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Inspiring Quilting: Elly's blog to boost your creative IQ

Rooftop Renderings

July 30th, 2018

A1

Using patterns traced from my blown-up photo [see previous two posts], I chose
colors fairly reminiscent of the scene. Fabric pieces were backed with fusible web, and adhered to a dark brown fabric. In a freer mood/mode of working, I repeated the design with some bolder, more contemporary choices of fabric, more to my liking.

B1

I cut out the rooftop silhouette leaving a slim margin showing, and then I was ready to audition some skies and windowpanes. Aimed to jazz up my milder rendering:

A2

A3

A4

A5

And then, I dressed/addressed my wilder version…

B2

 

B3

B4

Gonna sleep on these before committing. Always thrilled to get YOUR reactions…What’s working from your point of view?

5 Responses to “Rooftop Renderings”

  1. I love A-3 and B-3 – the sky making a big bold statement!

  2. Donna Laing says:

    I love A1 and A5. Beautiful.

  3. Catherine says:

    A2 and B4

  4. Karyn Levie says:

    Love A-3,A-5, B-3

  5. Eleanor says:

    Grateful to have your perceptive outlooks! I was ready to do the deep blue A and strong fuchsia B dot sky backgrounds, for a cohesive, paired diptych. But–based heavily on Cathy Perlmutter’s comment, I now think it far better to follow the potential strength of each assemblage, and to depart further from reality for the sake of visual texture, and dare I say it, art.

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Rooftop in Riga

July 26th, 2018

You voted, so I devoted myself to working from this photo, the view around 9:30 p.m. outside our apartment in Riga’s Old Town. First, I gotta get my left brain in gear. Yup, at this point, I’ll try to stay true to the photo…And then, we’ll see what happens…

To make a pattern, I print the photo full page, first in color, then in black and white.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I cut out the main area of design. Go over the lines in pencil. Blow up each quadrant 400% and tape the pieces together.

I’ll letter each shape, and cut out a duplicate shape, for a template. Tonight I’ll go through my stash of fabrics and pick my palette…Stay tuned!

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Cityscapes!

July 24th, 2018

Just returned from a trip to Prague (Czech Republic), Riga (Latvia), Tallin (Estonia), and Helsinki (Finland). Yes, the husband and our son, who joined us, like to see it all, do it all, czech it all off. I found the old cities, pattern-play of rooftops, and angled light and shadows well past 9 p.m. captivating. Here are the photos, city by city, that may inspire quilt art to come!

Prague:

A.

Riga, out our apartment window, with a close-up (only slightly photo-edited!) as the sun set:

B.

C.

D.

E.

F.

Tallin:

G.

H.

I.

Helsinki:

J.

K.

L.

Which photo, A-L, should I choose for my next composition? If you vote, I’ll start building!

10 Responses to “Cityscapes!”

  1. Carl Harrington says:

    C or D

  2. Kristi Napoleon says:

    C

  3. Hard to choose. But I still liked G or L

  4. Heidi says:

    Looks like a great trip. C for quilt art, but B for a photo that commands attention.

  5. I love B (angels coming), C (peaceful, perfect still life) and L(very unusual). I can’t choose just one!

  6. Liz says:

    I vote for C. It has a lot of interesting light and great he possibly of frames within frames.

  7. Marty Miner says:

    No doubt about it “C”, first choice.
    “L”, second choice.

  8. livingston says:

    I like B, C, D and F. and F would be my first choice.

  9. Roxane says:

    Can’t wait to hear about your trip!

    I like C best with D as a pretty close second

  10. Vivian says:

    C with L next

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I Fell for Collage

June 8th, 2018

Took a class with Deborah Fell from Monday to Friday last week at Quilt & Surface Design Symposium (QSDS) at the Columbus College of Art and Design. It was divine. A return to a community of artists who get off on fabric, who are passionate about purposeful creativity, generous in sharing what they know and what they have in their stash.

Deborah calls this 5-day class “Three Sisters”–Raw edge applique, foundation piecing (which isn’t piecing at all, it’s collage on a foundation fabric), and mark-making, i.e., slow, hand-stitching or quilting. My goals were to get away from the large opus magna I’ve been laboring over, and free myself up with a less is more approach. I also sought freedom from high concept, but aspired to put ambiguity into my work, so viewers might enjoy interpreting my work as they wish.

Above was my board by the end of the day Monday. Below, that’s me showing my work on Friday…as you may be able to tell, I had worked on each “textile sketch” with varying degrees of success.

No matter. I stretched, I grew, I stayed up late working in the classroom, I met my goals…some of the time, at least. Oh, and I had so much fun, with the best broads, who gave me support, interesting scraps, the loan of key tools, and unbelievably rewarding friendship, sharing their life and art stories.

Here are some of the pearls of wisdom Deborah Fell dispensed:

Embrace imperfiction.

I can quilt 10 stitches to the inch, but I don’t want to.

I was normal once. I didn’t like it.

Doubt is part of the creative process.

Think outside the block.

Plus, favorite quotes she included:

Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.–Pablo Picasso

Textiles have been a form of art, communication, survival, seduction, spirituality, expression, and community throughout history for all humankind on Planet Earth. — Elaine Lipson

Now for some close-ups of my work. Each one is still in process, and most vary from 15″-20″ on the longest side:

  

Hope to complete them all this summer, in among more pressing demands. Criticism always welcome!

 

 

 

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From Painting to Quilting, and Black

April 3rd, 2018

Back home in the bosom of my family for the Passover seder, I took the opportunity to see an art quilt exhibition at the Baltimore Museum of Art that’s been getting a lot of great press, which it richly deserves. It’s comprised of new work by Stephen Towns, trained as a painter, self-taught to quilt — for this body of work in particular. BTW, you can see it in the cloth if you get to the BMA before Sept. 2.

The piece above and below, titled “Birth of a Nation,” is the star of the show. A black mammy, tenderly suckling a white baby against the backdrop of an American flag of 1777, puts slavery and white supremacy in tension with each other. A coffee and tea-dyed dress, patched with toile prints and barely clearing the bed of dirt below the quilt evokes the humble status of the Madonna-like figure.

Surrounding this installation are seven smaller story quilts; whether portrait or landscape orientation, each is about a yard along its longest edges. These works depict key moments in the life of Nat Turner’s life and the rebellion he led against slavery in 1831. My favorite one featured another mother and child: Under the cover of night, when plantation work was done, Nat Turner’s mother teaches her young son to read, or schools him in gospel. The composition proves Mr. Towns’ incomparable talent as a portrait painter…just as the materials and techniques give away his seat-of-the-pants sewing and quilting skills. Fabrics are from an old stash (perhaps his mother’s?): those of us sewing and quilting in the ’60s, and ’70s will recognize the calicos, ginghams, and synthetics, and that proud feeling when you think to add translucent tulle and sparkly beads to skies, buttons to clothing.

Titled, “Special Child,” this piece is the first in the cycle, which all show what how the facts known about Nat Turner coalesced into myth and icon: slave, keenly intelligent child, preacher man, leader of an effective slave rebellion. It’s refreshing to have the story, told so often by whites such as William Styron (The Confessions of Nat Turner), reclaimed by an African-American living and working in the Black Lives Matter era.

Stephen Towns assesses his “framed” portraits of Nat Turner and his wife, Cherry Turner, which accompany the exhibit.

Stars, moons, or suns (plus the occasional butterfly) play a role in each work of art, connecting people with the universe, and with the spirit as creator. Celestial bodies stand in as haloes, symbolizing sainthood or martyrdom. And is the red scroll below an ecclesiastical stole, or a symbol of the bloodshed already committed and also up ahead?

In each work of another series of paintings, the halo is a blue moon behind an enslaved rebel leader who has been caught. A hangman’s noose and a fist figure prominently. Click here to read what happened with these intensely powerful, provocative portraits.

On a lighter note, quilters viewing this blog post may want to look back at the story quilts and note the minimal free-motion quilting in thread that matches the fabrics flattens the backgrounds, so they recede. In contrast, large stitches that most seasoned quilters would decry as “toe-hookers” become strong design lines in Towns’s narratives. Not only do they define important features, they add naivete, the mark of the hand.

As an art-lover, I have so much respect for Towns’s cohesive works within series, for his conceptual underpinnings and iconography–sun, moon, stars, haloes, butterflies, and the gold-leaf that recalls the elaborate frames on medieval religious art (as in the “framing” on Nat and Cherry Turner’s likenesses). The piece below is from yet another series. Each work depicts a child who experienced slavery, and each work bears a title from the Lord’s Prayer.

Riveting. Heart-rending.

And yet one detail resonates most for me as a quilter. Can you guess what that is?

 

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Heart-pounding inspiration, biennially

March 19th, 2018

What a privilege and thrill, every other year, to see the Art Quilt Elements show at the Wayne Art Center.

An even bigger adrenaline rush to be there at the Artists’ Reception, to be able to catch up with many friends and make new connections. To hear the makers talk about their work, is it just coincidence how many works are about the ability or inability to make connections in our country, and in our world?

Transfusion #3, by Catherine W. Smith: Lines of red fabric like a blood transfusion that flows from one body to another.

Seeking A Common Thread, by Karen A. Brown. Sharp pointed forms are filled with loud and destructive words and actions, such as pain, anger, poverty, fear…

Structurally Unsound, by Diane Savona. Assembled from Salvation Army jackets, sweaters, and the clothes of workers, and embedded with construction tools. Expresses a deep concern for our rich, powerful country that does not have the political will to maintain our roads, bridges, and railroads that allow us to connect.

Juxtaposition 1: Crossing Lines, by Karen Schulz. We are taught not to divide our art in half, but Karen achieves a dialogue, one half with the other, and strikes a balance.

Conversation, by Marti Plager. “Is it possible for opposing sides to have a conversation? Is it wishful thinking on my part that the conversation can be a civil one?

This poorly photographed collection of beautiful works and their beautiful makers pushes me to research and save up for a better camera. I only hope it pushes you to get to the Wayne Art Center, in Wayne PA, by April 28, to see these powerful pieces in the cloth!

One Response to “Heart-pounding inspiration, biennially”

  1. Beautiful and meaningful art, Eleanor… really appreciate your shared photos and they look geat actually! Love the fact that I feel as if I am there, hearing the voices and drinking in the colour, design savvy and the dynamic messages. There right beside you…
    Bethany

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Topsy-Turvy

March 13th, 2018

Do you remember topsy-turvy dolls? A bit like a Pushmepullyou from the story of Dr. Dolittle.

Do little, however, is rarely my modus operandi…quite the opposite, I tend to go overboard. So when–a long time ago, I took a class from one of the top dollmakers in the world, Elinor Peace Bailey, I didn’t make a doll from one of her kits. I didn’t make a doll…I made a topsy turvy doll. Here’s the basic body:

Here’s the Sun’s sun-dress, made today from a pillowcase that my grandmother had, and the Moon’s nightshirt:

   

Takes me back to my girlhood. I never played with dolls, but I made dolls and made costumes for them.

Always nice to have a reason to finish a project. This topsy turvy doll is headed–pun intended–to a baby who is the sun, moon, and stars to her family. Only hope the dog doesn’t chew it up before she can enjoy it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Responses to “Topsy-Turvy”

  1. HelenMarie says:

    Your works are so full of the joy of life, you inspire me to keep on keeping on! Btw I have two tops turvy dolls but not the one from my childhood which was black and white! My cousin had one that was wide eyed at one end and sleepy eyed at the other. The current ones which I bought when our grandgirls were very young (now 18 and 23) are grandma and the wolf at one end and red riding hood at the other, and goldilocks and the three bears!

  2. I should know that you, being such a fabulous drama queen, would have these storybook characters, Helen Marie!

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Well Past Midnight

February 26th, 2018

A class experiment at a Quilt Surface Design Symposium back in 2006: Cynthia Corbin assigned us to make and remake what she calls a black fabric sketch–a unique patchwork block from a sketch of lines. As happens in these intensive classes, I joined my classmates staying up quite late one night, making up a patchwork block in many different color and pattern iterations. Finally, I mutinied, and created the patchwork all in black fabric, and opted to show the side where the seam allowances are exposed. Soon after, I “sketched” on the piece, using tan thread to free-motion-stitch a figure. Years later, I embellished the “drawing” with embroidery.

Another sample stuck away in a drawer—a paint-dabbled moon. And when the Studio Art Quilters Association announced a call for entry: From Dusk to Dawn, I decided to combine these UFO’s (unfinished objects) and rise to the challenge. I slapped lots of different fabrics from my overflowing stash up on my design wall, trying for a pleasing, William Morris-style feeling.

I kind of like what I came up with early on, and should have stopped there with a sketchy expression.

But no, I kept auditioning other fabrics for backgrounds, and growing out the figure to complete it. I also tried miniature quilt projects under her hand, suggesting that she, too, was a quilter.

I found, however, that the quilting projects merely increased the cacophony of prints and negated the pensive mood I was after. So I ended up giving the figure a book instead. This allowed me to connect personally with the figure and the quilt, since I often stay up all hours of the night reading. I completed the piece with that pleasantly addictive, obsessive behavior in mind.

 

I call it, “Well Past Midnight.” Ahhh, to have and to hold a book so good you cannot put it down. Along with the supreme luxury of not needing to put it down. All is quiet. You succumb to the thrall of great literature, a world of enchantment, and a fantastical bower  grows around you long into the wee hours…

Far better, this poem expresses the mood and the moment: 

Just learned my art quilt did not make the cut for the SAQA exhibit From Dusk to Dawn. I never thought it would. It’s over-labored, tries to be too pretty and figurative, at a moment when the art world and the art quilt world savors abstract expression. I totally get it, because  I know that small exhibits must be cohesive, creating a flow around the room.

For me, a call for entry, particularly from SAQA, is often the kick in the behind I need to produce work, to hone my design skills and my technical skills, too. I am glad to have made this piece, to share it with any readers of my blog, and to put it away, not look at it for a while.  I do look forward to seeing the pieces that have been accepted into this show should it come to my part of the country. Bet you will, too.

3 Responses to “Well Past Midnight”

  1. Liz says:

    I love the evolution of this piece and the story it tells. It is a lovely belt piece. Thanks for sharing

  2. That is a masterpiece, period. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s magnificent.

  3. HelenMarie Marshall says:

    Always inspiring. Thank you!

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Defending Democracy…with an Art Quilt

December 21st, 2017

Not many people I know are aware of the “blue slip process,” a 100-year-old tradition in which home-state senators can indicate approval or disapproval, on a form printed on blue paper, of a President’s nominee for a lifetime seat on the federal courts, and advance or halt the nomination from moving forward. So I wanted to make a fabric illustration. But not with lingerie…that is, until my friend Carole queried, “Why not lingerie?”

So when I found a blue slip in a Montreal vintage clothing store, and the price was right, I had my beginning. Was about to combine it in a patchwork of blue rectangles, but the outcome would have lacked color contrast and aesthetic interest. I couldn’t reconcile the actual undergarment with a geometric abstract. Next Eureka moment happened when my friend Barbara said, “Why not have Lady Liberty wearing the blue slip?” Which coalesced with my subject matter as my friend Sammie remarked that, “If anyone would wear a blue slip, it would be Lady Justice.” Bingo. I happened to have made a figurative block, and I sliced into the face to insert a blind-fold, and made the bowls for her scales of justice.

I probably could have (should have?) stopped there, but I felt the viewer would need some more visual clues. To integrate various areas into the piece, I did some painting, dabbing, and printing on vintage doilies and lace. I used applique and piecing to collage various fabrics into a cohesive background.

Next, I got to work with my new midarm machine, quilting each area down. That was a steep, but enriching learning curve…with days spent futzing with the machine, adjusting the tension with each new thread, and coming up with different quilting patterns for each section.

Note the blue slips swirling in the background. I intended to crop the top of the quilt, but couldn’t bear to do that, so I filled the extra space with a bird, like so many that perch on statues. It’s a mourning dove, which symbolizes both the desired peace of a fair, bipartisan process, and also the grieving that came when judiciary committee chairman Grassley abandoned the blue slip process, to move ahead with the nomination of two men who were unacceptable to their home-state senators.

Another vintage item, a sliver of a silver tie that my grandfather wore, became Lady Justice’s sword.

I expected the piece to end at the hem of the slip, but the effect was truncated, off-balance. Earlier, I had auditioned feet emerging from the slip, but they just didn’t stand up to the rest.

 

I wanted to suggest a pedestal base, and after auditioning multiple fabrics, I settled on an early choice–see my first draft second photo from the top. I altered this batik look-alike, quilting suggestive lines of type on all squares except for two: One sports a doily, it’s S-shape center motif alluding to the serpent at Justice’s heels. And one provides a space for my signature and date.

The finished piece is larger than I intended…As tall as I am.

And less expressionistic than I wanted. Yup, that actual blue slip gave abstraction the slip.

But it’s done!…which is always better than perfect.

One Response to “Defending Democracy…with an Art Quilt”

  1. Wow! What a great story, great quilt – I’d love to see it in person – When I first saw the photo, I didn’t really think about the fact that it’s as big as a person! I hope this quilt gets seen by many people.

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Expanding on History, Part 2!

July 29th, 2017

You gotta love the direct hit to the heart that this Square Bulleye quilt top delivers. I sure did, when I bought it for not very much money about 10 years ago. I think it was on the table of a very reputable dealer at a quilt show.

For a long time, it was part of my trunk show for Quilters Who Dared. And daring it is, with all that precision piecing. Waaay beyond my patience level.

Now, however, my presentations feature more wonky and imprecise performances in patchwork. Inspiration for quilting out of the box, and daring to break the rules.

And now this beauty is the perfect target for remaking our home, our bedroom, and yes, our bed!

I was gonna do this the easy way.

Our bed is a queen, so step #1 was adding borders to make it overhang the edges generously. Finding a timeless, black pin-dot was easy. And a repro extra-wide quilt back–E-Quilter has a great selection. After washing to pre-shrink these new fabrics, I cut same size lengths from the black pin-dot, and stitched them to the edges of the quilt top all around.

Then took the expanded quilt top and backing fabric right over to a wonderful long-armer.

I know a lot of great long-armers in my area, but chose Donna Laing of North Star Quality Quilting because of her experience with traditional, antique quilts.

I just adored working with Donna to choose a quilting design for this beauty. I thought that a traditional Clamshell, or Baptist Fan would be true to the era of the fabrics. The coolest thing was how Donna lay a window of Plexiglass over the quilt, and used a washable marker to audition continuous line quilting patterns. Wish I’d taken a picture of that.

Also wish I hadn’t left Donna with a lot of extra work. See all those triangles in the patchwork design? The outer edges are all bias. Stretchy bias. I should have stay-stitched these edges; even sewn a fabric ribbon tape along them to keep them in gear. Instead, my borders followed these edges, and were a hot mess of ripply distortion. Donna saved the day, making tucks in each border by hand. Next time, I promise she won’t be biased against this customer.

I picked up the quilt but alas, it was another few months before I got to the binding and this Bullseye made a beeline for our bed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Makes a real statement, right? Nice overhang, yes? So the husband and I don’t fight for the covers.

One Response to “Expanding on History, Part 2!”

  1. Donna Laing says:

    Wowza. That quilt looks great on your bed! And those log cabin pillow shams are so cool. I loved the careful color placement that seemed so random until we really looked closely. Good job!

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