city love affair again

This one took a while.... too many distractions.. too many new experiments... but I still loved it, so I finally finished it.

Presenting City Love Affair 4. My grandmothers vintage linen towel, a lot of vintage lace from oh so many sources, a TAP transfer, machine stitching and hand stitching. A portrait of a beautiful building belonging to a school I never went to, but might have if I had stayed in Russia.

sky and roof

not so little round window


details details
City Love Affair 4 © Natalya Aikens 2016
So different from the rest of the work I am doing right now, but yet such a part of me still.

fire escapes, bridges and water towers

I thought it's about time that I shared full images of all the new pieces I have created in the past few months. Now that I have premiered them at the Armonk Outdoor Art Show, it is time to see them on the blog. So without further a do here they are: 
Iron Spine 1xs (6"x6") © Natalya Aikens 2016
Iron Spine 2xs (6"x6") © Natalya Aikens 2016
Iron Spine 3xs (6"x6") © Natalya Aikens 2016
Iron Spine 4xs (6"x6") © Natalya Aikens 2016
Iron Spine 5xs (6"x6") © Natalya Aikens 2016
Water Tower 1xs (6"x6") © Natalya Aikens 2016
Water Tower 2xs (6"x6") © Natalya Aikens 2016
Water Tower 3xs (6"x6") © Natalya Aikens 2016
Water Tower 4xs (6"x6") © Natalya Aikens 2016
Water Tower 5xs (6"x6") © Natalya Aikens 2016
MNHB span (12"x12") © Natalya Aikens 2016
TRIboro span (12"x12") © Natalya Aikens 2016
TZB span (8"x8") © Natalya Aikens 2016
WHTstone span (8"x8") © Natalya Aikens 2016
GWB span (8"x8") © Natalya Aikens 2016
Soon I will have these up on my website with juicy detail images. Stay tuned! And thanks for stopping by!


The last two days have been spent planning. Planning what? Art of course!

I am delighted to share that I have been juried into the Armonk Outdoor Art Show in Armonk, NY. It has been around for 55 years! One of the most prestigious shows in my neck of the woods. Can you tell I'm excited? It'll take place on September 24th and 25th, so I have plenty of time to get ready.

I have several large pieces that I already know that I'll be exhibiting. They are the ones I was juried in with. But I would like to have a variety of smaller pieces on hand also and that's what I've been planning. It'll be a busy summer in the studio!

I started the planning part with organizing my inspiration photos. Usually when I upload my photos from the camera or phone I immediately put them into albums for easy reference later. Well.... I am ashamed to admit that I have really slacked off on that task.... So today I organized them into albums.

I did a bit of editing and narrowed my choices down to about 20 that speak to me right now.

Then I narrowed my choices even more and opened them up in Photoshop for a closer look. My first two mini-series of works will based on fire escapes and water towers.

Now I'll play with them in Photoshop - cropping and figuring out the composition. Once I have that decided on, I'll dig into my materials and start making some serious choices. Right now I think that they will all be on backgrounds created from re-purposed plastics and the images will be hand-stitched with various threads. Stay tuned!

cathedral in the sky

That's not what this cathedral is called, but that how I came to think of it as I worked on its portrait. I took the photo that I used as my guide against the bluest brightest of skies. You'd think that would make for a great picture. It does. Because not only is the sky blue, but the cathedral is blue too. With white trim and golden domes...

The cathedral that I'm referring to is St. Nicholas Cathedral in St. Petersburg Russia. Otherwise known as the Nikolsky Cathedral in Russian and also as the Sailor's Cathedral as it was the official cathedral of the naval regiments of the Russian navy who were stationed near. It also has a personal significance to me, my dad was baptized there. He was born in 1941 during the blockade of Leningrad and this cathedral was one of the few that functioned during that time.

Starting with some details, here's my portrait of Nikolsky Cathedral:
one golden dome
a golden edge
an entrance detail
another golden dome
Nikolsky Cathedral © Natalya Aikens 2014
Did you read my birthday newsletter yet? If you haven't yet decided which of my pieces is your favorite, do add this one to the list. And tell me about it so I can enter you in the drawing for my gift to you on my birthday, December 17th! Thanks for playing!

friday in the studio

Yesterday I did a bit of organizing in the old studio, and if you follow my artist page on Facebook, you might have seen this shocking post: Somehow I have seven (7!!!) artworks in different stages of completion... usually it's not more than 2 or 3. Guess I'd better get to work!

OK, so the "shocking" part is tongue firmly planted in cheek. But I am a bit overwhelmed by the seven. The problem is that I like all of them enough to continue working on them. How do I prioritize??? Aaack!

Thought I'd share a few peeks here:
1. This piece called Electric Spring debuted at my solo exhibit, but I deemed it unfinished this summer and have been adding tiny stitches ever since...
2. This is Early Spring and and the story is the same as above... adding sparkly French knots...
3. I started this Cathedrals piece back in May, progressed a bit and stopped due to general life craziness.
4. This is the beginnings to the companion piece to the above. Ahem. Subject is chosen and materials are gathered. That's it.
5. This is the fourth in the City Love Affair series. Shockingly I last reported about it in December! I have done quite a bit and probably shared more photos on Instagram, but haven't worked on it since spring. Sad I know.
6. This is a companion piece to one I finished a few weeks ago, but was too busy to share, but I promise I will soon! Both pieces are the next reincarnation of this piece.
You might have noticed only six photos. That's because I'm saving the seventh for next week.... That's right - a cliffhanger!!

oh the treasures!

I received a few treasures in the mail recently. Technically they are not for me, they are for the new home portrait commission that I just started working on. I'm calling this one Buckingham Road. And here's what I have to work with:
wedding veil, sheet music and a passport page
a piece of vintage embroidery, sentimental tweed and twigs
a few bold brights
simple yet sophisticated upholstery fabrics
clear prints, textural weaves
I'm loving the angle shot of the house
the front is great with that white picket fence
oh and the rhodies! I might be forced to embroider those!
I am playing with my layout options and planning the hand stitching. Will share the developments soon!


I think my month long diversion into beaded fruit and eggs has been beneficial to me and my art. While doing all that bead-work (and Thanksgiving cooking, cleaning and hosting) my brain was working things out. And I'm afraid (in a good way) that it has worked out quite a bit!

My head is bursting with new ideas, old ideas refined and everything in between. I've written and sketched everything down in my sketchbook and various legal pads, sorted in order that I would like to get going on it and even have gotten down to business.

First on my list are two artworks which have been languishing due to lack of enthusiasm and/or time for a while now. One (smallish) I thought was done two years ago, then I decided it needed more, and that "more" turned out to be an enormous amount of hand stitching with thick metallic thread. I have been working on it in tiny pieces of time here and there, but now I see the light at the end of the tunnel, so I am encouraged to persevere!
asphalt in progress
The other is a much larger piece that is part of my City Love Affair series. It got stopped in its tracks when I got tired of the tedious basting that turned out to be part of the process and distracted by other more immediate and faster paced art. I am excited about it once again, as I see a newish way I want work on it (after the basting) which will lead me to the next piece in the series which is in my head entirely at the moment.
basting very carefully so I won't have to rip out too much later
The third on my list to get done before starting anything new in earnest is the current occupant of my design wall. It is the other bridge in my City Lines series. The whole "cloth" base is done and now I am dying to get collaging with plastics on it. I have shared a bit of it a few weeks ago, but it hasn't budged since then... now that my house guests are off for a while and my studio (aka passage way) is allowed to get messy again, it will get very very messy!
the sketch is under a clear plastic for guidance
So. I hope to share updates on these three throughout the months of December and January. And if I get started on any of the other ideas my brain has come up with, I will share those too! And somewhere in there I have to squeeze in three costumes for my kids Russian school play... (I am taking a break this year from making costumes for the whole production). Onward with December!!

what's been going on...

...a lot.. is the short answer. Details? Russian Orthodox Easter was celebrated a week ofter everyone else Easter, and that pretty much took over my life. There was much cooking and cleaning to do, church going, celebrating and visiting. But I have blogged about all that before (here, here and here), so I'll spare you the pictures and will instead share the tiny bit of artwork that I managed to pull off amid all the hoopla. 
I had shared some work in progress last month in this post, and now I got chance to finish it. That meant whole lot of painting! And I enjoyed it so. The "whole" cloth long and skinny quilt (not even sure if I can call it a quilt officially) that I constructed out of various recyclables got painted on both sides. Acrylic paint was chosen mainly for ease of painting straight from the tube, excellent "blendiness" and because I was counting on it to give some strength to the paper parts while retaining the elasticity. 
I think that in these photos, you'll be able to tell that I went back to my roots in choosing the theme for my totem. Russian village windows were a recurring theme in my early art-quilting days. This one is a favorite, as well as this one and this one. It just felt right to construct a totem out of windows. Perhaps the Easter season influenced my color choices, both sides turned out bright and happy.
Unfortunately I do not yet have a full shot of the finished work. My studio ceilings are not tall enough, I'll have to take some non-professional pictures outside and I will definitely take installation shots of the whole room of totems in May. Stay tuned!

my version of lace

I thought I'd share more new artwork today. I had created this work over this past autumn and managed to finish it in time to debut at my exhibit this November. It is a continuation of my St. Pete Lace/Piterskoie Kruzhevo series which began with this piece that I created for the SAQA Auction. I enjoy working in the same format on several pieces at once. It gives me a chance to work out variations in design and makes for a nice presentation, especially for small work. All these pieces measure 12"x12", one of my favorite sizes and shapes to work with. St. Petersburg (as you might have noticed) permeates my art on many levels. For this work I used poetry about St. Petersburg by the famous Russian poet Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin, specifically an expert from his epic poem Mednii Vsadnik/Bronze Horseman. One of my favorite passages is this:

I love thee, city of Peter's making;
I love thy harmonies austere,
And Neva's sovran waters breaking
Along her banks of granite sheer;
Thy traceried iron gates; thy sparkling,
Yet moonless, meditative gloom
And thy transparent twilight darkling

For the full translation take a look here. Of course I am prejudiced and like the Russian version much better, so that's the version I used for the background of all six pieces. Printed and decoupaged over stretched canvas. For the second layer, I used photos I took of the buildings in my favorite city, printed them on Extravaganza, layered with scraps of various fabrics underneath and stitched by hand and machine. The third and final layer is my version of lace. To me all the wrought iron gates, banisters, window closures and fences are the lace of St. Petersburg. I played in Photoshop with my photographs of these, then printed them out on TAP and transferred to my work, and for good measure added more stitching on top. A detail shot. All the pieces installed together.

hello 2010!

After the euphoria of welcoming the new year, the lovely dinner with friends, the fun times with friends and family in snowy cold Boston.. the reality sets in. Back home cleaning up after the festivities, getting ready for more (Russian Christmas), doing loads and loads of can really hit the winter doldrums...

My antidote? To see what I accomplished in 2009 and plan for 2010! So while I cannot possibly come up with a list as extensive as Lisa's (my head can't handle that much, but she always inspires me to do more), I have come up with a small list of my own:

~ I created 26 new artworks.
~ I made 30 4"x4" pieces for an art exchange with a group of artists that I belong to.
~ among those 26 new pieces are three that are part of the figure series that I am really excited about.
~ and also among those new pieces are three larger new artworks for the St. Pete series that I am still passionate about
~ I reworked nine old okoshechki/little windows pieces that I wasn't happy with.
~ I had work accepted into 10 juried exhibitions
~ one of those exhibitions is Art Quilt Elements (which still makes me want to pinch myself!)
~ I sold two pieces of art!
~ I taped a DVD for Cloth Paper Scissors Workshop!!!
~ I wrote two online tutorials for Quilting Daily
~ I answered interview questions for Embellishments Newsletter from Quilting Arts Magazine
~ I taped a segment for Quilting Arts TV Series 500
~ I designed and made costumes for Russian school Christmas play
~ I designed and am still working on costumes for the new Russian school Christmas play
~ I attended a workshop with Jane Davila
~ I spent five weeks in St. Petersburg, Russia with my children
~ I spent a week on Hawai'i for our second honeymoon
~ I shepherded a second grader and kindergartener (my most important job!)
~ I took figure drawing classes for a semester
~ and I kept a sketch journal everyday....

OK so not too shabby... I feel better now! Thanks for indulging me.

Now I am ready to dive into 2010 with enthusiasm! I have chosen my word for the year, well, two actually ~ CLARITY and PURPOSE. Those are two things that I want to achieve in 2010 for my art. Which path do I want to pursue? Why do I want to pursue it? To get myself going on this I sighed up for a Blast Off class with Alyson Stanfield which starts tomorrow (aack!!)

Now you are probably wondering what that old journal sketch from last January is doing up there at the top of the post? I'll tell ya. I will not be doing a daily sketch journal this year or a weekly journal quilt. I decided to do monthly journal art quilts. I plan to choose a journal sketch from the corresponding month of 2009 and use it as inspiration for a monthly diptych in 2010. So that red sketch up there is the inspiration for January 2010 journal diptych. How will I translate it? What size will it be? Those are all good questions that I will find an answer to this month. And whatever parameters I choose, I will keep for the rest of the year.

There. That's the plan. What's your plan?

new work catch up..

Last night I finally managed to take good pictures of my latest windows. Питерские Окна/Piterskie Okna/St. Pete Windows 1, 2, 3, 4, 5,and 6. My obsession continues, obviously I can't stop myself. But I do think that these collages are different, they are after all based on city windows this time. They were inspired by the windows of St. Petersburg, Russia, my native city. Here are detail pictures from each one...
number 1number 2number 3number 4number 5number 6 I really wanted to show the decaying elegance of this city, which at the same time is infused with the energy of rebirth. There is so much going on there these days, it is shaking off the years of communism with this new youthful energy, yet the decay of those years is still very evident. When I was there this past summer, I was very invigorated by that energy, yet at the same time felt nostalgic.. Hopefully I have managed to capture in this work those feelings that I find so hard to express in words...
The materials I used are pre-stretched canvas (12"x12") that I painted with acrylic paint and layered with papers, dryer sheets, dye catcher sheets, scraps of silk, cotton and synthetic fabrics which were free-hand machine embroidered and hand stitched and then painted with oil sticks.
And just in case this post doesn't have enough pictures in it, here are a few photos of the actual windows that inspired me.


Feeling better today and enough energy to complete this weeks journal. It's very simple, plain simple or should I just call it 8{52}plain square... Discharged black cotton, dryer sheet, rayon embroidery thread, black Pigma pen. And here's a look at this months series all together. Now back to vegetating so I can conserve my energy for some hand-stitching while checking out the fashion statements at the Oscars...

new work started

I started four small new pieces yesterday, a little series if you will. This past fall I did a series of small art quilts with the theme house/home that I really enjoyed, and this has been percolating for a while now. So I started a slightly bigger version of those, in different materials and techniques. The previous were all on cotton sateen, drawn in Neocolor crayons and stitched with variegated rayon thread. The variegated rayon thread is the only thing that stayed for these. They are made of silk blend scraps, dryer sheets, Dye-Na-Flow and Textile paints from Jacquard. I'm having fun with these... here are some progress shots...

finishing up...

I am almost done finishing up projects that have been languishing around my studio. This is Аленький Цветочек/Alenkii Tzvetochek/Crimson Little Flower 7. Seven is a good number to end a series on I think, except that I am not sure if I am ready to end this series yet. Maybe it's a pause in this series. So it is the latest, but maybe not the last in my Crimson Little Flower series. It is silk chiffon, silk organza painted with Neocolor® Watersoluble crayons and Shiva Paintstiks®, free-hand machine embroidered with silk and rayon threads, hand stitched and stretched over wood bars wrapped with red raw silk.