Staying home and escaping to the studio

Like many people these days, we’re staying home. We’re staying home, mesmerized and saddened by the heartbreaking news on the internet and trying to cope. We’re staying home and by doing so, we’re doing our bit by not getting ill. Which I think is pretty easy in comparison to all of those who are out on the front lines doing much more than that. We’re very grateful for everyone from healthcare staff to all of those working grocery stores and all the other essential services.

So we’re staying home and becoming quite creative with cooking and baking, making our groceries last to avoid going out. We’re staying home and doing a bit of gardening. Ok, maybe a bit too much of that all at once, got a back spasm and had to rest that for a while.

And we’re staying home, and escaping the news and seeking some meditative time by working in our studios. Will is working on lino cuts in his studio. I’m working on the latest free motion sewing and fabric collages. Hopefully, a lot of people are finding creative ways to cope with staying home in these very scary and difficult times.

So, I’m sharing my latest fabric collages, in bright and cheerful colours, paying forward the inspiration I’ve gotten from others and offering a bit of inspiration of my own on what to do with all that stash of material and perhaps a little antidote to the state of things.

These were all done with basically the same materials. This time, a bright red material caught my eye and with it I found other bits and pieces to create three different collages. Instead of a white background, I went for a very colourful backing. The first was also my first attempt at “couching” or applying a cord with stitching to the surface design. Couldn’t get quite the loops I wanted with just zig zag stitch but still I’m happy with the result.

Fabric Collage on Red, by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

The next has my latest attempt at “couching” included. I don’t have the proper foot on my machine for this, so I’m faking it with an open toe free motion foot. I will admit to a bit of swearing.

Fabric Collage on Red, by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

This one is the last in the series on the red background. The turquoise arcs in these are left over from a pattern cut out for neckline interfacing on a tunic I made. I never throw out anything and that’s handy when you’re into fabric collage. For my next pieces, I’m eyeing a rather lovely piece of orange satin as the base.

Fabric Collage on Red, by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

Let’s all hope that there will soon be a happier end to this stressful time. I’ll be checking all the artists that I follow for inspiration on coping while staying home. In the meantime, take care.

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Playing with Stitches and Scraps

I’m one of those people who keeps little bits and pieces, scraps that anyone else would probably toss. In each of these three compositions, there is a little scrap of dark periwinkle silk, which originally was the frayed and torn end of a favourite scarf that I mended. When I put them aside, I hadn’t even thought of making fabric collage. Hadn’t even heard of it yet.

Fabric collage, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

The other materials are just me snapping up scraps of remnants in colours that attract me, found at garage sales and thrifting. The orange and violet and purple just wanted to be arranged together. It doesn’t really show here, but except for the turquoise, it’s all very silky and sensual material.

Fabric collage, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

Those little scraps of turquoise are the best bits of a really old cotton square scarf. I think I used to wear it when I was painting walls in the house. Just love that texture in the black and turquoise.

Fabric collage, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

So here they are, three new abstract collages. All about 8inches by 10 inches or 20 x 25 cm aprox. I’m quite liking working on a set of three at a time, using the same set of scraps and pushing them around until it feels right. And the stitching, well, that’s pretty well intuitive, as well, just letting it happen. And this was before I discovered “couching” cord into a design. That’s coming up next. So MUCH to learn yet. And I’m still pondering how to present them.

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Finding Connections While Experimenting with New Mediums

Experimenting with and immersing yourself in a new medium is always fun. For years I was cutting up dishes and making my way through learning the “how to” of mosaic. That lead from making some crazy wall pieces full of ornaments and pattern, to doing more and more work, in an abstract way, playing with the basics of colour and texture. I’d say the surfaces of mosaic still attract me, the glinting of china in the sun, against the dull grout acting as a foil.

"Speckle and Stripe" ,mosaic, by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

While still creating mosaic in a more abstract vein, I was also messing about with bits and pieces of stained glass and creating some abstract and colorful compositions with that. To say I loved the colours in the stained glass would be an understatement. I’m like a kid faced with “Allsorts “candies! And the layers I could make, colour over colour and best of all, the effect of the sun shining through!

"Momentum", stained glass composition by Helen Bushell,  summerhouseart.com

Alongside these experimental works I was also creating with paper and collage, mixing it up with papers and texture that I’d created into, again, abstract comps. Paper collage has so many possibilities, so many surfaces and colours, movement of shape and line.

"Moving Parts" collage by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

And now, with fabric, I’m finding that there is a bit of a correlation with all that I’m doing. Each set of materials presents it’s own learning curve and challenges. And I’ll admit to doing a bit more swearing while sewing. Me and machines, well, there is need for patience, I’m finding. But, the results and excitement of mixing up patterns, textures, lines and most of all colour, in fabric… well let’s just say I’m having fun but it has been a challenge.

Colourband, fabric collage, by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

And I’m liking the sense of seeing that all my work somehow relates, whether in broken dishes, stained glass or paper and now fabric. So, today along with a few examples of my other forays into other mediums, I’m sharing a few new fabric collages. As with all the other mediums, often it’s finding a pattern or texture on a dish or glass or paper and now fabric, that leads to a composition.

Squares and Stripes, fabric collage, by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

With these, it was finding fabric with some lovely exciting stripes. I’m a sucker for stripes.

Red Rocket, fabric collage, by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

And then of course, colour. Colour is my talisman, and also the thing that attracts me every time. Like a hummingbird to a red flower. Each medium has it’s own qualities and permissions. Glass allows movement and space without having to think about how the grout will affect it all. Paper allows more texture than glass and more line. Then fabric, well, now I’m exploring creating line with thread, texture with layers and applique. More to come! But nothing abandoned. I’ll still create with mosaics, glass, paper collage and now fabric. Just more to add to the pot.

2 Turquoise Circles, fabric collage, by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com
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On the Value of Making Mistakes

Before I got my fancy new sewing machine with the capacity for doing free motion sewing, I’d already decided to try fabric collage. This is my first attempt, on my old machine, with just the ability to zig zag and sew in only slightly curving lines. Lots of colour and a bit of movement. I used some great material I found in Hawaii.

"Hawaii" Free Motion Fabric Collage by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

When you are learning something new you have to be willing create something that is not perfect. Well, actually, I think perfection is over-rated anyway. In fact, most artists make use of “mistakes” and find a way to use them in the composition. So, when I decided to teach myself how to do free motion sewing, I was ready for “mistakes” and jumped right in to practice making lots of “mistakes”.

free motion thread side 1, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

I think free motion sewing was actually meant to be used to make very controlled quilting lines on large quilts. In fact, I’m a great user of internet tutorials and most of them are really into making very controlled patterns, with no variations or “mistakes”. Of course, like many artists, I’m sort of in the camp of just using scribbly lines and being loose and free with it all, more of an “abstract random” you could say. I must admit, I do like some of the effects that “mistakes” like bad tension and random movements can make. I may use these somewhere, someday. Quite like them.

free motion thread side 2, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

Anyway, here is one of my first attempts at free motion collage. Trying hard to get in lots of spiral, circular and scribble-y lines.

Free Motion Fabric collage by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

Even the back is kind of interesting to me, with just the thread lines….

Free Free Motion Fabric collage underside threads, by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com
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Meanderings in Creativity

I haven’t posted much on our blog for quite some time. My excuse is that I had to find out how to use the new blog editor on the website, and wouldn’t you know, it really wasn’t that difficult, once I finally , finally stopped procrastinating and dived in. Don’t you just love those youtube tutorials? Not posting doesn’t mean I haven’t been up to something in the meantime. No really.

If you check out my Pinterest boards, you’ll find I’m a great fan of Pinterest. Lots of boards and pins. I love it because I can visually bookmark things I find on the net and very often I also discover things that I may never have found any other way. So, I have been meandering and poking about in new areas of media to use.

I’ve always been quite interested in collage and have posted a bit of my paper collage work in the past. But, I’ve also done a bit of quilting and sewing in the past too and have quite a few bags of fabric stashed in various closets. Most of my fabric is in the form of old shirts I find at Thrift stores, a really thrifty way of collecting fabric for projects, by the way. One of my discoveries on Pinterest was “free motion sewing”. Now that’s a cool “rabbit hole” to wander down. I have discovered that you can actually, on some machines, put the “feed dogs” down and draw with thread. Too cool for an artist….so I treated myself to a sewing machine that has that ability. It’s not too fancy, not got all the bells and whistles that the expensive computerized machines have, but it has just enough to have some fun and hey, why not?

One of my first forays into free motion was creating jewelry with fabric. It started in the form of making a couple of cuffs from some lovely shiny bits and pieces in sort of a Boho style. The first one shown here, is just as I was piecing together the bits and stitching them in place… And the second image below shows it as finished piece.

Floral Fabric Collage Cuff by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com
Floral Fabric Collage Cuff by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

The next was a bit more jazzy and abstract, with bits of gold netting and lovely jewel tones again. I had a bit of fun playing with the zig zag on both as well.

Abstract Fabric Collage Cuff by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

My next attempt was a necklace and cuff on beach theme. Most of the fabric came from a thrifty find of a men’s shirt with a Japanese fishing theme. The button on the cuff and the little dangling jewels on the necklace are actually little bits of beach pottery that we found on the beach in Sidney. A big thanks to Will for drilling holes in these little fiddly bits pottery for me. And did I mention he also created the driftwood hanger and the cording too?

"Beach" Free Motion Fabric collage Cuff and Necklace by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

Still meandering and having fun, I then wandered off into taking my paper collage investigations and applying them to creating collage with fabric instead. That’s coming up next….

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A Little Gif of a Small Mosaic Pot

Another pot that hasn’t been seen on the blog before.  The thing with pots is that you can’t see all the sides at once, so we thought, why not show it as a gif so it turns?

This one is set on a fancy little stand I found in Chinatown here in Victoria which just happened to fit it perfectly and add to it’s look.  It’s made from a selection of thrift store dishes.  It’s a small pot,  just 5.5 inches by 7 inches or approximately 14 cm by 17.75cm.

Small mosaic pot on stand by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

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All Sides of a Mosaic Umbrella Stand

I realized the other day, that there are quite a few mosaics that have never made it to the blog. Ones I like but have never gotten around to photographing. I’m trying to remember when I actually made this umbrella stand. Years and years ago. It spends it’s time in the front hall, bristling with umbrellas, canes, long handled shoe horns, and in direct site of the couch so I see everyday and I still enjoy looking at it. That’s the thing about mosaic, it’s like eye candy, always something to look at.  Watch the cup handle as it turns from pic to pic.

Mosaic Umbrella Stand, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.comMosaic Umbrella Stand, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com Continue reading “All Sides of a Mosaic Umbrella Stand”

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“Sidecar”, new Paper Collage

"Sidecar", paper collage, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

This is a 6in Square paper collage, again using double sided adhesive.  All the papers are created or found.  The speckle is a favourite, the security inside of envelopes in the post.  And that little orange bit in the middle, that is actually a series of numbers with the edges muddied in photoshop and then colored.  Most of the colors come courtesy of junk mail, proving again that artists see a use in junk.  I’m quite happy with the over-the-top color.

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My Studio Caught in Reflection

Studio Reflection, summerhouseart.com

I was going to post a few more of my collages today, but got fed up with Photoshop and decided to share a little view of my studio instead.  We love shopping at Thrift stores and garage sales mostly because we like to be thrifty, but also because you find such unique things.  You wouldn’t find this convex mirror at any department store, would you?  Continue reading “My Studio Caught in Reflection”

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Paper Collage Using Double Sided Adhesive

Collage on Studio table, Helen Bushell, Summerhouse Art

A while ago, in another post on collage, I said that artists aren’t hoarders, we’re just collectors with a plan. Not all the paper that comes into our home leaves by way of the paper recycling bag. Paper is, after all, for collage artists, a valuable resource. So I use old envelopes to create paint patterns on and even save envelopes with that lovely security pattern on the inside, as a rather tasty texture to use in collage. Anything out of the printer is saved as well for its textural value.

Continue reading “Paper Collage Using Double Sided Adhesive”
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