Fiber Arts

Commemorate the sacrifices…

I spent Memorial Day watching over my husband who had back surgery.  The hospital’s window was frosted over, so I couldn’t sketch by looking outside.  So I found this picture in a magazine and sketched it.  I used black ink, and colored pencils.  I finished it after we got home.  Recovery is going well.
Fiber Arts

on knowing your audience

I love that phrase… know your audience… because it holds meaning from past experience for me.  As a teacher, I know that the learner has to connect to prior knowledge.  What do I know already?  And then asking, what do I still need to learn.  If an artist is to communicate through her artwork, then she needs to identify the audience…. who will enjoy it and why will they connect.


Ariane Goodwin writes about this topic… the artist’s “fingerprint” in her blog.   She writes:

“Know Thyself” Is A Good Place To Start  ~

For this perspective to work, though, you have to step away from “how am I different?” (could be tricky for an artist), and become a sociologist asking “how am I the same?””  

 I recommend this article, and others on her blog, if you are an artist who is wants others to respond to your artwork. If you create art just for yourself, then you already “know your audience”, correct? 


Being an artist is new to me.  I have been different sort of experts in the past:  teacher to children, of writing and reading and math and art and technology.  Mentor to teachers: of writing and reading and art instruction and instruction with technology as a tool.  Teaching is both an art and a science… processes that will support this new processing.  


Now in retirement, my focus will be on learning to use mixed media to create art.  I am a beginner in this field, although I have had hours of practice in sewing and technology and music.  My blog will focus on the process of learning that occurs as I approach this new area.  My time to spend on it is pretty unlimited, and it will include writing this blog because writing is also something I enjoy, and it helps me clarify the process.  An early step will be to take some classes in the art field at a nearby college or university this fall.  I am newly located in Durham, NC, but not fully settled, so getting started may have some limitations.  Any suggestions for classes or teachers to seek out is appreciated.  However, first we have a house to sell in Minnesota and another one to find here in lovely NC!  First things first.  I’ve always loved to study the processes of learning and doing. Retirement is a wonderful time to live where you want, to do what you love, and to learn the processes of art and of life.

Fiber Arts

Pineapple 2- Mixed Media – Completed

5-26-2011;©Mary Ritter -all rights reserved; Batiks, Threads, Hand/Machine Embroidery, Hand/ Machine Quilting

The completed concept of a pineapple that started with a sketch and developed into a water color piece is now a completed mixed media art work.  Before beginning the mixed media piece, I read an article about the fusing and handwork methods used by Laura Wasilowski of the “Chicago School of Fusing” in Quilting Arts Magazine (2010 December/2011January).  Having always wanted to try fusing, I decided to give it a try.  I especially liked how she fused the fabric first and then cut out the pieces.  She also has developed a way to transfer a pattern to fabric by using the release paper from the fusing.  It works wonderfully!  After being inspired by the article, I enthusiastically visited her web site and found a plethora of advice that ensures success.  She has videos and still photos that teach how to embroider and how to bind the quilt using fusing in a variety of ways.  She is truly an inspiration!

I used batik and other cotton fabrics; a variety of threads- variegated, quilting and embroidery; some small beads added to bring light to the pineapple surface; seta color paints to stencil the countertop; hand and machine embroidery; and hand and machine quilting.  I enjoy it all, so it is fun to put it all together into one piece.

And so now, it is on to a new project.

© 2010  All images and text are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka ‘M Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission

Fiber Arts

on practicing… my eyes are on you!

I am currently reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.  He describes successful people like Bill Gates and Bill Joy, founders of Microsoft and Sun Systems respectively, and how the circumstances of their young lives promulgated them into their success.  We often think that people “pull themselves up by their bootstraps”.  Gladwell argues that circumstances like month of birth, historical era, and opportunity to practice play into extreme success much more than bootstraps.  Bill Gates and Bill Joy were given opportunities for a phenomenal amount of *practice* because of their locations, historical era and family situation.  At any rate, the need to practice 10,000 times in order to develop expertise is also one of his topics.  Now how can we possibly do that?  I know that I practiced piano at least 10,000 hours during my younger days and while I was an organist, so having a passion for what you want to learn is also part of the picture.  Finally reaching a point of expertise, even if to a limited degree, makes an activity much more fun to do, so I will continue drawing, painting, designing and stitching… maybe I will live long enough to develop enough expertise to “feel the joy”.  How can that be?  I already enjoy the activities, so I guess the practice just goes along with progress.  See the practice drawing of “4 eyes” below.  Just keep having fun!

Can’t resist “looking at you!” Actually, this is Lab 12 in Carla Sonheim’s 52 Creative Exercises To Make Drawing Fun! I’m trying to do at least one lab per week. Practicing is not my favorite thing, but it takes 10,000 practices to become an expert, so I must keep practicing!
Be sure to check out the

My eyes are also on a lot of quilts show in the Blogger’s Quilt Festival this week.  My entry is called Coneflower.  As I focus on learning more about mixed media, this quilt was one of my first attempts to use more than fabric and thread in creating fiber art.  Coneflower was stenciled with oil paint sticks to a background fabric and machine quilted.  If you click here, a link will take you to a slide show of close ups where you can see some more details.  Thanks for looking!

© 2010  All images and text are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka ‘M Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission
Fiber Arts

on being a beginner…..

Part of being an artist must be knowing who we are in our creativity and how we process creativity.  I know I am a “finisher”,  a product person, so I think I will have to allow the product creation to be a part of the practicing.  I do not enjoy just playing with sketching or painting or fabrics without some sort of end product in mind.  Or, at the very least, while I am trying a new process or medium, so many creative projects pop into my mind, that I have a great deal of trouble just continuing to practice and play with the materials.  My focus has gone to the product I’d like to create. Further, once I begin a product, I can’t seem to move on to other products until I have worked through the creative process to an end point.  I see this as neither a plus or minus, just my “work dance” as it seems.  As I have been mulling over these thoughts, I have read a couple of books on other topics.  Still, the content seemed to speak to my thoughts.


Having read Sarah Brokaw’s book Fortytude with her message aimed at the 20 and 30 (and beyond) somethings as they approach 40, I found she spoke to these thoughts.  I am definitely in the “beyond” category, but still thoroughly enjoyed reading about the process that she is describing and recommend it to you. At one point towards the end of the book where she is discussing spirituality, she describes learning to surf and being disappointed that she didn’t become an expert after just a few tries.  She didn’t enjoy the embarrassment she felt when the waves tossed her around, and she lost her surf board from under her.  After all, she had always been athletic! What she said about being a beginner caught my eye.  What her surfing instructor told her was that


      “I would enjoy myself a lot more if I consciously embraced being a beginner and with it the wonder, thrill and anticipation of trying something new.”


Lyric Kinard, Professional Quilter’s 2011 Teacher of the Year, is such a wonderful mentor to so many of us.  She writes and talks to us about identifying ourselves as artists.  She teaches us that everyone has the possibility to be an artist.  When I hear those words, I am very encouraged, but I immediately leap to an advanced level, visualizing Van Gogh, Picasso, or Matisse paintings that I would love to create in fabric.  After all, “I am” an artist!   (Always the optimist and enthusiast!)  Keeping the surfing instructor’s worthy words in mind, I am going to take a step back.  I will try to claim the identity of artist as Lyric advocates, but I must also allow myself


“… to be a beginner”  in the world of art and to “embrace” the newness of the experience with anticipation of where it may lead me.


That doesn’t mean I haven’t been working at developing as an artist.  As I said, I am a “finisher”.  I started by sketching a pineapple and am working in a series of pineapple themes, trying different media for each one.  As I visualize an end product, I allow myself to let the product be a practice session.  The product doesn’t have to be perfect, and I do want to learn during the process.  I created the pattern and made the first fabric applications.  Now I have completed the surface embellishments and in the process have learned that I would probably most like to claim to be a “mixed media” artist.  I enjoy all of the processes, but need to focus on practicing just a few of them at a time.  For the surface embellishment, I used machine embroidery, hand embroidery, stenciling and fusing processes.  Laura Wasiloski’s article in Quilting Arts Magazine (May, June 2011) was an inspiration and her completed works have made me see the value to working in a series.  I have researched her web site and watched her videos as I have tried to imitate her process.  So much time has been spent on this that I have not done any sketching, but new sketching will probably always result in some sort of product initiation, so it will become a part of my process and not an end result in itself.  Whenever possible, I will do some sketching exercises such as from the book 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing Fun for Mixed Media Artists by Carla Sonheim. 





The surface embellishment progress can be seen in the newest pictures above.  Next, I will add the borders and then will do some machine and hand quilting that will further enhance the background and the pineapple details.  Practice. Process.  Product.  Progress.  Four “P”s to provide a guideline on how to move forward.