Tag Archives: art quilts

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.


Filed under Books

Finishes in September

Amid a lot of local travel I managed to finish three serious quilts, including hanging sleeves. I don’t count pillows, table runners and the like as serious work, though they can take more time than I expect.

In order of completion, “Wayside Weeds” and “Nebula” preceded “Redlined.” I had to laugh at how different these three pieces are from each other. So much for developing a coherent voice. I’ll show them so you can see what I mean.

“Wayside Weeds” is based on prints I made using Thermofax screens. I constructed dividers with tubes of handpainted fabric attached to other painted/dyed fabric plus the last bit of McKenna Ryan fabric I had, and sewed the dividers between the printed sections. I had fun playing with different lengths.

“Redlined” is an abstract design I made based on a photograph of a sideboard. After I added the red fabric I decided it reminded me of a real estate map that showed redlined areas, the poorer neighborhoods where mortgages are considered risky and are difficult to obtain. I also used red thread in the quilting. It’s made with commercial fabric and finished with a single fold binding.

“Nebula” is a mashup of an art quilt group UFO challenge and scraps left over from theatrical costumes. I used photos of several nebula as inspiration. Thank you NASA. The black mottled background is from the challenge. Most of the sheer and sparkly bits are from costumes. I added some black sheers from my stash. All the fabric piece edges are raw. Many of the pieces are held in place with Misty Fuse with stitching on top. I sewed on a skewed border and faced it. In the right light it twinkles.

As for those other projects, I made a table runner from old left over blocks as a hostess gift for my husband to give to his landlady in Mexico. He’s in Puebla doing an intensive Spanish course. Luckily, the recent earthquake didn’t affect him.

While I still have tops to quilt, I’ve cleared out many of my incomplete projects. I anticipate a dearth of finishes for a few months as I work on a large (for me) piece that will use many of my blue and blue/green fabrics


Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects

Where Old and New Met

The recent Mutton Hill quilt show served up both art quilts and heirloom quilts and coverlets. First, the old.

The Summit County Historical Society featured its collection of early to mid nineteenth century woven coverlets as well as quilts.

The show had about 30 art quilts entered. Here are the ribbon winners, in order of placement from first to third. The first place winner was also Best of Show.




There were six honorable mentions, four of which are shown below:





My Torii Traces also won an Honorable Mention, as did a quilt called Indian Summer by Cyndi Dininger, which I somehow missed in my photo session. In the interests of completeness, here’s Torii Traces at another venue. Lighting was dim where it was hung at the Mutton Hill show.

Torii Traces Final





Filed under Art quilts, Quilt Shows

Another Perspective on Art Quilts

Quite by chance I came across the text of a talk Jane Dunnewold gave in 2011 at the Form/Not Function art quilt exhibit. I was looking for examples of work by Ellen Oppenheimer and followed a Google images link to Jane’s now inactive blog.

2011 was the year I decided to attempt original designs and leave the harbor of quilt patterns and blocks. I began by sewing together scraps left from a paper piecing project and composing them into a design. I was reading Jean Wells’ book, Intuitive Color & Design, at the time.

Nothing Gold Can StayBecause making this quilt gave me such joy I decided to continue on the art quilt path. The joy came from the thrill of making it up as I went.

But, back to Jane. She came up with six categories in which to group art quilts which I think stand up well. I urge you to read this if you read no other part of her talk.

She points out that art quilting is dominated by women and has evolved its own organizations and venues for shows. Then she asks, “Have we created a textile ghetto by being willing to develop our own venues?” She also notes that a male quilter said men get involved in an area when there’s money in it. Cynical, yes; true, possibly.

I spent some time studying the following statement Jane makes:
“And what about the charge that art quilters don’t take critical analysis seriously? There is a palpable tension between the desire to welcome newcomers/beginners non-judgmentally and the reality of the importance of refining standards of excellence, so that collectors will take art quilts seriously.”

I find myself back to the same questions I raised in my post about is it art? I don’t think anyone changed his/her mind after reading that, but it’s reassuring to know I’m not the only one with such thoughts.

I believe that if you want to gain mastery of any artistic medium you need to hear informed opinions of your works’ strengths and weaknesses and work to enhance the former and address the latter. I’m part of an art quilt critique group that has become more show and tell than critiquing, in part due to the very different skill levels of the participants.

Here some of the responses to Jane’s post that made me think. I don’t know if I agree with the comments but they echo perspectives I struggle with:

-I really welcome your comments because at last I am hearing things that are critically analyzing the issues. Especially whether art quilters are willing to enter the fine art mainstream using fine art parameters. Like the basics of good composition, knowledge of the elements and principles of art and making reference to the history of art in general. [emphasis added by me] It seems we need to embrace all aspects of art and be willing to abandon some of the traditional formats and techniques in order to be truly creative with this medium.

-I continue to be put off by the plethora of articles and books on the market which approach art quilting as if it were merely a trendy, ‘quick and easy’ craft project, step-by-stepping the art form into a kind of homogenized eye candy. I came to this discipline from a painting/print making background. Certainly there have always been similarly simplistic ‘how-to’ publications about those media but they don’t irk me like the art quilt articles – not sure why. Probably has to do with my fears that my standing as a professional artist is compromised by association with the concept in the banner of many articles “you don’t have to know how to draw/be an artist to make this” (art quilts).
Lack of critical standards and guidelines for what constitutes original vs. derivative work make me squeamish about identifying myself as an art quilter; I feel less limited with the identity ‘fiber artist’, and terming the work I make mixed media textiles.

-I think every media will have its large pool of neophytes and a few masters. Perhaps it’s more a product of our predominantly female mind-set in this genre that we want to see ALL our sisters regarded as Masters and are loath to admit that any one of us, let alone the majority, are really more like amateurs.

You have identified that many art quilters do not have an art education. I suspect that this is why we are not taking the art world by storm — the majority have not been trained to see museums and galleries as venues to actively seek out. We grew up in, and are afraid to leave, the comfort of the quilt-specific womb we’ve created. [emphasis added by me] You’ve also pointed out that a good many of those who do have an art education, have garnered a degree of recognition in the greater art world. I propose that the proportion of those who try and succeed is similar to the ratio in other media. We are just so close (via forums like QuiltArt, SAQA, and our self created venues) that we miss their entrees into the art world because we are too focused on the larger numbers who stay close to home.

Neither Jane nor I (most assuredly not I) have the answers, but I’ll be mulling these issues as I strive to create art that can take its place in the larger art world.




Filed under Art quilts, Commentary

A Surprise Art Exhibit

Early in December I got a call from a friend about putting my work in an upcoming clay and fiber art exhibit in need of entries. And could I bring my pieces that day before 6 p.m. It was then about 3:30 in the afternoon.

One thing I have plenty of is quilts. One thing I have little of is quilts with hanging sleeves. I tend to sew them in for exhibits or for gifts, long after the quilts are made. So, I found two small quilts with hanging sleeves already on them and took them in for the Summit Artspace Thread & Mud exhibit by Artists of Rubber City.

The exhibit actually looks much nicer than I expected, with that short notice. I suspect it simply wasn’t well publicized. Certainly I hadn’t heard about it, even though I’m on the Artspace’s mailing list.

ThreadandMudShow1Here are my entries: (At The) Feet of Klee (center) and The Big Bang (right.) The latter is well lit so all the metallic threads I used glitter. Unfortunately, it’s not a photogenic quilt. Susan McClory’s Primary Waves is on the left.

Here are some other pieces in the show.

ThreadandMudShow5Slant by Jessica PinskyThreadandMudShow4Untitled #1 and #2 by Jamie SuvakThreadandMudShow63—2–1– by Susan McCloryThreadandMudShow7An Embroidery of Wishful Thinking by Shirley Ende-Saxe

I wanted to have more showings of my work this year, which is why I said why not when this show came along. If I had had more time I would have chosen different quilts, which should be a lesson to me. Always sew a hanging sleeve on your work when it’s done.


Filed under Art quilts, Quilt Shows

In The Eye Of The Beholder

Avoidance of difficult projects spurs me to finish older tops. I can’t figure out how to quilt Torii so I got Phosphenes quilted. The process went much faster than I had anticipated, which was a pleasant surprise. I think once I made peace with the decision to use a walking foot rather than free motion quilting my anxiety level plummeted.

PhosphenesAs I wrote earlier, I had an oddball notion to make a quilt of what you see when you rub your eyes hard. Those shooting bits of color and sparks are called phosphenes, so why should I avoid the obvious title.

I pieced scraps for the diagonal color strips and book-ended a navy ombre fabric for the fade out effect. The random hand stitches were done with Valdani 12 weight perle cotton. I don’t care that it’s expensive; it’s great stuff. After I fused fleece in strips on the back of the navy fabric for extra puffiness I did the hand stitching, then I layered the batting and backing.

I used Superior smoke colored invisible thread for much of the machine quilting, and Sulky metallic thread for zing. First I tried some Wonderfil metallic thread I had, but it continued to give me grief – breakages, catching in the tension discs – despite various adjustments. Unfortunately, I bought a four pack of the miserable stuff. I’ve found Madeira and Sulky metallic thread to be much easier to work with.

Phosphenes detail 1I decided to use a facing for the edge finish.  Now I’m toying with some beading to add pops of sparkle in the hand stitched areas.  I’ll try beads from my limited supply and see if any will add enough to this quilt to be worth the hassle of sewing them on.

Phosphenes back



Filed under Art quilts, In Process

The Possibilities of Purple

I’ve bought and been given bits of purple fabric that I think would make a fabulous small quilt when combined with sequined fabric left over from a theater costume.

What to use for inspiration? I’ve been looking at photos of fractals.  Probably the best known are Mandelbrot Sets.  According to Wolfram MathWorld:

“A fractal is an object or quantity that displays self-similarity, in a somewhat technical sense, on all scales. The object need not exhibit exactly the same structure at all scales, but the same “type” of structures must appear on all scales.”

MetalBig algorithm generated

image_fractalsI thought I could use the paisley sequin shapes as a repeating pattern along a curve. That’s as far as I’ve gotten, but I envision a lot of curved piecing or applique.

If you’ve never explored fractal images, check out the fractal of the day at Sprott’s Fractal Gallery. You can also find enhanced fractal images for computer screen wallpaper through a search engine.


Filed under Art quilts, In Process, Inspiration