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

Archive for the ‘Flowers’ Category

Bodil Gardner’s Ladies

Sunday, August 25th, 2019

“I’m just a simple housewife,” she asserts, when I ask Bodil Gardner, if she calls herself a fabric artist or an art quilter. In fact, she is an international star of the quilt world beloved for her disarming, quirky masterpieces. “I just make my pictures, she says.” Her modesty is typically Danish.

As she explains on the website her husband, Peter put together for her, “I have not had any artistic training and was brought up to be the practical one in a creative family, which needed to get the washing-up done. Are my pictures art or not? The question is frequently asked. For me, it doesn’t matter what they are. I make them for my own sake, hoping all the same that you will also like them.”

I have invited myself over, finding myself in her vicinity when the husband and I are visiting our son and his wife in Aarhus, Denmark. My daughter-in-law, Bev, volunteers to drive me over to the suburb of the city, where Bodil and Peter live. “Drive up the road through the garden,” are her emailed instructions, which turn out to be quite the understatement.

As you can tell, Bodil and her husband live up to their surname, Gardner. Like Peter, the garden style is English, transplanted and intermixed with Danish determination. The warmer seasons are mainly for gardening; winter is when Bodil devotes herself to working on “her pictures.” Playing with colors and patterns are the common source of joy.

Bodil doesn’t have a “studio,” and when we visited, we sat at a dining table where she served us homemade apple crumble, with danishes and chocolates and tea. We brought a bottle of red wine, and a packet of various fabric prints. An old, portable sewing machine under its cover sits on the shelf behind the table, and there’s a jumble of fabric scraps on a trunk beside Peter’s computer table. Otherwise, no sign of a work space. Past a large archway, you’re in the sitting room, where appliquéd pillows and patchwork command the lower planes, and books and photos fill the walls from floor to ceiling.

After dessert and far-ranging discussion, Bodil displays some of her pieces the same way she composes them: on the floor.

Lots and lots of delightfully funky portraits. Like Joni Mitchell’s Ladies of the Canyon, Bodil points out, each one has a unique personality. Fabulous hairstyles, flower accents, funky colors. Friends bring her fabric, and she uses what she has. No fusible web for her. She chooses from her assortment of scraps, cuts each piece freehand, assembles elements as she goes on larger background pieces, pins pieces to secure them in place temporarily. Only when she is satisfied with the entire composition does she moves to the sewing machine to satin-stitch over all the raw edges. Quilting and finishing details are minimal. Larger works elaborate on women at home, of generations, taking tea, counting sheep, gentle pets, and children, either confident or shy.

It’s easy to recognize a Bodil Gardner art quilt, isn’t it? And to feel the warmth and friendliness, and yes, a bit of zaniness embodied in each and every one. Far from quilt shops, shows, classes, she retains her own signature style, and doesn’t travel far, so relatively few students can learn from her way of working and her genius for face values, so to speak. Pamela Allen of Canada got her to join the Studio Art Quilt Association (SAQA), and Peter Gardner encourages his wife to respond to more of their calls for entry. Her work has been showcased in many top-drawer, juried exhibitions, within and outside of Denmark. But in many cases, a juror chooses a cohesive collection of sophisticated abstract and painterly tour-de-forces; Bodil’s pictorials stick out as being too different, and so don’t make the cut. That was the case when Bodil entered the piece below for the SAQA show for which the theme was Tranquility. Her reclining woman with cat, book, and teacup didn’t make it into the exhibit….yet SAQA saw fit to feature the piece on the cover of their magazine.

There’s not a whit of pretentiousness in these portraits of wise, nurturing women. I can easily imagine each one a sort of self-portrait…the alter ego of their maker. There are probably hundreds of them, a treasure trove of joyful folk art, with many more to come from from Bodil Gardner.

Pat Pauly: House Tour!

Thursday, August 1st, 2019

The always vivacious, irrepressible, and dare I say it, totally lovable Pat Pauly: Exuberant doesn’t begin to describe her, or her richly textured art quilts, which appear in THE most distinguished shows, private collections, and books about art quilts.

Mummy Bags, Canopic Jars, 66″ x 56″

So you can imagine how thrilling it was for me, when I was in Rochester, NY last fall, to get a tour of her house. And now you can, too. The front is charming and neat, but friends come in through the back door. 

Pat painted the clapboards of the exterior — she painted the interior, too. Installed cabinets, refinished furniture. A gardener, she planted all the containers, trees, and flower beds. What that means is that, just like with her fabric-printing and art-quilting students, she establishes the ground rules, guides their development, then lets them loose to do their thing. 

Flowers, or rather, lotus pods command the big diptych which dominated the living room when I visited. This, however, is a space where Pat rotates her giant (relatively speaking) masterpieces. The throw pillows are her work, too. Hot tip: Pat sometimes jumpstarts the process, beginning with linen or cotton ready-made covers which she squeegees and marks with thickened dyes. High-style soft spots that unify the color scheme of the exhibit du jour.

Other corners of the house showcase a cool mix of antiques, vintage, and modern, spare groupings of souvenirs, tchotkes, and art by friends. But it’s her own work, even with smaller dimensions, that invariably captivates your attention. Like the one shown below, Pat’s signature style of layering visual textures in strong, large-scale patterns make for abstract art that seems devilishly complex. Yet she will often produce 40″-squares following her own “Take Two” workshop technique, cutting and combining just two pieces of fabric. 

Pat wouldn’t let me take pictures of her basement studio, where she does the messy work of printing on fabrics as well as the improvisational piecing and free-flowing free-motion quilting. Not a ton of space, but suffice it to say it allows her to be her authentic, whirlwind self and create a prolific body of work. Especially remarkable, given the demanding pace of her teaching gigs. She should bottle and sell that energy, if not that talent.

Lucky me, I had the incredible thrill of taking two classes with Pat at QSDS earlier this summer: Glorious Prints, and Take Two. If you hunger for art, inspiration, or adventures in surface design or composition, she’s the teacher you want— PatPauly.com. Check her calendar and see if it meshes with yours. Attend a presentation or program or workshop, and you’ll probably get the opportunity to purchase her gorgeous fabrics. Oh, and if you want the inexpressible pleasure of living with her art, salivate over her portfolio on that website.

After blogging about Pat Pauly, you may find I have some nerve showing you some of the fabrics I created in her workshop…in my next post. Gonna do it anyway…

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.

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!

Holland! aka Philadelphia Flower Show ’17 (Part 1)

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

The best Flower Show ever! Which could be because it featured tulips, windmills, bicycles, wooden shoes, canals, tiles, and art. Could also be because there were NO crowds—snow, sleet, and ice kept them away.

Here’s the entranceway:

Bikes were EVERYWHERE, as they are in the Netherlands. We learned on a recent trip that in Amsterdam, if not all of Holland, there are 1.8 bikes to every human. They are so eco-smart. And the air is  oh-so clean. And the use of bike parts was oh-so clever.

I really don’t do “pretty”

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

As usual, it was a class–long ago–that started me on a new art quilt. In Lesson 2 of About Style, Pamela Allen assigned us online students to “cut various long skinny shapes out of different fabrics and ‘grow’ your plant in the same way Nature does.”

Rather than “grow” a tree from my imagination, as Pamela does, I relied on photos I took on a trip to Lisbon, when the jacarandas were blooming gorgeous.

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jacaranda1

Started with a background on a quilt sandwich, anticipating a small art quilt:

background

Next, I brought in the trunk for a pretzel-like tree, with a bunch of lavender prints:

jac-1

“Grew” the tree with other, similarly colored fabrics in various shades and tints:

building

Oh, this could be a really pretty picture, a la my photo. I could balance the lower left side with flowering shrubbery.

But then I remembered: I don’t really do “pretty.”

#1, there are so many fabulous art quilters who take “pretty” to levels I could never dream of.

#2, “pretty” can be pretty boring.

Around this time, my sister Carolyn was shopping for a new car. As a wife, she had always deferred to her husband’s choices in this department. As a widow with a new-found sense of her capabilities for research and decision-making, and within short order, she she walked into her local Honda dealership, test-drove, and bought a Honda Accord.

So, in accordance with those trees that grew in a high-trafficked, urban setting, and with tremendous pride in my sister’s taste and independence, I slapped a Honda under the jacaranda. And made my getaway from “pretty.”

jac-honda

Stay tuned to see how this art quilt is going, and growing. As always, comments are much appreciated.

 

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.

Hand-in-heart-1

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_20150730_190649560

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSCN1031

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

Art = Play

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

P1012098

      The Contemporary Arts Center –a highlight of a long weekend in Cincinnati, was as fun for my almost 4-year old great nephew as it was for his mom, my DH, and me.  An ultra-colorful and creative current exhibit is titled, “Shall I tell you the secret of the whole world? Painting, Parody & Disguise.” Defining the Parody part, curator Michael Stillion mentions, “Taking serious art not so serious and making it hilariously serious.” With that insanely in mind, Zachary Herrmann describes his installation, with its special appeal for us young and old viewers, using other opposing concepts, so that “cultural cues, symbols, and sensual stimulation…project into a more loosely structured space where fictions about beauty and repulsion, violence and humor, mortality, transparency, and psychology are at play.”

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detail,fools-houseMark Fox, A Fool’s House Fulfilled–A broomstick — among lots of debris–is a clue as to the scale. P1012102

P1012101

Upstairs at CAC is the UnMuseum. There, Casey Millard’s character, Shark Girl, is not having a good day. She hides behind a shark head, because that is the animal she feels like. What animal do you feel like? I am a clingy Labrador retriever, Marcie is a kangaroo mother, and Norman is a curious little monkey.

P1012122

 

Ryan Mulligan created the most beautiful, free-play putt-putt course–no clubs; you use your feet to guide balls into holes…or send them down the clever chutes…or maybe you simply roll around in the balls like a little Ikea ballroom. It’s called The Dinosaur Says Moo.

P1012111

 

P1012115 P1012113 P1012114P1012108 P1012112

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think I’m ready to be more playful with my quilting…how about you?

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

tea rose-detail

 

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.

 

photo,b-wh

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.

 

tea rose 1

 

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.

 

tea rose 2

 

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!

 

styled,EL

 

tea rose-EL

 

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!

 

 

Painting with Flowers

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Be still my heart, when one art form or expression is interpreted in a different form, and the1cassat-duo results bring honor to both:

*A religious prayer  as expressed in classic east Indian dance

*The myth of Pygmalion, where a sculptor falls for his creation, as expressed in the musical, My Fair Lady

*American blues, gospel, and work songs translated into the opera, Porgy and Bess

 

So you can imagine my rapture when the husband and I went to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts for PAFA in Bloom. Floral designers were challenged to do an homage to a work of art, and the result was exhibited beside it.

2cassatt

Baby on Mother’s Arm, Mary Cassatt, 1891

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Linda Lord, Gloucester, NJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2Skaters-duo

The Skaters, Gari Melchers, ca. 1892
Kristie Lynn Borchick, Allentown, PA

 

5girl-plaid-duo

Girl in a Plaid Scarf, Susan Macdowell Eakins, ca. 1880-1885
Michael Haschak, Philadelphia, PA

 

1warning-duo

Warning, Jimmy Ernst, 1960
Dierdre Gross, Medford NJ

9JeffMarket

Jefferson Market, John Sloan, 1917
Carol English, Cranford, NJ

NorthShore-duo

North Shore, Charles Prendergast, 1939
Cathy Hozack, Philadelphia, PA

Prendergast-duo

Promenade, Maurice Prendergast, ca. 1915-1918
Darcie Garcia, Allentown, PA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

promenade,prendergast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

nude

Ariadne Asleep on the Island of Naxos, John Vanderlyn, 1809-1814

 

 

 

 

 

 

nude,fl

Peicha Chang and Rachel Berkowitz, Philadelphia, PA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I could go on and on!

There were more than 40 such pairings, with wide ranges of interpretation, from the literal–like the ship of orchids paired with a tall ships scene, to the metaphorical, like a Peaceable Kingdom interpreted with a variety of flowers, from the very raggy and wild to the tight and symmetrical.

Is this not exciting stuff?!!

Similarly exciting is the wonderful online class I’m taking with the extraordinary quilt/folk artist Pamela Allen of Canada. The first lesson asked us to translate a celebrated painting. No, not in flowers, but as a fabric “sketch.” Like many of my classmates, I chose a piece from that exuberant colorist, Henri Matisse. This one is called Anemones in a Chinese Vase, and it’s from the Cone Collection at the Baltimore Museum of Art:

Anemones,ChineseVase,Matisse

 Here is my fabric sketch, tweaked in just the right way by Pamela:

matissetwk--pamela

 

And here I’ve used the same fabrics to translate another lively scene–the wine and seder plate at our Passover celebration.

SederPlate,revised

 

Hope this blog post has sparked your creativity, encouraging you to find a fine art masterpiece that inspires you to “paint” with flowers or fabric.