Monthly Archives: March 2020

From A Distance

Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” minus people

My husband and I are well stuck into our current isolation, and we’re glad our house is large enough to allow us to have our own spaces. Otherwise, we’d be tripping over each other. Of course one of my main spaces is my studio, where I spend at least a few hours each day.

If you think I’ve been sewing up a storm you’re wrong. I’ve been paper and fabric collaging, and finishing up two black and white pieces. Why collage? One of my studio clean up projects was to sort through pages ripped from magazines. That led to watching a few videos and then collaging on the blank sides of sketchbook pages. I also created more colored tissue paper to use up some almost empty bottles of Dylusions ink sprays. Some of the papers are lovely; others are a bit muddy.

Lessons learned:

Magazine pages really like to wrinkle when glued, despite smoothing with fingers and old credit card

I need to learn how to use acrylic paint better

Lay down a colored background before you start collaging as it’s hard to add after the fact

Already fused fabric is easy to collage and can be pried off with heat and moved around (something impossible with glue)

Here are my efforts to date.

My first effort using tissue paper, magazines and paint.
Second try with already fused fabric scraps and colored pencil.
Third try with all magazine paper-very wrinkled. Lower right needs design work.

I hope to improve my collage skills over the next few weeks, once I figure out the right glue(s) to use. Collages are good design exercises.

The black and white pieces I made with my mark making class output are also experiments. One is more successful than the other, but I learned from both.

Fire or Ice
Still Standing

Finally, I did make a few masks to have on hand for personal use. I’ve wavered about the whole homemade mask enterprise as I’m concerned many won’t be useable. Sewers respond generously to such requests, but there’s a lot of room for good intentions to go astray. Elastic doesn’t hold up well to commercial laundering. The proliferation of patterns is confusing to me. Some have a pocket for a filter. My local hospital prefers the masks be lined with flannel. Other hospitals want nose shaping wires sewn in.

I’ll see if requirements and need for masks change before I make more. As I usually do, I’m linking up with Off The Wall Fridays.


Filed under Art quilts, In Process, Project Ideas, Techniques

Viral Reading

It’s a good thing I had lots of reading material checked out of my local library before it shut down. I’m a compulsive reader who will read jar labels if nothing else is available. And thank heavens one of the books I have now is the last part of Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell series, “The Mirror and the Light.” It clocks in at 700 plus pages, but every word is worth reading.

Two of my books pertain to art: “Rex Ray” and “Landscape Painting Now.” As I wrote a bit ago, I’ve made three Rex Ray inspired pieces.

Ready to Split
Not All Black and White

Because Ray was so prolific with commercial and fine art projects, the book I have covers only so much of his work. It’s broken down into collage on paper, collage on panel, and collage on canvas work. Ray made at least one small collage on paper every day for many years.

This is a wall of Ray’s daily collages.
Ray at his collage work table
“Collage Number 2751” painted paper and resin on panel, 24 by 16 inches, no date
Ray beginning work on a panel. He used a kitchen sponge mop to apply his base color. You can see a wood grain in many backgrounds as in the piece shown above.
“Leptogium,” oil, acrylic, and painted paper on linen, 76 inches square, 2006. I see potential for paper piecing and applique here.

“Landscape Painting Now” casts a much wider net. The opening essay by Barry Schwabsky notes that landscape painting hasn’t gone away in modern times, but has been reinvented by contemporary painters.

I’ve chosen my favorites from the book, though I’ll note that one of the artists, Jordan Nassar, hasn’t painted his work but has used tatreez, a Palestinian mode of cross stitch embroidery. The book’s authors note his “works are more akin to art than craft – with his use of a needle and thread in place of a paintbrush.” I heard that sort of special pleading before. I know the book’s title is landscape painting, but I wonder why this one exception was made.


Filed under Books, Commentary

Work Slowdown

The pace of the creative work I’m doing seems to match that of our economy right now. That’s because I’m doing hand sewing, not one of my stronger skills.

A few weeks ago I showed you set in circle blocks I made from various surface design experiments. They are now sewn together and I’m working on the quilting. I decided to hand quilt in each block, and then machine quilt the overall structure. Because I didn’t want all the thread starts and stops to show on the back, I elected to hand stitch through the top and wool batting only. Here you can see my batting with its join seam. Note the hand basting to secure the layers.

The machine quilting will go through these layers and the backing, and I hope it will be sufficient to hold it all together without shifting.

So far I’ve sewn around about half the shapes, and sewn down about a third of the bands across the shapes. I’m using a 12 weight neon green thread around the shapes and embroidery floss for the bands. The floss is from the stash of a longtime volunteer at the theatrical costume shop. It’s wound onto little cards with the color number attached. Would that my threads were so organized.

I think I’ll need to machine stitch each shape down around its edge for definition and stability. That is something I don’t look forward to doing.

The piece is called “Fortune and Fate,” because I see the shapes as talismans. According to Merriam-Webster, a talisman is “an object held to act as a charm to avert evil and bring good fortune.” Fingers crossed.

I’m linking of Off The Wall Fridays, and may even do the Corona Quilt-Along.


Filed under Art quilts, In Process

A National Treasure House

Thank goodness so many museum collections can be enjoyed on my computer. Otherwise I’d surely go stir crazy in these times. I recently discovered that the Smithsonian Institution has made its collection available digitally. That opens up almost 3 million items to view.

What did I search for first? That’s right, quilts. While there are many styles represented in the Smithsonian’s collection I was drawn to scrappy ones. Here are my favorites.

Scrap amish quilt that seems quite modern.
It’s not scrappy, but I found it an interesting variation of four patch and HSTs.
Off-center placement of the four swallows creates movement.
I like how each large block seems to hang from the one above.
Housetops quilt made with lots of little pieces.
A yoyo hexagon quilt. The pink is a bold choice.
This one is billed as Tennessee Circles.

If the Smithsonian isn’t enough for you, try some of these sites for visual delight:

Paris museums

Audubon’s Birds of America

Japanese illustrated books

Google Earth landscapes

Only good news

Historical photographs of China

Happy browsing. Please take care in these fraught times.


Filed under Exhibits

In All Seasons

In 2014 I made the first of a series based on photos I took of a tidal marsh in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. I didn’t intend to make a series, but after autumn was done it seemed to need company. Spring followed in 2016 as a response to a master class prompt since I already had done the drawing and just needed to make it more abstract. I had a large drawing of my scene left thanks to my error at the print shop, and I didn’t want to waste it. So, winter was next in 2018 as I had many beautiful hand dyes suited to that season.

Of course, summer, being the last, seemed to take forever. I finished the facing last week, and am relieved to call the series done.

Again, I used hand painted and dyed fabrics with some commercial fabrics. Appliqueing the grasses in the foreground was great fun.

To refresh your memory, here are the seasons in order of completion.

Tidal Marsh Autumn
Tidal Marsh Spring
Winter Fields

All except Winter Fields are approximately 15 by 33 inches. Winter ended up at 46 by 27 inches, thanks to that copy shop error.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.


Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects

Artistic Endeavors – Elias Sime

A just opened exhibit at the Akron Art Museum introduced me to the work of Elias Sime (pronounced SeeMay.) Sime is an Ethiopian artist whose media are colored wires, buttons, carpet tacks, and electronic and computer parts. His work is abstract and from a distance resembles mosaics, though some is 3D with pieces extending out 3 or 4 inches from the base.

What fascinated me about Sime’s work was how well it subsumed the materials to the art. At first I didn’t see all the motherboards and buttons, but enjoyed subtle changes in textures and colors. Too often it’s difficult to see past the component parts of assemblages and collages.

“Familiar Yet Complex 6” was one of the first works I saw. From across the room I thought mosaic.
Close up I saw all the keyboard keys and the braided colored wire. Sime and his assistants braid the wires together, coil them, and hold them in place with carpet tacks.
Detail from “Behind The Beauty” shows the subtle coloring achieved with the wire.
Detail from “In Boxes” shows part of the central “medallion” of motherboards surrounded by squares in squares.
Earlier work like “Ants and Ceramicists 11” used canvas and stitching.
Detail shows the amount of stitching involved. I gather Sime found this way of working too hard on his hands.
“While Observing” uses the different reflective values of the materials to enhance the effect.
Detail of “While Observing”

One aspect of Sime’s work not shown in the exhibit is the Zoma Contemporary Art Center in Addis Ababa which Sime co-founded, designed, and helped hand construct from mud and straw. The short video that accompanies the exhibit has gorgeous shots of the center.

mud brick exterior of Zoma

The exhibit I saw will be up until May 24. It will then move on to the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri (June 11–September 13, 2020), and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada (October 24, 2020–February 21, 2021).


Filed under Exhibits, Inspiration