I am thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to revisit some of the projects from my book. It seems like every time I completed a book project, I immediately had to put it aside to move on to the next one. Just when I was super inspired to keep going!
This project, from the Fall chapter of my book (pictured above), are the perfect beginner project for anyone who wants to learn some crochet. Once you get the basic idea, all you need to make this completely portable is a ball of scrap yarn, and a hook. Stash them in your purse and you've got something to keep yourself busy anywhere.
Once you have a number of them completed, you can sew them together to make all kinds of things. I made a table runner for the book, but now I am remaking a new set of them in colors from the Summer chapter to make something new with. Maybe a scarf, pillow cover, placemat, garland. Not sure yet. The possibilities for using these are limitless. (I've just tied some to the top of a wrapped baby gift.)
I'm keeping a basket of them near my chair for evening TV viewing. I need something to look down at and away from the TV screen during the finale of The Following.
22 April 2014 | Permalink
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This past week was Spring Break for the kids, and the four of us headed to Vancouver, BC. We also went technology-free, turning off the kid's smart phones at the Canadian border (imagine the horror!) I also took the week off of technology, only answering an urgent email or two. Really, this was the best part of the trip, we all needed it. We talked, made eye contact, laughed, listened, and had a great time together.
It felt so... so... old school.
Vancouver is full of things to do, see, eat, and shop, and just under a 3 hour drive from Seattle. We ran out of time to get through our entire to-do list, so we are already thinking about going back.
We splurged on a hotel with a comfortable set of rooms, ample space for the four of us, and right on the water, in Stanley Park. This is a very walkable/bikeable area, with much to see very close to us. Our first day there was sunny and beautiful, so we immediately stashed our bags in the room and got outside immediately to explore a bit of Stanley Park on foot.
We stopped at all the public artworks built during the 2010 Olympic Games. Here, Emma and Ian are sitting at the base of the Olympic Cauldron.
Douglas Coupland's Digital Orca-
Here's Vancouver Rowing Club (we love Tudors, and rowing clubs)-
The next day we went to Chinatown, where Peter went to the Chinese herbal ladies to get a special balm for his sailing-rope blistered hands (totally worked!)-
The Punjabi Market (Emma now has her own pair of embroidered Indian slippers, so all is right with the universe)-
I am now back, catching up on emails, and finishing up some exciting projects in the studio. More tomorrow.
21 April 2014 | Permalink
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Another little "just because" project I indulged myself in last week. This is from Sarah Fielke's online Craftsy class "Big Techniques From Small Scraps". I highly recommend this class, I've learned so much from Sarah! This is the dolly quilt project, an exercise in freeform piecing and it pushed me out of the creative boundaries I've had myself in recently, so much fun! The small size of this project is perfect for trying out new techniques, I finished this one in a couple of evenings.
08 April 2014 | Permalink
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Over the weekend I did that thing I seem to do every Spring... I made some new pillow covers. This is not earth-shatteringly big news (sorry) but you see, the fun thing about keeping a blog as long as I have is that these interesting creative patterns emerge. One of those patterns is Spring, myself, and pillows. Apparently we meet up almost yearly. (As evidenced here, here, here, and here.) I doubt I would have paid attention to that otherwise.
So why break trend? This time around I played around with a cut of Anna Maria Horner's "Twill Bonnet" print from her Dowry line. But let's change it up! What if I patchworked the same print on the pillow front? I cut nine 6 1/2" squares from the print (no fussy cutting) and intentionally placed them not to match up, just turning the fabric this way and that to find a configuration I liked.
I sewed the squares together with a 1/4" seam allowance, and then decided to layer quilt batting and muslin on the back and quilt the front with some straight lines using my walking foot.
This feels modern and I think I want to try this again (did I mention its fast?). I just did an envelope back this time, although I often use Katie's invisible zipper method to close my pillows.
Thank you all for your kind words on my New Day Northwest appearance!
I am inspired by so many things, I decided that every Friday, I will highlight a favorite person, thing, or idea. Maybe you will be inspired too! See all past Friday Favorites here.
I was looking online at Anthropolgie recently and came across the beautiful work of Carola van Dyke. She has a selection of pillows for sale through them, and when I looked further into what she does, I fell deep into the rabbit hole of uniquely beautiful textile taxidermy, ceramics, and cushions.
I asked Carola if I could ask her some questions and, although she's in the midst of a very important deadline, she said yes! Lucky us! Enjoy the interview and all the beautiful imagery handpicked by Carola for us to enjoy.
Carola Van Dyke
Blair: Thank you Carola, for taking the time to let us into your creative world! I stumbled upon your beautiful cushions on the Anthropologie website recently and found myself spending time on your website, looking at all the things you do! For starters, could you tell us where you are located, how you describe your work, and how long you've been doing it?
Carola: I went to a College of Fine Arts in the Netherlands and have a BA in fashion illustration and Textiles. I moved to England having received a stipend as a promising young artist and worked as a fashion illustrator, artist and scenic painter over a few years. I then set up my own textile business, Tiny Tulips, starting with children’s wear, and that evolved into a collection of soft furnishings under my own name in 2010. I did my first big trade show with them in London in 2011 and was lucky enough to be discovered by a retail expert (Mary Portas) who then bought 200 cushions to start with! As a lone designer and maker, I realised I had to get some help in, and trained some local machinists.
I live and work in the countryside in Firle, England, at the foot of the South Downs.
I design cushions and textile taxidermy heads using a combination of new and old fabrics.
I have a passionate love & need for colour, tactility and texture and they all play a significant role in my work.
Although sometimes described as a patchwork artist, I have to admit I am not so keen on this term! I see my work more as textile collage. Although admiring traditional patchwork, my aim has always been to take it out of its predictable confines and put it in a new setting.
My style and trademark originated from having access to only small scraps of vintage curtains collected over the years and continental fabrics left over from Tiny Tulips collections. As I also painted, I wanted to combine my paintings and textiles to create pictures, but not by painting on textiles. This wouldn’t satisfy my need for textures, mismatches and the contrasts of colours, textures and layers. It needed to be quirky, intricate, and with a sense of humour. So the process of drawing with a pair of scissors started and hand-cut pieces are mixed like a painter uses a palette till an illustration appears.
A selection of Carola's handmade animal cushions.
Blair: Your cushions are what originally caught my eye, the ones that are carried by Anthropologie. Can you give us a little peek into how that collaboration happened? Are there plans for more (I hope!)?
Carola: I was originally approached by Anthropologie UK. The head buyer spotted my cushions in a tiny little rug shop in Brighton, a town near me. The owner has supported me from the moment I started, so it was great that it happened there. In their enthusiasm they told Anthropologie US about me. The US department contacted me straight away, and we agreed on a small collection to start with. This was sold out in 2 weeks, so they ordered more and we managed to make them in a very short time, while all the orders went on in the UK as well!
I very much hope there will be a continuation, quite often these plans will be brought to each others attention just before the Fall buying starts. We have spoken about bespoke designs for the textile taxidermy heads, but it usually takes a bit of time before things are finalised.
The Anthropologie link has been wonderful for us as an introduction to the US market. We very much like to continue and hope more American department stores will spot us.
Love these bird pillows!
Blair: The mix of fabrics in each of your cushions seem to be gathered and unlikely paired (which I mean in a very complimentary way). I love the sort of magpie feeling. How do you start these pieces? Do you let instinct be your guide when picking fabrics? Or are they planned and sewn to work with certain color ranges?
Carola: I pick up bits and pieces of fabric wherever I go. The vintage curtains, blankets, buttons are bought at flea markets, carboot sales, secondhand shops, antique stalls, hand-me-downs (the people in our village know I am always on the scrounge for old fabrics- curtains, and there is quite often a bin bag with note left at the back door), but also online.
I buy end of line rolls from British factories, which will otherwise be destroyed. I need some sort of continuity for the cushions and a bit for the heads, as people often want exactly what they have seen in that magazine, at that show etc. When I go buying, I literally buy anything that I feel I can use at some point, but with no particular idea in mind. Sometimes they stay unused for a few months until the right design comes up and they are just perfect for the job.
I use the vintage fabrics mainly for smaller parts in my work and as contrast with the tweeds and linens. I buy those in the same way as the new fabrics, if it feels right, just buy it, an utter intuitive decision-making process!
For the heads I also use kilim rugs, which can be found at auctions, and house clearances etc.
They all go through a cleaning process, the curtains in the wash, and the rugs are vigorously scrubbed and furiously steamed, to be then sorted to colour and placed in a huge cabinet with the others in my studio.
I love using fabrics that contrast each other, the warm tweeds together with colder silks, the soft velvet with the harsh linen, fragile fabrics with pitted rough ones. You can actually put a whole world of colours and textures together, you just need the confidence (and some experience, knowledge and bit of talent) to do it right.
I have 100s of fabrics in my studio, and when I design, everything gets pulled of its shelves and put into place till I have found the right one.
I sketch the animal portraits first till I have a good composition, but the rest is more of an intuitive decision- as if I think through my hands. The shapes change in a spontaneous action (hand-eye co-ordination with a pair of scissors), just do and create!
The top stitching is all done on very old industrial machines, not modern freehand ones, to create a rough looking sketch, not a perfect embroidery. I love the rough sketching style of the machines, some lines are stitched too far, the length of the stitch is different all the time or you have to go over it a few times, like a drawing.
I know usually what colour and texture I have in mind for a certain design. I will then be on the look out for fabrics, blankets, throws, rugs that are close to what I have in mind and buy them all. I will create the final design with the ones that work best, and pull out all the other materials that I have bought a previous time. But sometimes it doesn’t quite work out as well as I thought and I will need to abandon the new fabrics, as something that has been in my studio for ages is the perfect answer. This does mean that the entire design has to be changed, because of that small change you made with not having the right bit of vintage fabric!
For practicality, I can’t use something that I only have a small piece of (in the cushions). I need to be able to repeat the process, and even if it is the most amazing piece of fabric, colour , texture, everything, I cannot use that piece. Those pieces will go in a special box and will go to my one off art works.
I frequently run out of my vintage fabrics, but the pieces will then be replaced with something similar, that fits in well. You never really find the same fabrics, but that is fine. It keeps the cushions exciting, fresh, limited edition etc
Blair: Do you have a dedicated sewing space? Tell us about it.
Carola: I work in a lovely studio which we share with 4 other artists, it is a converted cow barn, so a nice old feeling to it, with plenty of space and outbuildings for storage etc.
For years my part of the studio was rather small, but (kind of luckily!) my neighbour moved out so I could double my space, which has been fantastic.
One of Carola's textile taxidermy pieces.
Blair: Another thing that attracted me to your work is the wide variety of beautiful things you do. Your create textile taxidermy pieces, cushions, ceramic pieces, and you're also a painter. Because I, myself, feel creative in many different mediums, I'm always curious to know how others handle wearing so many different creative hats. For example, I know for me, some days I want to paint, but there's fabric everywhere and it's just not practical! How do you divide your time among your creative pursuits? What would you like to have time to do more of?
Carola: I have to be honest and admit that there is not much time for my paintings anymore and had to stop all commissions. The cushions and textile heads have officially taken over!
But as the cushions are a kind of painting (with textiles) anyway, it is ok. Also, I have plans to get the painting back into my textiles, not sure exactly how, but a combination of painting and my textile fabric combination with stitching, should make beautiful wall hangings and wall paper I would have thought.
The ceramics is a collaboration with a company called Magpie, I provide the work, they sort out the ceramics. In the UK it has been a fantastic success, so exciting to see! They will launch a sister company in the US soon, which will be very interesting to see what response the ceramics, and therefore hopefully the cushions will get.
Blair: Where do you find inspiration? How do you break out of a creative slump?
Carola: As a textile lover I do have many books relating to the subject, from history of textiles, textiles around the world, lifestyle & interior books, and take inspiration from them, as well as museums, galleries, flea markets, artists, my Dutch inheritage (colour, design and quirkiness) and my environment in the countryside.
My favourites are old Turkish rug patterns, Suzani’s, Kimono’s, Sibella Court’s books, Vermeer’s colour schemes, Eastern European interiors, paper collage, Jean Paul Gaultier (“The only way to stay ahead of the game is by staying true to oneself”), natural curiosities, folk art, etc
At the moment there is no time for creative slumps, there are so many ideas, but not enough time to visualise them all.
Blair: Tell us what is next for you, what will 2014 bring?
Carola: As I have only done UK shows, I thought I might be ready for the Paris show, Maison et Objet. I would also like to do a few more design shows instead of retail shows and hopefully find commissions for the cushions, wallpanels, and heads for bespoke designs for fashion houses, upmarket department stores etc.
A new range of ceramics will be released this year (“pooches”, lovely range of ceramics with dog textile images) Other plans are wall hangings, rugs, wallpaper and maybe conquer the rest of the world??
Blair: And lastly, how do you relax?
Carla: Haha, well, am not so good with that, there isn’t always the time. But, I have a lovely family,: husband and 2 children. We enjoy going for a cycle ride in the weekend and pop into a pub for lunch or just pudding. I have lovely girlfriends as well, and a glass of wine between us is always fun and such a laugh.
I start the mornings with a brisk walk up to the beacon with a girl friend, and my husband has the coffee ready on my way home! Working in the studio is great with the others, there is always time for a chat and a laugh.
I love cooking a family meal, and always enjoy our time together eating it. And always read before bedtime, preferably a dreadful thriller!
Enjoy your Friday everyone!
That wasn't at all as as scary as I thought it would be. (Well, first I didn't think it would be scary, then I did, and then I didn't, and then I did, and then it was time to film.) The producers, Margaret Larson, and everyone on the set of New Day Northwest made it an easy morning when I was there taping my segment yesterday. View the entire segment here.
University Place Library in Tacoma- Thursday evening, April 3, from 7-8:00pm.
Elliot Bay Book Company- Saturday, April 5 from 2-3:00pm
Third Place Books (Lake Forest Park)- Thursday, April 10, from 6-7:00.
I am going to be on tv today, and it's not even an April Fool prank. 11:00 am PST, Seattle's own King 5 New Day Northwest. You see, until I am able to talk myself onto the cast of The Walking Dead (the stressed out living really need to know how to relax into some handmaking when all is quiet), I will be more than happy to show you and Margaret Larson a preview of some of the projects from my book, and give a demo on how to make the recycled flowers used throughout the book. I hope you'll tune in and tell me how I do, because I won't be able to watch it. (Link to the segment forthcoming).
Update: Here's the entire segment, enjoy!
I sewed the fabric I dyed a couple of weeks ago into placemats, just like Kim, the author of Modern Color, suggested (read my inspiring interview with her here if you haven't already). I quilted them with straight lines stitched with sashiko thread, then cut them into rectangles roughly 21" x 17". I needed to back it with another fabric, but what? Impulsively, I grabbed a length of canvas dropcloth I'd bought at the hardware store and cut four panels.
But, really, I wasn't going to leave that canvas fabric blank, was I? How boring! I decided to try out some printing blocks from India I've had for a while now. Purchased on ebay with no idea how I was going to use them (as I often do), and Sunday, I saw the opportunity. Luckily, I happened to have some block printing ink (don't we all?).
The pattern was stamped out very organically, I didn't do much planning. The whole process is quick with not much mess at all (keep paper towels nearby), and I'm really in love with the intricacy's of block patterns. They washed up quickly with soap and water when I was done.
I am now walking around the house, at this very moment, with these stamps loaded with paint, looking for something else to stamp. Watch out family.
* The Knitted Swatch Blanket project from my book has been reprinted with permission in the newest issue, Issue Five, of KnitEdge Magazine, available here.
* Without delay, the winners of a copy of my book are-
It looks beautiful and so well thought out- thank you for sharing your process. Can't wait to see it in person-Happy Birthday book!
Congratuluations! The book looks great. I can't wait to see it.