Oct 20 2014

Around the World Blog Hop: It’s Our Turn!


Welcome to our installment of the “Around the World Blog Hop“.

We were invited to join the hop by Kate Themel.  We met Kate through SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates).  We have served on SAQA committees together and get to visit Kate at the annual SAQA Conference.  We love her work! We are in awe of how she creates light – sunlight, candlelight, moonlight, electric lights – with fabric and thread. Her expertise with light sometimes reminds us of John Singer Sargent and his portraits of women (and their dresses). Take a look at her blog to see some of the amazing work she’s been doing lately: http://katethemel.blogspot.com/.

The basic format of the Around the World blog posts is a set of Questions & Answers. Here we go!

What are we working on right now?

We have been working on a commission. It’s always interesting to learn how people get commissions. We had donated a 5″ x 7″ quilt to the Spotlight Auction, which has been held at the annual SAQA conference for the last couple of years. It’s called “An Apple a Day” and brings up the healthcare debate in the words and phrases we collaged onto the apple drawing.

An Apple a Day

An Apple a Day

The person who held the winning bid on the quilt came up to us after the auction and asked us to finish the “rest of the alphabet” for his infant son [deb’s note: we embroidered an “a” over the apple]. The best part of this commission was that our patron decided he did not want to have approval of  either the letter object or the letter theme. He gave us full artistic control. Needless to say, we are having loads of fun working on this project. We’re just “slightly” worried that we may mess up his son’s elementary school experience. Can you imagine what will happen when the teacher asks the class “Can you name a word that starts with Z, and the boy cries out, “Z is for ziggurat!” [deb’s note: personally, I’m worried about him shouting out “o” is for oxfords!]. Here’s a photo of the printed fabric in the rinse!


How does our work differ from others of its genre?

Our work probably differs most from others because we almost always start on the computer. Well, we really start out by talking to each other (see #4 below), but once we start thinking about design, it’s off to the computer. Fabric comes much later in the process. It’s like the dessert to the meal. Here you can see the original photo and then one layout that has the values all worked out for the ensuing collage.

Why do we create what we do?

One question often posed to us is why do we create in cloth? This is an interesting question, especially in light of our recent work, where we start with a paper collage. We could just stop there (and, yes, we save most of our paper collages), but fabric is our language. That’s what Deb says. And Deb has been sewing since she was a little girl. I like to say you can’t take a paper collage to bed with you. In other words, it’s the feel of the fabric when you work with it that is so satisfying. [It’s deb again: we learned a new word a few years back: haptic. Look it up]. Here is the finished quilt based on the design above:


How does our creative process work?

People are often interested in learning why we collaborate. After all, art is a lonely pursuit, or so say many artists. Well, neither one of us had the gumption to do this by ourselves. Our first inclination was not to put ourselves out there. After all, what did we have to offer? Eleven years after forming Pixeladies, we look forward to sharing ideas with one another because the collaborative process produces a new vision that we often did not anticipate in the beginning. And we can blame the other one when things go kablooey. 😉 Here we are working on a project:

Now we’d like to point you to two blogs of quilt artists we admire:

Carla Barrett, quilter extraordinaire, can literally quilt circles around most people. She doesn’t just finish a quilt, she creates a story with her quilting. Look at her blog to see what we mean: http://featheredfibers.wordpress.com/. Carla lives down the road from Deb, and we will miss her terribly when she moves onto her boat. And, no, she will not be taking the long-arm machine with her.

Gerrie Congdon‘s hand-dyed fabric is what initially drew us to her work, but the way in which she composes her pieces keeps us coming back to her web site to see what she has created lately. Visit her blog at http://www.gericondesigns.com/weblog/. We met Gerrie through SAQA, too, and always look forward to seeing her at SAQA conferences. Next year the SAQA conference will be in Portland, OR, so we plan on partying with Gerrie while we’re there.

Dec 10 2013

We’ve Cleaned Up Our Art


I was back on the torture machine (the elliptical for normal people), listening to TED talks, when I came across Ursus Wehrli and his technique of “tidying up art.” This one’s worth watching. If you don’t want to watch while exercising, then grab a snack and put your feet up… If your browser blocks this embedded video, click here to go directly to the link: http://www.ted.com/talks/ursus_wehrli_tidies_up_art.html

Since I’m not great at tidying up my house, I thought maybe I should start small and tidy up one of our apple quilts.

An Apple A Day

An Apple A Day

Here’s the “tidy” result.

An Apple A Day--Tidied Up

An Apple A Day–Tidied Up

Dec 3 2013

Tech Tuesday: An Apple A Day


We have recently been creating fruit using words and phrases cut from magazines and newspapers. We started with a tomato. SacraTomato is the pet name for our city, and some of the text was about issues surrounding California’s migrant and sometimes undocumented farm workers. Now that we’ve moved onto apples, we wanted to take up a different issue, but what message should the apples send? Sometimes our text is inspired by what we find in current newspapers and magazines. Seen any articles about health care recently? It made sense to us that an apple could be about health care. After all, an apple a day keeps the doctor away. So, this is how we make a “pattern” for our text quilts, using the apple as an example.

We start out by taking lots of photos of apples–different colors, varieties, and lighting angles. Then we upload the photos into the computer and start playing. We want to decrease the number of values in the image to around four values (it’s much easier to make the collage with only four values). There are many ways to break down an image into its values.

1) Convert the image to black and white. Here’s a little video to show you how we do that using Photoshop CS4.

2) There are several filters that can help you simplify the image into a few shades of gray. Here are some examples:

Black & White


Posterized #1

Posterized #2

Cut Out #1

Cut Out #2

Often we don’t get exactly what we’re looking for by just using a filter, so we’ll start modifying one of the layers. We might repaint some of the shapes to get a better look.

"Hand" Drawn

“Hand” Drawn

When we’re happy with the shapes, we’ll print out our “pattern” and start collecting the appropriate text. Finding just the right words consumes by far the most time. Once we have a lot of the text, we spread out all the words and sort them into values. Then we start gluing the words onto our pattern. Kris’ best find was the repositionable glue stick. It’s really nice to be able to take off a piece of text and replace it with something better. This is where we have the most fun. We will sit around and talk about the issues and laugh ourselves silly whenever we come up with some crazy combinations. Once we’ve finished gluing text to better, we either photograph or scan the collage and make any final adjustments in Photoshop before we print it out on fabric.

Apple Collage

Apple Collage

You can use this technique for creating pattern pieces for appliqueing or fusing, too. If you want to learn more about Photoshop and how to use it for your art projects, consider joining us at one of the retreats we’ll be teaching at in 2014. Three great locations–the Atlantic coast of Florida, the Big Island of Hawaii, or beautiful Lake Tahoe, Nevada. Click here for more details.

Oct 1 2013

Tech Tuesday: Photoshop Is Not Just For Designing Fabric!


What do you think of when you hear a quilter is using Photoshop? Manipulated photos printed on a home printer? Kaleidescopic images? Tiled pattern repeats? Yes, Photoshop is good for this, but it’s so much more. Photoshop is also a tool to help you finish that UFO (unfinished object) that’s been sitting in your closet for years.
I took a workshop from Rosalie Dace at Pacific International Quilt Festival in 2006. It was a fun class, and I had every intention of finishing the piece as soon as I got home. Yeah, right. Every couple of years, I’d pull it out of my UFO box, admire the design, pet it a couple of times, then put it back in the box.


If I was feeling really ambitious, I’d add on a few fabric strips, then put it back in the box.


Last year, Kris and I took the month of December off. I decided this was the time to finish this piece. I added more pieces, gave it batting and a backing, and added hand and machine stitching, but it wasn’t speaking to me. If I am really stuck, and Kris isn’t around to give me her two cents worth, I’ll take a photo of the piece and open it in Photoshop. Why? I can “cut” it apart without using a seam ripper and add more fabric without using the sewing machine. I really liked some sections of the piece but not everything. So with my handy rectangular selection tool, I made a selection of those parts and “cut them out.” I tried putting them back together in a different way – in Photoshop. It still didn’t speak to me, but as soon as I had several of the pieces separated from each other, things started looking interesting. At first I thought I could make fabric post cards, but some parts looked best smaller. The individual pieces looked good as a grouping, so I “auditioned” some background “fabric” in Photoshop. That means I scanned the fabric and opened the fabric file in Photoshop. I then started putting the small parts on top up of the fabric. The dull yellow fabric looked good, but so did the red. Only after playing around with the design on the computer a little bit more did I take out the rotary cutter. Yep, I sliced and rotated and sliced some more.


I could have pieced the parts together with the background, but I liked the way the pieces looked when they were placed on top of the background. Then I had another “Aha!” moment. I remembered the Craftsy class I had taken last fall: Carol Ann Waugh’s Stupendous Stitching. One neat thing I took away from that class was Carol’s method of using rattail cording to “bind” the edge of the quilt. I didn’t have any rattail in coordinating colors, but I know how to make cording. I tried knitted I-cord, twisted cording, and even some ribbons. Again, nothing worked until I remembered the machine-wrapped cording technique I learned from Linda Matthews in an e-book from 2008. I got out some of my decorative thread, some old “yucky” yarn, and experimented. Eureka! That would be my rattail cord. I ended up stitching the cording on by hand with perle cotton. It gave me just the textured edge I was looking for. I then stretched the piece over stretcher bars, added some treasures I picked up in Ghana, and I had my a finished quilt.


All this thanks to Photoshop and techniques I’ve learned here and there in various workshops. If you want to learn more about how to use Photoshop to help with creative breakthroughs, take one of our 2014 Photoshop classes in Kona, HI, New Smyrna Beach, FL, or Lake Tahoe, NV. Click here for more information.

Jun 14 2013

Batik Watercolor Class At Blue Line Arts


We’ll be teaching a mini-version of our batik watercolor quilt class at Blue Line Arts in Roseville, CA on Saturday, June 22, 2013. You can sign up here: http://www.rosevillearts.org/events/adultworkshopseries.html. What’s different about this class, you might ask? To begin with, no sewing required! Painters, sculptors, politicians, and athletes alike can try their hand at this. Second, the squares are 1.25″ – one quarter the standard size. That means you will be making a smaller piece, but you will finish in a day. You will be able to frame it like this:


That means you will have a piece of artwork to call your own in just one day! What’s not different about this class, you’ll also probably ask? You’ll still learn how to create movement with color and have lots of fun while we’re doing it!

May 29 2013

Quilt National Part II


Here it is, our Quilt National entry. It’s called “American Still Life: The Weight of the Nation”:


You can click on the thumbnail to see the larger image. We wanted to create a still life. It seems as if every artist tries at one time or another to create a still life, but we were faced with a dilemma: how to create a still life that our generation would understand. Well, we decided that people would understand a still life that dealt with our American eating habits and their consequences: diabetes, high cholesterol, and obesity. Our label reads: No the irony was not lost on the artists who a) were able to use the labels from the food they ate themselves and b) met each other about 50 lbs. ago . . . each!


Deidre Adams took this photo of us at the opening. We were pretty excited to see our work hanging in the exhibition. It does look different in a gallery setting. Click here to go to Deidre’s blog and view more images.


One of our favorite coincidences of the opening (and there were many) was the opportunity to hang out with new friends and speak German for an evening. We enjoyed some after-dinner cocktails and great conversation with  Brigitte Kopp and Rita Merten, two of the QN artists. Wow! They had thought-provoking work in the exhibition. We were joined by Rita’s husband, Ulli. What fun to talk about art and hear different perspectives from artists working in different countries. We’d like to brag that we closed the place down, but let’s face it, they kicked us out at 11 pm, so it’s not like we broke any records. We’ll post about our favorite pieces from QN ’13 in our next post.


May 14 2013

Tech Tuesday: Try The Radio!


We just finished taping our segment for next Monday’s edition of American Patchwork and Quilting Radio. We hope you’ll “tune” in then. Okay, so it’s not your grandparents’ radio. You can listen to the show live via your computer, listen to previous broadcasts, or download different shows via iTunes (for free!).

Pat Sloan American Patchwork and Quilting radio PixieLadies guest

So, what was it like to tape a radio show, you ask? Well, Pat Sloan, the host, is a professional. We had already exchanged a number of emails before the show and knew exactly what she was going to talk about. All the technical details were spelled out, and we were called promptly. A good model to follow. Did we spill any beans about all the skeletons in our closets? Well, no, but we did talk about the fabric stash we have there! And come back on Monday – we’ll have a surprise for you!

Mar 5 2013

Batik Watercolor in Miniature


Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) is holding its annual conference this year in Santa Fe. Whoopee is all I have to say! Never having been there and having to listen to all of Deb’s ravings about the place – not to mention a blog post about the Folk Art Market – I can’t wait. I’m also looking forward to the “Santa Fe Spotlight,” the little benefit auction that will be held there. It looks like I’ll be able to bid on almost 50 matted pieces that are app. 4″ x 6.” Deb made her auction pieces a while ago (she’s so quick, that one) and encouraged me to make a high-tech quilt, too. Well, you know how you sit there and sit there and you’re just not feeling the love? At the same time, I had been toying with the idea of seeing whether or not I could actually make a batik watercolor quilt like the one we had made for a commission to fit into a 4″ x 6″ mat opening, so I decided to try that. Well, it wasn’t easy! We usually work with 2 1/2″ squares, but this time I used 1/2″ squares. Boy, did my eyes get buggy. The hardest part was trying to make the colors move in such a short amount of space. I also used multi-colored thread to quilt it, and I liked the effect. You’ll have to click on the image to see the thread and the actual size.


“From the Jungle”

Deb kept seeing the desert, but for me it was like looking out from the jungle into the light. You can see whatever you like in it! Hope some of you make it to the SAQA conference in April.

Feb 15 2013

Ode To Sacratomato


The Northern California/Northern Nevada Region of Studio Art Quilts Associates (SAQA) is mounting its first regional exhibit this April. We had always wanted to organize an exhibit when we were the regional representatives, but it remained our big regret. So, when Franki Kohler organized one in Oakland, we jumped at the change to submit. Titled “Put Your Best Foot Forward,” members were invited to submit 12″ x 12″ quilt art. Now that it’s been a while since we made the piece, it’s kinda hard to remember how we dreamt it up in the first place! In any case, we started riffing about my love for tomatoes and Deb’s loathing of tomatoes, and the rest is history!

Ode to Sacratomato

Ode to Sacratomato

The exhibit runs April 1 – May 31, 2013 at Creative Framing and Gallery in Oakland, CA. As the time nears, we’ll remind you and tell you a little bit more about the quilt. Here’s Kris’ chance to publicly thank Deb for always letting Kris eat her tomatoes. 🙂

Jan 16 2013

High Tech Quilts


Welcome back.  Today you can see what fun I had with parts I gleaned from taking apart computer hard drives, cd burners and cell phones.  At our Studio Art Quilt Associates convention in Santa Fe, we’re going to have a silent auction of miniature art quilts just for people at the conference.  This will be part of Friday nights’ Santa Fe Spotlight, a festive couple of hours featuring music, merry-making and mingling (oh yes, and dessert, but that didn’t start with an “M”).   Knowing that Kris would be mad if I brought new and exciting things (she’d call it crap) into the studio she had just cleaned, I decided I had better make something lovely out of the parts to try to distract her.  It’s interesting working so small.  Every stitch has to be carefully thought out.   These little gems are 6” x 8” matted so that only the center 6 ½” x 4 ½” is visible.

Communications Failure

Communications Failure

“Communications Failure” is made with the PC board from a broken cell phone.  When I was searching through the scrap bag (remember, I’m the packrat!), I found a lovely print with figures on it.  The word veritable was printed in the selvedge.  This couple looked like they were having problems communicating, even without a non-working cell phone.

Gold Circle

Gold Circle

“Gold Circle” is a piece inspired by the curve in the PC board from a hard drive, and the tag I found in my box of clothing labels (See, I really am a packrat).  Does anyone remember Gold Circle, the store?

New Year's Eve In Silicon Valley

New Year’s Eve In Silicon Valley

“New Year’s Eve in Silicon Valley” came about as I was trying to find scrap colors to coordinate with the PC boards.  The background fabric was actually a stylized flower, but when I placed the board on the fabric, the board looked like a building and the curved lines reminded me of the light show in Hong Kong.  This building was way too short to be in Hong Kong, so I decided this is what would happen in San Jose on New Year’s Eve.