Thursday, April 30, 2009

Got Us A Winner!

Thanks so very much to all of you who posted a link to Collage Camp and got in on the drawing. You have certainly stirred up a buzz about the workshop through your blogs and we have almost 80 members in just a few weeks. Very cool.

But there can only be one winner and that winner is ....LESLEY VENABLE! Congrats Lesley! Drop me a line and we can discuss the particulars. This has been so much fun I have decided to do another drawing for May, so keep an eye on my blog for details.

Bye for now. See you at Camp!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Word by Word

I love words, but I almost didn't graduate from high school because I was failing English. That has always been a little ironic given the fact that I am a published novelist and I dig the heck out of the written word. Granted I did struggle through diagramming sentences and to this day I probably wouldn't know a participle if it bit me on my adverb, but it was a badly timed appendectomy followed almost immediately by the chicken pox that was my downfall that year. I managed to make up enough of the work I missed to satisfy my other teachers, but Mrs. Boyce was a whole other story. "If you can not master the English language, you will fail at every thing else in life." I was quite sure that re-reading Beowulf for the fourth time in order to meet her requirements for mastering the English language was not going to make me a better singer...which afterall, at 17 was all that mattered to me. But I persevered with my assignments, begged her more than once to please let me graduate and I managed to walk across the stage with my classmates. I threw my cap in the air, stuffed my diploma in a box and headed out on the road with a band. I convinced myself that the D she ultimately gave me stood for Determined to leave town.

But now many, many years later (and I mean many, many) I find myself embracing languages of all types and not only that...I am teaching one. For years I delved into the language that is music. Anyone who learns how to read the scribbles of rhythm and a melody penned on lined paper should be considered bi-lingual. So, too, should artists who teach themselves the vast language of their mediums.

As I begin my workshop, KC Willis Collage Camp, I am learning that I am teaching more than the "tricks" I use to create my work. From the moment I offered the video series, people have been writing me and asking me if I feel comfortable showing so many others exactly what I do when I make the work of Lipstick Ranch. At first I thought, geez maybe that's not such a good idea, but I immediately considered it in a different way. Asking that is like asking a writing teacher if they feel comfortable teaching someone all those words that were in their book. They will take the same words, but they will tell a different story, just like a musician will take the same notes, rearrange them with his heart and have something entirely different than the last guy.

What I am teaching is the language of Fabric Collage. In order to learn this language they will, in the beginning, mimic my words as I show them step-by-step the sentences of fabric and trim that I string together. Their pieces will look like my pieces, just as when a musician first begins to play the guitar they will listen to music they like and play it note for note. It's only when they have a good working knowledge of what these notes do that they take off and write their own songs. Art is the same way. It requires a vocabulary of sorts. When I first decided to become multi-lingual I looked at the words that other artists put down on canvas and on collage and decided I wanted to be fluent in rust and rhinestones. I spoke all wrong at first, but that was ok. I decided right from the beginning that if I was ever going to be good at it, I had to first be willing to be bad at it. And I had to learn to trust the language I was speaking. Who knows where the words come from that fly through your head when you're writing, or what prompts my hand to move a piece of fabric into a certain place on a collage. Sometimes people will ask me where I got an idea. Beats me. That's like asking Miles Davis where he got that note. We're just talking the talk.

If you take my workshop, learn the language that I teach by showing you my words and sentences, become comfortable with their phrasing, practice them over and over again, and work like hell to create your own stories...books and books of them.

And if I were to ever run into Mrs. Boyce again I would tell her that I still can't diagram a sentence, but I am fluent in fabric. Enough said.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Collage Camp Site

I just want to post a quick note to say thanks so much to all of you for your unbelievable support of KC Willis Collage Camp. You Rock! I have been overwhelmed by all the amazing people signing up for the class. Won't we have fun!!! Here's a link to a fun preview my talented husband, Logan put together. He's doing all the workshop videos. Won't take long for you to view it (41 seconds to be exact), so take a peek. I betcha this gets you going! Grab the link and post it or e-mail it. Let's share the love!

Friday, April 3, 2009

I've decided to spill my guts.

It's not that I haven't wanted to talk about how I make the art you see on Lipstick Ranch, it's just that I've been too busy making that art to talk about it. And honestly...workshops in far off states always seemed like a logistical nightmare to me, so I just avoided it. But now they've got this newfangled contraption called the "Internets" and I have climbed on board the Info Express.

With the encouragement of my dear friend, the wonderful mixed-media artist, Jane DesRosier I began thinking about doing what she is doing and set up my own video workshop series on the very cool Ning network. I created a Ning site called KC Willis Collage Camp and between Jane and my other super-talented artist buddy, Joanna Pierotti, we got through the set up and I've pitched my creative tent at Collage Camp.

You can check out the particulars at

I have the Workshop set up for early registration, so you can go on and read the many words I have put up describing everything. If you're not already a member of the Ning network you can Sign Up for free in the box at the top right. Being a part of the workshop with access to the other Artists and the upcoming workshop videos and yours truly, requires hitting the Buy It Now button and paying the reduced registration fee. It's all explained. Gonna be fun!

And if that wasn't enough....I've decided to give away a piece of my work. Just grab the Camp icon or Badge off of the first page of Link back to me, so others can see what we're gonna do. Drop a comment here and tell me you've done that and your name will go in a drawing to be held on April 30th. The winner can go on my site and pick out any one image-one quote piece in any size available and it's theirs! Heck, I'd like to get in on that drawing, but I don't have anymore room on my walls.

Georgia O'Keeffe took a class when she arrived in New Mexico, wanting to know the secrets of capturing the subtle colors of the hills outside her door. "They could teach me how to paint their mountains," she said. "But they couldn't teach me how to paint mine." I just want to share with you some of my techniques and my enthusiasm for what I do, so you will take that info and paint your own mountains.

E-mail me with any questions. Thanks everyone! I look forward to seeing you there!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Coffee, Tea and Me

For most of my adult life I have had a serious love affair with coffee. I have a cup in my hand four or five times a day and have been known to rush home to make a latte before I go to my relaxing Japanese hot rock massage. High strung some called it. I just liked the ritual of it. The smell, the warm cup in my hand, relaxing with my thoughts...sipping calmly while a hundred creative ideas moved through my head like coffee beans through my fingers. Whenever I would see a cabin tucked away in the Rockies of the state I call home, it was dreaming of having a cup of coffee on the porch that made the cabin inviting. What good was a majestic, snow-packed mountain in your view if you didn't have a place to sit and have a cup of coffee while admiring the big rock? I even made it a thread running through the novel that I had published in the late 90's. On the day HarperCollins called to offer to buy my book, my editor specifically mentioned she liked the "thing about the coffee." I stopped by my local coffee house to celebrate on the way home.

So it made perfect sense to me, when I began to experiment with the idea that would become my life's work that coffee would be the ticket to making my fabrics look old. Not that I have anything against tea, but it's just too civilized. Afterall, I was putting women in britches with rifles in their hands on my art. Tea-stained? I don't think so.

When it comes to coffee-staining nothing is safe from me. I have a HUGE restaurant stock pot that I fill with instant coffee. I could dye a Volkswagen in that thing. And let me tell you, when you add the heat from an iron to fabric that's been coffee-stained...well, Starbucks has got nothing on me. I dunk canvas, fabric, trims, tablecloths, pieces of bedspreads and quilts, paper and old hats covered with flowers. I save the threads from the bottom of my washing machine that come off the canvas that I wash. They go in the pot white and come out in a wonderful shade do I describe it? We'll call it coffee.

Now if this sounds like something you would like to do...making new things look old and turning them into my blog. In the next two days I will be opening up my KC Willis Collage Camp for early registration. This will be a video workshop series that you access from your computer in your own time at your own pace. I will be there every step of the way to answer questions and offer encouragement and feedback. I promise you we will have fun! I also promise that you will never look at coffee the same way again.