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Friday, September 12, 2014

Celebrating Labor Day

I got to celebrate the fruits of my year long (or more) labor in a very appropriate way this year. During the long process of our move to MA I had joined the Abstract Artists Group of New England. They are a somewhat eclectic group in terms of media but I was the only textile artist among those who worked with acrylic, oil, watercolor, collage, pastel, and several other media. Each year they have a show of members' work at the Newburyport Art Association and this would be my first show with them.

I ended up with ten pieces in the show and, when I looked around on the evening of the hanging, I knew I had joined the right group.


















There were seventeen artists participating in the exhibit so these pictures are only a portion of it, but you can see how my work fit in. The show opened August 22 with the opening reception on Aug. 30, Labor Day weekend, and the day of the big Riverfest in Newburyport. At times it looked like wall-to-wall people in the gallery and it was exciting to see that many people looking at and talking about the work in the show.

I am enjoying getting to know these artists and seeing their work in the show and at our monthly meetings.  And it is energizing to receive comments on my work from artists working in such diverse media.

And if you are still with me, thanks for the company!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Blog Hop

It has been a long summer with lots of settling in, house repairs, and getting to know new people and a whole new area. My blog has suffered. I am celebrating the approach of fall with a renewed resolution to blog more consistently and I began by accepting an invitation to a Blog Hop from a new friend and fellow member of the Abstract Artists Group of New England, Ethel Hills. This hop requires that I answer four questions today and then nominate three more artists who will continue the process next Saturday by answering the questions on their blogs and nominating another three artists. And so the questions. . . .

1. What am I working on/writing?
Currently I am spending much of my time on two series. I have always been intrigued by texture in art and when I began to dye my own fabrics I increasingly chose techniques that produce texture by manipulating the color values of the dyes or by printing on the dyed fabric. And then I added a tactile element—texture produced by a combination of scrunching and hand stitching, and I have been spending some time seeing where this technique leads me.

I am also experimenting with raw-edge applique sewn to the background with visible stitches using a heavy thread like perle cotton.  Although the edges may fray, I like the way the fabric lies flat against the background without the stiffness caused by a turned-under edge or a layer of fusing.

2. How does my work/writing differ from others in this genre?
As I was writing the answer to the first question I realized that my two series were breaking with quilting tradition that emphasizes avoiding wrinkles and frayed edges when joining fabric. I am actively embracing both at the moment because I want to let the fabric be fabric and see what happens. I find myself drawn to the wabi-sabi point of view—one that delights in the beauty of the imperfect, the simple, the natural, the ordinary.  I am definitely not alone in this preference but it does seem to set me apart from a great number of textile artists.  And my work probably differs from others, no matter what technique or series I am pursuing, because I am combining my own hand-dyed and/or printed fabric with my unique and ever-changing vision of the world.

3. Why do I do what I do?
I grew up wandering the back hills of Kentucky and the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River in Iowa, spent a good chunk of my adulthood in the northcentral mountains of Pennsylvania and now find myself in a city in New England with a five-acre pond outside my studio window and the ocean ten minutes away. And the colors, textures, shapes, and movement of the trees, water, animals, and skies that I have known in all these areas influence my work and its recurring themes of interconnectedness and change.

A number of years ago I came across a quotation from Harold Thurman Whitman:  ”Do not ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and go and do that because the world needs people who have come alive.” When I make art, I come alive.

4. How does my writing/working process work?
I sometimes begin by putting an intriguing piece of fabric on a corner of my design wall and leaving it there for a week or a month or more until I come up with a vision of what to do with it.  At that point I may do a rough sketch or I may begin to build a composition with bits of trial fabric that will ultimately be replaced with more carefully cut shapes.

But I also sometimes begin with a sketch that may be totally abstract but more often is inspired by a natural shape or pattern, a plant or an animal, or by a word (not a surprise, given my English literature background) that I keep in my head as I work. The sketch becomes a guide rather than a template as I make minor and major adjustments as the piece takes shape.


Sometimes I will dye fabric for a specific project but more often I will choose already dyed fabrics, auditioning various hues and shades, always aware that the thread I use will add more color, texture, and even line.



Thank you, Ethel, for inviting me to participate in this project and for giving my an excuse to think about what I am doing and why I am doing it and for giving me a way to learn more about some very talented artists. You may read her post here.

Ethel HillsI’m an abstract landscape painter living and working in Hampton, NH. My studio is in an old factory building a couple of miles from the ocean. I came to art late in life, learning to draw so that I could make the simple line drawings necessary for traditional rug hooking. In that moment when I decided to learn how to draw, my life shifted. I fell in love with drawing and then painting and haven’t looked back since.

And now let me introduce you to two people worth knowing. I will announce the third artist later.
Frauke Schramm
Frauke Schramm has been my friend for a number of years and I am still amazed at what she can create with needle and thread. Her work has been in exhibits all over Europe.
I’m Frauke Schramm (also known as quilthexle). I live close to Stuttgart, Germany. By day, I work as a teamleader (customer services) in a book-distributing company. By night, I’m a textile artist (and sometimes, I try to get some sleep !). 
When I was a kid, I used to collect the scraps of my mother's sewing projects (she sewed most of our clothes herself). I did not know why I did this - but I loved cuddling them. During my studies I was an avid knitter, but that came to an end while I wrote my Masters Thesis. After I finished my education (I'm a trained bookseller and I hold an M.A. in Political and Educational Sciences), I joined  corporate world. And I realized - I need something to balance all this brainwork. So, I took a patchwork class - a LoneStar class, to be precise ;-)) That quilt ended in the bin, but my husband rescued it (it's still in my house). Anyway, I was hooked. For quite a while, I was happy just to play with fabrics and learning traditional techniques. Artsy elements slowly turned up in my quilts. Around 2009 art quilting took over, at least mostly. I enjoy working with my own hand-dyed fabrics as well as with purchased fabric; recently, I stepped away from the "cotton only" rule, and the variety of all the material now available to me really excites me.
My central theme right now are opposites / contrasts - I love exploring them, and I have only scratched the surface so far !
              Frauke Schramm's blog:  http://www.quilthexle.blogspot.com/


Janis Doucette

Janis Doucette is a friend and fellow member of We Are Six, a group of art quilters living near Boston. She loves to play with surface design and I love to see what she comes up with. She currently has a piece in the Whistler Gallery in Lowell, MA.

I’m lucky – at this point in my life, I get to work on whatever my heart desires! Most often, that means I'm working on some form of textile art. Often, I’m printmaking or taking photographs, which are frequently incorporated into fabric, literally or figuratively.  I may also add paint to, or dye my own fabric. I may add beads or various odd tidbits to a piece. Today, we have an alluring array of commercial fabrics available and I also use them without restraint.

Every day is an ongoing experiment in life where I continue to observe, learn and grow.


                      Janis Doucette's blog:   http://turtlemoonimpressions.wordpress.com/


Look for their posts next Saturday!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Darkness Visible

Adding a bit of black to a quilt can give it dimension, depth, mystery-- the list is long and I always look for a really true black when I go shopping since that is hard to dye. But I would love to try this new black in a quilt:

Beyond Black: Scientists Invent the World's Darkest Material - The Takeaway

I doubt my fabric budget would allow it, however.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Sunny Days

The warm sunny days we were having last week whispered to me that I should be setting up my wet studio in the basement--and so I began to do some experimenting while I was deciding logical places for all the paraphernalia I had brought along from PA. Many of my experiments could not be placed in the successful category and a couple were even in the frustrating category. But I did have some learning breakthroughs, particularly with sun-dyeing. Perhaps the biggest achievement was the reminder to myself that following directions is sometimes worthwhile.  I had been relying on my memory of what I had done before but found my notes on the process and made a couple of discoveries:
1. Don't use opaque Setacolor paint; only the transparent works.
2. Thin paint is best: add water in a 2-to-1 ratio. Thick paint does not produce a darker result; the migration of the paint makes it darker and it needs to be thin to move.

And I actually got some patterning--
I'm not wild about the color, but the images are clear--and that wasn't happening last summer when I tried this.
I am happy with this one, which was the result of some scrunching and some mixing of colors. Now I am ready for a project with grand-kids!

And to round out the week I dyed some shimmery silk for a current project. This just glows when I work with it.





Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A board on which to iron

I had gotten rid of my ironing board before we moved--not because I was giving up ironing (although years ago I did give up ironing clothes except for a particularly wrinkled shirt now and again) but because I had planned a new ironing surface for my studio. And finally last week enough of the must-do items had been taken care of and I could take some time (and some of my husband's time) to create a custom-sized surface.

There are many how-to videos on the web and so I knew the basics. I began with a piece of plywood 48" x 26". I chose plywood rather than some of the other composite wood surfaces because I am hoping the plywood will give off fewer nasty fumes with the steamy heat it will be subjected to, but it also should not warp as easily as wood shelving. The board will sit atop a wooden dresser that holds my commercial fabrics and that is a good height (35" high) for me. I can iron on top of it without hunching over the board and with my forearms parallel with the ground. The board is wider and longer than the top of the dresser, providing more ironing surface, and the dresser backs against my cutting table so excess fabric (or a large quilt top) will be supported in the back.


Next I cut a piece of Quilter's Dream cotton batting (Request weight--one step above the thinnest) just a bit bigger than the top of the board. Quilter's Dream has no plastic scrim that could cause problems if it was heated by a very hot iron.

I made a quick trip to Jo-Ann's for some heavy cotton duck and chose the lightest color they had since I did not want to have any color transfer problems. And I washed and dried it before I used it because that new fabric chemical smell was annoying when I pulled it out of the bag but when heated would have been unbearable.

I cut the duck about 5 inches longer and wider than the board, laid it on the floor, centered the batting on the fabric and then the board on the batting. I folded the fabric around to the back of the board and stapled it in the middle of one side, moved to the opposite side, pulled the fabric as taut as I could and stapled it there, repeating the whole process on the other two sides. The corners were next: I flipped the fabric diagonally over the corner of the board, stapled and then sort of mitered the two sides down and stapled them. I stapled every couple of inches between the corners and the middles and I had a pressing surface!

I can cross one more thing off my to-do list for the studio. And I will not end this blog by saying I now must return to more pressing issues--or perhaps I will. Thanks for the company!



Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Good Day

The morning began cool enough to make me put on a jacket when I set out to walk Terra. I knew the dastardly poison ivy would be at its weakest in such cool temperatures and today I would have to mount my attack, which I had been finding excuses to put off ever since I discovered a tiny patch last week deep within the holly bush that is in great need of pruning in our front yard. So I tied my hair back, put on an old shirt with long sleeves that would be thrown in the wash immediately after my battle, removed my watch (a lesson I learned last summer), donned plastic gloves, and went off to slay the dragon. I came back triumphant--or at least as triumphant as one can be with a plant that can regenerate from the smallest amount of root left in the soil.

And what does this have to do with quilting? Everything. My efforts to eradicate poison ivy from our little yard last summer made me pretty much useless for a week and a half and so pulling poison ivy can radically impact my ability to sit down at the sewing machine or push a needle through fabric.

And I was riding so high from crossing such an unpleasant task off my to-do list that I decided to not only do my usual amount of stitching on my current project but embark on a new one. And so I started pulling fabrics for the first project in my new life in Massachusetts.


Beginnings with all their endless possibilities are energizing. Let's see where this one takes me.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Begin again

Two weeks ago my new studio looked a bit like what I had been feeling for the past year as we slowly transitioned to a new old home:

But I finally had enough time to set my sewing machine up and some order began to creep into the chaos.

Embracing change sometimes means having to hold on to the neck of a racing horse as he plunges over a ravine and hoping he lands without losing his balance or breaking a leg. (I must have watched too many cowboy movies in my youth.) He hasn't stopped running yet but he made it to the bottom of the ravine without major injury to himself or his rider.

And if you are still reading my on-again, off-again attempts to record my journey, thanks for the company!