Time-wasting Mistakes You Can Avoid in 2011

One thing I've learned, and that I love, about contemporary art quilting is that you can't really make a mistake. Everything that happens is grist for the creative mill and happy accidents often serve as "aha!" moments.

On the other hand, there are times when a technique doesn't go according to plan and it's just plain frustrating. A stamp you spent an hour carving now won't print cleanly. Or the discharge dye process that was supposed make a beautiful pattern makes a holey mess of the fabric instead.

My studio time is precious and I rarely get enough of it, so these kinds of "happy accidents" don't seem so funny. 

Fortunately, I've discovered that most problems are caused by impatience or failure to pay close attention in the first place. While I'm all for creative play and experimentation, some processes and techniques get better results when you pay attention to detail, especially when it comes to surface design. You know the old saying: you have to know the rules before you can break them.

One artist who knows the rules and breaks them–beautifully–is Jane Dunnewold. Because she's made a lot of "mistakes," in her learning process, you don't have to.

In her book Art Cloth, Jane includes a trouble-shooting section at the end of each chapter. I've found that reading through that section first, before trying a technique, saves me hours of puzzling over what went wrong and trying to fix it through trial and error. Here are some of her tips that might save you some time in the studio:

Problem: Fabric develops holes or other damage while discharge dyeing.
Possible cause: Fabric immersed or treated for too long.
Time-saving solution: Monitor the timing closely.

Problem: Dye prints come out too pale.
Possible cause: Soda ash missing or the 24-hour batching time wasn't observed.
Time-saving solution: Avoid taking shortcuts in the dyeing process. They usually don't pay in the long run.

Problem: Metal leafing washes or rubs off after the initial application.
Possible cause: The gel medium was too thin.
Time-saving solution: Never thin gel medium for metal leafing.

Problem: Hand-carved stamps no longer print cleanly.
Possible cause: Paint or other wet media have been left on the stamp to dry.
Time-saving solution: Always wash your stamps with hot water and a stiff toothbrush after using.

Jane believes in being a creative free spirit and the process of "making" in her world reigns supreme. But, as she says in the intro to Art Cloth: "I wrote this book because of what I know from all those workshops [I've taught]. No one needs to reinvent the wheel; I can help."

Jane is one of my favorite surface design artists and teachers, and believe me, she can help. And now it's even easier, because Art Cloth is available as an eBook that PC and Mac users can easily download!

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