Thursday, May 6, 2021

Lots of boxes 1

My new show consists of several "collections" of collage and assemblage, fancy words for putting a variety of miscellaneous junk together and calling it art.   I've been drawn to this form of art for a long time; maybe it started as a way to rationalize keeping boxes and boxes and piles and piles of miscellaneous junk instead of throwing it out.  But I have learned that miscellaneous stuff, no matter how appealing each piece may be when scrutinized closely, doesn't become art until you have a good way to fasten it together forever.

And for me, the go-to answer has always been to put the disparate parts into boxes.  

I have been doing this for several years, mostly using pre-made new wood boxes that you get at the craft store, and several of those boxes made it into my gallery show.  But the project got turbocharged when Pamela Mattei, a long-time fiber pal, was seized by the desire to clean out her garage and basement during early pandemic lockdown.  Early last summer she gave me five huge cartons of old cigar boxes, which I immediately started filling up for art.

Some of the boxes had slide-off lids, which I slid off to use for other purposes, leaving me with six-inch cubes to wallpaper with maps, photos, book pages, sheet music, fabric or other flat stuff.  Then I populated the boxes with things that wanted to be together.

Here are some of the cigar-box cubes that made it into the show:














Pink Specs Box














Bingo Berry Box

Some of the cigar boxes were hinged, and I took them apart to give more five-sided "rooms."














Trio Box

I'll show you more of my boxes in other posts.  Meanwhile, if you're near Louisville, I hope you can drop in and see my show at PYRO Gallery, 1006 E. Washington St.  Gallery hours are noon to 6 Fridays and Saturdays, 1-4 Sundays through the end of May, and by private appointment. 

Monday, May 3, 2021

The show is open!

Yes, friends, I have gone radio silence for the last week and a half, getting ready for my show at PYRO Gallery.  Got all the work packed up and carted to the gallery, unpacked and arranged and spaced out (and pleasantly surprised to discover how nicely it fit into the room) and hung on the walls.

























Lights arranged (what a huge difference it makes to have a real pro in charge, one who isn't afraid to go way up on the tall ladder).  























And finally ready for company!























We're still operating under the state pandemic rules, so masks inside, but we were able to hold an outdoor reception in the garden behind the gallery.  This was the first time PYRO has done a reception since March 2020, and we knew some people would give it a miss for fear of encountering a crowd inside.  Happy to report that everybody kept their distance indoors, and the rain held off all afternoon for those outside.

I'll show you some of the pieces in the show in future posts.  Meanwhile, if you're near Louisville, please visit sometime before May 30.  Gallery hours are noon to 6 every Friday and Saturday, and 1-4 Sunday.  Or you can email me for a private appointment any time.


Thursday, April 22, 2021

Is this mending? I guess so...

If you define mending as fixing a dysfunctional garment with a needle and thread, then yes, this is mending.  The cardboard mask was the perfect complement to a superhero cape, except it was so poorly engineered that the only point of contact between mask and nose came way too far down, and the forehead didn't support the weight of the mask, and it HURT!! 

So I found a piece of an old T shirt, and stuffed it with poly batting, and affixed it to the inside of the mask with stitching and a bit of glue, and all is well in the superworld.   

Afterwards, ice cream was served, which made the day perfect.




Saturday, April 17, 2021

Great and not-so-great minds 2

Imagine my surprise when I saw a recent article in Hyperallergic in my email, with this feature image:


It's a lithograph by Anni Albers, whom I have always known as primarily a fiber artist.  And indeed, doesn't that mottled background remind you of any number of dye jobs you yourself have done in your fiber art career?  It looked  like some of my experiments with walnut ink.

But what really struck me was the tangled-cord motif.  Which looked exactly like one of my favorite subjects from my year of daily drawing. 



So I guess the only artistic difference between Anni Albers and me is that she had the good sense to combine her tangles with her mottles, and make lithographs.  And probably a couple of other things.

And that got me to thinking of another déjà vu moment when I saw my own reflection in a famous artist's work.  Coincidentally, that famous artist was none other than Anni's husband Josef Albers! 

(If you're interested in Albers' printmaking, check out the online exhibit of the current show that Hyperallergic was talking about.  It also features prints by another artist who is primarily known for her fiber work, Ruth Asawa.)

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Forced to Flee -- zooming this evening!

I wrote yesterday about how my 3-D "art quilt" is now traveling with the SAQA show about refugees, "Forced to Flee."  I will be one of five artists participating in a zoom webinar roundtable this evening at 7 pm eastern, discussing our work in the show.  

The webinar is free and open to the public, but you do have to register first, at tinyurl.com/MUQuilts

Because of the time difference, it will be difficult for non-North American viewers to tune in, and only US artists were invited to participate in the roundtable discussion.  I thought this was too bad, especially since SAQA bills this as a "global exhibition" and many of the artists live outside the US.  So I asked my dear friend Uta Lenk, who lives in Germany and has a piece in the exhibit, if I could feature her in my own little non-zoom roundtable.

Uta Lenk, Everyone has the right (detail below)

Here's what she has to say about her quilt:

Over the years I have met and become friends with a number of refugees, many of them from Africa, who had come to Germany via different routes, but for many of them a rubber boat trip across the Mediterranean Sea had been part of their journey. Germany’s reaction towards the ‘refugee crisis’ has taken a decisive turn, the brief period of ‘welcome refugees’ in 2015 has turned into a Fortress European Union, trying to keep refugees out, violently (and illegally) pushing them back from Greek shores to Turkish shores. 

I have always deeply felt the gap between the words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – to which the European Union likes to refer when it is reproaching other countries for not abiding by these rights – and the way the EU is treating people seeking a better life by leaving a home whose difficulties were often caused by interferences of European countries, be it long ago or today. I get the impression that European countries do not grant the same degree of Human Rights to people from any country. I used a newspaper photo of a refugee rubber boat on the Mediterranean as inspiration for this quilt. An abstracted boat with its passengers is enclosed by excerpts from the Declaration of Human Rights written in the background, on the sky.

 

Thanks, Uta, for your guest appearance today.  Sorry you will probably be asleep during the zoom tonight! 



Monday, April 12, 2021

Forced to Flee -- zooming tomorrow!

Longtime readers may recall how four years ago I started making little figures from fabric that I called "daily people," and then when I saw a call for entries from Studio Art Quilt Associates I thought I needed to make some more.  The call was for a SAQA show called "Forced to Flee," about refugees -- at any time, from any place.  

So I made a bunch of quilt refugee people, using scraps of old beat-up quilts as my raw material to make sure I would meet the SAQA definition of a quilt.  And the piece, "Tired and Poor," was accepted.


The show has been traveling since 2019, with a couple of dates last year canceled for pandemic. It's now on display at Misericordia University in Dallas PA and tomorrow I will be one of five artists participating in a zoom roundtable to discuss our work.  The webinar will be held at 7 pm eastern time on Tuesday.  If you'd like to tune in, you need to register in advance at tinyurl.com/MUQuilts.  I'd love to have some company!



Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Happiness

Happiness is when one of your favorite pair of socks gets a hole, and you can't bear to throw the other one away, so you save it and a year later one of that pair's twin pair gets a hole, and you know just where the first one is...



Sunday, April 4, 2021

Happy Easter!

I've been dyeing Easter eggs with the now-ten-year-old for several years.  We missed last year, at the height of the first surge of coronavirus, and that also meant that the now-three-year-old missed her first chance to participate.  So it was especially good to be all together again, vaccinated and ventilated, this year.

The plan this year was to immerse the eggs only partway in the dye, then in a subsequent bath, spin the egg so the colors overlap and blend in pretty ovals. 

It worked out very well.

















A few of the eggs even had special effects, for reasons that we couldn't figure out.  Maybe because the tablets were still fizzing when the egg went in?  And how about that yin/yang curve on the green-and-yellow egg?  

Happy Easter!  


Thursday, April 1, 2021

Long time coming

A few years I bought two wood painting panels, 8 x 8 x 1.5 inches, and wanted to experiment with adding more paint to my collages.  I had always had a mental block about considering myself to be a "painter," but something changed.  So long ago that I forget what it was.  

I started by pasting down some card-weight scraps of paper to make a textured surface.  Then I slathered blue, black and rust-red paint over the top of everything, making a point of not mixing the different colors too uniformly.  I had some scraps of map left over from cutting shapes for previous collages, so I pasted them on top.  I took the panels to my drawing/critique group and they were not amused.

The map scrap, which I adored, was too prominent, people said.  The other panel was a good background but nothing much was happening on top of it.  I took the panels home and reworked them.  I cut just the roads out of some maps and pasted them on top.  I grayed out the too-prominent map shape (which I still adored) with diluted black paint.  I did some other things that I have forgotten.  Now it was me who was not amused.

The panels sat around my studio reproaching me.  Shortly before pandemic lockdown I was asked to be part of a project in my textile and fiber arts group in which we each took some paper from a haul of antique piano rolls and were supposed to do something with it.  I left this task till the last minute and the night before the meeting I did some lame experimentation, cutting the paper, weaving it back together, writing on it with a calligraphic pen (the ink bled into the paper).  Realized this was lame, and that very afternoon, before the meeting, I grabbed one of the wood panels and collaged some piano roll paper over the top.

After I showed what I had done with the paper, the audience was not amused, especially since the other presenters had done far more imaginative things with their samples.  I took the panels home and put them back in their corner.  

Kathleen Loomis, Black C

Then a month ago I decided it was time to stop playing around with these panels and actually finish them.  I had unearthed a bag of tiny collages that I had made a long time ago, and decided that one of them would go beautifully on the panel with the piano roll paper.  Then I made a little weaving from two vintage books, mounted it on some handmade paper that an art pal had given me, and put it on the panel with the map shape -- now further grayed down with a layer of cheesecloth over the top. 

Both pieces were clearly not made in an afternoon -- they show the traces of several different iterations underneath what became the final versions.  I wish I had been documenting all the steps along the way, none of them particularly successful, but I was clearly modeling "If at first you don't succeed...." 

Kathleen Loomis, Blue Courage (note heart-shaped map scrap at lower left)
Finally I was amused!  The two pieces will be in a show at PYRO Gallery, of work that all the member artists made during the coronavirus lockdown.  

The show opens tomorrow and will be up throughout April.  The gallery will be open for visitors every weekend, and we'd love to have you drop in if you're anywhere near Louisville.  I'll meet you there by appointment if you can't make it during regular hours, or if you're still cautious about being out in public spaces.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

How to make the aloha shirt block

The other day Marietta left a comment on an old blog post that I had written about my  marathon of making baby quilts for my dear friend Zuki's grandchildren.  Actually, she has been so blessed with grandchildren that I had to do another marathon last summer to catch up.

All of the quilts consist of blocks made by my friend's grandmother, mostly from scraps that her sewing pal brought home from the aloha shirt and muu-muu factory in Hawaii.  And all of the blocks use the same pattern.  I don't know the name of the pattern, and it's tricky to sew because of lots of bias edges, but apparently Zuki's grandma loved it.  She made hundreds of these blocks, in two different sizes, and with a wide variety of tropical prints and some solids.  Here's one of the baby quilts:














Marietta commented: "I am trying to figure out from the photos how you made the block.  It looks like the second triangle added tucks under the first one."

Marietta, you're right, it's not obvious how to put this block together.  It requires a technique called a partial seam, where you start sewing two pieces together but stop before you get to the end.  You come back later to finish the seam after other pieces have been sewed in.  Here's the step-by-step:












Here's the partial seam, at the very beginning of the block.  Arrange the blue piece in place against the yellow center square, but don't stitch all the way.  Press the first inch or two of the seam so you have a nice neat join before you add the next piece.












Sew on the green piece, and press that seam.  Then sew on the pink, and press again.












Now add the lime green piece and press.  Finally, turn down the last flap of the blue and sew the rest of that seam to finish the block.

If you're thinking that's a whole lot of pressing, and wouldn't it be easier to just finger-press and wait till the whole block is done to hit it with the iron, here's some advice: the more you press the better your quilts will look.  I try never to add a new piece until the seam underneath has been properly pressed, with an iron.

If you're still thinking that's a whole lot of pressing, I suggest three possible approaches to make it easier:

1.  Set up a pressing station near your sewing machine so you don't have to get up from your seat.  (I do this whenever I'm making complicated piecing, no matter what the pattern.  I only get up when the sewed-together portion gets bigger than my pressing area and needs to be spread out on the work table for pressing.)

2.  Make a whole set of blocks at once, adding the blue piece to all of them and then pressing all of them on one trip to the ironing board.  This approach is particularly helpful on a tricky block like this one, where it takes a bit of thinking to make sure you've gotten started right.  Having figured out that first seam correctly, make them all before you forget how you did it!

3.  Regard pressing as an exercise program, so every time you get up and walk to the ironing board you're getting in your steps.  Tedious, but you can feel self-righteous about it.

 

Sunday, March 21, 2021

More about baby afghans

After I posted photos of two babies with their baby afghans, Carolyn left a comment and asked "Do you ever share the stitch for these afghans?"

I certainly do, Carolyn, and I love to spread the word because this stitch is easy, fast and functional.  Easy, because it only involves single crochet and slip stitch.  Fast, because it goes twice as fast as single crochet and uses a large hook.  Functional, because it incorporates a lot of air space into what looks like a solid surface, and thus makes a warm yet light blanket.  And because of all that air, you don't have to worry that the baby will suffocate even if the afghan gets over his face.  I have used this stitch for practically all the afghans I have made in the last 30 years, and that's a lot of afghans.  I never see any need to improve upon success.

I don't know the name of this stitch, although it probably had one when I first learned it.  After you make a foundation of chain stitch, you turn and come back by making one single crochet into the chain, two stitches back, then a slip stitch, then skipping a chain before inserting your hook into the second chain stitch.  In effect, you're making a series of empty squares as you come back across the width of the afghan.

When you get to the end of that first row, make two slip stitches, turn the work around and do the same thing coming back -- a single crochet into the single crochet in the row beneath, a slip stitch, skip a stitch and insert the hook into the top of the single crochet in the row beneath.  

Make a single crochet


Make a slip stitch


Skip one stitch and insert into the next stitch










Always stitch into the little Vs (single crochet in row below)
Sometimes I use a single strand of yarn, as in Baby Eleanor's afghan, and sometimes I hold two strands together for a fatter, warmer fabric, as in Baby Julian's.  That's what I'm doing in these photos, where you can see up close what a fat, firm, sturdy fabric is being made.

I often use one strand of white and one of a solid color, as in Baby Julian's, and you can get a particularly nice effect with two strands of variegated yarn, especially if you use different colorways.

I use big hooks, Boye brand only, size N with two strands of yarn, or maybe K with one strand.  I use worsted weight, even for babies, because it's tough enough to hold up in the washing machine and it works up quickly.  Baby or sport yarns are thinner and you would need to use a much smaller hook and thus make lots more stitches.  But I will use thinner yarns sometimes as the second strand with a worsted weight main yarn, as in the photos here.

One last piece of advice: make your foundation chain quite loose, so loose it looks kind of sloppy as you start to work.  For some reason this pattern stitch takes up more of the slack in your foundation chain than happens with other stitches I've used.  If you don't leave plenty of slack to begin with, your afghan may end up one or two inches shorter along the bottom edge than it is the rest of the way, as if a cord got pulled tight to gather the edge in.  Not fatal, but not beautiful.  Ask me how I know.

  

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Baby afghans -- complete with babies

For years I've been crocheting baby afghans by the dozens, the perfect handwork to pick up in the TV room or while visiting with company, or to take along to meetings.  Mindless enough to not interfere with conversation or concentration, small enough to work on your lap, yet as the hours go by you crank out a lot of product!  I have a pile of baby afghans at the ready to give away, and in the last couple of months handed out three of them.

One was to somebody on the neighborhood email list who was collecting stuff for a new mother whose apartment had burned.  I left the afghan in a bag on my front porch and she picked it up, to go to the nameless baby.  I felt good about the gift, and got a nice thank-you, but it's always better with actual proof that the baby likes his present!  

One went to a woman in my drawing/critique group, which hasn't met since lockdown, but she sent out an email when her first grandchild was born on Valentine's Day,  So of course she needed an afghan for Baby Julian.  (The afghan is folded in half in the photo, so plenty big to cover him up when he grows.)























The other went to a friend who came over for a drink on the deck in one of the unexpectedly warm afternoons in December.  (It wasn't all that warm, but we wore jackets and pretended.)  He mentioned that his niece was expecting a little girl soon.  I went into the TV room, rooted through the pile of finished afghans, and found nothing pink, but decided she could start life as a feminist and be bold.

And I just got a photo from the proud grand-uncle, of Baby Eleanor with her afghan.




Sunday, March 14, 2021

Trying something new

I went to the art supply store last week for the first time since pandemic, and came home with, among other stuff, a dozen wood painting panels.  I wanted to try for a new series that would have a lot of painting, plus collage of pages and covers of old books.  Mounting everything on wood panels would give them some heft and finish, so I could easily display them.

As I started to work I was immediately reminded that when you use paint, glue and medium, you have to wait for things to dry.  So my work area became a field of gold, waiting for next steps.  And with lots of bits and pieces auditioning for where they will end up.







Sunday, March 7, 2021

Mystery stitching -- did you do it?

Dabbling in the never-ending task of trying to clean out and organize my studio, I came upon a bag of hand stitching.  One piece I recognized as my own, from several years back, but three others were a total mystery.  On two of them I thought the base fabric looked somewhat familiar, from the days when I was using black walnuts for home-made dye, but the stitching was definitely not mine.















Very nice, but definitely not mine.  See details below.

I wrote two friends with whom I had loose collaborative agreements to do hand stitching together, and asked them whether they were the artists and if so, did they want the pieces back.  Neither one recognized any of the work.

So I'll ask everybody out there -- are you the mystery stitcher?  If so, (1) why is your work in a bag in my studio? and (2) do you want it back?







Thursday, March 4, 2021

A year of work

More than a year ago I saw photos in the newspaper of people lining up to vote in the New Hampshire primary, the first election of what was obviously going to be a big election year.  Since I am an election junkie, and absolutely love everything about voting, I had the idea to cut out the pictures and use them in a big artist book.  Soon the rules for this project became clear: I would collect every photo of people voting in 2020 that was published in either the New York Times or the Courier-Journal, the two papers that we receive every day.  

Eventually I realized that sometimes voting pictures were back-to-back on the same piece of paper, in which case I would try to choose the better photo.  Once when the NYT published a whole Sunday magazine worth of pictures of people voting and counting ballots, I was lucky to get a second copy of the magazine from a friend so I could use both sides of the pages.

Several months later I decided I better start assembling the actual book.  The pictures were piling up, and I wasn't sure how to display them.  Simply pasting them into a scrapbook seemed kind of lame -- a book, yes, but not an artist book.  And it looked like there were going to be a LOT of pictures, so how big a scrapbook to buy?  And in the midst of pandemic, I didn't even want to go to the store.

Then an inspiration.  When I retired 20 years ago I brought home with me a lot of obsolete office supplies that I knew would just be thrown out when I left.  One of these was a big stack of continuous feed printer paper (you show your age if you remember when printers had sprockets on either side to pull the paper through, and after printing you had to tear off the side strips and separate the pages).  And I decided not to use glue stick to put the pictures into the "book," but sew them in.  

Time passed and every now and then through the summer I would spend a few hours sewing pictures into the book.  It seemed to be an appropriate activity for pandemic lockdown -- every day something new to add to the pile, no end in sight.  I fine-tuned the definition of what would go in the book a few times -- people voting, of course.  People standing in line to vote, yes.  People waving campaign signs outside the polls, no.  As pandemic made many states expand their mail voting, I expanded my definition to include people mailing ballots, people collecting ballots from mailboxes, post office trays of ballots being sorted or delivered.

I had envisioned that the project would end on November 4 or 5, but that didn't happen -- every day were more pictures of people counting ballots.  Earlier in the year I had decided that counting ballots was fair game for the book, and there were plenty of those as November wore on.  But people protesting the ballot counting, no.  Then there were lots of photos of electors voting on December 14.

And even then, the election wasn't over!!  I debated with myself and decided that the Georgia Senate runoff elections were part of the 2020 voting, so I cut out those pictures as well.

And finally yesterday afternoon I sewed the last photo into the book!  Here my husband is looking through the book.  You can see the red thread that sews everything in, with hanging ends where I had to start and stop.


PS two hours later I found a newspaper on my pile from a couple of days ago with a photo of people voting, accompanying a story about the Supreme Court taking up a voting rights case.  Sure enough, they were voting in the 2020 election, which meant that picture should technically be in the book.  And yet my last page was so pretty, so carefully chosen -- I didn't want to make a new last page with a quite ordinary picture. Should I go back and try to find a place to sew it in, on an earlier page, or should I forget about it, since the book was already finished when I found it?  I will think about that for a while.