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

Bodil Gardner’s Ladies

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.

8 Responses to “Bodil Gardner’s Ladies”

  1. Kathy Pitts says:

    Thank you for sharing these remarkable pictures. How grand that you got to visit Bodil, lovely pictures, it’s like she lives in a fairy tail land.

  2. Sammie says:

    These are remarkable. Thanks so sharing!

  3. Margo says:

    These are wonderful.

  4. Carole says:

    What a talent! Love these ladies!!!!

  5. Thanks for this post, Eleanor. I really enjoyed it and will pass it on.

  6. Margaret Cooter says:

    Thanks so much for your comment on my “blast from the past” blog post – I’m so glad it took me to this post about Bodil Gardner. Quite apart from her quilts, that garden is so wonderful!

    Re Denmark, do you know of the Danish artist Anna Ancher (1859-1935) who was part of the Skagen Group? I read about her recently and have put the Anchers Hus (her husband was also an artist) on my list of place to visit … one day ….

    bw, margaret

  7. Karen Sullivan says:

    Hi Elly, How lucky for you to have visited Bodil Gardner. Her creations are so amazing!
    I’m still trying to find my own style, but it takes time. It was so fun hosting you in the Denver area a few years ago. If you ever visit again, be sure to call so you can see my new home and fabulous studio. Be well.
    Karen

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Favorites from Gees Bend

August 14th, 2019

As admired in the exhibit, Souls Grown Deep, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Housetop/Fractured Medallion Variation, Delia Bennett, 1955

Gee’s Bend is a small, poor, black community in Alabama. It’s only 44 miles west of Selma — where in 1965 Martin Luther King, Jr. led protest marches to Montgomery, Alabama. But surrounded on three sides by the Alabama River, Gees Bend is isolated, a far cry from modern-day consumerism and attitudes. Most of the 700+ folks who live there are descended from slaves. After the departure of Joseph Gee and the dispersal of his slaves, the Pettway family ran the plantation. In order to stay on this land, many of them had to take on the Pettway surname. Sharecroppers and tenant farmers kept workers in poverty. Planting and picking cotton, peas, and peanuts, and tending hogs and cows provided long, hard days of bare subsistence farming. But poor by any standards, generations of Gees Bend women have created a rich legacy of quilt masterpieces. And these have garnered attention and accolades from the art world.

Now, when I worked on needlework and craft magazines in NYC in the 1980s, I studied pictures of American quilts made by European descendants, in order to write directions for recreating them. Typically, these quilts featured hundreds of patches — like the quilt at the top of this post, but each patch absolutely identical. Precise and ultra-fine handiwork, heirloom patterns, fabrics from England and France. Such fancy-work could only be made by women living in the lap of luxury, with plenty of time and money. Even the country quilts were mostly made using fabrics off the bolt rather than scraps and repurposed clothing.

So I admit, it took me a while to appreciate the wonky, asymmetrical compositions with edges out-of-square of the Gees Bend quilts. These women received only a few weeks of education a year — squeezed in after planting and again after the harvest. Quiltmaking, too, was fit in only after work and chores were seen to. They used what they had: denim and wool work clothing too far gone to mend, feedsack bags, and corduroy remnants when Sears was paying for pillow-making. Especially admirable in an age when reusing, recycling, and repurposing has gained moral importance. Yet these quilts, meant for the beds where sleeping family members needed warmth, now grace the same museum walls that show minimalist abstract art by Josef Albers, Piet Mondrian, Paul Klee, Mark Rothko, Richard Diebenkorn, and Sean Scully.

Roman Stripes (I’d call it Rail Fence; the maker calls it Crazy Quilt), Loretta Pettway, 1970

From an interview with Loretta Pettway: “I didn’t like to sew. Didn’t want to do it. I had a handicapped brother and I had to struggle. I had a lot of work to do. Feed hogs, work in the field, take care of my handicapped brother. Had to go to the field. Had to walk about fifty miles in the field every day. Get home too tired to do no sewing. My grandmama, Prissy Pettway, told me, ‘You better make quilts. You going to need them.’ I said, ‘I ain’t going to need no quilts.’ But when I got me a house, a raggly old house, then I needed them to keep warm. We only had heat in the living room, and when you go out of that room you need cover. I had to get up about four, five o’clock, and get coal. Make a fire. Them quilts done keep you warm.”

String-Pieced Blocks and Bars, Sue Willie Seltzer, using cotton, denim, and flannel, around 1965
Blocks and Strips Work-Clothes Quilt, Andrea Williams, 1991
This detail shows the seamed together fabric from well-worn blue jeans, a pale color everywhere except where a pocket once kept the dark denim from fading.

Like all the women in the show–and for that matter, in Gees Bend, Irene Williams has lots of quiltmaking relatives and neighbors. However this particular woman seems to have stitched to her own aesthetic. Since the age of 17, quiltmaking has been for her a solitary activity, a relief from working the cotton fields and raising six children. She explains, “When I got married, I started making quilts. I just put stuff together.” Among that “stuff” were basketball jerseys she pieced into a quilt top. Art critics delight in the whimsical way this work recalls maps with housing plots and numbers — or reflects a sly sense of humor.

Strips, Irene Williams, 1960s

Irene Williams also created the piece below. Here, too, she used what she had, which obviously included a good deal of polyester knit. Using such a fabric means you get lots of stretching — distorted seams, puffy texture, and wavy edges. But you also get intense color, an iconoclastic shape, and a bold, attention-grabbing graphic that made this the image used to represent the entire Souls Grown Deep exhibit for the Philadelphia Museum of Art promotional materials.

Blocks and Strips, Irene Williams, 2003

I recently led a group on an informal tour through the exhibit, sharing what I knew and listening to their reactions. Each person chose her favorite, and this one was selected by several. My charges also asked how fame had affected their lives. This article explains it best. Many of the quilts originally sold for $75 when the maker thought that was far too much. Or, later, for hundreds of dollars when the value was listed in the thousands. Some quiltmakers cite the satisfactions of recognition and newly installed indoor plumbing, the occasional air conditioner or heater. The Souls Grown Deep Foundation engaged the Artists’ Rights Society to secure for each maker her due: intellectual property rights; copyright fees that are owed for use of the images, remuneration for the work of deceased artists finding it’s way to the rightful next-of-kin. Some of the Gees Benders are grateful, others have engaged in long, drawn out lawsuits in which money is consumed by the plaintiff’s lawyers.

Quilts have put Gees Bend on the map. But it is still a small, poor community.

4 Responses to “Favorites from Gees Bend”

  1. Deanne says:

    Everyday that we view art and talk about what we feel and see is and enriching experience. Since I am not a quilter it is enlightening to hear those who quilt focus on the stitching as well as the materials and the color.

    • It is also enlightening to get your perspectives. You may not be a quilter, Deanne, but you are a social justice warrior and fabric lover with a long history of involvement with textile production and cultural variations showcased in cloth!

  2. Thanks for posting this, and showing us your favorites. I don’t think I’d seen the basketball jersey one. The Gee’s Bend quilts are brilliant and fascinating, and have had a profound influence in quilting, especially the Modern Quilt movement. They’ve influenced my work directly, and I am so grateful to these fearless artists (and to you for talking about them.)

  3. jane Friedman says:

    Thank you for the wonderful tour you gave our “second look” group. You’re inspirational.

    Jane Friedman

Leave a Reply to Roxane

Mali Medallion

August 12th, 2019

It’s my favorite thing: art quilts as advocacy.

So I was quick to answer the call from Quilt for Change and The Advocacy Project. Under the initiative, known as Sister Artists, survivors of gender-based violence created embroidered blocks depicting scenes of their life in Mali. Quilters — mostly American — were invited to choose a block and turn it into an art quilt. The plan is for the quilts to be posted online, exhibited, and auctioned. And then all proceeds will go to support the artists in Mali and Sini Sanuman (“Healthy Tomorrow”), a Malian advocacy program for women’s rights.

That sounded totally worthwhile to me. I especially liked the roundhouses on the block shown at the upper left, and below. For reasons of safety and policy, the young woman, i.e., Sister Artist, may not be named. Nevertheless, my priority was to honor her and her work.

I immediately envisioned the lovely, pictorial embroidery surrounded by geometric designs used in Mali villages. A good friend, artist Janet Goldner, visits Mali quite frequently, and shared pictures she recently took of a house painting festival that takes place once a year in Siby, a village about 30 miles from Bamako (the capital and largest city in the country). Women draw from the local clay colors for their color palette. Wow, right?! So with the embroidery at the heart of my art, I set out to build around it, log-cabin-style.

The embroidery background was not square, so I went with an assymetrical medallion setting, sketched out on graph paper. Now, I invariably depart from my original plan fairly quickly, but this time — surprise, surprise — I basically stuck to it. Oh, I didn’t keep to a specific scale, nor did I measure, cut, and sew precise patchwork or applique circles as dictated by the sketch. Instead, queen of the quick and dirty that I am, I used freehand-cut fused triangles and patterned fabric from my stash of African, batik, and hand dyed and printed fabrics. There was quite a bit of seat-of-the-pants fudging-it as I added rounds of borders. Conveniently, African beads camouflage spots where angles and corners lack sharp points.

I hope my piece does justice to the embroidered block. I hope it calls attention to the need for human rights, justice, and equality in Mali, as they are needed and deserved everywhere in the world. My efforts here are a small show of support, relatively insignificant. If I could, I would pin a medal on each courageous woman anywhere who struggles and strives and supports her sisters. For now, my Mali Medallion will have to do.

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My Glorious Prints

August 3rd, 2019

Glorious Prints is the name of a Pat Pauly class which was one of the most exciting art-making experiences of my life. See my previous blog post here. With Pat as your teacher, demo-ing her techniques twice a day over 4 1/2 glorious days, and with plenty of space to work and to spread out pieces to dry, you, too, can produce yards and yards of fabrics featuring exciting, large scale prints in the colors you love. Here are a few of the pieces I squeegeed, stenciled, spattered, dribbled, and silk-screened at Quilt & Surface Design Symposium in Columbus, OH the week of Memorial Day, 2019.

Big piece–see my foot! I’ll add a few strips at the bottom and call this an almost wholecloth art quilt!
Another big piece–printed on yellow fabric. I’ll definitely cut this one up.
Printed on a vintage tea towel. This will be a background for applique and embellishments.
Printed on a linen napkin. Will be fun to quilt as a little work.
Also printed on a linen napkin. I love how the electrical cord on the floor flows out of the design, and I’ll be extending that line with a satin cord onto the fabric that serves as a background, border, or picture mat.

I’ll try to add more of what came out of this class, and what I do with it. Hopefully in the next few weeks…

P.S. For that to happen, first I must pray to the Creative Spirit for the power to ignore housework, chores, family and volunteer commitments, deadlines, crises… Sometimes, I think a power outage would be a nice surprise. Get me off the computer, and in front of the design wall…. Oh, but then there’s that “Be careful what you wish for” caveat… How much would I actually be able to do this August without AC or a fan?!

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Pat Pauly: House Tour!

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…

3 Responses to “Pat Pauly: House Tour!”

  1. Sue says:

    I love Pat and now I love her house! Thanks!!

    • Sue Benner, you talented, generous, gutsy girl you. I love how you share moments from your personal life, family, nature walks, and joie de vivre! Bet YOUR home is a reflection of all that…

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My Sanctuary City

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.

6 Responses to “My Sanctuary City”

  1. I’m glad you wrote this blog post, Eleanor, now I can really appreciate what a masterpiece you have made – and the fact that you advocate to help refugees makes it even more powerful as a spiritual testament.

  2. Helen Marie says:

    Hope to see it in person! Your tales of construction crack me up…

  3. Mary Ann Cox says:

    Congratulations. It’s a lovely piece and I wish I could see it in person.

  4. Cjhaab says:

    Congratulations! An impressive piece and with so much of your heart involved! The best kind of art.

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Threads of Resistance, in the cloth!

September 16th, 2018

At the same time I launched United We Quilt, a group of fabric artists called the Artists Circle Alliance put out a call for entry to Threads of Resistance.

The two shows are sisters–both expressing deep concerns for the character, policies, and actions of the Trump administration.

UWQ has been, from the beginning, strictly a digital gallery–and if you’re reading this, do consider submitting a work of your own. The only deadline is when democracy has been restored. Every day the president gives us something else to provoke anger and concern and inspire speaking up for justice, with words, deeds, and art. I’m proud of the capacity and accessibility of UWQ for doing justice to each work and its maker.

ToR, however, was designed as a traveling show. No doubt it has involved a huge investment; the managing of finances, insurance policies, and storage; negotiations and legal contracts with venues and insurance agencies; transportation coordination; and answering to the needs of everyone who submitted work and everyone involved in showing the work. The political theme made this show exponentially more time-consuming and risky. In fact, several venues were cancelled and one was shortened…I can’t help thinking it was because the booking was arranged before the producers understood how subversively “in your face” some of the content was; I assume they caved to complaints.

Yesterday, I got to see ToR at the Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza. It was one among many exhibitions and competitions of quilts eliciting oohs and aahs over extraordinarily gorgeous workmanship, composition, brilliance or graphic power. Signs on the ends of the aisles of this exhibit clarified a disclaimer.

And yes, the Mancuso team that manages PNQE received complaints about gratuitous nudity, use of expletives, and anger expressed in, of all things, a quilt.

BUT. No doubt about it, ToR attracted the most attention, had the biggest crowds, and garnered the most lingering views, cell-phone photography, and conversation of anything in the cavernous exposition halls. I think many viewers were not used to seeing statement art quilts. And I give them, the often apolitical, traditional quilters a lot of credit for taking it all in and responding enthusiastically to many of the works.

I have poured over this website, and I hope you will, too. Links at the top of ThreadsofResistance.org take you to “Traveling exhibit”–those juried into the show. Even the biggest quilt shows will have space limitations for each of their exhibits, and the Artist’s Circle Alliance choose between 50 and 60 pieces–about one-tenth of the works that were submitted. However, to their credit, they decided to have every single piece that came in put on their website, under the link “The Artwork.”

Take as much time on the website as you can. Of course, as with all quilts, art quilts– really, art in any medium, an image can’t hold a candle to seeing a piece in all its tactile glory…even if you can’t touch it. What I can do here on my blog is share views of pieces that are beyond anything you can get online…let you look closely and peek under, as I did with the help of a white-glove lady.

Let’s start with this one:

Equal means Equal by Jessica Levitt

I read the artist’s statement “This quilt was created to be carried as a protest sign for The Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21, 2017.” I thought holding a quilt high in a large crowd probably meant that the back of the piece must hold some interest. And indeed it did. 

A stunning favorite of mine is Seeking Refuge by Do Palma. It’s a heart-rending response to the ongoing refugee crisis. I love how the artist used silk screen, printing and stenciling on fabric to silhouette long lines of people forced to flee. Even more, I loved how a sheer overlay added depth, obfuscation, and clouded views of these people who are forced to live in the shadows. When the delicate overlay was carefully lifted by a white-glove lady, I was able to photograph the under layer.

On the other extreme to graphic power is a really soft, subtle piece in the exhibit called There’s Something Between Us, by Heidi A. Parkes. You can see it in its entirety here. But you cannot appreciate it from a small image, nor from the statement on the site:  

“In recent years, my mother’s politics have shifted, and she has made it clear that she doesn’t want to discuss her politics with my brother or me. This election has been deeply troubling, and has raised ethical questions that I cannot shrug off as ‘just politics.’ It has created a tangible discomfort in our relationship.”

No, you have to look closely at this pale, highly textural work, and be aware that the artist has embroidered text over a  curtain that her mother made, and then hand quilted it. It takes time to discern the phrases, such as, “My mother voted for a man who bragged about nonconsensually groping young women like me”….. “If we can’t talk about this, how can we talk about anything?”…. “Grandma says never talk politics with family.”

If it’s curtains for honest conversations with loved ones, could it be curtains for democracy? Not when we stay informed, stay vigilant, speak up, persist, resist. As these artists and the Artists Circle Alliance have done.

I don’t want the curtain to drop on this exhibit.

I know the PNQE is the next to last stop for ToR. Maybe the artists are looking forward to getting their pieces back, even though these are not artworks that most of us want in our living rooms when mom or grandma come to visit. I would also put forth that individually, these are masterpieces, but all together, this show is an important piece of history. How I wish that George Soros, George Clooney, or George Stephanopoulos will purchase the show in its entirety and donate it to a museum as a permanent collection or one that gets mounted from time to time. Like Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party. It’s that good, and it’s that worth preserving.

In the meantime, permit me another shout-out to United We Quilt: Sewing Justice. If Threads of Resistance inspires you to make quilt art as a protest against the Trump administration, or as a celebration of what patriotism ought to look like, we’re eager to show your work, in the most democratic way possible: No jurying. No size restrictions. No packing. No shipping. No entry fees. No censoring. No deadline. How ’bout it?

 

5 Responses to “Threads of Resistance, in the cloth!”

  1. Thank you for this review. I have a triptych in the online exhibit; it is a commentary on the disintegration of civility, which I find so very troubling both in the U.S. and globally, as it shuts down discourse about those things that matter most and are so very difficult (to whit: ‘There’s Something Between Us’). As I live a long way from where ToR is/was being shown, I’m not able to see any of the pieces up close, so I appreciate any opportunity to see and read reviews of those who *have* been able to do so. 🙂

    • Thanks for writing. Would be honored if you would submit your Disintegration triptyck to UnitedWeQuilt.com—and any other work you’ve done –your work is so fabulous–but to be truly appreciated, deserves to be accompanied by the artist’s statement. And I am really proud that our website provides that with the piece, and also a detail shot or two, date and dimensions and where you’re from and a link to your website or instagram. IMHO, really does your work justice. And while I have your attention, I admire your advocacy speaking out in various ways on behalf of patients and caregivers. With our president, we’re not just losing public civility, we’re in danger of losing our health care and the safety nets protecting those with pre-existing conditions, Medicaid, and more. We’ll all be joining you in Canada!

  2. There is another art quilt exhibition in progress that is also speaking up. It is titled “Things that Matter” made by 31 fiber artists who joined together as A Coalition of Artists with Purpose specifically to create the show. They have used their individual talents to say they believe THIS thing, this idea, this place, this part of our world is important and should not be forgotten or undefended when at risk from intolerance, ignorance, indifference, or greed.
    It’s preview was at Visions Art Museum in San Diego last spring. It’s full premiere is at Visions Gallery in Chandler Arizona November 8, 2018 – January 6, 2019. Then it will be in St. George Utah March 23 – July 6, 2019.
    As yet there is no online venue, but a catalog is for purchase at Amazon. I hope your readers have an opportunity to see this stunning exhibition.

    • Eleanor says:

      Sounds amazing! Good to know.

    • I should also add, Sandra, that #1, I love your work–Chasm, Silver Birch Grove, Blackbird (Have you ever done a poteet, or tweet theme?)…in SAQA shows, your name and work come up frequently. Do consider submitting Chasm to UnitedWeQuilt.com, and to urge your sister artists in Things That Matter to do the same with any and all relevent work. A good opportunity, in my humble opinion, to pair detail shots, contact info, artist statements, and more with the work, and allows for that world-wide exposure on the web. Oh, and visit me whenever you’re in Philly!

Leave a Reply to Roxane

Shelter

September 7th, 2018

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

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

 

  

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

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

   

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

   

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

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

Leave a Reply to Roxane

From Photo to Fabric

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.

 

 

 

 

One Response to “From Photo to Fabric”

  1. Hi Eleanor! Thanks so much for the lovely write-ups! It was wonderful experimenting with and on you, that is, teaching!
    Just to clarify, the inks used at Fine Balance Imaging are only for synthetic fabrics. For natural fabrics, try Spoonflower!
    Besides recuperating, Miriam and I are in touch several times a week, planning the next adventures with disperse dyes!

Leave a Reply to Roxane

I Dyed and Went to Fabric Heaven

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.

 

 

One Response to “I Dyed and Went to Fabric Heaven”

  1. Love the bodacious bra. My husband gave me a college shirt with two giant basketballs located similarly. I only sleep in it. Aside from that, your circles are great!

Leave a Reply to Roxane