I see it!

I see the finish line.... let me lead you to it with this update.

Here's what happened to the Adams Farm Road home portrait this week, my fingers have been very busy!

the grass started "growing" on the front lawn

it grew quite well on that precious fabric of the newborn's hospital cap

then the trees started filling in (yes the roof is sagging at the moment, but not for long!)

filling in nicely with teeny tiny french knots

I really need a macro lens for these... (Santa?)

The stitching is done! This is my highly advanced weight system to help the piece smoothly adhere to the canvas.
In about 24 hours I'll release the portrait from its weight prison, trim the edges and paint the sides of the canvas. Then it'll have its very own photo session and will be presented to the owners. And then I can share the final product with all of you!

Now is the time to check out the commission page on my website and email me (natalya at artbynatalya dot com) to book your very own portrait.

finish line in sight

It's full steam ahead here in the home portrait studio. It is such a pleasure to switch gears from the high speed sewing machine work on the Iron Spine Aloft installation to the intimacy of this hand stitched small treasure.

One of the things I love so much about my studio practice is the ability to switch back and forth from large, expansive, and speed driven work to a meditative slow practice. Sometimes the two even meld in one piece as well.

Here's the illustrated update on the progress of the latest home portrait:
cobble stones going into the driveway

a different type of roof went on to the house from the original plan, but it feels right

the stone entry wanted to be french knotted (that's only the beginning of all the knots in this piece!)

windows wanted to be filled with glass (or shiny thread)

there's a dark blue trim around the door that looks black in this photo

the start of front yard bushes and walkway

I contemplated leaving the round bushes as negative space

but the french knots wanted to take up residence there in the end
I am thoroughly enjoying the French knotting that decided it needed to be in the home portrait. It's telling me that it will be throughout the piece in varying sizes and threads.

More updates soon!

moving right along

The home portrait I've been working on is moving along nicely. I have finished putting in all the outlines, and now I am considering how to stitch the details.

Outlines in place

considering how to add the hospital tag to the driveway

trees are just bare outlines for now
 I am still considering these trees. Do I want to add finer details with hand stitching or scrap the idea and thread sketch them with the sewing machine?

I wonder if baby toes will make good bushes??
And then I also got an idea about bushes and baby toes. I think I'll give it a try! More pix next week!

deep in art in the depths of winter

Work in progress - Home Portrait © Natalya Khorover Aikens 2019
Home portrait work in progress
February has been a busy month so far and promises to continue to be so. I am simultaneously working on two projects in the studio. They could not be more different from each other.

One project is a home portrait for a sweet family with a brand new daughter. I am loving incorporating her hospital hat, onesie and sheet music of special songs into an image of their home. I am taking time to thoughtfully hand stitch all the pieces in place, making sure all the right details are included.


I am furiously stitching on my Bernina sewing machine for my other project: the installation for the Rye Arts Center exhibit in March. I have pieces of plastic bags and various sheeting all stitched together; I am about half way through stitching the outlines of the fire escape on them. After that, I will piece all the sections together. I'll likely spend a few days cutting out the negative spaces between the outlines. I am still figuring out the logistics of hanging the piece in it's outdoor space, between two trees.


Making sure to keep my inspiration tank full, I was recently on a photo safari in NYC. And while I was quite busy trying to get good shots of buildings, rusty bridge undercarriages, and sidewalk cracks, I could not help but notice plastic litter in leafless trees. I abhor litter of any kind, but it's especially plastic litter that makes me want to weep. For goodness sakes, if you can't recycle it, is it so hard to put it into a garbage container? To carry it just a few more feet to the trashcan on the corner? Ok, rant over.


Here's the interesting thought... as much as I despise seeing plastic trash flapping in the wind on trees, I am also inspired by it. Is that crazy? I don't think so. I think that the installation that I am working on right now is partly inspired by the plastic bags I have seen caught in tree branches along highways. In my case, the plastic that will be waving amongst trees is obviously not trash. It is quite intentional. I can't wait until you see it!
Snowmelt, blue skies, bare trees through the clear plastic lens of Urban Edge/Iron Spine Installation detail © Natalya Khorover Aikens 2019
Snowmelt, blue skies, bare trees through the clear plastic lens of Urban Edge/Iron Spine installation detail

a beginning

I am delighted to be working on another home portrait. And happy that the owners are allowing me share the process.

This sweet family has sent me their baby announcement, first hat, a onesie, and music sheets as part of the ephemera to create the portrait from. As you can see from the pictures below, I am quite enamored of the music sheets. I have printed them on silk organza and so far think that they will be a perfect representation of the siding on their home.

I have drawn on tracing paper the favorite angle of the home and am now placing all the ephemera in various spots to see what will work best where. This can take a few days as I like to fully take in all the materials and sometimes let them rest in a few places before I finalize my decisions.

the house sketch over the music sheets

will I put the hospital tag with the music?

there is a hospital bracelet to consider as well...

and where will I add this sweet face?

maybe I'll combine the words on the onesie with the sheet music?
In a day or two I shall start in with the scissors and there will be stitching! Stay tuned!

a tree grows in Armonk

Wow! Sometimes that's the only word that can be uttered. My reason for the word in this case, is that I am amazed and grateful that so many people loved to participate in a hands on community art project!

I was delighted to organize a collaborative art piece created with reclaimed and repurposed materials at the Armonk Outdoor Art Show. Thank you to the Friends of the Library, who collected materials and provided the space, thank you to the volunteers to helped visitors to the Armonk Outdoor Art Show participate in the project AND thank you to those visitors who took the time to stitch on or glue on a piece of plastic and help our tree grow!

We're hoping to schedule a stitching day at the North Castle Public Library in Armonk in the near future, so that interested collaborators can come help me put finishing touches on this artwork.

Meanwhile please enjoy the photos from the project and stay tuned for further developments!
This is how our tree looked on Saturday morning at the beginning of its journey.
By Sunday morning it was well into its transformation!
And here it is by the end of the day Sunday! Wow!
The following are pictures taken by our talented photographer Ilene Africk, of all the hands which made the art!










THANK YOU!!

chromorama-bahamamama?

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! 

fire escape love story

I love fire escapes. There. I've said it. Wait. I may have said it before. Well it's true. I do love them. Let me count the ways. I love their graphic lines, their rusty or sleek texture, their negative space, the layers upon layers of straight lines, the angles.
research...

research...
 I love interpreting them in stitch. Large, small and medium.
detail of Iron Spine 4 (snow dyed pine thread on plastic)

detail of Iron Spine: Hot in the City ( embroidery thread on plastic and thread snips)

Iron Spine xs2 (variegated thread on plastic)

details of Urban Towers (embroidery thread on plastic and fabric over repurposed containers)

detail of Green News ( thread over newspaper and plastic)
And extra large of course.
in progress Iron Spine 6XL

in progress Iron Spine 6XL

teasing apart thread nests

Yup, that's the title of this post. I'm sure any long time reader of this blog must have suspected that I collect thread snips from various projects. I pile them up into little cubbies until I figure out a way to use them. I try to keep them in color families, but sometimes I fail and then I don't stress about it.

Recently I thought they (the thread snips) would make a great texture representing a brick wall and heat rising. So I used them in this piece - Iron Spine: Hot in the City.
fire escape detail

another fire escape, more to follow, but please note the threads in the back ground



Iron Spine:Hot in the City ©Natalya Aikens 2017
As you might suspect, I have a few more thread nests to unravel. Here's some that I am using for the sky in a piece about water towers. Still working on this one.
teasing out the thread nest over repurposed plastic

sketching out the water towers

building up the rungs
Stay tuned! Hopefully this piece will be finished before the end of the month..

approaching

I love when deadlines are approaching. Sometimes deadlines are looming... that feels daunting and dreaded. But when they are approaching it's a bit more light hearted and exciting. Yes still lots of work ahead, but it feels happy. My favorite kind of deadline.

That's how things are now in the studio. I am getting ready for CraftMorristown in Morristown, NJ on March 17th, 18th and 19th. I finished my Street Signs pieces and stretching them on canvas now. And yesterday I finished the Brooklyn Bridge! Yes I now have a bridge to sell you. Well right after I stretch it on canvas and frame it.

Here are a few pictures of the bridge in progress...
choosing colors

putting in the starting stitches through my mock up (photo by Vivien Zepf)

filling in the details

the back view is fun to see and will never be seen again!

lot's more details to go here

approaching the image in my head

almost there

just a few more
Hopefully in the next blog post I will share the finished piece in a lovely frame. The picture I snapped of it with my iPhone is not up to par.

Meanwhile as part of my preparation for the show, I've set up my booth in my living room. It barely fit, there was no room for anyone else, but I needed to see how it looked. I will have to do it again and try it out with my art in it. Oh boy.... the dog did not appreciate it at all!
eek! It's bigger in person!

artsy shot of envelopes with invitations
If you're in the Northern New Jersey area and would like to come see the show, email me for your personalized invitation! I have just a few left.

Ok now back to framing and other details. Hmmm.... can I stitch one more in two weeks??!!

one way or another

Done with costumes, and back to art! Last year, at the very end, I posted the last piece I made before the year was over. Today I want to tell you about the two pieces I am making that could be considered companion pieces to that one. All three could actually be companion pieces to these that I made a couple of years back. As you can see street signs still intrigue me...

Looks like these pieces are all about circles! Not really, but I am using layers and layers of cut up Target shopping bags, which I free-motion machine stitched in a circular pattern. Then I painted them with acrylic paint and now I am in the process of hand stitching the signs.
this one is in the embroidery hoop right now. I think I'll call it "one way or another"

a close up in progress

going for tons of texture here

this one is waiting to be hand stitched. I might call it "no turns"

can you see the turns?

all three - in progress, waiting and finished

gathering inspiration

Getting ready to dive into art making full force here. I don't mean that I have stopped... I just mean that I want to start on a new batch of work that I want to have ready by a certain time, so that I'll be all set for any of the shows that I'll be participating in. I'm gathering my tools, materials and inspiration around me.

I gather inspiration by going on a photo safari of NYC or digging into my photo archives. These are few of the photos that are inspiring the upcoming works.






I think I can pretty much guarantee that there will be water towers represented. There will also be fire escapes, bridges, street signs and maybe even buildings, and perhaps scaffolding!

slow art

Happy New Year! Wishing you all lots of love, peace and creativity this year!

I wanted to share the progress of my current XL artwork. I started it sometime in November, and if you follow me on Instagram and Facebook, you may have seen a few posts about it. It's truly slow art... it's quite large (for me) and is all hand-stitched so far. Thus the time factor. I am working on it in bits and pieces and sometime spurts of time. I take breaks to work on other art, some faster more immediately gratifying art. But I am really enjoying the pace of it.

This piece is a continuation of the experiment that I started last year with this piece. It's coming back soon from a photoshoot with Quilt National, and I cannot wait to see how it works with this new piece.

So here's how it's been coming along...
I cut out a very large paper stencil of a fire escape and traced in thread

audio books are great to listen to when I do this type of work, podcasts are great also

it started to look like this

the base is a very old linen bed sheet from my family, it might have even been used a drop cloth once as there are white paint splotches on it. I spent some quality time mending all the worn spots.

this is what it looked like when the stencil outline was done

then I started pinning bits and pieces of vintage lace to it


I intend to cut away some of the lace after it's stitched down

this is what it looked like at the beginning of the process. The idea behind all the lace layers is that I want it to resemble/represent a wall behind the fire escape

just lace didn't work, so the fabric scraps came out to play

this started looking better!

and better!

somehow it took on a spring like feeling... I don't think it'll stay...

this is when I got done layering my scraps and lace. Now I have to stitch it all down and cut away the excess so that the fire escape can be seen again

it's off the wall and on my dining room table, and I'm auditioning threads. Not only will they need to keep it all together for me, but they'll need to add color and texture
Stay tuned! I am trying to stick to working on it for at least an hour a day. I have lots of other projects that I have to be working on, but I don't want this to stagnate. Or keep taking up my dining room table....

details

They say it's all in the details. And the details are what I have been focusing on in the last week or so.
Over the summer I have been preparing for the Armonk Outdoor Art Show. I have created ten new small artworks, five new medium artworks and have wired for hanging several large artworks which have been created over the last two or so years. I created a banner, participated in a preview exhibition, figured out booth logistics and I'm almost ready! Now I have to make labels and lists and decide on the display. This is the first time that I will be participating in such a show, so perhaps next time the prep will be be easier.

Here are a few enticing details so that you get a taste of what I've been up to.
edge painting is a bit like cake frosting


can you tell there have been a lot of edges to paint?








Full reveal is coming up soon! And if you're in the NY tri-state area, I hope to see September 24th and 25th!

a progress report

It has been a while since I've posted about the mini-series that I am planning to debut at the Armonk Outdoor Art Show. I posted about planning it here and my work on it here. Although my stitching time has been interrupted by the end of the school year festivities and packing for camp madness, I still have managed to get quite a bit done.

Two of the water tower pieces are complete, except for the trimming and the edging. Here are some in progress photos of what I am temporarily calling "water tower 1".
outline stitching
outline stitching
big directional stitches
tiny x's stitching
lot's of x's

The second water tower asked to be even bolder in color. Here are more detail pictures.
I am using a large hoop for these smaller pieces, seems to make the work easier.
outline stitching
outline stitching
big X's
straight lines in all directions
different type of x's
many straight lines of course
This week I hope to spend lots of time in the studio happily stitching "water tower 3".

Happy July to all!

proceeding

I have been steadily, if slowly, progressing on my mini-series. The executive decision has been made that the first mini-series will be ten 6"x6" artworks, and I've edited the photos which will be used for my inspiration. I'll have five fire escapes and five water towers in this first bit.
one version of a fire escape
one version of a water tower
I've started pulling out the plastics for my backgrounds. My batting, which is actually spongy white packing material, has been cut to appropriate size. One of the most enjoyable parts of the process is layering the translucent plastics to see what colors I can achieve. It's almost like layering sheer fabrics, yet different.




I am also using various verbiage of warnings printed on the plastic bags as a part of my palette. In the pictures above you only see bit of that, but I have already started amassing lots and lots verbiage which will be layered between the colored sheets. Here's a preview below...
just a few words...
I hope to start stitching next week!

planning

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!

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!

something old, something new...

I've started a very large artwork. As a matter of fact - it barely fits on my design wall. But it feels right.
Several years ago I brought home from Russia all of my grandmothers' linens. And I do mean all! Doilies, embroideries, curtains, towels and lovingly mended bedsheets. This piece started on one of those bedsheets. Actually that's not true. The first part of it begun almost two years ago on a plastic drop cloth. I stitched a huge fire escape to hang in the window of my solo exhibit, you can see it in the background of the first photo in this blog post. After the show was done, I didn't know what to do with it. So I conducted an experiment and hung it out on the deck for a few months. It held up well. Then I put it away.
This month as I pondered about what to start on in the studio, I pulled out a mended striped bedsheet and hung in on the design wall. And then I remembered the fire escape! I pulled it out, trimmed away all the excess plastic and pinned it to the sheet. The sheet and the fire escape are speaking to each other. I have started stitching it down by hand with a snow dyed pine thread that I tamed a while back.
I'm not sure where this is all going, but in my mind it's all making sense. There might be a lot of mending involved in this eventually, there may or may not be doilies involved eventually... Stay tuned!

a bit more progress..

Hand stitching takes a long time. It can be slow meditative time, engrossed in a conversation time, or listening to music/book time. All of the above were in this stitching time.

I have come to resting point now. Let the piece rest, gaze upon it and decide if it needs more stitching, how much more stitching and what kind of more stitching.

I thought I'd share a few close up of of the current stitching on this home portrait so far.
the tower
a window
texture on texture
roof tiles
front door
I'll get back with more pictures after I mull it over...