Monthly Archives: June 2016

Back To Nature

This year nature ruled at Quilt Canada – both landscapes and animals. I have to say that I can admire the skill of the animal portraits, but I’m not transported by them. The landscapes were a different matter.

First up are miniature landscapes. For once the miniature category wasn’t dominated by tiny blocks.



Then, several different styles of larger landscape quilts.

IleauCoudresBrigitteVilleneuveThis one has no netting over all those little bits of fabric.



RiverValleydetailDetail of The River Beckons

MargaretCaleWavesMargaret Cale’s Waves combines storm at sea blocks with a seascape.


PattiMorrisLazyMSweatLodgePatti Morris’ Lazy M Sweat Lodge is set in a landscape.


AndreaBoydWhiteAnneShirleyI’m sneaking this challenge quilt of Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables) into landscapes in homage to my childhood crush.

Finally, here’s a quilt with 3D toadstools. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a quilt that featured fungus before. They protrude about 2 to 3 inches from the surface.

Toadstools AnnMariePatrick

Toadstools by Ann Marie Patrick


Filed under Quilt Shows

Personal Faves At Quilt Canada

A few quilts at Quilt Canada really stood out to me for their conception and execution.

IMG_7792Zentiles by Judith LeClue is a tribute to zentangles with finely drawn black lines everywhere. Each pair of tiles is different.

IMG_7794I have messed around with zentangles enough to know that it’s difficult to draw this degree of detail on fabric.

IMG_7795And, this was quilted on a domestic machine.

CarmenHugginsSteampunkJulyeCarmen Huggins made Steampunk Julye for her daughter. Despite the comment I overheard that it had too much black, I think it’s great. The gears are indeed metal.

CarmenHuggins detail2

CarmenHuggins detail1I love the dots in each white square.

I’ll finish with three other quilts that appealed to me for their experimentation.

NancySachroSpiralingSpectrumSpiraling Spectrum is a clever color study and a shout out to June Barnes’ 3D fabric work.

MaggieVanderweitPlaidReflectionsPlaid Reflections by Maggie Vanderweit shows how value changes make a piece. I would have been happy to go with the fabric on the right, but it really needs that lighter bit on the left for contrast.

AnitaPayneFromTheWorldToCanadaFrom The World To Canada is composed of hundreds of cloth labels. While others have used this conceit, I thought this quilt was well done.

Terry Aske, who won two ribbons at the show, has posted photos from the show, so you can see some additional entries on her blog.


Filed under Quilt Shows

Maple Leaf Rag

If it’s June it’s time for my Quilt Canada pilgrimage, which a friend and I just completed. After years of meeting at various universities, this juried show seems to have settled in the International Center near Pearson Airport outside of Toronto.  The good thing – it’s all under one roof. The bad thing – some charm is lost, in my opinion. The Center is your usual airplane hangar type corrugated metal building.

As is customary, the show is actually a few shows. Front and center is the all Canada juried show, whose judges ensure the entries are at worst very competent. Most often I find gems in all styles to admire. Then, the Fibre Art Network (FAN) shows its members’ work, which is often an exhibit of a set theme or size. This year the TrendTex fabric challenge quilt entries were displayed, and the Toronto Modern Quilt Guild had a mini show.

Over the next few posts I’ll share some of my favs with you, but if you’re impatient and want to see all the award winners, go here. I’ll warn you the best of show quilt is MUCH better looking than the photo on that site. In fact, I’ll show you the photo I took of it. Please excuse the waving hand of an enthusiastic quilter.

Helen FujikiQuiltCanadaBestofShowHere’s a detail shot.

BestofShow detailIt’s called Election Night Euphoria, but I don’t know if it commemorates Justin Trudeau’s win or what. And yes, you picky folks will note that the circles should have been lined or pressed differently so the turned under bits don’t show.

We were happy that Quilt Canada lifted the no photos rule as we like to take shots of details that don’t show up in the catalogs offered for sale.

This year I noticed a lot more landscape and abstract quilts and fewer traditional appliqued, etc., quilts. I guess that’s a function of the judges, who change for each show. I know Anna Hergert was one of the three judges this year. She wrote about her experience here. Since she runs Art Quilt Campus, I feel safe in saying that’s her area.

I was intrigued at a category for quilts made from patterns, books, and workshops as a way to group non original quilts. I was surprised that any quilting done by a person other than the quilt top maker only got a subdued mention. Some of the quilting was spectacular, and I felt the creators of it should have received more prominence.

Of course there were hot and cold running vendors. I was restrained with my purchases as my haul consisted of a roll of 14 yards of 1.5 inch bias cut fabric, a spool of silk thread, and a Japanese fabric fat quarter. When all my loonies were spent, I was done.



Filed under Art quilts, Modern Quilting, Quilt Shows

What IS An Art Quilt, Anyway?

This month my master class assignment was to find examples of good and bad art quilts and critique one of each.  Since it’s all to be anonymous and confidential I won’t be sharing this exercise with you. However, it got me thinking about the definition of an art quilt.

Here’s the definition used by the Art Quilt Association:

An art quilt is an original exploration of a concept or idea rather than the handing down of a “pattern”. It experiments with textile manipulation, color, texture and/or a diversity of mixed media. An Art Quilt often pushes quilt world boundaries. An Art Quilt should consist predominately of fiber or a fiber-like material with one or multiple layers which are held together with stitches or piercing of the layers.

SAQA defines an art quilt as:
a creative visual work that is layered and stitched or that references this form of stitched layered structure.
Kathy Loomis, who doesn’t hold back her opinions, said:
If I am asked to define an art quilt I say that first, it’s art. That is, work made by an artist who has something to say about the world, to the world. And that artist has chosen to use the medium and format of a quilt, defined as layers held together by stitching. And by choosing to use the medium/format of a quilt the artist should have some feeling or connection or commentary to make with or about traditional quilts, otherwise why not make a painting or photography or bronze sculpture?
     I think sometimes the cart gets put before the horse in attempts to define an art quilt by what it’s made of. And I also believe that quilters who want to make art quilts would do well to take design/drawing/painting classes in addition to classes on making realistic looking waterfalls with angelina fiber.  All too often I’ve heard would be art quilters say they can’t draw. OK, then learn. Drawing is a skill that can be mastered with practice, like matching points on triangles. Design is another skill that can be learned. Some people have an intuitive sense of design, but anyone can learn some ground rules.
     In my observation quilters who come to art are more inclined than artists who come to quilting to overdo classes in techniques at the expense of art basics. Artists in all media need a good selection of tools in their creative toolboxes, but techniques are the means to an end, not the goal itself. The few artists I’ve known who have taken up fabric as their medium have learned just enough to operate a sewing machine and then they make up their own techniques with fabric to get their message across.
     Yes, I too have taken many techniques classes, and realize that almost all of them danced around the issue of whether what the students made was actually art.  I wouldn’t expect art from most classes devoted to techniques such as dyeing or silk screening as the aim is to produce fabrics to use in art. However, I think design should be important in classes to teach pictorial or landscape art quilting. However, sometimes students are told to posterize a photo as their design, and much time is spent matching fabrics to the colors in the photo in a paint by number effort to duplicate the photo. This is simply a pattern by another name, in my book. If you love the photo that much as it is, why not hang it on your wall rather than attempt to copy it in fabric? But I understand why quilters would think this approach makes an art quilt as quilts that copy famous art have won awards at shows.
     Deep breath … I’ve come to believe that the term art quilt has been misunderstood. Beading, improvisation, raw edges, surface design, etc., by themselves do not turn a quilt into art. I refer you to the definitions I began this rant with – that an art quilt is an original exploration of a concept or idea that just happens to be made with fiber. As Bob Hicks, former art critic of The Oregonian, said about art: “The truth is, all that matters is this: Does the work move you? Does it have integrity and skill and power? Does it suggest things beyond itself?” If I look at a quilt and react to it as a work of art, then that’s what I consider it. If I look at a quilt and my first thought is, what great shibori dyed fabric, then I probably don’t consider it a work of art.
     Full disclosure: most of the quilts I make are not art. They are usually original work, they are sometimes graphic and contemporary, they often don’t follow standard quilting craft; but only a few suggest things beyond themselves or evoke an emotional response. And that effect is my ultimate goal.


Filed under Art quilts, Commentary

Little Bits

In between more expansive projects I’ve been fitting in little works. I thought I’d catch up with the latest here.

First, Ohio SAQA members are putting together a trunk show of 8 by 10 inch pieces to showcase diverse art quilt styles. Each art quilt will be mounted on mat board and encased in a protective plastic envelope with a label on the back. The resulting trunk show will be available to any SAQA Ohio member to use for interactive presentations.

I decided to showcase improv piecing with mostly hand dyed/painted fabrics in Amethyst and Amber (With A Touch of Turquoise.) I found it’s hard to create anything interesting in such a small size.

Amethyst and Amber

To continue the improv theme,I created a 9 by 12 inch piece for one of my small quilt groups. I call this one A Real Eye Opener.  Yes, those are hot fix crystals on it.

AnEyeOpenerFinally, I used my applique skills to create silk insignias on the tabards of Arthur and Patsy for a local production of Spamalot. I assure you these are washable. Fabric markers sure helped.

Arthur finalNow that I’ve procrastinated for a few weeks I have no choice but to return to problem solving on some larger pieces.


Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects

Sometimes Failure Is An Option

We all love to hear success stories, so the duds tend to get shoved to the back of the closet and forgotten, metaphorically speaking. However, I want to tell you about a failure in hopes someone out there has tried this technique and succeeded.

The technique involves cloth, fabric paint, and rubbing alcohol; and is supposed to produce cool effects of spreading circles. At least that’s what happened in Betty Busby’s video.

I gathered the simple supplies – fabric paint, rubbing alcohol, Q-tips, and scraps of silk.  You put a dot of paint on the fabric and touch the center with an alcohol dipped Q-tip. The paint is supposed to spread out from that center like ripples from a stone dropped in water. Here’s my first result. Not quite like Betty’s. This is after spraying the whole thing with alcohol. It bears a distinct resemblance to a paintball target.

IMG_7281I thought I should investigate more videos and found some where 91% rubbing alcohol was touted as the secret ingredient. Usual rubbing alcohol is 70%. All right! I thought, and purchased the stronger stuff.

More failure. The results were even worse with no spreading of the paint, possibly because I used cotton, not silk fabric.

Back to YouTube. I got sidetracked by videos of rubbing alcohol used on drawings done with Sharpie markers. I had that cup of alcohol and a bunch of Q-tips already laid out, so why not try it.

Alcohol on SharpiesThe blobs of color underneath the marker lines are my attempts with the 91% alcohol.

Then, I decided to see if I could get a blurry line around shapes on an old printing experiment. I outlined the leaves with a brown marker and then went over the lines with a Q-tip dipped in alcohol.

Sharpies on PrintI like the shadowy effect I got, and may try it on other made fabrics.

So, Betty may be holding back the real secret ingredient, or I may simply not have used the right fabric, or the paint was too thick/thin, or …


Filed under Techniques

Occasional Wednesday Salon

It’s fitting I’ve fallen in love with the work of Charlotte Ziebarth, given my current infatuation with digitally printed fabric.  She prints her edited photographs on silk, which she then fuses, cuts up and reassembles in combination with paints and stitching.

To quote from her website: “After many years working principally as a weaver and quilter she fell in love with digital art possibilities and presently concentrates on creating digital imagery printed on cloth and assembled into quilt art.” She describes her work as a hybrid of photography, digital art, and quilt art.

Wave Equations

Wave Equations

Wave Equations detail

Wave Equations detail

Wave Equations original digitally enhanced photo

Wave Equations original digitally enhanced photo

2016 seems to be a big year for her, with work in seven national exhibitions. On her blog she talks about the creation of various pieces, such as a work similar to Wave Equation here. This detail is pure catnip for me as many fiber artists don’t reveal what’s behind the curtain.



Liquid Moonlight

Liquid Moonlight

I love to see all the possibilities Ziebarth tries with the same cloth. Check out her post on a collage study that she redoes four different ways. I realized how much preliminary work she does before starting the “good” piece after reading this. Recently she’s been printing her paintings on silk and then cutting them up and reassembling the pieces.

I really need to find out how she prints on such big pieces of silk.



Filed under Art quilts, Commentary

The Garden State

New Jersey gardens were bursting with spring bloom during my recent visit. I spent time at three large gardens, all of which began as private gardens which were donated to various government entities.

The Leonard Buck Garden is a 33 acre rock garden located near busy I-78, with a nice visitor center and a small picnic area.

Leonard Buck Garden

Leonard Buck Garden

IMG_7399I thought this was a creative use of a tree stump.

The Cross Estate Gardens are tucked away near the headwaters of the Passaic River. You’d never know you were in New Jersey as you drive past wooded estates to reach this gem by the Morristown National Historical Park and run by volunteers.

IMG_7384Walled garden filled with the first crop of spring blossoms.

Tree Peony

Tree Peony

Deep Cut Gardens is yet another private estate donated to county government. Its big draw is a rose garden and greenhouses filled with succulents.

IMG_7464I loved the spider web effect of the pergola’s shadows.

IMG_7468I found orchids blooming in the greenhouse.

I hope you enjoy this other side of New Jersey, tucked away close by those crowded expressways and malls.


Filed under Commentary

Bumper To Bumper Quilts

It occurred to me my quilt finishes are like buses. Let me explain what brought such an analogy to mind. I relied on the Philadelphia transit system to go everywhere when I was growing up. If the bus didn’t go there, neither did I. Such intimacy with the vagaries of transit schedules made me all too aware of the tendency of buses to cluster. I’d wait 30 minutes for a bus and then 2 or 3 would arrive.

I’ve been waiting a month for a quilt finish and now 3 have arrived. None are large but I now feel that sense of completion I’d been missing. May I present Flaming Out, Z Is For Zoom, and Tidal Marsh in Spring.

Flaming OutFlaming Out was originally a sketch to illustrate movement, but I thought it would work for a art quilt group challenge piece. The challenge was to use the background fabric, which was designed by a group member. She won a SAQA contest with this.

Z Is For Zoom

Z detail

Z Is For Zoom was also a master class sketch for movement.  The horizontal quilting was done by machine; the vertical by hand.

Marsh In Spring

Marsh In Spring detail2

Tidal Marsh in Spring was also a master class project, but more importantly to me it’s the third in a series of quilts about this scene.

Of course, I still need to finish such housekeeping details as hand sewing the facings, but the pieces will go into my portable projects bag and get done eventually.



Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects