Friday, December 24, 2010

Missing in Action

Confetti Cats inspired by Teri Stegmiller's cats quilt
I owe you all an apology for being so slow to post this year and especially this past month.

As many of you know Mom died on Dec. 3. Although she was 98 and had been 'herself' through every inch of her life, it was so hard to let her go, especially since I hadn't been able to be with her these past six years.

We always thought we'd be together at least one more time in this world. None of us can dictate the way our lives with go. We do what we must. We do what we can. And the rest we must just let it go.

Thank you everyone who have been faithfully visiting the blog and have been participating in the lively discussions on the Subversive Stitchers facebook page. This community of shining, creative, loving and supportive women and men have kept me afloat through some trying times and times of loss. I can't thank you enough.

I'm looking forward to a new year when I will actually finish something. I've included a photo of my confetti cats that I started this year. A photo of some disappearing nine patch quilts, yet to be quilted. I know we all have a hefty collection of UFOs.
Disappearing 9-Patch top made for the ALS challenge

But setting aside the UFOs. What else is in store for 2011 for you? A new technique? A class you've been itching to take? A trip to Houston? A quilt exhibited in Houston or other shows? Please let us know.

I received my copy of QuiltLife magazine yesterday and my little essay about hoarding was included.

It reminded me that I still need to clean the 'crap' room and after seeing my photo in the magazine, I realize that I must update my photos! And that means a bit of attention to image.

I must admit that I like the me with threads (okay, patches) of silver in my hair. It reminds me of Mom. She went gray gracefully with lovely salt and pepper hair before devolving into a head of silvery white waves. Yet, I'm not sure I'm quite ready for people to see the snow on the roof and discount me. Although I must admit that any one would be a fool to look at women such as Pamela Allen and decide her hair color meant she wasn't vital and young at heart. So maybe I need to work on heart rather than hair color. Pamela is my role model!

Hopefully we can all come together in the New Year with more vitality, more energy, more strength to accomplish what we set our minds to do. Whether it be confetti cats or strengthing our voice as we shout for world peace, end to hunger, a cure for disease, or more love and care for the children of our world. Together we can accomplish so much! We have! We will!

So, lets shout it out. Tell us what you'll do in 2011! We'll help you. Together we can do it!

My goals are simple: Finish what I started. In 1981 I began a writing career and along the way I have started several unfinished manuscripts. Some deserve to be unfinished, others still show potential and deserve a chance to see the light of day. So 2011 will be the year of the pen for me.

I also hope to finish some quilts to help support Kathy Thompson's Hopes and Dreams project to raise funds for ALS research and patient support. If nothing else, I hope to make quilts for ALS victims to snuggle under and find whatever comfort they can.

I also want to work toward regular blog entries, new guest bloggers, reviews of books and products, and more of my own fabric creations, efforts and even some flubs. And for anyone interested, I hope to continue writing regularly for The Quilter magazine's machine quilting section. There are so many talented machine quilters whose work needs to be seen and admired and whose stories need to be told. I hope to continue doing that. Just finished writing about Ronda S. Beyer. If you haven't seen her work, you definitely should.

I'm looking forward to the new year. I hope you are, too. Watch us grow together as our dreams come true in 2011! So again I ask -- What will 2011 hold for you?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Good Advice from a Real Professional Artist: Susan Lenz

Above: In Box LXXV. Unframed 15" x 11";
framed 19 1/4" x 15 1/4". By Susan Lenz

  Not long ago I emailed Susan Lenz with the subject line: How Much!? I wrote:

Hi Susan,

I want to own a piece of your art. I saw your post about your boxes series and wondered what price range and sizes for pieces in hat series. You know I adore everything you make and I want a piece of your work hanging in my house. So tell me how much so I can start saving up. A REAL price! You know what I mean.

She replied with what I thought was an excellent response that all artists and quilt makers and crafts persons should read. With her permission I have posted it here.

Susan wrote:

(Above: Window XVI. Unframed, approximately 11" x 9 1/2";
Framed, 17 3/4" x 15 3/4".) By Susan Lenz

This is so sweet and so complimentary that I don't even know where to start this email message. Wait a minute! Yes, I do! I'm forever telling myself to try acting like the artist I want to be....professional! (Okay, the cat's out of the bag! I have always suffered from low self esteem issues and my lack of a proper art degree is one of my worst stumbling blocks!)

 Anyway, I'll professionally answer the question! My "In Box Series" come in two basic framed sizes: 19 1/4" x 15 1/4" for $225 and 35 1/2" x 23 1/2" for $ tax and obviously plus shipping. These are the same prices that are charged at the Grovewood Gallery in Asheville. The "Faux-stained Glass" pieces come in two framed sizes: 17 3/4" x 15 3/4" for $265 and 64 1/2" x 24 1/2" for $1200.

Susan and Stephen Chesley

 Ten years ago I forcibly down-sized my still growing custom-picture framing business in order to pursue art. Despite the fact that I had created just about nothing and had no background in the field, I already had an artistic mentor. 

The mentorship started the day after I fired my head mat cutter. I went to him for advise....questions about "how to become an artist." He was one of my framing clients....and still is. He paints incredible, impressionistic landscape oils from memory, not from actual locations unless he's "in the field".

His name is Stephen Chesley and his studio is now across the hallway from mine at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios. He's been self-supporting for over 25 years.

Open studio in Stephen's studio
When I asked Stephen about "becoming an artist", his answer was, "You already are one". Then he advised me to "do the work". It was that simple; it is that simple.

In a sense, we are all artists by the fact that we are alive and must make creative decisions everyday. Some people decide to make art; they are professional artists. Some decide to get an art degree, but that piece of paper doesn't make one an artist. It is just a statement of fact about a field of knowledge.

Stephen Chesley and his art
Being an artist, a REAL PROFESSIONAL ARTIST, is a lifestyle of doing the work. "Doing the
work" is a priority which becomes as essential as breathing or eating. For me, it is also a spiritual practice.....doing the work that God meant for me to do. Lots of people now say that I'm very prolific....but....I'm just DOING THE WORK.

At that very first mentorship meeting....sipping tea over Stephen's kitchen table....he also gave me a few brochures for rather local and state-wide juried exhibition opportunities and showed me his inventory book. He told me to keep track of everything I ever made in an ordinary ledger with a thumbnail sketch, the date, the price, the measurements, a catalog number, and any other notation about interesting materials or shows a piece has been in. Fortunately, I took all his advise.

Susan Lenz at Grovewood Gallery
Two years ago my husband Steve and I went to the National Gallery of Art to see the Hopper show. I walked into one of the rooms and saw a large, table-sized pedestal covered in a Plexi-Glas cap. Inside were three ordinary ledgers with thumbnail sketches, date, price, measurements, a catalog number, and notations about the final sale of each piece. I was stunned.

The next week I told Stephen about this. He laughed and said, "Did I forget to tell you that I keep a ledger like this because, 'if it were good enough for Hopper, it was good enough for me' ?"

Then I laughed...because I had been doing this because "if it was good enough for Chesley, it was good enough for me"! So....I'm unwittingly part of Edward Hopper's legacy....not bad!

It's So Hard to Say Good-bye, Grave Rubbings series by Susan Lenz

Chesley's advise is always RIGHT ON TARGET. There's a constant stream of local artists who just happen to come by Chesley's studio to "sit and talk".....get advice, get inspiration, get "on track"....whatever. Our studios are divided only by partition walls. The ceiling is another eight feet above the top of the I can hear just about everything said in Stephen's studio....because neither of us listen to any music when we work. We both prefer total silence.

Anyway, I once heard an artist complaining to Stephen about gallery commissions. Stephen said, "You know, if you can't afford to pay the gallery the commission they worked for, then you simply need to improve the quality of your work."

The artist was indignant, of course.....but Chesley is right. A good gallery is WORKING for the commission. To sell the same sort of piece for less is undermining your own representative....sort of like "biting the hand that feeds you!"
Sister Support from Decision Portrait Series by Susan Lenz

Stephen went further and said, "The artwork itself should determine its own price, not the framing, not the hours spent, not the supplies.....but the quality of the artwork itself. Clients should be able to buy with confidence."

There are always lawyers and other big shots coming through our space saying things like, "Chesley, I should have bought one of your paintings when they were only $600." Stephen replies, "Well, when I was charging $600, they were worth $600. After another couple years, I got better and the price went up. Now, I sell them at $1000 because they are worth $1000."

Chesley only gives a discount of 10% to former clients or when more than one piece is being purchased.....period. His oils are priced exactly the same in the galleries in which he's represented. Clients may buy one of his paintings from anywhere....for a consistent price and with confidence that they aren't getting ripped off. It is a good that many first rate galleries (like the Grovewood Gallery!) insist upon and have their artists sign a contract with these stipulations.

Basically....I only have a "real" price! Quality, professional artists SHOULD only have a real price. I am so very, very lucky to have a mentor like Stephen Chesley.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

My View: Quilted Symphony by Gloria Loughman

Kimberley Mistique quilt by
Gloria Loughman of Australia

There once was a time when I thought life progressed in a linear fashion. Birth was of course the starting point, ending with the inevitable death. Between those points, life threaded its way through major passages -- turning sixteen, 21, love, marriage, baby carriage... That's as far as I could see or wanted to see my timeline progress at that point of my life. Pretty clear cut journey.

I certainly was naive!

No one told me that once you achieved 21 -- yes, you achieve the age of adulthood-- but then again the progression doesn't stop at the mountaintop but proceeds to 22 and 32 and 42 and 52 and people expect someone of this certain age to act appropriately. And I was, if nothing else, raised to please others and meet their expectations.

It has taken me several decades to realize that the only expectations I should consider seriously are my own. So, here I am, not having achieved any of the goals other than traditional (wife, mother....) and wondering why I wasted so much time trying to be what others wanted me to be. I think I was trying to achieve that straight life line with as few deviations, risks, pitfalls as possible. Yet by doing so I also avoided the joys and celebrations and serendipitious surprises.

But my efforts to live a straight line showed me only that there is very little in life that I control. After expending all that effort to live a 'normal' life, I find that my life meanders. Even with a plan it cuts its own design on the face of time. When I think about it, that straight line is boring, absolutely boring compared to the whirls and dips and peaks and valleys, roller coaster turns, and 360s my life has taken without my consent.

As a quilt lover, I think a map of even my relatively uneventful life would make for an interesting quilt -- maybe similar to those made by Gloria Loughman of Clffton Springs in Victoria, Australia. You may be familiar with her Kimberley Mystique which won Best of Show in her state exhibition and also the prestigious Australian National Quilt Award. I can dream that my little quilt could look like hers!

My husband and I have moved so frequently that I'm no longer sure what my home landscape looks like. If it could look like that depicted in Kimberley Mystique, I'd be a happy woman.

Quilted Symphony by Gloria Loughman
Published by C&T Publishing
March 2010; $29.95
 Currently home is a housing development with manicured lawns, a few stately and noisy Sandhill Cranes walking through the neighborhood and maybe a palm tree or two. It sounds boring, yet as I read Gloria's book "Quilted Symphony" I realize her words, "For abstract quilts, design is very important because its elements, and the way they are manipulated, are the key to producing work that is eye-catching and powerful."

Line. Shape. Color. Value. Texture. Harmony. Repetition. Contrast. Balance. Focal Point. Direction. Movement. All are part of designing an abstract quilt and when you think about it, part of a life well lived. I see my sedate little landscape transforming. The flat lands begin to roll. The houses tip, the sandhill cranes grow bigger and my house smaller. The landscaped lawns converge and snake around the houses in a vibrant patchwork. Sidewalks turn into trails featuring the flying geese pattern and round faces appear helter skelter.

In Gloria's book, which she says is for those who  "...would like to experiment with patterns and colors and want to take that next step but don't know where to start, then this book is for you," she suggests sources of inspiration. And she begins with a doodle. When approached in this manner, there is an element of Zentangle in her quilts. Not that she necessarily uses that technique, but her doodles take on a zen like quality in their repetition and harmony. She transforms three simple leaf shapes into a jungle of design and texture with a few lines and circles. I also like her suggestion to take a photograph and then use a portion of it as inspiration for an abstract quilt.

Looking at her examples and photos of inspiration, it wasn't long before I would look at things as shapes -- my monitor is a rectangle. The lamp shade a triangle, my book shelves are a collection of varying sizes of rectangles.

Gloria devotes a whole chapter to color with the ever present color wheel for these types of discussions. But she also concentrates on intensity and hue, value and color schemes that go beyond monochromatic and complimentary. She brings out triadic and tetrad color schemes. What!?

She moves on past drawing the design to actually constructing what you've created. Prepare the base, make segment patterns, decorate the segments, invisible fused applique and so on and so on. In her abstract designs appear familiar traditional patterns -- flying geese for example or snail's trail. diamonds and pyramids, even my favorite lowly nine patch.

Beading and braids give way to painting and sun printing and Gloria takes readers into satin stitches and thread choices, even bobbin tension and right into free motion quilting and how to find your speed. Decorative stitches are even addressed. Foundation piecing is a must as well.

Quilters know every quilt has a border, whether you do art quilts or traditional the edges border on to the rest of the world and how you finish them can make as much of a statement as the quilt itself. Gloria offers various suggestions.

Then she also offers several projects to try out all of the things taught in the 103 page book and she includes a students' gallery to give you hope and inspiration. Included are full size patterns to use in the projects.

After a quick trip through her book, I will be returning and see if I can't turn my life's journey into a visual symphony of fabric, texture and design worthy of her masterful instructions.

CT published "Quilted Symphony," released in 2010. Cost is around $30. For anyone beginning the journey into abstract quilts, or stepping away from prepared patterns and finding your own voice, this book may ease you into this new fabric landscape of symbolism, shape and design. If nothing else her own creations will give you inspiration. I'm looking at leaves in a whole new way.

I'm also preparing to create a more exciting life journey so that future quilts have a more interesting terraine to replicate! It is time to embrace whatever opportunities and challenges come my way. Maybe the best way to depict my life to this point would be ostrich with head firmly planted in the sand. But I'm shaking sand from my eyes and looking around in wonder.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Something Special: Ellen Lindner and love

It may have been via Facebook that I first saw Ellen Lindner's art quilt: Reconciliation. She has given me permission to post it here and I'll include a link to her website as well.

It was unexpected and what I needed at that exact moment. It brought tears to my eyes. She has other quilts made using a similar technique with the sillouette borders that are equally strong and emotional. I do hope you'll visit her site to enjoy her work. Art truly feeds the soul and often brings us back to life.

Lindner's Reconciliation came for me at a time when my husband and I are celebrating our 39th anniversary. October 16! I started to write 'birthday' instead of anniversary -- one of those meaningful typos.

Our wedding was a rebirth for both of us. We were one. No longer alone facing a bewildering world, but two people together who drew closer as adversity surrounded us. Sometimes I forget how much we lean on each other and how much we hold each other up.

Through these years I've had some 'materialistic' moments and I'm not talking fabric or stash. But me selfiishly wanting grand gifts and declarations of love and romantic gestures. Roses! Diamonds! Romantic getaways! Once or twice roses if I guilted him into it, maybe he'd make dinner. Maybe I'd add candles. But mostly he just lived each day showing me love in everything he did for me -- and I took for granted. I'd stew and get over it and go on loving him each day with the little things like making sure his peaches were free of fuzz or not serving creamed peas or mending his pants, or buying shirts that had pockets, or turning to kiss and hug him every chance I got. We are always touching.

We have a cat who doesn't like to be held. He likes to sit beside me with his back foot against me. He just needs that connection to know I'm there -- to keep track of me. It is something like that for Derrol and me. We don't need to be coddled or fawned over, just need that touch for reassurance. Maybe we both have a bit of awe that we were lucky to find each other.

Lately it seems like we've become more nurse and patient as we struggle to keep him as healthy as possible. As I remind you all too often, he has ALS and the recovery rate from ALS is ZERO.

Our touches have more to do with health care and trust me there is NOTHING romantic about a man on a breathing machine. Nothing until I look into his eyes and see that twinkle and suddenly we are both 19 and very much in love all over again. Maybe we have never grown up.

The Reconciliation piece for me is more about reconnecting. It has been a long time since my husband could stand and hold me in his arms and so Reconciliation is a nostalgia piece as well.

What did he give me for our anniversary? You will laugh and groan but for me it was the best gift ever. He called me in to his bed this morning and said, "You gotta see this." I saw a naked old man with skinny legs. SKINNY LEGS! We've been battling edema (swelling) for years and today the swelling is gone. It was the absolute BEST gift. What can I say, he knows me better than I know myself. Better than diamonds, roses and a Hawaiian cruise all rolled up with a big red ribbon. He is the best gift of all and I pray he hangs around for a very long time!

Please enjoy Ellen's special quilt. I just had to share this and our special occasion with my good friends -- you are my community and I don't know what I'd do without you.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Lynn Krawczyk's Fabric Making Freedom Song

Detail of Virginia Spiegel's Then and Now art quilt using
thermofax technique
Virginia Spiegel first introduced me to the concept of thermofax printing. Other than the difficulty of finding a thermofax machine and its high cost, I fell immediately in love with the technique and freedom and versatility of printing one's own fabric.

Virginia has done a great deal of experimenting with fabric painting and thermofax among other techniques. Here are two examples of her work: "Then and Now" and "Once."

For more information about her two quilts, and her about to begin Birthday Bash where we can buy bundles of her fabric, go to her website. Her Birthday Bash info is available through her blog.

Once art quilt by Virginia Spiegel
Then I saw Claire Fenton's "Demystifying Thermofax Screen Printing" DVD from Quilting Arts Workshop and it came together. She built a piece using headlines from the Hurricane Katrina disaster. I fell in love with making fabric tell a story.

The DVD may not be glitzy but Claire gives the nuts and bolts of making one's own screens as well as does and don'ts and how to save a bit of money and not waste inks, etc. She gives a most informative demonstration. It really got exciting for me when she begins creating her own fabric. I'm a words person and adored the idea of thermofaxing favorite newspaper clippings and articles. my own clippings, onto a fabric that only I could make. My indulgence in thermofax techniques for fabric making continue to ferment.

After hearing Lynn Krawczyk's song of freedom that printing her own fabric gave her -- I'm heading for the garage to make a space for some fabric printing!

I think you'll find inspiration in Lynn's work as well as her words! Here is Lynn Krawczyk in her own words. -- Dawn

Lynn Krawczyk:
I've come to regard my studio as a sort of diary of the ten years I've spent creating fiber art. My decorating sense in that room is not of the variety of plain white walls and no distractions. I pile and layer -- not distractions but inspiration - everywhere, both mine and acquired. I want to be encased in all things creative. My mind slips into proper order the moment I walk through the door.

Photo of Lynn's design board and various creations in all stages of design.

Where I started and where I am now are related but in the way that you stand next to a cousin and think, "I could see where we are from the same family." The studio connection past and present is there along with evidence of the search to find that sweet comfort spot. It is a kind of tilling and combining of elements and finding the ah-ha beauty that draws an unconscious comfortable sigh from me, telling me that I am home.

Lynn's Big Orange Chair with White Background. What a
delight and so original!

It wasn't until I started creating my own fabric about a year ago that I knew I was almost there. I know I'm not the first to do it and I know I won't be the last but what it has given me has changed nearly everything that goes on in that little room at the end of the second floor hallway.

If I said that I didn't own or use any commercial fabric, that would make me a liar. I am, after all, a bona fide fabric addict. But I find myself reaching around the commercial bin in my studio when I'm creating wall art. (The funky batiks and prints make their way into other projects these days. The plushies I create are more then happy to sport colorful stripes and bizarre swirls on their tummies.)

I've tried long and hard to explain the things that I love most about hand printed fabric. I smooshed all the reasons into a Top Ten list that perfectly sums up my affection for the whole bit:

(1) Fast food vs. homemade. I admit that I do love me some fast food but I also admit that it can't really begin to compare to homemade food. I think a big part of it is the difference between who is making it: a hormonal disgruntled teenager vs. your mom. Mom adds love - an ingredient that shows through in the final product. Its the same with printing your own fabric - your emotion becomes embedded in the fibers.

Photo of thermofax screen printing process

(2) Freedom. Freeeeeddddoooommm! Freeeeddddooooommmmm!!! Instead of searching
high and low to find the fabric that I want to use to convey a message, all I need to do is hunker down in my studio for a couple of hours and I've got exactly what I need.

(3) Magic. No matter how many times I use thermofax screens to screen print or slop soy wax on to create batik fabrics, it never gets old. I won't say this for sure but its possible that I shout "Ta-da!" each and every time.

Painting Soy Wax, just one of the options when making your own fabric
 (4) Connection. I love that I can spill my mood out onto something tangible. Its easy to convey whatever I'm thinking since I have control over the whole process from start to finish. Its a sort of fabric journal, a documentation of what I was thinking on that specific day.

(5) Be specific! I tend to print fabric as I need it for a project rather then creating it for my stash. (Although there is a little stash fabric in there as well.) I can bend the fabric to my will rather then the other way around. There is no compromise on the final product.

On the Line, a combination of planning and serendipity
 (6) Pass the soap please. I get to make a mess. A valid, necessary, unapologetic mess. Paint, wax, dye - you name it, I have a reason to involve it all in the mayhem. The day that I realized I required an apron to avoid making my entire wardrobe studio clothing is the day I realized I was right where I needed to be.

(7) Intentional serendipity. I enjoy surprising results when creating something but there comes a point and time where you want more control over how things are coming out. I can assemble my every growing stack of thermofax screens, my paints, my dyes and while I cannot see the results entirely in my mind when I begin, I can guide it along the path I want to get what I need.

(8) One of these things is not like the others. Its impossible to create the same piece of fabric twice. No matter how hard I try (and I normally don't), its wasted effort. Knowing that each one is different and unique
and an only child makes each one my favorite. And that's a happy place to be.

Lynn adds graphic hand stitching to her thermofaxed fabrics
 (9) The star of the show. I like to do graphic hand stitching, simple and to the point. Creating a piece of work in which the hand printed fabric is the star of the show, the stitching is there to compliment the design and add those little tweaks of happiness. The fabric is the star and everything else in the work moves around it to make sure that it stays that way.

Adding layers to create the design
(10) Joy. Printing my own fabric is a joyful process. It makes me happy. Plain and simple and to the point. And sometimes, that's more then enough reason to do something - to put a smile on your face.

Creating art is about finding your joy. There is no right or wrong way to find it, you just have to plod along until that "a-ha!" moment settles over you. It can be dramatic and come out in a shout or be quiet and as simple as drawing paint across a silk screen.

However you define it, move forward. Keep working. Don't question. And never doubt that you are an artist.

Happy creating!

For more of Lynn's beautiful work and inspiring words, please visit her website, her blog, and her Etsy shop.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

FYI: Early American and African American exhibits open in October

Early American Quilts Exhibition at Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

A traveling exhibit of the world’s finest collections of early American quilts will come to rest at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts from October 9, 2010, through January 2 of 2011.

The exhibit originates from the Winterthur Museum in Delaware, famed for its period room settings featuring the remarkable collection of furniture, fabrics, quilts, and decorative arts collected by Henry Francis du Pont (1880–1969).

This is a first.

For the first time ever a selection of more than 40 of the most stunning quilts are traveling for a strictly limited period. Visitors have the opportunity to see these works in detail.

Perhaps just as exciting, the exhibition also explores the lives of their makers, as well as the political, economic and technological developments that shaped production of the quilts. The exhibition will offer an absorbing insight into women’s political, social, and cultural lives in the formative period of the early American republic (1760–1850).

"American Quilts" also includes several rare prototypes of bed coverings that were imported to this country as luxury goods from Europe and East India.

American Quilts: Selections from the Winterthur Collection is organized by Winterthur and curated by Linda Eaton, Senior Curator of Textiles at Winterthur. This exhibition is supported by the Elisabeth Shelton Gottwald Fund and the Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans Exhibition Endowment.

VMFA members can enjoy this for free! Otherwise, tickets are $15 for adults. For Seniors 65+, students with ID, adult groups of 10+, and youth ages 7–17: $12 Children 6 and under: Free. Buy tickets online, on-site, or by calling 804.340.1405

New England Quilt Museum to Open
African-American Quilts Exhibit

The New England Quilt Museum, a showplace for contemporary quilts will feature a new exhibit: African American Quilts Today: A Celebration of Motherhood, Sisterhood, and the Matriarchs

The exhibit features the work of noted contemporary African American Quilt artists Sonie Ruffin, NedRa Bonds, Sherry Whetstone and Michele David. The quilts include a variety of themes, styles, and techniques that were inspired by family, friendship, religious and spiritual issues that resonate with women of all generations. Dr. Pearlie M. Johnson, whose scholarship examines the work of these artists, is guest curator.

She notes, “The ways in which the four fabric artists juxtapose African fabrics with American fabrics has produced works of art that, in some cases, resemble multi-pattern designs in traditional West African textiles. Building upon the quilting traditions established by their ancestors, contemporary African American quilters are producing fabric art that expresses ideas related to contemporary society, a society in which they grew up, live, and work.”

African-American Quilts Today will run from October 21 through December 31, 2010. The opening reception, featuring a program by Dr. Pearlie Johnson, will be on Saturday, October 23rd at 1 p.m. In conjunction with the exhibit, the Museum will host two trunk shows: Sisters in Fibers Guild on Saturday, November 6, starting at 1 p.m, and the Sisters in Stitches guild the following Saturday, November 13, also starting at 1 p.m.

This announcement is brought to you courtesy of Quilter’s Muse Publications

Friday, October 1, 2010

Fish n Baskets Quilt: A family story

I've been away from blogging for too long and today -- the first day of a new month -- my marriage month -- seems the perfect time to jump back in. I need to stay focused on the beautiful art of quilts and fabric and find a respite from the fears and uncertainty of daily life.

As many of you know my husband has ALS -- an incurable, untreatable, degenerative disease where 100 percent of the patients die. But his is slow progressing and he's doing marvelously right now with some assistive devices and a wife who refuses to allow him to die because he hasn't written his will, yet.

But now we're focusing on the fun stuff and forgetting disease.

Recently the fun and delight of fabric and quilts has come home to my house. In the 1980s Mom found a UFO that was passed on to her by her mother. It was/is a pieced basket quilt top.

Recently my 98 year old mother informed me that my 'Fish and Baskets' quilts that I've dearly loved for all of these years wasn't pieced by my grandmother, but was pieced by HER grandmother. So what I thought was probably made in the 1900s was most probably made in the 1800s. I'm taking a new look at this quilt and some quilt historians and appraisers are doing the same.

The little Fish and Baskets quilt came to be named thus because my Great Grandma Leah Hetrick made a mistake. She put one of those basket squares on sideways when she was piecing the squares together and didn't notice until she had several rows completed. (Photo 3 shows the fish)

I believe I inherited Leah's dislike for ripping and redoing things. Instead of ripping and fixing, she tossed it into the 'later if ever' pile of items to be fixed or repaired or forgotten. I'm so glad she did. And I'm glad Mom is a packrat and did not throw out that 'rag' that she found among her mother's possessions. That little fish makes all the difference to us and endeared it to my two sons who were too old for 'blankets' and too young for girls at the time of the quilt's first appearance. They were the ones who named it the Fish and Baskets quilt based on a Sunday School lesson.

Mom took that little top and added a wide brown border, muslin backing, and hand quilting before binding it and sending it home to our house. She saw it as utilitarian. I saw it as a family heirloom, a piece of family history and promptly added a sleeve to the back and hung it on the wall for all to see. Mom wasn't pleased with that choice because all she saw were the uneven stitches, the wavy border, the things she should have ripped out and done right but didn't see the need since it was old and utilitarian. Poor Mom. She and I never did think alike.

Not only did the quilt offer a sense of family, it habored its own little secret. I stumbled on it one evening when insomnia sent me searching for some herb tea. Times were tough, money in short supply and my husband had been a casualty of massive layoffs. I needed a sign that better times were around the corner, things could change for the better.

Moonlight streamed in the window highlighting the quilt, but it wasn't MY quilt. It was a geometric aberration with Grecian urn shapes and triangles. It was the sign I needed. I herded my sleepy men down stairs to see the quilt's transformation and we shared a moment that brought our family together in a lasting way.

Our Fish and Baskets quilt has been tucked away for the past few years. But when Mom dropped her bombshell on me, I had to take it out and look at it again. This time I'm asking the experts to date the fabrics. According to the family story the fabrics are leftovers from the shirts that were made for my grandmother's five brothers. So anyone who wants to wade in or comment about the quilt, fabrics, possible date, era, or the unusual pattern. Please do! Note the strange green fabric in photo number 4 -- this is that illusionary background that steps forward at night.

Several have wanted to see the photos that I posted on my Facebook page. So here they are for your enjoyment. I've taken close ups of several of the fabrics in hope you can get a date from them. Almost every basket is of a different fabric.

Also, one of the many essays I've written about this quilt (before finding out about Great Grandma's hand in the making of this) can be found at the Christian Science Monitor's archives. It is titled "A patchwork of warmth and hope -- in 10-inch squares."

I hope you enjoy my little Fish and Baskets quilt. I'd love to hear about your quilts and their stories!

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!