Back in Town

it didn't work out to do the photo shoot for the book at my now, home based studio.

several issues arrived - the most important being that there just wasn't enough room for all of us and the photo equipment around my table.

so I packed up and moved back to town, if only temporarily.

thank goodness for adolescent boys who are always willing to lend a hand.

I won't even attempt to count how often in their lifetimesI have moved my studio.

all in all it came out fairly well.

this is the main room with a great view of downtown

more to follow!








Creative Arts Workshop

I spent this past weekend in New Haven, CT.
I had gone to teach a 2-day Painting on Silk workshop at 
a wonderful place called the
I had also gone home to the town where I grew up.
in fact I took classes at the CAW
as a youngster when it was located in the basement of an old synagoge,
and later as a teenager
I took figure drawing and painting classes in the evening
in its new facility.
my Mom knew that making art was already my life blood.

the memories were abundant.
the smells, the ghost sounds
the voices of those who taught me
years before.
I am grateful to Kate, the current director
for being so welcoming and 
enthusiastic about their new fiber department,
of which I will continue to be a part of.

I am of course grateful to
 my students,
who were nothing short of amazing,
and from whom I learned so much.

Day One - Applying the water based gutta-like resist.

Rita working out her design

Judith's piece

Barbara working out her design

Ellen and Judith

Rita's piece

Ellen's piece

Day Two - Painting using Jacquard Dye-na-Flow


Rita resource chart in the making
Rita's piece before the background was painted in.

Rita's piece after using Gail Callahan's Color Grid to figure out what color to use for the background.

Ellen's piece

All the lovely Ladies!

if this had been a 3-day workshop
we would have heat set the paint and
washed out the resist in class.
now we'll just have to wait to see
the finished pieces!

Easy silk screen Tutorial

This is the newest piece that has been added to the CherScapes Wearable Art Collection. Tilted Kayla, this long vest is made from a wonderful blended fabric of tencel and silk. It has a coordinated silk chiffon scarf. The more concentrated areas of color were made by using a 6" x 6" ceramic tile as a base for monoprints. The outlined circles were screen printed using EZScreen print emulsion paper.

In the picture above I have set out my paints and the ceramic tile (lower right) has been painted using a 2" foam brush. There is a separate brush for every color.



This is the tile close up with a very basic painting technique. I really had to push myself to paint sloppy. I generally love clean hard edges. But I wanted this step to be loose.

Over it goes onto the fabric. When you are working with a relatively large and hard substrate, your work surface must have some give to it. You need to press the tile down with a kind of rocking motion, but being careful not to actually move it across the fabric.

All printed. The tile is on the right.

Okay. This is what you get if you order a starter kit from EZScreen Print. You can obviously put it together yourself. But I bought the kit to save on aggravation. The kit includes a masonite board that has black felt glued to one side, a piece of plexiglass cut to the same size of the masonite and 4-8 clips, 
depending on the overall size of the masonite.

The first step is to prepare your artwork. I drew out the circles with Adobe Illustrator on my computer because I wanted really clean sharp lines, to contrast with the monoprint circles.You can draw free hand too if you like. If you decide to draw freehand, you will need to use a black marker for your finished drawing.The whole process works best if your drawing is then printed on transparency film. This can be easily done on your home, inkjet printer. I printed directly from the computer onto the transparency. If I had drawn freehand, I would have had to either scan my drawing in, or take a digital photo of it and then put it on my computer. In the picture above the circles on the lower right are on the transparency.There is a right and wrong side to the transparency, so be careful. You want to print on the dull side.

The film with the emulsion on it is stored in black plastic so it doesn't inadvertently get exposed to light.
You also need to do the next few stages in a very, dimly lite room, again so you don't expose the film prematurely. But consequently, I don't have pictures of these steps because I was working in the dark!

I use an inexpensive grow light to expose the film. I have had great success using only one fluorescent tube. Also very inexpensive, and it lasts a very long time! You can use the sun too. How cool is that! Pictured below is my grow light with the finished screens.To get to this stage I placed one emulsion sheet on the black, felt side of the masonite, with the emulsion side up. I then placed the transparency onto the film with the blackest side facing down. The plexiglass then goes on top of the transparency. The last step is to put the clips on, making sure to flip the handle part of the clips back over the clip itself, otherwise the handle would get exposed on my film as well as my drawing. I positioned the kit under the grow light with the plexiglass facing towards the light. I left  it there for about 25 - 30 minutes. I always use a timer.

Then I take the kit apart and place the emulsion sheet in a wash basin or  down flat on the bottom of my sink. I gently sprayed water on it and watched my image appear. You should hold it up to the light to make sure the emulsion has fully disolved. In my case only the outline of the circle itself is the image, so that is the only part that disolved. Let it dry and harden on paper towels. It stays quite wet and gooy for a long time. So I always plan on waiting 24 hours before using it.

The picture above is hard to make out, but essentially the white shape is actually a plastic frame that I taped the finished film to. You can buy these from the EZPhoto people. For a very long time I tried every kind of tape I could think of that would stick to the emulsion side even after it is wet. I finally had to give up. I decided to use painters tape to hold it temporarily. But low and behold it stayed taped through the entire screening process, even after it had been washed and dried!

Above I just pulled some paint across the screen with this cute little squeegee that comes with the kit.

Here's my screened circle.The hardest part of making this fabric and garment was measuring out all the places I wanted the monoprint to go!

That's it. I'm off to bed.

This photo is a little teaser about my latest garment.
The fabric is a silk/tencel blend, that I have not dyed or painted in an all over pattern.
The garment is primarily white. I have embellished it with mono printing and a little silk screening.
In this photo, I am showing you the silk screens I made with Photo EZ. It is an INCREDIBLY EASY
way to make small, silk screens. I believe it compares well with thermofax machines, but all you need is a simple grow light and some Photo EZ film paper. I'll post more about all this tomorrow, as well as a pic. of the garment.  Stay tuned...

Saturday Jan. 29

I was out early this morning with the dogs. Had to be careful though, as the hunters are out. Next on my agenda is the domestic stuff - laundry, vacuum, dust etc. etc. Then I'm off to the studio for a couple of hours. I'll put dinner in the crock pot first.

Yesterday I was home with my youngest son who was fending off the last bits of a bad cold. I felt that I needed the break from the studio anyway, a break from creativity. But what did I do? I picked up my knitting!

Yes it was meditative and calming. But I can't help but wonder about this unquenchable drive to make things. Where does it come from? What is it all about? While knitting I came up with several new ideas to work on and solved a compositional dilemma on one of my new pieces.

The only thing that can really quiet my brain is reading.


While working on some new pieces today. I wanted to do some stamping with textile paints, on small areas that needed to be masked off.

The masked off areas are small and simple. I was thinking that there must be something I have around the studio that is quicker than using painter's tape.

Then I thought of my old telephone books!

It works like a charm. The pages rip out of the book really nicely. They tear in half easily as well.

So don't send those old telephone books to recycling just yet.

Results of Dyeing with MX Fiber Reactives Dyes Workshop

Here are pictures of just some of the samples of the amazing dyeing that went on last weekend, here in the CherScapes studio. It was a great, albiet an exhausting, weekend.

My students learned a lot, and were very complementary. I learnt a lot as well. They were a fabulous group to work with.

By Ann Marie LaBollita

By Susan Loring-Wells

By Gail Callahan

By Susan Loring-Wells

By Suzanne Pelto

By Betsy Higgins-Steele

By Betsy Higgins-Steele

By Ann Marie LaBollita

I am always amazed at how teaching seems to round out who I am as an artist. There is great satisfaction about finishing a piece of artwork - bringing it to completion at a level one can feel proud of. But there is also great satisfaction about finishing a series of classes or a workshop. It is a different feeling, but one of equal strength and value.

I am so proud of what was accomplished by my students this past weekend. I am also totally amazed and inspired by their work and by who they are. Everyone brings their most vulnerable selves to a class that requires new levels of creativity and experimentation.

To grow as artists, we must all, students and teachers alike, open doors to our hidden selves.
I am honored whenever someone is willing to step through the doors of the CherScapes classroom and follow my lead into new and exciting territory.

"This weekend's workshop was truly a wonderful experience. You did an excellent job in teaching techniques of folding fabric and applying the dyes. The tempo and coordination of the different aspects of the processes worked. The studio space as well as your work is beautiful. I am impressed with your energy, organization and generosity. I am pleased with what I accomplished. I learned a lot, had fun and came home with a variety of interesting pieces of work." - Betsy Higgins-Steele

Dyeing with MX Fiber Reactive Dyes Workshop

I had a really awesome Columbus Day weekend teaching a dyeing workshop at the CherScapes Downtown Fiber Arts Studio.
With such a small group, everyone came away with an impressive stack of samples.

Aren't they gorgeous?!

Dyed Rayon by Merry Lein

Dyed cotton by Merry Lein

Rayon dyed by Merry Lein

Rayon dyed by Gail Tease

Cotton dyed by Gail Tease

All of these pieces of cloth were dyed using Procion MX Fiber Reactive dyes.
Some of them were dyed in a one-step process by using multiple colors at one time, in a shallow tray. Others were dyed and over dyed several times by immersing it in several gallons of a dye, salt and soda ash solution. The patterns were achieved by folding the fabrics before each dyeing process. Its a blast!
If you have an interest in taking this workshop contact the studio.
We'll be offering it again soon. Class size will never be more than 6.

This is Merry Lein figuring out her next color move.

New Work

This is one of my latest pieces of wearable art. It is made from a very light weight china silk. I started with a 3 yard piece of fabric that was stretched on a frame. I then painted it with Setasilk textile paints.

The funny thing about this piece is that it all happen accidentally. I usually buy my spray bottles from Prochemical and Dye along with textile paints and dyes. The bottle I was familiar with was sold out. So I ordered something different. When I first started spraying, I was aghast that it was a dribbler!!

Of course I hadn't tried it out beforehand on a scrap piece of fabric. Not wanting to be wasteful, and always working with the assumption that if it is already bad, I might as well keep going, since there was nothing to loose, I continued.

Low and behold the dribble method of spraying created this wonderful effect. The secret was to wait very patiently for each layer to dry, before spraying on another layer of color. I also used a silk flower as a resist throughout the layers. Moving the resist around between layers created a lovely "ghost" image of the flower.The final step was to add the blue and pink foil.

I have gotten wonderful reactions to the jacket. It has been refereed to as my "Monet" or "Gustaf Klimt" jacket. People love the easy fit to this pattern. It was created by inserting large gussets in the side seams. With no button closer, it has the freedom to float around and behind your body as you walk. Very fun and luxurious!

I'll be bringing it with me to the Berkshire Arts Festival in Great Barrington, MA this July 2, 3, and 4. It is always a beautiful weekend to be in the Berkshires. I'd love to see you there!