Inspiration: Mary Ann Rolfe

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Some fabric experiments by Mary Ann Rolfe.

When you think of working with Corel Painter, you probably aren’t also thinking of producing works on fabric, ceramic tile, or glass. Today we take our thinking way outside the box with artist Mary Ann Rolfe. Mary Ann has developed some unique methods for using the computer with nontraditional materials. 

Experimental Beginnings

Mary Ann has been interested in color and craft related projects from early childhood. She formed Creative Accents, Inc. in the early 70’s and projects evolved from decorative antique furniture refinishing, to macrame on a commercial scale, to weaving, to commissions for large woven wall pieces for corporate spaces. One thing always led to another. Around this time she developed a process of dyeing the yarns for her one-of-a kind sweaters and deep pile woven rugs in her microwave oven. This resulted in unusual blends of colors which became her trademark. 
The emerging computer revolution led to working with a developer of an interface between the computer and the electronic knitting machines which had become a big part of her now thriving designer sweater business. Selling the machines and writing tutorials on the process was the beginning of an interest in using this new technology as an art tool which continues to this day.

From Entrepreneur to Full-time Artist

In 1999, Mary Ann decided to retire and move from Colorado to Green Valley, Az. The focus now changed from earning a living to giving herself the gift of time to explore all the newly emerging and refined computer power and programs and to test herself as an artist without the constraints and compromises necessary for marketing. Mary Ann says, “I’m doing a lot of what I’ve always done only I used to call it work and now I call it play. I love the freedom to go in any direction at this point in my life. As a result I’m a better artist.” Focusing on several projects she found an emerging fascination with ways to output the art created on the computer onto unconventional surfaces such as glass and layers of transparency film. The resulting commissions for custom artwork are another welcome aspect of her current path. 

Custom translucent window panels, left, and detail, right.

Workshops

After many inquiries, Mary Ann decided to begin offering workshops, which she calls A Digital Stretch. The workshops allow her to share her enthusiasm and methods for using the computer in the creation of art. Digital Stretch Workshop students learn about:

Digital Glass

A variety of transfer techniques are used to create imagery that appears to be part of the glass surface. The importance of actual and perceptual depth is stressed as well as the methods used to achieve these effects. As with all of Mary Ann’s techniques, the emphasis is on creating a professional gallery-worthy final product. Students receive excellent documentation so that the wealth of information learned doesn’t become overwhelming when the student works at home.

Translucent Window Panels 

These panels evoke images of stained glass surfaces, yet are completely different. The finished panels vibrantly change with the change of light during the day. Various layers are used to create vibrancy and movement as the viewer moves. This technique is also applicable to a variety of other art projects. 

Digital Tiles

Additional transfer and finishing techniques are taught to create tiles using the computer as the artists tool. As with all her techniques, images other than those created by the student can be used. Time is spent to design projects for the student to take home. Step by step plans are emphasized so the project is ready to go without the support of the workshop environment.

Fabric Projects

Mary Ann shows her students tricks and tips to take their concepts from the idea, to the computer, to printer, to fabrics for a customized  permanent fabric project. With all techniques Mary Ann emphasizes learning how to complete finished projects without stumbling over the roadblocks that often arise.

This piece began in Corel Painter, and is completed as a work in glass.
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