Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Workshop report 1

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about leading a workshop for Loose Threads, a small group of fiber artists in Evansville IN.  When I teach fine-line piecing I like to spent the first day slicing up large pieces of fabric and piecing them back together with very skinny "mortar" lines.  The longer you work on something, the more lines will appear and the more complex the composition.  You can also turn the pieces upside down or add a second color before you sew it back together.


after working late into the evening



The second day we worked with a different method of construction: starting with small modules or strips and building them up into larger expanses.  Some people stuck with their first-day compositions and made them even more complex with new modules.

second day afternoon

The moral of this story, I guess, is that when the schedule says it's time to stop and move on to another task, sometimes it isn't.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Refugee quilt people -- the entry

I wrote recently about a SAQA exhibit called "Forced to Flee," about the world refugee crisis, that I wanted to enter.  I spent much of the summer making people out of old quilt fragments, enjoying the bedraggled, faded and distressed quality of their clothes.  I decided to enter this competition because 3-D work was encouraged, and my first thought was to stand the people on some kind of base, arranging them either in lines or in a crowd.  So I constructed each one around an armature of aluminum wire that could be inserted into a hole in the base.

When I visited my art pal Paula Kovarik in September I had my bag of quilt scraps and people with me, to work on during spare moments, and when I dumped them out on the table to show them to her, she thought it might be more powerful to just have them in a heap.  "Huddled masses" should come to mind in this presentation.  The more I thought about this suggestion, the more I liked it.  That would also make it easier to ship the piece if it were accepted.

But I didn't want them to be lying down in the heap, implying they had died or given up; I wanted them to be alive and looking us in the eye, holding us to account for what happens next.  That argued for displaying the people on a vertical support, emerging from the wall like a bas relief.  I happened to own some pre-stretched canvases that weren't actually canvas, but burlap, and thought the rough texture was appropriate to the subject matter.

I checked my supply and found two 12x12s and one 8x16.  The short, wide one seemed to be best, and I started to arrange the people on it.  Then I quite by accident went back and read the call for entries: the minimum size was 12x12.  That seemed to rule out the 8x16 canvas.  So what next?

I rearranged the heaps.  One 12x12 canvas was too small for the number of people I had made; two of them seemed too big.  Too late to make more people -- I had had to wait till my show was open before I could finish the project.  The  opening was Sunday afternoon; the entry deadline was Wednesday night, which wasn't a lot of time.

Finally I had a brainstorm: use the 8x16 canvas and let one guy be falling off the bottom, at least 4 inches worth!

As I sewed the people to the canvas I ended up not only with one guy falling off the bottom but several sticking up above the top, so the finished height was 17 inches, well above the minimum.

Interestingly, the most difficult thing about photographing the entry was to get a side view, required of all 3-D work.  Although I had a big piece of gray felt -- 45 x 72 inches -- for my photo station, it proved very hard to get the whole piece into the frame without also getting annoying background where the felt ran out.  That took an hour on Wednesday evening, as the clock ticked, but I got everything done and hit the "submit" button four whole hours before the deadline.

Now comes the part that always seems unnecessary -- waiting six weeks for the juror to make up her mind.  Now that online entry programs do all the sorting and recordkeeping for you, there doesn't seem to be any reason why show organizers can't have the juror ready to go the week after the entry deadline, and make decisions a few days later.

I think the six-week turnaround is a holdover from the olden days when show entries used slides, which had to be manually taken out of the entry envelopes and arranged in trays, and reshuffled as the juror(s) narrowed down their choices.  And the high-end shows that bring multiple jurors into town for in-person presentations still need more time for human logistics, if not photo logistics.

But why should we be tied to six weeks lead time when the only non-computerized task is for a juror to sit down at a computer screen for a day or two?  Just wondering.

Friday, November 2, 2018

The show opens

The show is open for business -- sketchbooks from a year of drawing out on the mantelpiece:

Two courses of daily news haiku on a pedestal:

The calendar quilt that started it all up on the wall:

Pedestals full of bundles and packages:

One of the daily people, sitting on a base:

Daily hand stitching:

And then, just for good measure, a lovely article on the show by our local visual art association.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Flag time

Long-time readers of my blog know that I am a flag junkie -- I love the flag, I love photographing the flag, I love making quilts using the flag both as visual motif and as metaphor.  If you love the flag in all of its roles, you can check out my past posts here.

Two years ago I was feeling frissons of dismay about what was happening in the country as the presidential election approached.  I made three flag quilts to express different nuances of that dismay.  And I will confess that I was pissed off that none of them was juried into Quilt National, because I thought they were far stronger works than the quilts I have had accepted into that show in the past, and because I thought that artists who spoke out against the sorry state of American democracy should be given as wide latitude as possible to have their work shown.

Fading -- 59 x 99"

Today I'm feeling dismay again -- or perhaps I should say yet.  It was brought very close to home last week when a guy with a gun attempted to enter a black church, and when nobody answered his knock on the door, went down the street to a grocery store and murdered two black shoppers.  This is a grocery store, a few miles down the road from my house, where I have shopped many times.  A couple of days later, another guy with a gun shot up a synagogue in Pittsburgh, in a neighborhood where I have walked and shopped and eaten and driven through.

What dismays me today?  Let me count the ways --

The fact that we have almost as many guns in this country as people (except a huge proportion of those guns are owned by a relatively small proportion of people).  The fact that so few politicians have the guts to stand up to the NRA, although the great majority of people in the U.S. want stronger gun regulation.  The fact that our president throws gasoline on the flames of white male resentment every time he opens his mouth, ranting against immigrants, Muslims, people of color, women, anybody with the slightest deviation from standard sexual identity.  The fact that he trashes and insults our allies, the democracies of the world, while expressing his love for dictators and bullies such as Kim, Erdogan, Duterte, Putin.  The fact that the Republican party goes along with every outrageous word out of the president's mouth.  The fact that so many avowed Christians have decided that they love a thrice-married, perpetually lying, self-confessed sexual assaulter because they think the ends justify the means and this is the way to ban abortion.

Flagging -- 98 x 54"

My parents, along with their entire families from the day they immigrated, were Republicans.  They were decent people, as were most of the people in that party.  The Republican party used to pride itself on its commitment to principles.  When Nixon hit the fan, it was because his fellow Republicans, dismayed at the revelation that he had lied and obstructed justice, announced they could not support him.

I do not see that commitment to principles any more in the Republican party.  Instead I see previously decent people who have decided to sit down with the devil, perhaps uneasily but boy, are their butts firmly attached to their chairs!  They have sold their souls to the NRA, to the big money PACs, to the pharmaceutical and gambling and oil lobbyists.  They have pinned their election strategies on keeping as many potential Democratic voters as possible from registering and voting.

More Equal then Others -- 82 x 97"

My only hope is that we're having an election next week.  And although our constitutional system is deliberately rigged to favor the voters in small states and dilute the votes of those in large states -- in other words, most of the people in the country -- I still have hope that decency will prevail.  If we miss this chance, we may not have another.