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

Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

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.

 

 

Patchwork Pundits Take On Politics

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

“In the nineteenth century, quiltmaking was often the only socially acceptable way for a woman to express her political views.” With that explanation, the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum put out a call for politically-themed quilts, for an exhibit to celebrate “the tradition of activism and awareness.” The deadline for entries was in September, and the show ran from late October through much of January. So the Presidential Election was certainly a central focus.

I wasn’t able to get to Golden, Colorado to see the exhibit, but several quilters and artists whose work was featured sent me their jpegs and statements, which I share with you here. For “Political Circus,” Misty Cole began with traditional 1930s mosaic of squares and half square triangles for the classic Kansas City Star patterns of democratic and republican mascots. She details her process in a blog.

 

 

In “Cotton Grown in the USA”, a different sort of patriotism is expressed. Only 14″ square, this little piece is made entirely with cotton fabric grown and manufactured in the USA. Charlotte Noll used a grass-green background with improvisationally-pieced letters, and paper-pieced cotton bolls to punctuate her point of pride.

 

 

 

Barbara Hall calls her quilt, “When the Fish Return.” She explains that the Colorado River is “the southwest’s most important source of water.  Five states rely on this river to sustain cities and agriculture. But the Colorado River ends in Mexico.   Our overuse has created a loss of habitat and environment in what was once a thriving river delta in Mexico.  In 2014 in cooperatio
n with Mexican wildlife ecologists, water was released into the delta to try and revitalize the river’s natural habitat.  The project is being studied and monitored.  My quilt is a story of what might happen if the habitat reconstruction is successful.”

 

 

 

 

“Fleeing Drought – Is This Climate Change?” is by Sara Sharp. She explains, “Can there still be any doubt that climate change is really happening? Despite denial by some politicians, rising global temperatures are adversely affecting both humans and wildlife. Social unrest and human suffering have been caused by crop failures and lack of potable water. Both people and animals must travel far from their historic homes to compete for limited resources. This quilt symbolizes diminishing rainfall, resulting wildfires, and the altered migration patterns of birds who must travel further each year to find supplies of healthy food and water.”

 

 

“War Sucks” is a tour de force by the award-winning Kristin LaFlammeAn army wife, Kristin created it “as a way of processing my feelings about war during a period when my husband was fighting more than he was home.
No matter which side you are on or whether you are a combatant or a civilian, war sucks.” She explains how the process mirrored the experiences: “The fractured aspect of crazy quilting made sense for the background, as did the hint of stitching the seams back together created by the utilitarian embroidery. I allowed for raw edges (war is nothing if not raw) and added jumbles of knotted threads ripped from my fabrics after the wash. I used stenciled, splattered, scribbled, new commercial, re-purposed, discharged, uniform, and dyed fabrics. I worked the fabrics both before and after piecing them. The quilt is backed with an old woolen blend army blanket and I left the edges open and stuffed them with fabrics and yarns that could allude to bandages and guts. The overall quilting is intersecting straight lines that could be tracer fire or bullet trajectories.”

“My Home Peace” looks at the flip side of war in a traditional mode. This piece is by Peggy McGreary.

 

 

 

“Peace and Harmony” as shown below is also by Sara Sharp. It is dense with meaningful photo transfers: sheet music, quotes, conceptual terms that add up to a state of peace.

 

It is hardly controversial to posit that War is bad and Peace is good, and most quilters—and quilt lovers will come down squarely on the side of environmental protections. But I’m glad to say that the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum did include some slightly more subversive expressions of opinion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sara Sharp is prolific! She also made “Barriers to Freedom” which was juried in as well. “Oppression, famine, and poverty cause people to flee their homelands,” she writes, “searching for a better life of opportunity and freedom. Some politicians and countries advocate building fences and walls to keep immigrants out of their countries. This quilt features passenger lists from the early 1900’s showing people, like my family’s ancestors, who were welcomed into the United States. In our time, we must again show kindness to provide bridges to safety for deserving immigrants.

This work belongs on my new website, United We Quilt: Sewing Justice. I’m hoping Sara submits it –and perhaps others–for that online gallery. The time has never been so dire for supporting immigration reform and for showing compassion to those who seek a better life.

 

 

“Burned”(18″ x 24″) is a liberal rallying cry to throw off shackles. Regina V. Benson  elaborates: In 1992 Lindsay Van Gelder stepped forward to confess that she had coined the tem “bra-burning” to describe a feminist protest during the 1968 Miss America beauty pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It appears that some women during that protest did threaten to remove their bras and throw them into a communal trash bin. As a young New York Post journalist, Ms. Van Gelder’s reporting of the event came to compare the potential trashing of these bras to the burning of draft cards at Vietnam War protests. That, combined with the title of the story, seems to have been enough to start this legend. The term was immediately picked up by other reporters and writers and grew into a viral metaphor –  the discarding of feminine shackles that stereotyped women in sexist and objective ways. This urban legend survives today and continues to fuel forceful imagery for daughters of the women’s liberation movement. This reporting did inspire many, actual, subsequent bra-burning events.” Benson continues, “I created this work as a triple entendre: one for the mythical legend of bra-burning; the second for the term “burned” as meaning to expose the myth itself; and the third for the actual use of burning techniques in my work to marry the medium with the message.”

 

Last in this review of featured quilts in Patchwork Pundits is my little 16″-square “Choice Nine-Patch.” Frankly, I was surprised that they took it, and wonder if it engendered any reactions pro or against.  It’s about Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion.  Although it was made in 2002, I think it’s still highly relevent, especially with the president’s choice of a Supreme Court pick who has shifted the majority to the right, a judge who was hand-picked to roll back rights such as worker protections, health care, religious freedom and reproductive justice. Here’s my two cents, my artist’s statement, in poetry, as it’s meant to soften the divisive wedge between the so-called Pro-Life community and the Choice community:

 

Respectfully, this little Nine Patch references “The Nine,”

That highest court in all the land, the real Supremes, or SCOTUS.

The one case they decided almost all can call to mind—

The case that still stirs up debates that we can’t help but notice.

Check out the sac of little pearls–fish eggs, you know, Roe.

Wade in, and then explore the depths of privacy and choice,

Should women self-determine their own fates and families?

My stance is clear, as I hereby give cloth and thread my voice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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…

wild iris

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.

 

Art in Flowers, the Phila. Flower Show, Part 2

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

Although the Philadelphia Flower Show 2017 has vacated its enormous stage at the Convention Center, it is still the receiving bouquets for a master work. With Holland as the theme, classic Dutch artists were heralded with recognition of their signature styles as interpreted in flowers.

Piet Mondrian was everywhere. Especially in floral arrangements that echoed his structured compositions and primary colors.

 

 

Quilters will see the work of Mondrian as an easy homage rendered in bright fabric, with black lattices à la stained glass appliqué. Gardeners will note that you don’t need to build vertical wall arrangements. Here, arrangers imagined the artist’s “Piet à terre” using planters that might have come straight out of Ikea, with paint added.

I LOVE it when quilters or floral designers use great art as inspiration. Check out these renditions of famous masterpieces by Rembrandt and Van Gogh:

Note to self: Pursue interesting scale and proportion in fabric and gardening compositions!

Hope you enjoyed this vicarious trip to the Flower Show!

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.

Overdressing!

Saturday, January 28th, 2017

If you’ve read my last two blog posts, you’ll know that I’ve been working on a textile poster, pieced and appliqued out of trash–used packaging. A lot of the assembly came about in flip-and-stitch sections, with quilting to flatten everything down onto felt, then onto a backing.

The problems I saw were a jumble of clutter and a lack of cohesiveness. Many thanks to everyone who left a comment with a suggestion. I considered every single one. And I was determined to move on to address the problem, to redress and resolve those issues, and others brought to my attention, with paint.

 

 

 

Paint day 1–Brushwork, dabbing, sponging, dotting the fuchsia matchsticks—! or i?, adding a soft color to the f in RefUSe:

Better. But still, not half as cohesive as I’d like. On to Paint Day 2, now armed with my favorite paint tool, the Gelli Gel Plate–for mono-printing, and a few high quality tubes of acrylic. Continued to daub, sponge, and brush.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting there, now, I think. It’s a lot more impressionistic, which helps to blend the sections for the cohesion I’m after. A lot more yellow, yellow-green, and orange tones, for warmth and sunniness. I’m thinking most of what Joan had to say: “I would use paint so it would have the look of a wall that multiple posters have been ripped from and covered with more posters. I would soften some, completely paint over areas and leave some bright…”

I’ve darkened the S in RefUSe, and the outer edges of the second e–which seems to need a bit more darkening to be readable…Not that ReUS doesn’t have some merit as a message. It’s about “us” doing our part. And hopefully, this message won’t be interpreted as a plea for nationalism over globalism, cuz this citizen really doesn’t cotton to the America First slogan we keep hearing over and over…

OK, focus on your art, Eleanor. We’re not trying to be controversial this time. Honest.

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!

Y Inspiration

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

Why inspiration?

Inspiration is food for the soul. And everyone has her own personal tastes in what appeals and satisfies.

We quilters go to guild meetings, quilt shows, and look at books and magazines for inspiration.

We art quilters are often inspired by the work of other quilters.

I confess, I am so NOT inspired by art quilts that are jaw-dropping stunning, and look like they took hundreds of hours. I gaze lovingly at those but they just make me want to “close up shop” and get back to guaranteed productivity like weeding and scouring bathrooms.

Nope, I’m inspired by work that simply charms. I feel very lucky when I find such a maker who teaches and thereby generously shares her ideas and techniques.

Like Deborah boscherteveningclimb-3Boschert. She hasn’t been quilting forever, but she’s constantly pursuing her craft, and yet her work never looks labored. Or overly complicated. It hits you where you live: in the worlds of nature and of small, domestic comforts. I so enjoy her website: http://deborahsstudio.com/.  There, you can sign up for her delicious newsletter, Three Bits of Inspiration. Additionally (a 4th bit?) I just ordered Deborah’s new book, Art Quilt Collage: A Creative Journey in Fabric, Paint & Stitch, which is sure to provide me with lots of inspiration, and as many at-home workshops as I sit down to do. Deborah uses trees, flowers, skies, circles, and ladders frequently in her work–all aspirational symbolism, right? She also returns frequently to those embroidered strokes she has called her beloved Ys.

 

As I traveled through Europe last month, I kept recalling her art quilts. Why do you think that is?

A very old building in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands.

A very old building in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands.

y-wind1

Wind turbines in Jutland, in Denmark

I really don’t understand why the Y element resonates. Maybe it calls to mind Yearnings. Or, on the bright side, Yes, Yaaay, Yipee, Yummy, and Young-at heart. And I don’t really get just why a multiplicity of Ys, wisely positioned, add texture and balance so enchantingly.  But they do!

Under the influence, I found myself borrowing Deborah’s motif to the current work, a little quilt art postcard:

middleearthmother-early

middleearthmotherys

y-stitch1 y-stitch2

y-stitch3

 

 

 

 

 

middleearthmotherelevie

middleearthmothersideview

 

Here’s the piece, called Middle Earth Mother, in a shadowbox frame, for a show called Understory, opening at the Da Vinci Art Alliance, in South Philly tomorrow.

Pssst— Here’s a link to my free how-to’s for mounting art quilt postcards.

Here’s my artist’s statement:

Fingerprint, X-ray, and strata–cutwork through quilted layers: we are in, of, and on the earth to do good.

Which brings me back to the why–and the importance of inspiration. Because it goes hand in hand with aspiration. The wish to be better, to do better, to create better. Yes? What inspires YOU? How does such inspiration transpire into your work? Do leave a comment before I expire!

 

The Invention of Wings, from a quilter’s POV

Saturday, November 19th, 2016

HarrietPowers-1

The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd, is a wonderful book for lovers of literature, history, and quilts. The author explains:

“I was inspired by the quilts of Harriet Powers, who was born into slavery in 1837 in Georgia. She used West African applique technique and designs to tell stories, mostly about Biblical events, legends, and astronomical occurrences. Each of the squares on her two surviving quilts is a masterpiece of art and narration. After viewing her quilt in the archives of the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., it seemed more than plausible to me that many enslaved women, who were forbidden to read and write, would have devised subversive ways to voice themselves, to keep their memories alive, and to preserve their African heritage.

“In the novel, Charlotte is the Grimke’s rebellious and accomplished seamstress, and I envisioned her using needle and cloth the way others use paper and pen, attempting to set down the events of her life in a single quilt. She appliques it with strange, beautiful images—slaves flying through the air, spirit trees with their trunks wrapped in red thread—but she also sews violent and painful images of her punishments and loss. The quilt in the novel is meant to be more than a warm blanket or a nice piece of handiwork. It is Charlotte’s story. As Handful says, ‘Mauma had sewed where she came from, who she was, what she loved, the things she’d suffered and the things she hoped. She’d found a way to tell it.’

“Above all, I wanted Charlotte’s story quilt to speak about the deep need we have to make meaning out of what befalls us. I wanted it to suggest how important it is to take the broken, painful, and discarded fragments of our lives and piece them into something whole. There can be healing, and power, too, in giving expression to what’s inside of us, in having our voices heard and our pain witnessed. As writer Isak Dinesen put it, “All sorrows can be borne if we put them in a story or tell a story about them.”

Bet many of you will agree that putting sorrows — and joys — and deep feelings — and memories — into quilts can be equally therapeutic.