studio update

Here's a review of what's been happening in my studio this week. Lot's and lot's of stitching!

I've been stitching the small pieces that will make up my extra large installation.

I made a quick visit to NYC for some inspiration.

I tried out one of the stitched plastic pieces on the window to see how translucent it is.

And another as well

And then the Polar Vortex came and I watched art make art in the snow...

Now I'll focus on a commissioned home portrait, so next week I post warmer looking photos to help everyone thaw out from this frigid cold...

a week in pictures (and videos)

Some weeks are crazy busy in the studio, and I have lots to share. Others seem that way, but because I am working on the same project day in and day out, I feel as though I have nothing to share.

But even when I feel that way.... I realize that I do have plenty to share. Sometimes not in words, but always definitely in pictures. Here are a few pictures and videos of what I have been working on this past week.
Layers of plastic waiting to be stitched for one of the portions of my installation in progress

a thread nest encased in a plastic air pocket

plastic thread nests being stitched

rain on a portion of Irons Spine/Urban Edge installation hanging on my deck

A little video of a portion of Iron Spine/Urban Edge installation moving in the rain.

Lucky that the pup needed to go out on a frigid morning during sunrise as I got to take this video of the plastic crackling as it moved in the wind.

Hope you have enjoyed these peeks into my studio happenings, stay tuned for more soon!


collages pre-stitching
After a very busy July, I took a stab at organizing the havoc in my studio. Instead, I discovered a stash of vintage 1980's Chromorama papers. They are still as luscious as ever! And despite several online searches, it seems that they don't exist anymore.... insert sad face here.

collages post-stitching
I took out my plastic scraps and worked up a bunch of collages with smaller paper segments. I experimented with some simple stitching and was thoroughly pleased with the results. I'm hoping the recipients of my August subscriber birthday cards will be pleased as well.

Now I have the larger sized papers laid out on my work table among the plastic scraps. I am looking forward to how these collages will turn out and the much more intricate stitching that will go on them. I am planning to debut these at The Armonk Outdoor Art Show at the end of September.
fresh batch of vintage paper to stitch on!
In other news, I'd like to extend an invitation to join me at the opening reception for the Creative Climate Awards on Monday, September 17th at 6PM. My piece called Sunrise has been accepted into the exhibit.

I'll be sharing photos of all happenings on Instagram and Facebook. Hope to see you at one event or another! 


I'm excited to announce that I'll be participating as an artist in Creative JumpStart (CJS) 2016, run for the 5th time by Nathalie Kalbach. If you're not familiar with CJS, it's a one-of-a-kind online event to kick your creativity into high gear in January 2016.

Learn techniques, discover new materials, and connect with artists and crafters. There is SO much cool stuff to learn!

Throughout January participants get 25 downloadable videos from 24 featured artists. I'm proud to be one of those artists, called “JumpStarters.” See for yourself:

Head on over to Nathalie's site to sign up and for more details:

You get 25 videos for just $45 (USD) for a limited time if you sign up before December 31, 2015 at 11:59pm (EST)! But wait – it gets better: as my valued reader, you’ll get $5 extra off today. Just use this coupon code during checkout: cjs2016
*This is a limited offer valid from 10:00am Dec 4, 2015 to 11:59pm EST on Dec 11, 2015.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up here, and apply the coupon code during check out process. Thanks!!
I cannot wait for you to see my video, I had so much fun making it!

little art

I have been waiting to post about a finished artwork or two. But it seems with all the seasonal craziness I cannot finish any artwork of a decent size even though I have a couple close to being done... So I figured I'll post about this little artwork (only 5"x5") which has a destination.
can you guess what material I'm using?
silk thread and wood
just a little bit of stitching

Choir Lace Spb © Natalya Aikens
This piece came about from my experiments earlier this year and further experiments preparing for this little video. The image that I worked with in it, is from my photograph of Choir Singers bridge and it's shadow in St. Petersburg, Russia. You might recognize the motif as I have used it in many earlier pieces. Oh and Spb stands for St. Petersburg.
I mentioned earlier in the post that this piece has a destination. Yes it does! And if you're a subscriber to my newsletter, you'll find out about that destination when you receive the newsletter later this week! I love a good tease.....

play time

I honestly don't remember the last time I did any surface design. I don't consider Photoshop manipulation surface design, my hands don't get dirty and that's just a whole other world...

But the other day, lo and behold, I was actually inspired to do some surface design! And it's all Sue's fault. Sue Reno that is. And her Quilting Arts Workshop Video Surface Design Essentials for the Printed Quilt. She asked me to review and participate in the blog hop, and I thought - I'll be happy to, I'll just watch the video, write the review and post. Easy peasy! Nope. Not so easy peasy.... I watched the video and my hands started itching. Itching to do some surface design. I wanted to play with it all!
I wanted to play with the cyanotype process, the heliographic sun printing, the thermofax screens and the collagraph techinique. I wanted to do it all and I wanted to do it now.  The sunny days were not in my favor for the cyanotype or the heliographic.... and much too windy outside lately too. The collagraph was thoroughly intriguing, but the prep time issue was a factor, as I wanted instant gratification. And then I remembered that long ago, in a galaxy far away, a friend made me some thermofax screens during a playdate. Shamefully I have never used those screens. But they don't have an expiration date and here was my chance to try some instant surface design NOW!

So I rummaged around for a substrate in my recyclables box and came up with a bunch of color catcher sheets. A quick iron to smooth them out, flip over my portable ironing board to the hard side for an instant printing surface and I was ready to go! Here are pics of my instant gratification surface design session:
pinned down used color catcher sheets
first thermofax prints in gold (oh the torture of waiting for it to dry!)
second layer in silver
the finished product
now to find a way to use it in my artwork!
I highly recommend Sue's DVD, every technique is clearly explained, the samples are perfectly illustrating the process and her finished artworks are lovely and are great example of how to combine the techniques, the free-motion quilting and sharp design sense.

Tomorrow’s blogger is Lyric Kinard

Blog tour schedule
11/5/14: Sue Reno
11/6/14: Susan Brubaker Knapp
11/7/14: Allie Aller
11/8/14: Diane Doran
11/9/14: Vivien Zepf
11/10/14: Virginia Spiegel
11/11/14: Cynthia St. Charles
11/12/14: Natalya Aikens
11/13/14: Lyric Kinard


I have been wanting to do some hand stitching experiments on plastic. I've hand stitched on plastic plenty times before, but never experimented with heavy duty, multi-layered hand stitching. I had a few bits left over from this project and figured they would be perfect for the experiment.

I cut them up into little squares and they became my portable hand stitching project. Perfect for dance class waiting rooms. Still many more stitches to go here, but the sunlight streaming onto the worktable in my studio was perfect this morning for a mini photo shoot and I thought I'd share....
street signs outlines
cross walk
turn this way
I'll have an update after several more dance class waiting sessions. And perhaps I'll even get these done in time to get them into my Etsy shop for holiday shopping! there is a worthy goal....


My experimentation with plastic continues, and here's the latest incarnation. I called it Cityscape and it is destined for the SAQA Online Auction this autumn. I'll fill you in on the auction details when they are available, but meanwhile take a look...
for a change I am combining fabric with thread painted plastic
sketchy thread painting
Cityscape ©2014 Natalya Aikens
My photograph manipulated in Photoshop; printed on cotton voile; layered on raw silk; thread-painted onto recycled plastic drop cloth with various rayon threads; and layered again. Measures 12"x12" and  will be available for a good cause this autumn... Thanks!

radio silence?

That's what it feels like on this blog doesn't it? I know the wordless wednesdays are not enough to keep you interested. But really, I promise, there is art happening in my studio. Just that it gets overwhelmed and interrupted by family and other life obligations..
3D dottiness
Even though this year I took a sabbatical from the Russian school play, somehow I wound up stenciling letters and numbers onto capes for the Middle School play and sewing hooks onto tutus for the ballet school. How do these things happen to me??
I've been working on a myriad of art projects in the studio. There are two that I can share right now, both are not finished. If you follow me on Instagram you might have seen my Olympic French knotting? (tongue firmly in cheek) I have finished all the knots, the next stage is more felting, I think I'd like to felt some of those knots to get the effect that I am after. It's about experimenting here!
the not French knotted area
French knotted wall
The next piece is also all about experimenting. An opportunity came up to do a 3D piece for an exhibit and who am I to say no? I am very excited by a chance to try something new and the theme is right up my alley too: Architectural Elements! I wanted to see if I could combine nature (twigs and wood) with a feel of the city. I manipulated my photographs in Photoshop and printed them on silk organza. Then I hand stitched the glass in the windows with a few fine threads to give an illusion of shimmer.
sheer and shimmer
And now I find myself wrapping the twigs in thread and unraveling the organza.
I might be going slightly mad as I am also weaving spider like webs... Not sure where this will take me. Perhaps Arachne is guiding me? Stay tuned!
weaving webs


Making plans here, trying new things, working out the kinks. Figuring out what to tackle next...
early stages
I started work on another bridge piece. Trying a slightly different approach, perfecting my technique. Will have something to share once I start adding color, right now it's kind of boring if you don't know what's going on inside my head.. and to be honest, I'm not sure that I can put into words what's in there!
working on some small pieces
Meanwhile I am also working on some small pieces, figuring out a new workshop or two. So these might be samples in the future.
lots of machine stitching
Speaking of new workshops - what would you like to learn from me? My current offerings are here. I will be spicing some of them up, updating and all that jazz. And I am creating some new ones which will be sharing my current techniques and some more crafty things that I do. So I thought that maybe some of you, who haven't spoken up yet, may want to learn something specific that I haven't thought of sharing yet. I welcome all ideas! Please share here in the comments or email me directly at natalya(at) Thanks so much!!


I couldn't help myself.... the post title has nothing to do with the subject matter, it just happens to be my 700th post. Wow... how did that happen?

I've been doing quite a lot of machine and hand stitching lately, but nothing to show for it yet. And my fingers and back were getting tired, so I took a Photoshop break. Recently my camera got filled with tons and tons of nature textures, so I thought I'd play with these in contrast to my usual architectural subject matter. I wanted to see where each transformation would take me and didn't have any specific goal in mind, just a pleasing image different from the original photograph.
rock lichen
wacky rock lichen

I solarized, played with hue and saturation, played with brightness, distorted with ocean ripples and played with hue again selecting different sections with the magic wand. Then I cross-hatched and filtered with sprayed strokes.
tree lichen
psychedelic tree lichen
Poster edges first, then saturation, made a copy with an opacity change and shifted it a bit. I think I would love some fabric printed in this for a skirt....Hmmmm....
silty sand
purple silt
Made a copy into a layer, removed sections with the magic wand, turned it, another copy, another turn, removed more portions, merged layers, played with contrast, then the watercolor filter and played with hue/saturation and lightness.
Mucha butterfly
Altered the green colors first (too bright), selected the butterfly with polygonal lasso, played with hue and saturation on the butterfly, played with hue on the leaves and filtered with paint daubs. Now for some reason this reminds me of art by Alphonse Mucha, one of my favorites during the high school art years.
yummy blueberries
ghostly blueberries
I made them black and white first, then gave them a purple hue, played with the brush strokes filter, some more with hue and saturation, duplicated three times, flipped the layers different ways, changed the opacity of each layer and hue and saturation, with the magic wand deleted sections of the top layer.
rock with a bit of marble
sage rock
This was the simplest of all transformations. Just played with hue and saturation and applied the watercolor filter.

Well that was fun! Now back to stitching!

a little diversion

A fun little diversion actually! Long ago I had decided that dyeing fabric was not really my MO and I enjoy many different other ways of putting color into my art. But every now and then I get the urge to dye something and that's exactly what happened the other day. I had loved looking at photos of other peoples snow-dyeing experiments and always wanted to try too. I didn't have time during the February snowstorms and had feared that I missed my chance this winter. Lucky me! We just had a March snow storm and this time I was ready!

The dyes I had from a few years back and hoped they were still good and fabrics too. I even found two pieces of white clothing that were just screaming for color. And had myself a little adventure:
silk chiffon, cotton T, tiny silk crepe scarf, PFD cotton
pine yarn, tiny silk scarf, cotton tank, silk satin pillow case
dyes sprinkled on (the blue, fuchsia, yellow experiment)

dyes sprinkled on (the greens experiment - forest, avocado and emerald)
Then the snow started melting and the dyes started blending and it looked like Italian ices, and then the reveal began! Yum!

The top row is after first rinse, the second row is after the machine rinse.
I have a really cute long sleeve T for St. Paddy's day next weekend and a fun tank for the summer.
I think the two tiny little scarves will work well together.
The silk chiffon is way too yellow for my taste, but with some lovely turquoise touches. I'll find a use for it someday.
The satin pillow case is just fab! I'd like to make a skirt out if it I think...
The pine yarn? Well it's lovely, but while drying it fell out of its mesh bag and became a horrible tangled mess... I might tackle it or just leave it.....sigh....

It was a fun, fun experiment! and now back to our regularly scheduled programming....