I am always happy when I find new caregivers for my pieces, so I was especially happy last week when my dear brother asked if he could have two of my quilts. I was thrilled to have him visit me IN PERSON after over a year, and his request was icing on the cake. A look-see at my work is often on the agenda for his visits, and so I subjected him to an informal show.
The appeal of art is so subjective. You never know how others will react to your work. I found my brother was drawn to strong color and line. Here are the pieces he selected. Good thing he had plenty of room in his suitcase.
Of course we did much more than look at my work. One of our jaunts took us to the Cleveland Museum of Art where I enjoyed exhibits of Panamanian molas, photos by Bruce Davidson, and woodcuts by Gustave Baumann.
I discovered a painting by northeast Ohio artist Julian Stanczak. The lines can’t be more than 1/8th of an inch wide, and I love the transparent effect.
Over the years I’ve built up a small stash of fabrics I call divas. Some fabrics are eager to be accommodating and show up in many of my quilts. They can seem cool or warm, light or dark, depending on their companions. Not divas. Their colors just don’t blend in, they demand your attention, and they certainly clash with each other. I have only myself to blame as I bought or created them.
However, I finally realized the divas can work with small, crafty projects like bowls when I came across Linda Johansen’s book.
I downloaded the free bowl project available at C&T Publishing, and requested the book from my library. I decided to start with the free project as the directions seemed less complex than the boxes or vases and I already had all the supplies needed.
I selected my diva fabrics and got to work cutting out circles of fabric, canvas, and WonderUnder.
I also had to make center circle sandwiches of the same types of materials. You are to put one circle each on the inside and outside of your bowl once you have adhered the fabric/canvas bowl disks to each other. I did this step wrong as I fused my inner circle parts together too soon. You’re supposed to adhere their layers on the bowl disks themselves. Oh well, I made it work.
The next step was to cut curved darts to make the bowl concave.
The darts are formed by overlapping the cut lines and zigzagging along the top cut. Then, if that looks okay, you satin stitch over every cut line. It’s a lot of satin stitching.
Finally, I trimmed the edge and satin stitched all around that.
I covered over gaps in the black stitching with my trusty black marker.
I was so happy to have put these fabrics to use and to have tried another way to make bowls. As I’ve written before, to date I’ve used Hilde Morin’s bowl creation method. Linda’s way results in a heavy bowl with a firm center. It involves much more stitching. I suppose you could add arty fabric bits like Hilde’s method suggests, but it is designed for single pieces of fabric.
For future bowls I may try a mashup of both methods, using Hilde’s for the construction and Linda’s for trimming out the darts. I have my diva fabrics picked out already.
I thought I hadn’t been much affected mentally by the pandemic. I had my health and my art, and my family was safe. I used the extra time in isolation to explore mixed media – collage, gelli printing, painting. Thank you internet. Much of my sewn work was either long overdue finishes or scrappy pieces. Then I came to grips with two serious pieces I created over the past year. It seems my unconscious was having quite a response to the year, whatever I thought.
“Shattered,” the first piece, was based on a photo of a broken mirror. I distorted and recolored it in Photoshop and had Spoonflower print the result.
I chopped up the fabric and inserted strips of dyed damask and novelty yarn, but I found the result lacked something.
Finally, after this attempt was banished to the closet for months, I realized it needed color contrast. Back on the design wall it went, and I added orange.
Of course, I still have to figure out how to quilt it, but I think it captures our lives during the past year with the orange representing slivers of hope. Funny how that solution emerged after the Covid vaccines were developed.
The second piece, “Letting Go,” was based on a photo taken by my friend Penny. It also used an edited photo printed on fabric, along with hand dyed fabric and a smidge of commercial fabric.
I drew an outline based on the photo, and made freezer paper templates. I had planned to piece the steps but decided I could get the effect I wanted with paint and quilting.
After I added a lot of shading with water soluble crayons (Neocolor II) and netting, I realized I wanted the piece to represent a lightening of my burdens as I climbed to a less dark place. I created rocks as stand-ins for burdens, and appliqued them to the lower steps.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I don’t make “message” quilts. Chalk up another change to the past year.
For many years I have planned to make a 3D quilted object. I have sketchbook drawings to back up that claim. My scheme was to create multiple small connected units with see through spaces between them. The piece could cast shadows on a wall or floor, or give a screen-like view through to other items in a room.
Fast forward to 2020, when I got serious about this idea. Using many silk fabrics I had amassed, I created circles and ovals. After trying to create one big piece out of all the shapes I decided to group them by warm and cool shades. The warm shades were first up because I had fewer of them.
As I wrote earlier, I treated each shape as a mini quilt, sewing together front, back, and batting. Then I hand sewed the shapes together, and machine quilted them as a single unit. I thought that would be the end, but the results didn’t look finished. I had the idea to add metal rings, which I made from jewelry wire. Once those were sewn on I threaded satin cord between the wire circles.
In a change of plans I thought I would mount the construction to an ice dyed backing. To help the shapes stand out against the backing I edged each shape with silver glitter. After I carefully sewed black wool felt spacers behind each shape to help them stand away from the backing, the construction just didn’t look right. There was still not enough contrast.
At this point I made an executive decision to declare “Roundabout” done. Some finishing details are rough and I really can’t ship it anywhere easily with the wire, so I am chalking it up to process rather than product.
Because I was determined to use the backing I worked so hard to make, I resurrected an old resist piece, quilted it, and attached it to that backing. It’s called “Raspberry Lime Swirl.”
Now all I have to do is figure out how to finish all the cool tone shapes. They are sewn together, but languish on top of my old trunk awaiting inspiration.
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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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?
My husband and I were fortunate enough to be able to self-isolate for much of 2020, so we’ve remained untouched by the Corona virus. Self-isolation gave me lots of time to devote to my art, and I think I made good use of the time to explore different media. After all, I have been saving collage making material for many years. It became if not now, then when? I know many artists found themselves too distracted for sustained creative work, but art became my escape hatch from grim reality.
I was also fortunate to have a friend who was eager to try out some online classes and videos with me, and we shared our efforts with each other thanks to technology, as well as art supplies through porch drop offs. You can read about our different takes on a Jane Davies class here.
Of course I continued to make art quilts, and you can check out that work on the “My Quilts 2019 On” page of this blog. A few were major projects, but many were experiments in using scraps.
I’m not one to choose a word of the year, but my word for 2020 would have been adapt. I tried to play the hand I was dealt. Thank goodness for Jane Davies, Julie Fei-Fan Balzer, and YouTube. With the help of these online guides I took up collage, acrylic painting, and monoprinting. I tried to combine all three in mixed media work.
I learned with “Fiddleheads” not to use canvas as my backing fabric as it is so hard to hand sew through. The matte medium on top of the paper didn’t help either. I had planned more handwork, but scrapped that notion in favor of markers. The work combines woven and non-woven fabrics, magazine pages, and mulberry papers.
“Take A Seat” started with chairs stenciled on fabric scraps. Then I stenciled on monoprints, and combined all the stenciled bits with fabric shaped like the profile of a chair.
“Covid” was my attempt to use found and made paper images in a collage. I had saved photos of sunglasses ads for years. Those glamorous models got masked and covered up with the reality of the pandemic.
“Shadow” was an early collage made up of magazine images with a bit of marker line added. Thank goodness for my years of NYT Magazine page collecting.
My untitled felt piece, backed with canvas, came about after a friend gave me her felted wool scraps. They were already backed with fusing. There’s a woven paper strip background in there, as well as shiny patterned dress fabric scraps.
A monoprint exchange with a friend led to a tribute to autumn. Felted wool, organza, and paper were given a boost with markers and embroidery.
I hope to continue mixed media explorations in 2021 and improve my integration of paper and fabric. I made lots of work I’m not including here as it shows what went wrong. Practice leads to better work, but you don’t want to wade through the beginner pieces unless you’re a masochist or closely related to me.
In 2020 I started and finished (with the help of longarm quilter Joanna Marsh) my last ever large project, “Calliope.” I also finished a piece I began in 2011 at an intensive five day workshop with Rosalie Dace. It’s a relief to have that project out of the closet and ready to display.
In early 2020, before the C word was everywhere, I developed a large quilt I call “Calliope.” It is based on stained glass windows designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and ended up measuring 42 inches wide by 72 inches long. I knew there was no way my quilting could do it justice, given its size. Yes, I could have simply done straight line quilting on my machine, but I wanted something more given the effort I had put into the fabric, design and piecing. Thanks to Instagram I looked at work done by several longarm quilters, and chose Joanna Marsh of Kustom Kwilts for her modern aesthetic. It didn’t hurt that we have the same first name.
Since I got Calliope back I’ve added facings and a hanging sleeve. She still needs a good photo, but these will do for now.
“Ode On A Macedonian Urn” began as a large single piece and is now two long, narrow ones. It is based on a photo my husband took during his time in Macedonia, hence the name. (Note: that country is now called North Macedonia, thanks to Greek objections.) Back in 2011 I was new to original art quilt design and didn’t realize that a large piece wasn’t a prudent choice, given my inexperience. I did a sketch from the photo, then designed on the wall for the first time. Rosalie Dace guided me gently as I blundered through it. Once it was sewn together with some improvisational piecing, I put it in the closet until my free motion skills improved.
Finally I realized that my skills were about as good as they were going to get, and I put the piece back on the design wall. I saw that the large red shape in the middle was too blobby, and I didn’t like what was on the lower right. With a “what’s the worst that could happen” shrug I cut it into two pieces and trimmed off about eight inches from the bottom right. I decided the two piece version worked better, and used a combination of walking foot and free motion quilting to complete my oldest unfinished work.
Of course, I’ve painted myself into a corner as the pieces need to be displayed together to have any impact, but I’m glad that my 2021 quilting to-do list will NOT include this UFO.
My hope that I will create cute and charming crafted items springs eternal at this time of year, Covid or no Covid. Over the years I have learned that simpler is better, I should double any time estimate for creation, and I shouldn’t buy special supplies.
Recently I found my sweet spot with two holiday projects – owl ornaments and snowflake printed cards. The owls are from a pattern by Ann Wood, which a friend sent me. The snowflakes are courtesy of a thermofax screen, fabric and paper scraps, and blank greeting cards from my card printing days. (Remember those CDs from Print Shop and the like? I found that Print Shop is still in business.)
I printed on a mixture of silk and hand painted/printed fabrics, backed them with Mistyfuse, and ironed them to the cards. I also used wallpaper samples given to me by a friend. The wallpaper is great for printing and cuts nicely.
So, this year I sent actual cards rather than e-cards, and probably helped bog down USPS even further. I’ve had some touch and go moments with mailed packages this month, but so far everything has reached its intended destinations.
The owls were more labor intensive, with cutting, gluing, and stitching. My pile of felted wool scraps came in handy. I thought I had tons of buttons to choose from, but I discovered that most of mine are too big.
These avian ornaments now hang from my kitchen light fixture, with the seasonal quilt you can see part of on the table beneath it.
Would I have made these crafts in a “normal” year? Probably not, but right now any distraction is welcome.
My latest mixed media creation is built with materials supplied by friends. I just arranged them, added a few leaves and did some sewing.
“With Little Help From My Friends” began with a monoprint swap with a friend. The leaf print set the theme, and I created more leaves from parts of other swapped monoprints. Two organza leaves I had left over from an old project joined them.
I kept machine sewing to a minimum as I didn’t want the paper to come apart. Most of the leaves have just one seam, though the center cluster has more stitching as it is heavy paper. I used colored pencils and markers to alter some of the colors and add leaf veins. I couldn’t resist trying out my new gold Posca marker.
The base is scrap felt from another friend, and the loosely woven gray-brown strip came from my costume designer friend. He had set aside this hand dyed remnant for me. I used some of the raveled thread from it for embroidery. To cap it all, the backing is woven tailor’s interfacing that came from my mother’s sewing supplies. I held onto it for years, thinking I’d return to tailoring, but I’m happy it’s found a place in my art.
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.
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.
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.