29 Sep

Warts

Here’s a question that keeps pecking away at my brain, especially as I sit picking out rows of quilting that I’m just not happy with–for the third time…

Like many, I guess I’d describe myself as a novice art quilter. I make quilts and wallhangings because I NEED to, not for any glorious end purpose. But, even though we make art for ourselves, isn’t it inherently public? What good is creating a “story” if no one reads it? And to show one’s work in a public forum (such as a quilt show) as a serious artist, a certain degree of skill is expected.

My skills are fine, but leave LOTS of room for improvement, for example, my Juni im Rhein-Neckar Kreis quilt whose border looks wavy in the picture, really has a straight border which poofs out a bit (hence the ripping out of quilting, one more time), and the lovely silk poppies crocked onto the blue sky when I tried in vain to wash out the last bits of yellow chalk used to mark the clamshell quilting in the sky. (Luckily, the crocking blends pretty well
with the hand dyed sky fabrics, but I’m still disapointed in the faint yellow cast that’s left.)

So, while one is improving her skills, are these quilts which tell an intriguing story, or have wonderful compositions, or inspiring use of color, or joyful exploration of a new technique, invalidated by their weaker links such as a wavy border, some puckers in the backing, uneven quilting stitches, etc? How many “I love it, but…” quilts lay languishing in closets? Or do we say, “she may have a few warts, but this is my baby and I want to show her off to the world?”

Any thoughts on the subject?

27 Sep

Scraps

I’m thinking about how to use up scraps. I’ve used water soluble stabilizer as a base for several scrappy scarves and a poncho, but how many of those can one person have? I like the fabric beads in the Spring 2003 issue of Quilting Arts and I made a dozen or so last night while watching TV. I’m also inspired by Sonji Hunt’sbundles of joy, but what would these mean to me in my work? Nada. I’m not meditating on wrapping up pain, or creating gifts of healing, or using buttons to bind a split world, or whatever art school BS people tag onto their objects. I’m just participating in the feminine act of fiber work. While I was contemplating the deeper meaning of my work (or actually, the lack thereof) I was thinking about knitting the scraps, but they’re too short. I could sew them end to end though, and knit with the resulting “yarn.” I rather like that idea. I rather like the idea of mailing the yarn to my sister and letting her knit something. Then I thought, “what about the rag rug book I bought?” I could hook scraps into burlap or a loosely woven fabric and then piece that into a quilt. Hmm, the sunflowers I’ve been contemplating could have shaggy rag centers… And it’s tying back into the theme of women’s work. Quilts that incorporate other fiber arts, and not in a silk pods and Angelina sort of way, but a knitting, crocheting, rug hooking, basket weaving sort of way. And then, how to make it modern and personal? And why is is that so many quilters seem to be knitters as well? There must be some feminine chain of creation and practicality that seems to link us.

23 Sep

A Moment of Clarity

When I said, out loud, that I wanted to be an artist, I decided that I was going to have to show my quilts to more people than my family and friends. After all, art tells a story, and if no one can read it, what’s the point? So, on an unusually productive morning, I printed out entry forms for several upcoming quilt shows. Since then, however, I have procrastinated actually filling any out and mailing them. Usual artists’ angst–“am I worthy?” “will they like it?” Today, at the 11th hour (five working days to the deadline, and mail takes 5 to 10 days from here), I completed the first package. I could feel my pulse quicken as I sealed the envelope. Then came my moment of clarity. What was the worse thing that could happen? I, along with most everyone I know, fears rejection. But if my quilts aren’t accepted, then I don’t have to worry about packing and insuring them; I have no worries about theft or damage in transit or at the show; my babies stay home safe and sound with me. Maybe I won’t enter the other shows after all…

19 Sep

Carrefour Européen du Patchwork

Carrefour Européen du Patchwork was super! No rain, the drive was only two hours, AND a friend to join me. I took lots of pictures, but as I don’t have any of the artists’ permission to post them (let alone most of the artists’ names) I’ll give links to their sites where I can. There seemed to be more art quilts than not, which was perfect for me. My friend was in shopper’s heaven at the vendor’s tent.

The show was held at a variety of locations in four adjacent towns in the Val d’Argent in France. It appears to be a valley initially populated by miners (gold, I presume), and is defined by closely built homes boxed in by moderate mountains. The town Saint-Marie-aux-Mines even has a little river running through it between the houses. Of course, the houses in the city center have all the old world charm that comes with being many hundreds of years old, and of course, being in France. By the way, why do we Americans cling to the artifice of dissing France, while we covet it’s design, brocante and food in our magazines and swoon over it’s language in our bedrooms?

Anyway, we started at the exhibit of a French artist, Nadine Richard. Her work was filmy assemblages of voile, organza, thread lace, and ribbons with some stamping, photo transfers, or writing. My sister and I had been discussing a “gypsy” window shade for her house, so I was inspired to drive home right away and start sewing! Instead, I stocked up on organza ribbon at a makeshift notions shop around the corner (being a Sunday, most shops in Europe were closed).

Next we went to a large space holding three group exhibits. I loved the Brown Bags show by a Belgian group. Each quilter gave matching bags of goodies to her friends with instructions for construction or size or proportions of materials etc. For example, one was restricted by size and each quilter had to use at least half of each of the fabrics in the bag; another had to use faces in the quilt; another restricted the colors to red and gold and the style to baroque, at least in over-the-top spirit. The group had two months to complete the challenge and then it was another’s turn to hand out her goodie bags. What a lot of fun for an established group of quilters—both art quilters and traditionalists.

I was particularly inspired by the myriad surface embellishments, both restrained and all-out, in the exhibit from the South African group Innovative Threads. If you want, you can find their gallery here. Look up Infanta Hills by Margie Garrat, Red Thread by Jennifer Hearn and Journey 2 Are We There Yet by Rosalie Dace. The photo does no justice to Red Thread, as it is thick with squares of needlepoint, embroidery, machine quilting, etc. It is absolutely incredible up close.

For my friend the traditionalist, there was a collection of antique American quilts, including a show stopping red and white feathered star, and several with my favorite madder reds and browns. Then off to a church with an exhibit dedicated to the Amish in Indiana. They had a few really nice quilts, but most were small wall hangings made especially for the tourist trade. They had a nice video presentation, but for us Americans, we were already jaded from having been in Amish country proper. The French and German ladies, however, were eating it up. I think the graphic designs and bold colors really speak to the Europeans’ more “modern” sensibilities—especially the Germans. We had to breeze through an exhibit from a Norwegian quilting group as it was in a church and services were about to start. Their work reminded me of my in-law’s guild in California—very talented, mostly traditional, a little arty, and not much country. I have to admit I do have a soft spot for all things Norwegian as we have made two wonderful trips there in the last few years.

I insisted that we see the exhibit by Linda and Laura Kemshall as I really, really, really want to take their online City & Guilds certificate courses (what my husband has now taken to calling my “quilt-meisterschaft”). I had seen many of the quilts on their web site and was pleased to see that they are as glorious and detailed in real life as they look in the photos. There was a “Fields of Gold” series that deviated from the usual somber colors and sparkled with deft use of gold paint. Photos don’t do them justice.

Our feet were starting to tire by now, but we made one last stop in Saint-Marie-aux-Mines to see quilts from the Cook Islands. All I can say is WOW! There were many in the Hawaiian tradition, but as coverlets, with no batting or backing. In place of the usual echo quilting, these quilts were embellished with embroidery in variegated floss (probably a gazillion meters for each bed cover). There were also giant hibiscus and tropical flowers appliquéd and embroidered. The scale was huge. The coverlets were for king and queen sized beds and they needed only six or eight flowers to absolutely cover the space. In addition, there were large sized quilts hand pieced from thousands of half-inch squares. Crazy. We forgot about our tired feet though, amid all the joyous color.

We caught our breath as we drove to the next town, Saint-Croix-aux-Mines. In a sunny chateau we saw Welsh wool and cotton quilts. I love the Welsh whole-cloth quilting. I think the abstracted designs appeal to me more than the flowery American tradition. The wool quilts so resembled the Amish in their color and designs that we got to pondering a connection between these two cultures. I always thought the Amish were predominantly German in ancestry.

To completely change our focus, we poked our heads into a show of works by Swiss artist Myriam Tripet. Her works are a dense mélange of fibers, which I had assumed were felted together. The cool thing about an exhibit like this is that she was there to talk to :-) She told me no, she piles the fibers onto water-soluble stabilizer and arranges them to her liking. Then she pins them in place and sews through it all. She was stitching with a variety of threads with different colors and textures, but she must do this layering several times because on most pieces you really couldn’t see any stitches. By now, my head was reeling with inspiration and piecing, colors, embellishments, techniques to try.

Church services were over by now, so we saw an exhibit of wool quilts from a Berlin group, and works from collaboration between an Austrian artist and Bosnian refugees. I won’t go into the Bosnian project since it is explained well, and in English, on their web site. The quilts reminded me of the Josef Albers paintings we studied in color theory class. Their simplicity was naïve, not cold, and the one I touched was made of the softest fabric this side of Minkie. Of course, I also have a soft spot for Bosnia since my husband’s first deployment was there. He loves to tell stories from his time there and if you get a chance, you should ask him how to properly pronounce the country’s name. I wanted to speak to Frau Feinig, the artist, and was mentally calculating how much I could spend on a quilt (which would probably NOT end up on our bed) before my husband’s head would explode. Unfortunately, at the same time a team came in with a camera man and an interpreter (though I’m not sure for whom) to do an interview, so it was not the time for an amateur like me to saunter over for a chat. Bummer.

We opted not to go to the town of Rombach-le-Franc, as there were only two exhibits. It probably would have been nice to see the results of the International competition sponsored by the Patchwork Meeting, but our stomachs were growling and the vendor’s tent was calling—loudly.

So, off to Liepvre. We couldn’t for the lives of us, figure out how to pronounce this city, but I think it ends somewhere in the back of your throat. There were two exhibitions here, but we had our conspicuous consumer blinders on. This was no Paducah, but we were not disappointed. I flat out refuse to buy American cottons in Europe as they are twice the price, but I have no prejudice against European or other “foreign” fabrics. So, my fabric haul consisted of sherberty hand-dyed silk from a Viennese artist, blue wax batik from the Ivory Coast, a wild batik on damask from Ghana, a collection of scraps hand dyed and stamped by a Dutch artist (at 1 Euro per piece, even I couldn’t pass up the chance to snag a few), and hand dyed cotton damask from Germany.

Here’s the aforementioned organza ribbon in blue, beige and fluffy white, plus some green and wine fringes with fun bits in them (next to the aforementioned damask).

Other goodies include silk bits, which I have no idea what I’m going to do with, but they seem to be all the rage in Quilting Arts Magazine, and a needle glider which may or may not improve my hand quilting, but it will hopefully get me off my butt to finish my king sized quilt. I can’t decide what’s worse, years of hand quilting a king sized piece, or the thought of trying to cram it into my home sewing machine. Actually, I have decided what’s worse, but I know it will be better in the end. I also picked up shashiko thread and appropriate needles because it was the right size and color to redo the machine clamshells I’m not happy with on my Juni im Rhein-Neckar Kreis quilt. Thread—my new obsession. I don’t know much about it, but I seem to be drawn to it wherever I go. I want lots and lots of metallics, but have not had huge success with them. I’m scared work from the back of things with the bobbin, but, since the scrap bag is overflowing, I should start experimenting. But, I do like a certain amount of handwork. So, I bought basic grey and beige for piecing and then one of each from a lady who hand dyes threads—chenille, pearl cotton, silk, and rayon ribbon. These should be fun, but what do I do when I run out? 😮

I don’t know if Boutis has made it to America yet, but we saw a bunch of patterns for household accessories like tablecloths, pillows and sachets. This technique is basically wholecloth quilting with trapunto, but no batting between the layers and instead of stuffing the motifs first with a thin layer behind the top, you quilt it all first and use a needle and cotton yarn to stuff the motifs directly through the back of the quilt. The holes close up after washing and make a nice, lightweight, textural piece. My friend was intrigued and picked up a charming kit. I won’t even begin to list the rest of what she bought. Suffice it to say, she went through her cash and resorted to her credit card for a few purchases.

We will be marking our calendars for next year’s event for sure!

13 Sep

Sewing Projects

While standing in line for the dumbo ride on Sunday, I was daydreaming about non-quilt sewing projects. I have had flannel with cars on it for probably 3 years now with the intention of making pajamas for my son. I was thinking about this and several other art-to-wear projects and finally made a list: Pajamas, a pink linen scarf with thread embroidery over fused patches, a seersucker tunic with more machine embroidery inspired by the latest issue of Quilting Arts magazine http://www.quiltingarts.com/, matching peasant tunics for my daughter and I from fabric my sister sent us, an embellished t-shirt, and ponchos for the three little girls in our row.

So, this morning I actually cut out the fabric for the pajamas. Now I just need to make them before he has a growth spurt! I pulled out fabrics for the other projects as well and found some suprises along the way (apparently I’ve been hoarding more fabric than I thought). I found a bunch of lightweight cotton or linen blend. It’s a pretty bland beige, so it will either be a base for a window shade my sister has suggested, or maybe fodder for a dying project. Too bad I don’t dye my own fabric. I almost set aside the pink linen for a tunic as the seersucker wasn’t what I had remembered, but I also found some linen which was amazingly priced when I got it. I found out later that’s because it had freeform stripes painted down the center. Not good for the tablecloth I had originally bought it for, but perfect for an embellished peasant top! I had totally forgot that I had little bits of stretchy crushed velvet stuff, not enough for much, but maybe enough for a drape-y necked tank top I envision with raw-edge applique leaves….

12 Sep

My first post

OK, here goes. My husband, all powerful creator of this site, keeps bugging me to do this. I’m going to try to write something at least once a week. Famous last words. Of course I could go the other way and totally ignore the family and end up writing every day.

So, who am I and why am I doing this? Good question. I’m not even sure yet. I’m an ex-graphic designer, a mom and a wife. I was bit by the quilting bug about a decade ago, and I’m now trying to tap into the artist in me in order to take my quilting to the next level. Perhaps writing about my journey in something more formal than my personal sketchbook will help me take it more seriously. Perhaps getting feedback will help me along my path. Keine Ahnung. I have no idea.

Today is my son’s seventh birthday. I can’t believe we’ve made it this far. I think of him as perpetually four years old. Luckily for all of us, he actually acts like a seven year-old. To celebrate, we went to Disney Paris for the weekend. Believe it or not, it was actually a nice, relaxing weekend. Well, except for the five hour drive home in driving rain. Yuck.

Which segues nicely into something actually about quilting. I have now had almost two weeks packed with “important” stuff to do, and have had no time for sewing projects. I am jonesing big time! Long drives don’t help either because I daydream of quilting projects I can’t start, at least until we get home. This time it was get home and make a volcano birthday cake.

Next weekend I hope to go to the European Patchwork Expo in France. It’s less than three hours away, but I refuse to drive to France again in the rain. If I do go, you can be sure I’ll blog about it :-)Me and kids at Disney