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

Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

Shelter

Friday, September 7th, 2018

A fascinating exhibit opened this week at the Da Vinci Art Alliance here in Philly, and it i. a collaborative exhibition with Philadelphia Sculptors. Sculpture–or at least 3-D media of any kind was the requirement, addressing the theme of “shelter.” The theme of refugees and immigration resonated with many of the artists, and a number of them used their work to present a shared desire to create a safe haven for people fleeing unsafe environments. Perfectly appropriate for a show in Philadelphia, a sanctuary city with an ongoing battle against Immigration and Customs Enforcers, or ICE.

Nothing in the show was quilted in the traditional sense, but there was a lot of soft sculpture as homey, enveloping, forgiving, resilient. Well, then again, there was this quilted bathrobe, a vintage piece augmented with text in felt, thread, and paint by Carole Loeffler.

 

  

The largest piece was “Buddha’s Sustainable Shelter” by Chanthaphone Rajavong, who stands beside his tower. He gave me a peek into the underlying structure–all recycled cardboard. Can I say how much I covet a dress with a woven newsprint bodice and tiers of plastic bags? But I only committed to getting on my hands and knees to photograph the painted pillow inside this shelter.

Artist Cindy Lu also used recyclables for her pieces: emergency mylar blankets. She poses in front of her very large beaded map, called, simply, “Home.” Opposite that work is an intimate patchwork and crochet grouping, called “Play.”

   

On the very small-scale front were two groupings by Chelsea Nader. They are intaglio prints on linen. ” Where she told me” features a miniature living room vignette, and “Open your doors and take down your walls” has two doors.

   

Gotta admit, my favorite pieces–and the hubby’s as well, were by Dumpster Diver Ellen Benson. Her “Friendship Circle Divas” (at the top of this post and below, with Benson) and her “For Every Bird a Nest” take the idea of shelter straight to the personal and endearing.

As I mentioned, none of these works are quilts in any traditional sense. Nevertheless, the use of fabric and thread, of layers and soft, tactile textures and dimensionality does hie back to quilts as a part of our heritage and legacy as bedcovers, as security blankets, as protection against the cold. How does your work fit the theme shelter?

Rooftop Renderings

Monday, 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?

Rooftop in Riga

Thursday, 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!

Cityscapes!

Tuesday, 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!

I Fell for Collage

Friday, 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!

 

 

 

From Painting to Quilting, and Black

Tuesday, 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?

 

Heart-pounding inspiration, biennially

Monday, 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!

Well Past Midnight

Monday, 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.

Another Kind of Folk Art: Embroidered Punjabi Shawls

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017
Phulkari.
Phul (pronounced either pool or fool) means flower.  I certainly felt that I had stepped into a glorious flower garden when I entered a featured  exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art last week (see it through July 9, 2017).
Kari means work, and it’s readily apparent that phulkaris take months or even years to make.
And oh, how richly ornate are these flower works, silk embroidered shawls that are often started upon a daughter’s birth, or stitched by the girl herself, to bring into her husband’s house as an important part of her dowry. Phulkaris are worn draped over head and shoulders by women all over Punjab–the area that straddles Pakistan and India — during marriage festivals and other joyous occasions. They can also serve as bedding and wall hangings. Like quilts!
 Phulkaris from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection are supplemented by others from the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s collection, and most were created in the early 20th century. In Phulkari embroidery–silk and cotton threads ornament the cloth, usually a handspun, handwoven cotton. Folk art folk and animals seem to be making their way across the shawl, while flowers and geometric forms provide a well-balanced cacophony of figures. It’s fun to imagine the story being told in the stitches.
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We quilt-lovers of quilt history can draw many parallels between the domestic arts of Punjab and of 19th century America. Like quilting, the making of phulkaris was usually done in the home, fulfilled creative urges, and brought color into what may have been a drab day-to-day existence. Both were and are often remain celebrated folk art forms.  Check out this appliqued quilt top, below, known as “Bird of Paradise,” made in the Albany NY area between 1858 and 1863, from the collection of the Museum of American Folk Art.
 
The charming story quilt below was appliqued and tied by a self-taught African-American woman who was born a slave in Georgia. Known as the “Harriet Powers” quilt, it is thought to have been made between 1895 and 1898.
 
 Getting back to punjabi shawls: I love this one below: peacocks strutting, rain falling, plus a floral border with a little section of red, like an error but not, thought to ward off the evil eye. Just like the deliberate mistakes in Amish quilts, because “only God is perfect.”
    
Notice the similarity in pictorials between these eastern and western examples? Many different cultures obviously like to feature images symbolic of marriage, family, fruitfulness/fertility, and home. Art of “just folks.” Folk art.
As mentioned, most phulkaris show the background cloth, much like applique. You would think these birds, horses, and people are done on a background fabric where the warp floats over a few threads to make a sateen textile.
But no, the marigold background is all embroidered. That’s a “bahg” phulkari, embroidery so dense that the base cloth can’t be seen.
Another example is below, with shapes that recall gems, jewelry, and other embellishments. With silk thread from China, these were very costly to make. No wonder then, that the threads are stitched mostly on the front of the cloth.
 
Also on view in this exhibit are a couple of gowns and a man’s jacket created with phulkaris by a famous contemporary designer, Manish Malhotra. I wonder if he was given a hard time for cutting up phulkaris for his posh outfits? One can only hope he used damaged pieces, just as we should only cut up a ragged quilt or fragments to make wearables,  pillows, holiday stockings, and bags.

Want to learn more, and see more, about phulkaris? Watch this lovely, informative video produced for the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Tradition with a (Muley) Twist

Saturday, June 10th, 2017

Just when I least expected it, a most relaxing, wonderful haven that is the Muley Twist Inn gave me an unexpected quilt fix.

The husband and I arrived here after a long day hiking in Capitol Reef National Park. The inn Carl picked out is off the beaten track, outside Teasdale, Utah. The vistas are better than the guide books promise, and I began writing this post on the front porch overlooking a stunning view of low mountains and Ponderosa pines, the natural colors I’d been seeing for days. Innkeeper Penny, upon learning of my interest in quilts, let me into an adjacent bedroom where quilts were spread and stacked.

I was instantly charmed by this simple Square-in-Square, with alternating plain blocks:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nine Patch may be the quintessential plain patchwork pattern, but the bubble-gum pink lattice and jazzy prints provide kicky refreshment.

  

Experts will look at those prints and help me date this charmer…1950s?

Made me think of how Southwest artists translate the landscape into vibrant vistas. Like my favorite local artist, Paula Swain. Ran into her at Gallery 24, in Torrey, UT–right after I’d purchased one of her works. The husband and I had a really hard time picking the one we wanted! Here it is hanging on our wall so I can enjoy “Capitol Reefs Color” as I eat breakfast. Paula told me that she was raised in a family that went out to do plein air painting at every opportunity. Her father pushed her to use a realistic palette, and she resisted. It’s only since he passed away that she’s felt liberated to take artistic license and go wild with color, putting her own twist on the tradition of landscape painting.