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

Archive for the ‘Surface Design’ Category

My Sanctuary City

Friday, April 26th, 2019
Sanctuary City, detail

Last summer, I took a collage class at QSDS–Quilt & Surface Design–from Deborah Fell.

Standing alongside my design wall in Deborah Fell’s class.

See that sprawling assemblage to the left of my hip? It started as a small abstract composition…abstraction being something I aspire to. But I can’t help myself; my work invariably calls to mind some object or scene, and I’m off to flesh out figurative or landscape designs.

This held true here: I saw buildings and began to recreate my current hometown of Philadelphia. I had a few recognizable buildings, some vague representations, the Schuylkill River on the left, the Delaware River on the right. It came together in stages, and I placed sturdy pieces of canvas or upholstery weight fabric under the expanding areas as foundations for a large, odd-shaped wall hanging.

City between two rivers…

A few months later, I read about a SAQA (Studio Art Quilters Association) call for entry: Forced to Flee. The theme resonated. As a volunteer, I’ve long advocated for compassionate immigration reform and protested against Muslim bans, the Wall, family separations, and inhumane detention centers. I decided to finish my cityscape to express pride that Philadelphia is one among hundreds of sanctuary cities in the U.S. My “city of brotherly love” (sisterly love is implied!) accepts its moral obligation to protect immigrants and refugees. City leaders and activists alike fight against detentions, deportations, family separations, and discrimination. We rise to welcome the stranger, give shelter, secure safe haven for those “forced to flee.”

Knowing the caliber of work submitted to a SAQA show, I thought I’d have less competition for a 3-D piece, and be more likely to get in. So, I traced around an oval trashcan for a pattern — cuz what better to give me elegance than a trashcan? I continued to build my city over thick Pel-tex stabilizer so the vessel would be an upstanding example. Alternately, I worked on the inside surface, using a vintage quilt fragment for its soft, comforting associations, plus emergency mylar thermal blankets of the sort that are given to detainees. I cannot express how much struggling, how much cursing, how many broken needles went into assembling this beast. It stands 28” high. To ensure steadiness without adding weights, I fashioned a spiral pathway with signs and symbols of concern and welcome: bi-lingual expressions, caution tape, keys and safety pins and zippers.

There were further frustrations as I hand-stitched the elements together. Then I had to photograph it to try and meet the demands for pixels, clarity, background, and appropriate depth of field. I managed to submit my information and images 45 minutes before the deadline.

I didn’t get in to the Forced to Flee show. I get it. Jurors receive hundreds of submissions and usually curate down to under 50 — for a cohesive, high-quality exhibit at venues with limited spaces. Perhaps my piece was too discombobulated and did not appeal to the judge. Perhaps there were no other 3-D pieces and this would have been odd man out. And perhaps my photos weren’t up to what SAQA demands for not only the judging, but also the catalog.

Rejection gave me several advantages: I really wasn’t satisfied with the piece, and was now free to make significant changes. Another SAQA call for entry beckoned: 3-D expressions. I had time to revise and polish the composition from all sides and the inside. New construction and embellishment strengthened the overall aesthetic and referenced more Philly iconography. I added more vintage mini-blocks and doilies to the inside, and crocheted an oval rug to cozy up the “inner sanctum.” I want those who see the piece to take time to walk around it and peer inside. And yeah, I’m tempted to throw in little stuffed heart-shaped pillows, additional keys, and poems of welcome…but mostly because I don’t know when to stop. What do you think? More secrets and treasures? Or enough already?!?

Happier with the piece, I took the time to hire an expert photographer — Gary Grissom — and set it up in a better-lit niche. Now I felt more confident submitting it to the other show.

More time and attention to detail and good workmanship, along with professional shots, did the trick. I got in!

Icing on this cake is the impressive decision-maker, an art professor and gallery director who is one of the finest modern fiber curators in the world. (Oh, and he’s a Philadelphian.!) SAQA’s website states, “The wide variety of pieces selected by juror Bruce Hoffman include vessels, wearables, wall-pieces, and sculptural artworks. This cutting-edge exhibition shows how textile art can expand both into the third dimension and into the future.”

This exhibition, 3-D Expression, will premiere at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan in September 2019. I am angling to see while it’s there. Aside from the honor of having my work included, I would be thrilled to study all the other works in the only way they can truly be appreciated: by walking around them and checking them out from every angle.

Meanwhile, I’m back to making essentially 2-D art quilts for a while. Oh, and shopping for a workhorse of a sewing machine that may allow for thick, sculptural work in the months to come.

From Photo to Fabric

Saturday, September 1st, 2018

Two weeks before the Disperse Dyeing on synthetics workshop at Lisa “Dippy Dyes” Reber’s house, I was invited to send in photos for transferring. So I went through recent vacation photos, architectural landscapes I’d shot in Riga, Latvia. I wanted my fabric transfers to be correctly displayed, so I flipped them to the mirror image and sent them in as Lisa requested.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lisa directed us to send our images right to Fine Balance Imaging Studios–which is located in Langley, on Whidbey Island. I have fond memories of vacationing on this charming island, a short boat ride away from Seattle, WA. Kudos for this top quality firm locating in a place where quality of life is so high. Anyhoo, their site says:

If your files are anywhere up to 20MB or so, please send us an email at theprintstudio@gmail.com your file as an attachment and instructions for your job. We’ll follow up with you within 24 hours to verify your request and provide a timeline and estimate.

Gmail user? You can send any size file through email – it will automatically upload to Google Drive and send us a link!

Alternately, Dropbox is a great free service we highly recommend that is easy to use. Upload your file and send us a link via email. [Maybe box.net will also work!]

Please do email us and let us know you’ve sent a file, and specify what you would like for your order.

At the workshop, Lisa passed out the large sheets of paper that were imprinted with pigments made for synthetic fabrics. Presumably, you could ask FBI Studios to use the pigment that was right for natural fabrics, too. Here’s Kerry, my classmate, cutting her pictures into individual transfer sheets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos were placed on fabrics, with right sides together, within the hot press. I began, using a poly-cotton broadcloth supplied by Lisa. Excellent saturation and detail!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, I experimented with my own unusual fabrics. Below, two photos transferred onto a piece of polyester chiffon that is embroidered with little leaves or feathers. Under that, two photos transferred onto a peach polyester moire.

Here are transfers to a sheer pinkish polyester.

 

I think these will make ethereal overlays to abstract compositions which allude to the ghosts of my family members who lived in Riga and walked the same streets I did. Some were tradesmen, involved in manufacturing of paints and turpentine, so I believe they would approve.

 

 

 

 

I Dyed and Went to Fabric Heaven

Saturday, September 1st, 2018

See the work I’m doing here?

Brushing on “cool black” dye over painted and crayoned paper. Check out my last two posts here and here to find out why. My choice of dyes were squirted into ice cube tray compartments, because you only need a little. Each dye is identified with a green masking-tape tag, because really, the look of the dye is rarely telling.

The right half is the transfer of my workings onto satin polyester fabric. Then I printed a second time, resulting in the quieter colors of the left half.

 

 

 

 

 

I preferred the poly cotton–more like the natural fabrics I use in my art quilts and craft pieces (table runners, pillow covers, tote bags, etc.). Here are two printings from one crayon-and-dye sketch, but with extra dye brushed on to bridge the gap between them.

 

 

 

 

I was big into circles, and printing twice, with the second aligned. Inadvertently, I made myself a bodacious bra, huh?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last one shows a lapse back into traditional territory–a landscape. But even like the scribblings of the other experiments, this will probably be cut up and used as components of an abstract art quilt. Although, with all my circles, I can’t help but think toward Drunkard’s Path patchwork. In any case, I found these sips and gulps of disperse dyeing quite intoxicating.

 

 

Dyeing to introduce you…

Friday, August 31st, 2018

At the workshop mid August, I learned so much from the trials–almost all successful! Just a few tribulations!–of my sister classmates. Although they experimented with lots of surface textures a la Lisa “Dippy Dyes” Reber, I’m going to share what we did using Miriam Jacobs’ techniques, which I am absolutely jazzed about. As Miriam showed us (see my last post) we worked on paper, first with fabric crayons. We placed textures under the paper and then made rubbings, adding lines or marks as desired. Day one, I worked alongside Janet, who is making a rubbing. Then, we painted  thick, liquid dyes on top. When we were done, we carried the paper and a piece of synthetic fabric over to the hot press. Kind of like using a sandwich press, but bigger, heavier, and tight enough to make the thinnest croque monsieur you can imagine. Lisa sets hers at 345 degrees and times the transfer for 29 seconds. Miriam sets hers for a little cooler, and a little longer.

   

The biggest surprise is the Voila! moment, when you get to see exactly what color that dye produced. It’s not always obvious from the paper, that’s for sure. Check out these examples from Grace, with paper and resulting fabric:

Janet quickly mastered ghosting: reprinting with softer and softer effects. Kerry was very diverse in disperse dyeing, but here’s her crayon and dye work.

   

Diana went bold, and produced a prodigious amount of work. “Hot off the press,” so to speak, she’s already ordered all the tools and supplies she needs to keep going.   

   

Next post, I’ll share my work.

 

 

 

Delight in the Dispersal of Dyes

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018

A mind-blowing bevy of techniques filled a two day workshop I took last weekend. Disperse Dyes on Synthetic Fabrics was going to be taught by two accomplished specialists, each with her own extensive repertoire. Held at the home of Lisa “Dippy-Dyes” Reber in quaint little Red Hill, PA, Lisa shared her methods for mottling, sun-printing, salt sprinkling, chain- and tube-wrapping, scrunching, photo-transfer and more. She shared her supplies–tools and liquid dyes which we could choose, referencing her thoughtfully painted chart of colors, tints, and hues.

At the same venue, Miriam Jacobs–formerly known as Mert, or Mertle the Turtle Fabric Arts, won over our attention to how she creates complex cloth, packing on a myriad of techniques including crayon drawing and rubbing, dye-painting, dye scraping, paper scrunching, heat-pressing, ghost-printing, and juxtaposing.

  

Glorious, jaw-dropping gorgeousness. In the next post, I’ll show you what my talented classmates did…and the wealth of surface designs on various fabrics that will doubtless fill my fall with quilting projects. Stay tuned.

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.

Addressing, Redressing

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

Composed. Meaning that I’ve put all the elements together for my latest work in progress, and the composition is complete. Brother — or should I say, Bernina, did I have a time quilting those bubbled, melted woven plastic pieces, which was a bag of beet pulp for horse feed (thank you Ms. Vola). See my last post, Bubble, Bubble, Melt & Muddle. Went through a lot of needles, needless to say. Packaging from other used products–coffee bags (thank you Emmetts and local coffee shop), tea bag envelopes (thank you Carl, Barb, Lesley, and Liz),  and foil enclosures for items like smoked salmon and Alka Seltzer tablets, constitute the rest of the surface. Oh, and I threw in some plastic mesh citrus bags.

Yep, this is part of my ReUse series, made from my stash of trash. A green quilt, to be sure. The text riffs on the word Reuse, as in recycle. Ref-use, meaning garbage. And Re: Use, referring to our use of dwindling resources. Maybe even Refuse — to be a user, a conspicuous consumer.

So here I am. Piece needs some work in straightening and finishing the edges.

Considering crossing some of those fuchsia dashes. More is more??

Nuh-uh. What this piece REALLY needs is what my sewing studio needs: some serious decluttering.

See, I’m not showing off. Or fishing for compliments. Quite the contrary, I’m at a hypercritical stage, and fairly desperate for ideas and direction.

Let me interject here that this piece answers a call for entering 32″ x 48″ textile posters from Studio Art Quilters Association (SAQA). So, much as I’d like to severely crop it–which would be in service to the art, that would be a big capitulation of this opportunity for exposure.

Trial by computer: I translate the image to black and white, to view the contrasts and overall composition in a simplified way. I also added a border, to represent a binding all around:

Which tells me that there is just too much variance of contrast–too much piecing, making it jumpy and jarring.

I’ve decided to use paint to reduce the patterning. Excited about using a brayer to capitalize on the bubbled and quilted textures, for an effect resembling crackling. With hopes that the paint doesn’t crack off or flake…Will I need a primer? A sealant? I’m thinking of a whitewashing effect. Not necessarily white, but swathes of a single shaded color to blend areas of random piecing. [Note to self: Next time, keep crazy quilt patchwork to blocks, to contain and restrain the craziness. And make me less crazy.]

I’m no wiz at photo-editing to preview how this might look, but I have an “add flash” feature to show how lightening the whole thing might look, and I’ve added a light green border to stand in for binding:

Better, I think. Paint will also cover up any exposed brand names or logos of companies whose legal departments have nothing better to do than threaten artists and exhibitors.

The good news is, with this shiny, plasticized surface, I can easily sponge off newly-applied paint that doesn’t do it for me.

Friends, when I say I welcome comments, that is an understatement. Very grateful to get your artistic perspective. What do you think I should do?

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!

 

Cut-Ups for Quilt-Art

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

Here’s one piece of fabric from the painting play-date I described last month:

DSCN7806

 

I hated the result. But that doesn’t mean certain areas didn’t have potential. I cut up sections I liked, and fused them to Peltex–thick interfacing. The kind I had featured fusible on both sides, but I only adhered to one side, protecting my ironing surface from the other side with a Teflon pressing sheet.

Then, I mined for gold: went through my scrap stash of mostly silks and silky fabrics for collage candidates in warm colors and light, medium, and dark accents. When I found a piece that played well with my painted background, I pressed fusible web to the back, and without measuring, I scissors-cut strips and rectangles. Auditioned some arrangements. Fused the scraps in place. Quilted to make the compositions more cohesive. Couched cord or chenille yarn around the edges for a finish.

Center-of-Gravity

               Center of Gravity, 13″x 7″

galactic-donuts

Galactic Donuts, 6″x 4″

Those painted backgrounds are pretty well covered up, I confess. Can you find the areas of the painted fabric at the top that I used for each piece?