Work To Crow About

For almost all my quilting life I’ve been in awe of Nancy Crow’s contemporary quilts. I use that term as she dislikes the term art quilter. “I don’t want that term anywhere near me,” the artist [said in a recent article in Ohio Magazine.] “I consider it derogatory.”

So of course I had to see the Mansfield (Ohio) Art Center’s exhibit of 32 of her works. They were made mostly between 2000 and 2010, and encompass her bold striped designs as well as prints on fabric. Most are made with her hand dyed solid fabric and are hand quilted by Amish and Mennonite craftswomen. A few are machine quilted.

Here are ones that I swooned over. My photos don’t capture the vibrancy of the colors nor the glowing effects of color juxtapositions. Nor do they convey the soft texture the gridded hand quilting gives the hard edges.

As I descended the stairs from the exhibit area my eye was caught by the construction materials outside the center. I thought they went well with the quilts.

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Filed under Exhibits, Inspiration

I Really Have Been Sewing

Recent posts to the contrary, I have been giving my sewing machine a workout between a fantasy, glittery collage piece and assignments for my “Mod Meets Improv” online class.

The fantasy piece evolved from the latest bunch of sparkly scraps from the theatrical costume shop, plus some donated fabric (the birds) that was going begging.

The Costume Shop Jungle

Much of the fabric was leftover from dresses for “Dreamgirls.”

The green fabric was tricky to work with as it shreds easily. I hope to give my jungle a pillowcase finish and then outline quilt some of the birds and flowers.

My online class, taught by Elizabeth Barton, has pushed me to develop several quilt designs on paper. The class title may say improv, but if it’s a class with Elizabeth you know you’ll be designing on paper first. Some of the homework has been a bit basic for me, but the feedback has been helpful, as always.

The top row are practice pieces: floating 4 patches, curved piece grid, and half square triangles in a complementary color scheme. In the bottom row are some of my better colored pencil designs. The one on the left follows the lines of the traditional rail fence. The middle design is based on outside stairs I saw from our Airbnb in Quebec.

I’m now working on an original mod/improv design that has lots of negative space, in white of course. I’d forgotten how you need to press towards the darker fabric when you work with white fabric. Otherwise, the darker color shows and when the darker color is red, it really shows.

The class has been fine, but I’m sorry more students aren’t active in the online forum. It’s a great chance to get feedback and see what other students are up to. You can watch a video of work done in previous classes.

I’m linking to Nina Marie’s Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under Art quilts, In Process, Modern Quilting

Victoria Findlay Wolfe’s “Playing With Purpose”

I’ve been aware of Wolfe’s work ever since she won first place at an early QuiltCon for her deconstructed double wedding ring quilt. She began her career as an artist, but branched into quilting. Over the past several years she has designed fabric, opened a quilt store, taught classes, written books, and become an active presence on social media. With her most recent book, a retrospective of her work, I learned she also managed to make the 125 quilts shown, mostly since 2008, in addition to all her other activities. And these are mostly large quilts, easily 80 by 80 inches. My guess is she’s made at least 100 more quilts. She does have many of them quilted by others, but even so…

Most of her work is exuberant and lively, with lots of color and scrappy fabric. She often references traditional patterns, but will put a twist on them. Sometimes she serves tradition straight up. I’m showing a few quilts from the book that were new to me.

Wolfe tried out different styles before settling on what is now her signature. “Cheap Hotels” from 2010 uses a more minimalist approach without a block structure. It stands out in the book because there’s nothing else like it.

“Stripes, Plaids, and Polka Dots” is reminiscent of Gwen Marston’s work, with its bold zigzag border treatment. The stars and sashing are made with Wolfe’s 15 minutes of play technique, while the subdued stripes and plaids of the squares give all that busyness room to breathe. The different sizes of the background yellow/beige squares lend a casual air, while the polka dots capture the eye and direct it around the squares.

“Summer of Stars” works due to the ombre fabric surrounding the center star. I’d love to get my hands on some of it.

The following two quilts are great examples of how fabric choices and placement can change the look of a quilt. It takes an eye for abstraction to discern such possibilities.

While I don’t like every quilt in this book, I appreciate Wolfe’s willingnes to always try out an idea and use lots of different fabrics. She doesn’t let fear of “ruining” something stop her from pushing further. Her philosophy is: “You have to make ugly pieces and then learn from them. You have to make something that is just so fabulous that you look at it and think, Wow! I can’t believe I did that! For myself, the failure and the successes are equally valuable.”

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Filed under Books, Commentary

Wet and Wooly

Somehow I escaped wool felting, both wet and needle, in the years I’ve been intimate with fabric. I have done it accidentally by washing wool sweaters, but never deliberately. Recently I remedied that gap in a wool felting flower workshop I attended.

We used wool roving, but I gather other forms of wool and silk will work. After we admired the luscious colors of the roving, we got to work gently tearing off bits of the hanks and laying them down on a bubble wrap mat (this is called shingling).

Our class kit.

After we covered the desired size and shape for our flower with wool, we put mesh over it, gave it a good drench with warm, soapy water, and began rubbing circles on the mesh to get the wool fibers to interlock. Once the fibers get cozy with each other (and that seems to take a while) the fun begins – molding your flower. There’s other steps involving water, twisting your flower to shape it, and throwing it down to full it.

My first effort looks like a tiger lily after a big storm – a bit frayed at the edges.
My second flower added another layer, plus a stem.

My fellow students produced gorgeous flowers.

Our teacher, Amanda Baker of Lovingly Felted Naturally, gave us some websites for further exploration and purchases. The most useful seem to be www.sarafinafiberart.com and www.livingfelt.com.

I still have enough roving for a few more flowers, so maybe my summer outdoor projects will include wet felting.

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Filed under Project Ideas, Techniques

My Quilt Canada Trip

Ever since I stumbled across Quilt Canada on a trip to Nova Scotia I try to visit the annual juried show sponsored by the Canadian Quilters’ Association. Actually I only travel to the shows held in eastern Canada every other year as they are more accessible from Ohio.

Aside from the chance to enjoy sightseeing, why this show? In the past I’ve found the entries to be of high quality, with lots of other exhibits in addition to the juried show. I applaud the separate category for quilts from patterns and books. This year I was disappointed to see some entries that, frankly, looked like they belonged more in a local quilt show in terms of design and workmanship. Of course I did find plenty to admire, as the slide show demonstrates.

Since my photos show the limits of my phone’s camera and the odd angles I had to cope with, please click here for the complete album of accepted entries. I tried to capture details in my photos, and some are of other exhibits and are not part of the juried show. You can see the award winners here. As usual, the judges and I differ in our opinions.

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Filed under Quilt Shows

Nick Cave – Treasures From Tchotkes

I caught the recent Nick Cave exhibit (Nick Cave: Feat.) at the Akron Art Museum on its next to last day. Much to my surprise, I was won over by his sparkly, glittery, tawdry junk shop filled pieces. It’s too bad I missed the community performances held as part of the exhibit.

The work on display seemed to fall into three categories: stationary 3D wall and floor pieces, sound suits which Cave wears for performances, and whole room installations. The work was created from 2010 to 2019. A video made for the exhibit showed Cave shopping for tchotkes at thrift stores, the construction of some pieces by a small army of workers, and clips of performances.

This detail of a large wall sculpture highlights the ceramic birds Cave likes to use. The base is a crocheted afghan, over which several layers of stuff are mounted. Cave said he uses bird statues because they were viewed as art in his childhood home.
Detail of metal tin lids from a sound suit.
Sound suit covered with thousands of buttons. Workers do the sewing.
Another sound suit that features bowls made with plastic beads and large safety pins. Such bowls were popular with crafters a while ago.
Room installation of painted bamboo curtains. I found the images showed up more clearly in photos than in person.

Here’s what Cave said about his work:

This work speaks to craft but exceeds the notion of craft. The materials allow people to connect personally, because we can all identify with objects that have surrounded us in our homes at some point. In that way, the work can be nostalgic, and there’s that moment when you realize you’re in a shared language with the people around you. The found objects bring out all kinds of personal history. They also raise the question of how we honor domestic crafts like crochet and needlepoint, which are becoming less and less a part of our day-to-day lives. I like celebrating these practices and things that have traditionally brought beauty into our lives.

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Filed under Commentary, Exhibits, Inspiration

On The Bias

To my surprise I’ve completed the top for “It’s Not All Black and White.” Design and construction were relatively pain-free, and I still had two feet of black bias tape left. I started with 20 yards. I see more bias tape projects in my future.

Early days when I was arranging my blocks. The green strips to the right were meant to go between the blocks, but they didn’t work.
Sewn together top that measures about 38 by 53 inches.

Of course I have to develop a quilting plan, but I do have the backing fabric, thanks to thrift store shopping.

Old Alexander Henry fabric. I got 6+ yards for $4.

While I’m bragging on my thrift store finds, here are a few others – 3 yards of wool for $4 and two men’s shirts for $4 each. The striped shirt is a silk/rayon blend.

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Filed under In Process