“Every Which Way”

I rejoiced this week when I finished binding my seemingly endless needle felted wool hand stitching project, now called “Every Which Way.” My stitching in Florida (I made myself sew down 2 squares a day) brought it to the point I could fuse it to felt and quilt it.

“Every Which Way” 33″ by 33″

Since the wool backing never got felt-like despite several go rounds in the washer and dryer, I used the polyester felt to stabilize the piece. The machine quilting is minimal, just enough to further secure the two layers. That’s right, two layers, so this will never qualify for a traditional quilt show judging.

The project began as a way to use up wool roving leftover from a wet felting class. A friend who took the class with me kindly gave me her leftovers so I had lots to work with. The wool felt squares came from another friend who works with lovely hand dyed wool. The binding has been in my leftovers tub awaiting use.

I ended up with a few “nonconformist” squares that may wind up in another project someday.

The oddballs

Here are some closeups that show off my nine year old level buttonhole stitching.

I am pleased to have my multi-year handwork project completed, and I truly hope I never make the mistake of starting another.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Unreal Reality?

Florida has two big features going for it – sun and warmth. Interesting landscape, not so much, at least not in southwest Florida. One needs to find amusement elsewhere. After sampling a Cuban bakery and a Salvadoran restaurant, and with no luck finding any open beaches thanks to Hurricane Ian, I searched out exhibits to take in. I found the Naples Art Institute had a show of M. C. Escher’s work called Reality and Illusion so off we went.

Escher was a Dutch printmaker (woodcuts, lithographs, mezzotints) who became wildly popular among the college age set in the 1960s and 1970s for his meticulous logically impossible prints and his tesselated transformations. Copies adorned many a dorm room.

The exhibit had plenty of these, but I was most interested in his early work. Though born and educated in Holland, Escher spent much of the 1920s and 1930s in Italy, and then moved to Switzerland after Mussolini rose to power. In the early 1940s he returned to the Netherlands. Here a few works he made while in Italy. (the colored specks on the images are from the reflected lights.)

Cloister of Monreale, Sicily, 1933, wood engraving

Coast of Amalfi, 1931, woodcut from six blocks
Still Life and Street, 1937, woodcut
1950, no idea as to title
Three Worlds, 1955, lithograph
Detail of Puddle, 1952, woodcut from three blocks
Dewdrop, 1948, mezzotint

Escher seemed fond of cold blooded creatures. I confess his flatworms creep me out so I took no photos of them. Many of the exhibit’s captions stress his craftsmanship and his delight in mathematics, especially geometry. I was intrigued to get a fuller picture of an artist I knew mostly from those dorm posters. I know I appreciate his techniques more now than I did at 18.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under Commentary, Exhibits

Looking Forward to 2023

“We don’t have to live with our mistakes simply because we spent a long time making them, or we fear it will take a long time to correct them.”Bonnie Hunter

I came across the above sentence by accident as I don’t read Bonnie’s blog every day. But I’m glad I read her January 4 post as I think I need to apply her attitude toward my work. Oddly, I don’t worry about mistakes in my quilting and have no problem cutting up or revising work I consider a failure. Yet, I am surprised to find I have fear of failure in painting and mixed media. It makes no sense as paint and paper are much easier to modify than fabric. Maybe it’s because with paint and paper you can never retrieve the work you’ve covered over, yet with fabric you can by removing the offending fabrics.

These thoughts bring me to one of my non quilting goals for 2023 – to review my work on paper with an eye to improving it or turning it into collage materials. If all else fails I will recycle it.

As you may know, I spent time in 2022 working on paper – collaging, gel printing, painting. My work is still clumsy and lacks polish, and glue and I are never going to be BFFs.

One overarching goal I have is to emphasize composition and design in both my fiber and paper work. Improv is fun, but I think it’s time I developed at least a modicum of a plan before I begin a work. It can be a sketch, a color scheme, materials to use, or even just a mood. My serious works in 2022 began with some sort of sketch, however rudimentary. Of course, I face the familiar problem that it’s more fun to work in the moment without planning. However, that often leads to less successful results, and certainly can take longer to reach a pleasing result.

Speaking of composition, I am working through a composition class from Laura Horn, and have looked at a short video by Judy Wood about the use of drawing to analyze a composition once you’ve started a piece. My in-box is inundated with offers for classes that focus on techniques, but I had to search for classes on composition. I get it. Composition is where the going gets tough. There are lots of basic “rules” of composition out there (here’s one from Skillshare) but I think it takes lots of practice and making bad art to get the knack.

I began 2023 with collage compositions in my board books. Chunks of paper make the work go fast and I’m recycling both the books and old papers. Since I didn’t want to bring many supplies with me to Florida, where I am now, I packed just text-heavy papers, Posca markers, board books, scissors, and a glue stick. So far I’ve made a collage a day, and have spent roughly an hour on each. Some let the colored gessoed background show while others cover up everything. Here are examples of what I’ve been making.

Obviously some are more successful than others. I see I favor vertical compositions and either under or over work my layouts.

To counter all that composition I am hand sewing down my felted wool squares with a buttonhole stitch. Very mindless, but NOT meditative. I despair of achieving consistent stitches, and keep going only because I already have so much time invested in this project. Once the last five squares are sewn I will square up the background and fuse felt to the back for stability. After that a bit of quilting, a binding, and then it will be DONE.

I have rearranged the squares, but the layout is the same.

I realize there are eleven months after January to fill with goals for activities, but maybe I’ll take it a month at a time. I have only a few projects that carry over from 2022, mostly my fantasy town and unknown family. While I have printed inspiration photos for some new work, I haven’t yet come to grips with composition and fabric choices. I have no classes in mind, but I believe I would get the most benefit from intensive classes rather than short ones. Of course those are more expensive in terms of time and money, so I need to make sure they’re the right fit for me. Please let me know of any courses you’ve found helpful.

Sunday we return to the north. Luckily, there has been no snow in northeast Ohio so our driveway shouldn’t be blocked with a foot or so of snow. I look forward to reviewing my work done here in Florida and fixing it up with bits from my collection of paper.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under collage, Commentary, mixed media

Recalibrating in 2022

Last year I began to poke my head over the parapet a bit and get out more. The landscape has changed as online teaching and get togethers become more permanent. I am so over Zoom meetings, though it can work for classes.

I used the extra home time to dive into non fabric art mediums such as collage and mixed media. Of course that meant new supplies were bought and a new learning curve was begun, which was a good thing. The basics of design and composition carried over from quilting, of course, but different mediums have different pros and cons.

It is so much easier, probably too easy, to make changes with paint and paper than with fabric. One new supply that gave me trouble was brushes – which type of brush to use and how to handle it. I found a world of difference between flat and round brushes, and was astounded at the difference a good brush makes for watercolor. This is where videos have an advantage over in person instruction as you can rewatch a teacher wielding a brush until the knack becomes clear.

While I made fewer quilts in 2022 I didn’t stop making them. I finished fourteen quilts, though some had been started before 2022. I consider “Homage to Escher,” “Rhody,” “The Left Coast,” and “Happy Accidents/Chaos Theory” to be serious art quilts. Two are experiments that didn’t quite gel – “The Eyes Have It” and “Along Portage Path.” The rest are scrappy quilts that allowed me to play with color.

Except for “Homage to Escher” I enhanced these with paint, Neocolor II water soluble crayons specifically; and I used a Spoonflower printed fabric in “Homage.” I am learning that subtle gradations and blurring of color are more effectively done with paint than with fabric or stitch. It’s also much faster to do – a big factor for me.

In 2022 I entered my work in fewer shows. “Dreams of Freedom” was in the 2022 Sacred Threads show and “Shattered” was in Fiber Art Network’s Excellence in Quilts. Hmm, it seems I didn’t tell you about the Sacred Threads exhibit. I realized that if my work is accepted I can count on an overall outlay of about $100 for entry fees and shipping. That cost would be worthwhile if I were publicizing my teaching or felt my work would sell. Since neither applies, I now think long and hard before entering a show. Alas, there are few opportunities to enter local art shows. Summit Artspace in Akron offers a few juried shows open to all art mediums, and my “Still Standing” was included in their 2022 Fresh show. I did show “Calliope” at the non-juried Lake Farmpark show in northeast Ohio and won a blue ribbon for my category. However, I am over judges’ review of my workmanship, so I don’t plan to enter any more shows with that feature.

Of course learning never ends. I did no in person classes, but took a six hour Zoom workshop with Valerie Goodwin. It seemed to be a sped up version of a longer workshop, so I took in less than I had hoped. I really should have taken better notes. I also tried a free stitching workshop by Gwen Hedley from textileartist.org, but found the approach didn’t work for me. However, the website is full of stitching inspiration.

On the paper side I took an online gel printing class from Drew Steinbrecher, and a few freebies such as Drew’s collaged board books and that for Fodder Challenge. To gain more exposure to mixed media I signed up for the year long Wanderlust class series. I found the lessons to be hit or miss. I think I did about 50% of the classes. I did learn about materials and techniques new to me – gesso, modeling paste, watercolor painting, and portraiture. The organizers had developed a structure centered on materials such as gesso, acrylic paint, inks, modeling paste, watercolor, etc.; however, the instructors sometimes made just passing use of the materials for that unit and at least one totally ignored them. I thought some of the instructors’ samples were awful, but other students rhapsodized about how wonderful the lessons were. Students were encouraged to post their work. I was surprised to see how closely some followed the instructor’s sample. I concluded there are way too many butterflies used in mixed media works. All that said, some of the student work posted was wonderful.

I just reread my goals for 2022 (where I should have started the post,) and I’ve achieved about 75% of them. I completed one more panel of my unknown family series,with one more to come. All four scrap strip quilts are done and dusted. I have found new homes for many of my quilts, especially small ones, though I still have far too many. Hand stitching my wool squares to a background is my Florida vacation project.

My biggest art life disappointment in 2022 was the demise of an art quilt group I belonged to for many years. Granted it wasn’t in the best shape before 2020, but Covid put paid to it. The members didn’t want to try online meetings, and managed to meet only once after things opened up at a lunch hosted by a generous member. Radio silence ever since. Individual art friends have moved away so contact with them is now online rather than in person.

Overall, my 2022 was a year of pivoting to other art materials and trying for more deliberate creation of fiber art. I guess my improv urges moved over to paper, where for 2022 I had the excuse I was a beginner. I’ll lose that fig leaf in 2023. Time for the big girl pants.

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Filed under Art quilts, collage, Commentary, mixed media

The Year’s Last Museum Visit

Go big or go home could be the motto of The Morse Museum in Winter Park, Florida. It boasts “the world’s most comprehensive collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848–1933), including the artist and designer’s jewelry, pottery, paintings, art glass, leaded-glass lamps and windows; his chapel interior from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago; and art and architectural objects from his Long Island country estate, Laurelton Hall.” Since my husband enjoys all aspects of Tiffany’s comprehensive output, we stopped by the museum on our way to our eventual Florida vacation destination.

There are also paintings and decorative art objects by some of Tiffany’s contemporaries on display as well; and many are worthy of study. Yet I came away stunned by the cumulative effect of Tiffany’s prolific output. Obviously, the work was made by artisans in his studios, but many of the designs and the solutions to technical challenges were Tiffany’s.

He began as a European trained painter, and his works show talent in my opinion. But early on he decided he wasn’t going to rise to the top of a crowded field, and he studied techniques and methods of glassmaking. He then went into the decorative arts, with commissions from several famous clients. In addition to being an astute businessman, he continued to innovate in glass manufacture, and joined new techniques to his aesthetic that nature should be the primary design inspiration for art.

Enough background. Here are just a few of the pieces that wowed me.

Jewelry box. Tiffany had a line of jewelry in addition to interior decoration.

Detail of stained glass window.
Part of wisteria windows from Tiffany’s estate.
Open screen with leading used as stems
Three sizes and colorways of Tiffany’s wisteria lamp. They are three of about 50 Tiffany lamps in one room.
One of four seasonal panels that show how well the design and the leading are integrated.

There’s room after room of very high quality work. The effect becomes overwhelming after a bit. The rooms Tiffany designed for his country estate seem a bit heavy to my taste, but he was working with a 1600 square foot living room and an even larger dining room. And he designed everything in the rooms, down to the pattern in the carpet.

This museum is well worth a visit if you are in the Orlando area, and the downtown of Winter Park is charming. Just avoid I-4 if you can.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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My Fantasy Town

As the weather reports become dire and more and more local closings are announced in anticipation of cold, snowy conditions, I sit in front of my sewing machine and sew a warm, sunny, colorful village.

Some years ago my husband traveled to Mexico and brought back a book that included pictures of the city of Guanajuato. I loved the hillside jumble of colorful buildings and always meant to make a quilt of it.

Years passed until I was cleaning out my silk scraps at the start of this month and thought of that town. The days were growing shorter, the temperatures were dropping, and I was ready for a fantasy happy place.

First, I drew a rough sketch of my town.

Then I pretty much ignored it. I just had to play with building outlines and the level of detail I wanted. My silk scraps are fused to a backing, so they are bulky and not good for fine detail.

I prepared a foundation of canvas and fusible fleece and laid my raw edge bits directly on that after I sewed on some doors and windows. I played with arrangements a bit on my design wall and then began to sew the pieces down with a short zigzag stitch.

Right now about two-thirds of the pieces are sewn. Once all of them are secured I will go back and add more detail with stitching. None of this is fine workmanship. It’s slapdash with fraying silk and crooked buildings. It certainly wouldn’t pass a building code inspection. And I don’t care. I can feel the sun on my face and think of buying a gelato at a little store.

About 25 inches wide by 21 inches high

For lovely, textured quilts of buildings and towns check out Hilde Morin’s work. For a book about an Italian town I had in the back of my mind as I developed my quilt, read Jess Walter’s “Beautiful Ruins.”

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Filed under Art quilts, In Process

Artistic Endeavors – What Art Collectors Choose for Their Homes

Right now the Cleveland Museum of Art is showing the Keithley collection, a promised gift to the museum of over 100 pieces of art. This eclectic collection concentrates on Impressionist and early modern artists. I found it interesting that the Keithleys collected many prints and Asian ceramic pieces in addition to paintings. The exhibit has photographs of some of the works on display in the Keithley’s traditional looking home. I enjoyed seeing the pieces in such a context.

You can see what’s in the exhibit here, but let me say that size matters when judging the impact of a piece, so you can’t gauge the variety of the collection through the thumbnail photos. For instance, Some More by Joan Mitchell is about 51 by 114 inches, and between its size and that yellow, it takes up all the air around it in the gallery. I wonder where the Keithleys displayed it in their home.

Some More Joan Mitchell

At the other extreme, Pierre Bonnard’s charming lithograph, The Little Laundress, is a mere 8 by 11 inches. A large mat and ornate frame give it more presence. Luckily, the show curators had the good sense not to hang both pieces in the same room.

The Little Laundress, 1896, Pierre Bonnard

Let me run through some of the work that caught my eye. First, to return to Joan Mitchell, I loved the sunflower series of lithographs she made in 1992 at the end of her life. The lines are so free.

Second, I enjoyed the Maine watercolors by John Marin, as they straddle the line between representational and abstract art.

On Morse Mountain, Number 6, 1928

His earlier watercolors are far more representational. Even this one from 1922 is less abstract.

The White Moon, Sailboat, 1922, John Marin

Third, my other favorites were an eclectic bunch. Frankly, many of the Impressionist paintings didn’t wow me, but I’ve been spoiled by trips to other museums with extensive holdings of those artists. The best private collections I’ve seen are those of the Barnes Foundation and Paul and Bunny Mellon, shown at the Frick Museum in Pittsburgh a few years ago.

Strandgade, Sunshine, c. 1906, Vilhelm Hammershoi. This Danish painting would be wonderful for contemplation to clear my mind.
Drying the Linens, 1894, Maurice Denis. I was taken with the composition that takes your eye around the entire piece.
Farm Yard, 1948, Milton Avery. Again, the composition verges on the cusp of abstraction (pink and blue chickens!), and the texture behind the birds of what might be chicken wire makes the piece so much more interesting.
Head of a Boy, 1905-6, Pablo Picasso. He really did know how to draw and the delicate gray and rose palette makes for a contemplative piece.
Interior with a Hanging Lamp lithograph by Edouard Vuillard, 1899. I love the composition that combines straight and curved lines and leads the eye back into another room.
Listening to the Waves, Sakiyama Takayuki, 2007. Unlike the traditional glazed ceramics in the exhibit, the rough finish of Takayuki’s work reminds me of corregated cardboard or the small, irregular pleating used by Fortuny for silk fabric.

Just to show how different a 3D piece looks from different angles, here’s a photo of the above piece from the museum’s website.

The Keithley collection was a reminder to me that what people see in a museum gallery isn’t necessarily what they want to display in their homes. Of course the smaller, more domestic pieces tend to get lost on a gallery wall, but they may enhance without overwhelming one’s living quarters.

Linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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My Go To Color

You know you use a color a lot in your quilts when a friend hands you a fat quarter and says, I thought of you when I saw this (fill in your favorite color) fabric. In my case, the favorite color is a tossup between red and turquoise.

As a child I was drawn to red, especially for my coats; and as an adult I’ve made a quilt called “I Like Red.” But as I look around my living space I realize that I use turquoise and its neighbors (aqua, teal, etc.) far more than red for decorative sewn objects.

On a dreary day recently I amused myself by photographing the turquoise and turquoise adjacent objects I’ve made.

Silk pillow made from recycled skirt and cyanotype pillow from printed crocheted doily.
Quilt made of painted fabrics.
Japanese fabric and scrappy frames in a lap quilt.
Bowl for sewing machine supplies.
Even my shoelaces are turquoise.

And the quilt over my fireplace has turquoise AND red fabrics.

I think my love of vivid colors developed early. One of my favorite childhood Golden Books was called “The Color Kittens” by Margaret Wise Brown. It’s certainly not a classic like her “Goodnight Moon,” but I spent many hours studying the illustrations.

The illustrations are very 1950s.
My darkest secret revealed – why I developed a pouncy approach to color in quilts.

I’d love to hear about your favorite colors and how they came to be your favorites.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Filed under Commentary, Completed Projects

It Began As A Quilt

My last big project of 2022 has been finishing a quilt I called “Happy Accidents” because it was inspired by a piece of woven paper my Roomba had chewed up. You can read about it here and here.

I thought it was done, and started the quilting. I managed to quilt most of what I wanted with a walking foot, and planned to do details with hand stitching. Like many plans, that didn’t go as expected. I found that working needle and thread through four, sometimes five, layers of cloth was challenging. After doing a bit of backstitching, my aching hands told me to give that up.

So, there I was with a partially realized quilt that was probably fine as is, but I wanted more. At this point I left the domain of fabric and thread and entered the painting zone. I ruled out acrylic and fabric paint as too runny for a quilted piece. I considered Inktense briefly, but decided I wanted the flexibility of fuzziness that Neocolor II crayons give.

Of course when you make one change everything is affected, and more changes ensue. That’s why I have expanded the name of this piece to “Happy Accidents/Chaos Theory.” I also think parts of it look chaotic.

Here’s how it looks after several applications of Neocolor II to change the brightness or color of a part, and to emphasize lines that were formerly implicit.

The clipped on black and navy edge strips were to audition binding color. I chose the navy.
The top before quilting and painting.

I managed to spin the quilt many, many times as I quilted the circles and curves.

Finished size is 29 inches wide by 44 inches high. I have only to add binding and hanging sleeve, and I can call it done. I have no idea what I’m going to do with it. Maybe someone will hold a chaos theory art exhibit. If so, I have the perfect entry.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Filed under Art quilts, Fabric Printing, Techniques

The Gift of Art

Today is Black Friday in the shopping world, and I am being inundated with sales pitches. I understand that many crave the latest tech gadget, but consider a piece of art as a different kind of gift this holiday season. There are in person craft and gift fairs in many places, and numerous artists have special online offers.

As it’s been a while since I featured my work that’s for sale, here’s a reminder that I am offering several of my pieces on my blog. They range in size from small to medium large, with corresponding prices. For a limited time I am offering free domestic ground shipping. Below are a few examples of what’s on offer.

“Looking At My Garden Without My Glasses” 37.5″ wide by 31″ high

“Crazy Bullseyes” 36″ wide by 26″ tall

“Winter’s Closing In” 14″ wide by 17″ high

“Sur La Table” 40″ square

“Still Standing” 14″ wide by 17.5″ high

Please email me at snarkyquilter@gmail.com if you have questions or would like further information.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects