Friday, April 24, 2015

International Threads challenges 4


I mentioned in my last post that one of our challenges for International Threads was "lines."  Having worked with lines in dozens and dozens of different ways in the last eight years, I decided the only area I hadn't yet properly explored was curved lines.  I had tried to piece very fine curved lines a couple of years ago with limited success, but on the small scale of our challenge pieces I thought I could do a good job.


































Sargasso, 2015

I liked the result, and had fun putting the scales on the fish with free-motion quilting, but not sure that I am enthralled enough to go do more curves.  Before I do, I'd need to have an idea -- for instance, if the curves represented waves I might consider a series commemorating my love of ocean travel.  But it would need more meaning than that.  Just "ocean" or "fish" doesn't have enough intellectual weight to carry the commitment of a series.



Wednesday, April 22, 2015

International Threads challenges 3


Our fourth and fifth prompts in the International Threads group were "pattern and repetition" and "lines."  Neither of them seemed very exotic or challenging to me, as I have been working for years with pattern, repetition and lines.  Also I was getting behind schedule on our challenges and the deadline was approaching.

When I was teaching at the Crow Barn in October I made a bunch of strip sets to illustrate my production methods, and to have something to stitch on while my students were working.  As the clock ticked, it seemed like a good idea to sew them up into a quilt top.  But I had resolved to learn something with each new piece, and I noticed that if you made some strip sets but didn't then slice them into relatively narrow strips, you would get a different, more open effect.  (Note this especially in the lower right-hand corner.)























You might also note how the quilt has outgrown its bounds, indicated by the pinned-up selvages on the design wall.  You might not think that without noticing it you could get eight inches too big when you're working on a marked grid, but you would be wrong.  I eventually cut off some of the extra so as not to be too out-of-sync with the other pieces in the show, but I wasn't happy doing it; this composition seemed to be pretty good.

I have always been intrigued by the juxtaposition of densely fractured areas with sparser areas, as in the older quilt shown below.  The little piece for International Threads was an opportunity to try it out in another style of piecing.

Crossroads 4, 2011

So here's the new piece:

Crazed 21: Desert Development, 2015



Monday, April 20, 2015

International Threads challenges 2


The third prompt for the International Threads group was to juxtapose areas of large scale with areas of small scale.  I was the one who came up with this prompt, and ironically it's probably the quilt I like the least of the entire series.

A bit of back story: a few years ago I made a quilt based on a Photoshopped picture made by my art pal Keith Auerbach (read about that here).  It wasn't my best work; the composition was crude, there were technical problems with the quilting and I was unhappy with how much the black and blue fabrics frayed and the loose threads were visible through the adjoining white stripes.



I didn't think the quilt was worth finishing, but I loved the way the stripes worked together, especially the places where the regular pattern was interrupted and distorted.  Ever since I have been meaning to make another quilt to explore what can happen with stripes.

Here's what I came up with.  I used some of the leftovers from the previous piece for the large-scale stripes, but I cut the small-scale stripes out of a commercial striped fabric (boy, did that solve the show-through problem on that part of the quilt!).

Obelisks, 2015

I like the high contrast of the black and blue against the white and would like to use that again.  And I like the interruption patterns. But I'm not sure I'll make another piece to turn this into a series.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Photo suite 173 -- at Churchill's grave


During our recent trip to Europe we visited Winston Churchill's grave -- not in Westminster Abbey or any other majestic venue, but in the tiny churchyard at Bladon.  The contrast between the greatness of the man and the calm and modest venue was profound and moving.




PS  My late father was a huge fan of Churchill, since the two of them collaborated in winning World War 2.  Today I celebrate not only winning World War 2 but my parents' wedding anniversary, from 1941.  Here's to Dad and Mom, and all the other dads and moms who helped Churchill win the war.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

International Threads challenges 1


Earlier this year I wrote about my participation in International Threads, a group of eight artists in four countries.  We had our first public show last week at the Prague Patchwork Meeting, and I'm just off the plane coming home from that visit and other stuff in Europe.

When we formed the group two years ago there was some discussion about what kind of work we wanted to do.  I said I wanted the themes or prompts to be sufficiently open that I could use these small pieces (16 x 32") as a way to work with ideas already on my to-do list.  For instance, I didn't want to have to make a Baltimore album type quilt, riff on the theme of Hello Kitty, or to make a faithful rendering of a photograph, because those approaches would never be on my artistic radar screen.

I am pleased to report that the format worked out exactly as I had hoped.  I never "had to" make a piece that didn't advance my own personal agenda, and in fact some of them turned out to be important steps toward new approaches in my "real" work.  Let me show you all seven pieces, over the next several posts, and tell you what I learned with each one.

The first prompt was "red," and I decided to use it to see if I could successfully use print fabrics in my fine line piecing. I'd previously worked with commercial stripes and a few small-scale geometric prints, but never with bold patterns like the big polka dots in this quilt.

Red Fizz, 2013































I love this quilt, even though I don't think it was totally successful. The large prints like the polka dots seemed to work better than the allover prints that read as solids.  But I liked the way the different prints each had their own bit of real estate and how their territories got all zigzaggy around the edges.

The second prompt was to use all gradations of gray and just a tiny bit of color.  I'd been working with commercial stripes on a couple of huge quilts and accumulated quite a stash of neutrals.  And I had been mulling over next steps in my fine line piecing -- I'd explored a lot of variations on the theme and was wondering whether I could do something dramatically different.  I decided to eliminate the middleman and let the fine lines pile up on themselves without any intervening backgrounds.

Linear A, 2013































I love this quilt even more than Red Fizz, so much that the minute I finished it I decided to make it again three times as large.  The result was Linear B, 42 x 73", the same composition but big enough to have a real impact.  I'd like to make it again, big, in a more colorful palette and play with the precarious balance of the pile.

Linear B, 2014














I'll show you more of the International Threads quilts in subsequent posts -- stay tuned!