A LOOK BACK: Abstract Watercolors

I worked on this series while living down by the Jersey shore one winter. The focus here was on abstract shapes, line and movement. When I look these over, I still like (and use in my current work), the bold shapes and repetitive lines. Also, I'm drawn towards the pieces with a limited color palette - 2, 3 or at most 4 colors. Over the years I've limited my palette even more, and find that one single color (along with the negative space it creates) has the most impact.

Medium: watercolor

Size: about 5"x7"

Date: mid to late 90's

Cut Paper Challah Cover

My latest challah cover design is inspired by an artwork I saw in a book entitled "Traditional Jewish Papercuts" by Joseph and Yehudit Shadur. It's a beautiful book, with highly informative text and descriptions. The papercut my illustration is based off of was a type of amulet called a "childbed letter". It was originally meant to hang on the nursery wall to thwart "the evil intents of the witch Lilith who carries off newborn infants"...  Where there were areas of text on the papercut, I substituted a sun, and in the rectangular shape flanked by lions, I inserted the word "Shabbat" in Hebrew.

Below you can see that I've experimented with three color combinations: red and yellow, purple and orange (with purple ball fringe), and the traditional blue and white. Do you have a preference?

In future variations, I may add facial features to the animals... Initially I thought that people might want to embroider these details in on their own to add their own personal touch, but either way, having them there can at least serve as a guide...

cut paper challah cover red and yellow
cut paper challah cover with ball fringe
rabkat-cut-paper-challah-cover-blue and white

From Block Print to Baby Quilt

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I recently made a baby quilt out of one of my block print illustrations. It's neat to think about all the stages involved in making something like this. I list them here so you can get a peek behind the process...

 1. It begins with an idea... 

2. ...which I then sketch out on tracing paper.

3. After refining the sketch to a point where I'm satisfied with every detail,

4. I transfer the final drawing onto a block of wood.

5. At this point, I carve the image.

6. Once the carving is complete, I ink the surface of the block... 

7. ...and print it onto paper.

8. When the ink on the paper is dry, I scan the block print image into my computer,

9. make refinements in Photoshop,

10. and save it as a JPEG file.

11. Over at my Spoonflower shop, I upload the JPEG,

12. select the amount and type of fabric I want the file to be printed on,

13. and purchase it.  

14. A short time later the fabric is shipped and arrives on my doorstep,

15. at which point I lay it over batting, which I lay over the backing cloth.

16. I pin the three layers together,

17. free motion quilt it on my sewing machine,

18. and bind the edges.

Done!

Below, my favorite thing about printmaking:

I love...

I love...

the anticipation...

the anticipation...

of pulling...

of pulling...

 
a print!

a print!

This one has been scanned, opened in Photoshop, and colored blue.

This one has been scanned, opened in Photoshop, and colored blue.

As an alternate, magenta.

As an alternate, magenta.

 

I go with the blue for my quilt top and have the image digitally printed onto KONA cotton at Spoonflower.

See the quilt making process in this blog post tutorial.

See finished quilt below!

 

Jewish Art Workshop - Leonard Baskin

This will have been my third art session in my new job as art teacher at the Glen Rock Jewish Center hebrew school. For the first lesson I made the obvious choice in teaching about Marc Chagall. The second lesson was around the time of Passover, so we learned about illuminated manuscripts with a focus on the haggadah. For the third lesson (and the last one of the school year since I began mid-year), I chose to focus on the artist Leonard Baskin. I've always liked his work and in addition, since I like to introduce new techniques, I liked the fact that he's primarily known for his woodcuts. 

Since I myself am a printmaker, it was great to be able to bring in my own carved woodblocks, prints and tools to pass around. Although the kids were slightly disappointed when they realized they'd be "carving" foam rather than wood, they still seemed to love the lesson, and the results.

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"In the Beginning" Baby Quilt Tutorial

If you are reading this, you may be considering making this quilt. Of course, most quilt designs can be made from an existing stash of fabric, so before you go any further, I just want to give you a heads up that the making of this quilt requires a purchase at my Spoonflower shop (see below).

If you're up for that, read on! If not, please check back at some point in the future - because I have some designs brewing in my sketchbook that won't require a Spoonflower purchase...

This tutorial explains how to make the quilt pictured on the right, but it doesn't teach how to quilt. If you've quilted before, this will be no problem for you. If you've never quilted, check out the amazing tutorials you can find on YouTube, or better yet, take a class at your local quilt shop or community school (and then come back here!) Finished size of quilt is approximately 28"x38". 

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SUPPLY LIST

"In the Beginning" whole cloth quilt top

1 yard of turquoise 100% cotton fabric (I used KONA - turquoise)

1 yard of batting (I used Warm & Natural)

quilters ruler

rotary cutter

self healing mat

basic sewing supplies


 
 

STEP 1

The first thing you'll need to do is purchase the "In the Beginning" quilt top fabric which is available in my Spoonflower shop. You can do that here.

When making your selections from the pop-up menus in the shop (see screenshot below), make sure you select as below:

1. Choose Fabric: Kona Cotton Ultra ($19.00/yd)

2. Choose Amount: 1 (quantity), Yard (42" width)

When the fabric arrives from Spoonflower, machine wash, dry, and iron it.

 

 
 

STEP 2

Cut a piece of batting several inches larger than the fabric on all sides and smooth it out flat on the floor or a table top.

Take the fabric outside and spray the back with quilt basting spray.

Bring the fabric inside, center over batting, and place directly on top of batting.

Starting from the center of the fabric and working your way out towards the edges, use a circular motion to smooth the fabric out over the batting. The two layers will adhere.

Flip so that the image is facing down, and from the center

 

 
 

STEP 3

Using a quilter's ruler, rotary cutter and a self-healing mat, trim the edges of the fabric and batting. Leave a 1/4" white border around the entire perimeter.

Turn trimmed piece over (so that the image is facing down) and place on a large flat surface. Pat down (rather than smooth out) any areas that aren't lying flat. Spray with basting spray.

Lay backing fabric (wrong side up) on a large flat surface. Center quilt top with batting (image side up) over the backing fabric and place directly on top.

Flip entire sandwich so that image is facing down. Starting from the center of the backing fabric and working out towards the edges, use a circular motion to smooth the fabric out over the batting.

 

 

 
 

STEP 4

Trim the edges of the backing fabric. Leave a 1" border around the entire perimeter.

 

STEP 5

At this point you can quilt the three layers together by hand or machine. I did some light free motion quilting and just followed along the lines of the illustration, but you can do anything your heart desires!


STEP 6

To bind the quilt, follow the steps below...

A. Fold backing border in half so that the raw edge aligns with the edge of the quilt top. Then fold border up and over the quilt top to cover the white border. Pin in place approximately every 2".

A. Fold backing border in half so that the raw edge aligns with the edge of the quilt top. Then fold border up and over the quilt top to cover the white border. Pin in place approximately every 2".

B. When you get to a corner, fold corner fabric on a diagonal so that the bottom edge of the triangle that's formed sits parallel to the edge of the quilt top as shown.

B. When you get to a corner, fold corner fabric on a diagonal so that the bottom edge of the triangle that's formed sits parallel to the edge of the quilt top as shown.

C. Hold the corner fold in place while you fold the backing border in half as (as shown in photo above) Then fold up and over the quilt top so that the inside border edges meet.

C. Hold the corner fold in place while you fold the backing border in half as (as shown in photo above) Then fold up and over the quilt top so that the inside border edges meet.

D. The fold should lie on a diagonal and the corner should come to a neat point. You may have to play around with steps B and C to make this work just right!

D. The fold should lie on a diagonal and the corner should come to a neat point. You may have to play around with steps B and C to make this work just right!


STEP 7

Hand sew along the edge of the binding using a slip stitch to secure it to the quilt top.


I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial and that is was helpful for you!

Designing on a Grid

I recently began a 100 day project called "100 Days of Hand Stamped Fabric". Every day I carve a rubber stamp, print it on graph paper in a repeating pattern, and finally, print it on fabric. Whether I'm stamping directly on graph paper, or on fabric with the faint lines of the graph paper showing through from beneath, the placement of my stamp is guided by a grid.

This project is not my first use of the grid in my artwork. Initially I was inspired by the painter Adolph Gottlieb. It was several years after graduating RISD. I was living in NYC, working in publishing, and attempting to build my freelance illustration career on the side. At that time, I was working towards developing my visual style. I began an early morning routine in which I'd wake up, make myself a coffee and pick an art book off one of my bookshelves. Then I'd spend an hour looking the artist's work. If there was some element of the art that I loved, I'd make note of it so I could experiment with it in my own work. That particular morning I picked Gottlieb. 

In many of Gottlieb's paintings I'd noticed that he'd used a grid to compartmentalize the space. Within each compartment was a some type of sign, symbol, or design. I was immediately drawn to these images. First off, aesthetically I was attracted to his use of:

1. A limited color palette

2. Two dimensional space

3. Flat, textural color

These elements struck me as bold and modern. I remember feeling so inspired and intrigued....

 
Vigil, 1948

Vigil, 1948

The Seer, 1950

The Seer, 1950

T, 1950

T, 1950

 

Additionally, I was captivated by:

4. The mysterious signs and symbols

5. The assembling of individual elements into one image

6. His use of a grid-like layout to compose the space

As my hour with Gottlieb's book of paintings drew to close, I'd made note of my observations to come back to them at a later time.

Several days or weeks later, while working on an illustration to use as a self-promotion, I incorporated several of these stylistic elements into my design process.  My illustrative style had already made use of the first three elements listed above, but the image below was my first to make use of symbols to represent the idea and/or feeling I was trying to convey, as well as the use of a grid to organize them into a cohesive whole.

 
 

Designing on a grid was somewhat of a breakthrough for me. After releasing this image as a self-promotion, I received more calls and assignments than I had from previous promos. This allowed me to dedicate all of my time to my freelance illustration business (rather than work in publishing as I had been, and illustrating on the side in my free time).

This series of paintings that I'd felt such an affinity to are referred to as Gottlieb's Pictograph paintings. You can see more of them on my Pinterest board "Art on the Grid" (along with some other works of art that make use of the grid.) If you'd like to read more about the artist, The Adolph & Esther Gottlieb Foundation is a good place to start.

How I Make My Hand-Stamped Fabric

 
 

Let me start out by saying that this is how I hand stamp fabric. It's not necessarily the correct way or even the best way. I haven't had too much experience with stamping on fabric, but I do have experience with relief printmaking. In general, I prefer to explore a process (as long as it's fairly simple) before learning the proper way to do it. That way, I'm driven by what works for the specific needs of my project, with the added result of keeping my mind open to exploring alternative routes.

 

Quilting by Hand

I've been making quilts (sporadically) over the past 15 years, and had never attempted hand quilting until I'd completed piecing the top for this black and white. Stitching an entire quilt by hand had always seemed too time consuming, but somehow, this one seemed to cry out for the human touch. I'd already deprived it of curves and color, so I thought I owed it at least this much.

Turns out I LOVE the process, even more so than machine quilting. I found myself looking forward to working on it all day, a reward for completing all of my menial labor. Normally, at this time of night, I'd hold my computer on my lap and catch up on e-mails (which I now realize is a task better suited to my crisp, morning brain). At the end of a long day, I now find, nothing beats relaxing on the couch with a needle in my hand, and a quilt in my lap.

Quilting with the Girl Scouts

My daughter is a Girl Scout. She and her troop are so lucky to have two amazing women who volunteer to lead their troop. It's a major time commitment to be a troop leader, which is why I've never done it, but every year what I do do is volunteer my time to do an art based project with the girls. Last year it was nature journaling. This year - quilting! 

Time was limited to an hour and a half for our first meeting, an hour for our second meeting, and five minutes for our third and final meeting.

In the first meeting I planned to teach them to how to hand sew a four square block, in the second how to hand tie the quilt and make the quilt label, and in the last, a final viewing and photo before donating it to the local hospital. In between the meetings, I worked on the quilt at home to have it ready for the next. 

Here's how I prepared for our meeting #1:

First I cut four square pieces of fabric for each girl. I selected a range of fabrics from my stash, limiting the color range to that within my "yellow through red" drawer in order to have somewhat of a cohesive look.

In order to have some movement throughout the quilt, I chose both lights and darks. (If they were all light or all dark, it would have flattened the design which was not what I was going for).

Then, I cut each fabric into strips (I believe they were 4" wide) using a rotary cutter, and each strip into squares.

Since I'd be teaching them to sew by hand, I drew 1/4" seam allowance around the perimeter of each fabric square using a white chalk pencil (which doesn't seem to show up in photo above). This way they'd have a guide for sewing a straight line.

I then selected two light and two dark pieces of fabric and pinned them together using four pins and one needle. This saved time in having to distribute the pins and needles to each girl during our meeting.

I forgot to get picture of our sewing session, probably because I was very busy! Even with the help of both troop leaders, teaching 16 girls (9-10 years of age) how to sew was a great challenge.

The difference in sewing skills amongst the girls in the troop made teaching them a challenge.  But these same differences are what gave the quilt it's uniqueness.

The difference in sewing skills amongst the girls in the troop made teaching them a challenge.  But these same differences are what gave the quilt it's uniqueness.

There were different skill levels across the group; a small portion of the girls had had sewing lessons in the past and knew the basics (how to thread a needle and how to align and pin right sides together). Most of the girls hadn't sewn before, but seemed like they'd had lots of experience with crafting in general, and were able to catch on quickly. For the remaining few, this seemed to be one of their first experiences making something with their hands. For their sake, I wish we'd had a smaller ratio of adults to children. One on one would have been best for them.

Even so, the girls couldn't have been more enthusiastic about the process. They were interested, engaged, and loved the experience. Better yet, most of them were able to complete their sewing by the end of our meeting.

At home I machine sewed all the blocks together, added a bright orange Kona cotton border and backing with a layer of Warm & Natural batting in between, and pin basted it all together in preparation for our next meeting.

Pin basting the quilt with the help of my Girl Scout.

Pin basting the quilt with the help of my Girl Scout.

Pin basted quilt ready to be hand tied in meeting #2.

Pin basted quilt ready to be hand tied in meeting #2.

Meeting #2 went a little smoother than the first. I'd explained the steps I'd taken at home to get the quilt to it's current state, and pointed out the three layers. 

Then, the main portion of the troop went on to an (unrelated) activity while another mom and I worked one-on-one with two girls at a time teaching them to tie the quilt.

Towards the end of the meeting, we all came together to make the quilt label. I had prepared the label fabric by ironing a piece of wax paper to the backside to stiffen the surface for writing on. Also, I had drawn out guide lines with a fabric pen to keep things neat.

The troop decided what the quilt label would say, and then each signed their names.

The troop decided what the quilt label would say, and then each signed their names.

Knowing that we'd be donating it to our local hospital where it would be given to a sick child, they came up with the wording you see above. I wrote their message onto the fabric using a permanent pen, and then they each signed their names (going a little overboard with their decorative accents!) 

At home I finished the quilt by machine quilting three lines around the perimeter of the patchwork, sewing on the binding, and attaching the label. See end results below!

Future generation of quilters showing off their first finished piece.

Future generation of quilters showing off their first finished piece.