You've heard the saying, I'm sure, and perhaps seen this visual:

This definitely applies to creating art. And as a fibre artist, we have an abundance of techniques and materials to choose from.

At the recent DRAW art retreat hosted by CPAWS (Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Ottawa Valley Chapter), a paddle maker had donated small paddles that could be used as backgrounds for our art. The idea was to paint on them or collage or use whatever technique we wanted to make something artistic, then return the completed paddle to CPAWS to sell at fundraisers.

I opted to take one, thinking I would collage some of my sun printed leaves onto the blade of the paddle. 

But after experimenting with this idea and possible layouts, I decided the results were not as dynamic as I had envisioned. I instead settled on trying an image transfer using one of my photos taken during the retreat.

To prepare, I sealed the wood of the paddle, chose my photo and printed it on a laser printer. But after doing the image transfer, which incidentally I had done successfully in the past, I wasn't satisfied with the results.

It didn't fit my original concept of something simple yet impactful. In hindsight, I should have chosen an image with better contrast and not nearly as much detail - while I could envision this particular image on the paddle, in reality it didn't work as it was too busy. I would have spent hours adding paint to strengthen the transferred image. Collaging the photo may have been a better approach...

My next thought was to be true to the technique which has become my voice these days: sew 'n slash. I therefore decided to sew a Jack Pine tree which I could mount onto the blade. For the background, I would need to paint over the image transfer and up the shaft and grip to create a sky, adding a few clouds here and there on the shaft. 

While the subject and sky felt right, the sewing didn't. It was the smallness of the branches needing to be sewn then slashed that was bothering me. It was too fiddly, and I just wasn't feeling up to playing with that kind of small detail.

The tree trunk however could be made using this technique - and I had fabrics in mind that would give just the right texture for the trunk. That left the branches for the tree. These could be made through through needle felting. I don't often do needle felting these days, but I have the tools and lots of rovings in the right colours. 

So here it is, just about finished. I'll sit with it for a few more days than finish by varnishing the painted parts with a matte varnish. I think I've hit on the right combination of techniques and materials this time. It fits my original vision, and I love that it has a bit of dimension to it. It has the uncomplicated look I was seeking.

Why am I sharing all this with you?

Because, as fibre artists, we have such a wide range of possible techniques and possible materials we can access to make our art. There is no one right technique for any of us, and no one right material. We may have an initial vision but it is rarely a straight line that takes us from start to finish.

We meander. We audition colours or fabrics or even techniques. We may give one or two a try to see if the results fit with what we envisioned. This can be frustrating for some - but it's an important part of the creative process. Sometimes it means one step forward, two steps back. 

To draw an analogy, writers - of fiction, non fiction, songs, music et al - never complete a piece without making changes. They revisit, edit, rewrite, revision again and again until they are happy with their artistic creation.

As visual artists - whether through fibre, paint, collage, mixed media, sculpture, et al - we need to keep that in mind. After all, what works today, may be the right answer for something tomorrow.

Happy creating!


"Music is full of longing and movement.  Painting should be the same." I read this quote in Hundred and Thousands: The Journals of...