Tag Archives: Julie Fei-Fan Balzer

A Different Way To Collage

Almost all paper collage techniques involve glue – gel medium, glue stick, Sobo, wheat paste, rice paste, etc. Because my fine motor skills are subpar I usually end up with glue, and sometimes bits of paper, all over my fingers. So I was intrigued to read about another way to collage, thanks to Julie Fei-Fan Balzer. She hosts an online monthly art book club, and one of her picks was Gerald Brommer’s “Collage Techniques.” Her review highlighted a different kind of adhering process Brommer describes.

The secret to the process is gloss acrylic medium. You coat both sides of your papers with the medium, allow them to dry, arrange them to your satisfaction, and then iron them down using release paper between the iron and paper. The iron melts the medium. The joy is once you’re happy with your composition you don’t have to take it apart to glue it down.

Yes, it has to be gloss medium because it gives paper a sticky surface, and you’d better use release paper if you value your iron.

I coated many magazine pages with medium (it dries fast) and made several compositions on watercolor paper and bristol board. The base also needs to have a gloss medium coat. The finished product has a glossy finish and is best stored covered with a nonstick sheet like wax paper.

I have several coated pages left for still more compositions. Goody, yet another form of scraps.

I can recommend Brommer’s book for serious explorations of collage. It is old, published in 1994, and the author is no longer with us; but it brims with wonderful examples of all kinds of art collages. It covers design, approaches, and specific techniques. I consider it well worth the $12 I spent for a used copy.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under Books, collage, Techniques

Urban Grime

Ever since I took Tansy Hargan’s “From Sketchbook to Wall” course I have wanted to use painted fabric on a larger scale than 10 inches square, with a lot more glue, and maybe even forget about thread. In essence I wanted to move from a three layer quilt to fabric collage. Restrictions on the amount of time I can spend actually sewing spurred me to combine a photo printed on fabric with leftover hunks of cut up clothing already painted with acrylic. The painted hunks, ripped and rough with some curled edges, are stuck on a foundation with matte medium. The result is quite stiff and grungy.

My starting point was a fabric printed photo taken by Penny and a dye experiment leftover from a theatrical costume.

By the stage above I had covered the dye experiment with diluted india ink and started to audition my painted hunks. The sheer fabric is from an old curtain.

I sewed the dye experiment to the photo and backed it with iron-on nonwoven interfacing. Then I started to position the hunks, adding bits of painted heavy non-fusible interfacing from my experiments pile.

More pinning bought me to this stage.

Close to what I wanted, but not quite there.
I glopped a lot of matte medium under and over the pieces and added a few more flourishes. It’s now pin free.

I think I’ll add a bit of sewing to make sure the pieces stay in place, though how much I add will be a function of how difficult it is to sew over the stiff surface. I may also add bits of paint.

I want to thank Julie Fei-Fan Balzar and her blog for introducing me to Margo Hoff. That post has tons of photos of Hoff’s work, so I recommend you check there for a visual feast. Hoff painted canvas fabric with vivid solid colors and then cut it up to make multi layer collages on canvas. Color, curves, transparency – her work has everything I want to do.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under Fabric Printing, In Process

How Are Show Award Winners Picked?

If you’ve ever attended an art quilt show or any art show, you may have wondered how the winners were chosen. You can get the perspective of one judge, Julie Fei-Fan Balzer, who summarized her experiences as a show judge in a recent blog post.

She began with her criteria for works to consider for awards:

  • Be well executed.
  • Have a point-of-view.
  • Make the viewer feel or think or react in some way.
  • Be unique in some way.

Then, she narrowed her choices for top awards by asking herself which pieces stayed in her mind the next day. Finally, to choose the grand prize winner, she asked herself, “Which of these works shows complete mastery over this person’s craft?” and, “Which of these works do I not have any suggestions to give the artist on how to make it just a little bit better?”

Her takeaways from the process were:

  • Art is subjective (obviously).  I like seeing the hand of the artist.  Another juror might not.
  • It’s often attractive to go towards creating work that is like what everyone else is making, but standing out is often about standing alone. 
  • Titles matter.  Is your artwork about something?  Can the title add meaning to what the viewer is already taking away from the work?
  • For me, pretty is not enough.  I need story, emotion…something more substantive than pretty.

While these points may not apply to a craft oriented show, I think they work in an art show context. They also remind us that judges’ preferences vary. One judge may love lots of hand stitching and raw edges while another may prefer a more polished look. Please note that Julie fully recognizes the importance of craftsmanship, but feels that the story a piece tells and the emotions it evokes are what make it award-worthy.

I tried to apply the above criteria to choose my work to enter in future shows. I do pretty well on titles and written overviews. I think most of my work is sui generis and doesn’t follow the latest trends. I worry whether there’s a story and substance to my work, other than I liked the fabrics and colors together. I do know if my husband calls a piece pretty, I won’t enter it. As to level of craftsmanship, that’s the opinion of the judge. No one will ever gush over my fine workmanship.

Here’s an example of a piece that was juried into a national show. The juror must have liked my title, “The Language of Pink Elephants,” because there are many, many workmanship errors in the piece. That silk bias tape should have been handled better, and the bottom has waves when it’s hung. I’ve never entered it in another show, nor will I. And I will never use silk crepe bias tape again.

The Language of Pink Elephants

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Filed under Commentary, Exhibits

Artistic Endeavors – Opinions

Skirting the issue that what IS art is a matter of opinion all by itself, I’ll close my year of artistic endeavors with opinions on art related issues.

First, the question of who owns rights to a quilt has vexed commentators. The saga of art collector Will Arnett and the quilters of Gee’s Bend shows the unequal level of business savvy between those who license quilt images and the quilt makers who were happy to get $200 for a quilt. Some Gee’s Bend quilters filed lawsuits challenging their handshake agreements with Arnett.

As a general matter, copyright is inherited, like any part of one’s estate—an immaterial heirloom. In some countries, like Australia, artists receive royalties on a resale, so if a quilt were purchased for $200 and next sold to a museum for $20,000, the artist would benefit, receiving some percentage of the increase. In the United States, at least for now, there are no resale royalties; copyright can police only the most egregious instances of appropriation, paying scant dividends on use of images of the work. But at least, as Ms. Pettway [one of the quilters] puts it, “it acknowledges the quilter.”

More generally, ownership of a work of art is a slippery concept.
“The first lesson that prospective art buyers have been learning is that artworks aren’t yours to do with whatever you want.”

Then, there’s copyright on a painting (or other work of art.) “When you buy an original painting, you buy the physical object to have and enjoy. In most circumstances, you own only the artwork, not the copyright to it.”

Melanie at Catbird Quilt Studio had a recent post about the whole copyright/cultural appropriation debate.

Joe Cunningham takes on Calvin Klein and a host of condescending attitudes towards quilts and their makers. He begins his rant with,
“Even today, when the walls between High and Low art are beginning to crumble, when the divisions between Art and Craft have less and less meaning, there is such a long way to go before quilt artists can get anywhere in the art world that I am resigned to the concept that I will not live to see the day when a quilt artist can be seen as an artist pure and simple.” He then moves on to a recent Calvin Klein ad campaign that features quilts as floor coverings, and A.P.C., a French company that sells limited edition quilts made in India.

Another choice quote, “Sophisticates justify using old quilts and the graphic ideas they contain using statements that imply that quilts were once made in a long ago, grandmotherly place, and that these sophisticates are now using them in this fun, quirky way to simulate some sort of interest in the past.” I’ll leave the rest of Joe’s spot on comments for your discovery.

I want to end with an opinion on the role of fear in art making. Julie Fei Fan Balzer addressed this topic in an Instagram post. “This quote [Fear tricks us into living a boring life.” – Donald Miller] struck such a chord with me. I get a lot of art related questions that I think are motivated by fear: “What will happen if I do xyz?” “What should I use to do xyz?” “How should I do xyz?” The fact is: I know nothing more than you. In fact, I might know less. I didn’t go to art school. I just tried things. Some of them worked. A lot of them failed. I used up tons of precious art supplies doing stupid things. I still do! I burned time and wasted effort and I’m so glad that I did. All of those failures, all of that waste, all of the mistakes — they all made me fearless in my art making. Experience has taught me that I can paint it over, flip the page, throw it out, learn to live with it, scrape it off, and sometimes even “fix” it. It’s all okay. So if you’re staring at a pile of art or craft supplies, throw away the fear. It’s time to find out what happens if you {insert your own adventure here}.”

She has done a podcast on artistic fear you may want to listen in on. The meat of her discussion begins about 1.5 minutes in. Of course, the book Art and Fear is a great resource on this topic.

I have enjoyed sharing my discoveries with you and hope to feature new ones in 2019 every so often, as the spirit moves me.

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Filed under Commentary, Snark

The Nancy Crow Experience

Many art quilters make a pilgrimage to the Crow barn outside Reynoldsburg, Ohio, to study with Nancy Crow for a week or two. Work by Crow and some of her students, as featured in an exhibit called Color Improvisations 2 that’s now touring, will give you an idea of Crow’s style.  I’ve not had the nerve, or cash, for the experience, but I think Julie Fei-Fan Balzer’s blog posts give me a good idea of what’s involved.

Julie is a whirling dervish of a multi-media artist. She paints, does art journaling, hosts the “Make It Artsy” show on PBS Create TV, designs stencils, shows how to make your own stamps, blogs copiously about her work and her trips, and has taken up quilting. She leans toward the modern style, no surprise.

Julie has graciously given me permission to reblog her two posts about her experiences. Please check out all her posts at Balzer Designs. Her week one post is below. You can also check out her five lessons from the Crow Barn here, and her “rear view mirror” view in her podcast. (It’s at the beginning.)

Now I’ll turn this over to Julie.

June 04, 2018

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Filed under Art quilts, Commentary