art resource: fabric scans for journals and collages




As an art journalist, visual diarist, sketchbook artist working with collage, paper and book arts one of the greatest tips I ever received was TO USE YOUR SCANNER.  Several months ago we went over to the local fabric store where on the floor was sitting a huge garbage bag of various fabric and wallpaper remnants for $10.  A huge bag!  I snatched them up thinking I would use them in crafts, but then subsequently grew to understand two very important things. One, I am not a crafter.  Two, having a left-handed mother did NOT help this right-handed chic learn much of anything really useful in the home (or that’s my excuse).  Ha.  

So the fabric just kind of sat up in the closet until I started noticing the proliferation of pre-made collage sheets (both with original art and digital art) being sold on Etsy or in the craft magazines I read.  I also started noticing that many of these beautiful creations were in fact just the re-imagination or re-working of already existing materials (i.e. you have a collage page that’s got intricate designs and you scan and resize them to re-present them for sales).  Well, some people have the time for these kinds of things.

But then I realized that many schooled artists (I am self-taught) know the value of saving one’s work at various start and stop points.  For instance, I draw a great ink on paper work and if I’ve scanned and saved it, I can later re-use it in various other works.  This saves an immense amount of time and it has the added benefit of allowing an artist to create a similar series of works by making minor adjustments.

And then it came to me.  If I could scan the FABRIC, I would then have all the patterns and colors forever in my computer to either print, copy, cut or paste in collage or mixed media works.  Beautiful.  So here’s a few recommendations from one who had to learn the hard way.

1.  Remove all staples, name cards, or other materials from the fabric sample.

2.  Remove all fabric shards (strings, dust bunnies, etc.).

3.  Cut the fabric samples to like size for scanning (making sure it fits securely on the scan bed) OR in your image editing program, ensure you are using the same size crop.  I didn’t do this and now I have scans of all different sizes and shapes which frankly, hurts the eyes.

4.  Before scanning, iron the samples.  I didn’t do this either and although I have interesting rippling effects in my scans (see example 3 above), it also meant that for some of the really gorgeous fabrics, I had ugly folds running down the four quadrants – I had to crop to avoid the fold and this meant losing the overall design beauty.

5.  Think about how you want to organize the electronic images.  I didn’t do this either, and now I have something like 100+ samples with no order.  

6.  Once the fabric is scanned and if it’s been sitting in your closet, donate it to quilting guilds or arts for the aged groups.  I’m a big believer in clean and functional studios – why do we hang on to stuff we’ll never use (I can’t even put a bobbin in a sewing machine – so when am I going to SEW?) Oh, and turn on the music – if you have as much material (or more) – this project takes time and patience!

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