Category Archives: Commentary

Next, Please

After many years of making quilts I find myself in a strange position. Right now I have only two unquilted tops, and one of those I may change, so that leaves just one. As for UFOs, none come to mind though maybe one or two small ones lurk hidden in the bottom of a drawer.

So I have no excuse not to get cracking on new designs. The time has come to work up all those drawings and inspirational photos I’ve saved. I’m starting with a photo of a puzzle by Rex Ray that I saved many years ago. A recent BluPrint class on bias tape applique by Latifah Saafir jogged my memory of that photo, and I decided to develop a mash up of that puzzle and bias tape.

Rex Ray Rallenta puzzle

First, I pulled together a pile of fabric possibilities because, for me, fabric almost always comes first. I wanted to use black and white prints for the curved shapes, with black bias tape edges, and backgrounds in bold solids.

Then, I developed a rough sketch from the Rex Ray puzzle and some rough dimensions for the blocks.

Next came practicing the bias tape technique. I had already signed up for a discounted trial of BluPrint so I could watch Latifah Saafir’s class on bias tape applique. Her technique seemed sensible so I tried it out on a sample block.

Let me note here that I dislike BluPrint as I’m constantly bombarded with ads that encourage me to purchase stuff from them, there’s no interaction possible with the instructors (you could chat with the instructors and fellow students on Craftsy, see this link about this), and the bias tape applique class isn’t listed as one of the “own forever” classes. I have an email in to BluPrint about that.

Latifaah has you begin stitching the bias tape on the inside edge using a zipper foot and moving your needle position. The cupping of the outer edge is supposed to happen. That gets fixed with lots of steam and ironing.
I’ve added an inner shape and more bias tape. I don’t like the shapes or the line you can see on the bias tape where the edges don’t quite meet. And let’s not talk about the fabrics. But that’s why you do a practice piece.

It seems I’m capable of using this technique and I think it has possibilities for my design, so all I need is yards of black bias tape and some shapes. Then, the fun of matching up my fabrics will begin.

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Filed under Art quilts, Commentary, In Process, Inspiration, Project Ideas

Missing Gwen

Not many quilt artists span the quilting world from traditional to modern and minimalist in their work. Gwen Marston did. She took her cues from the traditional folk art quilts she studied, but breathed new life into the form.

Two weeks before her death I looked at her book, “A Common Thread,” that shows over 60 quilts Gwen made and selected for this volume. It contains few words, just photo after photo of quilts made from 1976 to 2015. Here are my favorites.

So playful with the exuberant center panel and curved borders, and then the sawtooth edge
Love the casual placement of the berry clusters and the idiosyncratic roundness of the wreaths.
Those pops of turquoise and the one orange dagger!
Utterly simple, in fabrics I don’t like, yet there’s such movement in the strings.
This quilt captures stillness, and the hand quilting is sophisticated in its simplicity.

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Filed under Books, Commentary, Inspiration

Staying Relevant – Afghan War Rugs

I was shocked to see how current events have been incorporated in the ancient female rug weaving traditions of Afghanistan. Planes, tanks, guns, and helicopters show up as handwoven rug motifs. I gather this style began during the Soviet invasion, and continues today. I’m dismayed to contemplate that these might be the longest lasting artifacts of the U.S. presence in that country.

There’s lots more information at warrug.com, including links to specific motifs and exhibits of these rugs.

Bus with tanks and rockets

Grenade in middle

Helicopters, tanks, bullets, and Kalashnakovs

Tanks and cars

Weapon inventory

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Filed under Commentary

The Square Deal Falls Apart

I think the term square deal gained popularity thanks to Teddy Roosevelt who said, ” When I say that I am for the square deal, I mean not merely that I stand for fair play under the present rules of the game, but that I stand for having those rules changed so as to work for a more substantial equality of opportunity and of reward for equally good service.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Square_Deal

The words fair, honest, just, and equitable are used in many definitions of the term. However, my square deal began with cut squares of leftover fabric, ranging in size from 1.5 to 2.5 inches. I have bags of them, thanks to Bonnie Hunter’s scrap system, and I felt a need to put them to use.

So, I started sewing squares together, mostly into nine patches. Then I mashed those combinations together, filling in with strips where edges didn’t meet, or whacking off bits that hung over the edge.

To calm the chaos I divided the squares into four sections, separated by striped strips, and added a golden striped section beside each of the sections. That looked too tame.

I decided to deconstruct the connected squares and have them escape into the golden section. Just one or two looked lonely.

After consultation with an art quilt group I created many escapees, and padded them with batting. All the edges were turned under and stuck down with starch. I went through many arrangements of the squares, including squared up and crooked. Before I made my final choice I quilted the piece with a grid of different colors.

Crooked won out as I thought that better suited the idea of seams coming apart and squares flying off.

My quilt’s colors are bright and cheerful, yet I fear the outlook for the square deal in our society isn’t so optimistic. Would that our current president proposed a program like Teddy’s.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under Commentary, Completed Projects

Two Come Home, Another Goes Out

Forgive me if I treat my quilts as my children. I like to send them out into the world, to be viewed (and enjoyed I hope) by others. Last week “In The Clouds” came back to me after three years on tour with SAQA’s “Concrete & Grassland” exhibit.

“In The Clouds” is hanging on the far left at the Festival of Quilts in England.

In The Clouds

It traveled to China, Ireland, and England with the exhibit. It’s too bad I couldn’t go with it.

Another work that came home this week was “Sur La Table” which was in a regional art show. It was one of two fiber works in the show. The rest were paintings, prints, photographs and 3D works.

“Rococo” is the latest work I sent out. It will be exhibited at the Mid-Atlantic Festival of Quilts in Hampton, Virginia, from February 28 to March 3. I’ll have it back by mid-March, a mere month after I mailed it.

Why do I exhibit my work? If I spend lots of time designing, making and finishing a piece that I think turns out well I enjoy the ego boost (I’m being honest here) of having it chosen for public display. Many of my pieces I wouldn’t consider submitting. They’re too idiosyncratic, derivative, or off in some way. Of course, pieces I love others don’t; and pieces I shrug at others think are great. I’m still trying to get “Mean Streets” shown somewhere.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under Commentary, Completed Projects, Exhibits

Immersive Art

The typical art museum or gallery experience involves walking the perimeter of a room, looking at 2D objects on the walls. Occasionally, there may be a 3D piece, placed so you can walk around it. But what if you were totally surrounded by and immersed in the art and had to wend a path through it?

In the past few months I’ve found a few such art works online. Some have videos that show how the installations were created. They gave a hint at what it must be like to experience the installations.

Talking Continents” by Jaume Plensa started me on this path. His upcoming exhibition at the Telfair Museum in Savannah, Georgia, includes 19 stainless-steel orbs, each composed of die-cut letters and symbols from nine languages, which suspend from the ceiling to form bulging clouds topped with figures. The letters and symbols are arranged in no particular order for symbolic reasons.

Then I found Antony Gormley’s “Domain Field.” This multi-piece work consists of 287 sculptures in its total form. Volunteers aged from two to eighty-five years were molded in plaster by teams of specially trained staff. These molds were then used to construct the individual sculptures by welding the steel elements together inside each mold. Each piece was constructed from stainless steel bars in eight different lengths. Google Arts and Culture has a slide show of the work’s development.

In contrast to metal sculpture, red thread is the medium used by Japanese artist Chihara Shiota. Her 2018 London, England, exhibit, “Me Somewhere Else” filled a large room with crisscrossed strands of red yarn suspended from the ceiling, forming sacs and hanging strings that rise from a pair of feet. You can get a feel for the size of the installation in this video.

The video that accompanies Shiota’s work, “Uncertain Journey” shows a bit of the construction process, that takes many people and lots of warehouse type lifts. After the exhibit ends, the string is cut, and the artist says it now exists in the memories of people who saw it.

I have mixed feelings about such art, having been raised with the idea that “art belongs on a wall to be gazed at from a distance.” The only immersive installation I’ve been in was Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors, and even there you’re viewing the work from a fixed viewpoint. Perhaps outdoor sculpture gardens give such an immersive effect. The Garden of Cosmic Speculation near Dumfries, Scotland, comes close to a controlled integration of garden and sculpture. Too bad it’s open only one day a year.

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Filed under Commentary, Exhibits

Why Didn’t I Think Of That

The gullibility of sophisticates in NYC never ceases to amaze me. The NY Times‘ Sunday Styles Section had a writeup about Naomi Mishkin, an artist and “budding fashion designer whose work frequently takes everyday objects and subverts them with a clever, feminist-skewed twist.” One of her pieces “took a traditional dress form and remodeled it after her own torso, complete with a slight paunch and sagging shoulders.” Gosh, it turns out my grandmother had art in her sewing room.

My favorite creations by Ms Miskin are a scarf made of fabric that looks like a cutting mat, and a white cotton shirt with an iron burn scorched on its front. That’s right, the shirt, called Bad Wife Shirt, is scorched with a vintage British iron. The limited edition shirt can be yours for a mere $180. That’s wrong on so many levels, starting with Bad Wife.

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Filed under Commentary