Basic Free Motion Embroidery Workshop

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I've finally decided to take the plunge. After requests from friends and my readers, I will be having my first free motion embroidery workshop in Singapore! It will be happening on 18 August at The Fashion Makerspace. 

It's all about breaking the rules!

Want to break the rules when using a sewing machine? Are you longing to sew something other than a straight line? Then Free Motion Embroidery (FME) is for you! Join this informative yet practical class run by Agy Textile Artist. At the end of the session, everyone gets to take home your own free motion embroidered tea towel! This is a workshop where you can unleash your creativity – no need to stay within the lines! Templates will be given for the design, but feel free to bring your own.

Participants must know how to operate a sewing machine and be confident in machine sewing. For ages 12 and above.

This is an introduction to free motion embroidery technique.

What You’ll Learn:
How to set up a basic sewing machine for FME
Basic FME techniques
How to create a basic FME applique design
What You’ll Learn:

Feel free to bring any cotton scraps

Classes start on time, please arrive 5 mins early if possible. This class will only start if there are a minimum of 4 participants.

Agatha Lee (Agy) is a textile artist interested in the interactions between people and the natural environment, and how this relationship can be improved. Her work is mostly process-based, and she works with textiles, primarily by creating textile collages incorporating her observations through stitching (hand and free motion embroidery) and marking. Her current work looks at making the unseen visible to the community, enabling them to appreciate nature. Her work has been exhibited at The Festival of Quilts (UK) and The Knitting and Stitching Show (UK).

Almost Scammed - How to Spot an Email Art Scam

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Yes, I almost fell into the trap.  They sent me an email with the title "I want to purchase your artwork", so of course I had that moment of happiness (and feeling of being accepted!)  and clicked the email.  It read,

"I would like to make an immediate purchase of your artworks. Also let me know if you accept credit card as method of payment."

I replied and asked which pieces would he/she be looking at.  The person then expressed interest in 2 pieces from my instagram account, to which I reply with all the details including price, payment and complimentary shipping (assuming the person is based in Singapore).  The total cost of the artwork is SG$220.

It then gets really weird, because the person responds with a longer email stating,

"I am interested in the pieces and I'm ready for immediate purchase and my private mover will pickup the piece from your location once the payment is made. I would like you to make additional custom purchase link of $405.00 which my private mover charges for the pickup, shipping of the piece and also moving of our other personal effects to our beach house where we are celebrating our wedding anniversary. All you have to do is to deduct the due amount for the piece and remit the
additional shipping fees to my shipping agent through PayPal in order for them to schedule the pickup from your location. Kindly get back to me as soon as possible so I can make the payment today.

Thank You."

Well, the person was polite, but the thing that stuck out like a sore thumb is "All you have to do is to deduct the due amount for the piece and remit the additional shipping fees to my shipping agent through PayPal in order for them to schedule the pickup from your location. "

Why would I pay $185 to ship my own artwork to a potential buyer? Initially, I thought it was some sort of mistake, but then when I started typing my response, my instincts kicked in and I immediately thought, "It's a SCAM!".  I quickly googled and lo and behold, yes, it was a scam. I didn't even bother to reply.

What Should  You Look Out For?

a) They want you to send money to them for shipping (or other things)
b) It's an immediate purchase
c) They don't tell you in the first instance which pieces they would like to purchase. This is what happened in my case - they just sent an email saying that they would like to purchase my art and that was it. Nor did they say that they were textile art lovers or art lovers in general.
d) When they did send me the images of pieces they were intending to buy, they had chosen close up shots of the creations.  That should have set my alarm bells ringing in the first instance!

What other tips do you have on how to spot an art scam?

Discovering Batik and Its History

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Discovering Batik and Its History
What do you think of when the word "batik" pops in your mind?
For me it used to be associated with beach resorts, tie dye (I have no idea why!) and South East Asia - rather cliche, right?  After many years of being in Singapore, I learnt more about batik through Tony Sugiarta, the owner of ANerd Gallery, an art platform that focuses on batik textiles and artist.

Two months ago, Tony gave a talk on batik at Fashion Revolution Singapore x The Green Collective SG and I discovered a fascinating world of motifs, colours and history.  Batik textiles are made by using the cantik  and wax to create a resist on cotton fabric. Once this resist pattern is created, it is dipped into a dye vat and then dried before the wax is removed.  The process can be repeated to create layers of depth with different colour and motifs.  You might see batik being sold at extremely low prices, but this is because they were most likely made and printed on machines - Tony explained to us that the way to tell the difference is to flip the fabric over onto the wrong side and you will find that the colours of machine printed batik have not seeped through, thus having a duller look.  On the other hand, the colours of hand-painted batik seep through the fabric and the intensity of the colours are the same on both sides! A piece of batik (at least a meter long) can take several months to complete by hand.

Influenced by History
During the talk, I discovered that the motifs on the batik has changed over the years in Indonesia.  These were influenced by when and where the artist lived, as well as the artists' ethnicity.

Tony explained that the mega mendung batik was influenced by the Chinese paintings of clouds.  I can definitely see that, and I love how they added depth to it too. I wonder how long this took?

Mega Medung Batik

If you can recall your world history class in secondary school, the Dutch controlled Indonesia for over three centuries, so there were also Dutch influences .  The use of more European floral motifs in the batik work was common too - batik buketan - buketan comes from the Dutch word "boeket" which means bouquet in English.

batik buketan

On a sad note, during WWII, the creations of batik took a turn for the worse, but as Tony explained, the pieces were still beautiful.  Due to rationing and a limited supply of fabric and colours, the pieces were passed between artists to create batik that had different styles and colours - a mosaic!  Who knows, each artist may have imparted a different story to the piece, creating an interesting story!

Influenced by Region

One of the fascinating things of batik textile art is that when you move from region to region, the colours and motifs change.  I learnt about Batik Tiga Negeri, where 3 Indonesian states (Lasem / Pekalongan / Java Solo) were involved in the batik process of this art.  The journey of the cloth would start in Lasem with Peranakan Chinese who would create and apply the wax patterns before going onto Pekalongan for the colours to be applied.  The cloth would then be transported to Java, Solo where more traditional Javanese motifs would be used.   I find this interesting because it allows each area to be experts in one thing, but by collaborating, they create the most expensive yet most beautiful work of art.  And, by the way, it can't be copied due to the intricacies of each stage!

batik tiga negeri

I had a great time learning from  Tony. If you want to find out more you can go to his website - he hosts tours to Indonesia, workshops and even sessions on how to wear your own batik!

Exploring Stitch Meditation

Exploring Stitch Meditation
Stitch Meditation does not have to be restricted to fabric. You can try other media as well. In fact, I decided to upcycle my stash of paper and fabric scraps. There's always a way to reuse them in the most interesting way, and stitch meditation and upcycling them into little booklets was perfect.  Inspired by India Flint, I scribbled,  I stitched and I folded.  And then I eco-printed.  As some of you may know, I had posted on my instagram what my freezer looked like - basically a garden waiting to be cleared out. 

stitching on paper

stitched paper booklets

I used bits of paper scraps, natural fiber fabric scraps (naturally dyed, some just plain) and then I raided my freezer and slipped them in between the folds of the stitched booklets before tying them up into bundles.  I used a brick to make sure everything was held in place. 

Plants used:
  1. eucalyptus
  2. rambutan and neem leaves (from The Tender Gardener)
  3. betel nut (from Cultivate Central)
  4. lotus leaf (from Native)
  5. ixora
  6. bougainvillea
  7. rose petals (waste from a shop opening)
  8. strawberry tops (from our food waste)
The 2 stacks were boiled in separate pots for about 30 minutes - the bricks were too big for me to put into one pot - before being cooled down and left for about 2 days.  

eco printing paper

I love how the colours in the 2 stacks came out different and this was very obvious with the way the ixora turned out as you'll see in the videos below. Please excuse the way the videos turned out - I realised I was speaking way too slowly and having you sit through 20 minutes of boring monologue would be painful.

Next steps will be to sew all these beautiful booklets together!

eco printing on paper

Hapazome Aprons - A Collaboration with Native

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Hapazome Aprons - A Collaboration with Native
Good work takes hard work.
And good work takes time!

Last year I was approached by zero waste bar, Native, to create a series of prints and patterns on fabric for their new aprons. They were creating a new menu and thought it would be opportune to tie it in with a new look that was upcycled too.  Mind you, I had some lovely Egyptian cotton sheets from a 5 star hotel that needed some upcycling as well.  I was super excited to be working with  Native because they had the same sustainable philosophy as me - use what you need and close the loop!  They were using natural and, where possible, foraged ingredients, and  composting their waste. It's really exciting to see their Instagram posts where they post their daily waste - which sometimes can fit one a small kitchen scale!!

Native passed me their ingredients from their garden and food waste and I got working. There were things like blue pea, borage and even tarragon. It took a while for me to get the hang of it but I managed to have the plants imprinted with the hapazome technique onto the mango leaf dyed fabric. And soon, I had this golden yellow with prints on. The final touch was the free motion embroidery.

Hapazome workshop with Agy
These were the eventual pieces of fabric that were sent to be made into aprons. 

I hope you can see the embroidered details.  The fabric was less absorbent than expected and so I ended up with prints that were not so defined.  I think it was because the count of the fabric was higher and more fine than a handkerchief (which is what I normally dealt with in hapazome workshops).  Nevertheless, we were both happy with the outcome, and I was particularly pleased with the embroidered tarragon flowers. 

Fun fact - tarragon is used in cooking steak and gives off this nice licorice like aroma! Native uses them in their cocktails!

And here's the final outcome!
I'm also happy to say that the colours of the hapazome are still there!

Native Bar Aprons

Native Bar Aprons

Do you like them? I love how the blue base material brings out the yellow of the mango leaf dyed fabric.  Let know in the comments!

Self-doubt, Procrastination & Fear

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”Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”

  • Do you have self-doubt? You won't succeed.
  • Do you procrastinate every time you want to start a new piece of work? I'll do it tomorrow (again).
  • Do you fear rejection ?  No one will buy or appreciate your art.

I sometimes do, actually, it does creep back out of that dark hole inside me. I get swallowed up by it, and it's an awful feeling. It might seem all good on instagram but deep inside there is a niggling feeling.

The War of Art

I recently picked up this book by Steven Pressfield. It was recommended in an art chat group and completely forgot about it until last week when it popped up in my feed again. No, it's not "The Art of War", it's "The War of Art".  Mr. Pressfield hits it on the head - I'm holding back, procrastinating, having self-doubt and fear because of RESISTANCE. 

How do I break from RESISTANCE?

1. Define what you want - my artist friend told me that she writes for 10 - 60 mins a day about her thoughts and how she's going to deal with it. It's a good way to reflect on your practice too. YOU are in charge of your DESTINY.

2. Hunker down and be consistent - practice your craft. If you are committed to going into the studio at 9am everyday, then DO IT even if you're not working on any project.  Just take out a piece of fabric just do some stitches. Get off the internet and DO YOUR WORK! Stay committed.

One part of the book I love is this:

"Someone once asked Somerset Maugham if he wrote on a schedule or only when struck by inspiration. “I write only when inspiration strikes,” he replied. “Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”"

This is so true. Our inspiration doesn't occur like lightening but it happens when we make the effort to practice our craft. We want to become masters!

3. Acknowledge and face resistance - write it down. Face your demons and take them head on!  Be organised - understand that art is the process and journey, not always about the product!

When Do I Start?