Wildfower Plaster Castings

Conundrum number 278: What to do about old lighting? (Yes, we're in need of a remodel, so there really are 277 other conundrums.) With about 30 lights needing to be replaced and/or updated, I'm trying to pinch pennies wherever I can.

These fixtures still work fine, but this look needs freshening up. My brain has been churning trying to come up with a solution. I saw this fossil on a trip to Sedona earlier this year.

I've been following some amazing artists on Instagram, especially Rachel Dien. Her beautiful flower castings are simply enchanting. I've pinned a lot of inspiring photos onto my Plaster Foliage Pinterest board. I researched plaster castings, and decided to give it a go, hoping to incorporate that into the "freshening up" of those light fixtures.

I could find no truly comprehensive tutorials, but the gist of all the information I came across on the web was pretty similar.

1) Roll out your clay about 3/4" thick.
2) Lay your wildflowers onto the clay.
3) Roll the flowers gently into the clay with a rolling pin, then carefully peel them out.
4) Set a picture frame on top of the clay.
5) Pour plaster of Paris into the form, approximately 1/2", and let set for about 30 minutes.
6) Remove frame; peel off the clay.

Voila, now you have a gorgeous plaster casting of flowers.

With the extra rain we've had this year, our wildflowers are prolific. I wanted to make molds of the wildflowers that I collected from our property for my sconces. Each week there are new varieties popping up everywhere. Eventually, I'd like to make a collection of all the different flowers that bloom on our property.

I made a template for size and arranged my flowers on my template. I rolled out my clay and transferred my flowers onto my clay slab.

I needed very specific dimensions for my light fixtures and couldn't find any picture frames the exact size I needed. Also, sometimes the plaster will adhere to the frame, be it wood or plastic. I looked high and low for something that would work at the thrift stores and our local re-store with no luck. Then the idea hit, why not make clay walls??? Then I could make the mold whatever size AND shape I wanted. It worked like a charm.

Think of the possibilities! All different shapes and sizes.

Notice the plaster comes out the mirror image of the mold. The picture frames will give you a cleaner edge, but I actually prefer this rough hewn edge.

I made these hangers from binding wire. Just put them in the back of the plaster while it's setting up. I wait about 5 minutes after I pour, and that seems to be about right. If they drop down or you push them all the way down to the clay you'll be able to see the wire on the front side of the plaster (not so pretty). The plaster needs to be set just enough so the wires don't sink down all the way.

When I mounted my first trial plaster onto the light, I couldn't see a lot of the detail because the light fixture was so high up on the wall and far away. I needed to accent the flowers. How to paint the plaster? I had no idea what type of techniques to use. I had taken a class years ago with Stephanie Lee and knew she would have just the information I needed.I watched the ecourse Simple Sculpting by Stephanie Lee through Jeanne Oliver's website, and learned everything I needed, plus was inspired by all the immensely cool projects she taught. I highly recommend her ecourse.

After playing around with a variety of  paints and techniques, I found the one that worked for me.

I used house paint to coat the porous plaster so the highlighting paint could be wiped off and wouldn't just soak straight into the plaster.

The edges weren't perfect, but were fairly snugged up. Again, I like the cragginess. I did go in and cover any paint drips on the edges so it didn't look sloppy.

Welcome to my new obsession! I'll be picking wildflowers all summer and making castings of them. Perhaps I'll mount a collection on wood....or mount each individual cast onto wood....or coat them in encaustic wax....or make a paper clay base for them....the sky is the limit on just what can be played with. For now, I'm very happy to have solved conundrum number 278.

Indigo with Valerie Wells and Kelly Sheets

I've been wanting to make an indigo vat for ages, but just haven't gotten around to it. When my friend asked me if I wanted to join her for a weekend of indigo dying with Valerie Wells and Kelly Sheets at the Stitchin' Post in Sisters, I was all in.

Val and Kelly had many samples of indigo shibori (Japanese manual resist dying technique, which produces patterns on fabric) and explained how they achieved the results for each of them, including folding, tying, clamping, stitching, using rubber bands, rocks, glass globs, slinkies, rope, chopsticks, cords, cardboard, plastic shapes......the sky is the limit!! I had a handful of flour sack towels plus other fabrics to try my hand and experiment with all these great ideas.

This piece was using the "ghost" technique. You grab the piece by the center, and use a string to tie it up into a bundle. I'll use these pieces made from drop cloth to make some more square corner bags like this one:

Here's a bundle with chopsticks rolled up and tied.

Perhaps it created something like the piece hanging on the far right:

This next piece reminds me of fish scales. It was rolled onto a rope, then you tie the rope, causing the sides to squish into each other, kind of like a scrunchy hair band.

These are glass globs tied with rubber bands.

They create the "circles". The lines are achieved by stitching a simple running stitch.

I think it may be my favorite piece. I watched some youtube videos about shibori stitching. I like how you can use the stitches to "draw" something specific on the fabric. There is a lot of control over details.

This is a quilt top Valerie brought in to show us as another idea of what we might do with all of our samples.

We talked about different types of indigo, with tips on how to successfully set up our own vats if we choose.

I was able to dye a couple yards of organic cotton jersey fabric and some pieces of clothing as well. I had stitched this top a few years ago. I loved the Burgundy and gold combination.....on someone else. I did not like the color combination on me, and so I hardly ever wore it. It was a little scary dipping it into the vat, not knowing if I would like the results. But hey, I hardly wore it, so it was worth the risk. Here is the original top.

Here is the first dip. Not too bad, but a little muddy for me.

And the last dip....

Soooooo much better! Don't you agree? It was darker before I washed it. I don't think I had the water hot enough to set it properly. If I do my own vat one day, who knows, I may dip it again, but for now, I love the results and I know I'll get a ton of wear out of this top now.

It was a gorgeous, sunny day. Seeing all these beautiful indigo pieces, gently swaying in the breeze created a most impressive vision. Creating together is very inspiring. Community artwork, for sure.

Crazy Quilt - A Collaborative Birthday Gift

My "Sister-from-another-mother" turns 60. I needed something very special for her. It had to be hand made (of course!): It had to come from the heart. A quilt would be lovely. Sure, I could do it all myself, but wouldn't it be so much better, even more meaningful if a group of her friends were part of it? Each one bringing their own story, sentiment, and hand to the whole?

I contacted friends, and those friends helpfully reached out to other friends, and soon we had a quilt posse, armed with funny anecdotal ideas, needles, threads and scissors.

A color palette was chosen from my stash of Alabama Chanin organic cotton jersey, general parameters set, a deadline put in place.

I made a "quilt map". I used the free-flowing pattern from my Woodland Critter quilt and added a row of rectangles along one side. I cut out all the base pieces, two layers each. As none of her friends lived in my town, I mailed swatch kits to the others involved.  Each person would create their own swatch design using the chosen color palette. We all felt a child-like giddiness as it was to be a surprise!

Each swatch I received back in the mail was like Christmas morning, opening that special package.
Here is a school of pup fish from one friend, reminiscent of a group camping trip taken years ago.

Another dear friend of hers sent this joyful canine for the dog lover.

Leaping foxes for the animal lover from yet another friend.

Another member of the posse sent Lama Love, for the birthday girl had raised and kept lamas for decades.

See the llama in the yellow portion? That's a Peruvian knitted finger puppet sewn on.

I had saved the remnants of the rooster and the rose from the first quilt I had made. I was so happy to find the perfect use for them!

Here's a shot of that first quilt made from an Alabama Chanin DIY kit.

And here from another friend, Musical notes dancing about as she plays the violin and guitar and thrives on music.

Flowers and plants for the avid outdoors-woman and gardener extraordinaire.

And this pretty square to represent her adopted, rescued greyhounds.

The family tree, rooted into the map of her home city where she grew up and still lives, surrounded by family and friends.

And some sweet  little details here and there.

I gleaned some great ideas for the lichen covered tree from this youtube video.

Here's the process for this funky, yellow patch.

I used a disappearing pen to make a grid; stitched in the middle of each; then cut along the lines.

When washed the edges will curl and look like this.

I created this stencil for a Camp Stitches class I taught.

I appliqued the snipped petals from it for this bit of embroidery.

The quilt was constructed with Coats and Clarks buttoncraft thread; then the edges were blanket stitched with embroidery floss to finish off this soft throw.

I enjoy seeing the back side stitches on my other quilts, knots and all, and I knew my friend would be the same, so I did not cover them up.

Each and every stitch of this quilt is imbued with love and friendship and best wishes. What started out as a little kernel of an idea, blossomed into a gathering of friends, celebrating our mutual comrade with a showering of affection.

Happy Birthday, my dear, sweet friend ~~~ Cheers!