Thursday, January 17, 2019



My name is Priscilla Smith. I am a mixed media textile artist. I make art focused on Social Justice issues. Topics include: Race; Guns; Democracy; Me Too; Truth; Environment, War, etc. My background includes mothering; making art, corporate lawyering; pre-school and high school teaching; music performance; etc.

APRIL: 2018

PRISCILLA’S BODY: Hey dear, have you noticed that you might be tiring a bit more than usual and perhaps be feeling a bit down?
PRISCILLA: No. Everything is fine.

MAY: 2018

PRISCILLA’S BODY: I know dear.... you say “everything is fine....there’s nothing wrong...” but I sense sometimes that you’d just like to stay in bed for the day and other times, look a bit stressed out. Could I be on to something?”
PRISCILLA: No. No. No. Absolutely not. Everything is just fine.

JUNE: 2018:

PRISCILLA’S BODY: Well dear, I’m not sure how to say this, but I think you may be  watching too much TV? I know you like to keep up with what’s going on in our country and in the world and the picture isn’t very pretty, but.........And I thought I saw you with tears in your eyes when we were driving back from getting groceries? Are you sure there’s nothing wrong?
PRISCILLA: No. No. No. I’m not watching too much TV. You know my background is Constitutional Law and I just find what’s happening very interesting from a legal perspective. There’s nothing wrong. This world may be a little crazy but I can handle it

JULY: 2018:

PRISCILLA’S BODY: How did your harp engagement go? I know you love working with couples getting married and performing weddings at Chatham Bars Inn? And it was a beautiful day for an outside wedding.
PRISCILLA: It was “okay” .....I guess.
AUGUST: 2018:

PRISCILLA’S BODY: You know, you started those two art pieces last fall.....the one called LIES, LIES, LIES and the other about the Broken Bones of Congressional Members.. But I notice you haven’t touched them since last fall.

Broken Back Bones

PRISCILLA: Well, what do you to be Superwoman. Our house has been under a major renovation for the past 8 months....I’ve been living in one room in the basement with the dog and 2 cats and a microwave and counter cooker. And been unpacking and moving back into our house the past two weeks. How would I have any time or energy to work on art? Leave me alone. Just leave me alone. And I’m not stressed, darn it.

Lies, Lies, Lies

PRISCILLA’S BODY: You know I didn't mean to make you feel bad when I asked you about your art? I’m just concerned.
PRISCILLA: Well, you needn’t be. I can handle all the stress and still work on my art. I’ll be ready to go to my 2 week Art Workshop at the Barn next month.

OCTOBER: 2018:

PRISCILLA’S BODY: I know you’re excited about going to Ohio for two weeks to focus solely on your art. I wish you Good luck
PRISCILLA: Thank you. I’m sorry I spoke quickly to you when I know you were really just concerned about me. I will go to the workshop and be surrounded by support and love. And I know I’ll be able to get back to those two art pieces and finish them, even though the subject matter is stressful.


PRISCILLA’S BODY: I’m so glad you were able to finish those two art pieces. But I’m sorry you’re not feeling well. Can I help in any way?
PRISCILLA: Yes, I’m glad I got them finished. And..... I guess you could say that I’m not doing very well physically. This isn’t fun.


PRISCILLA’S BODY: Dear, you’ve been handling this situation for a month. Do you think a visit to the doctor might help?
PRISCILLA: No.....that wont’ help......This will just go away soon. Anyway, it doesn't do any good to go to the doctor. Well.... maybe, it wouldn't hurt to have it checked out.

JANUARY: 2019:

PRISCILLA’S BODY: Well , at least you have some kind of of those nasty gut conditions. I know it’s not totally clear and I know it will be a long road ahead. And, truthfully, I’m glad you’re not making art about the subjects you usually work on. Even though they are your passion.
PRISCILLA: Yes, new food. New techniques to reduce stress. And a journey ahead to figure this all out. And while my mind constantly continues to think of the art pieces I could make about Social Justice issues, I know I need to let go for now. Another challenge. I’m glad you like the small stitch samples I’ve been doing. At first, I didn't think I’d like this exercise....weaving together strips of fabric and then stitching them. But I’m finding them very relaxing and, in a way, very healing. You know Priscilla’s BODY, you knew this was going to happen long before I did and thank you for not saying “I told you so”. I’m a bit slow to learn, but I will commit to you to try to listen to you much
better. I love you PRISCILLA’S BODY.

Stone Stitch 1

Stone Stitch 2
Stone Stitch 3

Stone Stitch 4

Stone Stitch 5

Stone Stitch 6

Sunday, November 11, 2018


My formal art training started in 1965 when I went off to "Buff State" ( The State University of New York College at Buffalo WHEW) to study Art Education. My training was broad and shallow and I focused on painting and printmaking and didn't get to take a fibers class until my third year. It has stayed a passion along with the first two ever since. One of the things I liked best about fibers was dyeing and using resists to make a variety of marks and patterns.

working in a series
check out the collar. 1973 or 74
wax resist on viscose
Wax resist batik on silk chiffon
I now once again have my own studio and can pursue my interest in using resists to work in layers. I will be blogging about flour paste resist next. Please visit Notes from 207 on Blogger.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

October 2018
Mary Tyler
   It is important early in a creative life to determine the most comfortable approach, for you, to making art.  Some of us need a concrete goal to work toward.  Plans, sketches, color swatches, need to be laid out in an orderly way. Some of us have a theme that defines our work, social justice, personal history, nature, etc.  Then there are those of us who work from the premise of "what if"? I fall into this last group.  I really admire my friends who are organized in their work or who have a burning passion to express, but by the time I get the studies done and the plans drawn up I'm finished with the piece and ready to start something else. I like being on the edge and lying awake at night trying to figure out how in the world I'm going to resolve that problem of making a piece come together. Coming to the realization of what is necessary for each person to successfully create their visions is a long, difficult, road.
Here are some of my what if moments.
What if you clamp black cotton fabric and discharge it, then dye it using the low water immersion method, then clamp and dye it again:
Example 1

What if I could use some of the paste paper techniques I learned when I was making books, on fabric using a flour paste resist. Stretch soda ash soaked and dried dyed cotton on an outdoor work surface, spread the flour paste, before the paste dries drag a grouting tool in circles to create a pattern:
Example 2

What if I stretch out black cotton, put on a flour paste layer, let dry. Crinkle then spread Chlorox Bleach Gel over it. Wait until fabric is discharged , then dump  it in ChlorStop or hydrogen peroxide/water mix. Rinse very well, wash and then over dye.
Example 3

What if I used crystallized bleach on dyed fabric? Stretch out the cotton fabric, sprinkle with Chlorox Bleach Crystals, spray water with a garden hose and a handheld sprayer, wait until discharged, then put the cloth into ChlorStop or hydrogen peroxide/water solution. then overdye.
Example 4

What if I could ice dye without the ice? Sprinkle work surface with powdered dye, carefully stretch dyed soda soaked and dried fabric over it, staple down fabric, spray with garden hose, rub dye into fabric
Example 5

Some of these things work better then others.  I didn't show the flour paste resist length where I wrote a Shakespeare sonnet into the paste before it dried. Mainly because it didn't work. The letters got lost in the crackle.  Some things are more work then they're worth.I did, however, cut letters from contact paper and stick them down to the fabric before adding the flour paste. Then I removed the letters and brushed on the dye.  That worked very well. So it's a direction for the next series of what if questions.
Example 6

Monday, September 3, 2018

What is Art?

My recent travels to Slovenia and Croatia reminded me that art is all in the eye of the beholder. Graffiti, sports and political stickers can make for captivating art. Wikipedia defines graffiti as "drawings or writings that have been scribbled, scratched or painted typically illicitly, on a wall or other surface often within public view." Here are some examples of what I found:

Monday, August 6, 2018

Learning By Making Mistakes in St Louis

While we were together in May, it became evident that my work needed something important. While the fundamental idea was good, the work itself required structure and a focus the shape and color alone could not resolve. This is the first time I came to grips with the fact that composition is an essential part of art making. I have been far more interested in color and unmindfully used the grid as the frame for this exploration. I now know other aspects of design are best consciously considered when heading in a new direction.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        To that end, I started to play with acrylics and paper to explore composition as taught online by Jane Davies. There are several modules that explore design elements such as line, and  shape, but the most absorbing module  addresses traditional composition options--landscape and the cruciform, for example.

The concepts are not new, but somehow 
integrating them into my thinking has 
been a revelation.

I look at art these days with an eye to seeing the underlying structure. It can tight or loose, explicit or vague, but it is always there.

So, while it is uncomfortable to acknowledge the deficiency, I do enjoy the learning and discovery. I know the mastery will come.



Wednesday, April 25, 2018

This is from ACN member Sherri Lipman-McCauley

San Antonio, Texas - SAQA Conference Review 2018

I attended the SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) conference, TEXtiles, in San Antonio, Texas  early in April. What an inspirational time I had. I wanted to share some of the highlights with you. I served on the Special Events Committee, so I had some insight into the amount of planning and number of volunteer hours it took to pull this conference off.

It was exciting to be in a room of about two hundred people who ‘get me’, if you know what I mean. I sat with friends from Facebook in the flesh. I got to share meals with ‘rock stars’ of the art quilting world. I heard some informative and entertaining talks. It was a time to connect with like artists and to share our thoughts, techniques and experiences in an informal setting.

The hotel setting was on the Riverwalk and close to many historical sites. The conference included a variety of activities including, a cruise on the river, SAQA committee presentations on regional energy through local connections and upcoming 3D exhibitions. There were great breakout sessions from Miki Rodriguez (Design Rebel), Heather Grant (Best Practices for Professional Art Instructors), Lynne Koolish (Back to Basics-Design Basics, That Is), and Carole Staples (TEXtiles Gallery Talk). 

The Lightening Talks, 20 slides with 20 seconds per slide, were educational and entertaining. My talk on “Secrets of Painted Threads” was fun to put together, and a little intimidating to present.
During some of the free time, I toured a couple of the Mission sites and ate some great food!
The spotlight auction included over 200 donated pieces. The auction took in just over $22,000!   I managed to ‘win’ two pieces to add to my collection. Here’s a photo of the piece I donated -

                                                       “Orange Notes”, 2018, 8”x 6”

I had a chance to attend the rep meeting and gain insight into being an effective SAQA rep for my Texas region and enjoy a couple meals with the SAQA board. I led a JAM (Juried Art Member) photo scavenger hunt with Susie Monday. In a breakout session I listened as Lynne Koolish discussed design elements. I heard Heather Grant share insight on proposing class offerings in the quilt world, and I sat in on a critique session with Judith Trager.

The keynote presentations from Meg Cox and Jane Dunnewold were a great way to end the conference.

Meg presented “Tips and Tricks for Giving Memorable Lectures Every Time”. She shared some personal stories and included five tips: 1. Open yourself up wide to the audience, 2. Be dramatic: good lectures are theatrical, 3. Humor is good: self-deprecating humor is better, 4. Practice! Practice! Practice! and 5. Stage fright is real: make it your friend.

Jane spoke about “Standing Tall: Artists as Stewards of Our World”. She presented the seven chakras and how we can apply them to nurturing our artists selves. Jane summed up the seven challenges with her personal seven-line phrase, which she considers her daily practice - 7. Stay in present time, 6. Seek only the Truth, 5. Surrender your will to God, 4. Love is the only true power, 3. Honor Thyself, 2. Honor one another, 1. All is One.  You can listen to her lecture here.

The TEXtiles regional exhibit showed a great variety of Texas themed quilts. I had three pieces in the exhibit-

                                                      “Triangled”, 2016, 40” x 40”

                                                   “Rescued Scraps”, 2017, 24” x 24”

                                                        “So It Flows”, 2018, 48” x 32”

Perks included a custom designed conference bag filled with fun items and a great printed program with all of the attendees’ email addresses. It was a great way to connect with old and new SAQA friends.

Future SAQA conference locations are:
San Jose, California – April 25-28, 2019
Toronto, Canada – March 19-22, 2020

If you are interested in more details on the conference, shoot me an email

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Beaufort Art Association Award

I am so pleased to share the news that I received an award at the Beaufort Art Associations Spring show. The show is held once a year and this year it featured the art of 148 artists who reside in Beaufort, South Carolina. At the opening reception on March 27, 2018 I received the Mathew Bogan Memorial Award. This was especially exciting in that it was the only piece of fiber art to receive a ribbon and cash award.  The piece is entitled Dance of Glass. If you would like to see Dance of Glass in person, it will be part of the Art Cloth Network, Color Affects that will be hung at the Austin Airport this winer.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

From paper to fabric: Surface design methods that embrace the intersection of manual and digital design

This is the second of two articles that deal with my ventures into digital fabric printing. The first article dealt with digital printing in the context of my larger journey and identity as a fiber artist. This time I want to discuss the different sorts of digitally printed cloth and the ways in which I’m using digital printing--ways that I believe are a bit different from what I’ve seen from other artists.

The type of designs and images digitally printed on cloth can be organized into several categories:

  • Utilitarian: Banners or other signage that were once screen printed and are now produced on a digital printer.
  • Yardage: Traditional repeat patterns of graphic elements, or an abstract, non-repeating pattern printed on cloth to produce yardage for garments, home dec items, etc. 
  • Faithfully rendered photographs: Think of a memory quilt that incorporates photos of your grandparents printed on fabric.
  • Manipulated photographs: Colorized, filtered, and altered images typically printed with the intention of making art.
  • Computational art: These are designs created entirely within a computer program specifically designed to create digital images. For example a program that creates fractal designs.
  • Whole cloth compositions: A length of digitally printed cloth that is a finished product or a step along the way to creating a finished artwork. Subsequent steps might include dyeing, painting, stitching, cutting, etc.

You could easily argue that the boundary between these last two categories is a little fuzzy, but for me the distinction is whether or not you start with one or more photographs.The work that I’m most interested in falls in this last category. I think we can break this group down still further and say that these whole cloth compositions can be:

  • Created entirely in the computer through drawing, manipulating images, or using a computer program to create an image.
  • Created in a hybrid manual/digital space that involves creating a design on paper, scanning or photographing that work to get it into the computer, then manipulating the image further to create a result that is ready to print on fabric.

With some trial and error I’ve settled into two work methods within the hybrid manual/digital approach, embracing some of the best of both paper and fabric. Specifically, I’ve found that the mark quality that I get from cutting paper with an X-ACTO knife is completely different from what I get when I cut fabric. The resulting compositions are different as well. It’s as if this way of working taps into a different part of my brain with its own distinct voice. These two methods both rely on digital fabric printing technology--wide carriage inkjet printing on fabric (I’ve been using I’m calling them “Digital design using hand cut elements” and “Paper compositions rendered on fabric”. There are pros and cons to each.
A composition created using the "Digital design using hand cut elements" method
"Nuclear Family", Russ Little, 2015 (digitally printed cloth, quilting)
Digital design using hand cut elements
The goal of this approach is to use cut paper to create marks, shapes, and motifs that can be scanned into the computer, and then used to create a composition on a background. Here’s how I do this.
Cut paper shapes ready for scanning

  1. Paint black paper. Depending on your intended design you can create a very dense black or something with more visual texture and brush strokes. Alternatively you can use black construction paper, but I prefer the visual and physical texture of the paper I paint myself. I use a variety of papers including old newspaper, receipts, found bits of paper,  and Bienfang Graphics 360 marker pad.
  2. Cut shapes and linear elements. The goal is to build a vocabulary of curved and straight lines, both thin and thick, as well as a variety of shapes.
  3. Glue the shapes and lines to white card stock. Uhu glue stick is my preferred adhesive. You’re not trying to create a composition, just get them on the page without overlapping.
  4. Scan or photograph the resulting pages, then store the originals someplace flat, dry, and safe so that you can return to them in the future if necessary. I use sheet protectors in a loose leaf binder.
  5. Open the image file(s) in a graphic editing program (e.g., Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator). From here you can select and copy your individual shapes then scale, stretch, rotate, flip, and colorize them to meet your needs. The reason for creating these shapes in black is so that they can be easily selected, then black can be replaced with other colors. 
  6. Build your composition in a separate file by copying and pasting your shapes and lines onto a background of your choice.
  7. When the design is finished, upload it to an online printing service or take the file to an appropriate local print shop for output on fabric.

Because all of the elements exist as separate objects in your digital design, you can easily move them around until the composition is to your liking. You can also create an unlimited number of variations.

The computer is a wonderful tool, but I find that sometimes the technology can be a little cold and detached, creating a separation between the artist and the work. I don’t get the same feeling from this process that I do when I’m working exclusively on paper.

A composition created using the "Paper composition rendered on fabric" method
"Collage #1", Russ Little, 2017, (cut paper collage digitally printed on cloth, quilted)

Paper compositions rendered on fabric 
The solution to the coldness of the computer is to leave it out of the process entirely until it’s absolutely necessary. This is currently my preferred way of working:

  1. Paint paper in a variety of colors (a full range of hues and values; don’t forget the neutrals).
  2. Prepare a painted background on card stock.
  3. Cut the shapes from your colored paper required to create a composition.
  4. Arrange the shapes, lines, etc. on the painted background.
  5. Add other drawn or printed elements to the composition if appropriate.
  6. Glue the shapes and lines in place on the background.
  7. Scan or photograph the resulting composition, then store the original someplace flat, dry, and safe. As noted above, I’ve been storing my work in sheet protectors in a binder.
  8. Open the image file in an image editing program (e.g., Adobe Photoshop) and do whatever retouching, adjustments, or color correction is necessary. Crop or scale the image as needed. 
  9. When the design is finished, upload it to an online printing service for output on fabric.
  10. For me, the final, optional step is often to layer the printed fabric with batting and backing, then add dense quilting that speaks to the printed design. I often incorporate hand stitch as well. 

The design work is completely analog. The computer is only used as a means of getting the resulting composition printed on cloth. Working this way keeps me slow and focused and avoids those times when I get lost in trying to figure out how to do something using Photoshop that I can easily do by hand.

To my way of thinking there aren’t many cons to this method, except for the one that’s inherent in all works of the hand. Unlike the digital design method described above, when you cut something it’s cut; when you make a mark it’s made. There aren’t too many easy undos, but isn’t that part of the fun?

Technical and design considerations
There are several technical considerations to bear in mind when using either of these hybrid manual/digital methods, particularly if you are using the second approach to prepare an entire composition on paper for later printing on cloth.

Resolution and scale
If you prepare your cut shapes or your entire composition at a size smaller than you intend to print it, then you will need to enlarge your image before printing. That means that you need to consider two things:

  1. Understand the relationship between the image resolution from your camera or scanner and the final resolution required for printing on cloth. Some manipulation of the resolution will be required and you need to consider the resolution requirement of the printer. 
  2. Regardless of image resolution, if your final printed cloth is larger than your original paper composition, then you are scaling up. That scale change means that you need to plan for your design elements to be enlarged or you need to work on larger paper. Those delicate marks on your paper design can become a lot less elegant at 400%.

Photographing and scanning
If possible and practical, use a flatbed scanner to create an image of your paper composition. You might still need to do some color adjustments, but your work will be held perfectly flat, lit evenly, and imaged at a high resolution.
If your work is too large to scan (e.g., larger than 8.5” x 11” or 8.5” x 14”), then you can either scan it in sections or photograph it. Scanning in sections requires planning up front. For example, will you build your design across several sheets of paper or will you work on one large sheet and cut it into smaller pieces for scanning? Ultimately, these individual images will need to be combined to form a single seamless image.
If you’re photographing your composition because you don’t have access to a scanner or don’t want to cut up a piece that’s too large to scan, then it’s important to photograph the piece as flat as possible, light it evenly, fill the camera’s viewfinder as completely as possible to maximize resolution, and make certain that your camera is square to the plane of the artwork (i.e., not tilted, twisted, or angled). Use a tripod and focus carefully to insure that the image is as sharp as possible.

Color correction and management
To get the color from your printer that you want on your final cloth you’re going to need to pay close attention to color throughout the process. That likely means color correcting what you’re getting out of your camera or scanner, working on a color corrected monitor, and accounting for the color profile of the printer that will be used to create your fabric. Alternatively, you can just not stress over color and accept what you get back from the printer.

Finally, if you incorporate painted newsprint or any other paper with visible writing on it into your composition, realize that even if the text is upside down and backwards the viewer will try to read it and assign meaning to it. Be intentional in your use of text and pay close attention to the amount of text that is visible on your painted paper.

Products and services referenced in this article:

  • Adobe Photoshop (
  • Adobe Illustrator (
  • X-ACTO #1 Precision Knife (
  • Uhu Stic Glue stick (
  • Bienfang Graphics 360 marker pad (
  • online digital fabric printing service
  • Staples medium weight sheet protectors (

Russ Little is a full time fiber artist specializing in fine art textile and wearable art. He’s also the current Chair of the Art Cloth Network. You can see more of his work at

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

FIRE - Santa Rosa, CA

I recently finished a quilt inspired by the fires in northern California last October.  I have immediate family who live in Santa Rosa and were evacuated twice for days each time.  While their home was spared, their workplace and the homes of MANY friends were destroyed.  Close to 10% of the population of this small city is still essentially homeless, in temporary housing at best.  Many have just abandoned their former residences and gone. 

The fires were caused by extreme winds which knocked out many power lines throughout the region.  The winds pushed the fire stunningly fast through drought effected brush,  and then the heat from these fires created their own winds exacerbating the situation.  My quilt captures the violence of the color and activity.

The ground layer of my piece is ice dyed.  I did a lot of hand stitching to indicate the unpredictably swirling winds.  I wanted to show the movement of the ash and embers themselves and did so by creating the "dancing" streamers which move slightly on their own.   As in the real fire, these bits are comprised of natural and man-made materials.   The piece is 48" x 36".

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Wrestling with surface design guilt

This is the first of two articles that deal with my sojourn into digital fabric printing--the why and how of it and what it means in the context of my larger journey as a fiber artist. We’ll start with the big issues in this article. I’ll dig into the methods in the next one.

I’ve been dyeing and printing fabric for close to 20 years, and I still find it exciting. I love the process of getting color onto and off of cloth. I love the details--the measuring, weighing, and calculation--that allow me to create predictable, repeatable color. I love the toolmaking--carving relief printing blocks, designing and burning silk screens, and gathering found objects that become mark making implements. I love painting and printing big pieces of cloth. And then, of course, there are all of the things that happen to that printed cloth. It becomes art cloth for the wall, it gets quilted or stitched, or it becomes art to wear--one of a kind scarves or jackets. Lately though, I’ve been wrestling with a guilty feeling that I’ve been disloyal to my craft, or at the very least veering off on a tangent.

"Illumination: Counting"
Hand dyed art cloth 
Russ Little, 2013
In all of my time as a dyer, I’ve been a quilt surface designer. I’ve made pieced quilts as well as quilted whole cloth paintings. But, for the last year or so, the thing that’s excited me the most is cut paper collage. I paint paper--drawing paper, found bits of paper, old newspapers--with gouache in an array of colors, then cut it into shapes and arrange them to form a composition. This method is anything but new. Many artists have worked in collage, Matisse being not the least among them (try Googling “Matisse collage”). To give credit where it’s due, I started getting excited about collage through workshops on color theory, collage, and design that I’ve taken with David Hornung.

Collage takes many forms: combinations of found images and/or text, combinations of solid color shapes, figurative, abstract, the whole gamut. You might say that the term “collage” is a big umbrella term that covers lots of forms of “sticking stuff to paper”.

For me, there’s something totally different that happens in my brain when I’m cutting, arranging, and layering paper compared to cutting and piecing fabric, or even painting directly on fabric. Designs and motifs emerge when I cut into paper with an X-ACTO knife that are completely different from what happens on my design wall with fabric. But I still want to work in fabric, and I want to incorporate the textural layer of quilting into the final composition.

"Collage #3"
Cut paper collage digitally printed
on cloth, quilted
Russ Little, 2017 
With some trial and error I’ve found my way to two work methods that embrace some of the best of both paper and fabric. They both rely on digital fabric printing technology--wide carriage inkjet printing on fabric. I create shapes or full designs on paper, scan or photograph them, then send them to a service provider for printing on cloth. When I receive the printed cloth I can them treat it as finished art cloth or add more layers to it through paint, stitch, quilting, etc. Detailed discussion of these methods will be the subject of the next article in this series. For now it’s enough to know that I’m allowing a computer to put dye/pigment on cloth, rather than doing it with my own two hands.

So, what’s all this hand wringing about “surface design guilt”? Well, it comes down to the simple facts of change and that newest of buzzwords, disruption. I’ve spent years building knowledge, skill, and experience in the manual work of hand dyeing and printing cloth. Now I find that I’m able to create a finished work of  fiber art without ever touching dye or fabric paint, and it makes me a little uneasy. It sometimes feels inauthentic. Heretofore, part of the challenge--the foundational craft in this particular art form--has been the skillful manipulation of dye, paint, and cloth to produce the desired result. The computer and printer certainly bring their own set of challenges, but those aren’t generally surmounted using the skills I’ve worked so hard to learn.

In the end, the peace that I’ve made with all of this is perhaps the same peace that others have made. As artists we must embrace new opportunities, tools, and ways of thinking, while remaining grounded in those traditional and foundational skills. Perhaps a fitting comparison might be that a artists using a knitting machine is probably better able to make effective use of that tool if they first learn to knit by hand.

I also wonder about the future. I hope that young artists will continue to learn about traditional, manual ways of working before making the leap of digital tools. I have no desire or intention to stop working with dye, because that particular set of tools and techniques produces different results for me than digital tools. However, it’s also interesting to consider that at some point in the future I might live someplace different and might not find it practical or even desirable to have a full fledged dye studio. The new processes I’ve been exploring lend themselves to a way of making art that requires not much more than a computer, internet connection, cutting table, and sewing machine. 

So, I suppose the “guilt” I’m feeling is mostly rooted in the idea that I simultaneously want to try new thing and be part of the change, and yet I don’t want to see things change too much. And, since we can’t have it both ways, I’m going to forge ahead with one foot on each side of the line between tradition and technology.

In the next article in this series I’ll examine how that blended approach is influencing the way that I work.
Russ Little is a full time fiber artist specializing in fine art textile and wearable art. He’s also the current Chair of the Art Cloth Network. You can see more of his work at

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

You can check out our newest exhibition, Unbound, at Blurb by clicking the link to the digital catalog here.  The catalog is available for purchase and includes a statement by juror Michael James, as well as detail photos of each piece.  Congratulations to all ACN members included in the show.  Many thanks to Barbara Schneider for authoring the catalog.

Responsive image
Travel 2: Passage, by Jacque Davis

Monday, December 4, 2017

Creating a Daily Practice

Creating a Daily Practice
I have done variations on daily practice studies for many years. They have included a variety of approaches – everything from a postcard a day to a blog posting to a set of bound books. This blog will show some of those and list potential ideas about ways to pursue a daily practice.

But first – WHY? Why do a daily practice? It’s not easy to do – 365 days of discipline. I have tried variations, like once a week or a larger problem addressed for a month but it is the daily practice that I come back to and that has the most rewards.

My approach has been to set some guidelines for myself

  • What do I want to accomplish with this practice? Do I want to learn something new or explore something in depth?
  • What format do I want to work in?
  •  How am I going to make it happen each day? Do I need to have a reminder or a time of day that is set aside?
  • How do I motivate myself when other things get in the way or I am just not interested in doing it on a particular day?
  • Thinking through some of this and writing it down for you is a good thing. Because you will probably need to come back and look at that at some point throughout the year to remind yourself why you ever thought this was a good idea!

Examples of my daily practices
The first year I did a daily practice was in 1997-1998. I was still working a corporate job and had little time to do anything outside of working, commuting, and caring for my husband. But I felt the need to try and find a creative outlet. I decided that I could make one small quilt block each night based on something I had observed that day. It would allow me to explore new techniques, be manageable and if I kept a sketchbook of the idea for each day I could catch up on weekends! A plan. And it worked. I didn’t worry about making something big, I didn’t try to do anything particularly difficult, I just did something.  

 I ended up developing a template for a quilt block for the days that I traveled for work so those gave me some breathing room. The rest were based on sketches of something that happened on the day – so I became much more observant about the world around me and it gave me something to think about besides work and other problems. Toward the end of the 365 days, I started looking at the pile of blocks and thinking about what do I DO with them. Eventually, they became A Ring of Days, a strip of blocks for each month, hung on a circular ring like a giant windsock. It hung for a very long time in my home along the open staircase. It is one year of my life that I can say THIS is what happened on March3 or July 8 or…

A Ring of Days

And this is what I learned from that practice. New techniques, the discipline of carrying a sketchbook and paying attention to the world around me. Also that it was the time of me to leave my job as nothing other than the travel templates ever made it into the artwork,  that I really wanted to learn more about surface design, and that I could bury my other problems in the creative challenge.

In 2008 I created A Book of Days, 12 volumes of pages. This time the daily practice served to get me back into the studio after my husband’s death and a year and a half of grief, moving and starting a new life. I set myself some goals again. I wanted to learn how to be more proficient with Photoshop, I wanted to use an unusual format to push my boundaries, I wanted to incorporate wording about the day, I wanted a reason to get into the studio and work even if it was only to do the daily practice. And again, it worked, especially in that once I was in the studio I was drawn to BE in the studio more and more.

 A Book of Days, 12 volumes, 1 month of pages spread in a circle, and 1 individual page.

Other formats that I have used for daily practice include:

  • Postcards – a week’s worth of explorations on one subject.
  • Blog – posting a photo every day along with thoughts about it.  I am finishing up a year of blogging again. The 2017 version was based on the Mindful poem by Mary Oliver so it was even more focused. And this time I both blogged and put it on Facebook.
Postcard samples.

Ideas for Daily Practice variations:
  • Sketchbook – one page a day based on anything you decide is worth pursuing – new surface design techniques, a particular location, and a theme, a shape you love to work with.
  • Reprinting – Overprint daily thoughts or sketches in layers on one piece of paper – what would develop?
  • Use the daily junk mail in small collages
  • Pick a shape and work with it – maybe a different shape each week or month?
  • Pick a tool and work with it for a week or a month
  • Pick an artist and study and/or develop artwork based on what you learn. Maybe a weekly or monthly approach.
  • Choose a textile tradition and work with it for a week, month, year.
  • One long scroll for the year – just keep adding more each day.
  • Note cards, postcards – one a day yields something usable!
  • Do a stitched piece each day or add to a piece each day and end up with monthly projects.

There are lots of ways to explore the concept. The take away is that daily practice improves your artist’s eye, hand, and mind.

Resources and Examples

Below are other examples and writings about Daily Practice that may be helpful.

I hope this article might inspire you to try a daily practice if you have not done so as yet. Or if you do, to post about it on the blog. 

Barbara Schneider