Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Local Art

The best way to experience art, of course, is to see the real thing--to stand in front of the original and see the texture and color and line the way the artist put it on the canvas or created it out of fabric or stone or wood. Getting regular doses of original art can be a challenge for those of us who live in the less urbanized parts of the country and so I decided to take advantage of the opening of a show in the surprisingly impressive gallery at Penn College in Williamsport (about an hour from where I live) a couple of weeks ago.  The art of Virginia Bradley and Chris Malcomson from Philadelphia was on display, two very different artists who happen to be married to each other.

Malcomson works on huge squarish canvasses taller than I am. He does a lot of underpainting (a technique that could be akin to overdyeing?) so that when he is finished his paintings glow with color. In his talk he spoke of his love of Rothko and other painters who suggest thresholds in their paintings, inviting us to go through the painted surface.

"Reaching" is one of the pieces he showed us and my image of it is from the publicity for the show.

He said his goal was to "paint stuff that was trying to add something to people's lives," and he said it in his British accent so it became even more significant.  "As life gets busier, art should go slower" so it becomes a place "where people can stop and go inside themselves and then go anywhere they want." His paintings certainly slowed me down as I stood in front of them and soaked in the strong blues and reds with hints of many other colors breaking through.

Bradley establishes a dialogue with the images in her work and there is much activity in her pieces. She layers prints over a variety of backgrounds and then adds layers of paint and other media over them.
She created one very interesting layer by pouring molten pewter over a print of girls in classical Rome and then carving into it to create even more texture. Her fearless experimentation was infectious.

I came away thinking about art and its meaning and purpose as well as color and texture and experimentation--all making the trip worthwhile. The show is at Penn College until Dec. 11.

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

To all my friends and mentors who make art with fabric or paint or paper or glass or words or pixels or a million other media, thank you for sharing your thoughts and your laughter with me, for giving me just the right word of encouragement when I needed it, for inspiring me with your work and creativity, for helping us all see this world  and ourselves a little differently.
Ice Flowers formed by frost heave
From a walk with Terra Thanksgiving 2011

Monday, November 21, 2011

Féileacán 2

Last year the little Celtic knotwork butterfly that I made for Ami Simm's Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative sold so quickly at the VESTA show that I decided to stage a repeat performance. Well, I did my part of the performance; let's see if anyone buys it. If someone does, the proceeds I get after the gallery takes its slice will go to AAQI; if nobody buys it, the quilt itself will go to the AAQI auction.
This one is the same knotwork pattern as last year but with some color, background, and body changes. I started this after the last one sold, thinking I would add the butterfly pattern I created to the Celtic knotwork class I teach and would use it as a sample. But, due to a long list of obligations, the class did not happen in the summer. Perhaps next summer--but that would mean I should get started on another butterfly.

These are, by the way, my hand-dyes, except for the commercial purple batik.  I had a tough time making the body stand out from the purple and finally decided to edge it in two colors of couched perle cotton---light blue and dark purple and I think it works.

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

Friday, November 18, 2011


Since I had finished what had become my comfort quilting, I decided to go back to work on my Doodle Squares to keep up my free motion quilting practice. After all, the VESTA show is fast approaching and I have less than half the number that I had last year to sell. And decided to move from the safety of the well known pattern to the risk of trying something new.

Now if you know me well, you know drawing is not my strong point. But I have learned that if I really, really, really look at something, there is a much better chance that I create a good-enough approximation of it. And if I can draw it, I can perhaps quilt it as well. I have been quilting oak leaves and other smooth edged leaves for years, but I always wanted to do a free-motion maple leaf. I have been studying, i.e., really, really, really looking, at sugar maple leaves on my early morning walks with Terra for the past month or so and remembered reading somewhere that if you start with the veins, it's easier to draw a leaf. I tried a couple with pencil and paper and lo and behold! they each looked like a good-enough maple leaf. So on to thread and fabric:

Now, it's lucky for me that no two maple leaves look exactly alike so there is a great range of acceptability and I think I could use some more practice getting the shape a bit fuller but I was pleased that my first attempts did resemble maple leaves--closer than I have ever gotten before.

Usually my Doodle Squares are reversible and for the back of this one I had chosen a batik that I loved with these great green dots on it. But--repeat after me--a print or heavy texture hides quilting stitches.  I know this from years of trying to hide my quilting stitches, but, for some reason, I forgot that cardinal rule when I was choosing the fabric.  The leaves are difficult enough to see on the top but on the back they become an excellent example of camouflage, a Can-you-find-the-hidden-leaves-in-this-picture game.
I even outlined all the leaves in a dark purple that should have contrasted with the background. They still didn't show up.  Oh, well. . . 

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

Saturday, November 12, 2011


During the past few weeks whenever I couldn't figure out what to do next on my current quilt project I have been steadily working on the background quilting for a largish quilt. When I decided on this pattern--what I call an interrupted meander--that would cover a large border section, I knew it was the right decision but thought I would become achingly bored with it.
Now I like this pattern and have used it before. It suggests a leafed vine to me, but only suggests it. But there would be so much of it this time. 

Well, I finished it up last week and I am finding I miss it. It was safe and comfortable. I could do it easily and no decisions needed to be made. I just switched to my free motion quilting foot, put down my Supreme Slider, popped on the appropriate thread and simply quilted for a while.  I didn't need to worry that the slice I was about to make through the quilt top would ruin it or the tulle I was about to fuse down wouldn't work or even figure out how I was going to quilt the little quiltlet I am working on. 

While always living in a completely safe and predictable world is not healthy for artists and other living beings, it sure is nice to visit once in a while.

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

Monday, November 7, 2011

And the lemonade

Amazingly, we have had two blissful days of relative quiet up here on our hill--not as quiet as it was two years ago but a distanced background noise--until this afternoon when the noise levels began to ramp up again. But I did manage to get a lot done during those two days--including rinsing out the contents of those dye buckets from my last post. I will share a few samples with you.

Several of my pieces were overdyes, attempts to rectify a dye job gone bad for some reason or simply another planned layer in a process. I had dyed several gradations of a burgundy a while ago that turned out looking unpleasantly like dried blood and so I added a layer of ultra violet and those pieces came out looking like this:

And I jazzed up a couple of lifeless browns with a little yellow:
I added a green background--the green didn't photograph very well so just imagine this a bit greener--to one of my flour paste crackles and suddenly those lines began to look a little like trees.
I couldn't resist doing another of my lined dyes and made this one vertical:
And I am playing around with these strange little squiggle shapes that I am finding intriguing:

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

Friday, November 4, 2011

Making Lemonade--or new fabric

Yesterday I couldn't stand it any more. Gas drilling has taken over our beautiful, rural county and, while I complained about the huge trucks on the roads and the number of fields sprouting bulldozers, water tanks, and drilling rigs and worried constantly about our water supply, I could always retreat to the relative quiet of our hill. Yes, we had wells drilled within hearing distance a year ago but the sound was muffled by hilltops and was only really a problem when all was quiet. But for the past month the pad over the hill has been enlarged to the top of the hill and now machinery noises bouncing off the hills sound like a motor grader is driving back and forth in our driveway.

I didn't realize how much I cherished a quiet space to work in or a quiet walk in our woods with Terra to start my day--they fire up their trucks and graders as soon as it's light out. Unable to work yesterday, I retreated to the basement to dye fabric where the machine noise was not so prominent.

And today I get to see what surprises come out of all my dye buckets and bins. I had a friend once who loved to say, "If life gives you lemons, make lemonade." In fact, she said it so often it became really annoying--perhaps that's why the noise surrounding me reminded me of her.  Anyway, making lemonade out of these lemons that life has handed Tioga County is becoming increasingly more difficult.

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

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Unfamiliar Territory

Finding your way out of a place that is unfamiliar is supposed to stimulate your brain and sharpen your problem-solving skills, and perhaps it draws out that elusive creative spirit. At least that is what a small group of local quilters is putting to the test in a challenge we have given ourselves. We each drew a name of another member of the group and then a few days later presented her with four fat eighths of fabric that were out of her comfort zone. She was then to use at least two of these fabrics in a quilt less than 16 inches square.

Now my comfort zone is clearly delineated since I have been using my own hand-dyes or commercial hand-dyes or batiks for a number of years so I knew some commercial prints were bound to come my way and so they did:
The upper left is a tiny floral and of course there are more flowers in the Asian fabric. That black check is going to really push my limits, but my challenge mate took it easy on me with that beautiful hand-dyed red.  After the first few days of staring stupidly at these four fabrics, I began to try a couple of things and have to admit I'm having fun right now. We'll see how I characterize the process when it is further along. And things could have been much worse.  You can check out what Anya, who loves bright colors, got, but it was hard to challenge Susan, who uses all kinds of fabrics in her quilting. 

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