From 2D Art to a Silk Bow Tie!

What do you do with your artistic 7th grade daughter when it's been a terrible year of middle school? You sign up for an art class at Snow Farm in Williamsburg, Massachusetts! 

It was the end of my daughter's 7th grade year. Do you remember 7th grade? I do. It was tough then, and there wasn't even any internet when I was in 7th grade, though we did have 7-10 families on our party line which could be entertaining in a similar way ('Party Line'  is a landline telephone term. It was like having 7-10 families all having different phone extensions for YOUR household phone number in THEIR houses, each household with a different ring or just a tremor. Knowing when another family was using their phone provided us with hours of entertainment because we could listen to their conversations. I'm sure my family returned that favor). Our little family, consisting of my husband, daughter and self, does not really take vacations, but I thought our girl needed something really special to lift her spirits after a particularly challenging 7th grade year. I had been to Snow Farm, The New England Craft Program, a couple of weeks earlier with a friend for a really fun stained glass weekend—the piece I made there, pictured above, lives above our kitchen sink and includes some stones I picked up from Kennebunk beach. I discovered that a little piece of my heart lives at Snow Farm in Williamsburg, Massachusetts! 

Snow Farm is in beautiful Western Massachusetts. It has a wide array of workshops, and includes many that are accessible to my ability level. I can sew to beat the band and love to work with color, but I'm drawing-challenged. Snow Farm has somewhat rustic housing which I find extremely comfortable, and they provide fabulous meals prepared and served by happy people, which makes them taste even better. I signed us up for a course called White Line Woodcut, taught by the then-Boston-now-Maine print making artist, Lisa Houck. This 'other Lisa' is also a gifted mosaic artist, painter, ceramics artist, the list goes on and on. In addition, Lisa is a great teacher; she's patient, encouraging, and provides excellent suggestions as well as solutions to problems. My daughter Grace made a couple of white line woodcut boards and prints. The experience was restorative for her. Yay! I also made a couple of boards and prints with an eye to turning my prints into fabric design. 

More about the resulting bow tie made using the design pictured above is further down in this post. Another sample of a carved block turned into a print is below. Here's a link to fabrics I designed using this woodblock that are available for sale on the fabric printing site Spoonflower. 

I scanned the print, isolated the lower left quadrant, decreased the size, and rotated it in a repeat. Here's a link to fabrics I designed using the above woodblock that are available for sale on the fabric printing site Spoonflower. 

Here's how the resulting fabric using the lower left quadrant from the white line print looks as suspenders:

One of the cool things about white line woodcut is that you can use the carved block multiple times to create variations of the print in different color schemes. It can also be done in Photoshop, but I was going for a more planned rainbow design in my second version than I could have achieved using Photoshop. Here's an example of one block from which I made two different prints.

Once I've finished making the actual art print, I scan it and clean up my sloppy painting job in Photoshop. In addition to cleaning up where I colored outside of the lines, I can also drop out the white lines and change the background color so that I can audition different backgrounds. Here is the digital example of what I did with the triangle print pictured above on the left. On my Facebook page I asked followers to help me with deciding which color scheme to make into a bow tie:

The amazing thing to me is that I did not alter the colors of the triangles at all, just the lines in between. It's remarkable how much the background color impacts my perception of the triangle colors. 

Here's the resulting bow tie, Full Color Triangles on Midnight Blue

Here is a customer test driving the Full Color Triangles bow tie in the wide style:

For my second white line woodcut project, I carved a 12"x12" block, dividing it into 4 squares with the thought that I would have lots of choices of how to reproduce all or any part of that print as a fabric surface design. I love the artist Kandinsky, and at Lisa Houck's suggestion, I used his style as inspiration for my wood carving. You can see the original block towards the top of this post, with the tree/brightly colored people/kite/and intersecting squares. My two favorite quadrants from that block are the tree and the people. I thought the people most leant themselves to a bow tie design, so I reduced the scale and had it printed in a simple repeat on some silk. 

Here's the resulting bow tie, Shiny Happy People, in it's tied and untied forms:

Do you have a piece of art that you would like to have made into a bow tie, pair of suspenders, or a necktie? Please reach out to me and let's see what we can come up with together!

For more than 30 years Lisa Eaton has been designing and making men's bow ties, suspenders and neckties from silk and cotton. She is the owner of the Maine based company