On Finding One’s Audience

Zeitgeist web

I love this quilt. I think it’s funny, I think it’s snarky, I think it’s topical, and I think it’s well made. I am proud of it.

So now what? As an artist I kind of feel like my work is a conversation, so it’s not really complete until someone besides me has a response to it. I very much want this giant cat to go out into the world and talk to people.

Zeitgeist is my “fan art” inspired by the Grumpy Cat internet meme. I combined the cat with the styling of Louis Wain, a Victorian era illustrator who’s large eyed cats and zany patterned backgrounds were thought to be an expression of his mental illness. To me the combination of Grumpy Cat’s pessimism and Wain’s schizophrenia perfectly expressed the current mood of the US. To embody this in a quilt large enough to wrap one’s self in further pushed the wackiness of the concept. Yes, comfort yourself with your crazy cynicism.

My first impulse was to submit it to IQF Houston’s annual World of Beauty show in 2013. The Houston show responds well to representational, bright and bold work. Besides, between Quilt Market and Quilt Festival, that’s a lot of eyes on any quilt in the show and that’s a great conversation. Unfortunately, I paid a long arm quilter to quilt Zeitgeist which means it was work for hire and thus disqualified from entering.

So, I settled for the New England Quilt Festival and Pacific International Quilt shows. They were OK, but not really who I thought my target audience was. These were, in general, not the crowd to get excited about an internet inspired, bold fabric using, subtle commentary kind of quilt. Mostly, I think people wondered if this was just a portrait of my cat.

For the sake of contrast and to introduce it to a different audience, I entered Zeitgeist into Art Quilt Elements 2013. Based on the types of work that usually get in, I was pretty amazed that the quilt was even accepted. That piece had no business being at Art Quilt Elements given what is normally accepted and awarded prizes, and yet it won Best of Show. It was the connection to current culture that spoke to the jurors. Yet I wouldn’t have guessed that it would win anything when I entered it.

All along though, I was waiting for the call for entries for the 2015 QuiltCon (biennial) show. The Modern Quilt movement that puts on the show blossomed online. It markets itself to the youthful quilter or at least the quilter with a “fresh” aesthetic. Bold prints are popular amongst many Modern Quilters. Their quilts are meant to be used, not to go on the wall — though there’s plenty that are wall sized. And while I don’t believe that Zeitgeist exemplifies Modern Quilting (and that’s why it was rejected from the Modern Quilt Showcase in Houston), I did believe that the internet surfing, meme generating, bold pattern using, hip, younger show-goers at QuiltCon would understand and appreciate my quilt. I thought that could be an audience that would get excited about it and talk with it.

I’ve been processing the rejection from QuiltCon for a few hours now, and the thing that really sticks out to me is just how hard it can be to find one’s audience. I’m not emotionally crushed, just kind of baffled as to where and how I should be showing my work in this vein. My friend Lorie tells me I’m fishing in the wrong stream. I need to look at the Art world. My work may be grounded in the quilt tradition, but the quilt tradition in any of it’s guises is not my audience. I’ve been mulling over the idea of a “Craft the Internet” show. I admit that I’m scared and apprehensive to put on a curator’s hat and do the work required to create a show, but maybe that’s the way to get my work into spaces where it can converse with an appropriate audience.

It’s Snowballing

The end product might be beautiful, but The Arts are tough. There are a million ways that artists make ends meet, but when it comes right down to it, there appears to be a disconnect in American culture between appreciation for, and actual support of, the arts. Or maybe there’s no disconnect at all. Sometimes I think that the majority of Americans just don’t value the arts period. That’s another discussion though. What I am interested in sharing is the seeming plethora of public peeks behind the scenes and how they expose just how hard it is to make art and make a living at the same time.

First, I read this article by Jack Conte of Pomplamoose about what it takes for a mid-level band to tour, and why they’d do it at a loss.

That was followed up by this post which unfortunately had to defend the first because apparently treating one’s contractors fairly for their work, while expected in the corporate world, is seen as superfluous in the art world since doing work you love and doing work for money should somehow be mutually exclusive. And because apparently supplementing your income with tie-ins and intertwined companies is bad (though it’s perfectly OK for Martha Stewart’s empire).

And then this exploded the web: Revolva, the Hula Hoop Dancer that stood up to Oprah.

And was quickly followed by this one about what exposure does or doesn’t pay for by DIY Doyenne, including her insightful quote as to why:

There is a perception that if you make a living from your creative talents, you are doing it for fun, you know, you’re not really serious. There is a shocking lack of value placed on creativity.

Which then leads us into the Slate article about how we say we want you to think outside of the box but really, we can’t handle the boat being rocked. But again, that’s another discussion.

Closer to home, these discussions reminded me of the brouhaha that erupted within the quilt world a few years ago: Mollie Sparkles’ No Value Does Not Equal Free part one, and part two. (And be sure to follow his related links to the We are Sew Worth It blog posts.)

More recently this post by Abby Glassenberg that confirmed what I had suspected about fabric companies. Browse her site for lots of good, informative craft and sewing related articles.

I don’t have any answers, nor do I expect sweeping change. I just noticed that there seems to be a snowballing of explaining the nitty gritty. And the more information we know, the more appropriate choices we, as individuals, can make. Knowledge is power.

Fiber Art for a Cause

I am proud to be one of 100 fiber artists invited to participate in Virginia Spiegel’s Fiber Art for a Cause.

1 Day – 100 Artists – 100 Patrons – $10,000
Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Opens 10 a.m. Central

How The Fundraiser Works

The first 100 people to contact Virginia beginning at 10 a.m. Central on February 4th will be given a link to donate $100 directly to the American Cancer Society through Fiberart For A Cause. Each donor will receive an artwork from one of the 100 generous and talented artists participating. Assignments of artwork will be made using a random number generator. This is a great chance to collect a piece of art from one of 100 exciting fiber artists. As a patron, you could win a piece from me, or one of my talented friends like Natalya Aikens, Deborah Boschert, Gerrie Congdon, Diane Doran, Terry Grant, Karen Rips, Terri Stegmiller, and Vivien Zepf, or my favorites like Pamela Allen, Linda Colsh, or Susie Monday and so so many more!  

Questions? See all the details at VFFAC The 100.

Special Note: Our goal of $10,000 will make Fiberart For A Cause’s donations to the American Cancer Society a nice even one-quarter of a million dollars.

Homes for the Baby Quilts

I got my quilting into high gear last week and finished three baby quilts in time to send them off to the Quilt Study Center in Nebraska to be donated to the People’s City Mission. They need quilts of all sizes and styles so it seemed like a super match for my happy little quilts. I hope they will help keep some kids warm this winter.

 

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And guess what, no puckers! I have had issues in the past, but this time I starched the backings and used spray baste for the back (but not the top). The biggest factor was probably that I was using cotton backing instead of puffier wool though, so I’ll have to try wool again before proclaiming victory over the pucker, but for now I’m happy.

 

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Around The World Blog Hop

My buddy Deborah Boschert tagged me in an Around the World Blog hop in which we answer four questions about our creative process and then tag two more bloggers to do the same. Check out Deborah’s blog post to read her answers and follow her links to read back through many other fascinating blog hoppers.

 

1. What am I working on?
I’ve usually got several things going on at once which each appeal to different moods and need.
• Right now I’m working on the next in my series of Security Blankets. This one has to do with the TSA and incorporates those blue figures I was working on a while ago, plus floral weaponry.
• I’m also working on a piece, or collection of pieces, for my Army Wife series. Inspired by eye momentos, either photographs or miniature paintings set into jewelry as a reminder of absent loved ones, I have transferred images of my husband’s eye (at specific time periods) onto hankies and am now in the process of embroidering the dates and locations of his corresponding deployments onto the hankies.
• And, in the background, I am working on creating a business in which I make stylish lap quilts from military uniforms. It will be called Modern Military Quilts and I hope to have more to say about it soon.

Star Quilt sm
 

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
This is a tough question for me because I’m not entirely sure what my genre is. I love to draw on the history of traditional quilts, but my work is definitely not traditional. I suppose I could categorize my work with improvisational quilters, but mine has narrative underpinnings. Of course, every quilt has a story, so it’s really just a matter of how far that story goes. I call myself an art quilter, and I suppose my work differs from many in that genre in that I don’t stick to just the quilt form, but work in other fiber techniques as the concept of the individual work dictates. But, already I can think of many artists who work in various fiber traditions simultaneously, so I’m not so different in that way. My work is definitely concept driven, but there is a precedent for that both in the art quilt crowd and in the greater art world. In fact, I worry that if I call my work conceptual I’ll be too readily compared to others who are far smarter than I in their artwork. Maybe my work is different in that it doesn’t easily fit into a genre, but that’s a little too self-important for my tastes. We all like to think we’re different in our own ways.
Momento of an absent loved one

 

3. Why do I write/create what I do?

I make art because I am, and always have been, compelled to do so. I love working with my hands and there is no lack of ideas in my head to fuel those hands.
 
Floral Weaponry

4. How does my writing/creating process work?
I start with an idea, of course. Then I go to my sketchbook, which is more like a diary or log book some days; I write the basic idea and then a conversation with myself about ways I could interpret said idea. Sometimes things flow, sometimes I let it percolate for a while and add notes a day, or a week, or on occasion a year, later. At some point, it’s time to get to the making, so I gather my supplies — which may be fabric from my stash, but recently has meant deconstructing a flag, culling photos from our albums, or experimenting with methods of sun printing human bodies. If I need to prepare a cartoon or grid to follow, as in Zeitgeist, Selfie, or Temporary Safety, now is the time for that and it includes some time at my computer working with Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. Click on the link to Selfie for a nice blog post about the process of creating that particular artwork. Of course, each piece is different, so for example, the process of actually making Selfie is very different than the making of embroidered hankies. I almost always have an idea in my head of what I want the finished artwork to looks like, generally, but it really takes form in the making. I never know exactly how each fabric or element is going to affect the others until I see it in the cloth. That keeps the process fresh for me. There is always room for adjustment, surprise, and serendipity while I’m making something. A piece is finished when I feel like I can walk away from it.

 

I tagged my local friend Lotta Helleberg to join the blog hop next. Be sure to check out her post next Monday, November 31st. Since tagging a second person was confounded by our good friend Murphy and his laws, my friend Terry Grant graciously offered the post she wrote only a little while ago. You can read her answers and follow her links right now.

Houston Quilt Festival 2014 (part 2)

I took a lot of photos of quilts that were interesting to me in one way or another. They are not particularly good photos, so part of me feels like I am doing a disservice to the makers of those quilts. On the other hand, I know that those who can’t make it to a particular show often enjoy seeing even a part of it vicariously through those who did go. I know that I’m often that person. So, here’s a completely subjective, not at all cohesive or inclusive, handful of quilts that I enjoyed seeing at the Quilt Festival in Houston.

The big draw is IQF’s annual World of Beauty show. It’s the one with the big prizes and about a million categories. The big prize winners were impressive as always and can be seen on IQF’s website. Overall, I tended to like the second place winners best.

Growth by Maria Elkins
Growth by Maria Elkins. I just loved the ovoid shapes and the way the colors gradate from pastel to jewel and the background from dark grey to white. It’s a refreshing change from the currently popular rainbow method of organizing color. I don’t remember which category this was in.

 

GMOs Gone Wild by Betsy Brandt-Kreutz
GMOs Gone Wild by Betsy Brandt-Kreutz in the Art-Abstract, Small, category attracted me with it’s wild milifiori look. We decided that it was definitely a commitment to a look, and I have to respect that conviction. This may have been in the Embellished category. I like that too — embellished but without the usual glitz.

 

Eight Branchlets by Janet Steadman
Eight Branchlets by Janet Steadman. I think this was in the Art Quilt, small, category. I really liked the crafts(wo)manship on this. Also, it’s just plain lovely.

 

The Messenger by Marlene Shae
I found The Messenger by Marlene Shae in the Whimsical category to be utterly enchanting. I love the somewhat folkloric style of the illustration and the fabric choices. I’d love to see an entire book illustrated with quilts like this.

 

Shared Destiny by Patricia Kennedy-Zafred
Shared Destiny by Patricia Kennedy-Zafred was my favorite in the digital imagery category. There were a few variations on this multiple versions of a single image theme, but I think one was done the best. I appreciate that the ground fabric is patterned and I like the insertion of contrasting fabrics within each image as well as the addition of Flying Geese motifs.

Shared Destiny by Patricia Kennedy-Zafred (detail)
Shared Destiny, detail

 

Towers and Spires by Paula Tanner
Towers and Spires by Paula Tanner used miles of satin stitch in an interesting way. This also may have been in the Embellished category.

Towers and Spires by Paula Tanner (detail)
Towers and Spires, detail

 

Hudson Trader by Coleen Wise
Hudson Trader by Coleen Wise. You can’t go wrong with blue and white. I like how this one seems pretty traditional and basic at first glance, but then you notice the illusion of the spheres and the subtle changes in their size and it just becomes sublime. Well, to me at least.

 

Somewhat, but not too surprisingly, I absolutely loved the exhibit of 500 Traditional Quilts. There was no photography allowed, so I have nothing to share. There is wonderful, inspiring, and varied work in the collection though so I may have to buy the catalog (along with the catalog for the Walsh collection we saw at the Quilt Museum in La Grange).

 

Another special exhibit that is always a favorite of mine is Tactile Architecture.

Rooflines #8 by Colleen Kole
Rooflines #8 by Colleen Kole is to me a perfect combination of quiltiness and implied imagery. It’s also influenced by both the quilts of Gee’s Bend and Nancy Crow/Lisa Call, but too derivative.

 

Rooflines #2 by Colleen Kole
No surprise that her other entry, Rooflines #2, appealed to me too. This one is more derivative of the School of Nancy Crow/Lisa Call, but appropriate and well executed and therefore no less appealing to me.

 

Bedolina Threads by Maggie Vanderweit
And for something completely different, I loved the stitchiness of Bedolina Threads by Maggie Vanderweit.

 

I couldn’t enter Zeitgeist into the World of Beauty show because I paid for it to be long-arm quilted (entries by more than one person must be collaboration — no work for hire), so I submitted it to the Modern Quilt Showcase for another stab at it being seen in Houston. It was rejected, and so I was curious to see what quilts were ultimately chosen. As I suspected, my cat would not have fit in the exhibit because though it might appeal to a “modern” audience, it does not exemplify Modern quilting. I did enjoy seeing what does exemplify the movement though. Two of my favorites:

Entropy by Elisa Albury
Entropy by Elisa Albury

City Center by Angie Henderson
City Center by Angie Henderson

 

The pursuit of Happiness by Robin Felton
The Farm to Table special exhibit was also predominantly Modern in it’s aesthetic. I just loved The Pursuit of Happiness by Robin Felton for it’s bold simplicity and nod to both furrows and flag.

 

Finally, these cheerful mola-style dogs kept jumping out at me from the It’s Raining Cats and Dogs exhibit.

Los Perros de Panama by Kathleen Kennedy-Dennis
Los Perros de Panama by Kathleen Kennedy-Dennis

Houston Quilt Festival 2014 (Part 1)

It’s a little hard to explain or wrap up Quilt Festival. It’s big and overwhelming, and I think it’s different for everyone. The first year I attended, it was mostly about curiosity, and a little bit to thank sponsors for supporting my husband’s IBOL project to get sewing supplies to women in Iraq. I was completely overwhelmed and definitely had the feeling that everyone else knew what was going on and I was clueless. The second time I attended was when Twelve by Twelve, the online quilt challenge group i belonged to, had a special exhibit. I had a home base at the exhibit and a bunch of good friends to experience the show with. It was much more fun and I know I got a lot more out of the experience. This year, I went for three reasons: one, I have a piece in this year’s Dinner@8 special exhibit and I wanted to experience being part of that group of ladies; two, it was a great excuse to visit my bestie Deborah and spend time with her; and three, I’m at a point in my “career” where making contacts is important to moving forward and Houston is a good place for that (though I suspect Market is better than Festival, but I’ll take what I can get).

 

IQF Ruby Jubilee exhibit of red and white quilts

 

2014 is/was Quilts Inc’s 40th Anniversary so they celebrated with a Ruby Jubilee. Overall I was super impressed with the look of the show. I think there was great use of vertical space and an unexpected variety in ways of exhibiting work. As soon as Market opened a week before Festival, it seemed everyone was posting photos of the dramatic vortex of red and white quilts. I was curious as to whether it was part of the Infinite Variety show that had been in New York a few years ago, or not. Info at the show confirmed that this collection was very much inspired by Infinite Variety.

Impressive display of red and white quilts

 

I’m not entirely sure what this photo exhibit was about. It may just have been to fill some space and/or show that quilting is worldwide. What I did like was that it was floor to ceiling. All that use of vertical space broke up the rows and rows of eye level quilts in a nice, and surprisingly unobtrusive way.

IQF Houston 2014

 

The Tristan Boutis was probably the most inspired exhibit I saw. A boutis is a french style of quilting with only two layers stitched together and stuffing in select spots to accentuate the design. This is a reproduction of a historic boutis showing the story of the knight Tristan. I love the way the glowing display highlights the construction of the textile.

Tristan Boutis

 

There were a few other plinths too. As a viewer, it was very engaging to be able to see things at eye level, but also to look up and down and way up.

I was impressed by the variety of ways quilts were exhibited

 

Here’s one side of the Dinner@8 exhibit with my friends Deborah and Sarah discussing the work. The colors story on this wall was gorgeous.

Dinner@8

 

Much fun was had taking selfies in front of my Dinner@8 quilt, Selfie. I was so excited to see “the Donnas” and Cheryl from the Hawaii Quilt guild. Here’s Donna E and I with my quilt.

Houston Donna

 

Deborah and I participated in The Quilt Alliance’s Save Our Stories project and filmed three minute interviews with our quilts. She talked about her piece in the Festival of Art Quilts: Home exhibit and I brought my pop art Zeitgeist to hang just for the interview.

Me and my Zeitgeist

 

Open Studios is a nice place to rest one’s feet and pick up a few tips and tricks. Betty Busby has charmed a big group of ladies with her paintstick on silk technique (and her bubbly personality, of course). I seem to run into Betty everywhere and it’s always a joy.

Houston Betty OS

 

In addition to the exhibits and the Open Studios, Houston is all about the vendors. I am sorry to say that I did not budget my time appropriately (maybe my wallet isn’t so sorry) and I did not get the chance to do any of the shopping I wanted to do. I actually had a list of fabrics and threads to check out. I did stop by Aurifil’s promotional booth and won a few spools at their gaming tables. Good fun — these guys know how to maximize promotion. I also took the opportunity to talk long arm options with a half dozen sewing machine vendors. I’m not ready to invest, but it may be the answer to the project I’m brewing.

Gaming for Thread

 

Of course, the socializing is a big part of the experience, and this year I went with the intention of matching names of people whose work I admire and their real-life selves. Dinner with Deborah, Chawne, and Sarah was so much fun. Not only did we have intelligent and interesting conversation, but we’re compatible on the goofiness scale too. here’s where we see that we all share the ability to roll our tongues.

Houston Silly

 

After Quilt Festival, Deborah and I continued on to La Grange, Texas to the Texas Quilt Museum to see an exhibit from the John Walsh collection. The trip was sooooooooo worth changing my flight and making the detour. John Walsh is the preeminent art quilt collector of the day and I have admired many of the works in his collection. Just about every art quilt I’ve ever looked up to as where I would like to be on my path is owned by John Walsh. It was great to see these pieces in the cloth. Some were surprising in the details and construction that one just can’t tell from a photo. All of them stood up to in person inspection. My favorite was New New York Beauty by Katherine Knauer (a new name and quilt to me), and Deborah’s was Tim Harding’s Surf Swimmers (deft use of simple folded and stitched bits of fabric to evoke water scenes).

Houston TQM

 

 

After the Quilt Museum, we continued on to San Antonio where we watched Deborah’s daughter’s high school band compete. It was quite the spectacle and they won silver in the state championships. All in All I had a fantastic five days in Texas and I definitely look forward to my next fiber art adventure with friends. My next post will be about some of the quilts I saw and liked at the show.

 

Not One, But Two Exhibits

November is shaping up to be a big month for my art. I’ll be in Houston at the very beginning for the debut of the annual Dinner@8 exhibit premier (and a whole lot of quilt show fun and inspiration too).  My pixelated portrait, Selfie is part of the show.

But as soon as I return, there’s two more local exhibits I’m part of.

The first is McGuffey Art center’s art fundraiser. I’ve donated one 12×12 piece for the incredibly affordable $150 collection, plus my crazy quilted Flag from which 50% of the proceeds benefit the art center. There will be a preview and meet the artists on Wednesday November 5th. Plans have changed a bit and the art WILL be on sale at the preview. The usual First Friday opening will also be happening on the 7th. I hope to be there both nights. Come early for the best selection! I hope to see lots of red dots.

Art Fundraiser at McGuffey Art Center

MAC Fundraiser

 

Wait, there’s more. I also have three of my favorite figure drawings at Charlottesville’s brand new jewel box of a gallery, Yellow Cardinal. They will also be having  a First Friday opening on the 7th, so I’ll split my time between there and MAC. I am very excited about both of these shows because I know many of the artists involved and admire all of their work. I’m also looking forward to having many of their loyal followers see my work as well, since I have not been in town and showing long enough to gain much in the way of an audience for my work.

Life Drawing at Yellow Cardinal Gallery

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