Friday, October 31, 2014

The old boyfriend returns

If you've been reading the blog since 2010 you may recall the Quilt Dates, in which you were introduced to some of my old boyfriends aka quilt techniques or approaches.  By far the favorite guy was Mr. April, the technique of piecing in fine lines.  Heck, even I liked him the best, but was never jealous when others enjoyed his company.  Many of those others have written back over the years with reports of their dates, and here's another.

Evelyne Wheeler writes:  "Here are two photos of quilts made by me using your skinny strips technique.  I didn't read your tutorial carefully enough so initially I made some errors however these errors made me wonder if I could make curved lines, hence the black and white sampler and then the green and red quilt influenced by arches in Gaudi's Casa Millar in Barcelona.

"Thanks for sharing this technique -- had some fun with it but now on to something else."

And my thanks to YOU, Evelyne, for sharing.  I think your curved lines look great (I've experimented with curves too but they're a lot trickier than straight lines) and am glad you had fun with them.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Making a mole

Zoe's chemistry class has come to the part about moles, the quantity of a substance it takes to make up as many grams of the stuff as the stuff's atomic weight.  And to help the kids remember the concept, her teacher traditionally gives extra credit to anybody who makes and brings in a stuffed mole.

I'm not sure about the mnemonic link there, except that the kids will remember there was something about a mole, but nevertheless who would argue with extra credit.  So Zoe brought over the mole pattern and we sewed on Sunday afternoon.

She chose a particularly gorgeous red and gold print, last seen as "A" in The Scarlet Letter, for the body. Scraps of green felt were still lying around the work table from the backing of my Quilt National piece, so we used them for the feet and braided tail.

I sewed the parts together on the sewing machine; Zoe stuffed the mole and sewed up the last seam on his belly.

We thought he was a pretty fine-looking creature, even if he didn't have any eyes.

The Scarlet Letter, 2002 

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Ultimate Guide

Sherrie Spangler is the lucky winner of the great book by Linda Seward, "The Ultimate Guide to Art Quilting."

Sherrie, please email me at < > and tell me your address so we can ship your book.

Thanks to all of you who left comments; I hope you'll find a copy of Linda's book on your own.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Collages -- looking a bit different these days

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how I had been feeling a little stale with my daily collage project -- and maybe I'm allowed/expected to be after 21 months -- so I changed the rules for the fourth quarter of 2014.  And three weeks in I've noticed that indeed my attitude has improved, that my art is looking a bit different and that I like it.

The new rule was that each collage would have to include something that I have drawn, painted, printed or otherwise added with a pencil, pen, brush or other marking implement.

I have been cannibalizing a big sheet of paper that had been monoprinted upon in a recent workshop.  Also after I painted some dowels black I used what was left on the brush to make some messy marks on scrap paper which I have also been using for collage.

old style: narrative -- what's happening here?

For several months I went through a phase of elaborate collages in which the little pasted-on people were doing things.  But magically now that I'm incorporating the painted and monoprinted papers, I seem to have lost some of the narrative impulse.  Instead many of the recent collages have been more abstract and formal, focusing on composition and texture rather than on representation.

Here are a couple of my recent pieces that seem to have a new aesthetic.  I think the new rule will get me through to the end of the project still regarding it as a joy rather than a job.

new style: abstract

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Want to win a really fine book?

I wrote a while ago about a great new book that has come out, "The Ultimate Guide to Art Quilting," by Linda Seward.  You can tell something about Linda's excellent judgment and taste by the fact that she chose a photo of one of my quilts to put in the book, but in addition to lots of photos of beautiful quilts, she has directions and helpful hints for practically any kind of quilt you might ever want to make, and some that you didn't even know you wanted to make until you read the book.

I consider myself an expert quiltmaker, but found lots of things to learn from the book.  Here's a bit of info that was (fascinating) news to me:

"A brief history of the rotary cutter puts this essential tool into perspective.  In 1956 Yoshio Okada invented a blade cutter for his family's paper cutting business, that had segments that could be snapped off when the working edge became dull.  Over the years, he and his brother developed their paper cutting tool business, and in 1967 they made all their tools yellow so users could find them easily in toolboxes.  In the late 1970s Mr. Okada watched a tailor cutting silk with bulky scissors and noticed the frayed edges that resulted.  He determined to invent a cutter for fabrics and in 1970 he and his development team presented the world with the rotary cutter, which changed quilt making forever."

I'm delighted to tell you that the publisher has made a copy available for me to give away to blog readers.  Leave a comment sometime between now and Sunday and I'll pick and announce a winner Monday morning.  Sorry, the publisher says U.S. only.

Monday, October 20, 2014

quilt (R)evolution

Just home from Athens OH where I visited the Dairy Barn for its current show, an exciting collection of work from most of the people who have served as Quilt National jurors over the 35 years of that exhibit.  It was special because the participants were asked to send three pieces: one from their earliest work, one of their work at the time they were jurors, and one of their current work. And most of them actually sent exactly what was requested!

The too-clever title of the show, "quilt (R)evolution" is silly but accurate, because the quilts do clearly mark the evolution of the quilts-as-art genre.  Several of the oldest ones are only a step or two away from traditional -- and Ann Johnston's 1979 piece could have easily been made in 1879.

I've been obsessively following Quilt Nationals via catalog since 1983 and in person for at least 20 years (can't remember exactly which one I first attended) so it's not a surprise to me that quilts-as-art started so close to its traditional roots and took a few years to escape the conventions.  But it's fun to be reminded of how the famous names we're all familiar with started out, and how they got going in their own directions.

For instance, Joan Schulze started by making a big quilt that was the California winner in the big Good Housekeeping Quilts of America competition in 1976 -- I remember that, even though I wasn't much of a quilter at the time.  After it was photographed for the book (I think I have the book, too) her quilt and others were destroyed in a warehouse fire but after a long period of grieving she decided to remake it.  The design was original, with a batiked landscape in the center, but its wide border is composed of the traditional Road to California blocks (she did shock the viewers by making them in different colors to extend the landscape -- blue for the sky, brown for the earth).

Joan Schulze, California II, 1979

Subsequently Schulze developed her signature style of using images appropriated from the media in collage-like phototransferred and screenprinted compositions that remind me of Robert Rauschenberg.

Nancy Crow started with huge symmetrical quilts that were meticulously planned and intricately pieced from templates using commercial prints.  Subsequently she found that improvisationally free-cutting shapes from hand-dyed fabrics and building her compositions gradually on the wall was a more satisfying approach.

on the catalog cover:  Nancy Crow, March Study, 1979

Katie Pasquini Masopust's early quilt was a daring pentagon but executed in impeccably traditional craft from teeny calico prints.  Subsequently she started incorporating easel-painted canvas into her quilt constructions.

Katie Pasquini Masopust, Heavens Reach, 1981

Other jurors went in different directions.  Michael James, after years of strip-pieced curves, embraced digital photography cranked out on a huge-format printer.  Yvonne Porcella started by making functional kimonos, then went flat (but kept her signature palette, brights with black-and-white).  Jan Myers-Newbury started by hand-dying solid gradations, then discovered arashi shibori and never looked back.

Practically all of the early pieces were hand-quilted, but as the years progress most of them switched to the machine.  Practically all the early ones were carefully pieced or appliqued with no raw edges, no messy craftsmanship of any kind, but as the years progress we see fusing, raw-edge applique, phototransfer, non-cloth materials and any number of experimental techniques emerge (for instance, Tim Harding's latest work is "quilted" with staples).

For those of us who have been tuned in to the quilts-as-art movement for a long time, the show is a great walk down memory lane.  Fortunately all the pieces in the show still look fine (although Ann Johnston's, used on the bed for decades, has faded dramatically into the muted colors of vintage quilts).  For those of us who aren't that familiar with the olden days of our little niche of the art world, the show will be an eye-opener: how far we've come in such a short time.

Unfortunately the catalog doesn't reproduce the artist notes that appear on the walls of the Dairy Barn.  So, for instance, readers will probably think that Wendy Huhn's extravaganza of female fairies perched on irons is about the drudgery of housework, when it's really about a lethal disease that causes too much iron to build up in one's blood vessels and joints.  (I know how easy it is to leap to that conclusion, because I eavesdropped on two young guys explaining to one another quite solemnly how women's work is never done, etc, before one of them thought to read the sign.)

The show remains up at the Dairy Barn through November 22 -- see it if you can!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Monday, October 13, 2014

Stripes are back!!

Longtime blog readers probably recall my past rants on how difficult it is to find striped fabric (and just when I have decided that stripe-on-stripe is the design motif I am most excited to explore).  For a couple of years it's been polka dots 24/7, stripes zero.  But when I went to the fabric store last week for last-minute supplies I was delighted to find several stripes on the shelf.  The clerk told me they had just come in the day before.

As you read this I'll be starting my week of teaching at the Crow Barn, and I wanted to bring stripes for people to use if they want.  It's often fun to use stripes for these very skinny lines because they show up as dotted lines, more interesting than solids.

Crazed 8: Incarceration (detail)

Right now the stripes in the store are pretty basic -- white and a color, quarter- or eighth-inch stripes -- but it's a start.  Fortunately I've been feeding my habit online, where claims to have 5,376 items classified as "stripes."  I bought two huge orders of stripes from them in the last several months, which produced my Quilt National piece and left plenty for future projects.

But here's a thought -- if stripes are coming back, maybe it's time to buy dots before they disappear.

Friday, October 10, 2014

On assignment -- stitching about travel

When we were in London early this summer I had the pleasure of visiting one of my best Internet friends, Margaret Cooter.  We had a fabulous day together talking about art and life.  We exchanged some little presents; mine was to choose a sewing kit from a collection that Margaret has been making to sell at craft fairs (here is a picture of a bunch of them).  Here's the one I chose:

It transpired in the conversation that I had not brought sewing supplies with me on the trip, just a scissors for my daily collages.  I figured there wouldn't be much time for stitching, but Margaret thought it was a really bad idea to be without one's materials should the occasion arise.  So she stocked my kit with a couple of needles and a pack of assorted threads, and found a long piece of linen cut from the border of some past project.  It's 59 inches wide and somewhere between 5 1/2 and 3 1/2 inches tall, kind of like a small version of the Bayeux tapestry.

I asked her if she also wanted to give me an assignment for the project, and she said "travel."

Sure enough, there was a little time to sew during the evening presentations every night on the cruise, and here we were on a ship, so I began by stitching an ocean full of water.  Not much else got done on that vacation, but in the months since I have expanded my "Bayeux tapestry" to include several of the lasting images from our travels over the years.

Iguazu Falls

Greenland (usually we see its steep black mountains from an airplane, but once we got there at ground level and visited Viking churches and an old seamen's cemetery)

Rome, with St. Peter's and the seven hills

cargo ship

World Cup soccer fans with German-flag face paint

olive trees in Tuscany

There's still room for more stitching but I'm finding it challenging to come up with images that I can easily execute.  For instance, how can you embroider the Grand Canyon or the Metropolitan Museum?  I'm sure more ideas will come, so I'm keeping the piece right there by my TV place.  (Still have three hours of The Roosevelts on tape that we have to get through!)

And what a great format the long and skinny piece of linen has been.  It's so much better for random thoughts or long stories than a squattier rectangle would be, and it's so much more casual and intimate, with its raveling edges and uneven cutting.  Thanks again, Margaret, for a great visit and a great project!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Quilt National

The very good news is that my quilt has been accepted for QN '15!  Can't show you a photo just now but that will come in time.  Yes, it was an obsessively pieced quilt with lots of fine lines.

Based on the couple of other acceptances that I have heard about so far, it's good to know that this year's jurors are apparently more respecting of the traditional pieced quilt than happened in 2013  (read my rant on that subject here).  Can't wait to see the whole show.

Signs of the week

Monday, October 6, 2014

Change of pace

I've been making daily collages since January 2013 and in the last month or two I've noticed my enthusiasm is waning.  Not that I'm tired of making daily art, but that it's getting harder to find inspiration.  I find myself doing the same thing over again -- that's not bad in itself, unless you keep doing the same thing over again and don't find anything fresh in the process.

So as September drew to a close I started thinking about what I might do to shake up the project.  The start of a new calendar quarter can be a good time to change the rules, as it was on January 1 of this year when I added the requirement to have text in every collage, and on April 1 when I changed the size from 3x5" cards to 4x6".  Then last week I had the pleasure of taking a workshop with Suzi Zimmerer, my good friend and art pal, who primarily works in paper and always does great workshops that set your head spinning with possibilities.

At this workshop we started out with an old magazine and an aperture to peek through, and were told to find and cut out appealing little compositions.  As we did it, Suzi thought we might discern something useful about our own tastes and preferences, and sure enough, I found myself cutting several little pictures from the same ad.  Well, duh.  I love series, and here I was finding little series in our assignment.

Then we shifted gears and played with paint for a while and I was reminded that I enjoy wet processes, even though I hate getting my hands messy.  We mainly did monoprints by brushing or rolling paint on plastic, drawing through it, and printing onto the paper.  We also made relief plates by punching or cutting into pieces cut from foam fast-food containers.

After the workshop I decided to add a new rule for my collages in the fourth quarter: each one would include something that I have drawn, painted or printed.  Here are some of the first few.  Hoping they'll give me the spark to energize the last 91 days of the project.

the three little compositions in the last collage were cut from the ad below

You can check out all my daily collages here.