Monthly Archives: December 2022

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.


Filed under Commentary, Exhibits

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.


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.


Filed under Exhibits, Inspiration

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.


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.


Filed under Art quilts, Fabric Printing, Techniques