Category Archives: Commentary

The Old Becomes New

I have continued to revisit old work that I wasn’t satisfied with, and revised two pieces, “Z Is For Zoom” and “7 Years of Bad Luck.”

Z was just too plain before, so I painted broad white stripes over the already quilted area and then covered the stripes with seed stitching.

Original

Add ons

Seed stitch detail

7 Years needed focus, so first I over-dyed the completed piece and stamped it with white ink. Then I cut off the top edge, added swirls of bias tape, and appliqued jagged chunks of silver lame on to represent the bits of broken mirror. As I was sewing the tape on I realized I was channeling Judy Kirpich. A new facing on the top and reattachment of the hanging sleeve completed the makeover.

Original

Revised

Do I think these pieces are now wonderful? No, but I think they are improved. My initial inspirations have been tempered with layers and more clarity in my intent, I believe. I’ve learned that a piece can take its own sweet time in revealing what it is meant to be.

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Inspiration From Illustrations

I’m not doing artistic endeavors this year, but I can’t help passing along goodies that appeal to me. Case in point, magazine covers by Ryo Takemasa. Here are covers he did for NON Magazine that I thought could translate well into fabric.

Each of these illustrations would take just the right fabric – bought or painted/printed to bring the image to life. The trees above the waterfalls could be done by printing with a cut out sponge. I’m not advocating breaking copyright laws by using these images, but such simplified images could be an interesting way to create quilted landscapes.

Takemasa’s website shows yet more examples of his work. I hope his work inspires you to approach design in new ways.

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Begin Again

2019 will be my year of intent rather than goals.

Thanks, Julie

I want to:

  • push my designs (go bold or go home)
  • use the fabrics and materials I’ve been saving
  • steel myself to take the hard way (at times) rather than the easy solution
  • continue to try atypical materials
  • use the designs and inspirational photos I’ve been collecting

To do all that I believe I’ll need commitment.

Thanks, Nina Marie

I’m starting the year with work on “Deep Purple.” Here are the options I’ve developed. I’d love your opinions as to which is best, or whether there’s a better way that hasn’t occurred to me.

Left – green on left side and top. Right – addition of purple on bottom. Bottom – green on left and right sides and bottom, thin stripe of lighter green on right, purple on top.

Wishing all of you a great start to 2019. I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.


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My Work In 2018

If the proof is in the pudding, then my quilt pudding reflects my love of color. In 2018 improv continued to be my default way to start a piece, though three pieces – Rococo, Sunset on Main, and Ohio-Erie Canal – were planned from sketches. While I bought fabric, I focused on my scraps and cloth I had changed in some way with dye, paint, print, etc.

When I begin my design with fabric, color usually dominates, and any “meaning” evolves with the piece. In past years I tried to create work with meaning. This year I just let whim take over, especially when I didn’t have set prompts to respond to.

I think all my work for the year is above, but I may have missed some. I didn’t include quilts I’ve reworked, nor ones that aren’t yet finished. If you click on one of the photos you’ll be able to see a slideshow of all of them.

Three, possibly four, of my 2018 quilts are based on patterns and/or templates developed by others. For “Church Windows” I actually read the directions. The rest I put together based on my best guess. Three were for an Ohio SAQA bullseye quilt challenge. One, “Siriusly,” was for a dog challenge. The Ohio-Erie Canal piece was for a map quilt challenge. That leaves about eleven pieces I dreamed up for no particular reason. Sometimes my fabric bits said, hey, let’s play.

It’s always interesting to see which of my pieces appeal to others, and which are my favorites. Often, they differ. The process of making a piece certainly influences my fondness for it. I enjoyed making “Sur La Table,” “All Decked Out,” and “Bullseye Bubbles.” I was frustrated while making “Ohio-Erie Canal” and “All Fly Away.” The former challenged me to integrate historical information with an aesthetically pleasing design. I learned a lot more history than is usual with a quilt. The latter showed me that decisions I thought were right in design terms weren’t. I’m holding onto it as a lesson in humble pie. In fact, I don’t think the photo shows the completed quilt, and I can’t find one anywhere. (Update: I found the piece and photographed it last night. I did improve it a bit but it still needs work and I don’t think it’s worth it.)

All Fly Away

Of course I made lots of custom fabric, especially on non-woven Easy Pattern material. I’ve developed a fondness for stencils and have more than doubled my stencil collection. Dyeing has taken a back seat to painting as it is physically more demanding and just plain messy. One fun way to avoid work play is to add more layers to previous surface design experiments.

Because of my aging joints I steered away from complex piecing and fancy (as if!) FMQ. It’s a bit painful to do fiddly work and I get frustrated when complex mechanics just don’t work with clumsy fingers. I tried to build complexity through my fabric choices. When I used small pieces they usually had been cut several years ago. Thanks, Bonnie Hunter.

Overall, in 2018 I consolidated my skills but made no breakthrough pieces. In part, that’s because I let go of any notion of cutting edge work and focused on making in ways I enjoyed.

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2018 – It Seems We Just Got Started

In five more days 2018 will be no more. It’s time for me to reckon with what I’ve done, and what I will move forward to 2019.

Rather than tally up the number of quilts I’ve made I want to review goals I had set myself, and talk about the directions my work has taken.

Here’s what I said I hoped to accomplish in 2018:

For 2018 I want to work more with photographs, and will be taking an online course in using Photoshop Elements.

I did indeed take the first two units of the Pixeladies’ Photoshop online course, and learned tons. Alas, I’ve forgotten much of it already, but have found it so worthwhile in editing photos of my work and prepping photos for printing on fabric. I hope to complete a quilt in 2019, made with photos I took.

I also took Kyric Kinard’s Abstract-a-licious online course and came away with a few possible quilt designs. I took no in-person classes this year, probably because nothing offered locally or regionally appealed.

In surface design, I want to play with gelli plate monoprinting and cyanotype printing.

The monoprinting never happened, though the cyanotype printing did, using inherited crocheted bits. I played around with spray paint to make prints of placemats on pattern eze, and experimented with making spray paint from Derwent Inktense blocks.

I plan to spend more time looking at art in general, rather than confine myself to quilted art. … My local art museum offered a year’s free membership, which I signed up for, so maybe trips there will spark ideas.

I ended up buying membership in my local museum and enjoyed two intense trips there with family and friends. I took in the Yayoi Kusama immersive exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

I need to find new homes for my work.

A cousin was happy to take many of my quilts off my hands. She’ll distribute them to interested family members. It turned out she likes modern quilting. Who knew?

I’d like to exhibit more in non-quilt show venues. … I have to decide if I want to take on the organization of an exhibit for area art quilters, or even if there’s interest in such exhibits.

I was thrilled to have my work accepted in an all media local art show, and even more thrilled to win first place. I had less success with other juried shows I entered, but did have pieces juried into the Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza and the Pacific International Quilt Festival.

I learned that a local art organization is interested in putting on an art quilt exhibit, but it’s still just a twinkle in the director’s eye. I have my fingers crossed.

Rather make this post even longer, I’ll postpone discussion of what I made and the directions I took in my work to a future post a few days from now.

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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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Artistic Endeavors – Advice

There’s no shortage of advice about being an artist. All jesting comments such as “get a day job” aside, I’ve found a few sites helpful as I get up the nerve to call myself an artist.

Jerry Saltz has written a comprehensive article that contains 33 helpful specifics.

Sherry Camhy’s article on becoming an artist focuses on getting your work exhibited. The article addresses art in general, but the advice more than applies to fabric art.

Recent Against The Sky exhibit at Summit ArtSpace, Akron, Ohio

Sue Bleiweiss wrote about five qualities of successful artists.  When I read the following I felt she was inside my head: “One of the most useless black holes in the art making process is to compare yourself or spend time evaluating your work and what you do in relation to someone else.”

One oft repeated advice is to steal learn from the best. And that brings me to art commentary and history. It seems odd to hear people talk about art with no visuals, but that hasn’t stopped several art podcasts from springing into life. Here’s a list to get you started. Production values vary, and some presenters sound as if their day jobs are testing pot infused cookies for the Colorado market.

Speaking of art history, if you want an enhanced Vermeer collection experience, check out Google’s Art Camera.
“Pocket Gallery, a brand new feature on the Google Arts & Culture app, uses augmented reality, so you can pull out your phone and step into a virtual exhibition space to see all 36 [of Vermeer’s paintings, including . . . the famous “Girl with a Pearl Earring”] hung life size and perfectly lit. As you step closer, you’ll see each painting in stunning detail and can learn more about each piece.” 

The Lacemaker *oil on canvas *24,5 × 21 cm *signed t.r.: I Meer *1670-1671

While looking at art is delightful, it doesn’t replace the truth of the most basic advice – practice, practice, practice.

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