Sunday, June 27, 2021

Form, Not Function 2 -- more abstraction

Three of the top four winners at this year's FNF were abstract quilts, and there were several more that caught my eye.

Margaret Black, Curb Appeal 20

Margaret has been a repeated winner in the big quilt shows, including best of show at Quilt National four years ago.  As you can tell by the title, she's played this tune before -- lots of black and white, especially in narrow "ladders" punctuating neighborhoods of various colors.  Intricate piecing of small bits, spots of brilliant color popping out from the overall picture.  I'm always intrigued by trying to note how and whether artists with long series try something new.  What I see new in piece #20 compared to #6 and #7 in past FNF shows are the long striped panels in neutrals, especially prominent in the northwest and southeast corners.  

Denise Roberts, MITOTE #12

Denise is another quilt all-star, a regular at all the big shows and having won the Quilts Japan Prize at Quilt National four years ago.  She's been using the same sinuous curve piecing for some time, but this year it's a much more complex composition than she has done before.  The different colored curves stay neatly in their layers, the palest colors on top and the darkest far away.

Daren Redman, Feel Like Dancing

Daren's is the cheeriest of the bunch, with large shapes in bright, clear colors.  It's a kind of sampler of different ways to pep up a skinny vertical rectangle with some sort of contrast pattern.  A very close look reveals that she apparently quilted the piece in sections, then invisibly joined the panels -- a beautifully executed trick.

I'll show more quilts from FNF in subsequent posts.  Meanwhile, the show is on display at the Carnegie Center for Art and History in New Albany IN through July 17, and I know you would like it if you were to visit. 

Friday, June 25, 2021

Happy birthday!

Today is my father's 108th birthday, although he did not live to blow out the candles.  He died in 2007 but every year on his birthday I like to do a little something to remember him.  Nine years ago I wrote this blog post, which if you even read it to begin with have probably forgotten, so I won't feel guilty reprinting it now. 

Since this blog is mainly about art, I'll take this opportunity to reminisce a bit about how my father taught me about art.  Although he and my mother were both only one generation from pretty damn poor and uneducated, out of the blue they both developed a love of art that was quite unexpected in the dark days of the depression.  Dad began to acquire art as a very young man and was quite proud of his growing collection.  Indeed, buying art was one of the most important activities of his life, a passion he instilled in his children as well.

Among his World War II souvenirs was this lovely watercolor of Weilburg, Germany, which he purchased from an impoverished German artist he ran into on his military rounds.  The purchase price, modest though it was for Dad, allowed the artist and his family to buy food for several weeks.

Shortly after the war, Dad was asked to judge an art contest for his local museum.  His honorarium consisted of the second-place winner, this gorgeous picture of Saginaw, Michigan, with the Saginaw River in the foreground.  The steeple at the right was the church where my parents were married and my sister and I were baptized.

When I was about 10, Dad took me on a Christmas shopping mission -- we went to an art fair and bought a painting that was supposed to be a secret gift for my mother.  It showed up under the tree with an envelope reading "A surprise for Vi!"  But when she opened the card, it said "The surprise is that this painting is for Kathy!"  It was the first piece of art that was mine alone, and the first of dozens, if not hundreds, that Dad gave to me.

All three of these paintings now hang in my home and whenever I see them -- wherever I turn -- I am reminded of how my father opened my eyes and my world to art.  A favorite family activity was to hit an art fair (the Cheap Art Fair was the best of all) and buy a bunch of new stuff.  We shopped at the low end of the food chain but managed to find plenty of lovely things.  The occasional dud didn't cause all that much financial regret, and probably made some artist quite happy.

After my parents died, my sibs and I divvied up the artwork, a process that began long before our parents' demise, has taken years to accomplish and still isn't complete.  I'm now trying to pass some of the art along to succeeding generations, continuing Dad's legacy, passing down both the tangible and the ineffable.

Edmund Arnold and Baby Kathy

So Happy Birthday, Dad!  You're here in every room of the house, living on in the art.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Form Not Function 1 -- the big winners

I missed the opening of Form, Not Function, the juried quilt show at the Carnegie Center in New Albany IN, but finally made it over to visit.  It's a striking show, nicely hung, with not a dud in the place.  Three of the four big winners were large abstract quilts, but in three quite different flavors of abstraction.

Best in Show: Karen Schulz, Objects in This Mirror 

Karen has been in the top tier of the art/quilt circuit for several years, winning best in show at Quilt National twice and jurying this year's QN.  Her spare and powerful composition uses a technique that always intrigues me, juxtaposing seemingly unrelated parts to make a surprisingly coherent whole.  Here her various techniques include piecing, couching and painting with both dye and acrylic.


Kerri Green, Graded Discourse

This cheerful quilt features bright solid colors, overlapping shapes and elegantly pieced curves in a Venn diagram sort of composition.  An arc of black and white gives a punch of pizzazz in the corner.

Sue Cortese, Kumo II -- Relationship  

The pale starburst in the top left quadrant of the quilt is shibori dyed; the striped arms of the larger, darker star are partly dyed and partly pieced.  The white background has subtle touches of pale blue and the occasional dark quilting thread.  It's dramatic but calm , enlivened by complex quilting lines that change direction as they encounter invisible tentacles radiating out from the center.

I liked all three of these a lot.  A whole lot!  I'll tell you about some of the other quilts in the show in later posts.  The show continues at the Carnegie through July 17, and as the old Michelin guides used to say, it's not only "worth a detour" but "worth a trip."

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Blogger makes itself more difficult -- again

Those of you who write blogs as well as read them have probably shared my frustration with the "new improved" Blogger interface.  For the last year or so, since their last "improvement," it has taken twice as many clicks, or maybe more, to do things that we used to be able to do much more efficiently.  For instance, when I am told on my Reading List page that Uta Lenk has a new blog post, and I click on it, I no longer am taken to her blog.  Instead, I get a message that says: 

What is this nanny warning supposed to save me from?  Would it be so awful if I clicked on Uta's blog when I didn't really mean to?  And then when I got there and realized I didn't want to be there, I could hit the back button?  Why require two clicks when one used to do the trick? 

I have to wonder whether Google has decided that blogs are obsolete, and therefore not worth supporting in the style that we have become accustomed to.   (Blogger is still a pretty decent platform, but it used to be much better, for most of the 12 years I have had my blog.)  I might even think that they're trying to get us to abandon our blogs and switch over to Instagram -- except that Instagram is owned by Facebook. 

So here's the latest development:  Google is discontinuing the Feedburner feature that allows readers to get blogs delivered straight to their email rather than navigating to the internet page.  I think that a lot more of my readers use email delivery than do it the old-fashioned way, so this is a problem.  I would be upset, and I hope you might be too, if suddenly you simply didn't receive your blog and didn't know how to remedy the situation.

I wonder whether other blog owners have made a decision about how to replace Feedburner.  I've received solicitations from an outfit called, but wonder if there's another alternative that might be better.  Rather than go down the frustrating rabbit hole of internet research, which will certainly reveal that every conceivable competitor is FABULOUS, I will call for help and see if any of you have experience and advice in this area.  Thank you!!

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

The next Ansel Adams?

Several weeks ago I saw a notice from our library about a kids' photo contest and thought maybe Isaac, age ten, would like to participate.  The theme is "water," and we've been out three times to various places by the river and a pond in the park.  He got to use my Nikon, and I tagged along using my cellphone.

We didn't have particularly good luck with the weather on the days when we did get out, and for one reason or another we weren't able to do as many expeditions as I would have liked, but we hung in there and today went through all the photos and chose the one that he would submit.

I was pleased with what he came up with.  Some of the shots had good composition and had the sun been shining more brightly, would have been spectacular:

Some would have been spectacular if the river hadn't been full of mud, as happens when it's been raining a lot:

Some were quite lovely except there was no water in the frame:

Some were particularly nice because they had people:

Unfortunately the rules of the contest called for submitting just one photo.  I thought it would be much better to choose three, but of course that would take much longer to judge.  Here's my favorite: 

And here's Isaac's:

The contraption shown here involves a big green bucket at the top, which slowly fills with water.  When it gets full, it tips over and dumps the water onto the big turquoise plate, which tips and lets the water slide out in a huge splash.  I tried to take some photos of the same thing, but I think all my shots were a second too early or a second too late.  I was so impressed that Isaac managed to get not one, not two but three money shots.  

Now we have to wait a week and a half to find out if he's a winner.  But I think he already is!

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

No-pressure quilting

Since I started posting daily to Instagram at the start of the year, I have been looking at a lot of posts by other quilters, because the Instagram algorithm is so great at identifying what you're interested in.  And while I have seen a whole lot of wonderful work, I've also seen a lot of photos that make me cringe. 

If you would like to cringe for yourself, go to instagram and search on #improvquilt or #improvquilting.  (The links also work if you're on a computer, not your phone.)

Specifically, photos where people have apparently lost the use of their irons.  It's obvious that if there was any pressing at all during construction of the blocks, it was slapdash.  I can imagine what these quilts are going to look like after quilting and finishing, and the picture isn't pretty.

All photos from other people's
Instagram posts

When I teach quilting I give my signature spiel in which I say I don't care about almost all of the quilt police rules.  Don't care if your seam allowances are 1/4 inch.  Don't care if your points match at the seamlines.  Don't care if your blocks are exactly square, or if your seamlines are exactly straight, or your quilting stitches are all the same length.  But there is one thing that I REALLY care about, enough to make up for all those that I don't bother with.  I care that you press obsessively and thoroughly, that you press every seam open before you cross it with another seam. that you press every block perfectly before you trim it to size and join it to others.

It's particularly important with curved seams; even if the two pieces don't match exactly you can usually coax them into perfect alignment with a spritz of water and a hot iron to urge the bias threads into obedience.  

What disturbs me even more about these unpressed blocks and entire tops that people are so proud of that they post them to instagram is that many of them have made their pieces in workshops with (presumably) qualified teachers.  

I don't know how online quilt instruction works, but I would hope that teachers are asking their students to send photos, and that they are pointing out pluses and minuses of the work.  And how could teachers possibly overlook the glaring lack of pressing?????

I would hate to think that the teachers don't notice, or that they notice but don't care.  In my opinion any teacher who approves of work like these examples should lose her teaching license.  Oh wait, you don't need a license to be a quilt teacher, anybody who stays one block ahead of the rest of the class can promote herself as a guru and apparently attract lots of people willing to pay to "learn" from her.

I just read an instagram post, complete with photo of unpressed blocks, in which the author adorably tells us "Okay here's all the secrets to making an improv quilt."

Secret #5 reads: "Iron the seams once in a while but only when your butt starts falling asleep and you have to stand up."  

I know this is meant to be charming and humorous, not really serious, but it helps spread the idea that pressing is optional, that improvisational quilting = sloppy quilting.  And that makes me crabby.  Way more than crabby, if you must know.

Want to learn how to press your quilts in progress?  Check out my tutorial here, and then read on for curved seams.  Take my word for it, if you learn to press properly, and more important, if you make yourself do it all the time, your quilts will look vastly better and it will be vastly easier to work with them.  

Now to figure out how to get the word out to all those people on instagram!