stitched paint strokes

Usually I stitch with a plan in mind. Meaning that I have seen in my minds eye what I want to achieve and I am stitching towards that vision. But sometimes.... just for the fun of it I want to stitch with no plan. Just meandering and enjoying the process, the colors and the texture that is being created.

For inspiration I'll pull out a picture and use my stitches to interpret that picture. I don't mean exactly, just the feeling of it. Like a moody autumnal landscape for example. I'll concentrate on the color, the direction of the vegetation.... This exercise is lots of fun to do with painting by famous artists. I'll open up a big heavy art book or print an image from the internet and try to capture the feeling of it with my stitches.

So where am I leading with all this? Well... I am trying to entice you to take a vacation with me. Yes. a vacation. In Ticino, that's in Switzerland. In August. I know it seems so far way, August and Switzerland. But August will be here in a blink of an eye and Switzerland is just a hop, skip and a jump away!
a detail of a Klimt
my stitchy interpretation
Picasso is fun to play with
fun to choose the fabrics and the stitches
Rothko's serenity is interpreted well in silk
simple is best
that's the hotel!

and that's the scenery!
So? Come stitch some paint strokes with me and enjoy the end of summer in Ticino!


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the US. I have many people to be grateful for this year... but here I thank all the readers of this blog! Thank you for clicking, scrolling, reading and commenting! I appreciate that you take the time out of your busy day to stop by... I appreciate the thoughtful and kind comments and suggestions that you leave here!

Thank you!! and happy Thanksgiving to all!

leap day

How can I resist making sure that there is a blog post here on leap day? I can't!

So a little overview of what's been brewing lately:
steadily stitching away on my extra large project
mending my favorite jeans boro style
embroidering a chinchilla for a friend
paint therapy happened (an old collage got thoroughly reworked many times) (just for the fun of it) 
I got the fieriest little doily in the mail from Amy Meissner
I rediscovered the lichen rock in my back yard... in the sunshine...
All these pictures are from my Instagram feed. Take a peek! Happy leap year!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing a wonderful day of gratitude to everyone celebrating in the US. I am thankful to all of you who stop by this little blog to take a peek at my madness and give me encouragement. THANK YOU!
always grateful for autumnal treasures..

saturday snapshot

...or several... This spring I indulged in something slightly different from my usual oeuvre.

In our Russian scouting tradition we have a wonderful little quirk that everyone loves. During the second summer in the older kids camp, they receive their forest name. It could be anything from an animal to a force of nature. Everyone awaits in anticipation and speculates what name they will wind up with. It's a tradition to embroider the name on your neckerchief, or stitch a patch on. I indulged my daughter and her friends and stitched a few names for them.
an arctic fox
a cherry blossom
a lyre bird
a waterfall
a white rose

The hole you see in each one is made with a hot stick from the campfire. It's burned into the neckerchief as they get their name. And looks like I'll have a few more to embroider in the near future...

magic monday

I haven't been in my studio since I finished Spruce Street. Life got in the way. But I haven't stopped thinking about what I want to do once I got to the studio.... Here are a few things that caught my eye during the thinking stage.
beautiful bouquet
sunset lighting up newly minted leaves
a fabulous chandelier
And today I did get into the studio. For just a little bit....
a start of something new.....
Now full steam ahead! There is much to be accomplished....


I have one more major step to go before I finish the Spruce Street home portrait. And since I have not been very good with updates, I thought that I'd share a few close ups now before the final reveal.
so happy to have played with vintage hand dyed linen in the flower garden
tree printed in a book transforms into tree in portrait
I do so love birches!
some stitched rocks on the chimney
more azaleas from vintage hankie
I think I will be ready for the final reveal by the end of this week. If you'd like to be first to see it, sign up for my newsletter as that's where it will be seen first. Thanks for following the home portrait updates!


I know that some of my blog readers don't belong to social media sites, so I thought I'd share somethings I've been posting on Instagram here. Instagram is an app and a social media platform on the smart phone that lets you apply filters to photographs and post them for your followers to see.

I think of it as rather fun and post not only my artwork related photos, but also nature stuff and general life stuff that comes my way. Here's just a few of photos I posted in last two weeks.
I made a flower out of fallen leaves and propped it up on a log.
A weekend later I was impressed that it was still on the log and dried beautifully.
Fun with mirrors and filters while watching a ballet class.
Sheep in a meadow and a watercolor app? How can I resist?
I've been stitching tiny pieces while in a waiting room and shared.
And this is the view on the worktable in my studio this morning as seen on Instagram and Facebook.
Hope you enjoyed my little social media tour. Instafun!


That was one of the first thoughts that crossed my mind when I first saw the installation. This summer I got lost in the hallways of the Vermont Law School. I was looking for an art exhibit and got a double treat when I stumbled on the sticks. Yes sticks. But such perfectly arranged sticks. Or reeds. Because first I saw these reeds in the Cornell Library... I wanted to walk through them..
Phragmites by Elizabeth Billings
Phragmites detail
Then as I was wandering the hallways I found the sticks. They were whittled. Perfectly. I thought about the methodical, meditative way the artist must have sat there and whittled for days... I wished I was whittling along with her...

Unfortunately there is no name for this installation. It goes down a very long hallway...
There was no signs anywhere in the hallway or the library to tell me who this artist was. Fortunately once school started a quick phone call solved the mystery for me. Now I'll be on the look out for more serene art by Elizabeth Billings. Hopefully there will be signs. But I may not need them.


Summers are tough. Tough for me to spend any real time in my studio that is. But I do get to spend lots of time in nature, so that compensates.

Here are few views that I enjoyed recently and inhaled deeply.....

Hope your summer is going well!


I'm in the process of getting everything ready for my Create workshops in New Jersey. But I couldn't help playing a bit too. I have heard from a few people that they think my plastic bag collection is rather brightly colored and is unusual. Well... I have to tell you that I am not a big shopper and I do use cloth bags for supermarket purchases most of the time.  I guess because the plastic is an art material to me, I have a more discerning eye for it. I pay attention to bags of different shades.

So I decided to play a bit with more mundane colors. Tans, grays, greens, whites and browns. Most common colors for supermarket shopping bags. Just to show everyone that even those drab colors can be used to create a vibrant piece of art.

A few of you might remember these mushrooms that I posted on Instagram a while back:
here they are printed out to size of my canvas and the abstracted tracing
my quick abstracted sketch
supermarket bags from my stash
then I got really involved in cutting and gluing and didn't take pictures
done with glue!
here it is with a bit of thread painting
See? Just your basic supermarket shopping bags. So go collect some and join me on Wednesday, July 9th in Somerset NJ for the Mystique of Plastique: Reuse, Recycle and Create workshop! By then this little piece will be wrapped around a stretched canvas and looking very presentable!

playing for a good cause

I had a bit of time this week to make some fun art. Fun because I haven't made something this small in a while and because it was in a completely different vein than any of my current work. But it had a good cause behind it too! I found out about it through Kristin and could not keep away. My daughters helped me choose my subject and here's how I went about it...

First a bit of research on the Northern Fur Seal in words and in pictures. And then I thought I'd make my art out the very plastic bags that are harming the species. I downloaded a few pix and played with them in Photoshop until I found a pleasing shape. I printed it out and used the old fashioned pencil and tracing paper make a few shapes.
a bit of tracing
Then I gathered plastic bags in various browns and blacks and grays as those are the colors of the seal fur and cut out a ton of little seals.
plastic seal shapes laying about
I decided to use Styrofoam-like packing material as my batting. And started gluing down the plastic pieces in somewhat random fashion.
grays and blacks were the first layer
browns on top
Then I quilted the heck out of it outlining a few shapes to identify the seals. A bit of brown acrylic paint for texture and here it is, hard to photograph without reflections.. Itty bitty measuring at 7"x7" only. Twas fun!
Northern Fur Seal ©Natalya Aikens 2014

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


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!

ready for viewing

My commissioned artwork number two is done! It took longer than the first, because it asked for a lot of hand stitching. As a matter of fact I thought this piece would be entirely hand stitched up until the near end. Then the art demanded a sky and the sky demanded a tree, and there I was playing with tulle and free-hand machine embroidery. 

Here are a few details to tease, followed by the full image. I am quite happy with the way this has turned out, if I do say so myself. I am especially pleased with the way the maps peek out, and if you concentrate, you can read names of places between the stitches.
chimney through the leaves
bay in the sky
piney woods behind the windows
entrance station through the front door
sea lion rocks by the stone wall
Santa Lucia © Natalya Aikens 2013
What do you think? It's so totally different from the other that I am sort of surprised. But at the same time, I am not surprised at all as the ephemera I was given was so different too. That's the part I really love about this new challenge, each one is guaranteed to be completely different from the other...On to the next one now!

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....