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

Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

The Invention of Wings, from a quilter’s POV

Saturday, November 19th, 2016

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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.

 

More from Connected by Stitch

Monday, October 24th, 2016

Sharing today some of the more sophisticated, inspiring pieces at the show. Apologies that the photography is not up to par, but google these artists and see more of their work on their websites.

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Cindy Friedman discusses this quartet (quadriptych?), like much of her work, a mirrored shadow-play. I always wanna shadow Cindy in her studio!

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Marty Ressler created a paean to the oldest tree in America. Found objects and unusual colors grow along the bark.

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Sara Mika of Mock Pie Studio Art Quilts cooked up another view of tree-hugging…and one of the most colorful pieces.

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Elizabeth Bennett gave up using lots of little shapes to go in a new direction. Very modern, just enough hand-quilting in lines that playfully balance and complement.

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Elizabeth Danish put the inexpressible sadness of a flood that took many family lives into this piece, and into the moving statement she delivered.

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Lots of interesting techniques in this piece by Paula Swett. I sure want to know more…

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Susan Leonard often works in series of circles in squares, exquisitely, perfectly rendered…and she generously divulged the secrets of her techniques.

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A second Susan Leonard piece is called School Daze, as its plaids reminded her of what she (and we all) wore…

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Made with silk ribbons cut from vintage Japanese kimonos. Elena Stokes is great at flow, no?

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Patricia Kennedy-Zafred transfered vintage photos from the old west onto feedsack bags.

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I covet this vividly, visually textural diptych by Donna Albert, with images of bamboo stalks at the center of each. What’s the feminine form of the adjective masterful?

Swimming with the Big Fish

Sunday, October 23rd, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Swimming Upstream

Sunday, October 23rd, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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Frames of Mind and Matter

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

Having fun working small. As in, postcard size. And yeah, I’ve backed one with paper, wrote a message, and posted it to our son in Denmark. Postage was $1.33, by the way. Course, it’s been two weeks, and he still hasn’t gotten it…or at least, true to form, hasn’t communicated that he has, nor has he been directly in touch at all (hint hint).

Other postcard-size quilted minis, I’ve set into a shadowbox frame. Amazing how a little postcard is suddenly transformed into a small work of art! How-to’s are easy to understand and cheap—just like me! See them on my website’s Free & Fun link, here.

The two that follow are part of a gallery show, Summer Orbits, in a studio above the Da Vinci Art Alliance in Philly: Galactic Donuts, and Life, Mapped Out.

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A black and metallic fabric swatch with gingko and character felt Japanese, so I named this piece Asian Pear. It resides alongside many other pears, the subject matter of art I’ve collected by various painters and photographers.  It’s the pear as body shape, natch. Just like me!

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Cut-Ups for Quilt-Art

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

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

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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.

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               Center of Gravity, 13″x 7″

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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?

Painting Play-Date

Thursday, August 4th, 2016

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After winning, at a charity auction, a week at a large, lake-side house in Delaware, I invited a bunch of friends to come and play. On one of those mornings, three women answered the call to make art. I brought fabric, paints, brushes, a couple of brayers,  a Gelli art printing plate, and a mess of empty plastic containers, jars, and lids. I demo’ed what I’d learned about monoprinting:

Dab bits or globs of of acrylic paint on the Gelli plate, and roll it out with a brayer. Brush on dots or drag lines with the tip of the brush handle as the spirit moves you. Then, flip the plate onto fabric (I started with an orange print), and roll over it with a second, clean brayer.

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Lift it up, and see what you’ve got. Add more monoprints alongside or on top. Add dots and dashes and lines of paint.

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Below, check out part of another piece I belabored. I really wasn’t thrilled with anything I made. No matter! For me, this is just a start…I’ll cut up painted pieces for sections of an art quilt, or make art quilt postcards, adding other scraps, plus lots of decorative stitches.

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What really gets me jazzed is how my buddies, all monoprinting novices, absolutely, positively surpassed me in creating much more successful art pieces. And came up with techniques of their own that I never would have discovered.

Claire dared to use the same swirly-print fabric, but with a fun, folk-arty flair:

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This intuitive Alaskan also used the Gelli plate to pick up excess paint from her fabric, then turned the plate 90 degrees and rolled over the brayer to deposit perpendicular patterns. Claire shows off one side, then the other. Which do you like best?

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Meanwhile, Barbara of Bucks County, PA channeled Monet. I loved how she used clear plastic containers to alternate with the Gelli plate for monoprinting.

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Finally, Dr. Marjorie of Narberth, PA mainlined a thoroughly modern, expressionist vibe, a la Miro, or Braque:

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Again, we found that the paint that leaked onto the back of the fabric had a simpler, more compelling design. Serendipity goes a long way!

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Another Marjorie experiment with a fabric that already has a strong print.

 

 

 

 

 

Monoprinting can be fairly monotoned, but is never monotonous. Printing over and over with the underside of a clear plastic container leads to a powerful abstract statement.

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Many thanks to Miss Peggy, for taking over the photographing, given that our hands were full of paint!

Working with paints and various tools makes for lots of trading brushes and plastic lid paint palettes…and lots of mess. All the better to find a buddy or two or three to share the setting up, cleaning up, and fun. Can’t wait for the next play-date!

 

 

Sew Resplendent!

Monday, May 30th, 2016

Visiting with the Columbine Quilters in Colorado, I got to admire the many talents of one member in particular, Pam Ballard. Pam brought her spectacularly unique sewing machine to my workshop, and I’m so glad she did…

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This sewing maven graciously allows me to share her method to machine embellishment:

  1. Tape over all openings to prevent paint from seeping into the machine workings.
  2. Dilute nail polish (in this case, a chartreuse color) with acetone (nail polish remover) in order to lighten it. Apply with a sponge in up and down movements.
  3. Use Sharpie Poster Paint Markers (not permanent ink) to doodle and draw.
  4. Pam just reminded me:  take your machine outside and spray with clear acrylic sealant to seal the poster paint markings. BTW, this is the reason for the poster paint markers—the permanent ink Sharpies would bleed, she found.
  5. E6000 glue is her recommendation for adhering tiny jewels and other bling.

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Nail polish in different colors applied to various presser feet makes the one Pam wants to use stand out in the drawer.

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Pam will lend other workshop participants her tools, knowing that as they are clearly identified with her colors and glam touches, she’ll get them back. Also when traveling, Pam stores the spools and coordinating bobbins in translucent pill bottles…a clever organization system if ever I saw one.

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No doubt by now you’ve noticed that Pam is partial to a certain color palette. She made the Wonky Nine-Patch blocks in my workshop, and plans to combine them with her hexies in a complex master-work of an art quilt.

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Little gators are her mascots and muses!

 

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Is this not smashing?! Would you ever consider pimping…er, primping your machine?

Out of Africa? Wearable Art

Saturday, May 28th, 2016

Stunning fashion at the Philadelphia Museum of Art stirs up passions…and questions. Those who know global fabrics have long recognized that the colorful fabrics long associated with Africa come from Europe, particularly the Netherlands. Which begs for an understanding of colonialism and economic exploitation. In any case, Africans as well as Europeans have embraced the fabrics, combining them in ways wild but wearable, even for large ladies.

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From its website (http://www.philamuseum.org/exhibitions/845.html):
Vlisco: African Fashion on a Global Stage, April 30, 2016 – January 22, 2017

Explore how the Dutch company Vlisco became one of the most influential textile brands in West and Central African fashion and a design inspiration around the world. Known for its bold and colorful patterns, Vlisco creates fabrics that marry tradition with luxury. This exhibition highlights the company’s classic and new designs, follows the creation of a textile, and showcases a selection of contemporary fashions by African and European makers as well as Vlisco’s in-house design team.
The wax printed textiles associated with Central and West Africa have a surprising history. Although consumers in Africa and the diaspora embrace them as African, the fabrics have long been designed and manufactured in Europe, and now in China and India. The most luxurious are the wax prints designed and made in the Netherlands by Vlisco. Shortly after its founding in 1846, the company began exporting imitation batiks to the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia). Three decades later, Vlisco found a new market in West Africa. This exhibition is offered in conjunction with Creative Africa, a season devoted to African art and design.”
Have a look!

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Sumptuous, right? Would you wear any of these wow’ems?

 

Diaspora in 3-D

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

It took a phenomenal exhibit to move me back to blogging mode–after months of merely Facebooking (sigh).

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Out of Africa: Primal Diaspora, by Buff McAllister; Crossings II, by Sandy Gregg; and Generation 2500, by Barbara Schneider

 

Stories of Migration is a joint venture by SAQA–Studio Art Quilters Assoc. and the Textile Museum, now housed at GW University in DC.  It takes the concept of diaspora, and moves it far beyond the traditional dispersal of Jews following the destruction of the Temple. From the Greek–a scattering or sowing of seeds, it now covers any body of people living outside their homeland. Psychological and evocative reactions and political ramifications are powerful. But because movement and geography, or space, are inherent to this theme, I am moved to share with you just a few pieces that go beyond the art quilt on the wall and take less usual positions.

Above, that big ball is a rolled up strip, 300 yards long, with overlapping hand-prints to depict the people and the journey of homo sapiens over 2500 generations.

Below are three shots of an installation piece by Sara P. Rockinger. She is interested in how “global social issues intersect, overlap, and become stitched together through shared human experience.” Handmade clothing from different cultures are molded and stiffened. Video projections allow the viewer (i.e., me) to become part of the experience, called In/Visible.

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Jane Dunnewold is a favorite artist of mine, working in fabric, paper, and lots of surface treatments. Taking a vintage quilt and handmade and vintage papers, she has used collage and weaving, added spackle and gold leaf to rework the idea of a soft covering for a bed into a symbol of transition and paradox. The title, “Receptacles of Memory,” can be applied to a great number of the pieces in this exhibit.

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I’ve also followed the evolution of Susan Else from quilter of bed quilts to art quilts to fabric sculpture. Above and below is her “Crossing Points.” She explains that decades of injury and counter-injury and outside interests catch people up in a web where they have nothing to lose by leaving.

This piece sits beneath a site-specific installation by Consuelo Jimenez Underwood, called “Undocumented Border Flowers.” Underwood was invited to submit work, as were other celebrated artists (Faith Ringgold is another one). The rest of the artists were juried in.
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More human-scaled, and perhaps more accessible, is this wonderful evocation of what it is to be an urban nomad. Kristin La Flamme has made a shopping cart over into a village, using fabrics from army uniforms, yarn, floss, and bungie cords. It’s called, “Home is Where the Army Sends Us.”

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Hoping this blog post sends YOU to see this exhibit before it closes Sept. 4. And, if you’re still reading, I have a copy of the exhibit catalog to send to someone. Share your personal migration story in the comment box below. Not much room, I know, so try to use fewer than 50 words.  I’ll pick one that particularly inspires me and mail you out this full-color collection showing all the pieces in the exhibit.