Saturday, July 31, 2010

Step into Ellen Anne Eddy's World

Ever since my first glimpse of Ellen Anne Eddy's world, I've wished I could simply step into her art and become a part of it. There's something so pure and inviting -- magical. She creates a stress-free and other worldly place. And yet, she tells us -- not really so far away. Please welcome a dear sweet friend, although we've never met, I have felt her caring and compassion and smile so I call her friend. One of my all time favorite fabric artists, Ellen Anne Eddy! -- Dawn

"It's not just what you're born with

It's what you choose to bear

It's not how big your share is

But how much you can share

And it's not the fights you dreamed of

But those you really fought

It's not what you've been given

It's what you do with what you've got". Si Khan

"A real artist can draw on a fence with a berry" Tim Powers, Reach for the Sky.

You've asked me how I arrived at my very different kind of quilting. I'm used to hearing that I'm an artist. I don't attach much to that because I truly believe it's simple human birthright. If we are a human being we have the seed germ of all the creative possibilities. We are from the beginning a potential dancer, singer, gardener, story teller, drummer, and of course, artist. After years of teaching I've come to the conclusion that the gift is everywhere. Sometimes it focuses in verbal ability and sometimes it focuses visually. But the gift is universal.

You asked about the stories. I don't really tell the stories. The stories tell me.

It doesn't happen always.Many quilts are simply an exercise in color or form or a new technique. If you never build those, your art is sadly stuck, so that's not a bad thing. But those quilts never have the same power. You would think it would be just for big or important quilts, but it doesn't work that way either. I'll see an image I have to work with and it simply won't let me alone. So I start, usually by embroidering the major images separately. Then somewhere, within the process or sometimes even after, I get this flash and I can see what it's about.

I believe the images we have to work with, the ones that are out of our truest voice and self are always about us in some way. In my case, I'm trying to make sense of my world and my place in it.

It helps to understand that I really do see people as my creatures. Not in a negative way. I just do. I often see myself as a fish or frog or bug, which is why I keep coming back to those images. It's about ecosystem, socially and politically. It's about social comprehension. I just don't comprehend it while I'm making it.

Balcony Scene was a case in point. I'd seen this fabulous picture of a frog nestled in a calla lily. I ended up for reasons I still can't say, drawing two frogs, one in the lily, one reaching up to it. I was a good month into the quilt when my godson came to visit.

Tom is as much my kid as he is his mom's. He's a grown and lovely man by now, but for some reason, he's always come to visit me and been willing to play in whatever puddle I was in at the time. At one point he moved 500 pounds of Sams's Choice ( and I don't mean Sam's Choice potatoes) into a new garden bed. The upshot of all of this was that he can have whatever he wants. It usually boils down to designer root beer and cookies.

He came to visit me from his school. He told me he was bringing a friend. That was not exactly it. He'd found his love and he was bringing her home to me.

As he walked her through the garden gate, I looked down at the girl from my studio steps and saw myself, a bit tougher, certainly younger, definitely smarter. After we got her inside and she saw the waiting root beer, cookies, and pork roast she said, "Is this what Episcopal godmothers are like?" Tom and I both laughed and I said, " No dear, this is just what happened." She stared him down and said,"You are so spoiled! " True enough. I'd done my best.

Then she said to me,"How do you get to be a godchild?"" If you ask, you are." I said.

It's a good thing they like each other. It's a good thing. They're both mine in the way every child who needs you is. I knew he'd marry someone. The last thing I expected him to do was bring me a friend when he did.

Then I looked at my quilt. My green bean leg-long godson.And this Zaftig girl with an iron will and a golden heart. And my frogs, standing in their stead. I knew the quilt I had started had told me they were coming. And the blue butterflies surrounding them had begun my wishes for their joy. I don't tell the stories. The stories tell me.

copyright 2003 ”Balcony Scene” 30” x 36 “ Irregularly shaped. Hand-dyed cotton, and novelty brocade, hand painted organza and cheesecloth, direct appliqué, machine embroidered appliqué nylon threads, machine embroidered, and quilted, rayon, metallic.

The pictures of Tom and Sarah are at the ren fair and with Finnie, the newest greyhound in my pack.

For more of Ellen's work and world and thoughts on life and everything, visit her blog: Thread Magic Studio.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Wendy Mamattah sees beauty even in oil spills!

I saw one of Wendy's newest pieces at the height of the oil spill anger and frustration and fell in love with her depiction of this horrific event. She reminded me that in nature, everything has beauty, even ugly oil spills at some molecular or magnified level has its own beauty. Now whether the one covering the beaches and Gulf of Mexico has such beauty, I don't know, but through Wendy Mamattah's eyes -- it certainly does. I'd love to hear of others who have been inspired by the Gulf disaster and see your work as well.

If you are unfamiliar with Wendy's work, you are in for a treat! And if you're familiar with her work, you know this will be an inspiring time as she tells us about her work and techniques.

Photo 1 and 2: Beautiful Nonsense and detail: Fabrics used were African print and black Swiss linen.Work is machine stitched, heavily trapunto’d, and machine quilted.Work is also hand painted and meticulously hand beaded. 34-1/2x53.

Now, here is Wendy Mamattah in her own words. -- Dawn

Wendy Mamattah

With a major in journalism and mass communication, the main medium connecting me with the world is news. I have it running all day as I quilt. I love to have the scoop of every thing as it happens right there in the moment. Which is why I happened to be tuned in when the horrific oil spill disaster in the Gulf made headlines. I thought of the lives that were lost, and the grieving families, and how fragile life was. As I slept that night, I dreamed this piece -- an abstract work on this tragedy. That is how 'Beautiful Nonsense' was born.

Every day starts with my creativity kicking in right away, and then I just dance with fabric! and I love that! Creativity is inherent in every individual, you just have to wake it up sometimes, there are lots of people who have let their creativity go to sleep, letting the fire in them die while they are still alive. Creativity in all aspects needs to be stimulated to grow, human beings were not created sedentary, but rather born to evolve.

I have always loved working with fabrics. Even as a child, born in Ghana in West Africa, as early as age five in primary school, I often received prizes for needlework instead of English or Geography, which made me realize that there was a part inside of me that loved to create. My creative side comes from my mother, a bridal dress designer who contributed a great deal to the fashion scene in Ghana in her day.

As a child I never took any special sewing class, apart from the needle work class in primary school,which was were very minimal, but I would observe my mother as she sat and worked at her sewing table, and with my little photographic eye, I would make a mental capture of what she sewed and try to recreate what she made, I made little bridal gowns for all my dolls, and the next step was making my own clothes.

By the time I turned age twelve I was my own dress maker, and I had then become more aware of my special little gift which I had began to appreciate so much. I realized that I was in total control of it, because I could dream of any thing I wanted to wear, and I had the power to create it!

Quilting came to mind when I left Africa to live in England in the early 90's, but it did not take me long to realize that it was more of an American folk art, and so when I moved to the United States in the later part of the 90's I started to consider how I could use my rich African heritage as a vessel of expression through art, and education.

With all these little childhood projects still fresh in my mind, together with my mothers bridal flair and the impact that had on me, my first Quilt "And She said Yes' was an African inspired bridal scene which I created to honer my mothers memory and her bridal work. This is a silhouette art work of a bride gazing into her grooms eyes on her wedding day at sunset. Most traditional African weddings take place at sunset.

And She Said Yes!
Artist Statement: Fabrics used are hand dyed fabrics, Kente prints. 
Hand beading technique, machine appliqued and quilted. 28x34-1/2 inches

I have always thought of bringing African inspired quilts, both traditional and art quilts to the table, in a way that will reflect the true African culture and heritage which I so much behold, and which I have in me so strongly instilled, and also present them in a way that will take up the world on a whole new dimension.

I created 'Under the African Waters' after watching a lot of the world geographic channel, I started to imagine what the under water life of the West African coast line might look like with all those exotic fish and under water creatures, so I got to work creating this piece using both African and western fabrics. This art work is the winner of the ‘Sharon Guthrie 2010 Memorial Award for Innovative Arts’ at the ‘2010 Festival of Quilts Expo’ in Portland Oregon in March.

Under the African Waters
Artist Statement: Work is raw edge machine appliqued.
Heavily reinforced with silver thread painting to give it shine. Hand beaded. 32x17-1/2-inches

The excitement of that winning quilt led me on to create a sequel 'OH! What a Wonderful World' also an under water scene which just recently got juried into the upcoming Milwaukee Machine Quilters Show, coming up in August from the 3rd-7th.
'OH! What a Wonderful' World here)`
This work is hand beaded, painted, machine appliqued, machine stitched and quilted.
Fabrics used are hand dyed cotton and organza fabric. 44 1/2 x 31-inches.

My work continues to evolve in both subject and technique. Recurring throughout in strong, clear color, texture, visual impact, and meticulous detail. I love the colors of the world as it is. I love the colors that can be imposed on the real world to see it in a new way. The world is enlivened not only by color but also by its textures. I want to get in close and observe the nearly hidden textures of all of the creations of nature. I want to climb up high and see the equally hidden textures of the world as a bird might see it. I want to examine the faces and postures of the people who share the world with me.

'Walking home from the market' reflects the typical day to day life style in any African village, women going to the river side to fetch water, or to wash clothing, and others returning home from the market to cook the evening meal, since women are more of home makers in Africa by tradition. The clothing the three ladies wear in this art work is pieced using the traditional method of piecing.
Walking Home From the Market
Art work is raw edge machine appliqued and machine quilted.
Hand dyed fabric for the background and a medley of Kente Prints. 28-1/2x35 inches

The expression of traditional drumming and dancing is how Africans connect during festivities, families come together, broken relationships and friendships are mended, and marriages also take place, these two quilts Kpanlogo and Asabone represent how people celebrate in Ghana and all over Africa.

This art work is raw edge machine appliqued and also machine quilted with Kente prints. 26x28-inches
Asabone (Wild Dancing)
Work was machine appliqued and machine quilted and Kente Prints. 26x28-inches

All my current works depict Africa. I love the vibrant colors of African fabrics and how they pop to the eye, most of my quilts tell a story, and a lot of my story’s represent my African heritage which I carry with me every where I go, I feel when a quilt does not tell a story no matter how simple it might be it really does not have value, since quilts of old were sentimental pieces.

The crocodile lives in the water, yet breathes the air, demonstrating an ability to adapt to circumstances. 'Denkyem' the akan name for crocodile is a symbol of adaptability and perseverance, I have fallen many times in my life, and have always found the strength and courage to get up, the strength of this symbol is very dear to my heart. I dreamed this piece in an art work and I came up with this.

Denkyem (Crocodile)
Work is raw edge appliqued and machine quilted.
Hand dyed fabric and Kente Print. 29x35-inches

My final piece which I want to introduce is 'Faith Hope and Love' which are three tribal mask faces, in Africa tribal masks relating to all the different tribes are commonly seen around every corner. I dreamed this piece in blue.
Faith Hope and Love
Work was raw edge appliqued and satin stitch quilted.
Back ground fabric as batik. 27x33-1/2-inches.

My quilts, people have said, sing and dance to the viewer, and have lots of character and dimension as well as a very unique look which are the differences my choices of fabric make. Beading and painting really accentuate my work.

People often ask me when ever I do a show and tell at my local quilting guilds "whats next on your design wall?" and I often answer 'its a surprise" I have two more works coming up in the next few weeks one abstract about the Fulani nomadic tribe in Africa, and a marble mosaic art work, using a technique I created myself to represent the 'Dipo' festive puberty rite for young girls. That's what Wendy has on her design wall, and I am keeping it coming!!
Since beginning this blog, I've completed yet another in the series of African art quilts.
The Masai are semi-nomadic people located in Kenya and northern Tanzania. Due to their distinctive customs and dress, the Massai choose to reside near the game parks of East Africa, they are among the most well known of the African ethnic groups. They speak Maa, a local dialect., as well as Swahili and English. They are live stock farmers, and I have always been intrigued by their unique appearance, the stretching and piercing of the their ear lobes, including the thorns they use for piercing, as well as twigs, stones, the pieces of elephant tusks, and empty film canisters they wear in their earlobes. Red is the most favored color of the Massai men. I created this abstract work to communicate to the viewer the beautiful story of the Masai people of East Africa. Size 55x26-1/2-inches. 

Find all my art works at my website "BraidnStitch".

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sampler Quilts are learning tools that turn into heirlooms!

I am in a sampler kind of mood!

If you are like me the word 'sampler' conjurs up images of 12-inch blocks, each one a different star or pattern. They march across the quilt in straight rows and down the quilt in straight columns with a simple strips dividing them and a plain border boxing them in.

They were all the rage when women (and men) found quilting again in the 1960s-70s. Everyone made a sampler quilt and owned a copy of Diane Leone's "The Sampler Quilt" that featured traditional patterns that used pieced, appliqued and curved piece patterns that we all recognized -- Ohio Star, Flower Garden, Card Trick, Orange Peel, etc. Since this original publication, Leone has put together a new and improved version of Sampler Quilts. The NEW Sampler Quilt and it offers alternatives to the traditional rows and columns.

These Sampler Quilts were the threshold, the entryway for many into the world of quilting. Lorchen Nunn explained the story behind her golden sampler quilt displayed here.

"I went to a few workshops in order to learn the basics of sewing and quilting (at age 50 I had never used a sewing machine). Every lesson was based around a block that practised something new. When the quilt was finished I proudly put it on the bed in my spare bedroom. When a visiting friend from the US said she would like to move in with me in order to keep sleeping under that quilt, I told her to take it with her. It travelled from North-east of Nottingham in the UK to the airport in London, the on my friend's knee on the plane to Toronto, then by car for another 4 hours and has lived happily in Canada since 2002. I keep saying that I'll save up enough money so that I can afford to visit my quilt after I retire in 2014."

Well, the 'sampler quilt' has changed through the years and can reflect whatever technique the quilter is trying to refine.  Check out Maria Elkins exquisite 'sampler quilt' "In Answer to Prayer" first photo above. If you aren't familiar with her work, check out every major quilt show and you'll see her work prominently displayed or read her guest blog that she wrote for Subversive Stitchers.

Maria explains: "I think of this quilt as my "sampler quilt" because I tried several different techinques for the first time: watercolor wash in the border, machine trapunto for the wings which were then only stitched down on the upper portions, hand applique using Charlotte Warr Andersen’s techniques, free motion machine embroidered lettering (these are not computerized letters), use of metallic and sheer fabrics, and hand quilting with sliver metallic threads."

Samplers also make excellent guild or group projects to give as gifts or use as raffle quilts. Margaret McCarthy received a lovely birthday quilt (see photo) made by a group of friends for her after they watched the movie "How to Make an American Quilt" (based on the book by Whitney Otto). For more information and photos of Margaret's gift, visit her blogsite.

For the past couple of weeks I have been surfing the net looking at a variety of quilts that fall under the heading of 'sampler.' A Google search of sampler quilt images will bring many inspiring images to view.

A sampler is not only a thing of beauty, it is a learning tool. Women/quilters have used this technique, this project to grow their craft throught he centuries. Each square is a separate project where I learn something new. And since I'm the product of parents who came of age during The Great Depression, everything I make must have a use. Whether I hang it on the wall to decorate my home or use it as a baby quilt or a full sized bed quilt, even my 'practice' squares become useful.

Most recently I've been making quilts for my cats. A one square wonder with borders. They help me practice a new technique, use up scraps and also are the perfect size for practicing my machine quilting. My cats are forgiving souls, so even if my work is terrible they love to stretch out on their own little quilts and shed, shed, shed!

I would be remiss if I didn't point out that these one-square wonders make perfect 'hugs' for the Snuggles Project. And they are even less expensive because one uses flannel or used clothing or pieces of worn blankets as the batting. For more information about the Snuggles Project, please visit their home page where they welcome quilted/sewn, crocheted and knitted 'hugs.'

Some of the delightful finds from my Internet search include Brady Sparrow's Summer Sampler Quilt. A great project to make using a fabric collection that will mix and match and bring cohesion to the various star squares that Brady includes in her quilt. She offers well written tutorials with photos to help those undertaking this project. And she also offers a beginners version.

One of the most engaging samplers I ran across is designed by Jane Tenorio-Coscarelli. I don't have permission, yet to post a photo. But I encourage you to check it out at her facebook photo page.

This is of course only a tiny glimpse at the number of samplers available online. Many of the BOM (block of the month) quilts might fall under this heading as do calendar quilts. I'm not very good at making two dozen identical squares, so a 'sampler' is perfect for my short attention span. And the cat quilts are even better!