Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Time for new projects

Well, Christmas has come and gone and the new year is almost upon us. Everything that needed to be made for this year's festivities has been made, and I have time for new projects (or the continuation of old ones).

Recently I was asked to make a "memory bear" for a child whose father died this past summer. Part of the request was to make the bear out of dad's t-shirts. I had never heard of memory bears before, but, after doing a bit of research, found they are not unknown in the wider world. It took a bit of time to procure a pattern that matched the request, but I finally did (Simplicity 5461). When I read the pattern instructions, I had a bit of a moment, as the fabric to be used on the bear was NOT knit fabric, as t-shirts are. Would t-shirt material, which stretches in all different directions when pulled (or stuffed) even work for this pattern?

Not wanting to cut into irreplaceable t-shirts, I decided to make a bear from some of our old t-shirts that had been waiting for "just the right project". In case I haven't mentioned it, I tend to hoard fabric of all types, just in case...

Well, the pattern worked wonderfully with the t-shirt material and I had fun making this bear. And it sure brought back memories for me. I used a t-shirt my eldest received in 2006, when she attended the Pearson Seminar for Youth Leadership for 3 weeks at Lester B. Pearson College. She had an amazing time and was so excited to have been able to participate in the program. The back of the t-shirt had the slogan "Live like you plan on staying" and the bear now sports that on its arm.

To make a long story short, the t-shirt fabric worked well, the bear is bigger than expected and very huggable, and everyone in our house has had a smile on his or her face when holding or seeing the bear. I think I'm ready to cut into those other t-shirts now.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Documenting the process -- the wait is over

Well, it has been a busy few weeks, with a severe cold, a change in job responsibilities, and the finishing of the doll. The doll herself was done by the deadline and the submission submitted, but I refrained from posting anything right after, as my head was in a fog and there was just too much going on.

That all being said, I received some good news yesterday -- "Threads of Conversation" has been accepted into the Voice group exhibition at Two Rivers Gallery. The exhibition will open on January 28, 2016 and run until April 17.

Many thanks to my husband, for picking up the slack as I feverishly worked to finish the project and for finding a title for my work.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Documenting the process -- the constraint of time

Limitations and constraints are often beneficial, when it comes to the artistic process. I sometimes wish I wasn't quite as accomplished at creating time constraints for myself, though!

A call for submissions came in from Two Rivers Gallery a couple of months ago,and I spent quite a bit of time perusing ideas in my head as to what would fit the theme for the proposed exhibition. When I answer calls for submission with new works of art, I generally want to be sure that what I create will add to my own artistic development, either by refining or expanding upon a skill or process I have used in the past, or trying a new technique that pushes my abilities forward.

This thinking process took quite a while, and it was only in the last few weeks that the ideas solidified, and doll on my "to do" list made it onto the "make it now" list. This, of course, introduced a time constraint, as the deadline for submission is in 7 days, and I am still a ways away from finishing what I started not so long ago.

Add to that the fact that the Christmas season is fast approaching and my baking needs to be started, so I can send off a cookie parcel or two. In addition, there is a staff party with a Secret Santa handmade gift exchange in two weeks, so guess what else I'm doing at the moment?

The benefit of all of this is that I don't have time to do what I usually do, which is to dither and dawdle and procrastinate. My ideas are now crystallizing quickly, and being put into action much faster than if I had weeks left on my agenda. The results may be different from what I first imagined, but I can already see some interesting things happening that I hadn't predicted when I started.

Only time will tell if I get this project finished on time to answer that call, but even if I don't, I'm enjoying the process and making something that I have wanted to make for quite some time.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Documenting the process - the hands

Well, turning the body parts right-side out went pretty well, until I got to the hands. As I expected, turning the fingers was a challenge. The first set of fingers, which I had reinforced with a fray-stop product, didn't turn at all, as the passage through each finger was too narrow to accommodate the fabric.

Today, I went to Plan B, drew up another pattern for the forearms and hands (same as the first) and then sewed the arms and hands only to the mid-palm region:

Then I turned each forearm right-side out, and cut out the fingers. At that point, I unpinned each finger, one by one, and sewed the fronts and backs together by hand, turning the edges under as I went. That was still quite the challenge and took several hours, as the jeans material was thick and wanted to fray faster than I could turn and sew it. Needless to say, there are many stitches criss-crossing back and forth along the seams, and the effect is still rather rough:

Once both hands were turned, I could add the "skeleton". Here you see one hand, complete with skeleton, ready for stuffing. The skeleton allows me to bend the fingers of the doll to fit the activity she will be doing.

Next step: stuffing the body parts, attaching them, then posing the doll.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Documenting the Process

A person always hears how people document their art processes, filling sketchbooks with plans, notes, thumbnails, etc. I don't tend to work that way, but have, in the past, wished that I had a record of the path an artwork has taken, from conception to completion. I had the presence of mind, with this piece, to take photos right from the beginning and will endeavour to do so until the end, regardless of what mishaps arise and what detours I might need to take.

The idea for this doll has been brewing in my head for a while. Having finally percolated long enough, the idea materialized on my table two days ago, rather than in a sketchbook. I'll have to cut that piece of the paper out if I want to keep the actual hard-copy of the sketch:

Today, I thought I'd try out a "test" doll to make sure the pieces of the head and body fit together properly, so grabbed some old blue jeans and started to sew and cut and assemble. When those pieces fit together well, I threw out the idea of a "test" and proceeded to sew and cut limbs and digits of the other body parts, getting more creative with using the jeans as I went along.

It remains to be seen if I'll be able to turn the fingers right-side-out. I think I set myself quite the challenge there. I've put fray-stop on the edges in the hopes that I don't rip the fabric out of the seams when I get to that step.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

A series of doodles

Sometime last winter, I started doodling... with thread. Once my first doodle was finished in black thread on white fabric, I started to wonder about variations and possibilities. I used the same design, but doodled again in black thread on white cloth, in variegated colored thread on black cloth and in white thread on black cloth. The mini-quilts were bound and set aside for a few months.

The first mini-quilt was auctioned off at a silent auction and I have a sneaking suspicion I never took a picture of it. The remaining 4 quilts, though, came out of the closet recently and I decided how to finish them off.

Two remained as simple thread doodles:

The other two continued my process of experimentation, as I played with my new Inktense pencils and paint:

On the whole, I think the experiments were successful, and it feels good to have finished this project, no matter how small the quilts are. I learned a few things in the process, too, which is always a bonus.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Studio Day

I had a bit of time-in-bank to burn off from work, so took a studio day today. It's been a productive day, with violin practice and French on Duolingo and quilt progress, as well as the time to watch more inspirational DMTV videos by Laura and Linda Kemshall. I'm looking forward to trying some of their techniques, but spent my day working on a project that has been collecting dust for the past few years. Started in 2011, it was brought out and shaken off sometime in the past year and set to hang on my quilting board. In 2011, it simply had the green spiral. Sometime between now and then, the blue was added. Today was a purple day:

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Feeling energized

It's been a while, but things are going well. In the last few weeks, I've been feeling quite energized and working more on my drawing, my violin and my French. I have a sketchbook I need to fill for the Regina Public library and am determined to do so, while at the same time doing drawing in books I'll be able to keep. Hopefully I can keep up the pace -- the trick, I find, is not to bring out anything else distracting, like books and computers when I want to get things accomplished!!!

I have often said that I need to make choices with my time -- reading or drawing, music playing or computer. My problem is that I would like to do it all and the days just don't seem to be long enough!!!

Just over two weeks ago, though, we took a short holiday and I was the pack horse carrying tents, food and stoves (in the car) while family and friends went biking from Jasper to Banff. I offered to do so, and everyone else gratefully accepted. My goal was to do lots of drawing and photography while the bicyclists huffed and puffed up the mountain roads. To my surprise, they biked faster than I expected and my drawing time was very limited -- I could have left most of my supplies at home!!!

Nevertheless, I had made a commitment to myself and did manage a drawing each day. In retrospect, I wish I'd brought a watercolour sketchbook, but made do with the bristol board one, which accepted the pen nicely, but made the colour additions a little tricky. Here they are, in no particular order:

Since returning home, I've endeavored to make a schedule for drawing, violining and French language acquisition. It's been tricky fitting that all in around work and the usual day-to-day activities, and I don't always succeed. However, I am doing more than I have done before and feel that I am becoming more confident in my abilities to "stick to it".

Here are some offerings from the past week:

I won't promise a regular posting anymore, since I haven't managed so far, but once the trio of language, drawing and music have settled into a good rhythm, I may just add another juggling ball into the air and work on posts outside of my Facebook posts.

Until the next post -- toodleoo!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Website updated

I managed, despite the busy-ness of my world lately, to update my website. It is now a fluid page layout website and should display nicely on computer screens, tablets and smartphones. It has also been updated with my dolls. Enjoy the browse and drop me a line if something catches your eye: www.amlawrie.com.


The gauntlet has been thrown and I will do my best to respond. Opus (the art supply store: www.opusframing.com) has sent out a challenge to all artists to practice daily. What you practice is up to you - the important thing is to practice. Since I'd already decided (once again) that drawing more often is necessary, I decided to resume my daily draw. I started last week, after encouraging my drawing students (both youth and adult) to do a daily draw. They all received sketchbooks as part of their course pack:

They've been faithfully using them and I have a feeling some will need to find a second sketchbook before the classes are over. I've been not quite as productive as they have been, but managed one drawing last week, which I am calling #OpusDailyPractice Tminus6days:

Being busy updating my website over the weekend, and napping lots, I didn't manage to do the Feb. 1 drawing, but made sure to make time today for the second installment of the daily practice. Meet #OpusDailyPractice #2:

Depicting the reflections on the cellophane was challenging.

I'll post more drawings, but probably not on a daily basis.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Shibori dyeing

Yesterday I had a chance to be a student, once again. I took a Shibori dyeing class, led by Bernadette Thompson at the Prince George Fibre Arts Guild. Shibori dyeing is a resist-dyeing technique, where you use stitched and pulled thread to create the resist areas on the fabric. It was a fun day, and I learned quite a bit. The most important lesson, though, was to pull your threads tightly, in order to get the shibori effect (i.e. clear designs). The cloudy designs were also nice, I found, but in some spots I had the threads so loose that no designs appeared, really. It is a technique I will be trying again in the near future, once the weather warms up. I'm intrigued by the idea that a person can also stitch a picture and have it resist-dyed into the fabric. I saw a photo of a shibori turtle and definitely want to try that!!!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sew happy

Finally, I had time today to do some sewing again. Since I'm working my way down my "to-do" list, I tacked item number 5 on the list (the first 4 are finished): Peter's disintegrating quilt. It originally had a lovely brown herring-bone patterned batik on it which obviously was somehow damaged during the dyeing process, as that was the only fabric in the quilt that was falling apart. Unfortunately, it also made up 90% of the quilt. The ends were fixed last year, with fishing flannel, and I had time today to replace/cover up the center panel with Peter's other passion -- a guitar!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Perseverance, patience and pushing through...

Not too much activity to report in the artistic area of my world... at least nothing concrete with tangible "show and tell" accomplishments.

I ran a workshop on Saturday, a 5-hour workshop. I wasn't sure if I had planned well enough to fill the 5 hours, so started off with some trepidation. People appeared to be having a good time, though, and the 5 hours flew by, ending just as people finished their projects. On Sunday, I revised my notes and plans to reflect what we actually did during the workshop, refined my materials and packed everything away for the next year.

Needless to say, I did not get much done from my personal to-do list that day! Or on Sunday, when I updated my notes and spent the rest of the day planning classes that are starting this week.

During the workshop on Saturday, conversations ranged widely, but the ones that stuck with me most were about accomplishing what we set out to do. Our end conclusions were "perseverance, patience and pushing through":

- perseverance -- "sticking to it", "continuing to try", and "beginning again"
- patience -- with the Self, when things don't go as planned
- pushing through -- even when progress is not noticeable, keep on "keeping on" and it (whatever "it" is) will get better.

So... message to self... Patience! You do need to plan those classes coming up, so of course the time to work on projects will be less for the next few days. Persevere! Don't give up when the first (or second or tenth) attempt is not up to your expectations. Push through! Even when you don't feel like it, show up and do the work!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Musings on goal setting, a juggler, and New Year's resolutions

Happy New Year! We celebrated quietly at home on the 31st of December, but went out to see Cirque du Soleil's Dralion on the 2nd of January. What a wonderful event -- I'm so glad we had a chance to see it.

Every year, at the beginning of the year (or on New Year's Eve), I bring out the previous year's resolutions that we all made. While this used to raise many protests, my efforts seem to be paying off, as everyone around the table now looks at what they wanted to accomplish during the year, and sets out new goals for the upcoming year. Personally, I use this time as an opportunity to set out a path of action for the year, ranging from artistic endeavours to learning in other areas. My wishes for myself are often more than I can handle in only one year, but I'm getting smarter at setting the goals for myself. I'm also getting smarter at not knocking myself over the head for the goals I did not accomplish!

Recently (well, a year ago), I went to a talk by a world-class athlete who talked about setting SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable/action oriented, realistic and relevant, and time based. Once the goals are set, the fellow said, it then is necessary to determine how to meet those goals and to set up a schedule of actions that bring you closer to completing what you set out to do.

I tried that last year with my New Year's resolutions and was amazed at how much I did accomplish, compared to years with fewer "smart" goals. I did read those Harry Potter books in German before the end of summer; the photos from 2006 - 2014 were finally sorted and organized by December 31st; and I am back in the pool again, swimming three times per week. In addition, I answered two calls for submission and was accepted into both exhibitions! However, drawing still took a back seat, as did my violin practice, neither of which got the daily attention I had intended.

While watching Dralion on Friday evening, I saw a couple of performances that did not go 100% as intended. The diablo spinners had a few issues and the juggler dropped a ball a time or two. I was impressed, though, at how they handled the situation. As in any performance, "the show must go on", and it did, despite the hiccups. The juggler in particular impressed me, as he was by himself on the stage with nobody to toss him the ball from the ground. He continued to juggle the balls still in the air, while looking down at the errant sphere, then caught everything, took a very slight pause, and picked up the dropped ball. Slowly and methodically, he set everything in motion once again, successfully juggling 7 (seven!) balls for a few minutes afterward.

There is learning to be had there... New Year's Eve is a time for a slight pause in activities, an analysis of where I am and where I'd like to go, and a chance to set everything into motion once again, perhaps with new balls, and see how many I can keep afloat.

My goals/resolutions for the upcoming year are now set down on paper, in an envelope to be brought out on December 31st and in a journal to be referred to over the year. I bought an agenda to help me set up a schedule for reaching those goals, and to keep track of my progress. Over the course of 2015, I hope to:
1. Continue reading books in German,
2. Read Anne McCaffrey's Dragonsinger in French (no mean feat, as I still struggle with the Franklin books at the moment,
3. Continue swimming 3 times per week,
4. Set up a self-study program for the year to improve and build upon my art quilt skills,
5. Dust off my violin (set up a 4x per week schedule for now, as daily was hard to do),
6. Work through my project "to-do" list by setting a schedule of realistic completion dates for each project, in order of priority (and whim),
7. Include drawing and watercolours into my weekly activities -- not sure yet how, but that will be determined over time.

Why set these goals, year after year after year? First, I enjoy learning, and second, to use the words of Anthony Bourdain, as quoted in the Prince George Citizen on January 2, 2015: "... I really deeply enjoy the process of sucking a little less at something every day".