Friday, October 31, 2014

back on the farm

I have been dithering... Shall I do this? Shall I do that? Couldn't make up my mind for quite a while. I am talking about the progress on the latest home portrait commission that I have been working on. Which picture should I use? I printed out two versions and made tracings of both. I put ephemera out in different combinations and put it all away. And took it back out again.
playing with tracings of layouts
And then... it happened.
I decided on the witches window layout
I started in with the scissors, there was no stopping now
an actual collage at the top for the sky
seeing how it works with the tracing on top
That was it, I made a commitment and stitched my outlines in white silk thread.
a bit of the sky view
the front porch view
Now I have to decide how to hand stitch it... I think I'll let it rest over the weekend....
this is the picture I decided to use

Monday, October 27, 2014


Playing in Photoshop is something I enjoy doing. So when the opportunity comes up and it's a commission too, how could I resist?

The client liked the dryer sheet prints in my Etsy store, but wanted something a bit different. You want images from two of of the most photogenic cities in the world? That I have a special connection to? And you want me to play with Photoshop and dryer sheets? Where do I sign up?

I thought I'd share a few of the images that I have been playing with. These are Photoshopped creations from my own photographs. This is the mid stage of the project as they will now be printed on the dryer sheets and will look very different in the end.

a detail of St. Basil's in Moscow
one of the towers of the Kremlin
detail of the Choir Singers bridge in St. Petersburg
The Mariinsky theater
A side entrance to the Hermitage
Hopefully next week I'll be able to share the final project. Now back to the studio!

Friday, October 24, 2014


I know that some of my blog readers don't belong to social media sites, so I thought I'd share somethings I've been posting on Instagram here. Instagram is an app and a social media platform on the smart phone that lets you apply filters to photographs and post them for your followers to see.

I think of it as rather fun and post not only my artwork related photos, but also nature stuff and general life stuff that comes my way. Here's just a few of photos I posted in last two weeks.
I made a flower out of fallen leaves and propped it up on a log.
A weekend later I was impressed that it was still on the log and dried beautifully.
Fun with mirrors and filters while watching a ballet class.
Sheep in a meadow and a watercolor app? How can I resist?
I've been stitching tiny pieces while in a waiting room and shared.
And this is the view on the worktable in my studio this morning as seen on Instagram and Facebook.
Hope you enjoyed my little social media tour. Instafun!

Monday, October 20, 2014

the finish line

I can see it from here! I have been very slowly stitching away on this small portrait of the St. Nicholas Cathedral in St. Petersburg, Russia. Now it's a question of how much is too much and how much is not enough?

This started as a wool sweater that I pounded, ahem, felted into submission, to make it as flat as possible without loosing texture and pattern. I then strategically sprinkled thread clippings and tiny swatches for an indication of color and machine stitched the outline of the cathedral. All that went fairly quickly. The next part, the hand stitching part, is the slow part. I want the portrait to have a loose sketchy quality to it, almost like a quick watercolor sketch.

Here are a few close ups to show you where I am:

What do you think? Am I achieving the sketchy quality?

Friday, October 17, 2014


That was one of the first thoughts that crossed my mind when I first saw the installation. This summer I got lost in the hallways of the Vermont Law School. I was looking for an art exhibit and got a double treat when I stumbled on the sticks. Yes sticks. But such perfectly arranged sticks. Or reeds. Because first I saw these reeds in the Cornell Library... I wanted to walk through them..
Phragmites by Elizabeth Billings
Phragmites detail
Then as I was wandering the hallways I found the sticks. They were whittled. Perfectly. I thought about the methodical, meditative way the artist must have sat there and whittled for days... I wished I was whittling along with her...

Unfortunately there is no name for this installation. It goes down a very long hallway...
There was no signs anywhere in the hallway or the library to tell me who this artist was. Fortunately once school started a quick phone call solved the mystery for me. Now I'll be on the look out for more serene art by Elizabeth Billings. Hopefully there will be signs. But I may not need them.

Monday, October 13, 2014

the farm

I am starting on my newest home portrait commission this week. I think I am really being challenged here... The subject is a wonderful old (really old) farm house in Vermont.

Here are my ingredients:
the farm house
pictures of the farm house through the seasons
some lovely old linens which will be delightful to stitch on
some modern lace that depicts farm houses
remnants of a dream catcher, will be dealing with some dry rot here, must find a solution!
old buttons, fake leaves and flowers
wall paper remnants and seasonal napkins
And then which image should I choose? I am enamored of them all!

the side view with the barn buildings visible?
the other side view with the witches window?
and that fabulous texture of the barn!
Where o where do I begin??? Stay tuned!

Friday, October 10, 2014

moving on...

From rejection to sharing. The artwork that I'm sharing in this post just got rejected from the holy grail of all the prestigious art quilt exhibits out there. Quilt National. I'm a bit bummed, I'll admit, but I am happy to finally be able to share the piece that I have been working on all summer and a big push to finish it in September. I am very happy with how it turned out. (Two years ago, when I had artwork accepted to QN'13, I was excited about it, but could not share it until the reveal at the exhibit and that was hard. I love to share my work as I work on it and when I'm done. So it's hard to keep things under wraps when you think that there is a possibility that this piece you're working on right now just might get accepted into something like QN....)

So here is Washington Av. Named for the street in Brooklyn, NY, where I took the picture that served as the base for this piece. The other base is the used plastic drop cloth that is actually the back bone of this. I sketched on it, I outline stitched on it, and I applied color to it. And by color I mean recycled plastic shopping bags. I was very focused on texture here, so I scrunched and bunched the plastic bags for the building texture and stitched it all down. No glue, no melting. Just stitches...
the grocery store on the first floor
the graffiti'ed boarded up vacant building
the decorative cornices
Washington Av. © Natalya Aikens
Oh and this is pretty large. I keep wanting to work bigger and bigger! It measures 64" high by 76" wide... perhaps I'll work a bit smaller on the next one.... maybe.

But right now I want most of all to work on more like this. So I am glad that this one is staying home for now, so that it can influence, inform and encourage its companions... I have noticed that past artwork which has quickly been accepted to a long term exhibit and left home, has remained in some ways a stand alone artwork. I kept working in a similar theme, but usually not in the same technique. I wonder if that because the piece that started the technique wasn't in the studio to keep me focused? Wonder if anyone else has had the same experience?