I met Cheryl through artist friends over a decade ago and our career paths have been a bit parallel. For a few years, she had a gorgeous studio where she taught classes and made art in a large office building in downtown Greenfield. I signed Julia up for classes with Cheryl - hoping to spark a fiber interest in my little girl! You can see two posts I wrote about Julia's experience taking classes with Cheryl at her studio here. Cheryl writes a blog and teaches classes now for different quilting groups and more.
For the past couple years, Cheryl has been working on her magnum opus - a fabulous book that has just been published called Fabric Surface Design. I asked Cheryl if she would take some time out of her schedule to answer some questions here on the blog. At the end of the interview, you can sign up to win a copy of Cheryl's Fabric Surface Design book which is published by Storey Publishing.
KN: Wow Cheryl - what a huge amount of knowledge you have shared with the world in your new book Fabric Surface Design! I can't believe how much technical information is included. How did you learn surface design?
CR: Quite a few of the techniques covered in the book are pretty traditional painting and printing techniques that I learned in art school many years ago and had been employing in my paper collage work already. I just needed to transfer those techniques from paper and canvas to cloth. But many of the more innovative techniques I learned from other surface design artists by taking classes and workshops and reading books. You take a little bit of this and a little bit of that and somewhere along the way your brain starts to assimilate it all until it comes out in your own artwork.
CR: I went to the Museum School of Fine Arts in Boston and trained primarily as a painter. When I got out of school I made my living as a stitcher and later as a custom clothier specializing in restoring antique wedding gowns along with collage design work using antique laces while pursuing my art on the off hours. At one point my husband and I decided that we could forgo the income from my sewing so I could concentrate on my art and raising our 2 boys. Over the years I developed a really nice body of work in mixed media collage (that can be seen on my website). But I found that I really missed fiber! It was such a surprise for me. I really had no idea how important fiber work was to me as an artist.
CR: I adore monotype printing with gelatin! It is very painterly and serendipitous. I love the fine detail that the gelatin substrate shows and how easy it is to make cloth that is multi layered with imagery.
CR: Well, I learned a few things about myself that were pretty surprising - like the fact that it is really difficult for me to sit still in front of a computer for hours at a time and that I write best in the wee hours of the night. As far as techniques go, I didn't have much marbling experience before I wrote the book. It was great fun and I can't wait to do more of it to incorporate into my own work.
KN: I loved the marbling technique idea using shaving cream! That seems like something really fun that you could do with children outdoors. Now that the book is in the world, what are you working on?
CR: I am settling back into making my own personal artwork, teaching and making one-of-a-kind hand dyed and painted cloth to sell in 3 yard pieces and as fat quarters for all those quilters out there. I'll be selling those on my Etsy site. A nice selection should be available within the next several weeks and months. So stay tuned for that!
KN: I loved the chart (shown above) that you compiled comparing all the different kinds of fabric paints. Most crafters shop at places like Michael's and AC Moore. I did not see any of the common textile paints listed in the charts. Why was that? And if someone is just beginning and wants to pick up paints at say Michael's, can you recommend any of the common types such as those distributed by Plaid.
CR: Unfortunately places like Michaels and A.C. Moore no longer carry quality textile paints. They used to carry Jacquard products. For now you'll need to buy the paints I talk about in the book online or at finer art supply stores. I am a big proponent of starting out with quality supplies and quality paints in particular. All of the quality textile paints blend and mix well so you can easily start out with just the primary colors and black and white to save on the expense. Lesser quality paints tend to have a lot of fillers and substantially less pigment so it may be hard to get really vibrant colors that hold up from fading. Many of the online suppliers have great prices that rival the cost of cheaper paints at the craft stores. You just have to plan ahead.
KN: I know - planning for these kinds of projects is important. My favorite place to order supplies is Dharma Trading Co. They have all kinds of fabulous fabrics, t-shirts, blanks, dyes, paints, and more and their service and website is great. Cheryl, is there anything else you want to share with us?
CR: There is no question that you have less control when painting on fabric rather then paper and canvas. But that very fact is what makes it so exciting! And that you don't need to know how to draw to create great surface design results. It never ceases to amaze me how many people get stymied by that fact. Just follow the paint. It will show you how it wants to be seen!
CR: Using ordinary baking flour as a resist. The results are spectacular! And it is always a wonderful surprise!
KN: If you were a mom or a camp counselor and you wanted to pick one or two of the techniques in your book to do with children, what would you suggest?
CR: Definitely sun painting! It is a magical experience for everyone - adults and children alike. Leaf and flower printing is another wonderful activity to do with kids during the spring and summer months. Plus there is the added bonus of having to take them for a walk to collect the leaves and flowers.
Thanks so much Cheryl for taking time out of your day to share your new book Fabric Surface Design with us. Now for the Giveaway kindly donated by the fine folks at Storey Publishing!
Contest is over. Winner is Michelle who wrote: