Category Archives: Workshops

It’s a New Year!

The studio, all cleaned and organized and ready for a new year!

The studio, all cleaned and organized and ready for a new year!

It’s the new year, a time to look back and a time to look forward.

2015 was a tough one for me as an artist. I spent most of it stuck, still spinning from the mental exhaustion of my 2014 installation at Burning Man. Every call-for-entries resulted in a NO, and I just couldn’t seem to finish anything. In retrospect, and from talking to friends, I was also processing the transitions of my daughters leaving the nest. My older daughter flew off to college in the Fall of 2014 and my youngest is a Senior this year. It’s a big, this change, and if you are going through it I advise you to be gentle with yourself.

Even though 2015 wasn’t the most productive year from me, there are some highlights.

I taught a lot of Batik Scarf Workshops, this Spring through Side Tour and this Fall on my own. I also continued developing inventory for Whirlwind Hand-Dyes and Accessories. I really enjoy having people in the studio and meeting them at sales. It’s nice to make some money, too. The biggest challenge is still getting the word out. It’s yet another hat to wear.

Francesca working on her scarf inspired by an Indian textile design.

Francesca working on her scarf inspired by an Indian textile design.

Returning to Burning Man this August was a big step in getting back to my more productive self (you can read about that trip in my blog post, Burning Man Revisited). September saw me reenergized with the resolve to just git ‘er done.

I deepened my relationship with the Surface Design Association, both through continuing to write for the Surface Design Journal, and through attending and presenting at Made/Aware, an Intensive at the Arrowmont School of Art and Craft in Tennessee (see October blog posts for more on that adventure). I am now a “staff writer” for the Journal, compiling previews of upcoming exhibitions for a new feature called On Display. SDA provides a terrific way for me to connect with other artists and curators working in fibers both at the national level and through our local group.

Somehow I extracted myself from my navel gazing long enough to finish up seven new pieces in time for a December show at Foster/White Gallery (deadlines really help). That work has led to scheduling a solo show for August 2016! I’m also firming up plans for an installation in the Bellwether Sculpture Exhibition in Bellevue this Summer.

Sequim and Ozette

Sequim and Ozette

Looking ahead to 2016:

Solo show in August at Foster/White Gallery. I’m drawing, planning, looking at images, testing out new surface design techniques, and actively thinking about composition and color for a new body of work.

A week-long trip to the southern tip of the Baja Pennisula in Mexico in February for inspiration, relaxation, and dose of sunshine. Some family trips in the work, too, perhaps Washington, DC and a wedding in California in October.

More teaching (see Workshops page for information on upcoming Intensives).

Expanding Whirlwind Hand-Dyes with the help of my former intern and delightful studio assistant, Arissa, to an on-line store and more in-person sales.

Continuing working with the fabulous Marci Rae McDade at the Surface Design Journal.

And most importantly, getting out of my own way and creating more art!

New wheeled fabric organizer for easy access.

New wheeled fabric organizer for easy access.

Batik Scarf Workshops at Building C


Melissa finishing up her 4th scarf of the day!

Yesterday I taught back-to-back Batik Scarf Workshops at my studio. Nine students made 31 scarves over the course of the day. It was a batik factory!

Marketing is not something that comes easily to me and registration for the classes has been slower than I’d hoped. But it all came together with two groups from many different lists, so I must be doing an okay job at getting the word out after all. All of them brought their creativity, openness to new techniques and materials, and sense of fun to the studio on a rainy Seattle December day.

There are still a few spaces available for the workshops on Wednesday, 12/9 from 6 to 9pm. You can register on my Workshop page. There may also be space available on Saturday, 12/12 from 10am to 1pm. Contact me directly if you are interested in that date.

Below are some images of from our fun studio day.


Barbara working at the Waxing Station

Mimi's scarf with wax over one layer of dye.

Mimi’s scarf with wax over one layer of dye.

Mimi's scarf after adding a second layer of dye.

Mimi’s scarf after adding a second layer of dye.

Francesca working on her scarf inspired by an Indian textile design.

Francesca working on her scarf inspired by an Indian textile design.

Finished scarves waiting for the washing out process which I do for each scarf made in the Workshops.

Finished scarves waiting for the washing out process which I do for each scarf made in the Workshops.

10x20x20: Socially Engaged Work by SDA Members

leavesIt started, like many things, with an email.

Last Spring I sent a message to a few key people at the Surface Design Association about the upcoming Intensive at Arrowmont School of Art and Craft, Made/Aware. I explained that my priority in attending conferences was to meet others who work with similar materials, to network (which is not a dirty word) with people outside this far northwest corner of the country. I suggested that it would be interesting to have a session of the Intensive be a Pecha Kucha-style panel of SDA Members talking about their work as a way of breaking the ice. I even offered, in said email, to help organize the session. To my surprise, I heard back from Diane Sandelin, then Director of the organization, the same day that, Yes!, they loved the idea and would I coordinate it?

So here I am, six months later, with my bags packed and ready to head to the airport to fly to Tennessee to moderate 10x20x20 where 10 artists will present their work to the 200 SDA Members at the Made/Aware. I was thrilled that Marci Rae McDade came on board to help out. She has so many skills and is so easy to work with that it has been a pleasure. Lynn Luukinen totally had my back on the technical end of the project (not my forte) and everyone at SDA has been supportive at every step.

So what is a Pecha Kucha-style presentation? Pecha Kucha means “chit chat” in Japanese. The format was developed by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Klein Dytham Architecture in Tokyo in 2003. It is a simple, yet concise format in which each presenter shows 20 images for 20 seconds each, speaking while the visuals advance automatically. There are now Pecha Kucha Nights in 800 cities around the world.

Putting this together has been a good stretch for me. Developing the call for entries, creating a rubrik for the jurying process, choosing the artists, and then pulling together all of the technical aspects (giant Powerpoint file), and writing short bios for each artist has really expanded my skill set.

And Saturday should be payback for all that went into it. I’m very excited to hear these artists talk about their work. My focus in choosing the presenters was to show the greatest variety in both working with materials and techniques and how they are translating those into work with socially engaged practices. Half of the presenters will be talking about how they work in community, and the other half will speak about how their artwork addresses vital issues of today. Presenters are quilters, embroiderers, knitters, weavers, chemists, and ceramicists.

Mary Fran Brandenberger will open the program with Silk Creations, a project which teaches women on the edge of homelessness to paint silk scarves, not only to develop their creative skills but also learn managing inventory, marketing, sales, teaching and mentoring other women in the program. We will close with Lexie Abra Johnson, a recent graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute, suggesting through her interactive installation work, “Let’s All Be Nice to Each Other.”

Here is the full list of presenters:
Silk Creations, Mary Fran Brandenberger
Color Inside Out, Peggy Cox
Mistaken Point, Kelly Bruton
Reflections on an Ordinary Life, Roz Ritter
Njabini Wool Crafters in Kenya, Janice Knausenberger
Vantage Point, Maggy Hiltner
The Legacy of Nellie Save, Nancy Crasco
Knitting the News & Other Stories, Adrienne Sloane
The Empty Bowls Project 25 Years, Lisa Blackburn and John Hartom
Let’s All Be Nice to Each Other, Lexie Abra Johnson

All of this, along with thoughtful programming of Made/Aware from leaders in the field working in environmental and socially responsible manners, presented at the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in October. I’ve never been to Tennessee and I’m going to be there during leaf season!

My hopes are that this panel, 10x20x20: Socially Engaged Work by SDA Members, provides a way for the people at the Intensive to get to know each other. I hope that it opens doors for connections between attendees and makes “networking” as simple as friends starting the middle of a long conversation.

Dreaming and Scheming


seeds of ideas

I’m putting together a series of workshops that I’ll be teaching in my studio starting this Fall. It’s a surprising amount of work: planning the classes, writing descriptions and supply lists, scheduling dates, and updating the website for on-line registration. Then there’s getting the word out to potential students. It seems the teaching is going to be the easy part!

I’m really excited about the program, though, and the idea of teaching and forming a community of dyers and other surface designers. I’m looking at it right now as a two- to three-year plan. In the next six months I’ll offer a series of workshops covering surface design fundamentals. Next year I’ll offer more advanced techniques. Ultimately, I’d like to work with a group of committed students on building their practice as artists, to whom I’d also offer mentoring through one-on-one meetings.

In the next six months I’m planning on teaching (drum roll, please):

Dyeing for Quilters (and Other People Who Love Fabric)

Telling Your Story with Silk: Making Silk Batik Banners

Surface Tension: Complex Results Using Low-Tech Resists

The Printed Surface: Mark Making Using Thickened Dyes

That’s my dream, anyway. First things first, plans and website.

Look for the registration to go live in a few weeks. Also, let me know if you’re interested in getting more information, or know others who would be interested.



Looking Forward, Looking Back

IMG_1344“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes . . .
you’re Doing Something.”
–Neil Gaiman

 My family and I spent just spent two nights in a house near the Dungeness Spit in Sequim, Washington on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. We had incredibly good weather for late December and enjoyed several long walks on the beach. It’s always good to get out of town and the unstructured time in a beautiful location gave me some time to look back over the past year and look ahead to the next.

IMG_1182IMG_11882013 was a year filled with travel and shows. It was also a year filled with the challenge of moving my art studio. Reading through my blog of the last year I was surprised to be reminded of so many really great experiences when during most of the year I was consumed with anxiety about the move. Of course, it all worked out and now, at the beginning of 2014, I am poised to move forward in a really great space, both mentally and physically.

IMG_1202IMG_1215IMG_1264Some of the highlights of 2013 included:
• my solo show, Madrone, at Foster/White Gallery
• having my work at both Bellevue Arts Museum and in the opening exhibition of the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art
• installing Susurration in Bellevue as part of Shunpike’s Storefronts program
• being featured on the Daily Art Muse blog
• going to the SDA Conference in San Antonio
• writing two articles for the SDA Journal, both for 2014 issues
• developing new surface design techniques working with positive and negative imagery
• working with my terrific interns, Jesse and Annie
• designing and building my new kick-ass studio
• travel including big trips to Costa Rica, Paris, Hawaii, San Antonio, Burning Man
• smaller trips to Oregon Country Fair, Orcas Island, Tieton, Dungeness Spit
• witnessing my older daughter transition in her Senior year of high school into a beautiful, capable, college-bound woman

IMG_1237IMG_1246Right now 2014 is an open book with a few plans penciled in. I have a few group shows coming up with existing pieces. I have a proposal out for some new work that I’ll hear about in February. It looks like I’ll have a second intern for the Winter quarter. We’ll be traveling to the Southern tip of the Baja Peninsula in Mexico in February for some sunshine. Perhaps another trip for Spring Break in April and some college visits with my daughter.

Now that my studio is set up I’m excited to open it up as a teaching space. In the next few weeks I’ll be putting together a schedule of workshops. One of the benefits of having my own space is flexibility. Let me know if there’s something you’d like to study with me or want to set up independent or small group workshops. I’m planning on sending out a short survey to see what you would like to see offered.

IMG_1255IMG_1301And new work? Well, I’ve got a glimmer or two of that. I was inspired this last weekend by the trip to the Dungeness and the driftwood I found there. The shapes, the visual textures, and the rusted remnants of human touch left upon them spoke strongly to me as you can see here in images accompanying this post. I’m hoping to both expand my work in the picture plane and also get back to my free-standing sculptures.

Last year started with a laser sharp focus on making work for my solo show in March. This year, I’m easing in without much of a plan. It’s a little scary for me not to know, but I’m sitting with it. I have faith that doors will open, that the phone will ring, and the days will fill with adventures, community and creative pursuits.

In the coming year I wish you all creative challenges and hand-won satisfactions.IMG_1322

Negative and Positive

I was supposed to be teaching a workshop this weekend call Positive/Negative: Improvisational Mark Making with Silk Screens this weekend. Unfortunately, I had to cancel because I’ve been blindsided by a particularly nasty cold virus. I’ve never had to do that before and I really struggled with the decision. Boy of boy, was it the right decision. I’ve been miserable and in bed for two days. I’m starting to feel a little better now, thank goodness.

On the positive side, it looks like we’re going to be able to reschedule my workshop at Pratt for April 27-28! Perhaps a few more students will have a chance to sign up.

I’m glad the workshop will still happen. I’m excited to share the new techniques and ideas I’ve been developing over the last year. I’ll be teaching ways of making related imagery with “positive” and “negative” prints. I did all my prep before the cold kicked my ass so now I’m ready to go.

Which is good because I’m heading off to Paris (!!!) with my family this next weekend.

Soft Sculpture Workshop in Philly

our classroom at the Mariott


The workshop I offered at the SDA/SAQA Conference in Philadelphia, Beyond the Surface: Sculptural Explorations in Soft Materials, was a big success. It was a delight to work with students who started out with such a high degree of skills, energy, and motivation to learn.

When I first saw my classroom at the Mariott in West Conshohocken I thought, how am I going to teach an art class in here? There was no inspiration in the setting. It was just bland corporate America. But once the seventeen of us moved into the space it was filled to the brim and overflowing with creative juices.

Carol sewing away at her serious of nesting triangles.

Joan's project was more complicated than she thought it would be but she toughed it out.


Students came from all different backgrounds but all had a basis in working with fiber. Some were quilters, some surface designers, a felter, and all were sewers. It was nice not to have to hold anyone’s hand and introduce them to the sewing machine. I also had two grad students who added a nice mix to the group. They were a social bunch, helping each other out with questions of design or technique. It created a really great atmosphere as we trashed that hotel room.

taking over the hallway at the Mariott. I wouldn't want to choose fabrics on top of that carpet.

Ann adding stitched embellishment.


One of the biggest struggles with these students was getting them to draw. It’s not a problem when I work in at Pratt, which is a more traditional art school. Many quilters, or other people working with fiber, don’t have any training with drawing and it intimidates them. I definitely met resistance when I advised them that they should spend more time drawing before they moved into three-dimensional materials. It was gratifying that during the share we did on the 2nd day that a couple of students mentioned that following my advice to draw had helped them get further into their designs.

I’m always amazed at the end of a workshop that each student’s piece is truly unique. After all, they’re all working with the same basic materials and the same instruction. But I work really hard to help each student figure out how to make what is in their head. It would make my job as instructor much easier to just give out a pattern and let each student customize it with details, but where’s the fun in that? It was exciting at the end of the final day to see everyone’s work together.

I had a great time working with this bunch of creative women. I was honored that they brought their full selves to the class and that they were willing to share their personal stories through their art work. It was one of the best workshop experiences I’ve had.

Sydney was working with an image of a baby bird to talk about the plight of pelicans who are being fed plastic trash by their mothers.

One side of Fern's piece. She had never worked in three-dimensions before.

Betty, an acomplished seamstress, created a memorial to a friend.

Katherine's sculpture was working with themes of depression. She created a box inside a box with windows to the outside world.

Ann's piece was simple and elegant and could sit two ways.

The other way to stand Ann's piece.

Juli worked with complex curves.


Shibori Class at Made


coffee and dye nuts

This last weekend I taught a class at Made Sewing Studio, a new business in the Greenwood neighborhood in Seattle. At Made you can sign up for all sorts of classes in sewing. I’m their new dye expert and look forward to teaching classes every month or so.

As well as classes, you can also pay an hourly rate to use the sewing machines, sergers, cutting tables and there’s always someone there to help out with questions and advice. And, as of this weekend, you can also pay the hourly rate to use their dye studio.  I literally christened it this weekend when a container of boysenberry dye slipped out of my hand and splashed the newly painted wall. The dye studio is a great resource for people who want to dye fabric but don’t have the space. The dye room is small but they have a big padded table that’s perfect for printing or working on yardage.

I taught my first class there this last weekend on low-water immersion dyeing and low-tech shibori techniques. I only had three students but they were all great and it was actually good to have a small class while I get used to teaching in a new space.

Because we were doing immersion dyeing and everyone went home with bundles of wet fabric, a one-day class could be unsatisfying because there’s no “reveal.” My brainstorm for this workshop was to have a Sunday morning coffee hour. It gave us a chance to regroup in a more social setting and play show and tell. It was really nice to sit back and look at what everyone had made, talk through processes, and address questions in a relaxed atmosphere.

Workshop: Adding and Subtracting Layers on Textiles

Pat explores using ferns as a resist with the silk screen

Pat explores using ferns as a resist with the silk screen

I taught a three day intensive last weekend at Pratt. We focused on layering by dyeing, discharging, and overdyeing fabric. It was a small but great group of really interesting women who were game to try everything I threw at them. It was also the first time I taught in the new Mixed Media Classroom at Pratt. I miss my old classroom a little, it was bigger and had a large outdoor covered work area but the new classroom has its own benefits. It’s in the same building as the Print Studio so it feels like we’re a little more connected to the school, a little less like we’re off in the hinterlands. I enjoyed walking through Teresa Neinas’ class and seeing the cool prints they were making over the weekend.

One of the disadvantages of the new building is that they haven’t built a covered outdoor work area yet (it’s in the plans). That was definitely a challenge given that the focus of my workshop was to use multiple layers of discharge using bleach and thiourea dioxide. I didn’t know anything about the change in the classroom situation six months ago when we scheduled the class. It ended up working out okay because we were really lucky with the weather and we were able to work with the garage door open. But by the end of the day Saturday I was feeling a little toxic. I woke up in the middle of the night worrying that I was poisoning my students. So Sunday I changed my syllabus and we explored printing with thickened dyes. It was still well within the description of the class  and it didn’t keep me up at night worrying.

Beth's black fabrics that have been discharged and overdyed

Beth's black fabrics that have been discharged and overdyed

It was good to get back to teaching. A lot of classes haven’t been filling lately. Art classes just aren’t a priority in this economy. Teaching is a lot of work but I enjoy it. I always joke that I teach so that I can steal from my students. Just continuing in a long line of educators, I guess, but there is something to it. Students approach methods and materials in a different way. Getting out of the studio and seeing what they do gives me a chance to rethink and reimagine. Plus it is nice to get a paycheck every now and then.

Teacher Cameron

Teacher Cameron

Seabeck Batik Weekend


Every year since 2002 my family has been attending a family camp coordinated by friends at Seabeck Conference Center on the Kitsap Pennisula. Here we enjoy the woods and water, stories, arts and crafts, games, puzzles, a treasure hunt, and a talent show all coordinated by the campers for the campers. Each year the kids grow older and more independent and the adults get more relaxed.

For the past six years I have set up a batik studio at the camp for everyone to enjoy. We use soy wax resist and paint dyes on to silk scarves, bandannas, banners, tshirts, etc. This year I added a set up for low water immersion dyeing or, as the campers call it, “tie dye.” One of the great joys for me to witness is the way people have learned and expanded their skills over the years, especially the kids. It’s a working vacation for me, for sure, but I feel fully appreciated by the participants and there’s always lots of helping hands to ease the work.

Thalia's waxed design before dyeing.

Thalia's waxed design before dyeing.

Thalia, one of our talented teens, painting dye on her scarf.

Thalia, one of our talented teens, painting dye on her scarf.

Ben's orchid banner

Ben's orchid banner

projects drying on a the rack

projects drying on a the rack

Thea's tshirt

Thea's tshirt

the scene around the dye studio

the scene around the dye studio