Friday, April 21, 2023

More daily Joanne

I wrote last week about my daily art project for this year, and showed you several collages that depended on the prints in my friend Joanne's leftovers.  My task in working with these strong patterns is mainly to find a few that want to play together, then put them together and stand back.  On the other end of the spectrum are the pieces that I make on solid color fabrics, or those with minimal patterning.  Those generally serve as the base for more elaborate stitching or applique.

mostly blanket stitch, plus an appliqued moon

cretan stitch and a few beads

machine appliqued tiny trees, about 3/4" from ground to tip

stacked running stitches make mandalas

more stacked running stitches

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Daily Joanne update

I told you several weeks ago about my daily art project for this year: to make a small stitched collage using fabrics that I scored from my long-time art pal Joanne Weis.  She cleaned out her huge stash of fabrics that she had dyed and surface-designed over two decades of making fiber art, and I brought home two huge garbage bags full.  I have been reveling in the huge array of different fibers, colors, patterns and techniques that she used to create wonderful fabrics.

Most of her fabrics have some kind of design printed or painted on top of a dyed base.  My challenge is to add enough of my own work on top so that it stops being Joanne's work and starts being Kathy's.  Usually that has been stitching, mostly by hand but occasionally by machine.  Sometimes I meld bits from several different fabrics and try to put them together into a single cohesive composition, unified by stitching.

This collage started with two different pieces from the Joanne bags: the red-white-brown print on top, and the coral-blue on the bottom.  Joanne had laminated the green paper on top of the red print.  I added two strips of off-white to cover the join between the two prints, and two more to provide interest in boring parts of the red print.  Then I added lots of cross stitch in a few different threads.  I was particularly enamored of the messy torn edge on the bottom of the coral, and took pains to keep it intact.

This one started with a small bit cut from a sample that Joanne had already collaged onto the gold fabric at left, adding the green and white papers and a lot of yellow machine stitching.  I added a piece of the same coral-blue print that I used in the composition above, and tied it together with a strip of painted white paper.  I added machine stitching in a dark teal to pick up the blue of the coral print, and more stitching in yellow (which doesn't exactly match the original, but I think I'm the only one who will ever notice that).

This one started with a bit of fabric painted in yellow, pale turquoise and white.  I found some bits of blue that were left over from previous daily collages (I am scrupulously throwing away nothing of Joanne's stuff, because ever the tiniest piece may find a place in a subsequent collage).  I had torn 1/4 inch strips of the green sateen a couple of weeks ago, but didn't use all of it, so they got stitched on top.  I mounted the little collage on black (I was delighted to find about a half yard of plain black in the garbage bags, because sometimes you just need a plain fabric as a background or support).  Then I machine stitched curvy leaf shapes to hold the whole thing together.

I'll show you more of my daily collages in another post or two!

Monday, March 27, 2023

The juror speaks... part 1

Twenty years ago, I was one of a group of four quiltmaker/artists who helped start Form, Not Function: Quilt Art at the Carnegie, a juried show that has grown into one of the highly regarded venues in the US.  As a nod to old times, they asked me to serve as a juror again this year.

A lot has changed since those early years when we juried from slides, and then to digital images submitted on disk.  Now it's done through CaFE, an online platform that serves many of the big shows.  I've ranted several times in the past about my frustrations with CaFE as a show entrant, but never had a chance until now to be frustrated with it as a juror. 

Because I didn't wrestle with this particular setup as an entrant, I don't know what they did to confuse so many people, but apparently it worked.  At least a half dozen people were sufficiently confused as to enter two quilts on one entry form, one in the full view field and one in the detail field, and then a few went on to put one of the two into a separate entry form.  I hope nobody got lost in the shuffle with multiple entries (a fair amount of time was spent by jurors and show organizers trying to get those sorted out). 

In addition, many people attached their detail shot where they were supposed to put their full view, and vice versa.  I didn't count how many in the initial pool, but on our "short list" of 139 quilts, ten were switched around, which seems to point to some flaw in the system rather than just random user error.  

Arguably it is no big deal for jurors to see the full view and detail in the wrong order, but I noticed something that I have seen in many other of my jurying experiences:  I frequently liked the detail shot more than the full view!  And when that one came up first in the viewing window, I would think that was the whole quilt -- and then be a little disappointed to find that it wasn't. 

What does that mean?  Sometimes that wide borders and bindings and surrounds are putting too much boring space around the interesting part in the middle.  Sometimes that quilts composed of many versions of a recurring motif get carried away, with lots of smaller motifs distracting from the big, strong one that serves as the focal point.  (You knew that was the strongest part of the quilt, didn't you?  That's why you chose that for the detail shot....)  Sometimes it just means that less is more, that one strong, simple composition can pack a big whammy, especially if it's big. 

I was happy to find so many big quilts in the pool.  In our short list it is common to find quilts 6 feet square or even larger.  I don't remember how many years it's been since FNF did away with a maximum size, but I think the show has greatly benefited from that decision.  Many artists who want to play in the juried show ballpark have apparently decided that it's hard to make an impact with a medium-sized quilt.  I agree, and I found myself checking the sizes of the entries before assigning scores.  If an image looked great on screen (the same size as all the others) but turned out to be on the small side, it had to be really spectacular to get the highest ratings.

I was also happy to find that the artistic quality of realistic, representational quilts was pretty high. No rusty pickup trucks in this batch of entries, only one household pet.  I've always been biased against this genre of quilts, because the subject matter is so often kitschy and cliched, and because I don't think fabric is well suited to making realistic images.  But in this batch, many of the representational pieces had a distinctive artist sensibility, with a degree of abstraction and sophisticated composition that took them steps above the usual faithful rendering of a photograph into fabric; those were the ones that made it to the short list.   

I can't show you images of the quilts now, of course, because we're still jurying.  The show will open on May 11 and I promise to have lots of photos then to support my observations and opinions!  Stay tuned.  Meanwhile, because what's a blog post without a picture, here's Best in Show from FNF 2021.

Karen Schulz, Objects in This Mirror

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Too much excitement -- parts 3 and 4

When I last posted, I was recovering from the double whammy of my husband's near-death cardiac event and the mysterious failure of the big mirror in our front hall.  I was hopeful that the worst was behind us. 

Of course, the worst was behind us -- it's hard to top a near-death event when it comes to comparing hardships.  But the hits just keep on coming.  Later that day we had a terrible storm come through, with wind gusts of almost 80 mph.  Our neighborhood was hard hit, with trees down all over the place, including on the power lines.  

We were without power for 76 hours, during which it was dark and cold much of the time, dark and somewhat warmer the rest of the time.  Outside of one afternoon when we camped out at a son's house, we stayed home and contemplated how boring it is to have no music, no internet, no sewing machine, no fridge, no TV.  We slept a lot, because it was nice and warm in bed even when the temperature in the house got pretty low.  Two afternoons I sat in the car in the driveway, which was nice and warm in the sun, and took naps.  

two blocks from our house

The power returned and to our delight, we didn't even lose the contents of the freezer, which were still covered in ice crystals and thus savable.  We had a couple of days of happiness just to be back in our home with everything working.

But little did we know.

Yesterday morning, prior to a grocery run, we went downstairs to see if we needed toilet paper in the seldom-used guest bathroom.  Well, needing toilet paper was an understatement, because it turns out that sewage was backing up into the toilet, the bathtub, the shower.  Apparently the entire sewer line leading out of our house has clogged up.  Every drop of water that goes down a drain will only raise the water table (or should we say the sewage table) so the house is effectively unlivable.

The plumber said he couldn't do anything without a helper, and that couldn't occur till Monday morning.  He also called the sewer district, just in case the clog is in the area of their responsibility.  They have been out twice and haven't been able to get their sewer-cam in position to inspect.  They're also coming back Monday morning.

So we're holed up in a nice cozy motel for at least another night, feeling sorry for ourselves.  My daily stitching has turned very dark.

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Too much excitement

Last week in my house was filled with excitement, the bad kind.  On Friday my husband felt faint, got up from his computer chair, went into the dining room, and passed out, with a monumental crash.  Fortunately I was in the studio, not at the grocery store, and thus was able to summon the ambulance and get him to the hospital.

By that time his heart was slowing down, then stopping for as long as six seconds, then restarting itself to do the same thing over again.  Clearly that was what had happened to cause the fall and the crash, and the remedy was an immediate temporary pacemaker, followed by a permanent pacemaker on Monday.  Now he just has to heal up and he will be considerably better than he was a week ago, no more worries about passing out from slow heartbeat.

I wish I could say the same for the house.  When he fell, he put two spectacular dents in the wall, but fortunately none of the dozen pictures on that wall came down, otherwise we would have had a near-death body covered in shards of glass.

Then two nights later as I was just home from a long day at the hospital, I turned the corner into our front hallway and realized something was wrong.  What was it?  I realized it was the beautiful wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling mirror at the far end.  Instead of being vertical, it was tilted, and my reflection looked like it was going downhill.  

Turns out the mirror had detached itself from the wall and fallen forward for six inches, until it encountered the molding around the front door.  

When my handy sons inspected the scene of the crime the next day, they realized that the mirror had been "secured" only by two little clips at the bottom edge, nothing at the top edge (where there is a half-inch clearance, not a lot but enough to have installed some other kind of fastener).  

Had it been glued to the wall and just this week decided to let loose?  Had my husband stumbled against it on his way to collapsing in the dining room?  Had the EMTs stumbled against it while humping his limp body out the front door?  There were no handprints or smudges anywhere on the mirror, so probably it did its thing without human intervention.   Had it been a disaster waiting to happen ever since the house was built in 1963?

One of the handy sons brought over an industrial-strength tension rod -- think spring-loaded curtain rod, but tightened with a lever handle.  Suitable for jacking up sagging roofs and punching holes in concrete.  He pushed the mirror back against the wall, padded the bulging places on the tension rod with a pool noodle and installed it in front of the mirror.  Now we are safe, I hope, till we can get a guy in to fix the holes in the wall and affix the mirror more securely this time.

Never a dull moment.  By the way, the patient is doing well, although it's going to take a while.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

This year's daily art

In November I usually start thinking about daily art, and what I'm going to choose for my project in the coming year.  I had pretty much narrowed it down to some kind of collage, whether paper or fabric, but didn't have any details in mind.  Then when I went to the December retreat from my fiber art group, I was delighted to find that Santa Claus also came.

Santa aka Joanne Weis, who has been one of my closest art pals for more than two decades.  She has experimented with every conceivable method of surface design (dyeing, screenprinting, laminating,  painting, etc.) and every conceivable fiber (silk, hemp, linen, cotton, nylon, etc.).  She always does considerable testing to develop a palette before embarking on a new project, and often prepares a lot more fabric than she actually uses.  And for years, she stashed her unused fabrics in drawers.

Then last year she decided she needed the drawers, stuffed all the fabrics into big bags, and brought them to the retreat. 

I let others in the group go through the bags for more than an hour, cherry-picking pieces that called out to them, and when everybody else had enough, I packed up everything that was left.

Two huge bags worth.  And realized that clearly Santa wanted me to do fabric collage as my 2023 daily art.

I have defined the project as follows:  All fabric must come from Joanne's leftovers.  I can add hand- or machine-stitching of any kind, plus notions like beads, buttons or found objects.  Most days I will finish a collage, but occasionally I can hold it over to another day (or two) as long as it's documented at the end of each day.

This one took several days to finish (Day 1 here)

I haven't felt this exhilarated in a long time.  I find myself getting up in the morning and thinking about what I will do in the studio, and the daily stitching is usually the first thing I tackle when I get there.  (By contrast, toward the end of the year, my daily painting got to be a chore, done after dinner with the same enthusiasm as kids have for the last bit of homework before bed.)  Often I spend some time preparing fabrics for future days, cutting them into small pieces, maybe putting the pieces through the wash to fray the edges, maybe auditioning possible combinations. 

I haven't posted any of the collages on my daily art blog yet, but that's on my to-do list.  Meanwhile, here are a few of my favorites.  Obviously I'll be telling you a lot more about this project as the year goes on.