Since Quilt National is held every other year, each show gives me a better reading on techniques and approaches many art quilters are using than blog posts and monthly newsletters can. Sometimes a technique may be an ephemeral fad or a way to market a product.
Here are some recurring themes and approaches I noticed at the 2015 show.
Quilts made as separate panels. Some had two panels; others had up to five. On a practical level, this makes the mechanics of quilting easier, though it creates a lot more edges to finish. This exquisite work by Deidre Adams has many layers, including paper, that have been peeled off to make holes.
Lots of big stitch handwork done with thin thread, possibly silk, as in Jeanne Gray’s Season’s End. I immediately thought of locust tree seed pods.
Hand dyed, altered, painted, etc., fabrics. I saw discharge, resist printing, painting and even spackling used. Here’s Bonnie Buckman’s gorgeous hand dyed Estuary.
Less digital imagery. A few quilts used digital photographs, and some featured thread painting of such photos. Liquid Sunset by Charlotte Ziebarth uses an altered digitally photo (second photo below) in a way that doesn’t scream digital photo.
Less elaborate free motion quilting. That said, one of my favorite pieces, Insomnia, His and Hers, by Paula Kovarick, consisted of nothing but free motion quilting. However, it was used as a drawing tool, not as a means to create dense texture. Here is one of the two parts of this entry.
Reuse of old fabrics. Jane Dunnewold used an old, torn, grandmother’s flower garden quilt as the starting point for Grandmother’s Flower Garden I. She also used spackling.
Raw edges used as a design feature. Elena Stokes didn’t finish the edges of Infinity, but just cut off the strips.
Here’s another piece that features raw edges, Kit Vincent’s Chaos 3, and a detail from it.
Detail of above piece.
Tiny piecing. Maria Shell sorted oodles of tiny scraps to make To Agnes Martin, With Color. I wish I had a ruler to show you how small these squares are.
More organic shapes in quilt edges as in Ghost Trees #3 by Karen Tunnell.
Every viewer will have a different selection of quilts they would feature, but I wanted to give you some idea of the range of approaches possible with art quilts. It was eye opening to see how artists used different techniques to enhance their designs rather than be their designs.With one exception, I could find something to admire in each entry.
I realize that the jurors’ tastes affect each show’s selection. That said, I found the work in this show to be much stronger than that in the 2013 show.
Cutting The Cord
Recently a commenter asked me how I knew a piece was done. I responded that for me it was intuitive, but on further reflection I’ve decided it’s like the advice Coco Chanel supposedly gave for accessorizing an outfit. “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory”
Mlle. Chanel devoted far more thought to dressing than I ever have, but I think the principle’s the same: go a bit over the edge and then back off a touch. I try to add to a quilt until it’s just too much of a muchness (from Chanel to Alice in Wonderland in the same paragraph!) Then I stop and remove something. Usually that does the trick for me.
I also concur with painter Jamie Wyeth who said in his August 14, 2014, interview on Here and Now: “All the inadequacies jump out at me. … I don’t really finish a picture but it gets to the point of diminishing returns, and I just say, enough.”
I hope I’ve set the stage to debut The Big Bang, which I wrote about as my problem project.
I felt it needed more – more subtlety, more mystery, more depth. However, I couldn’t figure out how to get there. I painted more silk organza and cheesecloth, but found layering them on top gave a monochromatic effect.
After I removed those layers I hit on using them selectively, in particular the cheesecloth. I recalled photos of galaxies where clouds of matter swirled about. That was the effect I sought.
Many hand stitches with metallic and silk threads later, I declare this piece finished.
Of course there are aspects I’d like to change. My bottom layer of fabric worked for the initial concept, but now doesn’t quite fit. I toyed with starting afresh with a dark fabric, but realized the transparency effect wouldn’t show as well. I wish the metallic thread sparkled more. It does in certain lights, but mostly when you hold the piece at an angle. I’d love to find a way to display it with a light behind it, but the mechanics are beyond my ability and that would constrain where I could display it.
However, I think it’s time I stop fussing with this one and declare it born.
Filed under Commentary, Completed Projects
Tagged as art quilts, metallic thread, silk organza, The Big Bang