African Textiles Today

Chris Spring’s book “African Textiles Today” was a mind expanding read for me. First, the photos are gorgeous; second, there’s enough text to elucidate the photos without overwhelming you; and third, it includes a section on textiles as integral elements of African photography. As I came to understand, in Africa textiles communicate many messages, some literal. Below I’ve shown the textile first, then the author’s annotation about it. Since I photographed them from the book, the curve of the pages distorts the images.

Often a kanga (a piece of cloth) will have words printed on it. My favorite is this work from Tanzania that says “The mangos are ready.” Apparently this is an invitation from wife to husband to help himself.

It was a tough decision, but my favorite textile in the book is one created in Egypt as a tent hanging.

I don’t want to lose sight of how all the textiles are created, so here is one being made.

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I Use Cute Fabric

My seemingly bottomless trove of cut squares was useful for creating a baby coverlet for our newest impending family member. Since I didn’t know the baby’s sex when I started, I opted for the always safe yellow and green for my palette.

Through a fabric donation I acquired pretty pastel strips that I added to my mix. The squares look almost too diverse, but the solid yellows and green pull them together.

To make the blanket more supple I tied the top to flannel and left out batting.

That green fabric sure photographs differently at night.

Oh right, the cute fabric. I bought this flannel and wrapped it to the front to bind the edges.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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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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A Touch of Frost

No, the weather in northeast Ohio isn’t that bad, though we did have snow last Sunday. I’m referring to Robert Frost, the poet. I named my latest piece after a line of his from Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. “The woods are lovely, dark and deep” strikes me as the perfect articulation of my design.

33 by 38 inches

Since I last wrote about this piece I’ve quilted it in gentle curves to suggest tree bark, and faced the edges. I also frayed the raw edges of the bias strips.

Here are some details.

I used a tree stencil, a cotton lace curtain, spray Marabu paints, commercial and hand dyed cottons, linens, edited photos I took, bias tape, and Pellon Easy Pattern. I knew I’d find a use for my experiments someday.

Here’s hoping I won’t be stopping by woods on a snowy evening for several months, but will enjoy the emergence of new leaves instead.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Books Beside My Bed

When I can’t get to exhibits, shows, or talks I like to refresh my design sense with books that feature artists. Right now I have three in rotation by my bed: “Art Quilts Unfolding: 50 Years of Innovation,” “Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern,” and “Quilt Artistry: Inspired Designs From The East.” The first two are recent publications, while the last is from 2002.

I’m about halfway through “Art Quilts Unfolding,” a large (about 350 pages) SAQA publication that aims to celebrate the emergence of the art quilt movement from the 1960s on. The growth in each decade is described, individual artists representative of that decade are interviewed, and there’s a gallery of representative work. The sequestering by decade falls apart somewhat in the sections that feature individual artists as examples of their work is shown over the decades. I’m sure it’s no surprise that most of the work is by SAQA members. I’m finding the interviews with individual artists to be superficial, more like magazine profiles. I would prefer a discussion of the artist’s thinking for a specific quilt. That said, the diversity of artistic visions is staggering. I appreciate the effort to include artists from outside the U.S.

Jean Laury, “Tom’s Quilt”

The Georgia O’Keeffe book focuses on how she dressed herself and her homes, and is lavishly illustrated. It goes with the current museum exhibit of the same name, but stands very much on its own. So far I’ve paged through to gawk at the photos, but have made little inroads on the text. I did learn that she sewed many of her early clothes, and was a meticulous seamstress. O’Keeffe had a knack for posing effectively, possibly due to lessons learned from her husband, the photographer Alfred Steiglitz. Like the SAQA book, it is long (320 pages) and heavy.

Wrap dress from the 1960-70s. O’Keeffe had several of these.

O’Keeffe in New Mexico wearing Calder pin

My third book is by Yoshiko Jinzenji, a Japanese quilt artist who I learned about recently. She began quilting upon seeing Mennonite quilts when she lived in Toronto, expanded her interests to Indonesian textiles, and came full circle with the textiles of her native Japan. Her process begins with dyeing thread, making the cloth, then sewing and quilting it. Her aesthetic is spare and minimalist, and she combines synthetic fabrics with natural dyes. She also combines hand sewing with longarm quilting. The quilt directions she gives are more like suggestions. I can’t see me ever making work like hers, imagine spending days boiling freshly cut bamboo, but it does me good to explore a different way. The staging of the photography is gorgeous.

I’d love to learn about design books that inspire you as I have access to most libraries in Ohio and know how to use my library card.

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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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Fiberlicious

Every other year northeast Ohio is treated to a Focus: Fiber show, co-sponsored by the Textile Arts Alliance (TAA) and the Kent State University Museum. Since 2019 is an “on” year, I joined other art quilters on a tour of the museum’s latest show.

As always, the word fiber encompasses a wide array of materials, as the photos below show. Before I forget, let me mention the artists’ reception for the show will be next Thursday, March 21, from 5 to 7 p.m., at the museum.

The works above are made of conventional materials – yarn, thread, cloth, wire. Others in the show venture further afield to electric cords and metal. As always with unconventional materials, I’m left wondering if a work was chosen for its differentness or its artistic merit. You can judge for yourself if you catch this exhibit, which is up until July 28, 2019.

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