Monday, February 8, 2016

Good news!

So the good news is that my quilt has been accepted into the Marie Webster show at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, June 24 to September 4, sponsored by SAQA.  The juror was Niloo Paydar, the museum's curator of textile arts and fashion design.

You may remember when I talked about this show earlier that Marie Webster was an Indiana designer who built a nice business selling patterns and kits for appliqued quilts in the early part of the last century.  Although that style and genre of quilts has never particularly appealed to me, I was challenged to find something in her work that I could translate into this century and explore on my own agenda of interesting concepts.

The quilt I chose as inspiration was this white-and-pale-blue number with a design of little kids looking at the moon and stars.

Marie Webster, Bedtime

I simplified the design to fit the much smaller size requirements of the show (my quilt is just 27 x 21") but pretty much replicated the two figures from the original.

I made this piece by heavily machine stitching the blue areas onto off-white canvas, leaving the unstitched fabric to bulge and ruffle. Then to make it fit the official SAQA definition of a quilt, which wants layers, I added a back and quilted that down with additional blue stitches.

Here's what mine looks like:

Zoe and Isaac Stargazing 

And here's my artist statement:

In Webster's time a proper quilt was neat, attractive, symmetrical, perfectly executed to show off the maker's needle skills. Not her design skills, because the quilter would purchase the pattern, or perhaps a kit, from somebody like Webster, and follow the directions.  In the intervening century, many quiltmakers have chosen to become their own designers.  Quilts have come off the bed and onto the wall as works of art, not just functional decor.  A proper quilt can have non-straight edges, non-right-angled corners, non-flat topography and raggedy edges.

So much has changed, but there's still room in contemporary quilting to depict the wonder of children contemplating the moon and stars.  My riff on Marie Webster's "Bedtime" changes all the techniques but keeps the images.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Second in a series

I wrote yesterday about a new piece that I made by heavily machine-stitching onto heavy fabric that I then folded and sewed into a pyramid.  Immediately I started on another one, working to improve the technique.

In #1 I noted that it was hard to get the heavily stitched fabric to stay in a crisp fold, so my plan was to build the folds into the fabric, so to speak.  Instead of cutting a single fabric base that would have to be folded into the pyramid, I cut the shape into four separate triangles and sewed them onto a lightweight fabric.  This way no matter how heavily I stitched over the fold lines, they would be much thinner than the rest of the form and presumably fold much more easily. This new technique also has the benefit of being "layers held together by stitching," which is good enough to get you into most quilt shows, whereas #1 wouldn't qualify.

I also noted that the cut edges in #1 were a little messy -- no matter how enthusiastically I stitched over the edge there were little eyelashes of cut threads sticking out.  So in #2 I folded the edges of the lighter weight fabric over the heavier, ravelly base fabric at the very beginning so that subsequent stitching would secure a totally ravel-free edge.

I liked the effect in #1 of laying down a contrast color and later covering it with lots of stitching in my main colors.  Rather than find scraps of contrast fabric, in #2 I simply chose a print fabric with several different colors.

At an early stage of the stitching, I searched through all my spools and bobbins and found those with just a little bit of thread left, then piled the threads onto my pyramid base and stitched them down.  It almost doesn't matter what colors you use at this stage; it's like underpainting, in which you will see only a slight hint of the color after the top layers of paint go on.

Here I've laid down all the contrast colors and am starting to overlay them with red, which is going to be the main hue of the finished pyramid.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

First in a series

Well, you need to know that for a long time I have been thinking about how to make fiber art in three dimensions.  And in the last year I have been experimenting with heavy machine stitching onto canvas.  So when I got an inspiration a couple of weeks ago I knew what I wanted to do.  The inspiration came from visiting one of my art pals who was taking his photographs and cutting and folding them into little pyramids.  Why not make stitched pyramids, I asked myself?

All the while I was finishing up a couple of quilting projects against deadlines I was thinking about how I was going to make my pyramids, and finally a couple of days ago I got to clear everything away from the sewing machine and get down to business.  And here's pyramid number one.

It's stitched onto a dark red cotton, beefier than quilt-weight.  I laid some scraps of greenish-gold hand dyed fabric onto the red to give a little color contrast, but they pretty much disappeared underneath the stitching.  You can't really tell the color of the base fabric except at the cut edges.

Haven't figured out whether this should be displayed sitting flat on a shelf, or on a skinny pedestal so the hanging threads can hang down, or maybe suspended from a cord.

As I was sewing the pyramid together, by hand, I found myself fixating on the process and realizing how I could do it better.  So after a brief break to make a new cup of tea, I immediately started in on pyramid number two.  I'll show you that tomorrow.

Monday, February 1, 2016

ART 101 -- success!!

I mentioned to you that I'm taking a drawing class this semester.  So far I've learned that I like line a lot more than I like shading, that I like pen a lot more than I like pencil, and that my skills of visual observation and memory need a lot of improvement.  So last week I was astounded to realize that I have actually learned something on that last count.

We were privileged to attend a little salon/soiree in honor of the violinist appearing with the Louisville Orchestra last weekend, Augustin Hadelich.  The high point of the evening was a performance, and though we were kind of crammed in to a small room with obstructed views, I did have a good line of sight to Hadelich's face.  He has a striking face, and his deep-set eyes were in shadow most of the time due to the overhead lighting.

I set myself a challenge -- could I pay close attention to that face and memorize the details so that I could draw him when I got home?  With that assignment in mind, I was able to focus on his features and force myself to articulate a description (I know I do better at analysis and memory when I translate visual impressions to words).  Then the next day I whipped out my little sketchbook and did this:

Now that I compare the sketch to the photo, I think the only thing I got wrong was the lower lip -- the vertical dimension is right, but it's a bit too wide horizontally.  If I had been working in pencil I could fix it, but since it's ink I'll let it stand.

You might think this is an insignificant accomplishment, but I am over the moon!  This is the first time in my life I have ever drawn a picture of an actual person that ended up looking like him.  Please join my celebration, even if you may think it's not much to write home about.