SEWER IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Loretta Alvarado
by Vickie Yahn Bieniak
Loretta, a fiber artist, can usually be found working on her art, bags, scarves and various other artistic endeavors. Lately however she has been keeping her sewing machine busy with making masks for HMC. She has donated over 100 yards of fabric and has made over 360 masks.
Interestingly enough, Loretta was an engineer at JPL until 1992 before becoming a professional artist. She never thought herself to be an artist when she started participating in craft shows but her artwork was so well received, she transitioned to art shows. Loretta said the shift from working with engineers to artists was very interesting. She had to go from facts to feelings!
Loretta had her own art gallery in Laguna Beach with a very successful exhibit called “In the Toilet – An Exhibit of Art Meets Function”. She also is an author, lecturer and teacher helping artists grow, develop and market not only their art but themselves. You can find her series of books “The Shy Artist Guide” on her website: LorettaAlvarado.artor on Amazon.
Today, Loretta displays and sells her work at art shows spanning from Arizona, Northern California, Las Vegas and San Diego. This year would have been her 20th year at Art-A -Fair in Laguna Beach where she is on the Board of Directors but they had to make the hard call of postponing this year’s show. If you would like to see or purchase her artwork please go to: Rettacat.art
Loretta has made three instructional videos on mask making that she has posted on our HMC page and is currently thinking about creating a 4th video regarding children’s masks.
Loretta has been a champion for artists and now we are fortunate to have her champion for the Healthcare Mask Collaborative. Thank you, Loretta for your generous donation of time, masks, fabric and information.
Stained Glass Bags
I don't quite know why, but I love making bags. I have been thinking about it and I wonder if it is because of the 3-D aspect. Maybe it lets me exercise the spacial area of my brain.
Or maybe it's because I can create something that is both artistic and functional.
Well, whatever the reason, these are my five latest creations.
All of them except the red and gold one were created using chunks of fabrics off of other projects. For example, the blue silk one on the bottom left was from the excess fabric cut off when I made a jacket. The floral one was the leftovers from a vest.
I just love it when I can use up stuff that I would normally have thrown away. Especially when it results it something gorgeous!
Here are completed prototypes #1 and #2:
There's even a pocket for a corkscrew. And two bottles fit comfortably inside.
There are still improvements to be made. I'll share version #3 later.
To go with the new bag design that I am making, I had to make new hangtags. Then I decided that if I was going to make new hangtags, I'd better create a logo.
As I was going through some possibilities, nothing was really resonating. Originally I thought I would just do a cleaned up version of my artist signature. But then I remembered that I had recently purchased the domain name RettaCat.Art. That's when it struck me, I needed to somehow add a cat to my Retta signature.
So, I found a cat silhouette clip art and played around with it to make the cat part of the "R". I really like the way it turned out.
I've been getting ready for the Sawdust Winter Fantasy show. While my tote bags have been a big hit, many people have been asking for a small size hand bag. So, here's what I came up with. It's a three-compartment bag with a zipper and a long detachable strap. The middle compartment is perfect for a smart phone.
Just like the tote bags, these have my artwork reproduced on them. And just like the totes, I sew every single one of these.
Here's the first three that I've made. I still need to make the straps. These and several other designs will be available at the Sawdust show starting on November 18th.
What kind of machine do you use?
I am often asked this question, especially when I am selling my artwork at a show and I have my sewing machine with me. My usual answer is, “It is a 34 year old, non-computerized Pfaff. It does what I need it to do, straight stitch and zigzag.”
Now, let’s look at this question a bit deeper. If you were talking to a writer, would you ask, “What kind of computer do you use?” Highly unlikely. A computer is just a tool. Having the most advanced computer available will not make you a great writer. More RAM, faster processor speed, blah blah blah, these are all nice things to have, and they contribute to the ease of the writing process, but they do nothing to generate the ideas. The creativity, the style, the plot, these all need to come from the mind of the writer.
The same idea applies to sewing machines. Like the computer, it is just a tool. Having the most advanced sewing machine on the market will not make you a great artist. While it might be nice to have a sewing machine that will do all those fancy stitches automatically, it is the human heart, mind, and hand that create a piece of artwork.
So, with all that said, here are my 7 tips for buying a sewing machine:
I was teasing a fellow seamstress friend of mine for not knowing the purpose of the strawberry part of a tomato pincushion. (It's filled with sand. You push your pins into it to clean off any burrs.) Well, here's one of those things I should have learned a long time ago. (Hmmm, how many years have I been sewing... Never mind!)
I was looking at the instruction manual for one of my sewing machines that I don't use very often. I happened to look at the page on how to wind the bobbin. Wow, I never knew that you're supposed to thread the thread through that little slot before winding. All this time I've been carefully trying to pre-wind some thread onto the bobbin to keep it from sliding out, especially with rayon threads.
Threading through the slot first works so much better. You just hold onto that tail as it starts to wind. Once started, clip off the tail and you're good to sew!
I've been busy adding my artwork to the site FineArtAmerica.com. Here's where you can find one of my favorite music themed pieces:
You can get this or any of my other pieces as a print (either framed or matted), a tote bag, cell phone case, and even a shower curtain! Visit the site by clicking the link above.
I have slowly been adding some of the stuff from my old website back into this new one. I was reminded this past weekend at the Tall Ships Festival in Dana Point that my new website was missing all of the tutorials. So, as requested, I have added a couple of them to this new site.
Go here to see the Easy Quilt Binding Tutorial.
Go here to see the Tips for Working with Metallic Thread.