Friday, May 27, 2016

FNF 5 -- representational


Only one of the 20 quilts in Form, Not Function had a realistic representational image. That might be surprising in itself, because realism is such a standby in quilt/art shows, but I've already commented on the fact that this year's jurors voted strongly for abstraction and piecing.  What I liked about this quilt was not just that its image was striking and well-executed, but that its method was something rarely seen.

Deborah Hyde, Leda (detail below)

Yes, this is a pieced quilt, made entirely out of half-inch squares.  And you can see in the detail shot that some of the half-inch squares are themselves pieced to give smooth edges to the shapes of the image -- a lot of piecing going on here!

Also notable, from the design standpoint, is how she has superimposed the traditional sunshine and shadow quilt pattern of concentric squares on point over the realistic image.  It takes careful consideration of color and value to achieve this effect while keeping the representational quality of the original image.  Good work!


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

FNF 4 -- a prizewinner


One of the prizewinning quilts at Form, Not Function was this beautiful piece, printed from a digitally altered photo onto silk and then cut and collaged together.  It is one of only two pieces in the show using digitally printed imagery, a surprise because printing onto fabric is so commonplace these days in art/quilt circles.

Charlotte Ziebarth, Wave Equations

It definitely deserved a prize, but I'm puzzled at the prize it won: the Award for Creative Use of Stitching.

If you're intrigued by this quilt,  visit Charlotte's blog (here) to read about how she made it.  (And to see it with better color saturation.)  After fusing the wavy diagonal strips to the base fabric, she mainly machine quilted along the lines of the printed image.

The stitching is lovely and well done, but is it creative?  Or more to the point, is this a creative use of stitching?  I thought quilters had been using stitching to accentuate design lines in a patterned fabric for centuries.

Maybe I'm missing something.  Or perhaps it's just that creative stitching was in short supply at FNF; very little hand-stitching, and the machine work was technically superb but not revolutionary.  So what's a judge to do with an award for "creative use of stitching" except punt.


Friday, May 20, 2016

FNF 3 -- more pieced quilts


Lots of pieced quilts at Form, Not Function this year!  As it happens, all three of the artists I'm showing you today were also in Art Quilt Elements in Wayne PA last month -- but with a different quilt in each case.  That's nice, getting to see two works by favorite artists in person so close together.

Bonnie Bucknam, Red Lightning

Bonnie's work is always big and beautiful; she has won best in show at FNF in the past and her quilt, striking from a distance, got one of the places of honor at the end of the two symmetrical galleries.  That's it in the center of the far vista below. Bonnie's work is characterized by dramatic jaggedy shapes, beautifully pieced and quilted.

Valerie Maser-Flanagan, Shifting Thoughts 
















You know I'm a sucker for stripes, so obviously I like this piece, and yes, the stripes are all individually pieced; no lazy-woman's commercial stripes for this artist!  I like the very simple palette and construction, surprisingly yielding a lot of complexity as the stripes angle up and down on a whim.

Denise Roberts, Mitote #4 (detail below)

Here's a woman who knows how to cut and piece complicated curves, but doesn't know when to stop.  The colors twist and weave, plunge under and reappear,  "Mitote" comes from the ancient Toltec word for a sacred circle dance, but now is used to mean an uproar or turmoil; it's easy to see both those meanings reflected in the busy composition.

More quilts from FNF coming up next week.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Making myself clearer 2


When I wrote about two pieced quilts in the Form, Not Function show, Sandy left a comment:  "I am not quite sure what you mean by some statements."  I had described Sandra Ciolino's work as "a classic 'motif' quilt, using a simple block over and over in different shapes, sizes and configurations to make a complex overall pattern."  Sandy said, "Not being a piecer/patchworker, perhaps I am not really seeing the classic in this?"  

So let me walk that statement back and explain it in a little more detail.

Sandra Palmer Ciolino, Precaria #4: Kinetics

Perhaps it's just those of us who have studied with Nancy Crow, and the next generation of those who have studied with those who studied with Nancy, who are intimately familiar with the concept of working with a motif.  In this approach, you start with a simple sketch of one or two shapes in a box.

Here's Sandra's basic motif, a five-sided shape just touching a four-sided shape:


















She turns it in different directions:


















She stretches it out:











She stretches it out in the other direction:


















She makes blocks with just the four-sided shape:

















Or just the five-sided shape:















The size and shape of the motifs varies, the orientation varies, and most important, the colors vary to give you a whole lot of tension and complexity.  Figures become ground and vice versa.  I have seen people use their motif in dozens of quilts, each one subtly different; it's a technique that allows you to explore many different aspects of composition and design and understand how all the moving parts work together.

I infer from the title of Sandra's quilt, Precaria #4, that she's been using this motif for a while.  It would be interesting to see other works in this series!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Making myself clearer 1


After I posted about two pieced quilts that I liked at FNF, Sandy left a comment:  Not being a piecer/patchworker I am not quite sure what you mean by some statements.  For Maria Shell's work, " (By the way, it may make you jealous to hear that each of the nine blocks in this quilt was also the subject of its very own nine-block quilt.)" 

Sandy, you're right -- I was kind of speaking in code.  Let me try again and see if I can describe more clearly what I was trying to say.

I happen to know a lot about this quilt and its provenance, because I had the privilege of making a presentation to the SAQA conference last month about artists who work in series, and Maria was one of them.  So I can not only tell you some of the back story, but show pictures.  For several years Maria has been working with the traditional Crossed Square block.











She makes a complex pieced block like this small one-block quilt:


Maria Shell, Way to Grace's

...and then multiplies it to make a larger quilt.

Maria Shell, Tribe

When she started working with print fabrics instead of solids, her quilts were looking like this (and I was wrong in saying that they were nine-block quilts -- they had four blocks, plus sashing):

Maria Shell, Solstice


Maria Shell, Deep Blue Sea

Eventually she made nine such quilts, and didn't they make a striking display all hung together?

(And you can see they were pretty big!)












Finally, she combined one block from each of the nine quilts and put them together into the nine-block quilt in the show.

Maria Shell, Wall of Sound