Category Archives: Art quilts

Tweaking The Wall

My version of tweaking involves my design wall, not meth, just so you know. Since last week I have been futzing with minor revisions to “The Left Coast” and a shaggy improv piece inspired by fabric designed by Katie Pasquini Masopust. Both works have spent time on the design wall, as I drop by to squint at them, add/subtract bits of fabric, and take a photo. This process was repeated several times each day. My husband calls it “staring at the wall.”

First, thanks for all the comments on “The Left Coast.” I really wasn’t trolling for compliments, but I appreciate all your kind words. I also appreciate the thoughtful comments as to how it could be made even better. Since I don’t want to disassemble the piece I will leave some ideas to apply to any other version I make. I’ve been playing with other ideas, especially the notion of adding something to the upper right hand side, the sky/water area. Since there are many rock formations off of Big Sur I decided to add some to my work. You’d think it would be a simple thing, but I’ve tried several permutations of color, shape, number and position.

“The Left Coast” with rocks

“The Left Coast” original

I know there are color variations between the above photos. Time of day makes a big difference in how this piece photographs, which is actually an unintentional reflection of the Big Sur itself. I’d love to get your reactions to the rock additions as I’ve looked at it so long I can’t tell whether it’s better or not.

The improv piece has two starting points; the fabric and the backside of a failed mixed media piece.

“Square Dance” fabric

The mixed media piece featured hand painted and printed fabric, but it was awkward and just didn’t work. As I balled it up to throw in the trash I looked at the backside and decided I liked it better than the front. Between the lively fabric and the backside of failure I decided to make a wrong side out piece, where the seam allowances would be on top. Further, I decided to sew raw edge fabric bits onto the whole thing. Since my blog is about the good, the bad, and the ugly, I’ll show you what resulted.

Part of my tweaking has involved pulling off fabric bits as I went overboard with them. After I reached the stage above I decided that major surgery was needed.

The above photo cropped to eliminate the right side.

I think I crammed too much into the space so it comes across as Fibber Magee’s closet. I’m not so old I remember the show, but my father used to tell me about it. Instead I’ll create two quilts. The right hand side will become a table runner with fabrics added to the ends. The left hand side will become an experiment with decorative stitching and any embellishments I can scrounge. It’s already a mess, so what the heck.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under Art quilts, In Process

Marching To My Own Drummer

I would love to find discussions that address my current artistic quandary: at what point do you want to/should you defer to the opinions of others when they have a very different take on your work than your own? I refer specifically to work you feel much more positively about than others do. And you respect the opinions of these others.

Case in point, my current piece that I’ve named “The Left Coast.” It is based on my memories of Big Sur in California, though it’s meant to be evocative rather than representative. I chose to focus on the cliffs rather than the ocean.

“The Left Coast”

I began with a drawing that I turned into templates after enlarging it with the old fashioned grid method. Then I went through my stock of hand dyed fabric.

You can see my high level math as I worked out the grid.

I had a subtle set of gray/purples from Vicki Welsh (she calls it thistle) that I thought would work well. Other gradients dyed by her and batiks completed my choices for the cliffs. The sky/water was more vexing. I tried three different blue and purple gradients, all of which overpowered the cliffs. I resorted to a pastel batik (no idea where I got it, maybe Lunn Fabrics?) that I spent a lot of time recoloring with Neocolor II pastel crayons. At one point I decided the piece was turning into a painting.

Original fabric.

The piece is now sandwiched for quilting. I am using a pieced top I could never get to work right for the backing. It’s part of my use it up campaign.

I have made at least three attempts to redeem it, but lack the energy to try again.

I suspect time will be the ultimate arbiter of whether “The Left Coast” is good art or variations on a bruise. It may be my opinion is like loving a man that all your friends say is bad news. When hindsight shows he was a jerk and it’s a good thing you didn’t marry him, your friends were right. Luckily, the quilt is just fabric and the consequences of misjudging its worth are minimal.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under Art quilts, In Process, Inspiration

The Bloomin’ Quilting Is Done

Bloomin’ is defined as “just a casual swear word” by The Urban Dictionary, and I used a few while quilting Rhody. As I recounted in an earlier post, I have been developing an impressionistic floral piece made with fabrics I had dyed, painted, and printed.

My original plan called for an undulating circular walking foot quilting design in several thread colors. Then, I decided to create the illusion of leaves around the edges. I had already reached the limits of walking foot quilting on the circular part, so I knew FMQ was the only way I could do leaves.

It turned out there was a lot more edge area to quilt than I had thought, so the FMQ went on for a few days, to allow my shoulders and temper time to recover. I tried several thread colors and weights to emphasize the leaves more, but I declared it was good enough when I found myself quilting the same leaves more than twice. Of course I managed to catch a bit of the excess backing fabric in the quilting, but the facing will cover that up. Only you and I will know about it.

I used seed stitch and french knots to give the flower center texture. It was backed with fusible fleece and satin stitched to the already quilted top.

“Rhody” about 33″ wide by 37″ high

Here are detail shots, plus a view of the back. As always, the back was made with whatever fabrics I had that were large enough. I pay attention to nice backs for working quilts, but not for wall art.

Of course the really boring chores – facing and hanging sleeve – remain. The fabrics are measured and cut, but sewing them on will await a time when I get stuck on my next new project and need thinking time.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Filed under Art quilts, Commentary, In Process

Beyond Four Corners

My latest finish, “The Eyes Have It,” has two square corners out of ten. If that sounds like a lot of corners, it’s because I joined several already quilted pieces into a larger composition and rounded almost all the corners. Since the pieces are zigzagged together, it was easy to develop a nontraditional shape. In fact, it was a lot like collaging.

“The Eyes Have It” 24″ wide by 47″ high
Shown hanging in morning light. It looks different in the afternoon.

A little background – I save quilted bits I trim, plus I cut up finished quilts I decide I don’t like. I also create free motion quilting practice pieces, most recently inspired by Paula Kovarik’s “At Play in the Garden of Stitch.” Enough white/ecru/black pieces had accumulated I decided to combine them. I filled in gaps with newly quilted pieces, mostly from Maria Derse fabrics.

Here are the stages.

Draft 1, auditioning the pieces to be used.

Draft 2, beginning to be irregular.

Draft 3, before rounding corners and placing large circle.

Looking back, I can see I am drawn to irregularly shaped quilts, despite the headaches of finishing the edges, and dealing with quilt show criteria.

“Wayside Weeds”

“Torii Traces”

“Roundabout” detail

All of the above have “false backs,” a pejorative term used by quilt show judges when they disqualify a work from judging because they can’t see the back of the quilting. I once had a lively discussion about this issue with quilt judges, but the show’s special definition of an art quilt prevailed. Wouldn’t the term “faced back” be more accurate?

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects

Small But Powerful

Now that a few quilts have sold I’m adding some new items to my for sale page, with a focus on smaller works that may be just what’s needed for limited wall space. I think the new pieces are more abstract than others in the shop.

“Fault Lines” 21 inches wide by 10.5 inches high

“Plane Geometry” 16 inches wide
by 12 inches high

Both of the above small pieces are fused and machine stitched applique, mounted on a solid background, using a Lisa Walton technique.

“Still Standing” 14 inches wide by 17.5 inches high

Of course, other smaller pieces are also available.

“Fraternal Twins” each 15.5 inches square

“Winter’s Closing In” 14 inches wide by 17 inches high

Check out the For Sale Page for more details. I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Filed under Art quilts, Everything Else

Back In Business

The Artist as Quiltmaker show, held every two years at Firelands Association for the Visual Arts (FAVA) in Oberlin, Ohio, was one of many casualties of the pandemic. It was supposed to take place in 2020, but was postponed until this year. I drove over to see it with a friend just before the show closed and was glad I didn’t miss seeing it in person. You can view the entries online, but as with any visual show, you can’t get a sense of scale unless you stand in front of the pieces. And size does make a difference as some of the pieces are large.

Many of this year’s entries don’t fit the “three layers held together with stitching” requirement typical of quilt shows. And some don’t have 90 degree corners. In fact, a few approach sculpture. I was glad to see a broadening of the concept of a quilt, but hope such pieces don’t languish in the quilt ghetto of the art world. They might have better luck being called something else.

Some of the pieces that intrigued me follow.

“Blue Ice” Joanna Alberda 35″ x 75″

While not groundbreaking in form (it even has a binding) “Blue Ice” captures the majestic quiet of ice bound parts of our world. The artist has kept the quilting simple, but uses a few changes in thread color from black to blue effectively.

“Rosy Retrospective” Emily Bellinger 48″ x 42″

Modern quilting influence is evident in the piecing and lighthearted fabric choices, but the curved edges and trio of hanging drops are more arty. And, look ma, no four inch hanging sleeve.

“Mended Wedding Ring Quilt” Jeanne Bieri 82″ x 52″ x 8″

Materials used include “reclaimed vintage quilt and army blankets, army suture cotton dated 1953, cotton, linen, wool, silk, satin, felt, buttons.” The curved red lines are hand chain stitched embroidery. I found it an intriguing meld of old with new to reimagine the original materials.

“Plunge” Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry 68″ x 53″

The online photo so doesn’t do this work justice. It’s by a quilter renowned for working with large scale templates and pieced curves. Recently she has switched to digitally edited photos printed on cloth. From what I could see, only the outer mitered border is pieced. I’ll quote the artist here: “In 2019 my husband photographed a 135’ dive by one of the cliff divers of Acapulco at four frames per second. He combined the twelve shots of the three-second dive into one time-lapse composite. Using my digital drawing program, I added traditional Storm at Sea blocks to the corners of the digital image and designed borders that extend the colors and patterns of the photo that fade to black. The center panel, borders, and binding fabric were digitally printed and pieced. I quilted the center very heavily with matching threads to enhance the textures of the rocks.” The quilting is exquisite.

“Porcelain Vine I” Lotta Helleberg 75″ x 55″

Only one layer of cotton canvas dyed with plants and a few organza appliqued pieces are used. The subtleties of the images left by the plants are best seen in person. There is hand quilting on the appliqued parts, but a traditional quilt judge would throw this piece out of the judging.

“Joy and Pain” Toni Kersey 51″ x 41″

Pieced and quilted, but the shape and uneven edges elevate it from a typical abstractly pieced quilt. It’s almost like dress pattern pieces were used to create it.

“Alone At The Beach” Sherry Kleinman 47″ x 26″

The artist applied a digital editing filter to a photo, had it printed on a cotton/linen blend, and then hand embroidered it. I don’t know if it has more than one layer. I was intrigued with the combination of digital manipulation and hand embroidery.

“Tenuous Ties” Viviana Lombrozo 51″ x 31.5″ x 2″

Here the blue/purple ribbons come free of the quilt’s surface and curl around themselves. The red glyphs give a pop of color. While the quilting isn’t up to the standards of other entries, I enjoy the 3D effect. I guess I have some quilt police DNA after all.

I hope I’ve given you a taste of the show’s diversity. Please take a few minutes to browse all the entries. The detail photos are great for closeups.

I’ll be linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Filed under Art quilts, Commentary, Exhibits

Summer Is Here!

Hot weather means it’s time for me to switch to smaller, what-the-heck projects and leave the larger, more thoughtful ones for autumn. That way I don’t have to quilt large pieces when I don’t need any extra warmth. To inaugurate the fun times I’ve finished “Along Portage Path” plus “Straightback.” Now I’m ready for true frankensteining work.

“Along Portage Path” uses a photo printed on fabric with various hand dyed and painted fabrics (including an old shirt) to convey the idea of driving by a row of crabapple trees in full autumn color. The trees are embroidered with seed stitches in a variety of colors and thread weights to intensify the oranges, reds, and yellows.

“Along Portage Path” 40 inches wide by 19 inches high

“Straightback” shows what happens when I’m determined to use a small top that didn’t turn into the wonderful tour de force I had imagined. My plan had been to create a gradation of dark to light and light to dark in two fabrics with the darkest values of one next to the lightest values of the other. The failure sulked in a box for a bit until I refound a strip of fabric stenciled with chairs and a very strange bit of Spoonflower fabric. A few cuts with my rotary blade and inserts of fabric strips made a piece more to my liking. The edges are finished with fused strips.

“Straightback” 18 inches wide by 24 inches high

A search in my scrap bins for bits of fabric to go with another in progress project unearthed cut off sections of already quilted black and white pieces. The bins are truly the gift that keeps on giving. So far I have pieced unquilted bits together and layered them with batting and backing. The plan is to join them to the already quilted bits to create a new piece. Let the adventure begin.

Commercial fabrics, quilting leftovers and samples, photos printed on fabric, hand printed fabric. Not a final layout.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects, In Process

A New Color Palette and Flowers, Sort Of

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.

A mature rhodedendron

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.

Not exactly a detailed sketch, but it was enough for me.

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 next step I plan is a few tendrils made of even skinnier strips. It’s easy to curve the bias strips as you iron them in place.

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.

Dali, 2019
untitled
Tatiana’s House, 1994
A few of the works on display at the Carnegie Museum of Art

I hope to experiment with my paints to achieve similar effects. Maybe I can learn some subtlety.

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Filed under Art quilts, Exhibits, In Process, Inspiration

The Final 5%

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.

“Homage to Escher” 21.5″ wide by 41″ high

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.

“August” 26″ square

“March” 32″ wide by 33″ high

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.

“January Blues” 33″ wide by 24″ high

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.

Jackie with her Dear Jane quilt

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’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Filed under Art quilts, Commentary, Completed Projects

My Marketplace Is Now Open

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:

“Hazy Shade of Winter”

“Crazy Bullseyes”

“Color Slide”

You can see more quilts on the For Sale page, a well as particulars of each offering. Contact me at snarkyquilter@gmail.com 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 snarkyquilter@gmail.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.

I’m linking to Off the Wall Fridays.

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Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects