Saturday, July 22, 2017

Form Not Function 1 -- Political commentary


"Form, Not Function: Quilt Art at the Carnegie" opened last night, and I'll be writing several posts about it.  It's maybe the best show in FNF's 13-year history, with not a single weak sister in the room.  I'm glad I only had to choose one award, and didn't have the responsibility of deciding on best in show!

Every year I give an award for political and social commentary at FNF.  Last year there were no quilts there thinking about politics and we reluctantly decided to make no award, but this year there were plenty of candidates.  I chose this piece because it's timely, its imagery is striking, and there's certainly no doubt where the maker stands.


Jennifer Reis, Portrait of a Young Man: Trump in Drag (details below)

There's a lot going on in a relatively small space: presidents both off and on large bills, a Carmen-Miranda headdress of costume jewelry, little pompoms as an inner border, a flag, a motto, and a bazillion sequins and beads, all hand-stitched.  Impeccably crafted and presented on a stretched foundation.


I liked it a lot!

The show will be open at the Carnegie Center for art and History in New Albany IN through September 16.  Well worth a detour, although the museum is only five blocks off I-64.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

My birthday present


My sons took me out last week for a birthday celebration, perfectly calibrated to the things I love to do, and none of the things I don't.  First off, sushi for lunch.

Next, two store visits, in which  the guys would buy me anything I wanted -- the restaurant supply store and Harbor Freight, that cheap-crap extravaganza where you can buy the low-end Chinese version of any tool you might ever want.  Ah yes, they know me well -- I don't do well in fancy stores but show me stuff for $1.99 and I am happy.

In each of the stores we walked every one of the aisles, discussing all the things for sale -- what you might use them for, what makes them so expensive (or so cheap).  Stories of kitchen and shop mishaps of the past abounded.  A few legitimate needs were answered, plus a bunch of impulse buys, but of course the conversation and the companionship were the best parts of the afternoon.

Here are some of my new toys:

a sheath for my good Wusthof knife

an array of clamps, magnets, wire brushes and a little tape measure with a carabiner to hook onto your belt

and best of all, a little pull saw.  For years I've been working with a little electric saw that cuts nice and clean until the last 1/16th of an inch, at which point the wood breaks off in a splinter (lots of sandpaper used in my shop).  And for years I've been bemoaning the lack of a decent vise to hold the wood while I cut it.

The new saw solves both problems.  Because it cuts on the pull stroke, you don't need a vise, just a piece of wood clamped to the bench.  Nestle your dowel or whatever against the lip, hold the saw horizontally and saw against the edge of the wood till the teeth just graze the surface of the bench.  Just a bit of guidance from your left hand to hold the other end of the dowel against the wood lip, while the action of the saw holds the business end firmly in place with each stroke.

A wonderful birthday celebration!  We sure raised a couple of great kids.




Sunday, July 16, 2017

My favorite things 29


My parents were great travelers in their later years, just as happy on a cargo ship as on an ocean liner or driving across the Canadian plains.  But as they hit the high 80s they realized that their usual intrepid travel M.O was getting more difficult.  So Ken and I decided to help them out with one last hurrah.  The four of us went to Norway in 1999 to take the famous Hurtigruten cruise, originally the route of the mail boats that carried mail, cargo and passengers along the coast, serving communities that might not have road connections to the rest of the country.

Today the ships still leave Bergen every afternoon, headed for Kirkenes at the Russian border, and take 13 days on the round trip, stopping at 26 ports along the way.  In the big town of Trondheim the stop is six hours; in some of the tiny places it might be ten minutes, perhaps in the middle of the night.  The ships still carry cargo -- our favorite was the one-meter-cubes of salted cod, shrinkwrapped on pallets and left on the dock to be loaded on the next vessel -- but there are as many tourists as locals on the voyage.

Ken and I humped the baggage -- eight big bags among the four of us -- on and off planes, trains, buses, cabs and ships, while Mom and Dad enjoyed the trip.  It was their last big expedition.

I bought only one souvenir on the trip: a reindeer horn which I bought at an outdoor market at one of the towns in Lapland.  Others in my family didn't think much of this purchase, unwieldy to pack in a suitcase, and besides, what did I need with a reindeer horn?  They were right on both counts, but it called to me.  Not only was it unwieldy to bring home, but it has been unwieldy for 18 years.  It currently lives in my office, hooked over the window crank handle.  Inconvenient when I want to open the window, but it still calls to me, saying "I'm so glad you brought me here."






















On the way home we changed planes in Reykjavik and Mom bought me these three little ceramic pieces at the airport gift shop.  They're small, the hallmark of a great souvenir, and adorable.  The church is 2 1/2 inches tall, and they're all about 3/4 inch deep and a bit wonky.  Something about the simple but jaunty structures always reminds me of that trip, a glimpse of a calmer, less complex time and place.



Thursday, July 13, 2017

Cleaning up the slut dolls


Being the kind of grandmother who doesn't buy toys for the kids, I had been blissfully ignorant of slut dolls -- the modern-day Barbies that present their own warped vision of women, except even worse.  I was too old to play with Barbies as a kid but have certainly read reams of commentary about their figures, their wardrobes, their roles in society, mostly agreeing that Barbie is no friend to feminists.  Now that bad vibe has morphed into slut dolls, those that look like hookers on the stroll, complete with collagen-fat lips, too much eye makeup, stilettos and waistband-length skirts.


But my friend Denise has discovered a way to repurpose slut dolls into lovely little girls with no makeup, appropriate clothing and a nice, innocent look, and giving them to her 7-year-old granddaughter.  It all started when she happened upon the work of an Australian artist and mom, Sonia Singh, who has created a little empire of Tree Change Dolls.  Apparently you can buy them on eBay, but Denise was drawn to the directions for DIY.

It's simple -- rescue doll from thrift store, remove the painted face with acetone, then paint on age-appropriate features.  Strip off the hookerwear and make better clothes.  Cut and restyle hair as needed.  Slice down the feet.


Here's a before-and-after pair.  Denise enlisted our friend Bette to crochet a sweater for this new look doll, who also got a haircut and a lovely new hat.  Fortunately she already owned a pair of full-length jeans, even if the sequins are a bit flashy. New shoes or boots are still to come.

Denise has several dolls in process, a worthy endeavor for any artistic grandmother.



Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Permission granted -- or maybe not


A couple of years ago I taught a class in fine line piecing in Boston, after which one of the students, G. Wong, made a couple of quite large quilts using that technique.  She wrote me last year to ask permission to enter her quilts in a show, and then wrote again last week to tell me that one of those quilts won three ribbons at the Vermont Quilt Festival in June.

G. Wong, Going on a Trip 2

And she wanted permission again, to enter the Road to California show.  I responded to her email immediately and said "I'd be happy for you to exhibit any of your fine lines quilts at Road to California, or anywhere else.  I don't feel that I own this technique any more than any other teacher "owns" whatever she teaches."

Then I looked up the new show rules and had second thoughts -- not about giving her permission, but about being asked to give permission.  Apparently this big show has changed its rules, redefining categories and including a strict new "copyright release" form.

I'd like to think that these new rules will crack down on the indiscriminate copying of other people's photos or paintings into quilt format, practices which have bothered me in the past.  However, I suspect that for every copycat work that doesn't get entered in Road to California, at least one will come up with enough paperwork to do so anyway.  (I am not so much bothered by copying photos without permission as I am by copying photos period.)

What does bother me about the new rules is not the first paragraph, which reads "If you use the designs, photography, art, pattern or quilt created by another person as the source of your design, you must obtain that individual's written permission....  This applies whether you have copied, altered, or used only a portion of the design."

OK so far -- but then the second paragraph says "This is considered derivative work, which by definition is 'something that is based on another source' and 'imitative of the work of another person.' Designs are considered intellectual property and are covered under the copyright laws of the United States."

Now think for a minute, and show me any painting ever displayed in any museum, or any quilt ever displayed in any quilt show, that isn't "based on another source."

After I thought about this for a while I wrote my student back again and told her "I don't think your quilts in any way infringe on my copyright.  I don't believe that you can copyright an idea, and you certainly have not used my designs, photography, art, pattern or quilt in making yours.  I also don't believe that their definition of derivative work is helpful in this situation, as just about every quilt ever made is based on another source.  I don't consider the fine line piecing technique to be my intellectual property and would never dream of suing you.

In the interests of protecting artists' rights I would prefer that you not sign the copyright release, since I do not believe you are infringing upon my copyright or that I have any potential legal claim.  I think you should check the "maker's original design" box on the form.

I understand you may be hesitant to follow my preference, since the show organizers have defined "copyright" so broadly, in which case feel free to submit my earlier email if you are asked for it.  But if you're feeling feisty then I encourage you to submit this as an original design, which I believe it is."

I wonder what effect these new rules will have on the quality of work in the Road to California show.  Will it cut down on the quilts that simply copy a photo?  Will it cut down on quilts made from patterns or copied from somebody else's quilt?

And I especially wonder how other teachers will respond when their former students or the purchasers of their book ask for permission to enter a quilt made with those ideas.  Will they ask to see a photo of the quilt to see whether it's a slavish copy or just a vague sorta-copy?  Will they deny permission?  (And if so, will they announce that fact far enough in advance for people to not attend the workshop or get their money back?)  Will they charge for permission?  Will they hold their former students and readers in artistic indentured servitude for years or decades?

Perhaps I'm being too pessimistic.  And I'm not sure what motivation is behind the new Road to California rules, or what they're trying to weed out.  But I'll check on the winners when they're announced in January and see whether the rules have delivered an excellent crop of work, or just more of the same-old, same-old.

What do you think?  



Sunday, July 9, 2017

My favorite things 28


For many years my husband was a prolific gardener, tending huge swaths of flowers in every part of our heaven's-half-acre, and I was the happy recipient of armloads of blooms throughout growing season.  I always had flowers to take to work, and several vases going in the house.  Which meant I needed lots of vases.  And many of the vases took on specialized functions: this one perfect for daffodils, this one for tulips, that one for the single bloom with a two-inch stem.

Our flower production is nowhere what it used to be, thanks to the inexorable growth of the deer population and my husband's desire to spend less time weeding, but we do have gladiolas in the summer, and when there are a whole lot of them, we use this pitcher as a vase.  Tall enough to support tall stems, wide enough at the bottom to provide stability even when the flowers are cantilevered out in space, with a convenient handle for carrying.






















It was a wedding present to my grandmother, more than a century ago, Sèvres porcelain, with a dainty design of berries.  As most of our glads these days are in shades of pink, it's color-coordinated as well as beautiful in its own right.






















When I first acquired this pitcher, from my mother's downsized collection, it was dedicated to lemonade; a big can of frozen lemonade just about filled the pitcher when I doctored it up with more water and more lemon juice.  But somewhere along the line it transmogrified from pitcher to vase, and changed its allegiance from lemonade to glads.  I think it's happier this way.  I know I am.