Thursday, May 14, 2015

Gwen's Studio, Corvallis Fiber Arts Guild, Rain Shed

Just arrived at DD1's house
She is wearing a tee that is very apt. It says, "Ways to make me happy: Buy me food, Make me food, BE food."

My last post described a visit I recently made to Portland. When I mentioned this impending trip to my eldest daughter, who attends university about 1.5 hours south of Portland, she pointed out that if I stayed another 5 days that I could see her spring dance performance.

She offered to put me up in her house and made her car available to me.

My trip was just days away, and I had to pay a fee to change my return flight, but I couldn't resist!

Last September, I took the Coast Starlight train from Salem to Seattle; this time I traveled from Portland to Salem. I love train travel through the Pacific Northwest!

Portland's train station

The Coast Starlight

As soon as I knew I'd be in the area for several days, I contacted Gwen Spencer, who lives in Corvallis. Gwen and I go way back—we first met as roomies at Design Outside the Lines. She has a lovely sewing studio, Turn of the Cloth, where she takes in alterations.

You might recognize Gwen's name from Marcy Tilton's blog—Gwen helps Marcy test her patterns for Vogue and she helps out in Marcy's booth at Puyallup. She also often assists at Diane Ericson's Design Outside the Lines retreats.

It's always such a delight to see Gwen!

Gwen and I planned an afternoon where I would visit her studio. She mentioned that the Corvallis Fiber Arts Guild would be meeting on the evening of my visit: did I want to attend and, in fact, would I mind speaking?


Gwen Spencer's Studio

Gwen in the doorway to her studio

The front room of her studio

Gwen's studio is in a beautiful part of Corvallis—in an area with a mix of homes and businesses—and it's a hotbed of creative types.

At Puyallup Sew Expo last March, I attended Diane Ericson's class on designing your creative space. She featured some photos of Gwen's studio, and I can see why. I have been home now for over a week and I'm still thinking of her studio.

Let me give you a bit of a tour. (I didn't take photos of the back room with her fabric shelves and cutting table, so it's just a bit of a tour.)

Gwen's design wall

A large bulletin board acts as her design wall. I'm sure that she constantly tweaks what is on the wall. At Puyallup, someone asked Diane, "How often do you change your design wall?" "When you stop looking at it," she responded. What a simple, and brilliant, answer.

Close ups of her design wall

A dress form sits in a corner of the studio. When I was there, it was draped with Gwen's fabulous spring shawl, which Marcy featured on her blog.

Gwen's artistic shawl

Close up

Gwen let me try on her shawl - I wasn't sure how it would look on me, but I loved it! The fact that it's cut on the bias and made from a lightweight cotton means that it lays nicely and doesn't slither around too much. A slithery shawl can be maddening.

I love Gwen's shawl! Though she did have to help me arrange it.

On a low table, she had the issue of Vogue Pattern Magazine that featured me as "Star Blogger", open to that page. Next to that is a humbling piece of fabric.
See that fabric? See it?! It's pretty awful, right? Well, it's a piece of fabric that I created at Design Outside the Lines when I tried my hand at fabric painting à la Diane Ericson. I was going to throw it away but Gwen asked to keep it. She plans to use it, one day.
She claims that it's not out of pity, but I wonder.

I really liked this feature in Gwen's studio. This beautiful wooden hangar currently holds two pieces of fabric that will soon become a garment. She auditions fabric here while the creative ideas percolate.

The larger piece of fabric, which is more purple than denim-colored in real life, features a flaw on the left edge. She purchased this piece from Marcy, and she loved the flaw. I'm sure that she will find some way to turn the flaw to an advantage in her final garment.

Gwen's studio also features art work. Some items she made, but other items are made by her artist friends.

This "cow quilt" is a large piece created by fiber artist, Clay Lohmann. (The cow face is made from a painted piece of wood that is affixed to the quilt.) Clay popped into Gwen's studio while I was visiting and invited us to come visit his nearby studio. We jumped at this rare opportunity!

It felt intrusive to take any photos inside Clay's studio, but here are Gwen and Linda, as we walked to his studio.

This beautiful glass tile was made by an artist that Gwen knows and, in fact, provided inspiration for Gwen's shawl. I really like how her shawl interprets the glass without being an exact copy of it.

I briefly met the fiber artist who made this ship. She was leaving Gwen's studio as I arrived, so I guess the ship metaphor is rather apt. Such a fun piece!

Gwen made this interesting bag. She knit it from a paper yarn and the strap is made from belting from a belt sander. So clever!

I so enjoyed my visit to Gwen's studio. She makes me want to flex my artistic muscle. In fact, she gifted me with a few items from her stash of hardware and I've been enjoying mulling over how to use them. (I love challenges like this!)

Thanks so much, Gwen!

Corvallis Fiber Arts Guild

After a quick dinner at the vegetarian restaurant, Nearly Normals, Gwen and I headed over to the Corvallis Fiber Arts Guild meeting at the Corvallis Arts Center. The May meeting featured a fabric swap and, wouldn't you know it, I came home with a few pieces of fabric. <ahem> I already have plans for 2 of the pieces. The creativity of this group is quite diverse—one member specializes in Katazome dyeing, another in basket weaving, others in quilting, and some, like Gwen, in wearable art.

The group is coordinated by Nancy Bryant, who formerly ran the fashion department at Oregon State University (OSU). Nancy is a lovely woman with impeccable tailoring and sewing skills, and with a penchant for reproducing pieces by Madeleine Vionnet. In fact, she shared an in-process dress by Madeleine Vionnet that she is re-creating and I am disappointed that I will miss the June meeting, where she will show the finished garment, made in 2-ply silk.

My eyes landed on Nancy almost immediately on entering the room: partly because of her welcoming smile, but partly because of the garment she was wearing. She is about half my size, or I might have been tempted to pull this jacket right off her body. She graciously allowed me to take several photos and to share them on my blog, so you can enjoy it, too.

Nancy Bryant wearing a jacket that she made that features a very Miyake-esque vertical pocket. She traced off the pattern from a jacket that she purchased.

The fabric at the collar, sleeves, and hem with the embroidered circles was purchased, but she added the coordinating embroidery on the front and back body.

She used the same contrasting fabric on the pocket welt and as piping to delineate the contrasting hems at the sleeves and body

Following the fabric swap, there was a show and tell, and then I spoke for a bit. What a fun evening with a fascinating group! Thanks for having me!

The Rain Shed

When I first met Gwen, she suggested that I come visit her some time and also to visit The Rain Shed. You are probably aware of The Rain Shed but, if not, they have a thriving mail order business for folks in search of technical, active-wear, and upholstery fabrics, hardware, and the like. They sell fabric specifically for dark-out shades, for example, as well as bathing suit, polar fleece, ribbing, and rainwear fabrics. I thought that The Rain Shed was in Corvallis, but when I entered the name into the Waze GPS app on my phone, it directed me to Albany, Oregon, about 20 minutes from Corvallis.

It turns out that The Rain Shed moved about 1-1/2 years ago from Corvallis to Albany. I certainly didn't need anything from The Rain Shed, but I wanted to visit anyway! I can't help it—I like to scope out suppliers. I had the day off from work, and my daughter's snazzy red car, so why not?

The first thing I noticed—Albany, Oregon has no parking meters! That, in itself, was worth a photo.

I took several pictures of the inside of the store, to give you a peek.

The fleece aisle

Their clever display of cuff ribbing

And WHO wouldn't love any fabric store that actually has a room dedicated to hardware?!!

The hardware room

A tiny sampling of their hardware

I bought some bungee cord and was impressed with this device. The owner had it made to her specification: it's a lazy susan with a rod inserted in the center. It makes it very easy for them to measure off lengths of cording or elastic.

What I liked most in the store were the hand turned seam rippers made from local types of wood! (Yes, I'm a sucker for these.) You can see their seam rippers on their website (look under Notions), but here are a few that I photographed.

A sampling of seam rippers. Some are double-ended, with a larger and a smaller seam ripper. Some of the single-ended ones have a pen clip. I like the variety.

It was so hard to choose, but two seam rippers came home with me:

The double-sided ripper is made from black walnut. The single-sided seam ripper is made from the wood of a Pepper Tree

Bolt in Portland

When I visited Gwen, we chatted about all the great fabric stores in Portland and she told me that one of her favorite fabric stores in Portland is Bolt. Somehow I had totally missed hearing about this store. I looked it up on Google Maps and saw that it was located near the Portland airport, so I asked my daughter if she minded if we stopped there on our way to PDX.

Bolt Fabrics is a small independent fabric store in the heart of the Alberta arts district. What a great area! My fiberly group didn't visit this area on this trip, but I can see spending some time here on a future visit.

While I visited Bolt, my daughter and her friend had lunch at nearby Bunk Sandwiches.

Bolt has a lot of quilting fabrics, which doesn't interest me so much, but she also had quite a few reasonably priced ikats, and two came home with me. She has a smallish selection of knits, and she also carries several lines of independent patterns. It's definitely worth a visit.

Bolt Fabrics

Three sides of this table hold patterns from several independent pattern companies, including Jalie

Farewell, Oregon!

Oregon was great! I was wonderful to see my daughter, her roommates and other friends, perform. I enjoyed 10 days of gorgeous weather (what, no rain, Oregon?!?!). I played "mom" for several days: doing dishes, taking out the garbage, folding laundry, buying lots and lots and lots of groceries, doing some cooking: basically doing my bit to repay my daughter, and her roommates', kindness to allow me to take over their living room for 5 days.

After DD1's performance

With some of her dance friends

Riding bikes with DD1. (Trust me, I took this photo while riding a bike.)

Her beautiful campus (with more gorgeous weather)

The Alberta Arts district has lots of painted murals. This whale is near Bolt, and the pic was taken just before we drove to the airport. (Where my flight was delayed because President Obama was also leaving Portland. His entourage drove past us just as we were entering the airport.)

Bye bye, Oregon! (Thanks to Ann Steeves for this pic of Mt Hood.)

P.S. Since returning home, I am eager to sew, but I haven't had a lot of time. Well, I have made several pair of pants, but I am mostly auditioning patterns for a Britex project. I am eager to do some creative work!