27 May

A Quilted Saga

Friends following me on Facebook and Instagram have seen these photos, but not a lot of the story behind them (though I did blog a bit here — and it’s worthwhile to scroll to the very first post at the bottom about the genesis of the quilt). Here are the gory details!

In late 2002 I started working on a quilt somewhat in response to the 9/11 attacks. It was to be a king sized Service Star and I pieced and appliquéd most of it while my husband was deployed on and off for the next year+. I hand quilted most of it, but then life got in the way and I set it aside.

Service Flag

Trapunto, Broderie Perse, and embroidery, oh my!

Service Flag

In 2004 we moved and I joined a group of ladies that met every other Friday to have breakfast together and work on hand stitching projects. I picked up the quilt again and came close to finishing it before moved again. By the time I unpacked it during hubby’s fourth Iraq deployment, I had moved on stylistically.

To go with the sheers

Having embarked on The Army Wife series at this point, I considered how I could bring this into the fold. Inspired by so much subversive stitch and gallery-worthy embroidery, I decided to add embroidered bumper sticker platitudes and a shadowy Uncle Sam.

Service Star WIP (detail)

It worked in my mind, but after many, many, hours into it, I didn’t feel like it was coming together. I’m loathe to just throw the whole quilt away given the hours I have invested in it. But I felt (and still feel) like it should have just had the shadow figure and none of the distracting embroidered flags and sayings. However, I can’t really remove the embroidery because of all the guide lines below it. I tried some blending stitches, and set the quilt aside for another move and another year.

Untitled

I considered stretching the whole thing like a canvas and painting over it, but I realized I would hardly be able to get it out of the house, let alone into a vehicle to take to a gallery or anyplace! Finally, last week I decided that I was over this quilt. It wasn’t doing anything but hanging over my head. It was too late to call it an heirloom and put on a bed somewhere, and with all the “edgy” embroidery, it just looked overworked and tortured. I thought practical thoughts about what sells and where my work might fit in to that sphere. I love my “Suck It Up and Drive On” quilt and others seem to enjoy it too. It also fits in thematically with so much inspirational wall decor on Pinterest.

Untitled

So I decided to take drastic measures and I not only painted my quilt, but I cut it up into sizes I could mount on standard canvases. I plan to stitch and paint some more, adding some nice bold stars on some and the Suck It Up phrase on others. They will make what a friend calls “edgy Americana” wall decor. And I will have one monkey off my back.

Interestingly, I just read an article on Ragged Cloth Cafe this morning about creativity and fugitive artwork.

22 May

SAQA Trunk Show

This is Not a Pot Holder

This is not a potholder. It is my donation to the SAQA trunk show. Last year I had the pleasure of seeing one of the SAQA traveling trunk shows, and I have to say, it’s a great way to introduce the breadth of art quilting to any group. A trunk is a large mailable container filled with 51 tiny art quilts mounted and protected so they are easy to pass around and get a really good look at. My donation is in Trunk C. These trunks are great for SAQA regional groups, critique groups, and for quilt or textile guilds in general. Information to rent a trunk show is on the SAQA website.

18 May

SAQA Online Gallery

I was asked a month or so ago to curate one of the monthly mini galleries on the SAQA website. Curators choose from the photos uploaded by the Juried Artist Members. I enjoyed browsing all the artwork and trying to pull together a cohesive group with a common thread I was excited about AND that hadn’t been explored already by another curator. I eventually decided to focus on the thing that brings me to this medium, the fabric!

Fabric and stitch. It’s what excites me about art quilts. I’ve chosen works that celebrate this with the use of domestic textiles, obvious quilt references, hand stitching and embellishments, exuberant use of commercial prints, and processes specific to fabric. These artworks need the fabric they are made with. They could not exist as wonderfully in another medium.

I invite you to look at Unabashedly Fabric, the gallery I curated — and enjoy the others while you’re there as well!

16 May

SAQA Conference 2014

Several months ago I had the pleasure of being asked to speak on a panel of local artists at the Studio Art Quilt Associates annual conference which was held two weeks ago in Alexandria, VA. The invitation was just the push I needed to register for the whole conference. This was my first one so I had no idea what to expect, but I am very glad I attended.

I wasn’t able to be there for the Thursday night check in and activities. There were meetings for the regional reps and for the Juried Artist Members (formerly PAMs), which I think is a great idea since these two groups have specific issues that affect only them and they can use each other for networking and resources. I spoke to a couple of regional reps who attended and I think they got a lot out of the experience. One mentioned that the meeting made her feel more confident about what she was or was planning on doing for the region. Not being in either group, I couldn’t have gone to those meetings, but I would have loved to go to the artists speed dating session open to all which seems like a fun ice breaker and chance to network.

Friday was the main event. It was great to see so many local members — those whom I have met before at our parlor meetings and a few new-to-me faces. With sessions like photographing your artwork, navigating the gallery scene, promoting yourself, and growing your business, it all seemed geared towards members who are ready to sell work at or near a professional level. I don’t think that’s a bad thing though — I suspect that those who would invest in a conference would be at this place in their journey. I certainly am, and I came away with lots of good info. I attended the photography lecture which was very helpful, and the promote your work without apologizing which was OK. Lesley Riley gave a lecture on being your own art coach, which might have been good for someone looking for some direction in deciding where to go next with their work (maybe I would have gotten more out of that than the no apologies session). There was also a digital designing session that would probably appeal to people not as interested in the how to be a professional artist stuff but looking for inspiration. Our local artist panel went well. Lots of people came up to me later and said they enjoyed it. Cindy Grisdela did a good job getting four people whose art is very different. My new artist crush is Jinny Smith. Since the Textile Museum is nearby but currently closed as they are moving to new digs, the director brought a slideshow of some of her favorites in the collection. Lots of costumes and historical ethnic stuff from around the world. Very nice.

Saturday I attended a lecture on navigating the gallery scene which I really got a lot out of. Curator Trudy Van Dyke spoke, and not only is she very knowledgable and instrumental in Fiber Art Now, but she is very approachable and helpful. Lots of people were handing her business cards after she spoke so she said she’d just email us all back and we could continue our individual conversations from there. I thought that was a great way to move quickly through the crowd and still be able to give thought and time to each person’s request. I look forward to more contact with her.

The other highlight for me was hearing several students from Maryland Institute College of Art speak so enthusiastically about their work (which is inspiringly “out there” compared to what most of us are doing!). Then we took a field trip to see the Radical Elements show which went well. On the bus, I caught up with Nanette from NC who is doing fantastic legwork on making my Army Wife show happen at her local art center and growing it into an exciting event. I only wish I could have seen our Tarnish show as well, but it was too far away to add to our bus trip and there really wasn’t enough time for a separate field trip.

It was great to see so many faces I knew. Lots from the DC/MD/WV group that I join in on when I can. I said hi to everyone I saw and spent some time with the lovely Diane Doran. I ended up hanging out mostly with the NC people I had met when I’ve gone to their area for combined SAQA and PAQA-South events (Nanette Zeller, Eileen Williams, and Christine Hager-Braun). Also, my VA pal Lorie McCown was there so were were pretty much each other’s sidekick the whole time. It was kinda fun being the one who could introduce people from one group to people in another group.

I missed Sunday’s retrospective with Yvonne Porcella because I really needed to get home, but I did meet her (and Iris from MistyFuse) via Lisa Ellis last night. I wore my aqua cowboy boots on Friday and so everyone not only noticed me, but remembered me. That was a good move — wearing something memorable, so people will have at least half a clue who I am if I ever wish to contact them again.

So, in conclusion, a good time. I’m not sure I’d be able to justify spending the money to fly to a conference, but if there’s one that’s reasonable easy to get to I’d definitely go. The networking possibilities alone are worthwhile. Next year’s is to be in Portland, OR, so I’m not sure if that one will fit into our plans, but we’ll see…

14 May

Dinner@8 Artists Exhibit 2014

LaflammeSelfiesm

I am happy to finally be able to share this quilt, “Selfie: a portrait of the artist as her stash.” It was made for, and has been accepted into, the Dinner@8 Artist’s 2014 exhibit “Reflection.” The exhibit is an annual one that shows at the Festival of quilts in Houston and is curated by Leslie Jennison and Jamie Fingal.

I began this project not really knowing if it would work. I have several other things in the works that I didn’t want to take time away from unless it was for a good cause, and I just didn’t know if I could pull this off. But, I liked the idea of playing off the popularity of a Selfie as a modern self portrait, and the idea of my peculiar fabric stash being a reflection of myself. I shared a few peeks early in the process on Facebook, but here’s how it all came together.

Selfie test

 

I took a lot of photos of myself (with my phone, of course), in the car, in the mirror, with the phone turned toward me… Duck lips were mandatory.

 

Selfie 1 pix2Selfie test 1

 

Next, I cropped the best photos and tried several degrees of pixellation in Adobe Photoshop. I ran these by my trusted friends who helped me decide which was most easily recognizable as a selfie. The photo on the left won, but those squares represent 2″ blocks which were definitely too big. Even 1″ squares on the right were too big for the facial details.

 

Stash strips

 

Once committed to the project, I spent four days cutting strips from each fabric in my stash and sorting them by value. I’ve been contemplating making a scrappy Trip Around The World quilt with my whole stash, so I cut with that secondary project in mind (no, I haven’t gotten to it yet).

 

Stash grid bw

I took lots of photos with my phone along the way, turning them black and white to check my accuracy. I put the strips in bags marked with corresponding value numbers to keep everything sorted and tidy.

 

Stash crazies

 

What makes this portrait special is that I’m a fabric omnivore. The concept wouldn’t be the same in all solids, batiks, or natural colored hand dyes. I had to cross my fingers and hope that it would still read as a portrait even if the fabrics were this wacky combination of hand dyes, reproduction prints, novelty prints, florals, Kaffe Fasset favorites, and whatever else that makes up my stash.

 

Selfie Grid WIP

 

My road map was a grid I made in Adobe Illustrator. I decided to use 1/2″ squares for the facial details, 1′ squares for most of the quilt, and 2″ squares for the distorted foreground area and flat background. I assigned a value to each pixel in my photo which would correspond to a bag of strips of the same value. Initially I thought I could pick one strip randomly from the appropriate bag and make this a kind of charm quilt as well. As it turned out, once I got going, it helped to use warm and cool colors strategically, keeping generally to green eyes, red lips, brown hair, and so on. And, while large, my stash isn’t large enough, so I had to use many fabrics several times.

 

Selfie WIP

And here it is as I built the face. I had a grid on my design board, but I didn’t include seam allowances, which rendered it pretty useless.

I chose to quilt the piece very simply as I wanted all the pixels to have equal importance. I didn’t want to try any overworked thread painting or end up with a nose that stuck out. This is all about the fabric.

I am so pleased with the final quilt! It was a great relief to see that my initial idea actually did work, and having it chosen amongst all the other fine art quilts for the show is good validation. Please, visit the blogs of the other accepted artists and look forward to posts on the Dinner@8 blog in the coming months. Maybe we’ll even see each other in person or in the cloth in Houston this fall.