Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Dreams & Illusions, Part II

Continuing on with my review of this regional juried art quilt exhibit, I thought I'd begin with the full view of Leap of Faith by Karen Querna, detail of which I showed in the previous post. This was a huge piece, at least 5 ft in length I think. I was quite struck by it, thinking that much of its impact is due to its size. A good argument for taking our design ideas and making them big and bold. I suppose it was the abstract nature of it I liked. What IS that dark thing in the center? The more I look the more it resembles an ancient figure, an Indian shaman, a praying entity. Began to give me chills.

Here is the other quilt only shown in detail previously, Primordial Soup by Kay Kimball.

The detail shot here shows the alternate way she chose to quilt the goosetrack triangles. The quilting and beading added her personal signature to a design which has been thoroughly explored, most notably by Carol Bryer Fallert. See here and here. Does that mean Kay should not have tried her own version? No, of course not. However, it does point up the importance of developing one's own take and style as a developing artist. I remembered a comment from a viewer of my own Pathways, that it was nice but that she had seen similar things before. Yes, indeed, I agreed, and it was primarily an exercise to try out a technique which resulted in a very recognizable form. Again, not a bad thing, but something to be aware of as one moves to create truly individual and unique designs.

Next is Gray Area by Pam Hansen. Note the big stitch quilting in the detail shot below, as well as the couched narrow strips of fabric. It all worked very well to show the clash between the black and white sides coming together to form the "gray area."

Lynda Lynn created a great piece of flowing designs call Skin II: Permanence. To quote the artist: "This quilt explores the graphic quality of my favorite type of tattoo - tribal. The circles represent many spots on my skin." Well - I would not have guessed that tattoos were the inspiration for this one.

Note her use of sheers - it's difficult to shoot these as the solid color that they are - what looks like patterning is the way the light falls.

There were other non-traditional fabrics including decorator fabrics. The dark fabric looked to be enhanced by metallic paint.

Linda Anderson was the featured artist. I believe this next one is hers - they were not labeled, but sitting on a stage area that would indicate they were not part of the juried exhibition. She had several of these leaf-inspired works, mostly done in the colors you would expect. This one intrigued me because of her use of blue leaves.

In this closeup, you may be able to see that the leaves are individual units attached to give the look of the real thing freshly fallen to the ground.

I'll finish up my review in one more post. Hope you are enjoying these. Clicking on any picture will give you a larger view.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Dreams & Illusions

This is the name of the Fabrications Quilt Artists regional juried exhibition I saw on Saturday. Read the Chamber notice with more details here. This exhibit is sponsored by Sew Uniquely You in Spokane, WA, and I gather that the majority of the entrants have taken art quilting classes there. Anna Turner is quite the booster for quilting arts, and I found the overall quality of the offerings much improved over the same show last year (see here for my review). It was held in a different venue, Jacklin Arts & Cultural Center which formerly did duty as a Presbyterian Church. The natural light was definitely an improvement over last year's windowless auditorium. It also made photography a bit tricky when facing those light streaming windows to capture some of the quilts. Click on any picture for a larger view.

Cynthia Corbin was on hand again, conducting a workshop as well as judging the show. Whereas last year I was absorbed with her close parallel quilting stitches (something I've begun incorporating in my own work), this year I was more aware of her influence on the artists in the show. Close parallel quilting was in abundance, as in Leap of Faith by Karen Querna (detail above) and Primordial Soup by Kay Kimball (detail below).

This stitching was definitely appropriate for the quilts, but I couldn't help wondering if this is the new micro stippling. It made me realize I need to be judicious in my own use of it - too easy for these trends to be overdone and lose their impact when everyone is doing it.

As is often the case, the quilts I thought most striking did not win any awards. Sometimes you can get a feel for what the judge is looking for but in this case, I didn't understand Cynthia's choices at all. Twister (above and below) by Kay Kimball was my all out favorite, meeting all my criteria for subtle sophistication and attention to technical detail. The camera picked up more contrast than was evident in person; all the colors rather blended a bit more without the piece losing its impact. I had to get up quite close to it to see that the center was an applied needlefelted piece and that the background was subtly painted with metallic thread. I'm not totally sold on the needlefelting thing, but this was so beautifully integrated into the whole with the unusual beading accents, how it was done did not matter. It reminded me of something Robert Henri said: "One's technique must be so sincere, so translucent, that it may be forgotten."

Of course, I loved those curving parallel quilting lines. It was mounted to a piece of black mat board. It made me wonder if it usually resides in a frame as well, but could not be displayed in this show that way.

There was another needlefelted piece that caught my eye, Lazy Afternoon by Elsie Bozzo shown on the right in the above picture. I spotted it from across the room, all soft and blurred looking, and I couldn't imagine how she had managed that effect. She masterfully needlefelted all the details with the exception of the border. An amazing effect. The quilt to the left is hers also, Morning Fog. It too has some needlefelting, but only in small amounts. The rest is predominantly raw edge applique. It was started in a Pam Mostek class and inspired by a photograph taken on Orcus Island, WA.

Continuing the tree theme, two other quilts also caught my eye from across the room, both dark quilts yet demanding I come closer to suss out their mysteries. Velvet Tree above was most interesting in its use of non-traditional materials. The background is indeed black velvet possibly hand-dyed or discharged while the tree is made of jute. My apologies for not getting the maker's name - I couldn't make it out in my photo and it wasn't listed in the program. The other tree quilt shown below is Nature's Energy by Ramona Petrie. While some of the imagery could have been executed better, there was no mistaking that one was viewing a lightning bolt hitting a tree. It had its own energy that kept drawing me back to study it.

There's more to share, which I will do in a separate post.

Monday, April 28, 2008

South African Fabrics

I went to an art quilt show on Saturday - fellow blogger Nikki had one of her paper quilts in it and I simply had to go check it out. I'll be sharing more about the quilts soon, but in the meantime, I'm confessing to succumbing to more fabric. One of the vendors had these South African fabrics I could not resist. The ones on the right are sunprinted, and I already have some of them in my stash, thanks to my friend Judi. The two on the left are supposed to be bark cloth, but on closer inspection, I don't think they are. They are dyed over a jacquard weave cloth, and whether or not they are bark cloth makes no difference to me. Their color and pattern simply caught and held my eye.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Nature of Solutions

"There were solutions. Some you discovered, some you made, some you willed, some you forced."

~ Richard Russo, Nobody's Fool

Friday, April 25, 2008

POAC Opening Reception

My apologies for not posting pictures of the Art Quilt exhibit opening reception sooner. It was a week ago - how time flies when you have company and feel a bit guilty that you cannot identify the maker of every piece of art in these pictures. We start, of course, with a picture of me standing by my quilts with my friend Suzanne (who is not a quilter, but someone who appreciates all forms of art). She and her husband drove 4 hours to hold my hand and help celebrate my first local exhibit. Members of my church (also non-quilters) came out in force as well. It meant so much to see all those familiar faces and know they were there specifically to support me and my art.

This is what people saw as they entered The Old Powerhouse. Art quilts lined both walls of this entryway leading to the open atrium area. (Click on any picture for a larger view.)

No reception is complete without food, of course. The reception was well attended and it was a trick getting to the food and wine, let alone the quilts - part of the reason I didn't take good notes of what was made by who. The second picture shows the short hallway leading to the back of the building and the grouping of the smaller quilts. That's where mine were displayed.

More quilts were displayed along the stairs leading to the next level. I believe the one on the left belongs to Pat Budge.

A different angle of the stairs showing the second level of offices and exhibit space. You can just make out Borg Hendrickson's graphic quilts on the wall below the landing.

That brick wall made for a terrific backdrop for these quilts. My favorite of the exhibit is the one in the center, and now I can't remember who it is by. To the left is one from Pam Mostek's Paintbox series, and the one to the right is by Terri Palmer.

More quilts along the balcony. The most visible one is by Marty Bowne. To the right of it is the most bizarre of the lot. Well, that might show my personal bias, but it definitely was pushing the definition of a quilt. No batting and no stitching, although it was multi-layered and held together in a novel way that just barely fell within the definition. It stuck out 8 or 10 inches, forming "pockets" out of a material that was more mesh than anything.

I had some mixed emotions by the end of the reception, and some thoughts about how it was hung which I'll address in a separate post. All in all, though, the quality of the submissions exceeded my expectations, the quilts look fantastic in the space, and I am very pleased and proud to be a part of this show which runs through June 8th.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

April TIF Done

I fixed myself a cup of Creativi-tea and headed to the studio to finish up my April Take It Further Challenge. Thanks, West Country Mother for your comment. I was seriously considering not proceeding with it, but knowing it was getting across my feelings about change really spurred me on. Tuesday it felt like I was exorcising those negative feelings about change. Today it felt like I was moving on to the "something good about change" you pleaded for! I've added a more soothing green as a reminder that after change, things do calm down again. Indeed, I DO know there's something good about change - Change is what got me moved back to my beautiful Idaho! In spite of my initial negativeness about change, once I can't avoid it, I start looking for the silver linings which are usually lurking just under the surface.

Because this is so small, I layered it with muslin and a scrap of Quilters Dream cotton batting held together by straight pins. I put on a walking foot and began by stitching in the ditch along the black strips with black thread. Before I knew it, I was stitching in the ditch along all the seam lines with black. I hadn't intended to do that; I can only think that it was partly because my traditional background included lots of that kind of quilting, and partly because I've been reading Suzanne Marshall's latest book, Adventure & Applique. I've studied with her and had the pleasure of studying her quilts up close. Most of the applique had this fine black line along the edge. It looked inked to me, but no, she actually embroiders those lines. Here is an example from her quilt "What's For Dinner?" (click on pic to see the detail in a larger view.)

Someone else who does this kind of thing, but by layering her applique shapes on a slightly larger piece of black fabric is Pam Rupert. At any rate, I really liked the way it made the red stripes stand out and accentuated the jaggedness of the offsets.

I'd used a bridging stitch to apply that loose strip of black and tried lengthening it to add additional quilting lines. Yes, this worked well, I think. Finally, I went back to the default length and ran it around the edge, letting the stitches swinging to the right fall off the edge on to the batting.

I originally intended to trim the batting back to the stitches, but I liked the way the black strips were hanging off. Since I think I will frame this is some way, I decided I could attach "border" strips to the muslin backing, and the extra batting would cover the join.

Here it is from the back - looks cool from this direction too.

Since visualization is one of my weak points, I played with Corel Paint Shop Pro X to see what color mat and frame might look best. The picture at the top is actually a scan, and I allowed for the outer green to be a bit wider on the top and bottom than the scan allowed. Still, this really helped me get an idea of which direction I want to go. Do you have a favorite? I sized this to fit a standard pre-cut mat and intend to tape it to the back side of the same. No more batting, no more quilting, no edge to finish.

You may notice that I changed the orientation since the last post. It was another case of it getting tossed "upside down" on the ironing board and thinking I liked it better that direction. I'm toying with the idea of stamping "change" in black letters up one side of the border, but that may be too much of a good thing.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

April Take It Further Challenge

I needed a bit of a jump start today and decided to get going on an idea I came up with for the April Take It Further Challenge. No, March is not done yet, and after mulling all month about the new key concept of "how do you see change," I decided whatever I did for it would be small and quick. I wasn't sure I wanted to do this one because I wasn't sure I could think of how to express a feeling. It was in one of those unguarded moments that the answer presented itself.

I do not like change. I like to get everything in order, to my liking, and then have it stay that way. Change makes me uneasy, change disrupts my routine, change takes time away from other things. Intellectually, I know that change is good, it can rejuvenate, solve problems, open up new worlds. Emotionally, I know that change is bad, it can unsettle me, create problems, force me to go places I think I'd rather not go.

So my idea is to create a textile piece that makes the viewer uneasy, even agitated, would show the disruption change can create. I thought I could choose colors that when placed together would vibrate, clash. After a bit of research into the effects of color, I decided to start with just two: a really vibrant lime green and a strong red. I tried other colors against those two, but because I'm working small and didn't want to fuss a lot, I decided these two working against each other was enough. It's hard to capture the effect on screen - you'll just have to trust me that the eye does not rest easy on these two. I cut some strips in various widths and sewed them together. Here you see the beginning of that process.

And here is the completed strip set.

I wanted to add something ominous, even negative, that would represent the very strong effect change sometimes has, cutting off what was before from what comes after. It occurred to me that I could slash the strip set and insert narrow bands of the black.

When sewing these pieces back together, I made sure they offset a bit.

But it wasn't quite enough of a jarring look for the way I feel about change. What if I slash again and resew without adding the black strip?

Now I felt I was getting that feeling of disruption so did it again in another corner. The top black strip isn't pieced in at this point. In fact, it is a trimming that I think I will just stitch down, raw edges exposed, a reference to the messiness change sometimes brings. I'm not sure if I'll do anymore slashing - probably not since I want to move on with this quickly.

I plan to add quilting that will continue the theme - perhaps jagged lines, trim the edges unevenly and run a single line of stitching around the outside. I may experimenting with attaching it to mat board or watercolor paper just for fun. It's only about 6 inches square at this point.

Monday, April 21, 2008

It's Still Snowing in Idaho

It's been very cold lately, and I haven't bothered to report in on the continued insistence of mother nature to spit snowflakes at us. However, this morning when I peeked out the window, this is what I saw.

It melted off by mid-day. I feel sorry for my daffodils, one of which simply couldn't hold back any longer.

Normally you know these spring snows are short lived, but it gives one pause to see a snowplow of this size rumbling down the highway in late April.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I've treated myself... a new mug. Inside the rim it reads: "n. having more creative ability while drinking tea." Do you think it will work?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Taking a Step

I got a preview of the art quilt exhibit today when I dropped off my quilts. They'd already started hanging, so there I was, surrounded by some pretty spectacular quilts, and having to unveil my offerings. In my exhibiting career, I've rarely been able to deliver my work in person, so have missed seeing the reaction on the receiving end. I'd forgotten how much that first unguarded response to a quilt can tell you about the piece. The intake of breath followed by whatever comment is the first clue the work is successful on some level. In this case, Pathways was lying on top of Off the Grid. As the woman removed Pathways to see the one underneath, I heard that intake of breath, followed by several very positive comments. Then, almost as if she was embarrassed at having said nothing about the first one, she added, "That one's nice too, but THIS one is so different, unusual." This made me smile, because it meant I'd succeeded in making work meeting some of the criteria on my "Embrace/Avoid" list: Embrace interesting work and avoid cliche and predictable work.

I've been struggling these last few weeks to maintain studio time. Even when I squeeze it in, I have been distracted or adrift in some way. Seeing these quilts even briefly gave me renewed incentive to start making real progress in output again while reminding me how much further I could be taking my work. The current challenge I'm working on is a slow go requiring much pondering between steps, and I didn't feel up to thinking anything through today. But I recognized that nervous energy building that indicates I need to be doing something in the studio, regardless of how little time I may have. In fact, I've suspected that I needed to work on something else for awhile rather than force myself to finish the challenge first, that a break from it might rejuvenate my thoughts about it. But what quick, straightforward thing do I have ready to go?

Well, among other things, the quilt I started in response to a challenge from a friend to interpret a Chinese poem. I'd stopped at the point where I needed to decide its final size and cut/sew the borders on. It's been on my mind since the first of the year, one of several "small" UFO's I know would take me minimal time to finish, which is probably why I keep putting them off. This one got put off no more. It's not a huge amount of progress, but it is the first step towards completing it, and every journey, after all, begins with the first step. Below you see the center cut to size and the border strips laid around it. They may come down in width a bit but better to start wide and trim later. That batik has been notoriously difficult to photograph accurately and the gold paint reflects back much stronger than in real life. I'm hoping to squeeze in time tomorrow to actually sew those borders on.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Elizabeth Barton

I've added a link to my sidebar - that of Elizabeth Barton Art Quilts. I've run across her work before and was mesmerized by the way she captured night scenes of buildings in cloth. But I admit her name had not stuck with me. Clare Smith's Websearch column in New Zealand Quilter Issue 61 provided the link that reacquainted me with Elizabeth's work. And what a body of work it is. Here is a prime example of an artist focusing on a single image or theme and thoroughly exploring it. The similarity between pieces is obvious yet the variations keep each work fresh, and when seen together as in her galleries, anything but monotonous. I find her use of shibori fabric breathtaking.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Extreme Embroidery Exhibit

Smithsonian Magazine's ARTiculations blog has an interesting post reviewing an embroidery exhibit at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York. It would seem the "extreme" embroiderers out there have some of the same stereotyping issues that art quilters do - difficult to earn respect. Here is an excerpt that I think hits the nail on the head concerning how to command respect in the art community, regardless of your medium:

"Rarely nowadays is skill in art discussed, let alone used as a basis for evaluation, but this exhibition showcases how mastery mesmerizes...The detail and intricacy of the scene, created entirely using silk thread on linen, attest to the boggling ability of the artist.

What especially impressed me is that the works in the show were not conspicuously self-conscious of the craft they display. The form did not override or rob the pieces of expressiveness. Instead, it seemed like the pieces could only exist as embroidery; the intent of the artists could only be communicated this particular way."

To read the entire blog entry, go here. For more on the exhibit, go here.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

More on Exhibit

Nora has rightly pointed out that the Pend Orielle Arts Council website does not yet have information on the Art Quilt exhibit mentioned in yesterday's post. They never seem to want to get too far ahead of themselves, but I have faith they will be updating over the weekend. Keep checking back.

In the meantime, I thought I would mention there will be 16 quilt artists represented at this show, some of whom you may recognize as book authors and teachers, some as having work included in recent quilt books, and others like me who are primarily locally known. In addition to me, the list includes:

Marty Bowne of Sandpoint
Pat Budge of Seattle, WA
Kris Calney of Otis Orchards, WA
Brian Dykhuizen of Kalispell, MT
Sue Graves of Sandpoint
Kay Hall of Sandpoint
Gerri Harvil of Sagle, ID
Borg Hendrickson of Kooskia, ID
Rita Hutchens of Sandpoint
Kristin Johnson of Sagle, ID
Terri Kralik of Bonners Ferry, ID
Regina Mills of Sandpoint
Pamela Mostek of Cheney, WA
Terri Palmer of Sandpoint, ID
Pat Raffee of Post Falls, ID

I will extend the same offer I extended Nora to all of my readers - if you make it to town to see this, I'd be delighted to meet you and show you around. There's lots to do and see in and around the area.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Upcoming Exhibit

This has not been a good week for the studio, and today's try did not get me very far. I'm at a bit of an impasse over the last thread color to add - my several tries have not worked as anticipated. So in lieu of showing you studio progress, I'm sharing information about the upcoming Pend Orielle Arts Council invitational exhibit Art Quilts: Beyond Tradition.

I have two pieces in the exhibit which opens next Friday, April 18 with a reception from 5:30 - 7:00 p.m. and runs through June 8. If you are in the area, please check it out. The exhibit space in the Old Power House at 120 Lake Street in Sandpoint, ID encompasses two levels of an atrium-like space surrounded by office space and a restaurant. Natural light should show off the quilts to their best advantage. The one shown above, by the way, is by the organizer of the exhibit, Marty Bowne, and is being raffled to raise money for POAC.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Second Pass

It's hard to see from this picture, but I added the next bit of stitching to my trunks. See here for how it looked before adding this pass. I used Connecting Threads "Essentials" cotton thread in grey. I love this thread for general sewing - it is smooth and long staple so there's not much lint, and it is a nice thickness. Not as heavy as Mettler 50 wt cotton but not as thin as Aurofil 60 wt 2 ply. I've used both of those for piecing, but now prefer the Essentials.

At a distance, it doesn't look a great deal different in color than the first thread, but on closer inspection, one can see that it is lighter. It adds the subtle shading, the darker underneath where the lighter bark has pealed off. See here for reference to the real thing.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

In Praise of Recycling in Art

"...created from found treasures...the resurrection of dead not interpret this pejoratively - on the contrary - for giving new form and aesthetic life to things cast away, is rather a divine act."

French critic Legrand-Chabrier, 1929, in reference to Cirque Calder by Alexander Calder

Friday, April 04, 2008

First Pass...

All my inhibitions, self doubt and questioning flew out the window today as I made the first stitches on the tree trunks. This is done free motion with King Tut variegated cotton thread #925 - a mix of greys and soft golds. And I'm lovin' the way it looks - no longer odd but as intended - a tree trunk emerging.

I'll be filling in between these first lines with either a tan or grey thread I think. Much more of the peachy background to tone down.