Category Archives: Inspiration

Idiosyncratic Quilting

It’s been a while since I bought a quilting related book, but I decided to spring for Paula Kovarik’s “At Play in the Garden of Stitch: thoughts that come while eyeing the needle.” Like the capitalization in the title, Paula’s work goes counter to standard practice. There are no feathers or flowers, lines are usually spiky, and her motifs often display a subversive sense of humor. In other words, she’s not to everyone’s taste.

I first saw her work at Quilt National in 2015, and again in 2017. Both entries are done on old linens and are whole cloth.

Paula Kovarik, Quilt National 2015
Paula Kovarik, “His and Hers Insomnia” Quilt National 2017

But, back to the book. First, let me tell you what this book is not about – specific FMQ patterns, step by step instructions, or student work. Instead, it’s about how Paula works and specifics of some pieces she’s made.

She doesn’t use fancy equipment. I didn’t see a longarm in the photo of her studio. She uses basic fabrics and old linens, and sews mostly with black and white thread. Her approach is process oriented – lots of practice that begins with working out design ideas on paper and proceeds to building up a story in stitch on cloth.

Doodling practice for “Glyphs”
Paula Kovarik, “Glyphs”

The book includes exercises to do on fabric squares after first working up ideas on paper. Other exercises address how to create focal points in the quilting (Paula calls them heroes,) add a bump, and one line drawing with thread. From what I gather, the last is best done after lots of practice on paper. Here’s my go at the fenceposts exercise. It was kind of fun, not something I often say about FMQ.

My thread doodling

I think the piece below is an example of one line drawing.

Paula Kovarik, “Do The Doodle”

I was surprised that Paula quilts with her feed dogs up. I tried it and found I needed to set the stitch length to at least 3; otherwise the resistance was too much for me. Another surprise was that Paula cut up one of her Quilt National quilts and used the pieces to make other work, including decorative masks. I have cut up quilts that didn’t work or I didn’t like, but if one of my pieces was in Quilt National I’d construct a shrine for it in my living room. I guess I’m not evolved enough to have such a “kill your darlings” attitude.

To sum up, this book can encourage you to jump in and take risks, and see quilting as process rather than product. It actually has specific ideas I hope to use in future quilting. I don’t think it will appeal to everyone, but sometimes it’s stimulating to see how a quilter can jump the tracks and live to tell the tale.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.


Filed under Art quilts, Books, Inspiration, 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.

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.


Filed under Commentary, Inspiration

Artistic Endeavors – Known and Unknown

Recently I spent time with an online exhibit called Known and Unknown Quilt Stories put together by the Quilt Alliance. To quote from the website:

Documentation, or the lack thereof, is at the heart of the over 30 quilts in Known and Unknown. And it’s also the heart of what the Quilt Alliance does. Without documentation, the stories behind countless quilts are lost to us. But with documentation, we can honor and remember the diverse voices and perspectives in quiltmaking.

The exhibit’s quilts range from art quilts to rescued quilts spattered with paint. For each quilt featured there’s a short interview with its maker or current owner, and links to additional resources related to the type of quilt featured. Some quilt makers put their names front and center on their work; other quilts can only be ascribed to anonymous. Still other makers can be known through the stories of their quilts’ current owners.

For example, quilter Nellie Mae Johnson put a Native American spin with braids and moccasins on the classic Sunbonnet Sue block in her quilt Little Women.

Little Women by Nellie Mae Johnson

The interview by Nellie’s granddaughter Gwen Westerman (who is a quilter) reveals the quilt was made for her high school graduation out of fabrics from her home made clothing. All Nellie’s quilts were meant to be used, and this one has the holes and lumpy batting to prove it.

There are many stories in Quilters Save Our Stories, but I gather you can add your quilt story to the project. The website has lots of tips for telling and filming your quilt’s story.

The Quilt Alliance also has a podcast called Running Stitch, now in its second season.


Filed under Exhibits, Inspiration

Artistic Endeavors

It’s been a while since I posted links to stories/videos/sites I found interesting. It’s so inspiring to hear artists talk about their work and how they’ve dealt with technical hurdles. Besides, I have more time for such listening and viewing nowadays.

I’ll start off with a link to a recent regional SAQA show I had two pieces in. I like to view work done by artists who aren’t always featured in the big shows like Quilt National. Unfortunately, the pandemic restrictions really cut down the potential audience for this show, which was mounted at a performing arts center.

I was wowed by the featured work of three paper artists in a recent Textile Talk.

Work by Mary Hark

Another video I watched with interest was Nancy Crow discussing her monoprinting with Carolyn Ducey of the International Quilt Museum. It took me aback to hear Nancy say her first 100 monoprints were awful and essentially trashed.

International Quilt Museum Nancy Crow exhibit

Thanks to technology whole series of interviews with quilt artists have been recorded. I’ve enjoyed Lisa Walton’s Quilt Stories, and just watched her interview with Sue Benner about two self portraits. Sue has lots to say about creative problem solving.

Some artists release videos of their work processes. For some short, quirky, informal takes on how he makes his work, check out Joe Cunningham’s Quilt Report.

Please let me know if you’ve found other sites/videos, etc., that could help make us feel we’re still part of an artistic community.


Filed under Commentary, Inspiration, Techniques

The Unkindest Cut

Sometimes you have mishaps despite being careful. Recently I was cutting silk fabrics into circles and ovals.

Then, this happened while I was putting the guard over the rotary circle cutter’s blade.

My left index finger and thumb are out of commission for a bit and I’m left handed. That means I need to keep the fingers dry, and not put any pressure on the cuts. So, no sewing, no painting, no gluing, no cutting.

Of course I panicked. Then I remembered a collection of photos I had set aside for digital manipulation in PhotoShop Elements. When I walk outside or sit around my house I take pictures of odd things that catch my eye. While I’m clumsy with my right hand I can still use a computer mouse.

Of course the upside to my self-inflicted wounds is I can’t cook or wash the dishes. Fortunately my husband is shouldering that work. Many thanks, dear.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.


Filed under Commentary, Inspiration

My Paper Route

Quilting is inching along at a tortoise-like pace to spare the tendonitis in my arm. I allow myself about half an hour each day. To do something quickly I’ve made still more collages using fused fabric and paper and glue. As with fabric, it’s the surface design aspects that are the most liberating and fun. I’ve painted tissue paper and postcards, tinted and stamped pages from an old book, organized my collection of torn out magazine pages, and even colored bits of a cardboard egg carton. Along the way I’ve watched lots of videos and become quite the shopper on Dick Blick’s website.

I’m getting better at pasting paper. Now only about a quarter of the pieces stick to my fingers. I still don’t achieve even glue coverage, though I go over each piece with an old credit card to smooth it down. My experiments include use of old sketchbook pages, a pre-stretched canvas, and mixed media paper. My favorite work to date is “Shadow,” below.

“Silhouette” reminded a friend of West Side Story.

“Dream” benefited from Caribbean vacation ads.

All of the pieces above drew from my stash of NYT Magazine ads.

“Spiraling Out of Control” was made from fused fabric scraps, used pretty much as I found them.

“Night Blooming Paisleys” used cut outs from my ovals, and a spray painted pre-stretched canvas.

“Echinacea” used fabric bits fused to colored tissue paper.

I hope to begin stitching together cloth and paper, and have painted some backgrounds to use. I’ve also played with India ink marks on fabric. Because collage is fast compared with quilting, it makes me focus on designing two or three compositions each day. While I don’t make that many each day, as I gussy up bits of paper to use in compositions I develop ideas and cluster materials I think will work well together. And the same design principles apply.

As usual, I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.


Filed under In Process, Inspiration, Techniques

Artistic Endeavors – Elias Sime

A just opened exhibit at the Akron Art Museum introduced me to the work of Elias Sime (pronounced SeeMay.) Sime is an Ethiopian artist whose media are colored wires, buttons, carpet tacks, and electronic and computer parts. His work is abstract and from a distance resembles mosaics, though some is 3D with pieces extending out 3 or 4 inches from the base.

What fascinated me about Sime’s work was how well it subsumed the materials to the art. At first I didn’t see all the motherboards and buttons, but enjoyed subtle changes in textures and colors. Too often it’s difficult to see past the component parts of assemblages and collages.

“Familiar Yet Complex 6” was one of the first works I saw. From across the room I thought mosaic.
Close up I saw all the keyboard keys and the braided colored wire. Sime and his assistants braid the wires together, coil them, and hold them in place with carpet tacks.
Detail from “Behind The Beauty” shows the subtle coloring achieved with the wire.
Detail from “In Boxes” shows part of the central “medallion” of motherboards surrounded by squares in squares.
Earlier work like “Ants and Ceramicists 11” used canvas and stitching.
Detail shows the amount of stitching involved. I gather Sime found this way of working too hard on his hands.
“While Observing” uses the different reflective values of the materials to enhance the effect.
Detail of “While Observing”

One aspect of Sime’s work not shown in the exhibit is the Zoma Contemporary Art Center in Addis Ababa which Sime co-founded, designed, and helped hand construct from mud and straw. The short video that accompanies the exhibit has gorgeous shots of the center.

mud brick exterior of Zoma

The exhibit I saw will be up until May 24. It will then move on to the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri (June 11–September 13, 2020), and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada (October 24, 2020–February 21, 2021).


Filed under Exhibits, Inspiration

More Artistic Endeavors

I had to bring back this feature for a one day stand when I came across the following websites. Besides I haven’t done much sewing because of a long lasting cold. Eye candy is more fun than reviews of cold remedies.

Jane Perkins

Perkins says, “In my current body of work, Plastic Classics, Old Masters are given a contemporary twist. I use anything of the right size, shape or colour: toys, shells, buttons, beads, jewellery, curtain hooks, springs etc. No colour is added – everything is used exactly ‘as found’.” I enjoy Perkins’ cheeky renditions of art classics and applaud her chutzpah in using throwaway plastics.

The Birth of Venus
Monet’s Water Lilies

Holly Wong

From her website: Holly Wong is an artist who lives and works in San Francisco, California. She was educated at the San Francisco Art Institute where she graduated with a Master of Fine Arts with a concentration in New Genres. Holly creates installations, assemblages and works on paper, integrating non-traditional approaches with more traditional sewing techniques associated with the history of women. Her approach is both non-conventional but also deeply rooted in her history and culture.

I love the transparent nature of Wong’s work and the interplay of shadows in the free standing pieces.

Wong uses dichroic film, vinyl table cloth, plastic bags, gold foil, hand-painted vellum, thread, candle smoke, polyester tulle, duralene plastic, plastic rope, cotton gauze, origami paper, and monofilament wire in installations, works on paper, mixed media, and photography. I give her full marks for listing candle smoke as a medium.

WPA Posters Documenting and Presenting the Posters of the WPA 
(U.S. Works Progress Administration 1936 -1943)

From the website: The lavishly illustrated book Posters for the People: Art of the WPA amasses nearly 500 of the best and most striking posters designed by artists working in the 1930s and early 1940s for the government-sponsored Works Progress Administration, or WPA. Posters for the People presents these works for what they truly are: highly accomplished and powerful examples of American art. All are iconic and eye-catching, some are humorous and educational, and many combine modern art trends with the techniques of advertising and commercial designs.

Mind you, many, many of the posters are bog standard and could have easily been produced by high school students. You have to search for the gems.

I’m linking to Off the Wall Fridays.


Filed under Commentary, Inspiration

Catching Up With Artistic Endeavors

Although I no longer highlight specific artists and art/cultural shows as a regular feature, I still collect websites that especially appeal to my artistic sensibilities. Here’s a collection of some of them. May you find one or two intriguing or entertaining.

Matthew Wong Sadly, this artist who I just discovered died at age 35. I can’t explain why the work below draws me, but it does.

“Blue Rain” Matthew Wong

American women artist podcasts The Getty Institute has released podcasts about six women artists in the 1960s and 70s – Lee Krasner, Yoko Ono, Alice Neel, Bettye Saar, Helen Frankenthaler, and Eva Hesse. Each lasts about 30-35 minutes. The era can be summed up by Alice Neel’s narration of her mother’s response to her artistic ambitions – “well I don’t know what you expect to do, you’re only a girl.”

Alice Neel in front of her portrait of Andy Warhol

Sarah Amos Who would have thought of combining printing on felt and thread? I want to run my hands over Amos’ work.

“The Narrows” Sarah Amos

Eleanor Ray Ray’s very small works (usually no larger than 10 by 10 inches) are usually of a landscape viewed out a window. The work below captures how winter light looks at the end of the day.

“Museum Windows” Eleanor Ray

Kyoto Costume Institute Warning, you could easily lose hours at this site if you have a fashion jones.

I love the dress by Hanae Mori featured above.

Art Trip: Columbus, Indiana This video is part of a series that spends about 15 minutes each on the art found in several U.S. cities. I chose to link to the episode about Columbus, Indiana, rather than San Francisco or Chicago because it’s not your typical art mecca, though there are many other episodes in larger cities. I love all the textiles in the Miller House’s conversation pit’s pillows. The house was designed by Eero Saarinan, and that conversation pit was groundbreaking at the time.

Conversation pit, Miller House, Columbus, Indiana

I’ve bookmarked many more sites but I’ll save them for another post. After all, you need to save time to eat cookies.


Filed under Commentary, Inspiration

Back To Business

Now that I have my save the planet message out of my system I’ll return to my usual programming. Lately I’ve been playing with additions to old surface design pieces and using up scraps and pre-assembled bits.

Thanks to an inspiring collage workshop with Andrea Myers I came away with renewed interest in my old surface design pieces and some ideas for adding layers on top of already made quilts.

First, I stamped over painted/printed interfacing to add a third (maybe fourth?) layer. I have many other pieces that may benefit from similar treatment.

Then, I used the outline of the squiggle from my Rex Ray embroidery to cut out a piece of red felt and cover it with fused fabric scraps. I will sew it, plus a few additions, on top of leftover pieces from my Nancy Crow project. I’m calling it “Oops.”

My idea comes from Andrea’s work with industrial strapping that she showed us at the workshop. I think “Oops” has some family resemblance to a sculpture made of railroad track I saw on NYC’s High Line.

Finally, I pieced a “real” quilt top from scraps, inspired by a blog post from Christina Camelli. I pretty much followed her directions, and enjoyed the on-the-fly creation of scrappy strips. You can see the size pieces I began with. The largest size unit I cut up was a fat quarter.

“Sunset” 48 by 65 inches

I believe I’ve followed my own advice about using what I already have, and feel virtuous. Now I need to get to work and use more of my surface design experiments.


Filed under Art quilts, In Process, Inspiration, Modern Quilting