Sunday, April 13, 2014

Life Takes a Turn

I haven't posted much lately, because there isn't a lot to post about- especially from a fiber art perspective.  I have a few things going on in my head, but nothing beyond that.

I have, however, continued to make soap- although my pace has slowed down some.  I am trying to get enough inventory to be able to sell soap at the Utah County Quilt Guild annual festival in July.  Several of us in the Not Bound by Tradition group are going in on a vendor's booth, and we want to have some things that are not quilt related.  Soap certainly fits that bill, and it is inexpensive enough that I have hopes of selling it.  I'm also going to look into other venues over the summer.

I spent the better part of a day costing out the soaps I've made, and was happy to find that my cost of ingredients is well below what a bar of hand crafted soap sells for in this area.  That means I can price my soaps competitively, and still be paying myself a reasonable wage for my time.

As much as I love dyeing fabric and creating with it, I've never seen it as a potential small business.  It is too labor intensive, and most people in this area are not willing to pay what it costs to produce.  So it will remain a hobby and avocation, but not something I see as a money making venture.

Soap, however, is different.  It is not that labor intensive, and the price of the finished product is well within most people's reach.  It challenges me creatively, since I am not one to be happy with following others' recipes.  It is a skill I believe I can master, and have fun in the doing.

So I will be pursuing this as a potential small business that I can do post-retirement.  I've already located the Small Business Development Center in Utah County, and plan to make an appointment to speak with someone in mid-May.  I'm looking at packaging options, and think I've come up with a name.  Fortunately, I already know about setting up an LLC and business licensing, since I've done that before.

Somehow in the midst of all this, I'll keep at the fiber art.  Just know that it is not my sole obsession any more!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Tangled Textiles Reveal

Today is the reveal for the latest Tangled Textiles challenge, Artistic License.  I chose to learn a little more about the minimalist artists that followed in Piet Mondrian's footsteps.  I found several that I liked- but of course, I neglected to write down any of the names I googled.  It's a search I will probably do again, since I found some art that I really liked.

However, my piece definitely harks back to Mondrian, with a few 'licenses'.  

Mondrian used primary colors, I used secondary.  He framed his color blocks in black, I used white.  I also used one fabric that has visual texture, another difference from Mondrian.  I'm still trying to find ways to showcase hand dyed fabric surrounded by solids.

I also posed myself some other questions.  What if I used two colors of thread when quilting?  What if I used squares and rectangles as my quilting designs, but created another layer of  design instead of following the fabrics?

It was really interesting to see how the change in thread color impacted the look of the quilt, especially in the snow dyed fabric.

Figuring out what to do for the last few challenges has really been a struggle for me.  I just don't seem to have the emotional space or energy to enjoy the longer creative process inherent in fiber art at this time of my life.  However, that might start to change in the near future.  Shannon is moving to Colorado next week to start a nursing program.  She has a place to live there, but is moving before getting a job- hopefully not too much of a difficulty.

Sean graduated a week ago, and is in San Francisco all next week at a game design convention, also hoping to land a job.  I'm proud of all the hard work he put into his program, and just pray it will all come together for him and his family.  I got to make one last trip to Florida for his graduation- a rather quick one, and any plans we'd had for entertainment got washed away in the rain that fell right after I arrived.  (Truthfully, don't care if I never see Orlando again!!)

So there you have it- not much blogging going on, probably another victim of my lack of emotional space and energy.  I'm hoping the arrival of warmer weather, along with good news for my adult children, will help change that.

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Little Quilting, A Little Soaping. . .

about describes what I have been up to this long weekend.  Oh, and don't forget household chores and watching the Olympics!

Last weekend I got the ditch quilting done on Michelle's pink quilt- Saturday I started doing the free motion. I thought I would do spirals, but after some practice changed my mind.  I ended up with a kind of leaf design.  I can see every mistake I make, but hopefully none will jump out and scream when it is all done.

I purposely bought a 100% cotton batt for this, because I'm planning to wash it and throw it in the dryer when it's all done.  Hopefully it will crinkle, which will make my mistakes even less obvious.  I think I am going to have to dye some more sateen for the binding, I don't have enough left of anything for that.  I've got one block about done- since it only has six large blocks, I'm thinking the quilting should go fairly quickly.

Saturday and Sunday I also made three batches of soap.  I wanted to try the circular PVC mold, so I did Lemongrass Green Tea soap in that- a recipe I developed myself.  I learned that adding lye turns light colored green tea dark, so my soap is this caramel color.  And I'm guessing the soap got pretty hot, because the top looks like this:

I will need help getting the end cap off, and I sure hope this slides out without a lot of problems.  I'll probably stick it in the freezer for a bit.

The others came out easily from my lovely wood log molds.  I made Cocoa Coffee soap, another recipe I developed myself.  The coffee is supposed to remove the scent of garlic and onion from the hands, so this one is intended for the kitchen.  It also has coffee grounds in it for scrubability.

Because you use coffee to dissolve the lye, the batter is very dark brown.  I took some out and lightened it with titanium dioxide, hoping I could do some cool swirls.  The top looks good, but the interior is not what I was hoping for.  I also learned that you really have to swirl with soap batter that has only gone to light trace- meaning, is more liquid.

Last, I did Peach Mango Butter soap, adapted from a recipe in The Ultimate Guide to Soap Making by Amanda McCarthy.  

 I had a little bit of the red palm oil left from my first batch, so I mixed it with the regular palm oil, which turned it a lovely yellow color.  Then I took out part of the batch and used a hot pick colorant I got as a sample from Majestic Mountain Sage- that made the pretty coral color.  I was going for the color of peaches, which was one of the scents I used.

We just started using the soaps from my first batches.  I've been using the Lemon Eucalyptus in the shower, and really like it.  Marly has tried the Lavender Almond soap, and really likes how it makes her skin feel.  So, so far it's been a successful experiment!  I'll wait another couple of weeks before I try the ones I did at the beginning of the month.  I learned a trick to tell if they've cured enough- weigh a bar, and when it quits losing weight, it's done.  So I've been keeping track on those.

That's what I've been up to.  I have a busy time at work until after the end of March, and I'm also traveling two of those weeks.  One week is for work, another week will be my swan song for Florida.  Sean is going back to walk for his degree, and I'm going to celebrate with them.  That will be a fun time, including plenty of time to enjoy some warmth!

Sunday, February 02, 2014

The obsessive chemist continues. . .

I promise this isn't going to turn into a soaping blog.  I did do some fiber stuff this weekend, I got a pillow made for a friend of Shannon's.  The fabric and form have been sitting around in my studio since before Christmas- so it felt good to get that finally done.

But I couldn't resist making more soap.  I got three done Saturday afternoon- all a lovely creamy color, with fresh, mostly citrus scents.

From left to right: Avocado Oil, Ginger Lime Mango Butter, Citrus Honey

The one in the center is my favorite, and it was also my first try at coming up with my own original recipe. I used mango butter, coconut, avocado, olive and castor oils, and scented it with lime essential oil and ginger fragrance oil. I hope it feels as good on my skin as it smells!

The one on the right has an interesting texture on the top and bottom, thanks to bubble wrap.  I always have some of the hanging around the studio for surface design!  It was also the first soap I've made that include lard as one of the oils.  I was afraid it would be stinky, but it worked well to melt in the microwave with the other solid oils- cocoa butter, shea butter, and coconut oil.  I do it at about half power and take my time, which has worked well.

Sean helped me make a couple of wooden molds this weekend also.  The Citrus Honey soap is from that one- it will do about a four pound loaf.  I like how the ends are straight, and having learned on a YouTube video how to fold freezer paper to make a one-piece liner, I think it works a lot easier than the other molds I've used so far.  Here it is, next to a shibori pole that can now double as a round soap mold!

The end caps are braced by the bolts- but when it's time to unmold, it's nice to be able to remove the ends.  We made the second one with a longer base on one end, so I can also use it to cut the bars evenly.

So that is what I have been up to.  I'm starting the research for my next Tangled Textiles piece- the theme is Artistic License.  I know I will be looking for a twentieth century abstract artist!  And, I will have to plan it around an unexpected trip to Florida the first week in March.  I will be going with Sean, Marly, and Michelle to celebrate Sean's graduation with a BA in Video Game Design, and watch him walk with his class.  It will be nice to warm up, too!

The studio is now cleaned up from the chaos of soapmaking, so now it is back to some fiber.  Maybe I'll have something later this week. . .


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Another Obsession

When I find something that interests me, I tend to jump in with both feet.  I want to learn everything I can about it, experiment with it, and DO it.  It's been that way with quilting, with fabric dyeing- and with soaping.  Soaping????
I've been aware of hand crafted soap for some time, I've even bought some at local farmer's markets from time to time.  But I did not know anything about the process, and always assumed it was complicated.  Until I started reading Lynda Heines' blog . . . .

She wrote about making her own soap.  It was interesting, and it looked like fun- not a huge, messy project like I had been imagining.  So, last Monday (which was a holiday from work) Marly and I made our first batch of soap.

I really didn't have to buy a lot of equipment- I already had a lot in the dye studio.  Stick blender?  No problem, I don't use it for dyeing anymore anyway since I learned from Carol Soderlund how to mix dyes.  Containers?  You've got to be kidding, I have loads of recycled plastic containers. Safety goggles?  Hey, Shannon just finished a microbiology class, and I went through her equipment.  Safety goggles, check!  Gloves?  Digital scale? I use them all the time in the dye studio.

 I got a stainless steel pot cheap at Walmart, and was even able to find some oils there.  I also got a five pound container of coconut oil at Costco, and we were ready to roll.  Lye was a bit more of a problem- it is no longer easily accessible due to illegal drug manufacturing.  We were lucky, though, and found some at Cal Ranch.  

After measuring out the oils, dissolving the lye (I do that in the garage), we were ready to mix.

After looking at a number of videos on  You Tube and reading several books, it seemed fairly easy to tell when we reached trace.  The whole mixing process took less time than the prep work and clean up!

Marly scraped out the very last of the soap into our molds. . 

and we had our first soap!!

We used coconut, red palm, and olive oils in this soap.  The only place I knew to find palm oil was at the health food store, and they only had red palm, which gave the soap its color.  We scented it with lemon eucalyptus essential oil, which is bright and citrusy.  So now we waited.

Twenty four hours later, we took the soap out of the mold,

and then we sliced it into bars.  We got seventeen bars total from the two molds!

It smells great, and my ph test came out fine.  So now we just need to wait four weeks before we can use it.

Well, I was hooked.  I did some more online research, and found that there are two resources for soapmaking supplies in Utah.  One is up in Logan, which is a three and a half hour drive north- but the other is right in Provo!!  So, I got more oils, and this weekend I made . . . 

 Lavender soap!


 Peppermint Oatmeal soap!


Seaside Showers Shampoo Bar!!
(This one is made with coconut milk- another adventure in learning!)

Let's see- seventeen bars of lemon eucalyptus, eighteen bars of lavender, I'll probably get seventeen bars of the peppermint oatmeal (plus we got ten "mini-muffins), and about nine bars of the shampoo bar- that makes seventy-one bars of soap I've made in the past week!!

This weekend, we figured out that it is easier to make soap in the dye studio, using a big plastic bucket to melt the oils in the microwave.  I can store the lye and oils on a high shelf in the laundry room.

So now we wait about a month before we can use any of these creations.  I have a couple more recipes I want to try- I now have avocado oil (cheapest at Costco) and cocoa butter in my oil stash.  I also figured out that I can get two gallons of pure (not EVOO) olive oil at Costco at a very good price.

I did splurge and buy a few pieces of equipment at Pine Meadows, the supplier I have in Provo.

I got two plastic soap molds, so now I can do four loaves at a time.  I got two soap cutters- one straight, and one wavy.  I am now well set up to continue making soap!

It is rather hysterically funny and ironic that I would end up doing two hobbies that involve lots of chemistry.  I enrolled in chemistry in high school and ended up dropping out after the first quarter, so the 'D' I was earning wouldn't show up on my college transcripts.  I hated the class, it made no sense to me!

And now here I am, dyeing and soaping up a storm, fascinated by the chemistry and wanting to learn everything I can about it.  Pity the chemistry I took in high school wasn't doing stuff like this!

I'll let you know in a month how the soaps are.  In the meantime, I'm hoping to get my mind back on fiber and get started quilting Michelle's pink quilt!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Woodbury Art Museum opening!!!

Friday, January 17 was the opening of the 'Not Bound by Tradition' show at the Woodbury Art Museum.  This museum is affiliated with Utah Valley University, the state university in Utah county.  Our group member Kathleen Baer spearheaded this- and it was a fabulous evening!  I was there for almost the entire two hour event, and I enjoyed every minute.  I'm grateful Sean came with his camera, because all the pictures I have are what he took!

One aspect of the show that I love is that is just doesn't have our quilts in it, they also found a way to feature some of our hand dyed and painted fabric, the jewelry that one of our members creates, and other creations that involve fiber.  The first thing you see when entering the gallery is this spectacular wall of hand dyed fabric.

This was created by Kathleen and Cathy, and it is a gorgeous abstraction of our mountains and valley.  They spent hours starching the fabric to the wall.  You can get an idea of just how large it is from the picture!

Opposite this is a wall with the round robin quilts the group has created over the past year.  There is a lot of variety and creativity here!

Behind the fabric wall are the three 'rooms' with the rest of our quilts and fabric displayed.  

The middle room had this snowflake quilt as the focal point.  It was stenciled by most of the group (I missed that meeting), and quilted by Liza Ann.  It is beautiful!

One room had a tree theme.  We created leaves for this tree, and hung tree-themed quilts in the room.

Sue Swinyard's gorgeous jewelry is displayed in a couple of cases, as are her airbrushed pillows.  You can see those in a previous photo.

We had walls displaying fabric. . . 

and we had fabric hanging from the ceiling!

It is a beautiful show, and I am so happy and proud to be part of it.  I had a wonderful time talking to people, and got some fantastic feedback on my work.  The college and a non-profit organization, EngAGEUtah, sponsored a workshop earlier in the day, Creative Aging, with a speaker brought in from New York- Susan Perlstein.  She is not only an artist, she is a social worker, so I was very interested in what she had to say in the workshop.  She also came to the opening, and I had a chance to visit with her.  It was the frosting on the cake!

Here are most of the women who contributed work to this exhibit.  Fittingly, we took our picture in front of the fabric wall.  The one person missing is Sue, who was off on a cruise.

 From left to right, they are Bonnie, Liza Ann, Kathleen, Francine, Cathy, me, and Lonnie. 

So there you have it- a fantastic Friday indeed!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Tangled Textiles- 'Digital'

We had our reveal for our latest Tangled Textiles challenge last week- Music.  Here's what I came up with:

I thought a lot about this challenge before I started looking at fabric.  I considered the visual aspects of music- the staffs, the lines that denote the notes- all of which are straight.  I thought about the feel of music, which to me seemed to be best represented by curved, flowing lines.  How to combine the two?

I started searching through my stash, and came across this piece that I did last summer on my week-long dye fest.  I liked the straight lines on it, and the 'exclamations' provided by the Rorschach-like images at points along the lines.  Honestly, it reminded me of an echocardiogram readout- but that has a beat, just like music!

I quilted it in flowing, curved lines.  That showed me how rusty my free motion skills have gotten.  After the quilting, I hand embroidered the 'notes.'

After I'd completed it, I asked my son if it 'said' anything to him,  He immediately responded that it looked like a readout of digitally recorded music.  That made this whole creation complete, and also gave it a name- 'Digital'.

We had lots of fun pieces for this challenge.  Hop on over to the TT blog and see what the others have done!