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

Archive for the ‘Unusual Materials’ Category

Repair and Connect

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

That’s the title of an exhibit Kevan Lunney put together at the Capital Health Medical Center in Pennington, NJ.  This line-up of “rejuvenating work made of fiber and cloth” was sponsored by the hospital’s Art and Healing Committee plus Hopewell Valley Arts Council. And as the show just ended, I’m proud to share the fiber art pieces that rejuvenated my spirits with you here. Kevan is shown with her ground-breaking sculpture of neon and fiber, titled Repair.

Mary Schwarzenberger’s Sunrise, left, and Wavelength, right, feature sumptuous texture that presents the softest side of fiber. Mary manipulates ice-dyed silk in a process she found positi
vely meditative during a recent catastrophic illness.

Kathy Velis Turan calls her 1 by 6-feet-long piece The Long Road. It represents “the journey we all take from childhood to adulthood, in good and not-so-good health.” I love the tactile qualities of window screen encasing burlap, painted fabric, rope and more, with shrink-art-plastic vehicles along the way. Little Sophia, daughter of weaver Joli Martinez, couldn’t stay away, and was hard pressed not to touch.

I work in the shadows of the art quilting world, but Cindy Friedman works with shadows. It’s worth reading her artist’s statement for this piece.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michele Lasker combined lots of materials and techniques for her mixed media extravaganza:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elena Stokes stands in front of her art quilt, Tranquil Marsh–Wild Iris. Her statement is a poem:

golden light

breaks the chill of gray…

blinking open

lush violet

blooms in a tranquil marsh…

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My piece is about tranquility too–or rather, Tranquili-Tea, since the center pictorial is made with the foil-lined envelopes that encase snazzy tea bags, and the border is made with my grandmother’s tea towels. My statement is a poem, too.

Serenity, a remedy:

Unwind, and slow down time.

Fluidity for every sense,

Renewal so sublime.

 

Recall, reflect, and reminisce.

Adapt, de-stress, grow calm.

Take tender pleasures such as this

As spirit-soothing balm.

 

All dressed up and somewhere to go…I hope!

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

Here’s my finished piece, ReUSe/REFuse. 32″ x 48″  Photographed in harsh, side-lit natural light.

Certainly a learning experience. So grateful for all the wonderful advice I got from you blog-commenters: I emphasized the message text as well as I could, repeated the look of its circular shape, sought to add layers of paint to some areas, like posters peeling away, and to keep the color contrast, using pointistic dabs to lead the eye around the piece.

Just in time to enter it in the Mancuso Tri-State Quilt Show (March), and in the much more selective SAQA Textile Posters show…Here’s hoping it will be chosen by either or both, and have someplace to be seen in the flesh, er…cloth, er… mixed media of the trash kind.

Another photo, this time with indirect sunlight. Doesn’t show up the bubbling, but hies to the evenly-lit image requirements–all this amateur photog can handle with her little automatic Canon Powershot, no photo studios, reflective umbrellas, etc. etc. I’m always jammed right up to the entry deadlines, story of my life, so no time (or money) to hire a pro to shoot my piece.

Bubble, Bubble, Melt & Muddle

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

Having fun with my trash stash again. Who knew that ironing those woven, plastic, printed feed bags would produce such a yummy texture? Good buddy Linda Vola, whose horses and mule enjoyed what came in this bag, figured, as I did, that this would become a sturdy, colorful tote bag. Nope!

If you try this, be sure to protect your iron and ironing surface with quality Teflon pressing sheets.

I surmise from reading about classes taught by Linda Schmidt, that call for Tyvek and heat guns, that she demos similar techniques. Love the name of her website AND of this class:

http://www.shortattentionspanquilting.com/creating-with-cool-stuff.html

Wish I could take it, and learn from all her trial and error and success. Hoping one of her disciples will clue me in a bit until I do get a chance. In the meantime, I plod on, burning some spots, and falling back to piecing with other trash–er, foil-lined or plasticized packaging. Here’s a very early draft of what’s in the works, incorporating way too much, and not enough:

Stay tuned!

Swimming with the Big Fish

Sunday, October 23rd, 2016

I’m flummoxed but grateful that my piece, Swimming Upstream, was juried into the show, Connected by Stitch, the first Pennsylvania regional show by the international Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) at The Gallery at Penn College for the next 6 weeks. And I feel privileged to be among some mighty fine fabric artists.

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Let me share just a few of my faves in this show. I loved this little underwater paradise, a colorful, crocheted coral reef on a bed of quilting. It’s by Stacey Hortner. She’s since made this in monochromatic beiges, to express her concern over the bleaching of coral reefs, due to the massive amounts of CO2 mankind has imposed.

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Another fun piece, with a message, is this one by Peggy Hracho. It’s got an abundance of felting, embroidery, quilting. The little girl is exhorted to “go for it,” i.e., touch the art quilt–something most quilt venues don’t allow.

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Very exciting for departing from the usual shape and look of a quilt, is by Meredith Re Grimsley. It’s a life-size self portrait, painted and quilted, remarking on the fact that the dress no longer fits; the artist now occupies a different place in her work and in her life.

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Finally, before I hit the sack, gotta launch one more photo, a ship by Meredith Eachus Armstrong. Fabric and wood, sculpture more than quilt. dscn0901

This Meredith, more than any other Meredith or any other person, is responsible for making this wonderful show happen. Kudos to her, from me and everyone who agrees that non-traditional contemporary quilt art really floats our boat.

Swimming Upstream

Sunday, October 23rd, 2016

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I am a bottom feeder who cannot pass up a slab of rusted metal in the street, the cardboard wrapper for some fancy smoked salmon, texture and patina. I have a box of such hard found pieces. I also have an accordion folder and loose piles of fancy papers, tear sheets, beautiful calendar pages…thank you, Sammie Moshenberg! Thank you, Barbara Adler for that glittery packaging from smoked salmon! From the time I was a girl, I collected my father’s lithography samples from when he worked for a printing company.

The obvious thing to my mind is to combine papers and metals into a collage. But I challenged myself to make unrelated materials play together. One way to do that was to use color—salmon and it’s color complement, light blue—as a way to breed the hard with the soft. Some of the papers had been given  a wash of paint, obliterating a clutter of text and integrating them into a cohesive grouping.

I thought the rusted metal held secrets, and history, and I looked to fabrics with not just color coordination but also unfathomable text and visual texture, to continue that narrative of mystery. Thank you, Lonni Rossi! I quilted them to provide a more stable background, and connected by stitch the ephemera, the old and new papers, with the cotton fabrics. Unsure of where I was going, I arranged and rearranged the composition, and when I thought I was close, I still had challenges of mounting the disparate pieces for durability of display, deciding to pull it over stretcher strips, screw spacer strips to support and elevate the metal piece, and camouflaging the screws with spirals of copper wire.

I was definitely swimming upstream, my title for the piece…. like the salmon, expecting only to get screwed by the all difficulties, and die in the end, that is, to have this project end up in the trash.

But on the other hand, I wasn’t floundering. The work had a nice flow to it, and I never felt I was fighting the current. Maybe that’s because my art quilting has not followed a single direction, despite my deep respect for artists who work in a series. I’m not a serious artist, and I can’t take my work or myself all that seriously. But I have to say, finding connections of line, and a balance of shapes is a very satisfying exercise for me. Perhaps, after all, this mixed media piece may not be a one-off; I just may return to the river where hard and soft textures and disparate elements combine. I’m not fishing for compliments, but I sure welcome feedback!

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LOUD Conversation prints!–Love ’em!

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

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Contemporary wax printed textiles stretched onto frames—I’m guessing 24″ x 36″— like art: as stunning as the fashions in the Creative Africa exhibit currently at the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Perlman annex. Did you catch my blog post about that? you can look at it here.

The comments are really interesting, as comments always are! The print below, though it seems to belittle conversation and communication, nonetheless speaks to the way all us quilters silently express ourselves through cloth:

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Although most people think of them as African, the fabrics are designed by Dutch designers and made in the Netherlands by Vlisco. Still, they are inspired by African motifs and symbols, and made into clothing and worn mostly by Africans. Here’s a photo from the collection of African architect Francis Kéré, also shown in the PMA exhibit:

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Clearly, the fabric you wear is an important way of expressing who you are. And your position in society. Here, the reference is to bolts of fabric included in an African woman’s dowry.

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I naturally gravitated toward other motifs related to cutting and stitching:

 

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Symbols of upwardly mobile wealth, especially for women in the market and on the go, also take the forms of fancy shoes, wheels, and cars.

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On the grill of a luxury car, the Vlisco logo takes over for Mercedes Benz.

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Think those cracks in the side mirrors of a Mercedes refer to our warped perceptions of where we’ve come from, i.e., our humble beginnings? Or literally to the batik process of breaking up the wax painted on the fabric so dyes can seep into the cracks?

Another traffic-related print poses the question, are you heading towards love or money?

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Perhaps the most “out-there” fabric from 1953 features a traditional patchwork design around a sort of fertility mandala, shall I say? It’s named after an African proverb that translates to “children are better than money.”

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Stay tuned. My next post will show some distinctly African-made fabrics. In the meantime, how do YOU use conversation prints in your work?

Give me a hand…

Friday, July 31st, 2015

KitchenHamsa (2)

Seems I have a hamsa series going. Often called the Hand of Miriam by Jews, or the Hand of Fatimah by Muslims, this middle-eastern symbol features three fingers and two thumbs. Don’t ask me why. A good luck charm, it’s said to ward off the evil eye…cast by those who would be envious of what good fortune you may have. Lots of folks wear a hamsa as a talisman around their necks. But since bad luck can occur right at home, frequently in the form of cooking disasters, I recommend a household hamsa —especially in the kitchen. Done in foil-lined, plasticized packaging like coffee bags and tea bag envelopes, the resulting art can be wiped clean of cooking grease, sprays from spills, dust and grime. I teach this class as a workshop for trash-stash quilting, using the sample shown above, or for a westernized version, the hand-in-heart motif below.

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Hand-in-Heart folk art, by Eleanor Levie, 2015, approx. 8″ x 10″

 

First time I ventured into hamsa territory was for a 2011 Quilt Alliance challenge; lots of shiny packaging made it impossible for this amateur photographer to capture a good representation.

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Tahrir Square, by Eleanor Levie, 2011, 16″ x 16″

Recently, I answered another challenge with Eyes Wide Open as the theme. Right away, I thought of a hamsa with an eye, done out off coffee and tea bag packaging to reference the caffeine that literally opens my eyes, and the need to reduce and recycle that informs my trash stash quilting. Two other inspirations guided my creative pathway. First was  an article in the Summer SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates, Inc.) Journal referencing the keynote speaker at the SAQA annual conference. Namita Gupta Wiggers is an art historian, and director and co-founder of Critical Craft Forum. She pushed for art quilts to take a place of power. Art in and of itself, instead of simply as a reference to the older, more traditional form of a bed covering. To do that, she encouraged breaking out of the rectilinear picture plane, and redefining the medium through the use of materials other than cloth. Hmmmm.

Another inspiration from a few years back was Pamela Allen’s Black-Eyed Susan art quilt, where plastic doll eyes peeped out from the centers of a bouquet of blooms.

Thus was born my Black-Eyed Susan Hamsa!

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Securing top layers to bottom layer of black felt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Couching satin cord over felt edges.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Black-Eyed Susan Hamsa, by Eleanor Levie, 2015, 14″ x 24″ ?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Photo by Carl Harrington, who is angling to get out of the photo business!

Tea Rex

Saturday, March 28th, 2015

TeaRex, detail

Word play is often a part of my art quilting, so my riff on T-Rex shouldn’t come as a surprise. And like other pieces in my ReUse, trash-stash series, this piece is made of tea bag envelopes, coffee bags, and other foil-lined packaging. And yeah, it’s a “green quilt,” as in the term coined by Susan “Lucky” Shie, representing an effort to use what’s on hand and upcycle, to do our part for the planet. Of course, the citrus net bags, vintage fabrics and trims, buttons, beads, and rickrack are here partly because, as my hubby bemoans, I never throw anything away.

Yes, I began with an appealing pun, a Barney-like dino and an Alice-in-Wonderland tea party set up, with a funky vase made from my grandmother’s well-worn, embroidered neck wrap, and the vase is filled with—what else?—tea roses.

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Here’s where the word play wandered into sword play, quickly and quilterly lunging into the more politicized rooms of my mind. Didja notice the space ship and volcano out that window?

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How about the tsunami rushing in, the blazing sun, the meteor hurtling towards earth? It seems our titan of leisure is cluelessly indulging in conspicuous consumption. Our Tea-Rex is denying inconvenient truths, such as global warming and waning resources for those lower on the food chain. Instead, the arriving guest invents wild fabrications…and invites extinction. A cautionary tale? A parable for our time? Obviously, this Tea-Partier is way out of date.

Tea Rex, by Eleanor Levie, 32″ x 57″, March, 2015

Whoop-TEA-doo! It’s Earth Day!

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

In honor of Mother Earth, I just added a new piece to my ReUSE series.

 

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I don’t know how long I’ve been stalking the idea of a Tea Roses piece, that is, roses made out of tea bag envelopes. Last year, I took lots and lots of pictures at a rose garden in Florida. Then, meaning to get rid of one horrid picture of me, I mistakenly deleted all my shots. That’ll teach me to put on my glasses when reviewing my shots!

Starting again, I found a photo of a yellow rose that I cannot now find–I think it is one of Sammie Moshenberg’s lovely images. I traced the picture, numbered the pieces, and prepared to do a cut and glue sort of applique with tea bag envelopes.

 

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tracing

 

The “kit” of materials I assembled sat by the TV for months. Turned out this method that was waaaay too complicated for me. I’m more of a slap-dash kind of quilter.

Last week, an online quilt class taught by the extraordinary Pamela Allen of Canada featured an assignment for a fantasy fabric garden. That was the impetus to go back to my Tea Rose project once again, and substitute my trash stash for fabric prints to dash off some flowers. Following the lead of my sister students, I cut petals freehand, and worked in rounds. In this series, I simply adhere shapes with glue-stick over patchwork. White bags that once held ground coffee gave me bigger pieces and a quiet background, too.  I cultivated plots of assorted tea bag and coffee packaging to sort of fence in my garden.

 

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Due to the foil-lined packaging that holds a crease, I was able to fold back some of the petals like a real flower. But even with the silver backing peeking up, the flower heads looked too dense, and the petals weren’t readable as separate shapes.

Back to the drawing board, I tried out an open design, like an arts & crafts style stencil or stained glass design.

 

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Better! Then on to layering over woolfelt (wool and rayon blend), preshrunk for a thick, sherpa-like quality.  Quick quilting and trimming with passementerie and ball fringe gets everything sown so I can reap the rewards before Earth Day ends!

 

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My garden is a bit messy, and even though the bottom edge is angled, the whole thing should still hang straight and true. Not the case, not even close. But as they say, DONE is better than perfect.

Hope everything’s coming up roses for you! And that you ReUSE, RECYCLE, and REPURPOSE trash or found objects to REDUCE your carbon footprint. Oh, and RECONSIDER the many ways of creating quilted art!

 

 

Guilty Pleasures, Quilty Art: Part I

Monday, March 24th, 2014

Hold onto your soft, cushiony seats, folks. Over the next  month, Philly is a contemporary quilt-lover’s paradise, but if you cannot get here, I’ll guide your armchair-travels via this blog post and the next one.

Here, I’ll share three of my faves from the Fiber Biennale, now showing at the Snyderman Works in Philly. Think fiber is a  field for females? Think again. These pieces are all by men, and each is a legend in his own time.

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I’ve never seen a John McQueen that wasn’t a shapely vessel. But this sculptor/basketmaker bar none has created a comparatively flat piece from poplar, pine, and birch bark. For me,  I’m reminded of a contemporary applique quilt…just not soft. “After Dark Comes Calling,” 2011, 36″ x 42″

 

 

 

Warren Selig, professor in the Fibers/Mixed Media program at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia–who calls Rockland, Maine home– insists on redefining textiles.  Just as quilting stitches produce a play of light and shadow, so do the stainless, intersecting rods with clear acrylic spheres that extend 5″ from the wall. Titled “Shadow Field/Crystal Path,” it extends to 83″. Gallery co-owner Ruth Snyderman stands alongside for a sense of scale.

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Finally, no show, no collection of top-tier quilted art could be without a piece from Michael James. Professor in Textiles at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, James gives a nod to the traditions of cloth, piecing, and quilting stitches. Yet he soars by using digital textile printing to play with pattern in ways that reference dreams and memories. What a calm feeling washes over me as I study “Lands End: Quiet Hour,” 2014, approx. 51″ x 54″. Full view and detail:

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                  MJames-detail

 

Neither my photos, nor the greatest, most professional photography can come close to seeing these pieces “in the cloth”…er, or steel, or bark. Go to snyderman-works.com for more info. I must caution you, seeing only makes you want to touch, and you can’t touch–unless you buy. And these masterworks will cost a pretty penny. And why not? For all their humble materials, these pieces, and dozens of others in this extraordinary show that is always two years in the planning, represent the best contemporary art. The fact that it’s categorized as fiber art doesn’t make it less worthy of our esteem as any of the fine arts. In fact, for me, it holds a much greater interest. This show will challenge you to question what is fiber? What is art? And leads to that perennial discussion (and my next blog post) of what is a quilt? Man, oh man, oh man, we’re having fun in Philly.