Tokyo Art Book Fair 2014: Interview with Studio Deanna

The Zinesmate Tokyo Art Book Fair starts September 19th and I’m interviewing fellow Art Byte Critique artists about their work. The second in the series of eight interviews presents Deanna Koubou of Studio Deanna. Deanna is a fiber and metal artist from the United States.

Where are you from and how long have you been in Japan?
I am an emerging American artist who has lived in Japan for about 10 years. I have visited 49 of the 50 states and lived in 11, most recently California.

Detail of Navigation and Migration series.
Detail of Navigation and Migration series.

How long have you been making books?
About a year. I’ve been stitching and sewing since I was a child so jumping into hand-stitched art books has been a very comfortable new art form for me.

How did you come to join ABC (Art Byte Critique)
As a group we’ve been meeting for almost a year to prepare for the Tokyo Art Book Fair.

How have these meetings helped you get ready?
The Art Byte Critique has been an amazing group of international and Japanese artists whose feedback on my work has pushed me to create the best designs possible. My favorite part about the group is how divergent we are in the mediums we use but still work strongly towards such similar goals of moving our own artwork forward.

What kind of book/s will you have at the Tokyo Art Book Fair?
I created two kinds of books, travel journals and mamebons (bean books).

Travel journals, photo courtesy of Studio Deanna.
Travel journals, photo courtesy of Studio Deanna.

Each one of my Travel Journals is a one-of-a kind handmade art book. Using a consistent cover design of rugged upholstery I have been able load each one with a variety of map pages from various countries throughout the northern hemisphere.

Inspired by the locations on the maps, I created a Migration/Navigation Series of hand-embroidered mamebons (bean books). I embroidered one with a16th Century sailing ship and another with a sea turtle. Both of which represent Navigation and Migration on our planet.

Detail of Migration and Navigation series.
Detail of Navigation and Migration series.

What kind of materials do you use?
Tough upholstery fabric, modern aviation maps, wax threads, embroidery threads, buttons, and crocheted lace threads.

What are two points you want people to know about your books?
I hope people will explore new places with these books. You can add your own sketches and memories into the Travel Journals or enjoy the hand-embroidered art books.

Do you have a website where we can learn more about you and your work?
My website is www.studiodeanna.com.

Yarn Addiction Thursday: More I-cord

view of whole scarfSince I found it so relaxing to make i-cord with the mill, I decided to make another scarf. It’s based on the same La Droguerie project. This time, instead of using pom poms, I sewed tiny beads between the cords to join the strands. I used old beads and pendants that I had left over from my abandoned attempts at jewelry making. The pompoms were fun, but I like this project, too. I feel like I’m wearing a piece of jewelry.

Knotted scarf detailing beaded joinsMostly I used stash wool, but I picked up some more at La Droguerie. Sigh… I’m such a wool addict. But at least 60% of the wool is from stuff I already had. I think this scarf is a lot more elegant than the pom-pom scarf. Using beads instead of pompoms is more subtle anyway. Another change I made was to sew the beads closer together than the pompoms so that the gaps between strings are smaller. As much as I enjoy making the cord, I’m starting to find the sewing up part tedious. This is a problem since I already made more i-cords for another scarf. I suppose it’s now a problem for later.

Scarf tip details
Scarf tip details

Another great stash-busting factor were the silver beads I used for the ends. I had to buy a few more blue beads, but I really tried to use up what I had. As a stash project, this worked out not too badly.  The finished product is a bit heavier so I was a bit worried my hard work was for naught. I hate even a slight pull around my neck so I was relieved to find that if I took a bit of care on how I wrapped it, I didn’t fell any pull.  

Materials
Wool
Cashmere 95%/nylon5%: Cashmere Gold by Rich More (stash)
Alpaca 100%: Alpaga Teint by La Droguerie (1/2 stash, 1/2 new
Silk 50%/alpaca 50%:  Soyeuse by La Droguerie (stash)
Merino: Daily by Okadaya (stash)
Notions
End Beads:
silver and moonstone, old single earrings or bought randomly over the years
Other Beads: La Droguerie and stash
Connecting Beads:  La Droguerie (new)

Snowmen Fight: Samurai vs Ninja. Get Your Winter War Mittens Here!I A Post in 2 Parts. Part the Second.

recycled sweater into mittens
Recycled sweater with my own felted design. Fighting snowmen. Ninja vs. Samurai

Today, I finish the article of the making of the Fuyu no Jin Mittens. As I wrote in the previous post Fuyu no Jin means a winter war in Japanese. Traditionally, it’s army against army in winter but my mittens are going small scale. Yes, I’m taking a lot of liberties.

The previous post was about the designing process. This is about the construction process.

Materials

100% wool sweater to be recycled
Felting wool in 5 colors

  • White or ivory
  • Grey
  • Black
  • Blue
  • Red

Embroidery thread
4 tiny black beads for eyes
Needle Felting Gear

  • Felting Needle
  • Sponge (for underneath the needle and project
  • Liquid soap
  • Water (warm to hot)

Sewing Machine or Hand Needle and Thread
Needle for sewing details
design for felting
Mitten Template (made from tracing hand or a template you like)

Pattern to Sewing
1.  Make a template to trace out the mittens.

  • I searched the Internet for a nice template but never really found one. It seems like thumbs are the trickiest part. This time I added thumbs separately.  I ended up tracing the outline of my hand with a 1 cm allowance I wanted tighter mittens rather than loose and the sweater I was recycling has a lot of give.

2. Trace or pin the template to the sweater and cut it out. I traced one side then flipped the template for the back reverse side then traced, cutting the body of the mitten as one piece and one seam. Thumbs were not part of this template. I added thumbs by draping material over my thumb.

  • If I had to do it again I would trace the whole hand, thumb included then just flip the template. I did that with a second pair. Construction was easier and it didn’t feel different to wear.

3. Sew the mittens up. I hand-sewed these and it took a couple hours for each mitt. I used a sewing machine on a second pair and it went much faster.

  • I first tried to felt the seams. That didn’t go well. It might have worked if I’d allowed more than a .5cm. The seam felting was wasted time.

Adding the Design
1.  Put the mittens on the hand and mark out the part the design will fit into.

2.  Trace the design onto the mitten.

  • I redrew the design from the sketch on the mitt rather than trace. I used disappearing fabric marker which became a bit troublesome. As time passed, I had to redraw on the mitten. This happened several times so the design morphed a bit. Rather than getting upset, I just consider this transition part of the process.

3.  Put the sponge inside the mitten and under where you will needle felt.

4.  Needle felt the design. I followed the instructions from this website for how to felt a design onto a surface. I think their instructions were good. Rather than repeating them here, I recommend you check out the link.

Felting
1.   Hand-wash the design using hot water and liquid soap. Gently rub the design to felt the fibers. You might want to wear rubber gloves if the water is hot but still be careful about burns.

2.  Roll the mittens the mittens in a towel and allow to dry flat. Be gentle!

3.  Check the design when dry and use the felting needle on loose parts or tidy up the design.

4. Repeat steps 1 and 2 if needed.

5.  If the design is secure and you are happy with it embroider embellishments.
On these mittens I embroidered a mouth and sewed on two onyx beads for eyes.

Care
These mittens might survive a machine wash, though I wouldn’t care to test it. I recommend gentle hand-washing and drying flat.

Use
I’ve used the mittens for daily wear and bike rides and they worked well.  When I made felted seams, the seams opened up during a bike ride. So far, the hand-sewing has been durable and no problems with the designs.

If you have any suggestions of feedback about making the design or construction process easier, I’d love to hear.

Thanks for taking the time to read the article. Hope you enjoyed the two posts.

Snowmen Fight: Samurai vs Ninja. Get Your Winter War Mittens Here!I A Post in 2 Parts. Part the First

recycled sweater into mittens
Recycled sweater with my own felted design. Fighting snowmen. Ninja vs. Samurai

Time: 10 hours (depending on skill and gear)

Materials

100% wool sweater to be recycled
Mitten Template (made from tracing hand)
Felting wool in 5 colors
Embroidery thread
4 tiny black beads for eyes
Needle Felting Gear
Sewing Machine (or Needle) and Thread
Needle for sewing details
design for felting
(for a more complete materials list, check out part 2)

Process

Brainstorming

I attended a local Stitch and Bitch but I hadn’t any current, portable projects to work on. I showed up because it’s a nice crowd and I decided I’d work on an idea of something to make. I had an old cashmere sweater that was just too short for me and thought I’d recycle it. I’d recently seen some needle felting and it occurred to me that I could felt a design onto recycled mittens. I had no idea really what I wanted to sketch so I just let my pencil wander.

I was a bit surprised that this is where I ended up. I love to draw snowmen (in Japanese they are called yukidaruma). I wanted the snowman to have a little bit of character and something Japanese-styled. All I can say about the ninja is that I must have seen something on TV around that time. The way I drew the mask is a little bit like the female ninja character, Nezumi Onna (mouse woman) on a jidai-geki.

The snowflake above the head was supposed to be a shuriken/snowflake. I loved the idea but I quickly gave up the shuriken idea as being too difficult to for felting and the size.

I’m not sure how authentic nunchuks are for Japan and ninja.  I don’t think they are very authentic but they were fun and easy to do, so I used them.

So I had one hand done, but didn’t want to have ninja vs. ninja. So a samurai was the next logical choice.

I had this idea of them fighting on a bridge with a castle in the background and snow falling. Then I had a reality check. This was my first needle-felting design project and I wanted it to looks good and be simple. I still like the idea so I might actually do this as a drawing someday.

I was really happy with how I got this snowman to appear to have more dynamic movement but still be round and weighty. His chomage (the samurai hairstyle) at this point looks ok. The clothes are suggestive of Japanese men’s kimono rather than representative.

That’s a Fun Sketch, but Can You Felt It?

So I had two simple designs that I really liked. Before I started to make the mittens, I wanted to make sure that I could felt the design well enough to satisfy me. This was my first time to felt a 2-D pattern, not to mention one of my own design. I didn’t want to go through the work of making mittens only to mess them up with shoddy work. I needed practice. In all honesty, the project languished at this stage for a few months.

I started with the ninja.

I did a bit of research and found this site for felting designs with a felting needle. I checked out a lot of sites but this was the easiest for me to understand.

Felting test #1. Ninja

I cut out a strip from the sweater and drew the design on the wool. It’s not easy to do a good sketch with a fabric marker on wool. I made an underbody of the snowman before felting his clothes on. I don’t know if I would do it that way again. I didn’t with the samurai and that was easier and less bulky.

When I finished I was pretty happy with it. Since I liked it quite a bit and didn’t want to waste the effort, I made it into a bookmark. The pink border in needled felted from some felting wool I had so that the sweater background wouldn’t unravel.

 

Next up was the samurai.

Having learned my lesson from the ninja (taken out of context, that sounds much more interesting than needle-felting), I didn’t put an underbody and felt clothes on top. The effect is a bit different. It gives the work a bit of a pieced effect, more pronounced lines between the colors. Sometimes it made a bit more of a gap than I would like but maybe that’s just the medium and I have to live with it.

Felting Test #2: Samurai

This time I didn’t make a bookmark. The piece I cut was just large enough to test my design. I felt confident with the felting technique after the ninja. I wanted to practice the samurai before doing the mitten. Now I regret not taking a bigger piece to make a bookmark of the samurai. I’ll maybe felt it onto a larger piece someday.

Which brings us to the end of the design and practice portion of this entry. Check out part 2 on Friday.
If you have any suggestions of feedback about making the design process easier, I’d love to hear.

Thanks for taking the time to read the article. Hope you enjoyed it.

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