places - is strange. I live in British Columbia, Canada and you may know that we had a heat dome, record forest fires, and major flooding last year and then snow storms this year so far. When I went to bed Wednesday night, the sky was clear and when I woke up, it was snowing. By the afternoon, it was all gone and they're calling for 7 degree weather and rain. SO MIXED UP. But pretty. This is the view from my living room window. On the other side of the fence is a creek that runs all year and if the studio windows are open, I can hear it while I work. Such a gift. 

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - the option to stay in the studio

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

What Does The Next Year Hold? (2022)

While I'm not a collage artist, I used collage making for years in my work as an interior designer and as an art instructor to learn more about the client or the student. I only learned to use collages for myself about six or seven years ago while working with a creativity coach. The first assignment was to make a collage about the woman I was becoming. I have it up in my studio and it encompasses the years between age 50 and age 70. With turning sixty this year, I'm right in the middle and it's interesting to see what has already unfolded and what may be to come. 

After that, I began making a yearly collage and the starting question is always the same: what does the next year hold? I choose a size of paper and then flip through six or seven magazines pulling out whatever catches my eye. Then I work through the pile cutting away anything that doesn't resonate whether it's words or imagery. From there, I begin to arrange the remaining words and images on the chosen paper. Some insist on being there and others refuse to find a place. That in itself can be a real learning curve if I'm not sure about a phrase that wants to be included or was clinging to one that doesn't. It involves being open and letting go right there at the very beginning. 

Fashion is woven through every part of my life. I began sewing when I was twelve and over forty years later, it's still how I breathe and the art form I consistently come back to. If I haven't sewn today, something is off and if there is no sewing for days, I'm going to get really cranky. When I am cranky, the suggestion has been made that perhaps I should go to my studio. How telling is that? It is my destressing, energizing, nurturing space. This next decade feels like a fabulous time to lean into my style even further and really enjoy the clothing I create and wear.

The last six months of 2021 felt unsettled. It began when the gallery called me and asked to carry my jewelry. Without meaning to, I once again picked up the swirling issues around a creative business. There are all kinds of valid reasons for why I'd like to earn income and yet it's been rare and very sporadic for my cash flow to come from what I make and sell. It's not because I'm not good enough. And, it's not because I don't work hard enough. So perhaps, it's not meant to be or it's meant to be only differently. Putting that down... again... brought calm back into my life and I see that reflected in the collage. There is nothing about developing a business and I am glad.

The typewriter represents the blog which I intend to make a focus. I've realized that writing is one of my art forms and it's very fun to be published as often as I want without writing proposals and looking for acceptance from a publisher, without having anyone judge my work through their criteria which has little to do with what I have to offer and everything to do with what "they" are buying. I've been there, done that, and enjoy the blog. 

I have decided to occasionally post things for sale in a casual and low-key way like the studio sales I've had in the past. This would allow me to move my makes along so I can keep making and - never say never - I'm also going to be one of those women that used to frustrate me, and who I now understand, by selling my work at cost. When what I've made starts to pile up, I can't make any more things and if I can't make any more things, I can't function so selling what I make at the cost of making does seem like a good idea. I'm not sure when that might start... eventually. 

There are points in life when our mortality stares us in the face through the loss of loved ones, events like the pandemic, or aging and aching. I feel so blessed to be alive, to live where I live, and to have the options I have in my life. I am increasingly grateful for, and increasingly aware of taking care of, this body I live in as I lean into the journey of ever increasing holistic health. I am grateful that I now truly enjoy dressing the body I have. 

I can't remember if I talked about this in an earlier post but several months ago I had a conversation with a friend about the "in" group. I walk to a rather unusual drummer and I've never felt like I belonged in any group. That feeling has shadowed my life and yet, after talking to her, I questioned where is this "in" that I am not in? Why didn't I recognize in as the coffee date I was on? Wasn't in the weekend with a friend spent sewing in the studio or the workshop with other women who love what I love? Why had I made "in" some place other than where I was and why had I given someone else the power to say if I was "in" or not? What if being in is simply about showing up in your own life? These images are to remind myself that I am in, about being all in, and about developing friendships in this community. 

So many times I get in my own way with wrong thinking that can't evolve until I recognize and confront it. I have been praying about not just surviving but thriving and blossoming in every area of my life including creativity, and about connecting with all that is around me whether that is nature, relationships, inspiration, or something else entirely - eyes wide open, ears attentive, engaged. 

The doorknob is one of the images that insisted on being on the collage and the quote ended up next to it because it fit nicely into that space and yet - once I read them together - it was obviously meant to be. It reads: follow your bliss and doors will open where there were no doors before. Another prayer is that as my path unfolds before me, God will close doors I am not meant to walk through, open ones that I am, and highlight the signposts along the way. 

I prefer to go deep rather than wide and explore a few mediums more intensely. Last year, as I was working out if and how I wanted to make jewelry, I started to feel overwhelmed by too many directions with too many learning curves. Rather than learning and growing artistically, it felt like I was treading water so I began eliminating options down to what I really wanted to focus on and eventually got to polymer clay, and then to beads and buttons, and then primarily buttons. Artful is not an uncommon word in the magazines I read however buttons is and this word was the title of a book in a stack on a table from a picture in a home d├ęcor magazine. 

I'm not going to start making buttons regularly until I finish the pieces for the upcoming exhibit, so about the middle of February, and then I plan to participate in one of the 100 days of inset word challenges and make some buttons each day for a hundred days. During that time, I will be away for the workshop so I'm taking epoxy clay with me for those days. I've already been mixing epoxy and polymer with the exhibit pieces and I think they may show up together more often depending on what I'm creating. I like the idea of exploring widely within these narrow boundaries. 

If there's an image you're wondering about, feel free to ask and I'd love to hear what your next year holds. 

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - lessons learned

Monday, 17 January 2022

Planning A Workshop Wardrobe

Celebration is really important to me and I have especially always celebrated my birthday. I have no problem with my age, what it is or telling anyone, since the opposite of older is dead and I'm happy to be older. Some birthdays, like this year, are just a little extra special. I turn sixty in June. I think I'm surprised to be this age already and I know for sure that I am grateful since unfortunately others have passed away too soon. 

As part of the year of turning sixty, I have registered for a Design Outside the Lines retreat in Ashland, Oregon in March. I've been to this retreat several times and have thoroughly enjoyed it each time. This will be the first event I've attended since June 2019 and I really, Really, REALLY hope nothing prevents the trip as I desperately need both a road trip and the creative energy of a workshop. 

One thing I love about going to workshops is planning what to wear and sewing new garments. Until we were locked down, I didn't realize this was the main way I replenished my wardrobe, which is in need of replenishing, so I will act as if I am definitely going right up until the last moment and if for some reason I can't attend, I'll plan an alternative event to wear my workshop wardrobe for. 

I love fashion from the perspective of what suits each of us individually - both physically and emotionally. I was in a high end boutique several months ago and the sales woman wanted me to try on a particular outfit and didn't understand when I said I couldn't carry that off. She thought I could and yes, from a physical, does it suit my figure, perspective I could have but from an emotional, do I feel like my best self in this outfit, perspective I couldn't. When I explained, I got the impression she had never considered that before while I think it's vital and why a sudden makeover might not be successful. We evolve into ourselves not catapult. 

Along with the year end round ups,  I have been watching wardrobe building videos and especially Emily Wheatley's like How To Build a New Wardrobe. While she describes her style as chic, edgy, and minimalistic and I describe mine as minimalistic and architectural, we have a lot in common. I think her approach is doable no matter what your style is and even if you're not sure. 

Personal style isn't something you pick up off a shelf. It develops over time as you experiment with different ideas and get to know yourself better. For myself, I had no idea at all and was, in fact, playing it safe with my choices and then suddenly it clicked. The only shift I can think of is that I returned to fashion sewing and started being more intentional, paying attention, wearing only what I loved, and not settling. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know how much I relate to this image above because it exactly illustrates my go to look of a black top, funky bottoms, and a statement necklace.

Although that is my go to look, it's not the only one I wear and I try to add new pieces with new energy as I go along. Being more aware has helped me make less mistakes. For instance, I'm drawn to the look above left from the back and yet not at all from the front above right. With a pear shaped figure, I know that garments like these, with volume at the waist and hips, will not be flattering on me. Without waist definition, I'll look like a tent. 

If I bought these garments, they wouldn't get worn. If I sewed them, I'd keep the shape of the pant legs and eliminate the fullness at the waist and I'd keep the fabric of the top and substitute a pattern with defined shoulders and waist shaping. Those choices would allow me to maintain the funkiness, the high contrast, and the fun of the outfit while altering it to work better for me. No compromise. Only what I love. 

I can use that same information to evaluate these two tops. The one at left has far more fullness through the waist and hip while the one at right has more waist shaping and smoothness over the hip. Both appear to be sewn with a crisp fabric. As a curvy person, stiff fabrics are both uncomfortable and unflattering. In a drapey linen, with an on point shoulder seam and a bit more shaping, the blouse at right could be flattering on me and go well with my style. I'm debating drafting something like it as part of my workshop wardrobe. 

In her video, Emily talks about anchor, branch off, and layering pieces. She tends to build module wardrobes within an overall wardrobe. I decided to look at the garments I wear the most frequently and what they have in common. They are a black skirt, a black and grey check skirt, grey striped pants, black and white striped pants, dark grey denim jeans, four black t-shirts in different styles, a black and white t-shirt, a three fabric dress in the same colours, and a black dress and, if you look on the shelf above, two purple textured cardigans and a dark grey textured cardigan.

Know yourself. I remember when I would look at outlines for a basic wardrobe and there would always be a blazer and a white button up shirt on the list and I can't relate to either. I never wear blazers but I do wear cardigans a lot. I rarely wear a blouse and never a white one. I am most drawn to soft garments not crisply pressed ones. It's a waste of my time to sew garments I won't wear and and a waste of my money to buy them, no matter how good the sale, no matter the quality of the fabric, no matter the amazing thrift store find. If I won't wear it, it's not a good deal. I learned that lesson the hard way. 

I don't wear black so much black it's easy or because I think it's slimming. I wear it because it fits my esthetic and I like it. One way to add variety to a predominately black wardrobe is with layering pieces like cardigans but also with accessories like scarves or...

... necklaces.  This is where Emily and I differed greatly. When I searched for jewelry on her channel, I didn't even watch the videos because they appeared delicate and understated. I think it was in the video above that she talks about accessories not taking over the outfit which is - I believe - another emotional level. Taken over is different for different people.

I tend to wear one ring and a statement necklace and that's the limit I'm comfortable with since I also wear glasses, make-up, and like big hair. However... I have a LOT of statement necklaces, far more necklaces than I have garments, since a black t-shirt and a million necklaces equals a million outfits. 

Another part of the year of turning sixty has been focusing on ever increasing holistic health including physical health. Since the beginning of November, I have lost seventeen pounds through calorie counting and added exercise. It seems to be working for me since, occasional struggles aside, that's 1-2 pounds a week which would mean another eight to sixteen pounds before the retreat.

With my figure type, I gain weight on my hips first and bust last and lose it on my bust first and hips last. Since I need to finish the jewelry pieces for the upcoming exhibit, in my sewing and knitting time I am working on the upper garments for the workshop wardrobe and I'll sew the lower ones in the month before leaving. My next knitting project will be this bulky cardigan - Sucre Cardigan by Rowan - in black as both an anchor and a layering piece. And I have black yarn in stash. This is good!

Typically, I've posted my What Will The New Year Hold collage by now only I haven't yet. It will probably be later this week. Since I'm the one making them year to year there are obviously similarities but this year feels different along the lines of this quote -  calmer, more settled, leaning into life, looking for fun, done with drama. This too is good. 

Talk soon - Myrna

- exploring a favourite topic