Surface Design Class at Meraki Studio

Surface Design Class with Allison Wilbur

I am fortunate to have some great places to teach in my area – creative spaces that foster growth and companionship. For years I have taught at Knit One Quilt Too in Barrington, RI, a beautiful store owned by Yvonne Weiss. Yvonne has curated a gorgeous collection of quilting fabrics, patterns, books, notions and an exquisite selection of yarn and fiber. I love teaching my Machine Quilting classes there and have met so many wonderful quilters thought the class.

A wonderful outgrowth of Knit One Quilt Too is Meraki Studio, run by Kristin Meranda and Liz Bessel (they were with Knit One Quilt Too for many years before they struck out on their own). Meraki is a makers space in Warren, RI offering classes of all sorts from watercolor to scarf marbling to Soul Collage. Yesterday I taught a class at Meraki in Surface Design. We spent the day playing with Gelatin Plate printing, stamping with Pro Chem fabric paint, using Shiva Paint sticks and rubbing plates, and painting with Tsukineko inks, Intense pencils, Pro Chem fabric paints and more.

The wonderful thing about teaching a class is giving students the freedom to take the techniques you teach and run with them. Carol Entin loved the idea of Gelatin Plate printing and decided to use the large plate (9 x 12 inches) to play with color and a stamp she had made of a butterfly (using a Smooth Cut printing block she carved) and a leaf roller she had also made.

This is Carol’s first print with the gelli plate. Unfortunately, since it was her first time using a gelli plate, the paint had dried quite a bit by the time she printed. She was unhappy with the lightness of the print but rather than abandoning her idea, she took the remaining paint on the plate and used it as a guide for a second print with a similar image. Perseverance paid off, and in her second attempt she achieved the intense color she was looking for. You can see that she used the paint pulled with the butterfly stamp to go back into the first print and add to the complexity of the earlier print (see the dark stamped butterflies on the lighter image above).

Vanessa Massey created a rich, earthy color with mauve overtones which gave her gelli plate prints an antique look.

We had fun with leaf shapes using Shiva oil paint sticks and textured rubbing plates. Using a background texture and a stencil brush to blend the colors helps calm the visual contrast of the plain white fabric.

Vanessa’s oak leaves
My fall fantasy

Since we had the whole day to play and it was such a small class, I had time to play. I could hear my friend Nancy Messier’s voice in my head reminding me that more layers and more complexity are what makes a piece interesting. I made a series of three gelli plate prints which I then enhanced with Pro Chem fabric paints on wood block stamps. Here is the first print.

Here is the second print, which has a preliminary Shiva paint stick textured background and some color added with Intense pencils.

Here is the third print, which I had the most time to embellish. I love the pop of the complementary orange in the leaves and the lime green glow around the outside. I am going to pull elements from this print into the other two (perhaps some dots and the orange leaf shape) into the other prints to help them work together.

My next challenge will be how to make these three pieces work together. I have some ideas on which direction to go, but I know ridding myself of the heavily balanced circles will be my biggest challenge. I will update you in a future post, but would love any ideas you have to share!

Paint Every Day

Hollyhocks by Allison Wilbur 2015 based on Virginia Avery's watercolor, Hollyhocks

My mother’s recent passing has had me thinking a great deal of all the beautiful gifts she passed on to her three daughters and to the many students she taught watercolor.  I think one of the most valuable lessons I learned was “Paint every day.” For most of her life, my mother did something connected to her art every day, whether it was painting in her studio, teaching at her local art associations, going to museums, photographing local landscapes at the perfect time of day to capture the light just right, reading art books, or sketching the cat on the windowsill. Her immersion in art meant she was always moving forward, exposed to new ideas, trying new techniques, meeting new friends and stretching herself artistically.  With an abandon my husband perhaps finds appalling at times, I try and do the same with my quilting (my interest in housework diminishes every year!). There are so many ways to stretch oneself in the quilting world – quilt guild meetings and shows, magazines and books, online sources like blogs, pinterest and you tube, quilting bees, quilt shops and classes, making gifts, entering challenges – the list goes on and on. You can focus on continuous line quilting designs, try a new piecing technique or a new thread, read about a fabric designer, go to an exhibit at the quilt museum.  There is no better cure for “quilter’s block” (our version of writer’s block) where you just don’t feel the creative juices flowing than doing a little something every day. It is like a brook that gets damned by a beaver, once you stop, it is hard to get moving again. To keep my creative juices flowing, I learned early on to set up a permanent space with good light for my sewing. And eventually I learned to call this space my quilt studio and not my sewing room.  You mend jeans in a sewing room. You create in a studio. So in honor of my mother, I hope you will go spend some time in your studio and create today and every day.  It is good for your soul!

Here is a link to my mother’s obituary. We will be holding a Celebration of Life for her in the spring at the South Shore Art Center in Cohasset, MA and someday we hope to create a website and perhaps write a book about her life and art.

Virginia Holmes Avery