Breathing & Movement Warm-Ups Video

Last spring, I posted instructions on my other blog for one of the movements I got a ballroom full of people to do before my keynote address at the Missouri Art Education Association conference.

This week, I wanted to offer an expanded resource to those who attend my Creativity PhD lecture in Moorhead, Minnesota. So I’ve posted a short video on breathing and movement warm-ups on my You Tube Channel.

I almost didn’t post it because it’s so rough. But I’m trying to practice what I preach: Strive for fluency, but don’t wait for perfection.

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Next Stop — The Textile Center

Marge Dancing by Donna Kallner

Still floating on the fun of my week taking a spinning class at Sievers, I’m feeling pretty light on my feet as I prepare for upcoming classes at The Textile Center. This Minneapolis venue is one of my favorite places to teach. It’s always exciting to see the work students do there.

This time I’m teaching Breaking Boundaries, a two-day class built around guided exercises and creativity catalysts. We’ll be playing with the picture plane and frames that are part of the story, ways to add actual and perceived dimension to image elements, and ideas for using layers, sheers and shadows. I’m adding a new element to the class with layered image transfers. It’s part of a unit I was planning to propose for Bead & Button 2011. Since Bead & Button’s dates overlap the Surface Design Association biennial conference next year, and SDA is in Minneapolis, and my elaborate plan to be in two places at one time involved tearing a hole in the space-time continuum… well, I didn’t propose to B&B. Layered transfers fit perfectly with the goals and objectives of this Breaking Boundaries class, so these students will get a little bonus.

I’m also teaching Photo Cabochons, a fun one-day class where students learn to create focal elements for jewelry from family photos, clip art, digital photographs and other image elements. This one, made on a slice of hardwood dowel, is from a photo of my dad as a boy.

This one, made on a resin bead, is from the photo my mom had made for my dad to carry when he left for the Army.

The Photo Cabochons class is Friday, September 17. Breaking Boundaries is September 18-19. Yep — that’s just over a week from now, so if you’re planning to register please phone the Textile Center asap.

Speaking of registrations, I realize I’m planning to go the The Gathering at Sievers, but I haven’t actually registered for it. Oops — gotta go make a phone call.

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Moonshine & Mother’s Day — Part 2

Last week I showed you an intoxicating creativity exercise I’m calling Bootleg Collage. And while playing with scissors and glue and the contents of your recycle bin is plenty rewarding all by itself, I promised you more. So just in time to make a special Mother’s Day gift, here’s how to transform a collage into a small piece of wearable art. (My mom is still on dial-up so I don’t think she’ll see this providing her friends don’t forward it to her — please!)

What You Need

  • Inkjet silk
  • Cotton batting
  • Stiffener (like quilter’s template plastic)
  • Ultrasuede for backing
  • Embroidery floss
  • Embroidery needle
  • Bar pin back
  • Size 11 seed beads
  • Nymo D beading thread
  • Size 10 sharps needle

Print & Prepare The Fabric

  1. Scan your collage.
  2. Open a blank document and insert the collage image and any other images you want to print on a sheet of inkjet fabric, leaving about a 1-inch border all the way around each image. 
  3. Print the document on inkjet silk according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Let dry overnight before peeling the fabric from the carrier paper. 
  4. Briefly soak the printed fabric in a basin of cool water with a drop of Palmolive or other mild soap to remove any unbonded ink, stubborn bits of the paper or starch used to adhere the carrier paper to the silk. Rinse, dry, and iron if necessary. OK, this sounds like a big deal but it only takes a few minutes, and if you’ve printed a bunch of images on the same sheet of inkjet fabric you get them all done at once.

Embellish The Image

  • Cut a piece of cotton quilt batting larger than the image area. If you’re not comfortable just holding it in place while you embroider, quickly baste it to the back of the printed silk.
  • Embellish and border the image with some simple embroidery stitches. I used embroidery floss I painted earlier with Dye-na-Flow fabric paint.

Assemble The Pin

  • Trim the excess batting.
  • Cut a piece of stiffener (quilting template or recycled plastic) slightly smaller than the image area. 
  • Place the inkjet fabric face-down, then top the batting with stiffener.
  • Imagine you’re about to wrap a gift with the fabric. Trim the fabric, if necessary, so you have a small overlap when you fold the fabric on two opposite sides around the stiffener. Press the folds with your fingers. Make a few stitches on the back to hold those opposite sides in place. On the other two ends, trim the excess fabric and fold it like wrapping paper. Press the folds with your fingers and fold the ends to the back. Stitch to secure. Stitch a bar pin back in place.
  • Cut a piece of Ultrasuede to cover the back. Cut two small slits in the Ultrasuede and position it over the catch and the arm of the pin back, covering the bar. You can stitch the Ultrasuede backing to the piece as you bead the edges.

Bead The Edges

  • Anchor a thread and pick up two beads. Take a small stitch one bead width away through the fabric and the Ultrasuede backing. Pass the needle back up through the last bead strung. Pick up one bead, make a stitch, and pass through that bead again. Repeat the pattern. 
  • When you get all the way around, pass through the first bead again, pass back through an adjacent bead and secure the tail with a couple of small stitches.

 There you have it:

  • a simple gift that will fit in the palm of your mother’s hand
  • a gift that will spark conversations when she wears it (My daughter made this for me..) 
  • an opportunity to use a creativity exercise in a project, and
  • an opportunity to learn some new techniques.

I do hope you’ll give the collage exercise a try, and let me know how you like it. But if you’re running short on time (Mother’s Day is May 9), you have permission to use my red flower collage for your own personal use.  Just right-click on the image to save it to your computer. (My mom — the retired schoolteacher — won’t mind a bit.)

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Moonshine & Mother’s Day — Part 1

A few years ago, my parents were getting ready to move to a smaller place. Worried about space and storage, my mom said, “You don’t need to give us gifts any more.” Well, you know that didn’t fly. But then she said, “Well, how about only things that would fit in the palm of my hand?” That request has been a wonderful inspiration to me. I make her jewelry. She wears it out and about. People comment. It starts conversations. And it doesn’t have to be dusted. Perfect.

(Mom, if you’re reading this, stop now or be prepared to develop another case of gift amnesia.)

Very often I use gifts I make to work out ideas for classes or to sample new techniques. So for Mother’s Day, I’m planning to make Mom a pin based on a collage exercise I’m developing. I’ll share the exercise in this post, and show how to make the pin next week.

Bootleg Collage.
Picture the Dukes of Hazard racing down a country road with a trunk full of hooch: That’s the speed I’m shooting for with this exercise in abstracting and distilling an object — in this case, a flower. Here’s what you need for this exercise:

  • A magazine from the recycle bin
  • Scissors
  • Glue Stick
  • White paper
  • 15 minutes

Quickly find a page in the magazine that has a lot of color. (Actually, I used part of a page left over from doing the Farmville Collage Exercise I wrote about on Compost And Creativity this week.)

Cut out a circle for the center of the flower and glue it to the white paper. Now stop for a moment to think about a flower — say, a chrysanthemum (sticking with the Mother’s Day theme). Think about mums and peonies and other flowers with lots of petals. Petals. That’s what we’re going for here.

Working out from that center circle, start cutting petals freehand with the scissors (no drawing first) and placing them so that there’s white space showing between them. (Don’t glue them down just yet.) Work quickly and don’t try to make the petals perfectly shaped or all the same size. Stay loose and keep adding petals.

Stop when you have a few rounds of petals or your 15 minutes is up, and glue down the petals. If you like, cut a couple of leaves and glue those down, or throw down some scraps to suggest other flowers.

At least half the class, at this point, would be looking at their neighbor’s work and thinking, “Wow, theirs is great and mine doesn’t look like a flower at all.” So humor me here. Prop up your collage, walk across the room, and look at it again. Now take the collage into the bathroom, hold it up to the mirror, and look not at the collage but at the reflection of the collage. Better?

At this point, you might be thinking, “Hmmm, what else can I distill by this method?” Pretty intoxicating, isn’t it?

Next week, I’ll show you how to turn your flower collage into a simple gift that will fit in the palm of your mother’s hand.

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Doodling With Willow

TGIF. Picture me patting myself on the back (we’ll call that stretching), and knocking back a couple of aspirin. This week my to-do list got shorter and the pile of harvested and sorted willow got deeper. The reward for all this industry is giving myself some time to doodle with willow just for fun.

The material I use for doodling comes from the pile of branchy and really curvy stuff I keep off to the side as I sort the harvest. When I need a break from other tasks, I grab pieces from that pile and start bending simple frames that I secure with electrical cable ties and hang in the window to dry. With a dry frame, it’s easier to hold a shape and avoid kinks. This trick, along with most of what I know about willow, I learned from Jo Campbell-Amsler, who taught the first class I ever took at Sievers back in, I think, 1994. 

I’ll talk more about how I use the dry frames in my willow trellises in my next post. Today is about doodling.

In willow doodling, I’m not trying to make anything specific. I just pick up a branchy piece of willow and start going over/under/over/under. I may bind pieces together or spread things apart and add ribs to support more weaving. If things kink, no big deal: I’m using willow from the junk pile.

Sure, this looks like a leaf to you. But the way it landed when I tossed it on the table looked like a shapely leg. I’ll make another one later and play around with some ideas for the rest of the parts for a two-dimensional zaftig lady trellis. Think of this as Frankentrellising. It’s how I come up with things like the willow witch and her withie familiar who haunt my studio at Halloween.

Really, the process is no different that what an embroiderer does with a doodle cloth, or what a surface designer does with a scrap of fabric used for cleaning brushes, or what a quilter does with scraps cut off while squaring up… Shall I go on?

Willow isn’t my primary material. Hasn’t been for a long time. But I have enough fluency with the material and techniques that I can doodle without overthinking. There isn’t a “value” associated with what I make with willow. My trellises go outside. Birds sit on them, and what happens next is as good a cure for perfectionism as anything. What also happens is I start to see connections between my willow doodles and my other work. Really, couldn’t I translate that leaf/leg into needleweaving?

Creativity researchers call this divergent thinking. Having a label for it doesn’t make willow doodling any less fun.

So what’s your go-to fiber for doodling?

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What Will You Captcha?

A while back on my other blog, Compost And Creativity, I introduced a creativity warm-up exercise called The Dictionary Game. This Two Red Threads challenge is based on a comment made to that post by Daryl Lancaster:

As I was typing the comment, I had a thought. Instead of using the dictionary, maybe you could do the same thing with the random word that appears that you have to type in order to post your comment. This word is insalsy. I can think of all kinds of places to take that one.

I bet you can, too. So here it is — The Captcha Challenge. A Captcha is a type of “challenge response” used to make sure a comment is generated by a person, not a computer. In other words, to filter out spam. When you write a comment to a blog post, you’ll often be required to respond to a Captcha before your comment can be published. I like the two-word Captchas you have to respond to before posting a link on Facebook, because they always seem to be somehow (if weirdly) related.

 Here’s how to take the Captcha Challenge.

  1. Pick a color. Write it down. This will be the dominant color in your challenge piece.Why choose before you get your Captcha? Read about Connections, Constraints and Creativity over at Compost And Creativity. You might even want to pick a color you don’t particularly like or that you never use.
  2. Pick a technique. Write it down. This will constrain you to one dominant technique in your challenge piece. It can be as simple (a quick paper collage or doodle) or as complex (all French knots, applique, a basket…) as you like.
  3. State your bid. Sorry for the card-playing analogy if you don’t play cards. Anyway, enter a “bid” of how much time is reasonable for you to devote to this challenge. It may be 5 minutes, it may be 5 hours. It’s up to you, but set a constraint.
  4. Hit the comment button. At the bottom of this post there’s a link that says “Comments.” Click that link.
  5. Comment 1-2-3. In the comment box, type your selections for color and technique and your time bid. Choose an identity option — you can remain anonymous or use your name and share a link to your blog or web site.
  6. Hit “Publish.” When you hit the button for “Publish Your Comment,” that’s when you get your very own Captcha. Before you type your response to the Captcha, write it down for yourself. 
  7. Define the word. Come up with a definition for the Captcha word. If it’s a familiar word, write it backward (like in the Dictionary Game), and give the new backward word a definition.
  8. Go play. Using your Captcha and definition and the color, technique and time frame you’ve assigned yourself, go make something.
  9. Captcha an image. Take a photo with your digital camera or cell phone or scan your completed challenge project.
  10. Post a picture. I’ve set up a Flickr group here for images from the Captcha Challenge. You’ll need a Yahoo ID for this, but it’s free and it’s easy and we’d all really, really like to see what you did. 

There’s your challenge for February. I can’t wait to see what you Captcha!

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The Black Hole

A while back, I mentioned the Black Hole in my studio (as opposed to the one on my desk), and promised to tell you about it another time. Now that the mad rush to finish for the New Age Looping show is past, I’m catching up on things that seemed a wee bit too overwhelming then.

It’s embarrassing to admit that what made it feel overwhelming was my old friend Science Fear (first cousin to Math Anxiety). I labeled that bin a long time ago, and it’s not like lots of people see the stuff in my studio. As I wrote that post, I got to wondering: Do I even know what a black hole is?

For the record, here’s how Wikipedia defines the term:

According to the general theory of relativity, a black hole is a region of space from which nothing, including light, can escape.

I didn’t understand most of the rest of the page.

So let me clear things up. There is an actual black hole on my desk, from which nothing can escape. But that little plastic tub in my studio must be something else. Because things do, in fact, get outta there.

That’s where I tuck bits and bobs of fabric and trim that are too precious to throw away but too small to keep track of. I actually know most of what’s stuffed in there, although occasionally when the lid pops off I find something I had forgotten. There’s no easy way to find anything in that bin. If I want something, I have to dump the whole thing out on the table and start hunting.

More often, I use the contents of that bin as a catalyst in a creativity exercise I’m posting at my other blog, Compost And Creativity. It’s my version of a cosmos ready for a big bang.

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Doodle Gimping

There’s a new creativity warm-up exercise called The Panel Doodle at my other blog, Compost And Creativity. Here’s another way I use material from my warm-ups as part of my other sampling activities.

For several years, I have occasionally used a version of The Gimp for photo imaging, and it’s time for me to get comfortable with more features of the program. GIMP is a freely distributed program for photo retouching, image composition and image authoring. You can read about it here. For a free download, go here. There are tutorials here.

Or you can just scan an image and start playing with it, with no particular outcome in mind. Let me repeat that, with no particular outcome in mind. I like to use doodles for this kind of experimentation because there’s no emotional attachment. You can try any hare-brained idea without feeling like you’re “messing up” if it turns out bizarre or ugly.

So here’s how I Gimped my panel doodle warm-up. I added color, applied a film strip effect and a perspective effect to a selection, layered the selection over the original image, and put both of those layers on a black background.

I could take this image over to Spoonflower, play with repeats, and order fabric to be printed and delivered right to my home. But that must wait for another day.

For now, I’ll just ask. Would you like to Gimp along with me next month while I play more with this digital imaging program? Hit the comment button below to tell me what you want to find here at Two Red Threads.

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5 Ways To Be More Productive

A while back I agreed to do something that’s been making me a little crazy. Earlier this week, I worked through a 5-step plan that helped me fight the panic. Yesterday I outlined a doable plan for meeting my goal. I know what I need to get done. Now I just need to make sure I stay at my most productive until I meet this goal. Here’s what I know I have to do.

  1. Set Intentional Limits. My normal strategy would be to work on this project every waking hour (and most of the sleeping ones) until the deadline. Picture my fingers bleeding on the thread and frozen pizza for supper every night. It works, but frankly I’m tired of this approach. This time, I’m setting a limit on the hours I’ll spend on this project each day, and taking one day a week where I don’t touch this work. At all.
  2. Permission To Play. Up to now, I’ve had Christmas gifts to work on in the evenings. Here’s how I plan to get around #1 now: When I’ve exhausted my time budget, I give myself permission to play for a couple of hours in the evening on stuff that may be related to the work I’m doing to meet my goal but not earmarked for any outcome. If a play piece turns out better than the “real thing,” I can substitute. But that’s not my intention. I just need to know I have an outlet for any wild ideas that crop up as I’m working.
  3. Warm Up Each Morning. I’ve set aside 15 minutes each morning for creativity exercises to get me revved up and ready to be productive. I’m posting some of these at my other blog, Compost and Creativity.
  4. Unplug. To meet this goal, my hands need to stay busy. But most things are worked out in my head. I need to be able to hear the voices (please don’t send the guys in the white coats to get me). So for at least part of every day, I have to turn off the CDs, the radio and the MP3 player, ignore the phone, stay away from the computer. I need to be paying attention.
  5. Go To Bed. I have a reasonable plan for meeting my goals that can be achieved in the time available. I’ll be more productive if I’m rested. I’ll be less crabby if I’m rested. I might even be more realistic in my critiques if I’m rested.

That’s it. I’m calmer, I have a master plan that’s doable, and a productivity plan to guide me through the days ahead. I’m back to work after my holiday stall, feeling much better about the way this year is ending, and excited about moving ahead. OK, so I broke #1 last night — but I’m really happy with the way the piece is shaping up!

I hope the New Year brings you wonderful adventures and challenges you enjoy. Will you share how you plan to stay productive to meet those challenges? Just hit the comment button.

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Two Red Threads – 194 Years In The Making

Haven’t we met before? I’m Donna Kallner. I teach fiber art workshops around the country (and take workshops, too, when I can).

At these events, wonderful, interesting people begin fascinating conversations. And I’m the one who cuts in and breaks the thread of thought. When I’d like to say, “Tell us more!” I have to say, “Excuse me,” so I can do another demo, answer a question, or check on progress around the room.

This blog is a place to continue the conversation, untangle ideas, share stories, and reflect on what we learn by making fiber art. Thanks for coming by and joining in.

I’ll be posting a couple times a week (more some weeks, less others) about topics like looping, stitching, surface design, image transfer, digital fabric, mixed media textiles and vessels, stuff I’m sampling, books and blogs. I’ll post occasional tutorials, creativity exercises, prompts and challenges. And I’ll be asking readers to share work made in response to classes and challenges.

You can make sure you know what’s happening at Two Red Threads by subscribing, using the button in the sidebar.

So why is it called Two Red Threads? Stay tuned, and next time I’ll tell you about an unfinished project that should make you feel better about your own UFOs.

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