Category Archives: Commentary

Thankful for Leftovers

Over the years I have received many arts and crafts leftovers – fabric, thread, paper, paint, frames, patterns, books, quilting rulers, etc. This Thanksgiving I’d like to thank the donors, and especially three people who have given me a lot of goodies.

First, Penny has generously shared any collage bounty that’s come her way – papers, wallpaper samples, and less than perfect monoprints she’s made. She’s also given me lots of fabric, plus other crafting supplies. Some of the fabrics can be seen on the fronts and backs of my quilts. I’ve used her castoff monoprints in many collages. The wallpaper samples are great for rubbing textures, backgrounds, and even holiday cards.

Monoprint rejects and torn magazine pages
Cut up monoprints, stitched together
Cut up wallpaper mixed with monoprints and other remnants, sewed onto a wallpaper sample

Then, Felice, a talented embroiderer and quilter, gifted me large scrap bags of felted wool, left over from her many quilts. The scraps have spoiled me for hand stitching. I don’t want to work with anything else. Many of the scraps are in an incomplete project, but I’ve used a few in mixed media pieces. As a bonus, many pieces already had fusing on the back.

A paper/fabric experiment
Organza and felt scraps stitched together with Sulky water soluble stabilizer

Finally, all my glittery fabric desires have been fulfilled by Jasen, the costume designer at Weathervane Playhouse, where I volunteer. Occasionally he’ll save leftover hand dyed fabric for me as well. In return, I’ve made him art quilts that used his fabrics.

“Nebula” used many scraps from “The Little Mermaid” costumes
“Disco Woks” is made almost totally of costume shop scraps.

Many others have shared their bits and bobs with me through give away tables at quilters’ meetings, online giveaways, or “here, would you like to have this?” casual conversations. I have been inspired by and used much of the bounty, and have in turn shared stuff that I know I won’t use. Still, my fabric/textile closet is full, and then there’s the chest of drawers that’s also full of fabric.

My thanks to all of you.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under collage, Commentary

Op Art in Ohio

The state of Ohio has many virtues, but pioneering art doesn’t usually make the list. In the 1960s one of the cutting edge art movements was Op Art. Think dorm posters that were usually considered psychedelic with their vibrating abstract forms. The Op Art movement was named after Ohio artist Julia Stanczak’s first major show, Julian Stanczak: Optical Paintings, held in New York in 1964. How one of the leading pioneers in Op Art came to Ohio is a strange tale that shows how life can be stranger than fiction.

Julian Stanczak began his life in Borownica, Poland in 1928. At the beginning of World War II, Stanczak was forced into a Siberian labor camp with his family, where he permanently lost the use of his right arm and his dominant hand. In 1942 his family escaped from Siberia, and ended up in Uganda after passing through Iran, Pakistan, and Kenya. He spent his teenage years in a hut in a Polish refugee camp in Uganda where he learned to write and paint left-handed. He then spent some years in London, before his family moved to the United States and settled in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1950.

Stanczak received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 1954, and then trained under Josef Albers and Conrad Marca-Relli at the Yale University, School of Art and Architecture where he received his Master of Fine Arts in 1956. He became a United States citizen in 1957, taught at the Art Academy of Cincinnati from 1957–64 and as Professor of Painting, at the Cleveland Institute of Art, 1964-1995. Until his death in 2017 he lived and worked in Seven Hills, Ohio, which is outside Cleveland.

What draws me to his work? His colors and transparent see through effects. I feel his artistic purpose was to paint the effect of light on color. Rudolph Arnheim said, “He presents us with transparencies, a sophisticated blend of defined objects and mere apparitions. And he makes a plane change so subtly that we cannot be sure whether it is still the same or transformed into its neighbor.” (p. 45, Julian Stanczak Retrospective: 1948-1998.)

I’ve mentioned his work before in a post about a trip to the Cleveland Museum of Art. His painting “Filtered Yellow” riveted me. The background is made up of alternating thin vertical bands of red and green, while the yellow is laid into those bands to produce a diagonal folded effect. While some works fall apart when you get close, this painting becomes far more complex the closer you look. The technical mastery in the painted lines is impressive, and the color shifts to an intense yellow are subtle. Yellow can indeed take over like Japanese knotweed, yet Stanczek allows its full intensity only in the two innermost long triangles. The red and green bring it to heel elsewhere.

“Filtered Yellow” 1968

Such precision and minutely planned color changes are not my gift, but I can appreciate their mastery in the work of others. Even the gradation in Stanczak’s jars of mixed colors was art.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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The End of the Line, Part 2

My January line a day challenge did go for all 31 days, though I stretched some work out over a few days. While the original intent was to keep the time spent on each response short, sometimes that didn’t happen. I am sure Penny, my friend who did this challenge with me, spent way longer than 15 to 45 minutes on many of her pieces. In our defense, if you’re in the zone you want to finish your vision.

One of my prompts was to create collages from magazine images with linear elements. In some cases I didn’t glue down the pieces, but tried several arrangements.

Landscape collage
Stitched paper collage with added lines that are way too much.

Blue and orange collage, version 1
Blue and orange collage, version 2
Black and white collage, version 1
Black and white collage, version 2

Then, I returned to fabric to use bias tape and free motion stitching for lines. I tried a sepia edges effect with Inktense pencils.

Bias tape and free motion quilting lines, many in a zigzag stitch

Next, I decided to make hard line acrylic paintings on vinyl wallpaper samples to test how well acrylic paint would stick to that surface. First, I covered the wallpaper with an ombre effect wash. Then I put down masking tape and painted tones of blue, red, and yellow. I can see I need to work on getting the tape to stick down better. However, the paint does stay on.

Vinyl wallpaper overpainted with acrylic paint, then blocked with tape and painted.
More overpainted wallpaper

Since January obliged me with snow I took photos of lines from my window and used Photoshop filters to add textures to them. You can see how often the deer tromp through my yard.

Tracks with palette knife filter
Graphic pen filter

In the last few days of the month I combined the fabrics I had printed with other linear fabrics to make a small quilt.

Yes, I was born on the 4th of July

My notes indicate I made something linear every day in January, but I’ve shown only some of my output.. Not all the results are worth showing, though they were worth doing. I learned that a set daily theme made it easy to get right to work. I tried to use different media to expand my artistic toolbox, though I can see how that could lead to a “master of none” situation.

As you can see, I often responded to different prompts than Penny, and produced different work. Aside from cheesecloth, she didn’t use fabric. My work is more hard edged and boldly colored than hers, in part due to the different media we used. However, Penny’s palette is softer than mine and she likes to create layers. But, the challenge wouldn’t have been fun if we had the same responses, so vive la difference.

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Filed under Commentary, Techniques

Line Mastery

As part of my January lines challenge I viewed work I admired by artists ranging from the renowned Paul Klee to textile designer Lucienne Day. I’ll be showing the second part of my January lines challenge soon, but first I want to share work I looked at for inspiration.

I consider Paul Klee a master of line as he uses it so many different ways. The handbill below shows his thick line technique that echoes Arabic writing to me.

Paul Klee “The Comedians”

Lucienne Day was a British textile designer whose work epitomized mid century interior design. I believe these designs are still available. If they look familiar I suspect it’s because many current designers have done work that is curiously similar.

Selection of Lucienne Day’s textile designs
Closeup of Lucienne Day’s Dandelion design
Good study for effects of solid and dashed lines

While Matisse is often praised for his use of color, the sketches below show how well he used sinuous line.

Matisse
A Matisse collage

Charles Rennie Mackintosh was an architect and interior designer whose renowned stained glass and rose designs use line decoratively and functionally.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Willow Tearoom doors

Thick, thin; solid, dashed; curved, angular – the combinations seem endless, as do the ways to mark lines. Matisse even used the gaps between pieces of paper. That’s an approach I didn’t try, and I really need to add it to my lines toolbox.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under Commentary, Inspiration

It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over

Is a piece of art ever truly finished? I recall that the movie “Mr. Turner” showed J. M. W. Turner adding a touch of red to one of his paintings while it hung at an exhibition. My work bears absolutely no comparison to Turner’s, but I do succumb to the urge to make changes after a work is supposedly done.

All the time I spend at home due to Covid and winter has led me to reorganize my stored quilts. As I look at them I find I just have to revise some I thought I could improve with relative ease.

“Broken Glass” was made in 2014 in response to a tour of a glass making firm. It’s meant to be colorful and recall the huge tubs full of glass pieces awaiting reuse. However, the multicolored ribbon I used in the center area competed with all the other color. I knocked back the brightness with dark purple Inktense paint.

Original
Revised

“A Real Fake” is even older, 2011, and was made for a guild challenge. At the time I decided to use a dark green border strip on the left to suggest a wallpaper border, but now I see it distracts attention from the window.

The strip I cut off is on the left, and the binding is clipped down for resewing. I was and am proud of the window, which I made from hand drawn freezer paper templates.

“My Brain on Xmas,” circa 2015, is another loud multi-colored piece that began with a peculiar scrap of fabric that featured a temple dog.

Temple dog is lower center.

After I took the photo above I added a ton of machine and hand stitching – far too much. I wasn’t willing to rip that out, but I decided the dog had to go. The round crocheted doily is a better match to the brain. It’s still OTT, but has a bit more holiday spirit.

A cyanotype printed circle was fused on and stitched around. It covered some quilting, but so what.

Do you ever do a retrospective of your oeuvre and try to see how it could be improved? Do you revise? If so, at what point?

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under Commentary, Completed Projects

2021 Begins

At the start of each year I always wonder what I”ll make. Sometimes I have specific projects in mind; other times I am at the mercy of my whims. So far in 2021 I have worked on my January lines challenge and have completed two quilts conceived in 2020. For me it’s helpful to have carryover work so I don’t face the dreaded blank design wall.

Right now my design wall features a long stalled project that I have finally had a breakthrough on, thanks to Jane Dunnewold’s lecture series. I’m not ready to talk about or show it yet, so today I will focus on my two made mostly with scraps pieces, “High Summer” and “A Thin Blue Line.” Both are abstract color studies that I hope evoke a mood.

“High Summer” 25″ by 36.5″

About three-fourths of “High Summer” is made of fabric I’ve painted, constructed, or dyed. The rest is commercial fabric, including a chunk of Marcia Derse fabric in the lower left corner. I wanted to capture the deeper greens and sun soaked reflections of mid summer.

“A Thin Blue Line” 27″ by 33″

While Summer came together quickly, Line was subject to lots of changes after I thought it was done. Two days after declaring it finished I’d look at it and decide something wasn’t right. I’m still not satisfied with it, but I’ve done what I can after quilting and facing it. Yes, I was painting over areas as it hung on my wall, and I lopped off a few inches as I sewed on the facing. I wanted to create a spare piece with breathing room (why I thought that was possible with all the orange and pink is a mystery) and an illusion of depth, but I’ve managed to fussy it up. I hope the double blue line I quilted shows.

As an antidote to all that riotous color I put together a 12 inch square piece from the kind of neutrals Japanese quilters often use. I used a prompt from the SAQA seminar on color, which asks you to make same size pieces in colors you never use and in your usual colors. I didn’t bother with the latter as I think the pieces above cover my usual colors.

“Quiet Color” 12″ square

It killed me to make this. Humans have spent centuries searching out and perfecting rich, deep colors, so why shouldn’t I take advantage of all their work. A friend told me it was zen-like, certainly a quality I don’t possess.

As per usual, I’m linking to Off the Wall Friday.

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Filed under Art quilts, Commentary

Mail Call

The pandemic has heightened my anticipation of mail. No more store browsing for me. I dash in, list in hand, and grab what I need. It reminds me of the name of a South Dakota convenience store I once passed, the Whoa ‘n Go.

The internet is all well and good for classes, resources, and keeping in touch, but I miss actually handling items. So, I look forward to brown paper packages wrapped up in string, or the modern equivalent of them. Recently I’ve received two packages that made their way to me in spite of USPS difficulties. (Three day delivery is a fantasy right now.)

First, my blogging friend Ann Scott raffled off four fabric artist postcards, and I was the lucky winner. Ann created the cards as part of the postcard class she teaches. You can follow her blog and her YouTube channel.

Second, Spoonflower ran a 50% off fat quarters sale and since I am unable to pass up a sale I had to have several of my Photoshop edited pictures printed. The price worked out to about $5 each. Most are on cotton, and I may cut them up or use them whole.

A barrel used as an outdoor fireplace
A peeling barn door in Pennsylvania
Weird microscopic thing, color totally changed
Dried reeds with several color filters
Winter sunrise through a screen

I had more printed which I’m not showing as I don’t want to give you any more reason to question whether my sanity has been affected by our current situation. Well, of course it has, but as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, who cares?

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Filed under Commentary, Fabric Printing

Last Week I Was So Bored I …

Made a postcard for the local art museum.

Parted my hair on the other side.

Started quilting a nine year old UFO after I cut it in two.

Ode on a Macedonian Urn

Watched lots of vintage screwball comedies – My Man Godfrey, Nothing Sacred, To Be Or Not To Be, Ball of Fire, and counting.

Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper in Ball of Fire

Colored wallpaper.

Black and white wallpaper and Posca pens

Deleted unwanted photos from Google Photos, spurred by a notice that free storage would be capped in June 2021.

The tally after clean up

What has boredom inspired you to do?

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Artistic Endeavors Roundup

This edition of Artistic Endeavors features lots of videos, not surprising in our time of virtual exhibits. Most of the work is fiber, though I’ve ventured into another medium. Warning: this is a picture heavy post.

I wasn’t aware of the work of Leslie Gabrielse, even though it is featured in “Art Quilts Unfolding,” until I came across a video showing an extremely speeded up creation of his art quilt, “Ocean Life.” To make this large (93″ by 48″) piece Gabrielse roughly cut and laid down chunks of diverse fabric, including a man’s shirt, following a cartoon he overlaid on gauze backing and batting. He flipped the cartoon up and down as he worked at a design wall. The pieces were held together with rough hand stitching. His fabric choices seem culled from thrift store bins. No designer fabric is in sight. Then he added details with acrylic paint and stencils. You can see photos of his process at the bottom of this page. (I hope the links work as they weren’t on December 4.)

“Ocean Life” Leslie Gabrielse

For a glimpse of interesting work in fiber I suggest the Surface Design Association’s Mandatory Color show. I was taken with Barrie Mason’s “Skin Deep” in thread and wire.

I was amused by “Hedge Your Bets” (by Kim Ritter and Kay Hendricks) in the midst of much Covid-19 related work in the show.

Thanks to Sue Benner, who has a piece in the show, I learned of “Expanded Dimensions,” now on view at the Riffe Center in Columbus, Ohio. The center, with the show’s curator, Tracy Rieger, has made the show available virtually in three forms: a room by room video, a slideshow, and a curator’s tour. I dipped in and out of all of them. Because almost all the pieces are somewhat sculptural, the video and tour help you appreciate how the pieces look in person. For example, Myers’ piece is huge, over 110″ long; and McCavour’s work is thread painted and each bit floats separately, suspended from the ceiling.

Andrea Myers “Under The Hill Over The Moon”
Amanda McMavour “Stand In for Home”

Yet another online fiber show that just started is Excellence in Fibers VI at the New Bedford Art Museum. The website helpfully presents accepted work by type – installation, sculptural, vessels, wall and floor, and wearables. Here are some works that struck me; many involve lighting.

“Repair” Kevan Lunney
“Lotic Sea” Mary Babcock
“Red Flaring Algae BS” Gabriele Meyer (this is crocheted)
“The Docent” Wendy Bucey (also in IQF)

You can also take a virtual tour of the Quilts=Art=Quilts exhibit at the Schweinfurth Art Center. This annual exhibit features work by many prominent art quilters. I will warn you that the tour swoops around and I found it a bit difficult to control. The list of artists juried into this show contains many familiar names, and I thought little of the work broke new ground. My reaction may be a result of how hard I found it to look at the work head-on in the video tour.

In another medium, because I love her photographs, I’m linking to Dorothea Lange’s digital archive at the Oakland Museum of California.

“White Angel Breadline” 1933

Finally, if you’re a SAQA member I recommend Jane Dunnewold’s recent critique session available as a video. The way she expresses comments and thoughts on the work of three artists is masterful. She draws the artists into the process and makes it plain that it’s their artistic vision that counts, whether or not anyone else shares it.

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Filed under Quilt Shows, Commentary, Art quilts

A Bit of Self Promotion

First, I hope your Thanksgiving, if you celebrate that holiday, was as good as can be expected in this miserable year. It certainly helped me double down on my carbohydrate intake. Second, though I try to keep this blog bragging free, I’m making an exception for two items.

As I told you earlier this year, one of my quilts was selected as the cover for an issue of a local arts and culture magazine called “The Devil Strip.” That name means something to Akron residents. A few months ago the magazine’s staff contacted me to see if I was willing to have my quilt featured in a postcard set they planned to sell. Well, of course. It’s one of five covers available until the end of this month at thedevilstrip.bigcartel.com.

The photo seems to be protected in a way I have no idea how to get around, so here’s a bad shot off Instagram.

While I haven’t entered my work in many shows this year, I decided to enter this year’s virtual International Quilt Festival. So, two of my pieces were accepted as part of the In My Mind exhibit.

“Let The Mystery Be”
“Dark and Deep”

I have no idea how many quilts were entered in this supposedly juried category. I guess I’ll have to attend (virtually) to find out. I understand awards will be determined by attendees’ votes.

For ten bucks you can get a pass for the show. Most lectures and classes are extra. From December 3 to 5 you can get interactive content – classes, vendors, special exhibits, live connect to exhibitors and fellow festival attendees, games, and more during show hours, and a special live lecture by Jenny Lyon, a wonderful free motion quilting teacher. You then have 3 months to continue to view the quilts, experience Open Studios™ (product demos), and shop the vendor mall.

I decided it was probably the only and the cheapest way I’d ever attend the Houston show. Plus, I will have no quilt shipping nightmares. I realize it’s like a virtual museum tour, but it beats nothing at all.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Filed under Art quilts, Commentary, Completed Projects, Quilt Shows