Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Blog hopping

I've been invited to participate in an artist blog hop that started in Europe and has come to me via my art friend Uta Lenk (check out her blog here).  They have asked me to answer four questions about my work.

1.  What am I working on?

An excellent question.  Right now, not much; in the biannual post-Quilt-National blues I'm concentrating on cleaning up my workspaces.  What  drag!  Every other year you kill yourself getting three entries ready for the big competition, then while you're sitting on your hands waiting to hear, it's hard to focus on any meaningful work.

But I have an ambitious to-do list.  A pile of book reviews torn from the newspaper await transformation into found haikus like this one:

Pretty soon I'm going to stop making new haikus and figure out how to permanently display the collection on some kind of armature that will allow you to page through and read them.

Lots of sidewalk junk to sort through and see if I can embark on a new series of found art pieces, like this one from last year:

More hand-stitching on a couple of series featuring words and text of various kinds, like this "Three Words of Advice:"

And of course I have my daily collage project (see more of that here) and my continuing photography (here) that have to appear on schedule.  Probably no big quilts on the agenda for a while as I decompress from my summer of heavy lifting.

2.  How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I'm not even sure what "genre" we're talking about.  My art used to be almost exclusively quilts, but in the last couple of years I've felt a strong urge to bust out of that niche and explore other mediums and formats.
If an art critic were writing about me, I hope she'd see all this as manifestations of the same artistic urge: to tie together many, many little bits and pieces into a unified whole and to present that whole with toughness and without sentimentality.  And with a bit of humor.

3.  Why do I do what I do?

Because it's there?  Because I see connections among the things and concepts that come into my line of vision, and want to solidify or construct those connections.  I learned to use the needle and the sewing machine very early in life so those have been my go-to tools for connecting things.  But I also have come to adore glue sticks, and it's fun to use the hammer, nails, pliers, etc. to make art instead of just fix the sagging shelves in the laundry room.

4.  How does my process work?

Unlike many artists I don't do sketchbooks.  I rarely sketch anything in advance; instead I make it and see what happens.  When I embark on a large quilt, for instance, I start with a "recipe" that is entirely verbal.  For instance, the "recipe" for this quilt was to make right-angle cross grids from striped fabric on a black background, with part of the quilt being high-density, closely spaced lines and another part being low-density, sparse lines.  I made a lot of each kind of piecing, posted the modules on my design wall, and arranged and rearranged them until I came up with the final composition and sewed it together.

For my street art sculptures I like to put a lot of junk on the worktable and see which pieces seem to want to play together.  I'll make little collections of like (or unlike) things and lay them out on a support to see if they work; often the first idea doesn't, but a rusty washer from the other end of the table makes it better.  I fins that a messy workplace is exactly what I need to make art.

For next week, I invite you to continue the blog hop by visiting Paula Kovarik, a fine fiber artist whom I first met when we both had work in Quilt National '11.  I'm jealous of her because not only can she draw, she does it with her sewing machine.  We share a love for old found textiles as supports for art, and a love of text and letterforms (she was a graphic designer before retiring to fulltime art).

Check out her blog here and come back to it next Saturday when Paula will continue the blog hop.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Sign of the week

Bet you haven't seen this material listed on a museum label recently.

Here's a detail of the artwork.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

My new toys

Wandering through the craft/fabric store the other day I saw that all the fancy Fiskars cutting devices were 40% off, so I bought myself two large hole punches.  One cuts circles an inch in diameter, the other a bit more than 5/8".  I thought these would be helpful in my daily collages, where I have occasionally used the holes from my standard 1/4" punch as design elements.

The first day I cut holes from a good quality catalog, printed on substantial coated stock, and they looked great.  Yesterday I tried to cut holes from newsprint, and was unhappy.

coated stock


I understand that blades get dull with use, especially when you cut paper.  I don't understand how a blade starts out dull when it comes from a manufacturer customarily known for its high quality.  I own Fiskars scissors that have been used for decades, and while they may not cut silk any more, they can sure cut newsprint.

Always sad when a brand name you thought you could trust lets you down.  I guess I'll just cut my newsprint circles freehand and save the punch for heavier paper.  But I'll be unhappy.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pumpkin time!

It's the first day of fall so I treated myself to my annual pumpkin.  It always sits on the railing of our deck, right in front of me when I sit at my place at the dining room table.  It catches the sun at breakfast time, and then again in the late afternoon.

This year's is a bit lopsided but that's OK because I like asymmetry.  And it has a nice stem, which I consider to be a plus in a pumpkin.

Monday, September 22, 2014

LAFTA in lace

My local fiber art group, Louisville Area Fiber and Textile Artists, has a member show every year.  Usually it's juried, but this year we broke precedent in two ways -- not only was there no juror, but we had a theme: lace.  I confess that when I heard about the theme I was dubious.  I was afraid that it would call forth a bunch of art so sweet that it would make your teeth hurt, a cross between Valentines and cotton candy.

But I was pleasantly surprised to discover that only a couple of the pieces were sentimental or cute and most had an exhilarating edge.  The red walls probably helped; on white many of the pieces would have faded into the wall, and on pink you would have had insulin shock.

Here are some of the works that I particularly liked:

Trish Korte, Paper Lace #1 (detail)

Sorry for the reflection; always hard to photograph encaustic.  This one features paper doilies in pleasant un-sweet colors.

Deborah Levine, Valentine Dreams

This assemblage is 3-D, mounted on a piece of old wood and displayed on a metal easel.  Debby told me she started with stiffened fabric glued into an old candy box, but it was too boring, so she started to rip it out.  Instead, the box ripped, which gave exactly the feeling she wanted.  It's not easy to make a tough piece out of lace, but this one succeeds and I like it.

Kevin Rose Schultz, Reconfiguration

Stiffened lace made into a life-sized torso; again, beautiful without being sweet.  Kevin won a major award for the best textile art at the Kentucky State Fair last month for a very similar piece; it will be interesting to see whether she takes this series farther and what she can do to avoid repeating herself.

Here are two works with the same basic description: sepia-toned photos of ladies from the past, printed on fabric and surrounded by lace and stitching on vintage textiles.  But they have very different characters.

Susan Grant, Edith

This portrait is formally finished and framed, the lace intact (if a bit yellowed by time) and symmetrical.

Joanne Weis, Mothers Great and Grand, detail below

By contrast, this piece is a bit raw, with torn edges and rust stains, casually mounted with some tails of lace, densely hand stitched in a much more improvisational style.  While it's clearly an homage to the grandmothers pictured, it's evocative and less sentimental than Susan's, with a drop of darkness.  If we gave awards at our shows I'd probably wish that this one got best in show.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Melinda Snyder exhibit

Melinda Muhn Snyder, a fiber artist and friend, has a show at the Patio Gallery in Louisville KY, mostly of quilts, plus fabric collage.  Although she rarely enters juried shows and thus hasn't been widely seen outside the Louisville area, her work is good enough for any venue I've ever known and I wish she would bite the bullet and get it out there for the wider world.

The quilts are freehand cut, almost exclusively with strips, with exquisite straight-line quilting, and given a delicious twist by her use of hand-dyed cottons and silks side-by-side.  The silk gives a sparkle and lushness that lifts the cottons to a new level and makes me wonder why I don't do the same thing.

Melinda Snyder, Sunset

Melinda Snyder, Blue Cross (detail below)

Melinda's day job is an elementary school art teacher and she often incorporates printed fabric that the kids have made into her quilts.

Melinda Snyder,  Mark Making 4 (With Purple), detail below of student-made fabric

Melinda Snyder, Green Spheres

Many critics dismiss freehand-cut strip piecing as derivative and boring, too much like Nancy Crow, but they are wrong.  That's kind of like dismissing portrait painting because it's too much like Gainsborough.  Melinda is just one of a host of piecers who continue to give fresh looks to their quilts through inspired use of simple geometry.

The show runs through October 7 and is worth a detour if you're anywhere near Louisville (it's only a half-mile off I-64).

Friday, September 19, 2014

Scotland votes no

Since we visited Scotland in May, I've been following the independence referendum more closely than most Americans.  This morning the results are in: they'll stay with Great Britain.

Here's the piper who greeted us as we returned to our ship in the Orkney Islands.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Last-minute opportunity!

When the weather finally starts to hint that summer is ending and fall is coming, don't you get a big surge of energy and excitement?  When you're a kid, or when you have kids around, much of that surge goes into the new school year, but for the rest of us, perhaps a new adventure is just the thing.

If you're seeking such an adventure, may I suggest that you can still sign up for a week at the Crow Barn to learn about fine-line piecing from me.  It's going to be a small class with lots of hands-on teacher time, and there's still room for you and your BFF.  The dates: October 13-17.

The Crow Barn is simply the finest facility on the planet for a quilt workshop, with big worktables, a full eight feet of floor-to-ceiling design walls, and your meals and snacks prepared for you right there.  My class will be downstairs so we'll have the added benefit of being able to have our coffee and tea right there at the worktables, a big boon for caffeinistas like  me.

I've taught this workshop as a one-day (in Japan -- read about it HERE) and as a two-day (in Florida -- read about it HERE and HERE) and in both cases participants have said they wished for more time to explore the different methods of construction and to attempt larger and more complex compositions.  So I'm excited about having five days to work with this fascinating technique.

Many art and quilt/art teachers have you start with a vision and then help you figure out how to execute it.  I come at my own work -- and at my teaching -- from the opposite direction; I'm a process girl.

I love to start cutting and sewing and putting bits and pieces onto the wall and then wait for the fabric to start telling me what it wants to be.  I find that to be a much lower-stress way to operate, and with the right "process recipe" to guide your cutting and sewing, it's really hard to make something awful.  Indeed, you'll be able to make compositions of surprising complexity and sophistication with surprisingly simple construction techniques.

So if you need a fall adventure and have wanted to take your quilt/art to a new level, this might be just the ticket. Ohio in October is great, and the Crow Barn is a pretty good place in which to experience it.

Click HERE to read more about the workshop.  And if you sign up I promise you a good time and a lot of learning.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Friday, September 12, 2014

Crabby about entries again

Yesterday I did my entry for Quilt National '15, feeling quite proud of myself that I finished ONE WHOLE DAY before the deadline.  After my afternoon of struggle with the online system I happened to go back in my blog to that September day two years ago when I entered QN '13 and had a similarly frustrating experience.  I am happy to report that many of the logistical obstacles that I whined about two years ago have been fixed.  But it still took me four emails (three robo-responses, and finally one actual human being) to get logged in to the system.

Crazed 17: Hot Summer -- NOT my QN '15 entry

I will never understand why online entry systems demand that you log on with a password so secure that Chinese hackers couldn't break it, and why they think that you will remember that password from the last time you used the system (in this case, two years ago).

I know that some such systems allow artists to upload a whole lot of images, them pick and choose from that library every time they want to enter a different show.  In that case, a continuing password would be a good idea.  But in systems like QN's, where you have to upload new images this year, wouldn't it be easier if you could just click on the "enter" button without worrying about a password?  Especially since you're explicitly not going to be allowed to go back to your entry after you hit the submit button.

One of the questions on the Quilt National entry asked whether you were a resident of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania or West Virginia, to quickly sort out entries eligible for the Heartland Award, a $250 prize.  According to the rules, that prize is given to "a resident of Ohio or one of its neighboring states."  So imagine my surprise to discover that Kentucky, where I live, has apparently stopped being a neighboring state of Ohio!

And speaking of residency requirements....

For some reason I chose to work off my frustration yesterday evening by checking through Fiber Art Calls for Entry, the wonderful blog that keeps us posted on all the shows in the world, or so it seems.  And came upon a call that disturbed me, because of the show's eligibility requirement.  This was a show at a museum of the University of South Carolina, and the rules said artists "must have been born in, raised in, or be currently living and working in one of the states that joined the Confederacy....  This eligibility requirement ensures that the prize-winning artworks that will become part of (the) permanent collection are aligned with the Museum's collections policy."

Now I understand quite well that South Carolina, like several other of the Confederate states, has a hard time letting go of that delightful escapade when 750,000 Americans died fighting one another.  But to have a formal policy that a state-sponsored museum will acquire artwork based on participation in a 150-year-old rebellion in defense of slavery strikes me as really pathetic.

Gustav Vigeland 4 -- the people's choice

I've been in too many museums where the sculptures are roped off from the public and where the viewers solemnly contemplate the Great Art.  What a joy to see children having fun with the Vigeland people.