I have long maintained that flowers have little to no place in my work. I love flowers in a garden or a vase, but haven’t been drawn to them as subjects for my work. So, I was surprised that I based a piece now under construction on flowers, rhododendrons specifically. Each May I see the bold magenta floral clusters of those plants in the yards of the older houses in my neighborhood. I don’t know if they’ve gone out of fashion, but I don’t see them in newer developments. Of course, that color would give one pause and they like shade.
But I didn’t start my floral project with the shrub in mind. Instead, I began with a surfeit of high flow quinacridone magenta acrylic paint that I decided to splash on scraps of tablecloths, muslin, PFD cotton, and fabric already printed with bell pepper. Then after I noticed all the rhodies in my neighborhood I came up with a scheme to make a piece with a floral theme out of all that painted fabric cut into squares.
To the magenta fabric I added squares (including an old sheet) painted with green, yellow-green, and yellow; plus fabric monoprinted with Inktense colors. Once I had the squares arranged to my liking I added thin bias strips of fused fabric. I know that my inspiration shrub doesn’t have skinny leaves, but let’s pretend bindweed has clambered up on it.
The new color palette I became enamoured of is that used by Zoe Zenghelis, a painter who pioneered an appreciation of the role of color in architectural design. The Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh has mounted an exhibit of her paintings, which introduced me to her work. You can read a review of the exhibit below.
Now, I don’t grasp all the architectural aspects of her work, but I do love the shapes and clear, melting colors she uses. I was transported to an alternative universe through her paintings.
I hope to experiment with my paints to achieve similar effects. Maybe I can learn some subtlety.
I know I’m not the first creator to feel the finishing touches of a work are the hardest to do. After the heady rush of creation and then the sometimes frustrating sewing, ripping out, redoing, and quilting steps, the last bits of edge finishing and hanging sleeve making can get put off. Sometimes they can be postponed a long while. As for labels, I write the quilt’s title, my name, and the year of creation on the backs. I admire beautifully embroidered labels, but done is better than pretty.
I have been forcing myself to do those last bits within six months of finishing a piece. Some of my earlier work has never been displayed because I never made a hanging sleeve. Over the years I’ve forced myself to fix that defect, but there are still some pieces without sleeves. They may stay that way as they are large works, and I can rationalize that they are lap quilts and don’t need sleeves.
Over the past two weeks I have totally finished three quilts. Two had been quilted months ago with binding strips cut, but left hanging in the closet. The third I managed to get faced within a month of quilting it.
I chose the darker fabric for the upper left triangle as it better reflected my mood following current events. All the quilting was done with my walking foot.
The other two quilts were made in Florida last winter. After I did basic walking foot quilting and bound them, I washed them to get a lovely crinkly texture.
Both continue the month theme for what is now a quartet of quilts. Most likely I have enough scraps to make eight more, but I may fill in the remaining months with other already made quilts like “January Blues.” Now I have only seven more months to go.
Speaking of finishes at long last, I want to share a photo of a years-in-the-making Dear Jane quilt. Jackie Vogel, its 92 year old maker, is proudly showing it off.
Sadly, Jackie has had a stroke and most likely will sew no more. Her family shared her fabrics and sewing supplies with local quilters, and I hope to put some of the fabric to good use. My visit to her overflowing sewing rooms convinced me to either finish projects or give away what I know I won’t get to.
I have built up a large inventory of original quilts in a variety of styles and sizes, and would like to find new homes for them. Many languish in storage as I have a finite amount of wall display areas. To that end I have set up a For Sale page on my blog, which lists some of the pieces I am offering for sale. Sizes, styles, and prices vary; but the quilts represent a good cross section of my work. Many have been exhibited, and some have won ribbons. All have been made over the last 10 years in a smoke and pet free home.
Here is a sample of what’s for sale:
You can see more quilts on the For Sale page, a well as particulars of each offering. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and to request an item. I will invoice through PayPal for payment, and compute shipping based on your location. If you have a yen for one of my quilts not shown, email me at email@example.com, and I’ll see if it’s available.
This is a new adventure for me, so I appreciate your support in whatever form it’s given – from good wishes to purchases.
In the week since I wrote about the Map Play class I took with Valerie Goodwin, I read two posts about art classes. The first by Jane Davies responds to a student’s comments that she wanted to play and have fun at a workshop and then had a meltdown when she was asked to dig deeper.
Making art IS about play and it IS fun, but that is not all it is, usually. If you are always playing and having fun, with no angst or frustration, and you are also generating images that really speak to you, that you find compelling, then that is just GREAT! Congratulations. Most of us also have moments of frustration and occasional meltdowns or at least self-doubt. Learning how to navigate these skillfully is part of the process.
The second, Chris’ Quilting Universe post, Am I Addicted to Taking Classes?, reviews all the quilt related classes Chris has taken and the work that resulted from them. She has taken a wide variety of classes, ranging from year long master classes to online multi-lessons to one shot workshops.
Do you take classes to learn a process or leave with a product? Do you want to learn to make art like that made by the instructor? Do you want a two hour class at a quilt show or a five day immersive course? Do you want a deep dive into one teacher’s methods or a potpourri of many teachers’ approaches?
A further permutation is in-person versus online classes, and a distinction between live online and prerecorded. An additional nuance with any online class is the amount of interaction possible with the teacher and other students. I have taken classes where I had access to videos with no interaction, to videos with a class blog, and to videos with some sort of proprietary discussion forum. Some classes use Facebook.
These are very different animals, and I believe one’s expectations should reflect the differences. For example, I took a three hour Zoom class on sewing paper collage with David Owen Hastings. I learned a well explained technique that required a minimal amount of supplies. All interactions occurred during the class, with no subsequent followup.
I also took Elizabeth Barton’s year long master class that required a deep commitment to developing designs and executing them each month. While the students could and did comment on each others work, the main focus of the class was improving our designs through Elizabeth’s critiques, which were copious. Each month we developed sketches in response to a theme, chose one to turn into a quilt, and then made the quilt.
Right now I’m taking a year long set of mixed media classes called Wanderlust. The classes are loosely organized around basic art supplies like gesso, acrylic paint, modeling paste, etc., but each instructor pretty much presents her own thing. (I have yet to see a male instructor.) While I have learned a lot about materials and techniques, I find some of the instruction to be overly focused on “playing and having fun” and what I call greeting card art. To me the missing element is learning to evaluate your work. With so many instructors and students, comments on anyone’s work is pretty much limited to “great,” “nice,” “how sweet,” etc. It’s hit or miss whether the instructor comments on student work.
Such an approach is great if your goal is to play. I have to say I had hoped for less overlap of techniques and more building on previous techniques. Again, that’s probably not doable with so many instructors. I have learned there are as many ways to glue paper as there are teachers.
This week I’ve reflected on all the quilt/art related classes I’ve taken thanks to Jane and Chris, and decided that the ones I benefited most from were process related, with a critique/feedback component. The absolute worst class I ever took was on paper and cloth marbling. All the students shared one container for marbling and we were to take turns. Let’s just say there were some interpersonal issues. I figured the two fat quarters I marbled cost $25 each, and they were ugly. I won’t try to name the best class I ever took as there are too many candidates.
I’d love to hear about your experiences with art classes, both in person and online. Do you have any recommendations for outstanding classes/teachers?
I began the class with crinoline, MistyFuse, a bunch of fabric scraps, organza, and paint. I ended the class with two finished small maps and the start of two others. In between Valerie showed us her base construction techniques, reviewed design principles and elements, and guided us in constructing our own maps. She also critiqued our finished efforts with an eye to our possible next steps. That’s a lot in 6 hours.
All our maps were developed from a base of fabric scraps sewn to a 7 inch by 24 inch piece of crinoline (JoAnn’s sells it.) Then, we used paint (either fabric or acrylic) to blend the joins between the scraps and did a bit of hand stitching to hold down raw edges.
Then, we added organza shapes for more blending, and selected areas to cut into 5 by 7 inch pieces for our imaginary maps.
Before we began construction of our maps, Valerie reviewed elements and principles of design. I liked that she illustrated the principles with photos of architectural examples. It was fun to figure out which principles each used – certainly more thought provoking than the simplified graphics often used (i.e., a seesaw with different weights at each end.)
We ended up with about 45 minutes to finish a few of our maps. I got one done and began another, and then Valerie critiqued our work with an eye to further development.
I did do one more last weekend.
Overall, my class experience was positive. My only suggestions for improvement would be to have students prep their organza for fusing and to watch the base construction video before class. That took a bit of time that I certainly needed for map making. However, I’m sure teachers learn from experience that sometimes students don’t do the prep work and the class has to spend time on it anyway.
If this approach appeals to you, Valerie offers a virtual class through C & T’s Creative Spark that covers much of what I learned in her class. I think she’s also working up a class in using laser cutting machines to create intricate, lacy maps. I know she uses a cutter brand called Glow Forge, and has done extensive testing of cutting fabric with it. The results look enticing, but I know I won’t be investing in a laser cutter so will resist the temptation.
Sometimes I decide to combine a collection of my painted/printed/altered fabric parts just to see if I can make them work together. Typically, I have no plan, not even a sketch. It’s a highly inefficient way to create, but I find it fun. Plus, it takes my mind off of any real world worries.
My latest mashup began with a naughty Roomba. I had unleashed it in my bedroom where it’s great for under the bed vacuuming. Unfortunately, I had stored a large sheet of lacy handmade paper between cardboard there, and the Roomba managed to mangle it thoroughly before I rescued it. Amazingly, the paper didn’t rip, but it was much softer. Figuring I couldn’t do any more damage, I colored it with Marabu fabric spray and decided I had to use it. It became a big part of “Happy Accidents.”
Among the bits I used were an old sheet that I used for painting (with thermofax printing,) monoprinted silk and linen, painted linen, painted PatternEase, bit of old curtain, muslin dress pattern, and ancient batik. There also Zen Chic and Grunge dot commercial fabrics.
I grant you the combination is a bit overwhelming even though I removed some of the circles in the editing process. But more is more, right? Now that’s out of my system and I can try to actually plan ahead for my next project.
I have a name in mind early on for most of the fabric work I create. But not always. I am sewing down facing on the latest piece I quilted and still haven’t come up with a good name.
It is the love child of two earlier quilts, “Vertigo” and “Staircase.” The latter isn’t quilted yet, but is next in my queue.
I’ve thought of Split pea leftovers, Which way, and Thataway; but none really grabs me. So, I ask for your suggestions in hopes that fresh eyes will discern better possibilities. I can’t promise to choose one of your ideas, but I can promise new ideas will lead to a fitting title.
Today’s topic came to me as I wandered the aisles of my local Village Discount thrift store looking for bargains. Once I got over my surprise that used bras were on offer, I checked out the men’s extra large shirts. There’s lots of material in a $2 cotton dress shirt.
I didn’t go home with any shirts, but I did remember Sue Benner’s piece made with shirt cuffs which I saw at Quilt National 2017.
Sue shops in thrift stores, and even finds uses for garment parts like shoulder pads. If you were around in the 1980s you may recall that most women’s clothing had big foam pads sewn into the shoulders.
It was a short step from that memory to a trawl for other fiber artists who work with cast off clothing. SAQA Journal helped me along with an article (2022, Vol. 32, No. 1) about Susan Avishai, who transforms shirt collars, cuffs, and other parts to often ethereal work.
Denim is a favorite clothing material to recycle. I’ve written earlier about Ian Berry, and have always loved the Gee’s Bend quilts made from old jeans.
A new to me artist, Jim Arendt, said that he simply asks people for their old jeans, and hasn’t bought materials in some time.
You can enjoy his talk on rules for creating art on YouTube.
While the artists above cut up clothing, their work doesn’t feature paint on surfaces. Los Angeles based Aiko Hachisuka prints and paints on second hand clothing she bundles together in large foam stuffed lumps which the art world calls soft sculptures. I’m not a big fan of her work, but I’m intrigued with her way to use discarded clothing.
I have done my small bit to repurpose clothing in work like Damask and Denim and Shirtsleeves.
My husband tells me we have a coupon worth 50% off at Village Discount, so maybe a return visit is in the works once I figure out a project made with men’s shirts.
The past week I’ve dabbled in quite a mix of projects and techniques, probably revealing I’m a Jill of all work but mistress of none. (I don’t get the they/them thing, so I went the old fashioned route. Though I could say I contain multitudes and use they/them.) Since I often work on more than one project at a time, sometimes they all mature at once.
My Spoonflower printed trees and wall fabric has been sewn together and I’m now experimenting with different embroidery stitches and threads to enhance the tree area. The printed fabric is less intensely colored than the hand painted and dyed fabrics, so I want to bring it out more. Right now it’s called “Along Portage Path.”
I pulled out an unquilted top and finished it through the hanging sleeve stage. Put on your sunglasses at it’s bright.
I returned to “The Memory Jar,” an old project I was never satisfied with and added paint and oil pastels. Now it better expresses my intention to show the breakdown of memories with age, but I’m still not wild about it.
Not to ignore my paper projects, I sewed several small collages onto a large printed piece of sewing stabilizer, and tried to mesh them into a coherent whole. I ended up changing the look of most of the original collages. This was a great way to reinforce the lesson that nothing should be viewed as too precious to change.
Finally, I finished up a magazine image collage that emphasizes a subdued color palette. I will most likely make a few more changes in a week or so, as a distraction from any other project I’m stuck on.
Update: All of the quilts, except for”Z Is For Zoom,” have new homes.
Can you believe I’ve been writing this blog for ten years? It began as a way to record my quilting adventures – work in progress, my finished work, shows I saw, artists I admired, and a few editorial opinions. If others were interested that was great. I think I’ve remained true to my original purpose with a few digressions.
To celebrate my anniversary and National Quilting Day (tomorrow), I will be giving away several of my quilts for you to enjoy in your personal spaces. Most are small, some are older, some I’ve used but am now ready to find new homes for them. I need to downsize. Many but not all these quilts have hanging sleeves. They are listed below by title and size. You can ask for as many you want. It will be first come, first served.
ONE BIG CAVEAT: I will not be paying any shipping costs. Either you can pick up your quilts at my house or a mutually agreed on location in/near Akron, Ohio; or you can pay for shipping. If the latter, we can work out a payment method.
If you’re interested in any of these quilts, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please do not simply comment on this post. Note title(s) you’d like and whether you’re local or would need shipping arrangements.