Thursday, March 25, 2010

My View: 100 Sweet Treats by and for Quilters by Ann Hazelwood

It's a cute idea for a series.

Books that feature '100.' Such as 100 Things You Need to Know If You Own a Quilt or 100 Things to Enjoy in Historic Paducah or as the one I received as a review sample from American Quilters Society: 100 Sweet Treats by and for Quilters by Ann Hazelwood.

The book size, 6x4.5-inches, as well as the price $12.95, make this a great gift idea for a quilter who cooks or a cook who quilts.

Consisting of approximately 100 pages, it is arranged with one recipe per page. This quick peek at dessert instructions provided by a variety of quilters, seems more like a sample that leaves me hungry for more. I must admit that I didn't recognize many of the quilters' names. That may say more about me than about the book. But I wanted to know more about the quilters, their quilts, and their techniques.

The recipes speak to any sweet tooth and are basically easy-to-make foods. Nothing could be easier than Karen McTavish's honey and peanut butter sandwich. Yes it is what you think it is. Two slices of bread, one spread with peanut butter, the other drizzled with honey and the two halves slapped together.

But this turns out to be a cookbook without food photos. Not one. It is the only cookbook I have ever seen that had no visual images of the finished recipes.

The images inserted throughout the book are of quilts. The quilt name and maker and where they're from were printed in rather faint, small print near the photo. Supposedly sprinkling the quilts throughout the book not matching them with the maker's recipes turns the book into a treasure hunt. I personally think it is poor organization and not at all endearing.

The photo clarity is for the most part crisp and clear, but the size of the photos definitely disappoints. It is a colorful book. Yet, I kept wishing this was a webpage where I could click on the photo and enlarge it, zoom in for detail or click to another page for details about the techniques, pattern, fabric, embellishments, etc. Sadly there is only minimal information about the quilt, quilter or even those who supply the recipes.

Most of the recipes are familiar oldies -- cobblers, banana split cake, brownies, bars, sundaes, crumb cakes, etc. Maybe because they are old familiars, photos aren't so important. But I do miss them. The first recipe "Chocolate Brittle" made me perk up and think of one of my favorite candies 'Peanut Brittle.' But after reading the recipe (and not getting a chance to see what this sweet looks like)  -- yes I'm obsessing over the lack of food photos. The ingredients of this particular recipe was reminiscent of the 1930s, The Great Depression. The recipes of that era were unique for the use of inexpensive available substitute ingredients. In this recipe, which may be delicious, one of the first ingredients: 40 soda crackers....

OK, I couldn't stand not knowing more about this recipe, so I Googled it. At they describe this as "chocolate covered toffee." And provided a photo. OK, now THAT I might be interested in checking out. Note that this accompanying photo is from, not from the book. For those who can't resist this photo, you can find the recipe here on

If I had my choice on how to make a book for cooking quilters who harbor mega sweet tooths, I'd choose a more serious attempt at marrying quilters, food and quilts with more information about all. I'd ask for desserts from around the world. What sweet treats do quilters in Australia or New Zealand, or Iceland or Japan, or Germany bake? And of course by now you know I would want PHOTOS OF FOOD!

Yet, for a quick take -- a small gift -- it may be just what you're looking for.

I'd rather save my money, check online and enjoy better quilt AND yes, food photos.... The other titles look promising. Paducah is definitely a fascinating community with such history! I wonder what photos are included in that book?


Friday, March 19, 2010

Eleanor Levie does it all!

Eleanor Levie has a gift for laughter as well as the skill of a fine 'needler.' She fits right in with Subversive Stitchers everywhere. She has been a part of the quilting community for so long she made a Timeline quilt to document it -- oh, that's the history of quilting....

Check out her website for more fascinating details concerning this fun and imaginative quilt!

She also writes books and teaches and lectures and whew. she's one busy quilt lover!

You know Eleanor is in a room -- just follow the laughter. Yet her quilts often have a more serious message, such as her poppy quilt below. --Dawn

Speaking out loudly in fabric and thread,
Art from the heart, never spread on a bed,
Planning precisely, then slicing and skewing,
Mistake and surprise rarely seam my undoing!
Making a statement in free-motion cursive…
Ahhh, that's the life of a stitcher subversive. --Eleanor Levie

I'm a big fan of Dawn's blog: As a runaway from a goody-two-shoes childhood, I'm always thrilled to be labeled subversive in any aspect of my life or work. Hey, you know it's more fun to break the rules than follow them, right?

Exhibit A: During the decades I have edited quilt books, and hung my reputation on the hook of clarity and reliability. However, I can't, for the life of me, follow directions. As an editor for McCalls Needlework & Crafts in the '80s, and as the freelance producer of the Rodale's Successful Quilting Library series at the turn of the new century, I really do know the right way to do all aspects of quilting. I just get sidetracked with the voice that says, "What if I do this instead…?".

Exhibit B: In chronicling the third revival of our craft in American Quiltmaking: 1970-2000, I've gained a strong appreciation for our legacy. Plus, I've taken classes with the best of the best, innovators, artists, those who have developed personal strategies for turning tradition on its head and subverting it. But I'm not patient or practiced enough to follow in anyone's footsteps. I confess: I'm a dilettante who clowns around in just about every quilting technique. I defy anyone to look at my "body of work" as it were and recognize Eleanor Levie running through it! The truth is, everything I've done is more overcompensation for inferior work or an inferiority complex than it is subversion.

Exhibit C: I can't possibly compete with the stellar talents who do absolutely, drop-dead- gorgeous flower quilts. Any quilt I make that has a flower for its subject needs to have other subject matter to con the viewer into giving it a second glance…i.e., a personal or political statement. My "Poppy Dilemma" conveys, through photo-transferred articles, the awful choice Afghani farmers face-- giving up a cash crop of opium poppies and taking what the government will dole out--hardly enough for their families to survive on, or getting four times that amount from the drug lords.

My choices aren't life and death, but I do choose to forego square, 90 degree angles. Another flower piece that subverts the square is "What's Your Body Type?" I made this memory quilt (43" x 21") in 2005 for a show at the Allentown Art Museum. Part of an invitational exhibit, it supplemented entries for a contest sponsored by P & B Textiles to promote a reproduction toile fabric collection. A triple "self-portrait" represents my body at three phases of life: the slender bud vase of my budding youth, the bulbous pot as I burst with life and voluptuousness during pregnancy; and in pear-shaped, big-bottomed maturity. Despite the ridiculous messages society screams to be skinny, skinny, skinny, aren't all women beautiful?

My skinny memory quilt, titled "Stringbeans" (14" x 56", 2008), pokes fun at how skinny everyone in my gene pool started out. Sun-prints of stringbeans, sliced in half and pinned to the painted fabric, suggest how scrawny the lot of us were, almost like Diane Arbus shots. Transfers of old photos on sheer fabric, vintage lace scraps, and wallpaper florals convey nostalgia.

Tormented by images of svelte fashion models, and knowing I'll never be tall, and no longer skinny, I take comfort in knowing that my quilts can be both. Stretching the square and the imagination, I love to make what I call Skinny Quilts. Hung on a wall or spread over a horizontal surface, Skinny Quilts can be art. Or craft: the inimitable table runner. These have always appealed to me as the perfect gift, providing something to dress up a décor, and keep tabletops from getting scratched. Besides, I know I can get just as much gratitude and appreciation from a slender slice of a quilted project as I can get from a king-size bed quilt, so why NOT go skinny? And speaking of gratitude and appreciation, I can't say enough about the amazing and diverse talents who have contributed to my Skinny Quilts & Table Runners books (I and II).

Within the last few years, in no small part due to my son's passion for ecology, I've looked to quilting and crafting to call attention to the urgency of lifestyle change to repair the earth. We've got to stop contributing to the making of and the mountains of plastic bags. And if you're like me, you need help remembering to bring your reusable cloth bags into the supermarket. Hence, my latest book: Unforgettable Tote Bags—20 Designs Too Cool to Leave in the Car. Again, I looked to celebrity quilters to provide inspiration and variety. Here I am, shopping locally, with my 14-Carrot Gold bag.

These days, I'm taking the reuse, recycle, repurpose shtick in another direction. Foil-lined plastic bags that hold a crease, such as bags that hold coffee and single tea bags, are the staples of my current stash. Counting the weird top, a stabilizer, and a felt backing, it's three layers, all right. And it's pieced, appliqued, and free-motion quilted...but a quilt? Your call.

Subversive? Maybe. Stitched, yes, indeedy. A message? Well, certainly a mess of fun.

This is a first effort in this direction -- any suggestions? Advice?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Susan Lenz needs our help!

Susan Lenz needs our help -- and fast!

She has a solo exhibition fast approaching (Sept. 10-October) at the City Gallery at Waterfront Park in Charleston. It will spotlight her Decision Portrait Series during the MOJA 2010 Festival. Susan's work was selected not because it "fits the theme" but because it is contemporary, thought provoking, and incorporates all people. (The word "moja" means "one" in Swahili, suggesting harmony in a global community.)

The exhibit location is gigantic. Susan said, "I'm talking several rooms spread over TWO stories." And that leads to the dillema and the request for your help. She has more than 45 finished pieces, but needs 45 more!

Susan has a blog that is specifically for the Decision Portrait Series. It is HERE! The blog opens with a "wish list". But, Susan is happy to consider just about any decision....big or small....on the list or not. [Photos are of pieces in the Decision Portrait series. First is Susan's self portrait. For more detail check out her blogsite or click on the photo. Photo 2 is Happily Ever After. Photo 3 Overcoming Domestic Abuse. Photo 4: Marked for Life. Photo 5: Behind on the Mortgage.]

Susan said,  "All I need is a signed model's release and a digital image. I'll provide the model's release and a self-addressed, stamped return envelope for those in the USA. Those living outside the country will have to furnish their own postage! Every time I finish a portrait, I share it via email with the "model" and include a "rough draft" of the intended blog post. This gives each participant the opportunity to see the work first and make suggestions about the wording that accompanies their image. Of course, all participants will be invited to the exhibition and any other future show (yes, I'm still submitting for other solo opportunities)."

Contact Susan via her email.

I've included her WISH LIST here, but please visit the blogsite to see the 45 she has finished -- you will  leave changed, touched by the faces and the simplicity of these quilts telling such meaningful life-changing choices that the people have made.

Title: Midwife. (Preferably someone who both delivers babies and has had a child at home!) Stitched words: Helping and having babies at home.

Title: Homeschooling. Stitched words: Both mother/father and primary educator.

Title: Good Samaritan. Stitched words: I changed a flat tire for a complete stranger.

Title: Terms of Marriage II. Stitched words: I signed a prenuptial agreement.

Title: 20/20 Vision. Stitched words: I had Lazar eye surgery.

Title: Dieter. Stitched words: I lost weight. (Must be a lot of weight....I'm envisioning one of those "before" and "after" sort of images...or the model inside of or holding a very, very noticeably larger pair of pants.)

Title: On Call. Stitched words: Hotline crisis volunteer

Title: CEO. Stitched words: My decisions affect hundreds (I'd prefer a rather large company!)

Title: Smaller. Stitched words: I had my stomach stapled.

Title: Hitch Hiker. Stitched words: Thumbs up!

Title: Smoker. Stitched words: Two packs a day (or something like this....must be someone who really enjoys smoking and isn't trying to quit.)

Title: On Fighting Cancer I and II. Stitched words: I chose chemotherapy over a mastectomy and I chose a mastectomy over chemotherapy. (I am interested in any other type of medical decision!)

Title: On Fighting Cancer III and IV. Stitched words: After Chemo, I wore a wig and After Chemo, I didn't wear a wig. (I am interested in any decision regarding hair loss....due to cancer or any other situation.)

Title: On Aging I. Stitched words: I've dyed my hair for years.

Title: On Aging II. Stitched words: I've had a tummy tuck.

Title: On Aging III. Stitched words: I've had a face lift.

Title: On Aging IV. Stitched words: I've had botox.

Title: On Aging V. Stitched words: Viagra

(I am interested in any significant decision that deals with a pursuit to ward off signs of aging.)

Title: I am a Woman. Stitched words: I was born a man. (Also, vice versa....any gender decision, including transvestism are of interest.)

Title: Creationist. Stitched words: Darwin was wrong and/or The universe was made in seven days.

Title: Adoption I. Stitched words: I contacted my birth parent(s).

Title: Adoption II. Stitched words: I contacted the child I gave up. (I am interested in any other decision regarding adoption, especially people who have adopted special need children.)

Title: Enhanced. Stitched words: I took steroids.

Title: Unfaithful. Stitched words: I cheated.

Title: Injured. Stitched words: I didn't buckle up. (This needs to be someone who, not wearing a seat belt, was permanently injured as a result of a car accident. Of course, it would be my honor to also stitch a photo of someone who unfortunately died....with permission from his/her family.)

Title: Thinner. Stitched words: Liposuction.

Title: Divorced. Stitched words: Irreconcilable Differences (Ideally, this would be both people...a mutual decision.)

Title: Whistle Blower. Stitched words: I turned in my employer

Title: Learning to Read. Stitched words: I taught; I learned. (Ideally, this would be two adults in a literacy program.)

Title: Marijuana. Stitched words: High on high.

Title: Astrologer. Stitched words: Spiritual advisor and/or It's in the cards.

Title: Surrogate Mother. Stitched words: I gave birth for someone else's family.

Title: Draft Dodger. Stitched words: I refused to go to war or Conscious Objector

Title: Vegetarian or Vegan (or one of each!). Stitched words: No meat. (The list could go on and be quite impressive! I'd like someone whose lived with this decision for many, many years!)

Title: Overcoming Domestic Abuse. Stitched words: I pressed charges. (This one is actually complete but I'm leaving it on the list as I'd love to stitch Dealing with Domestic Abuse with stitched words, "I didn't press charges" or another variation.)

Title: Graffiti Artist/Vandal. Stitched words: (symbol of the "tag")

Tile: DUI. Stitched words: I made a mistake.

Title: Gang Member. Stitched words: I wear my colors

Title: Neo-Nazi. Stitched words: Master Race

Title: Public Servant. Stitched words: I ran for office (Must be a non-career politician! I have a lead on this one...I hope!)

Title: Homeless. Stitched words: No Fixed Address (This can't be someone with a mental disease but someone who chose to live this way!)

Title: Illegal Immigrant. Stitched words: I want the American Dream (I don't need to picture anyone's image hiding one's identity would be perfectly fine!)

Title: Voters. Stitched words in front of three people: Republican, Democrat, Independent

Tile: Runaway. Stitched words: I left home.

Title: Shoplifter. Stitched words: It wasn't mine.

Title: Nun. Stitched words: Married to Christ.

Title: Monk. Stitched words: A Vow of Silence. (Or other wording depending on vows.)

Title: Prostitute. Stitched words: By the hour.

Title: Exotic Dancer I. Stitched words: Single mother providing for her kid(s)

Title: Exotic Dancer II. Stitched words: Paying for my college tuition

Title: Speeder. Stitched words: Too many mph

Title: Relief Worker. Stitched words: I went to Haiti to help

Title: Cremated. Stitched words: My daughter/husband/friend scattered my ashes

Title: Peer Pressure I. Stitched words: I got into a car with a drunk driver

Title: Peer Pressure II. Stitched words: I called my parent(s) for a safe ride home

Title: Accepting Help. Stitched words: I never thought I'd need food stamps

Title: Drop Out. Stitched words: I quit school

Title: Custody. Stitched words: I fought to raise my child/grandchild

Title: Boomerang. Stitched words: I moved back in with my parent(s)

Title: Bike Rider. Stitched words: I don't even own a car

Title: Volunteer. Stitched words: Giving my time for _____ (Name of cause or group....prefer someone who is a very serious volunteer donating regular hours over a period of years.)

Title: For Science. Stitched words: I donated my body to the medical school.

(I'd like a Hindi...because I don't even know how to phrase these!)

Susan adds: "I am open to creating new portraits that are similar to any that are completed....another way of depicting a similar (or even the same) decision." Contact Susan via her email. And thank you!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Jeanne Beck travels through the fascinating world of artistry

Jeanne Beck's imagination and creativity take me in new directions, open possibilities and make me ask questions. Not why so much as why not!

I hope you'll enjoy and be inspired by her journey to find her art.  Note the photo is of her Seeds of Compassion which was accepted into Fiberart International 2010. Jeanne describes the piece, made in 2008, as a "42" x 50", silk, cotton backing and batting, cotton thread. Monoprinting, silkscreening with dyes and paints; freemotion stitching." -- Dawn

by Jeanne Beck

Dawn’s invitation to be a guest blogger arrived on the heels of several personal milestones. The most exciting one was having a piece accepted for Fiberart International 2010. This venue is a truly diverse and inclusive fiber art exhibition.

That amazing news arrived in the wake of a difficult decision I had made: to focus my time exclusively on working in my studio. As a result, I let go of teaching and writing articles last fall to spend my days studying and making samples and considering how to express a thought or idea visually. Can an idea be translated into a powerful visual experience and if so, how?

Working on this question is a focus that has developed over time. A first quilting class in 1991 introduced me to textiles as a relaxing sidebar to a busy career and second marriage. By 1994 I discovered surface design and from that point on, all I wanted to do was dye and paint and print my own fabrics.

 [Photo: Etruscan Relic, 2009, 38" x 118", length of silk broadcloth, monoprinted, screenprinted, hand painted with acid dyes and acrylic paints. Currently this piece is traveling for two years as part of an invtiational art cloth exhibition curated by Marie Therese Wisniowski to galleries across Australia and will hopefully travel to the US in 2011.]
Around 1998 I fell in love with free motion machine embroidery techniques and added the study of texturing techniques to painting, dyeing and printing textiles. Books from England, where embroidery and surface design have evolved into an exquisite artistic expression, fueled my experimentation. Since I responded deeply to the textures in nature, I wanted to try and translate those onto textiles with marks, stitching and layering. New and used embroidery books from England, many unavailable at that time in the United States, constantly arrived in my mailbox.

In addition, I kept taking classes and studying design principles. I worked with mentors like Jane Dunnewold, Steve Aimone, Ken Smith and Dorothy Caldwell and joined crit groups to get critical feedback on composition.

I did all this in addition to working full-time until 2005. All my “real-life” work over the course of twenty-five years was writing related, from radio commercials and fund raising appeals to opening Beck Publications, where I consulted with numerous corporations to create and publish marketing and employee newsletters.

Writing always came easily to me, but translating ideas into visual imagery was an amazing new challenge. [Photo: Pages 3, 32" x 110", 2008. Collection of Gleason Library, University of Rochester. Dye, acrylic paints on cotton and silk. Screen printed, constructed.]

I began to consider the idea of focusing on content and concept in my work through my exposure to the embroidery books I read. British embroiderers draw inspiration from much artistic study and sampling. My focus on study increased after I took a master class with Michael James in 2006.

Although I was making a concerted effort to study contemporary art and art history, he criticized art quilters in general and me in particular during the workshop as “uninformed.” The criticism was difficult to take but it also motivated me tremendously. I’m very appreciative of that class now!

[Photo: "Relic 3", 21" x 21", framed, 2009. Acrylic on lutrador and silk; screenprinted and painted.]

I doubled my efforts to learn more about art and artists and dove deeper into considering how to develop wrriten language into visual imagery. I researched ancient languages, cultures, the origins and development of written language as well as numerous 20th and 21st century artists who explore text and handwriting as visual elements. This exposure has been amazingly enriching.

I now thrive on exposure to a diversity of artistic ideas and interpretations. Ideas of “concept”, “content” and “meaning” inform my artistic choices. It may not call to others, but it is wonderfully right for me.

As much as I enjoy learning, I equally love to play and experiment. Another insight arrived when I hit my 60th birthday milestone in October, that there are more years behind me now than in front of me. Time is precious.

In the wake of that realization, my perspectives on what I want from art making and life are shifting again. What is important to me? What gives me joy? I realized that it’s not a desire for success; it is a reverence and appreciation for the transformative power of creating, both personally and societally. This is the compass that guides my choices now.

Artistic practice can be in itself both a fascination and its own reward, and I’m expanding my understanding of how to enter into, grow and sustain it.

There is an avid adventurer inside of me that is forever looking longingly at the horizon. In a way, being an artist is my voyage on the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria – traveling across the high seas for adventure and the hope it will lead me to the discovery of New Worlds. [Photo: Jeanne Beck]

Check out her website: Jeanne Raffer Beck and her blog: Art by Jeanne Beck.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Whos Who of Subversive Stitchers at Art Quilt Elements!

It is thrilling to announce that so many guest bloggers and members of Subversive Stitchers: Women Armed with Needles will have their work included in the Art Quilt Elements exhibit from April 17 through May 19 at the Wayne Art Center, Wayne, PA.

Jurors who made the difficult choices for this exhibit are highly respected and strike fear in the hearts of fabric artists. OK, more like AWE in the hearts of fabric artists. Jason Pollen, Robin Schwalb, Deborah C. Warner.

Photo: Susan Shie's The Food Scales/Justice which has a long and interesting journey studed with awards and near misses on its way to this exhibit. Check out her blog.

Below is the list of  PARTICIPATING ARTISTS with the name of their entry:

Natalya Aikens* NY Piter I

Elizabeth Barton GA Strange Beauty

Linda Beach* AK Dawn

Regina Benson CO Night Bloom

PHOTO: Virginia Spiegel's Boundary Waters 48

Dawn W. Boyd* CO Le Croix de Guerre

Peggy Brown IN Changing Colors III

Benedicte Caneill* NY Units 19: Cityscape

Cher Cartwright* CA On the Other Hand

Paula J. Chung* NV Japanese Anemone I

Jette Clover BEL White Wall 1

Linda Colsh BEL Cabinet of Curiosities

Yael David-Cohen* UK Musical Explosion

Wen Redmond of NH -- Perspective of Trees. For more of her work visit her site.
Fenella J. Davies* UK Shadows

Helene Davis KY Incarnation

Sandra T. Donabed* FL Evil Apples

Linda J. Engstrom* AZ Web of Life

Dianne Firth AU Cell Structure #7

Denise M. Furnish KY Nine Patch

Leesa Z. Gawlik ITA Timeline II

Lutgard Gerber-Billiau* BEL Black Hole #I

Dianne K. Hricko* PA Urban Rhythm

Jeanette Jacobs* RI Splash

Terry Jarrard-Dimond SC Joy and Sorrow

Jess E. Jones* TN Ligament

Anita Kaplan* CA Graffiti III, Cappadocia

Katherine Knauer* NY Katrina

Paula Kovarik* TN Spring

Pat Kroth WI Pathways

Liz Kuny* NJ A Steady Beat

Judith Larzelere RI I (Heart) Summer

Eileen Lauterborn NY Afterimage

Susan Lenz of South Carolina with her first art quilt for this exhibit: Father and Mother, part of her Grave Rubbings series.
Susan Lenz* SC Father and Mother

Susan L. Lumsden* MO Slipstream Adventure

Libby & Jim Mijanovich* NC All In

Lori S. Moum VA Kimono Form #4

Sharon Nemirov* AZ Leaf Flakes

Wen Redmond NH Perspective of Trees

Toot Reid WA Aug 5, 2008 - March 28, 2009

Photo: Leslie J. Riley IL Chutes and Ladders (she also won first prize at Quilts=Art=Quilts)

Leslie J. Riley IL Chutes and Ladders

Luanne Rimel* MO Touch

Deidre Scherer* VT Into Light

Susan M. Shie OH The Food Scales/Justice

Diane Siebels* VA His Remembered Tree

Mary Ruth Smith* TX Crossover

Virginia A. Spiegel IL Boundary Waters 48

Daphne P. Taylor NY Quilt Drawing #11

Amy Thomas* WA Quilt No. 1

Bette Uscott-Woolsey PA Passing Fancy

Cynthia L. Vogt* VA Ishi-Datami

Kent Williams WI Light Emitting Fabric

For more information about the exhibit and the artists, visit ArtQuilt Elements 2010 site.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

My View: Books I Admire; Books That Inspire; Books I Must Acquire

Is there really a need for more sewing, quilting, crafting, how-to and inspiration books? Don't we have something in our own libraries that we have amassed over the years to meet the need?

The answer is NO!

An artist, a quilter, a crafter, is always looking to the new and different. Even when using traditional patterns that our grandmothers and great grans loved, we like to introduce new fabrics or color combinations, new techniques or perhaps fit two or three or four traditional patterns together to create something new and innovative. And most of us need to see, have visual stimuli, a model from which to spring into our own unique creations.

Judy Sisneros took a simple idea, made some fabulous quilts, documented the steps and provided tips and put everything together in her book

"9-Patch Pizzazz: Fast, Fun and Finished in a Day."

The concept behind this sweet 48-page book published by C&T Publishing begins with those large scale prints that we can't resist. We buy a piece and then realize we have nothing to do with it.

Judy features these large scale prints whether Japanese Geishas or Lions of the Serengeti or parrots or hibiscus up close and personal. Around them she sets smaller patterns in a most sedate and traditional nine-patch grid. Yet, there is nothing traditional about Judy's use of fabrics and the choices she makes in color combinations and fabric designs.

The cover features her quilt Oriental Flight. The quilt is set on point and she uses a fabric print of flying birds. She draws on the oriental black, ocher, red, and green, tying all of the prints together with a repetition of the print designs. Because she chooses to use the birds in the upper half of the quilt, it takes on the look of a landscape or portrait quilt with a definite oriental flair.

When I first saw Judy's designs and technique, I thought this 'Fast, Fun and Finished in a Day' concept melds perfectly with the charity quilts we all want to make but never seem to have enough time to do something stunning as well as practical and do it all fast! Now you can make a quilt for every member of the family, every charity, AND use up those large scale fabrics that you love, but can't figure out how to use.

C&T Publishing offers the book in traditional softcover for $16. 95, or in downloadable e-book format at $11.99 and a third option of a bundle which includes both softcover and e-book.

Don't think Judy has simply offered one basic design. Noooo. There are several ways to feature these large scale fabrics and Judy has a few tricks and surprises up her sleeve when it comes to layouts as well as color choices. Her Flower Power quilt goes vertical and offers such an innovative mix of traditional design and fabric. And then there's the addition of applique in her Koi on Parade quilt. And I love what she does with parrots and tropical prints.....

According to Judy, "This style of quilt has been my most popular and easiest workshop. I call it the "potato chip" quilt, because you can't make just one!"

Often I look at books and think "I WISH I could quilt/sew/applique/create like that...." Then I walk away slowly not knowing how or where to begin such breath-taking and award winning quilts. That's why I'm nearly giddy over

"Quilter's Favorites: A Collection of 21 Timeless Projects for All Skill Levels. (Vol. 1)"

As I leafed through the book for the first time, it immediately gave me hope, inspired me to try several of the projects without hesitation. The traditional Court House Steps is alluring as the first project offered. Squares and rectangles in this classic Court House Steps layout of the Log Cabin block is made new and modern by the use of green and blue batiks. The step-by-step directions complete with photos and tips ensures success for the beginner.

Summer Fun, a project for the advanced beginner plays with triangles and color. The editors explain. "The Double Dutch block generates a lot of movement when you introduce a secondary color pattern, as in Summer Fun. The deep blue accentuates the inner pinwheels and heightens the illusion of spinning. A batik fabric in summery blues and greens inspred the palette."

Pleiades Pineapple, listed as 'challenging' teaches paper or interfacing foundation piecing. And the Bow Tie Medley, also 'challenging', is more than the traditional pattern -- it is origami!

So much basic information that moves the quilter forward building upon what is learned in each project. If you are looking for a book to start your library, or to keep close at hand for reference for a variety of instructions from an easy-peasy piecing technique for the wild goose pattern to some innovative color choices -- this is the book. Written by the C&T editors this 112 page book retails at $24.95 for the softcover version and $16.99 for the e-book. As with all C&T books, the colors are awesome, the layouts easy to follow with lots of white space, graphics and just enough text.

With each project the quilter gains new knowledge, tips, new techniques, and new resolve and skill to move to the next and next and next quilt.

If you are new to quilting or have a new quilter in your midst, this book would make an excellent resource or gift. Each project introduces some new aspect of quilt making.

And what's even better -- there is a Volume 2!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A visit to Mesa Art Center by Jean Judd and her art quilt Scribble #2

The Mesa Arts Center 31st Annual Contemporary Crafts exhibition is currently displayed in the South Gallery and runs through March 14 in Mesa, Arizona. Jean’s textile artwork, Scribble #2 (Black Pathways) was juried into this prestigious exhibition. This piece was one of three art quilts selected for the exhibition.
 Eligible work included ceramics, fibers, basketry, metals, wood, glass, jewelry, papermaking and book art. 42 artists from 18 states were selected to be included in the exhibition by gallery owner, Jane Sauer of Santa Fe, New Mexico. 

In Ms Sauer’s juror’s statement, she is quoted as saying: “From a field of 425 objects submitted I had the task of selecting 45-52 pieces depending on size. After six rounds of elimination, there was an exhibit of 118 objects. It was such a rich field of entrees that the reduction of pieces was very, very difficult.” The final exhibition included 48 pieces.

Textile artwork by Gillette, WY artist Joan Sowada entitled Mainstream USA and Dominie Nash’s (Bethesda, MD) piece Stills from a Life 29 were the other two art quilts featured. Note Dominie’s piece behind me in this photo on the left.
My husband, Danny, and I were able to attend the Artist Reception (6-8pm) as well as the Members Only reception (5-6pm) on January 22. 

In spite of the heavy rain and flooding that was occurring that day, more than 500 people attended the receptions that evening. Many artists were on hand for discussions with patrons about their artwork.
I was impressed with the selection of artworks included. It was a diverse and exciting display. Plenty of white space between artworks on the wall and items on pedestals were not crowded or not properly lit. The three art quilts were all on separate walls and I thought displayed beautifully. That is me (center) in the “blend into the background” bright orange dress. Not sure what I was thinking when I packed that dress for the reception.
A four piece Latin Jazz band provided musical entertainment during the reception, and there were three other exhibitions happening in the other gallery spaces for collectors and patrons to view. One of the exhibitions included a photo exhibition by internationally known photographer Paul Nicklen, entitled Polar Obsession funded by National Geographic. An exhibition by bead artist Teresa Sullivan was in the adjacent gallery room and included a video and some very interesting installation pieces.
The time just flew by and as the evening progresses, I became more comfortable. Not many of the artists in attendance stood by their artwork. My husband herded me over by mine a few times, but I felt a bit uncomfortable doing that. For me, it felt better to circulate and I had more opportunity to talk to patrons and other artists this way.
I met a wonderful fiber artist, Dona Anderson (back to camera), from Seattle, Washington who uses reeds wrapped in pattern paper to make abstract sculptures. (see photo) 

I talked to her about gallery representation (she is represented by GrottaBrown in Wilton, CT) and how successful that has been for her. 

Note: Mesa Contemporary Arts' Annual Contemporary Crafts exhibition has become a benchmark for innovation and quality. Representative of traditional craft mediums including ceramics, fibers, basketry, metals, wood, glass, jewelry, papermaking and book arts, this exhibition showcases 52 artworks by 42 artists from 18 states.

Artists Include:
Dona Anderson (Seattle, WA)
Lynette Andreasen (Mesa, AZ)
Heather Bayless (Kihei, HI)
Nicholas Bivins (Red Lodge, MT)
Edda Blume (Pittsburgh, PA)
Jocelyn Braxton-Armstrong (Westport, CT)
Jonathan L. Brown (Chandler, AZ)
Tom Budzak (Chandler, AZ)
Holly Carter (Phoenix, AZ)
Mary Chuduk (Tempe, AZ)
Michele Collier (Oakland, CA)
Angela Cunningham (Somerville, MA)
Sheila Ferri (Middletown, NY)
Arti Goulatia (Peoria, AZ)
Carol Gouthro (Seattle, WA)
Kazu Ikegami (Tempe, AZ)
Jean Judd (Cushing, WI)
Thomas Kerrigan (Tucson, AZ)
Connie Lippert (Seneca, SC)
C.A. Michel (Seattle, WA)
Julie Mikelson (Tempe, AZ)
Carol Milne (Seattle, WA)
Ann Morton (Phoenix, AZ)
Susan Murphy (Rio Verde, AZ)
Don Nakamura (Philadelphia, PA)
Dominie Nash (Bethesda, MD)
Farraday Newsome (Mesa, AZ)
Zachary Noble (Bakersville, NC)
Kathy Pallie (San Rafael, CA)
Sarah Perkins (Springfield, MO)
Jeff Reich (Mesa, AZ)
Kathleen Ryall (Oxford, NC)
Patricia Sannit (Phoenix, AZ)
Chuck Sharbaugh (Holly, MI)
Dana Smith (Tucson, AZ)
Joan Sowada (Gillette, WY)
L. Sue Szabo (Toledo, OH)
Christopher Torrez (Phoenix, AZ)
Stephanie Trenchard (Sturgen Bay, WI)
Peggy Wiedemann (Huntington Beach, CA)
Kimberly Winkle (Smithville, TN)
Peggy Wyman (Macomb, MO)

Guest juror for the 31st Annual Contemporary Crafts exhibition is Jane Sauer, owner of Jane Sauer Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. With over 34 years of experience as an artist and arts activist, Sauer is considered an expert in the craft community. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

John Marshall shares a wealth of knowledge

I first heard of John Marshall via the Quilting Arts forum -- an excellent resource for how to and what's happening in the quilting arts world. John's name was referred to with reverence when discussing various techniques such as paste resist dyeing and the use of soymilk. Soymilk? You have really been missing the boat if you don't include soy milk in your art supplies. John explains as no one else can.

And he's a genuinely nice guy and so generous with his knowledge gained from training and years of experience.

The first photo is Nanbansen (Dutch trading ship) by John Marshall using soymilk with natural pigments on silk crepe. A katazome stencil was used with rice paste to create the imagery.

Please give him a warm welcome --Dawn

by John Marshall

Nearly forty years ago I was fortunate enough to have made my way to Japan, to be immersed in color and textiles. Not long after arriving, I found myself apprenticed to Matsuyo Hayashi, a traditional dyer of bingata textiles. This was my first experience with the Okinawan dye techniques and I took much for granted.

Within this process we used soymilk extensively. It was never really described to me why we used it or how it actually worked, but after returning to the States I began to experiment and investigate its properties.

Well, it turns out that soybeans contain one of the highest percentages of protein of all legumes. This cellulose-based protein has many properties.

Once allowed to dry, it will stiffen the fabric, locking the fibers together where they cross – this will help to reduce wicking when applying the dyes.

The soy protein is very easy to stain with dyes, allowing for a greater concentration of color throughout.

As a plant derived protein, it gladly takes in protein-specific dyes as well as cellulose-specific dyes.

Once washed, it allows the fabric to return to its original hand.

Once cured it forms a protective coating over the fiber, locking in the dyes and giving some protection against UV light damage and fading.

The protein, once cured, is no longer water-soluble. In this state it also has a protein-polymer memory.

As a protein-polymer coating to your fabric, it will also function very much like ScotchGuard®, helping to reduce soilage.

So before I apply any dyes to the cloth, I always give it a nice coat of soymilk. This functions as a permanent sizing, allowing me to apply broad areas of color evenly, and it also helps to prevent wicking if I want to work with fine details.
To apply the soy I stretch the silk with traditional harite and shinshi which allow me to suspend my fabric much like a hammock and still be able to tilt it like an easel. (See photos: Once the harite are in place and the fabric suspended, shinshi --bamboo sticks with pins in the ends -- are placed in the selvage edges following the weave. The shinshi, in combination with the harite, will give you a trampoline taught surface upon which to work.)

Deer-hair brushes (see photo of jizome brushes) are used to apply the soy evenly – which helps to avoid streaking, however you may also use a large sponge, or even try spraying it on. For smaller pieces you may even be able to get away with dipping.

Just remember–the soymilk comes from a bean, and will sour if not allowed to dry quickly (think of a bean salad sitting out on a picnic table in the sun in summer…). It is best to do this kind of work when it is fairly warm and in an environment with low humidity.

Photo: John applying soymilk as a final finish to completed yardage in his studio. Photo by Ree Slocum from the book Artists of Inland Mendocino County, by Ree Slocum.
Since the soy itself takes on quite a bit of dye, you’ll find that you wind up with much richer colors in the areas sized. If you’re up for an experiment, try sizing half your yardage and leaving the rest untreated. Then go about your normal routine. I believe you will find as I do, that the soy-treated section has something about it–a quality rich aspect that is difficult to define.

I also use soymilk as an additive to my dyes. Since I make use of a wide range of natural pigments in much of my work, the soymilk acts as a glue and helps to bind them to the fiber. If you want to test this on your own, you may try substituting high quality watercolor pigments for the dyes I use (simply use the soymilk instead of water to thin the paint).

Once I’m through with all my color applications, I allow the dried soymilk to cure. Drying means that the water content has evaporated away. Curing is the phase during which the protein molecule shrinks and bites into the fabric.

It is often necessary to wash your fabric before continuing on to another stage. Washing will break the bond between the fibers, mentioned above, allowing the weave to relax and return to its natural hand. However, if you wash the fabric before the soy has cured, you run the risk of having some or most of the soymilk wash away–and worse–carry the dyes it absorbed with it.

The best environment in which to cure your fabric is one that is very warm and very dry. In winter I hang the fabric from the rafters near my wood-burning stove. In summer it hang it outside under a southern exposed tin roof. For the quality I seek to achieve, I generally allow my fabrics to cure for two to three months, however this time may be cut back considerably depending on your circumstances. Just be aware of the risks you take.

Of course, if there is no need to wash out your fabric, then don’t. If you can still work with the slightly stiff sized fabric, then go ahead and do so, it will continue to cure as you work, as it sits in the procrastination pile, or as it dangles from a hook in your closet.

Here are a few examples of how I have used the properties described above:

As the soymilk cures, it shrinks, hardens, and remembers the state in which it is cured. So if you are careful to store it wrinkle-free until it is fully cured, you will have what amounts to a perma-press length of yardage. So, too, if you store it away pleated, you will wind up with a very close to permanently pleated piece of silk.

Since the soymilk acts as a binder, if you have exquisite indigo textiles you have collected from Nigeria or Laos, and find that they have a tendency to crock, simply work in a coat of soymilk to glue the wayward particles to the fiber, allow to cure, and no more blue arm pits!

If you are preparing liturgical banners or wall quilts, consider adding a final coating of soymilk to help reduce light damage. I normally do this after the last washing of my fabric, but before construction takes place. Soymilk in seams takes longer to dry and may sour.

Consider carefully the properties I have outlined and you will come up with all sorts of additional uses to suit your textile needs.
Oh, yeah! The recipe…

• Soak one-quarter cup of dry soybeans in two cups of water until swollen (about and hour)

• Rinse thoroughly
• Place swollen beans in a blender and fill four-fifths of the way up the beaker with fresh water
• Grind on liquefy until the water turns a very turbid pale milky-yellow
• Pour the slurry through a old handkerchief or scrap of sheeting squeezing all the liquid out into a bowl

• Check the consistency–you’re aiming for something close to 2% milk or a little thicker. Add plain water to dilute if necessary

That’s it! You’re ready to go!

For more information and a list of upcoming programs, visit John’s website
Below are more examples of John's exquisite art. First is Plum Blossoms in Moonlight using soymilk on silk chiffon. A method called tsutsugaki was used to apply rice paste as a resist in defining the images.

Traditional images of felicitations have been combined in this piece titled Pine, Bamboo, and Plum. Natural dyes with soymilk on silk Tussah. Stenciled rice paste imagery by John Marshall.

Kintaro, a traditional Japanese cotton banner dyed on both sides using pigments and soymilk. From the author's collection.