Archive for the ‘marbling’ Category

Writing an Elevator Pitch

I signed up for 31 Days to a Better Blog, since I am really focusing on marketing and being “out there” for opportunities. Problogger is sponsoring this, and already I am finding it helpful. An “elevator pitch” is essentially a “grabber.” I remember Bill asking us constantly with the Learning Center to “have one sentence that will describe what you do.” That’s what I’m doing now.

What most people do not realize about marbling is that it is a centuries’-old art form, and practitioners who shared information and tricks of the trade outside of their guild could be put to death. When I first started marbling, Dean and I had a really difficult time finding information, especially about how to make particular tools. Now, thanks in large part to the folks on the marbling digest, everyone world-wide is sharing information and trying to reclaim some of the ancient methods. That in itself should make for a good hook:

“A Centuries-Old Art Made Modern”

That should make a good tagline, and in the “About Me” section I can elaborate on this.

We have used for the last 10 years “Hand-marbled Fine Art Fabrics,” which had a great ring to it. THe problem with that now is that we don’t do much custom work anymore – we just don’t enjoy it as much as we did. So that’s going to go by the wayside.

One of the things about marbling that is so addictive is watching the paints swirl, and then the patterns appear. There is a wonderful connection to ancient practices, a sense of history (being a history major) that I really love. Being self-taught, this blog is a way for me to experiment and record the process – something I have found very handy over the last two years, especially since I can look at it and know I really did do some art work!

Thoughts for a Monday….

Another good school day, but I would rather have been at home working on art! I feel like some momentum is building, and I finally started some lists, mostly to organize and give me a jumping -off spot. My list from yesterday was very reasonable, and today I chose a few items from it and started to expand on them.

I checked on a fabric show in Colorado – I have had work accepted there before, and what’s even better is no entry fee. So I am contemplating Rain Forest (with a better picture), Pond, and On the Rocks. I need to read more on the prospectus so I know how many I can actually enter. What this process made me realize is that I don’t have a lot of ” new work.”

Did get approval from Amazon for an Associates page, so I can start developing that. With one of the very early versions of the website, I had an Amazon page, and we actually made money from it. ‘Course this was in the “early years” of the web and of Amazon. No clue how this will work now, but when I do the next newsletter, I will ask for suggestions, plus it gives me a chance to peruse Amazon – just have to remind myself that I don’t want to get sucked into stuff that isn’t actually making art.

Now for the reason for this entry. I was reading some old mail and deleting messages. I read The Future Buzz on a regular basis. This is one from February. 5 Simple Ways to Keep Your Mind Sharp. In a nutshell, here’s the five:

1) Continue reading, absorbing knowledge and experiencing culture.

2) Learn a skill or craft you’ve never tried before like playing an instrument, composing music, painting, building a model airplane, or even coding computer programs.

3) To improve memory don’t write everything down.

4) Give your mind time to assimilate knowledge.

5) Eat well, sleep well and exercise often.

How Did I Do?

It’s 5 PM, and it has been a productive day, especially for writing. Toured three studios for the Tucson Open Studios weekend – will definitely get involved next year – already have it on the list – note to self: set up a calendar of upcoming things….

One of the studios is a half-mile across the street, in a really funky old-Tucson outdoor living kind of space. Pool, great back porch, outdoor kitchen – and surrounded by loads of cactus. There was also a glass and metal artist in a new studio near us. At least now we have a dedicated space that isn’t apartment, that can be entered separately from the living quarters, and would serve us well for visitors.

So the addresses are changed, the new pages set up, a calendar in the works, another show to think about entering, some website pages updated, a few more boxes sorted in the sewing area, eliminated custom work, put the printer up on Craigslist, and still enjoyed the outside. Need to start walking more…made plans for the Chihuly glass exhibit at the Phoenix Botanical Gardens in April over spring break.

Things are good!

On Second Thought….

…maybe if I actually start detailing some of the projects I can make a start at something….

Website – change of address on pages, update links (not a priority), have Dean check to see all links are working, new work up (A PRIORITY), info page, garden page, start re-evaluating what will be for sale.

Which leads me to Cafe Press – make some decisions about what will actually be there. Amazon – do I want a list of books? – account is already set up – just work on my part (which is not working on MY art).

Look at Shutterfly and iBook for creating new portfolios (and stay away from family pics – just another delaying tactic). Where is it cheaper to get some prints of some of the new Garden work?

Actual art – work on Glacier – MAKE THE DECISION! This show or not????

Marbling – try out new techniques from workshop on fabrics.

Above all, stop trying to do things because you think you “should…” – (like the G-Team project from school)- I don’t need the money (whoa, when have I ever said that??) and I don’t really want the commitment. I want to come home, read, sew, sit outside and enjoy the yard, and relax.

So – Suzan, here I come….

PS – maybe I should switch the two photos. This one is the “line drawing” for the one before. This is more a “maelstrom” and the bottom one at least indicates I’ve moved somewhere….

Now What?

This is pretty much what I feel like right now – a maelstrom of ideas and lists and absolutely no idea where to start. The studio is set up and working wonderfully. I am sorting through sewing goodies (which I could spend hours on, not counting the fabrics, a classic delaying technique), school work is done for the weekend and a good chunk of next week. And I don’t know where to start.

Deadline for Fish Follies of April 25. One piece is finished – just needs some tightening of beads. Glacier – who knows? It’s waiting….and will probably continue to wait. Working on garden photos. Never sent in the trade name info (only been nine months). Want to scan old photos to preserve them. Want to purge stuff we don’t need in the new place…..

So I am facing what most artists do at some time or another. How do I get to a place to do meaningful work again, that will move me along as an artist, when I am overwhelmed with possibilities. All through the move and the math test, it was “just wait until you’re settled.” Well, that isn’t helping. I don’t want to make a list of things to do (like the abortive business plan from 5 years ago that just hung on the wall) because I will get overwhelmed and have even less of an idea of where to start.

I read marketing stuff (Future Buzz) and know I should be building the art business – no telling how many opportunities I have lost because I can’t get started……

I guess it’s time to call Suzan and at least do the change of address on the website – that in itself is seriously out of date……

Marbling with Galen

After all these years of being self-taught marblers, we were able to take a workshop with Galen Berry, from whom we get some of our supplies, and who also happens to be self-taught. What a great 6 hours last Saturday!! Even though this was primarily a workshop on marbling paper (and did we ever learn a lot), everything was applicable to us as fabric marblers. We came away with lots of ideas for new patterns, better quality paints, more vibrant colors – and we discovered a number of reasons why some of our sessions aren’t working.

This top piece is what we call our horse feather pattern, and we were able to get good vibrant colors on the paper – in cookie trays, no less. The reds are some of the best that we have tried. We stocked up on a bunch of his paints (especially since we didn’t have to pay shipping), as well as materials for new brushes, some ox gall (which we’ve never used before), and a few other goodies. I’m glad we both did the workshop – there were lots of glances between us as we would have an ah-ha moment, and we couldn’t stop talking about trying new methods.

This last is the “Italian vein” pattern, and I used to wonder when I went through marbling patterns, how it was ever done. Well, lay some light layers of paint, and then use a small water sprayer with a little ox gall in it, and it causes the paint to move together into very fine lines. Who knew?

History of Marbling, Part 2

The article has long been submitted – but here’s the rest of it!

Turning fabric into art was a long time coming. Dean and Linda worked initially to perfect their marbling skills on fabric, experimenting with tools to create patterns, as well as refining the pretreating process. Like the Middle Ages guilds that would keep marbling techniques secret, it was very difficult to get accurate information about tools, combs, and patterns. They learned the basic patterns of nonpareil, bouquet, stone, and chevron and experimented with free-flowing patterns and swirls. They started selling to crafters, quilters, and sewers interested in wearable art.

Marketing was originally limited to local groups, but after hearing the price to set up a website of their own, Linda undertook the steep learning curve of html in order to get their product out to the world. After 10-plus years on line, they worked with a web designer who also was a quilter and digital artist. Linda discovered the need for a more professional online portfolio that emphasized the artistic end of marbling, as opposed to the more commercial one of just selling fabric.

Linda stumbled into “fabric as art” at a meeting of a local critique group. She felt there was more that could be done with a piece of marbling. She and Dean loved creating new fabric, but they wanted a way to enjoy the truly great pieces. One new friend bought some fat quarters and came back to brunch the following week with a quilted and embellished wall-hanging – exactly what had been in the back of Linda’s mind but unable to exactly see. She started cutting and quilting strips and weaving them into unusual forms, leading to their first trunk show at Textures Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona.

EBay provided an unexpected outlet of getting fabric out into the hands of fabric artists over the last three years. Blogging became a way of recording progress on art pieces, as well as musing about the artistic process. The realization that they wanted to do more than just create fabric to sell to others was no longer what they wanted to do. Dean joked that no fabric was safe from marbling – they would try to marble just about anything to see what would happen. Forget lace, velvet, nylon in favor of linen, velveteen, organza, brocades – and, yes, polyesters.

Now Dean and Linda have a dedicated studio space where potential half-yard pieces hang on the design wall, waiting for discussions about the stories they will tell. One of the most wonderful moments in learning marbling was realizing that a piece of fabric could tell an amazing story through simple lines and spaces of paint and color. One series is called Gaia, and the weavings focus on the abstract beauty of the planet, told through color, line, and shape, accented with quilting and embellishment. Another series explores the power of the mandala, the circle of life. Yet a third takes on the small beauties of everyday nature: the simple rock garden, the quiet pond, the rough water. Then there are other pieces that just have to be: a detailed rock, a comfort quilt for a friend, a stream for a geologist, a tide pool for an environmentalist. Using environmentally safe products and processes, it was a natural leap to develop series based on nature.

This art form has become a major part of their lives. It’s not only a chance to share their creativity with each other, but the two are able to bring different styles to the marbling. Dean is more studied in the dropping of paint, working very methodically. Linda likes the randomness of the paint globs and the unexpectedness of new designs. They love the study of a good piece of fabric to decide just what the finished story will be. They spend weekends when they are not marbling scouring galleries to breathe in art and look for interesting subjects and techniques that could carry over into the marbling process.

They experienced a two-year period where nothing about the marbling process worked. Fabrics from overseas were treated differently and it was harder to remove chemicals. Paint formulas changed, and certain colors were no longer bright and distinct. The local water wasn’t conducive to the marbling process. The worse part was feeling like they would never be able to marble large pieces of fabric again. They would take out special pieces and moon over them, wishing they could create again. One by one they eliminated problems and were finally able to marble once more.

There was no question that this was what they were meant to do together. Facing the two years without their marbling sessions was very difficult. For Dean especially, coming to marbling after years in wholesale/retail, this art form brought out hidden skills. For Linda, this was recognition that she could be an artist in a medium of her own, without criticism from others.

Sharing their art pieces with others still brings a thrill, especially when visitors watch the marbling process. The oohs and ahs as the patterns develop are like notes of joy from others as they see new beauty. One gallery owner, in jurying some pieces, said the work was amazing, gorgeous, and too high-end for her gallery. Feedback is important, and the list of accepted jury shows continues to grow. But for Dean and Linda Moran, and Marble-T Design, it will always be about the creative process.

History of Marbling – Ours, that is….

I’m crafting an article for publicity purposes and thought to post it here. Comments are welcome!

The Art of Marbling

Take a 1950’s cool cat with rolled-up t-shirt sleeves and mix with a nerdy, glasses-wearing wallflower. Mix in an untapped artistic ability in both with a centuries-old guild craft that would put practitioners to death for sharing its secrets. Ferment well with all kinds of fabrics and you have the husband and wife marbling team of Dean and Linda Moran.

Marble-T Design began some 15 years ago when Linda saw a book on marbling and wanted to do some for a quilt. This is typical of Linda – find a book, read it, and then do it. Husband Dean looked for months for supplies to humor her, finally ordering them from the back of one of the marbling books – turns out you can only get carrageenan wholesale if you buy in bulk – like at least a ton….

Dean fixed up the first marbling bath for fabric and was hooked – both exclaimed over the original designs coming out on the fabric, and after practice realized just how bad those first attempts were! Linda would come home from school to find that Dean had spent seven hours marbling fabric and hadn’t even realized where the day had gone.

First attempts at quilts were interesting. Linda went into quilting after a fire that destroyed all her needlework and cross-stitch. Within a year she was developing a fabric stash, typical of devoted quilters. She taught herself through books and television shows (thank you, Sewing With Nancy), and created an original quilt using the marbled pieces.

Linda realized color was an issue for her. For the first four or five years, she only put marbled fabrics with black, thinking that was the only way to show off the colors and patterns. Dean, however, was a natural with color, grabbing paint bottles at random and cropping paint circles with abandon. To her amazement, everything he turned out worked; crazy color arrangements she would never have thought of looked like wild Asian patterns. She slowly started to expand her own color sense, finally mixing marbled fabrics of all textures with all kinds of background fabrics.

Once the two moved to Tucson, Arizona for Dean’s health, their marbling got really serious. Linda taught Dean basic sewing terminology, that a yard is 36 inches by 45 inches, based on a fabric bolt. He learned rotary cutting and adapted to a sewer’s vocabulary. Along the way they had some good mentors: Mary Sue and Bruce, the local Bernina dealers, who financed their machines and gave them their first commercial outlet; Janis and Debby, who let them buy anything wholesale at their fabric store and sold their original pattern kits and designs. Janis was forever saying, what about this fabric? And the two would pretreat it, try it, and be ecstatic with the results. Who knew polyester would have a new life and be a great marbling fabric, after so many quilting purists said it would never work.

To be continued….

Ahhh, The Weekend!

Ann wrote “Can you describe how you made the part of the image that rests on top of the marbled fabric – are they all layers in Photoshop?”

First, it’s really cool to get comments!

Second, I’m trying to remember all the steps. If any of you are interested in working in detail with Photoshop, look seriously into becoming a member of NAPP – National Association of Photoshop Professionals. There are loads of tutorials on just about anything you can think of, and they are very easy to understand.

This particular piece used marbled fabric for the background from a photo we took. Then I looked for an image in the Photoshop custom shapes. This one appealed – it just seemed like it would work with this particular piece of fabric. The custom shape was on a separate layer. One of the first things you learn in Photoshop is to make sure you do things on different layers, and then you can delete the layers, turn them off, and add more filters and “stuff” to different layers.

I adjusted the photo of the fabric to increase colors, and then I added a gradient layer (I LOVE gradients!). Then the custom image, and I started embossing, adding shadows, and just generally playing around until I had something that really appealed.

One of the things I have discovered is that the lines of the marbling pattern do some very interesting things as they are manipulated. Here’s a piece our foster son called “Ribbon Candy on Crack” – lots of playing around with color and pattern.

Art with Abandon

We were getting ready last week to do some marbling. We hadn’t done any in a bunch of weeks, and we hadn’t put anything up on ebay. We were really missing the actual making of fabric. During our New Year’s trip to Scottsdale, we both said we need to stop being so careful with the fabrics and designs. We always plan colors, patterns, and critique every piece.

We need to go back to the abandon and passion we had when we were first learning our craft. Stop worrying about perfect pieces – just have fun with creating.

I was reading an entry about how to be more creative and noticed this quote:

“Some of my best days producing creative material is when I stopped caring if I would produce something which was incorrect. Don’t worry about being right or wrong – just go for it. Your natural output uninhibited by concern for creating something correct or incorrect will always produce creative results.”

So bring on the paints, the different types of fabrics, grab a comb, start dropping paint, and stop worrying! Looking forward to using the big tray again!

I’m Baaack…..

So school is back, and I actually accomplished some fiber before the year started. I am now teaching high school algebra, much to the amusement, I’m sure, of my family. I love being back at the high school level, seeing kids from middle school, and working with competent people. A FAR cry from the incompetence of last year.

I finished a piece I started nearly three years ago, but the fabric had been made for close to 7 years. I quilted two of the three strips before I ran out of backing. I ordered a special hand-dye for the back, but that was it. This summer, after the move, I finished the third strip (12 hours’ worth of trying to find everything I needed after three years!). Then I played with the beading and all the fish Ali bought me from Hawaii. I had yarns I wove for various parts of the strips I had been collecting over two years – they look fabulous with the piece. So here goes:

And here’s a close-up:

Back again…..

So almost the whole month went by, as I dealt with a root canal, eye surgeries – and the latest – two blood clots. Feeling very tired and worried about getting energy back in time to start school.

I did finally work on getting the sewing area set, and I actually finished a really old piece (at least 5 years) that looks wonderful. This will be a thank-you for Sam for doing math tutoring for me.

This started out with just quilting some background for marbled flowers. Then it just got stored, as a result of one of our many moves. I found a few more marbled flowers to finish it up, and then I had some fun looking through a stash of beads for the flowers, found a lady bug for the leaves, and used some of my red agate for the corners. I may need to do a few more like this. We marbled leaves this weekend and they worked out really well.

Overall it’s good to be doing some sewing again.

Where I’ve Been, Part 2

We’ve actually been on the web with a presence for ten years. But getting here was interesting. When we thought about doing a web page, we did check around and get some quotes. Once this one person quoted $3000, I knew if I wanted this I would have to do it myself. So I bought Pagemill and started to learn it. I remember being on the local server – starnet – and trying to get some questions answered – but the phone message kept saying to check the website, and I couldn’t even figure out how to get on line.

That was a steep learning curve. About a year after our first attempt, I bought a book (so typical of me) on the 10 biggest mistakes you can make on a website. Turns out I made most of them. Once I updated to an iMac (some 8 years ago now), I had to learn GoLive, and I was able to do a credible job. At the time we were mostly selling kits and patterns, and I had a lot developed, and about 30 different products on the website.

Eventually the time came to change providers and went to Saltwater Systems and Suzan in Sedona, for better shopping cart. Then the time came when I wanted to just sell art pieces, and Suzan did the complete redesign you see now at Marble-T Design. This has been a classy site for us.

The art work is taking over what we are doing – we rarely do custom anymore – way fewer headaches. We marble for ourselves and for our art pieces, and pretty much keep the “retail” to eBay. That takes care of the basic supplies. Now we just play with new patterns and ideas when we marble – but there was a time when we were marbling every weekend to keep up with fabric orders – applique kits and the like. I still don’t have t-shirts, which was the original idea behind Marble-T, but we’re getting there.

Where I’ve Been….

As I start doing more marketing and trying to develop more income from my art, I thought I would look back on where I’ve been. Sixteen years ago in the combo bathroom/laundry area on Sleepy Hollow in Vermont, Dean did the first marbling bath. We were so excited with those first few pieces – all of which have since long gone as remnants. We tried some of our first selling to quilt shops (first flyer was copied, color was bad – we knew so little!), and I was using the pieces in quilts with just black. In fact, the first quilt with the marbled pieces was an Attic Window design – learned about 45-degree angles the hard way!

We kept experimenting, with Dean learning about sewing and selvages and straight of grain, and my wondering in amazement how he worked so freely with color. We moved from our small pink hospital pan to a turkey baster tray, and then to a cat litter-sized tray. We discovered that we needed to be able to do fat-quarter sized pieces if we were going to reach the quilt market, but nothing was big enough.

We moved to Tucson, and we had a kitchen counter that was longer, so we tried rigging up a longer tray to try some scarves – mediocre at best. That led to one of our decisions to buy a house. We ordered a plexiglass tray, built a fold-up marbling bench in the garage, had a set-tub put in, and really started learning our craft. We tried all kinds of fabrics – nylon washed right off, satin had to be the cheaper kind, polys marbled wonderfully – despite what people would say about the fabric. We tried all kinds of new combs and patterns, with the idea that if we could perfect the marbling on white cotton, we were really getting somewhere.

We joined our first guild (Wearable Arts Guild of Southern Arizona – made my first garments) and did demonstrations for the local Bernina Sewing Center. Didn’t know enough about marketing at the time to realize we should have had lots of little pieces to sell! Did a “Round-Up” with Bernina and made $150 on small pieces – we thought it was huge. Tried getting a distributor and selling some patterns – lots of interest, but what we found was a misunderstanding about what marbling is – and isn’t. It’s not dyeing fabric. We still are educating people.

Eventually we stumbled into the kinds of combs we needed and started creating more of the traditional patterns. We framed a few pieces and realized we had another great idea here, and we ended up selling some of our lager pieces as framed art, now in a lot of offices and businesses in Tucson.

Then came the idea of a web page….$3000??? You must be joking……


I spent over an hour at Barnes and Noble on Saturday, reading Art Calendar and looking for marketing opportunities. One thing led to another and I discovered this viral marketing information that is pretty amazing. I am spending time processing how I can use this in marbling, realizing full well we need to get a video completed to go up on YouTube. There are other marbling videos available, and I have used them to explain to the kids what it is that I do.

I got a lot of other ideas on upcoming shows, and I need to research these. It is interesting that within two years (the last time I needed slides to enter a show), the technology has changed so much that now you just need good jpgs or a CD to send. Makes life much easier.

On trademarks, I got a new domain name for our work, and now I am looking into protecting that name as part of what we have started to do. This will be the summer that I do lots of work on the art and business of marbling. I am drafting the new website, as well as researching more information about marbling. I WILL be productive!

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