My Surface Design Idol

pokey boltonSomeone recently asked me who inspires me, and it didn't take me long to answer: Kerr Grabowski.

kerr grabowski surface design
Kerr Grabowski in
'Adventures in Surface Design.'

Why? Because she is so inventive with her surface design techniques and so open to the possibilities.

I've seen her in action as a guest on "Quilting Arts TV" and she has taught a Quilting Arts WorkshopTM video, "Adventures in Surface Design: Screen Printing & Beyond." She also has a DVD called "Deconstructed Screen Printing for Fabric and Paper."

I also get a kick out of some of the offhand things she says. Like on her video demonstrating deconstructive screen printing, she explains she keeps a container for the dirty alginate. Pause. "Dirty alginate. Sounds like the name of a rock band."

That just cracks me up.

deconstructed screen printing
Deconstructed screen
print of a glove.

But back to her inventiveness. In "Deconstructed Screen Printing," Kerr uses, of all things, one of her protective gloves and a piece of Kraft paper to demonstrate her process. Those materials seem pretty mundane. But not in Kerr's hands.

She lays the glove on top of the paper, and the screen on top of that. When she pulls the thickened dye across the screen, the moisture wrinkles the Kraft paper, which leaves an impression on the screen. After the screen dries, she removes the glove, and some amazing textures are revealed as she pulls clear release paste over the dry dye.

In "Adventures in Surface Design," Kerr uses "dusty media" like charcoal, chalk pastels, pastel pencils, and even sidewalk chalk.  

These tools, meant for paper, allow you to make expressive marks on fabric that are different from a stencil print, screen print, or stitching. By applying fabric paint binder (plain or tinted) before or after you make the marks, you can make them permanent on fabric.

surface design techniques
The results of some of Kerr's 'adventures.'

Here are just some of Kerr's tips and ideas for using dusty media to make marks on fabric.

  • Using the side of the chalk or charcoal, you can make broad marks. Then, use the end of the stick to make lines. Kerr usually works large and likes to make sweeping strokes.
  • You can smudge dusty media, blending the edges of the marks for a subtle, blurred effect.
  • Dusty media make soft, subtle relief rubbings. Be sure to use a light hand when applying the charcoal or pastel to the fabric.
  • Layer a stencil over a rubbing plate or other relief texture. This will yield smooth outlined areas with a textured interior.

I never tire of watching Kerr demonstrate her techniques. I always come away with some new trick, tip, or bit of inspiration that helps me take more chances in my own artwork and push it further.

Anyone who delights in surface design would do well to get a hold of one of Kerr's videos. Hundreds of the DVDs, books, and other supplies in our Quilting Daily Shop are 15% off this week, so you can find something that will inspire you.

Watch, learn, and see where the inspiration takes you!


Other topics you may enjoy:


Monoprinting & Screenprinting, Quilting Daily Blog