Monday, September 22, 2014

Around the World Blog Hop

Details - Autumn Confetti by Sheila Mahanke Barnes ©2008 Private Collection
Hello from beautiful northern Idaho, where the leaves are starting to turn! I've been asked by Chris over at Chris's Quilting Universe to participate in the Around the World Blog Hop. I'd seen a few of these posts on some of the blogs I follow but really hadn't figured out what was going on until Chris contacted me. It's another one of those "tag" things that starts with you sharing things about yourself and then tagging others to do the same. This time, though, it's not just quilters being targeted but any blog that shares some kind of creativity, and what you share about yourself is directly related to that. I've addressed some of these questions before in my blog, but it never hurts to revisit them.

What am I working on?
This has been an odd year for me as I decided to take a break from focusing my priorities on completing textile art for the next local exhibit deadline. As an artist member of Pend Oreille Arts Council, I've had plenty of opportunity to get my art into the public eye, and that has been good for me. But that also kept me from pursuing what I think of as side projects and thus low in priority. This year I decided would be a year for exploration and working on whatever was calling at the moment. And so, in addition to completing new work for the annual ArtWalk, I've also spent time dabbling in art journaling, continuing experiments with linocut printing from a class I took last year, started sketching again with local architecture as my subject as well as returning to Zentangling, printed out new photo manipulations to test on padfolios, tried my hand at fabric-wrapped coiled baskets, made myself a soft-cover journal. You can see I have a lot of interests, and on the surface, some of it may look unrelated to my core work with art quilts. But besides providing a break, all these things have something to teach me that can make my original designs for my textile art better.

Next project surrounded by potentially paired fabrics awaiting further inspiration.

But I feel myself itching to get back to work with some of the ideas that have lingered on my design wall all year. I think this is the next one up - pairings of a couple of pieces I shiboried last year with a rediscovered African batik and a friend's hand-dyed fabrics (see above). Late last year I had an urge to start a water series with a specific piece in mind to start it off, even gathered water-related textiles on the wall (see below). Instead, I seem to have gone into the series sideways with heed-the-call designs I didn't think about being water related until later rather than insist on a predetermined order of specific ideas. That shibori says water to me and is broadening the scope of what my series thought it was going to be.

Water inspiration wall.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
That's a tough one. I'm still struggling to think I have a distinctive voice, although many tell me they can recognize my work right off. There are a lot of us art quilters working with nature themes or inspired by nature as I am, a lot of us working from photographs, embellishing with specialty threads and beads, using our own hand-dyed, surface-altered fabric. So I will go with this. My work almost always exhibits a precision and attention to detail, a neatness and symmetry that many works of textile art do not. That's not to say my work is better because of it or that I'm looking over my shoulder for the quilt police, just that this is my personal choice and aesthetic. I can't tell you how many times I've been told to loosen up, quit fussing! But I have to say, loosening  up in the way I work usually leaves me uncomfortable, tense and unhappy with the outcome. There are many art quilter's work that I do like that exhibit this freer style, but for the most part, it just doesn't work for me, so please, let me get back to my uptight way of working! ;-)

Emily Carr Skies ©2009 - masochistically pieced, not appliqued, then framed.

Why do I write/create what I do?
I've had a life-long love affair with fabric and working with my hands. I've tried most of the needlecrafts at one time or another, loving the calming effect of repetitive stitching (whether it be embroidery, cross-stitch, knitting or quilting) and the thrill of watching pattern slowly emerge from a single strand of thread or yarn. I was in junior high or high school when the resurgence in hand crafts of all kinds hit, and combined with my interest in a quilt made my a grandmother who died before I was born, I dived into patchwork via patterns in magazines for things like tablecloths and pillows. I even made a now cringe-inducing prairie dress whose skirt was squares cut from dressmaking scraps. Years later I made my first quilt, again from a magazine pattern, and then another and another, eventually finding myself making small deviations from the printed patterns I followed. Eventually it dawned on me that making quilts, unlike the other needlecraft I indulged in, was something I could put my own stamp on, change up, be creative with. There was no going back after that.

Initially, my quilts were very traditional, or at best, contemporary. But as time went on, I noticed some artsy fartsy elements creeping in. Honestly, I'd be tweaking a design, playing with border ideas, and suddenly wonder, where did THAT come from. I became torn between the reproduction antique quilts I was making and this other thing that was more of a design challenge for me and could incorporate the hand-dyed fabrics and batiks coming on the market. I guess I was evolving and in 2006, I gave in to concentrate on creating art quilts. My brain rarely goes on vacation, flashing ideas across my consciousness like a slideshow I seem to have little control over. Fabric is what I feel comfortable with to see if I can transform those ideas and images into something I can share with others. I think I do this because I love working with textiles, solving the technical and design challenges, and sharing it all with others.

2008 - My first POAC exhibit - I've come a loooong way!

How does my writing/creating process work?
It varies. I take a lot of reference photos and sometimes that's where I start as in Shadow Grass. Sometimes I'm just struck by a color combination in nature and pull fabrics to match while thinking of a design to use it in. Ditto with an unexpected juxtaposition of fabrics as I sort through my stash. It may be my traditional quilting background, but even leftovers from the current project lying on the worktable can trigger an idea for the next quilt or an entire series. Sometimes it's those flashes that seem to come out of nowhere that I pursue and sometimes rough-sketch in a sketchbook. But a lot of the time it's something I see in a fabric that I then try to tease out so that others can see it too. It's always some kind of challenge that keeps me interested.

And then, depending on the situation, I may enlarge a photo or sketch and trace templates or onto fusible web, or freehand draw to scale a pattern, then search for fabric. Or I may just design on the design wall, putting up pieces of fabric, building bit by bit, sometimes with more of a plan than at other times, letting the quilt tell me what it needs next. I talk a bit about this here. All the while, a part of my brain is pondering how this will be quilted, if it needs beads, how will the edges be finished, will it be framed or mounted. Each piece calls for its own resolution, as this blog post shows. Even what kind of batting, or even if I'll use a batting, is different for each completed top. It's the rare quilt that I've made all those decisions about before I begin to construct it.
Upward Tick quilt in progress - auditioning auditioning auditioning everything from backgrounds to color to size to placement

*   *   *   *   *

If you are new to my blog (and even if you're not) and game to read more, I've added an artist biography which tells more about my background and an artist statement which might clarify some of the above ramblings (see tabs under header).
Wait! You're not done reading yet!!! Now that you know more about me, be sure to hop back to Chris's blog and read her Blog Hop post and maybe follow some of her blogger links. Then hop over to the bloggers I have tagged. I'll be honest, I had trouble getting the suggested number - this is a busy time for many - and being kind of busy myself, I wasn't as diligent as I might have been in seeking out participants as the regrets came in. 

However, I did get an enthusiastic "yes" from Hilary Grayson of Living to Work - Working to Live. Hilary's blog shares a fun mix of textile explorations including quilting, book-making, surface design and mix-media with lots of play with paints and inks. I love that she occasionally posts links to instruction videos in some of the techniques I'm interested in but haven't the time to track down on my own. And this all gets a slightly different spin for me since she is writing from the UK. Don't forget to return to her blog next Monday, September 29, when she'll be posting her answers to the Blog Hop.

I'm also going to send you over to another UK blogger who turned me down right now but really hopes she has time soon to answer these questions in an unofficial Blog Hop post. Margaret Cooter's self-named blog has changed dramatically since I started following her years ago. She still posts the occasional quilt and textile-related items, but as her interests have expanded, so have the subjects that she posts about - drawing, painting, bookmaking, trips to art museums and exhibits, artists she likes, poetry. It all informs her personal art. And again, the perspective is slightly different because of where she lives, and I love the many photos she shares of things she spots as she travels around London and on vacations to other countries. Lots of inspiration there! 


The Inside Stori said...

Nicely done post Sheila!!

Sherrie Spangler said...

Wow -- You put a lot of thought and work into this one. Good job.

Chris said...

Sheila, you did a tremendous job with this. I knew you would. That's why I taged you because others would find you as interesting and inspiring as I do.

Living to work - working to live said...

Lovely, just lovely!! And thanks for the very nice comments. I'm gearing up for my blog on Monday. H xx

Michele Matucheski said...

Thanks for asking me to participate. I just couldn't bring myself to do it ... personal demons yipping at my heels on that one.
You do do a plethora of artistic things, Sheila. All very different, but I agree, they work together and "teach" and inform the other genres. YOU are the glue that brings it all together. That's what makes us different in this creative life! Many people only seem to do their 1 thing -- quilting or photography or whatever, and don't venture out into other realms. It's hard to learn new skills--maybe that's why they don't? I tend to get bored with just one thing, and need to explore other creative veins. The world is open wide! So much to do and see and make!