Last year I began to poke my head over the parapet a bit and get out more. The landscape has changed as online teaching and get togethers become more permanent. I am so over Zoom meetings, though it can work for classes.
I used the extra home time to dive into non fabric art mediums such as collage and mixed media. Of course that meant new supplies were bought and a new learning curve was begun, which was a good thing. The basics of design and composition carried over from quilting, of course, but different mediums have different pros and cons.
It is so much easier, probably too easy, to make changes with paint and paper than with fabric. One new supply that gave me trouble was brushes – which type of brush to use and how to handle it. I found a world of difference between flat and round brushes, and was astounded at the difference a good brush makes for watercolor. This is where videos have an advantage over in person instruction as you can rewatch a teacher wielding a brush until the knack becomes clear.
While I made fewer quilts in 2022 I didn’t stop making them. I finished fourteen quilts, though some had been started before 2022. I consider “Homage to Escher,” “Rhody,” “The Left Coast,” and “Happy Accidents/Chaos Theory” to be serious art quilts. Two are experiments that didn’t quite gel – “The Eyes Have It” and “Along Portage Path.” The rest are scrappy quilts that allowed me to play with color.
Except for “Homage to Escher” I enhanced these with paint, Neocolor II water soluble crayons specifically; and I used a Spoonflower printed fabric in “Homage.” I am learning that subtle gradations and blurring of color are more effectively done with paint than with fabric or stitch. It’s also much faster to do – a big factor for me.
In 2022 I entered my work in fewer shows. “Dreams of Freedom” was in the 2022 Sacred Threads show and “Shattered” was in Fiber Art Network’s Excellence in Quilts. Hmm, it seems I didn’t tell you about the Sacred Threads exhibit. I realized that if my work is accepted I can count on an overall outlay of about $100 for entry fees and shipping. That cost would be worthwhile if I were publicizing my teaching or felt my work would sell. Since neither applies, I now think long and hard before entering a show. Alas, there are few opportunities to enter local art shows. Summit Artspace in Akron offers a few juried shows open to all art mediums, and my “Still Standing” was included in their 2022 Fresh show. I did show “Calliope” at the non-juried Lake Farmpark show in northeast Ohio and won a blue ribbon for my category. However, I am over judges’ review of my workmanship, so I don’t plan to enter any more shows with that feature.
Of course learning never ends. I did no in person classes, but took a six hour Zoom workshop with Valerie Goodwin. It seemed to be a sped up version of a longer workshop, so I took in less than I had hoped. I really should have taken better notes. I also tried a free stitching workshop by Gwen Hedley from textileartist.org, but found the approach didn’t work for me. However, the website is full of stitching inspiration.
On the paper side I took an online gel printing class from Drew Steinbrecher, and a few freebies such as Drew’s collaged board books and that for Fodder Challenge. To gain more exposure to mixed media I signed up for the year long Wanderlust class series. I found the lessons to be hit or miss. I think I did about 50% of the classes. I did learn about materials and techniques new to me – gesso, modeling paste, watercolor painting, and portraiture. The organizers had developed a structure centered on materials such as gesso, acrylic paint, inks, modeling paste, watercolor, etc.; however, the instructors sometimes made just passing use of the materials for that unit and at least one totally ignored them. I thought some of the instructors’ samples were awful, but other students rhapsodized about how wonderful the lessons were. Students were encouraged to post their work. I was surprised to see how closely some followed the instructor’s sample. I concluded there are way too many butterflies used in mixed media works. All that said, some of the student work posted was wonderful.
I just reread my goals for 2022 (where I should have started the post,) and I’ve achieved about 75% of them. I completed one more panel of my unknown family series,with one more to come. All four scrap strip quilts are done and dusted. I have found new homes for many of my quilts, especially small ones, though I still have far too many. Hand stitching my wool squares to a background is my Florida vacation project.
My biggest art life disappointment in 2022 was the demise of an art quilt group I belonged to for many years. Granted it wasn’t in the best shape before 2020, but Covid put paid to it. The members didn’t want to try online meetings, and managed to meet only once after things opened up at a lunch hosted by a generous member. Radio silence ever since. Individual art friends have moved away so contact with them is now online rather than in person.
Overall, my 2022 was a year of pivoting to other art materials and trying for more deliberate creation of fiber art. I guess my improv urges moved over to paper, where for 2022 I had the excuse I was a beginner. I’ll lose that fig leaf in 2023. Time for the big girl pants.
I don’t know if that’s the proper term for fabrics that aren’t made from naturally derived materials such as cotton and linen. I don’t like the term man made, with its inherent bias, but fabrics developed from polyester often are called that. Here I’m talking about tyvek, evolon, lutrador, and the like. Why am I talking about them? A recent SAQA seminar on such fabrics reminded me of my own efforts to use such stuff.
Part of the seminar was a video conversation with Shannon Conley, an artist who cheerfully tackles all sorts of three dimensional challenges with unusual materials, often made of polyester. She encourages art quilters to explore the materials available in upholstery shops, like the spun poly material used under upholstered furniture. Here’s a sample of her work with painted, melted, and shaped polyester fabric.
My efforts with such fabrics aren’t nearly as adventuresome. I have used evolon and Pellon polyester tracing cloth fabric in a few pieces, and have enjoyed their ability to take color from paints and markers and lack of raveling. I understand they’re great to use with cutting machines. Artists such as Betty Busby and Valerie Goodwin have done so.
My past experiments with pattern tracing cloth taught me that it can be colored with Derwent Inktense pencils and blocks, acrylic paint, and markers, though the colors are a bit dull. It also works for stenciling and gel printing. Advantages are its price (cheap,) and ease of use with fusibles. It is somewhat transparent so any layers under it will show a bit.
Evolon is a heavier poly fabric with a pleasing suede like finish. It is far more expensive than the tracing cloth, and is often sold in cut pieces rather than from a bolt. I experimented with several coloring methods on dry and damp evolon and found the colors to be brighter than on the tracing cloth. Any marks on dampened evolon spread a lot, as I found with my labels made with a micron pen.
I have also experimented with used color catcher sheets. In fact, the bottom part of “Wish I Was Here” is composed of two that I painted and sewed together.
While I have no hesitation about using poly materials in art quilts, I don’t know if I’d put them in a quilt meant to be laundered. In their favor, they don’t stretch out of shape or ravel. Still, I don’t know how well stitching would hold up with repeated washings. Also, I have learned to be careful about ironing them. They can’t take high heat.
If you’re interested in exploring such materials, check out the work of Kim Thittichai, who offers online workshops about melting fabrics with a heat gun or soldering iron. If you’re a SAQA member, I suggest the last section of the Materials online seminar about unconventional materials.
I’d love to hear about any experiences you’ve had with such materials – the good, bad, and ugly.
I am linking to Off The Wall Fridays.
Filed under Art quilts, Commentary, Techniques
Tagged as evolon, Pellon tracing cloth, polyester fabrics, SAQA, tyvek, unconventional materials