Vegetable Fabric Prints

My studio is located on the first floor of BallardWorks. The space I use was a printmaking studio for many years; now the printmakers work on the mezzanine behind me. They often pass through my studio on the way to theirs, stopping to visit along the way. Several weeks ago, Helen mentioned a project she’d done with her six-year old son. Taking inspiration from Bruno Munari’s book Roses in the Salad, they printed with vegetables. When I saw the book, I knew I had to try it with my own students.

I pulled out some heat-set fabric inks and cut pieces of muslin. Using a vinyl mat as a work surface for the inks, I demonstrated how to spread the ink with a brayer to get an even layer, and how to dab the vegetables in the ink before making a print on the fabric.




Beware: mess ahead. It wasn’t long before someone stuck their finger in the jar of ink to get different colors on specific parts of the pepper. Before I could say ‘whoa’, students were using their fingers and hands to paint on the fabric.


Art is supposed to be messy and fun, but fabric ink is expensive and not meant for hands. Next time I will spend more time explaining the difference between finger paint and fabric ink. The kids were having so much fun exploring, it was hard to pull back on the reins.


This student had a plan from the beginning. Working with a pocket knife (and his mother’s approval) he started by carving a handle, then squaring the sides of his potato. Next he cut lines in the potato and made some test prints to get his design just right.




His younger brother inked some evergreen fronds, bell peppers and onions, with his mother’s help. It was delightful to see the result of their careful and thoughtful work.


Sweet Potato Stamp

There has been lots of kid art recently, though I haven’t captured much of it on film.


Sophie made a great series of paper purses, folded and taped together. One of them has “purse for sale” written in marker on the side.


Owen came home with a vegetable sculpture he made at school using a sweet potato and some toothpicks. Other sculptures included radish and celery. Owen told me he just wanted to eat the celery, so it didn’t make it on to his “rocket ship”.

As soon as we made it inside, he headed straight for our drawer of miscellanea, looking for the pumpkin carving tools (tiny little orange and black handled saws and awls).

“What are you going to do with the tools?” I asked him.
“Cut a bigger door on my rocket”, he answered.
“I’m worried you will cut yourself with the saw”, I cautioned.
He replied with a combination of nonchalance and confidence “That is a risk I’m willing to take”. What a guy. He showed me the cut on his finger that happened at school. “It hurt a little, but it was more surprising than painful.”


After he fiddled with the inadequate saws, I suggested turning his sculpture into a block print. We pulled out some ink and a brayer, discovering quickly that it is hard to make the end of a sweet potato flat enough for an even print. Even so, it was one more little piece in his art education.

Two Three Birds in One Day

A work-in-progress finished:


The 100 Crochet Flower Scarf, made with only 22 flowers. Ran out of yarn, but really just the right length for me. Any longer and it would dangling in the squash soup.

This project was so fast it didn’t even have time to make it on to the project pages. I thought of it this morning and it was finished by noon. For the record, that never happens to me. I spend a good deal of time stewing, mulling, gathering, and procrastinating. This time I knew exactly what I wanted to make and actually had all of the materials at hand so I could just start.


My mother bought a new digital camera last week, which didn’t come with a case. I thought it would be nice to whip something up for her, as a thank you gift for being so great. I used scraps from my fulled dog pillow project and a zipper that was in my sewing.

I started by needle felting the design, then sewed on the zippers just in time for my mother to walk in the door, twenty minutes earlier than she had predicted. I so wanted to finish it before she arrived, but since I was using her hand-me-down machine, I was having trouble getting the sewing machine to work through two layers of felt, her timing was perfect. Rather than sewing a straight stitch down the sides, she used an overcast stitch that bound the two pieces together along the edge, as if she was finishing the edges of a frayed fabric.

Lance thinks this is a lovely little bag, but a poor camera case; he is worried that loose fibers will make their way into the mechanics of the camera. The next version will be lined.

I almost forgot a new block print:


In honor of my father’s birthday next week, I made this block print for him. It was part of a gift that included a denim shirt embroidered with a guitar on the chest. He’s a swell dad whose been working hard to learn the guitar in his retirement; he is working so hard I thought he deserved two guitars.

Kismet Abounds

bluegrass_ufo.jpgSophie and I joined my parents this weekend for their annual pilgrimage to Tacoma for Wintergrass, the best bluegrass festival this side of the Smokey Mountains. Spanning four days and five venues centered around downtown Tacoma, there was a lot of bluegrass happening. Even the Mexican restaurant where we had dinner on Saturday night was playing bluegrass on their restaurant sound system. Off-duty fire fighters for the City of Tacoma operate a shuttle between the various venues and local hotels, sprinkling musicians and fans throughout the city. As Rayna Gellert commented on stage, “…it is as if the bluegrass UFO has landed in Tacoma”. 

Since musicians sometimes like to stay up late carousing with their mandolins, the first concerts on Saturday morning don’t generally start until mid-afternoon. There are various workshops earlier in the day for musicians, songwriters, and wannabe agents, but since we didn’t fit into any of those categories, my mother and I decided to spend the morning at the Museum of Glass.

If you have ever driven through Tacoma, you’ve probably seen these two glass sculptures rising over the highway:


These towers are mounted on a wide pedestrian overpass that connects the museum with the main street through Tacoma; it crosses both the freeway and train tracks. In addition to the rock candy towers, there is the wall of glass, featuring fanciful glass sculptures measuring between two and three feet tall.


The wall of glass contains no less than 100 pieces. While impressive on a grey day, it must be dazzling on a bright, sunny day.


We walked back and forth trying to capture all there was to see, but the wall was just too high and we were just too cold.

Inside, the museum is no less impressive. Several galleries feature rotating exhibits, but the showstopper is the Hot Shop, where a live interpreter narrates the creation of a piece by a team of four gaffers. When we arrived, there were two teams, a professional in-house team and a student team, each working on an elaborate vase. If you can imagine glass blowing as a team sport with live commentary, a large projection screen and stadium seating, that is what we saw. We watched the professional team work for close to an hour before moving on to see what else the museum had to offer.

Just around the corner from the Hot Shop is a studio where rotating artists-in-residence create projects for students. We arrived just as they were opening the doors for a lino-cut workshop. My favorite.


Sophie took to it like she’d been cutting her whole life. In fact, she really didn’t want to leave. She demanded, pleaded and begged to make another block. Since we have all the materials at home, I negotiated an exit, promising to do more another day.


The artist had lots of photocopied illustrations of bugs and birds, intending to make a paper quilt of the various prints made by museum visitors. I love the look of block prints, but not my own. My preliminary drawings are weak, and no amount of etching or cutting can improve a cock-eyed loon.

So where does the kismet come in, you ask? I was browsing through my favorite blogs late last night and came across a post on linking to a tutorial: “Linocuts for Older Children“. The blog is called Creative Kismet; believe it or not, my husband and I briefly considered naming our firstborn Kismet, after a bar we enjoyed when we were dating, and because there was so much kismet involved in our meeting years ago when I was volunteering in Haiti. Chancing upon this tutorial late at night, after Sophie had just discovered the art seemed too random to be random.