June 30, 2008

Big Root Geranium, part 5

There was a lot of heavy weather this weekend--hot, humid, and stormy--so I stayed indoors and worked in the studio. I made a lot of progress on the Big Root Geranium. I layered the top with batting and a backing and began the quilting. I couched down some wonderful handspun wool/silk yarn to add movement across the piece.
Above you can see the outlines of what will be beaded cloud shapes. You can follow the progress of this quilt to date by clicking on Big Root Geranium to the right.

June 26, 2008

It's Not a Linear Process

Two years ago I received as a gift, from someone who knows me well, some catalpa leaves that were wonderfully weather beaten and tattered. I made some prints that I was all excited about, and hung them up on the design wall. Then I got distracted by other projects that were currently underway, and deadlines that had to be met, and so on and so forth.

I thought about the catalpa prints from time to time, and painted some fabrics in similar colorways that could prove useful, but that was as far as it went.

Yesterday I found myself in a park outside of my usual rounds, looked up, and realized that I was standing under an enormous old catalpa. I took a lots of pictures, from all possible angles, and some of them turned out very well.
So now I am all excited again. I'm thinking about ways to combine the prints and the pictures, and what kind of orientation to use, and how I want the piece to flow. One day soon I hope to carve out the time to completely immerse in the intensive work of putting the top together. Then there will probably be a break, short or long, while I assimilate what I've done and contemplate how to do the stitching. That will be followed by the grunt work of wrangling it under the machine for the quilting, adding the binding, and possibly the many meditative hours of beading.

Next there's the photography and photo editing, adding it to the website, and other documentation. I'll enter it into shows, hope it gets accepted somewhere, and keep track of shipping schedules.

I enjoy every part of the process, with the possible exception of the binding, but it's not a linear one. The physical work progresses in certain steps, but they are not always orderly. And the really important part, the conceptualization, can be encouraged but not forced.

So I am often at a loss when I am asked about a piece "how long did that take"? I am thrilled when someone cares enough about my work to talk with me about it, so I try my best to answer. Sometimes it's just an icebreaker of a question, a way to start a dialogue, and I can talk about the process and what's involved, and we go from there.

Other times there is genuine and understandable curiosity about the actual number of hours involved. I've read that some quilters actually keep a time sheet, but I am not one of them. Where would I start? The hike I took to discover the plants? The photography and editing? The time spend making prints? The years invested in collecting fabrics and working on technical skills? How could I possibly quantify the time spent corralling inspiration and wrestling design principles to the ground? So my standard answer in this scenario is, "this piece took several hundred hours", which is surely true!

June 24, 2008

On the Road

I had a nice trip to Columbus, OH, last week to attend the NQA show. I liked the city, at least the parts of it I saw, and the convention center facilities were modern and pleasant. The work in the show veered toward the traditional/contemporary, and there were a lot of jaw-dropping quilts exhibiting masterful technical skills. Best of all I got to meet the amazing Karen Musgrave, who I have "known" online for years, and we had a fun time hanging out.

I was able to see my White Mulberry in the Contemporary Colorations exhibit, and I spent some time enjoying the other wonderful, diverse, and yes, colorful work in this part of the show. I also greatly enjoyed the Sacred Threads exhibit, which included my The Fledgling--there was some very powerful work included, and it was well displayed.

On the way back I stopped for a few days in Pittsburgh to visit family, and spent some time at the Three Rivers Arts Festival. Below is a shot of part of the PPG Place complex; it's spectacular!

A Change is a Good as a Rest

I've been on the road, visiting festivals and friends and family. A good time was had by all! Getting away from the daily routine, even for a short time, brings the opportunity for a fresh perspective. Meanwhile, back at the hacienda, the gardens, while semi-neglected, are putting on a show that's the finest in recent memory. The weather has been just spectacular, and it shows.

Above is a climbing hydrangea. I knew I had to have one of these when I read in a description of its habits "the first year it sleeps, the second year it creeps, the third year it leaps." I love a good challenge and a test of patience, and now, in its fifth year, it is just splendid, climbing up a wall of my house. The flowers are elusively fragrant.

Below is an orange butterfly weed. It no longer grows where I had originally planted it, but has seeded itself in a pleasant fashion here and there from seedpods that look a lot like the wild milkweed it is related to. I like this one not only for the show, and the butterflies and bees it attracts in flower, but because the leaves are food for monarch caterpillars, which need all the support they can get.

Next is a stargazer lily, which has adjusted quite happily to a life in the garden after an early career as a potted flower:

Below is clematis "Will Goodwin", which comes close to being that elusive blue color that is so hard to find in garden flowers:

Here's the first of the calla lilies. They are not supposed to be hardy here, but luckily they have not read the books, and come back reliably each year. They never fail to thrill me with their elegance:

The wood poppies are enormous this year, and show no signs of estivation as they do some summers:
Last year I made a quilt featuring the Wood Poppy:

June 18, 2008

Contemporary Colorations at NQA

The National Quilt Association show starts tomorrow, and they've posted a listing of the artists in the Contemporary Colorations: The Wow Factor . I was happy to be asked to contribute a piece for this show; now that I've seen the list, I am bowled over. This promises to be a really diverse and interesting exhibit, and I am in very good company!

June 15, 2008

Images 2008 at Penn State

On Friday I traveled to the HUB-Robeson Gallery at Penn State University for the opening reception for Images 2008. I was extremely surprised and gratified upon entering the gallery and turning the corner to see that my Mystery Fern was hung as the focal point. Here's another view:
It's a bit hard to tell from the pictures, but it is extremely well lit, and I am very appreciative of the effort of the staff and students who hung the exhibit. There is some side lighting, which brings out the texture, but it's not washed out--it just seems to glow. I have never seen my work this well displayed, and it makes such a difference! I talked to many people over the course of the evening and heard many positive comments, and several who expressed surprise that a quilt could look like this and have this kind of impact.

Adding to the fun of the evening was the arrival of the charming and talented Pat Dolan. I met Pat a few years ago (thanks Mary!) when she lived in N.J.; she moved to Penn State just a few weeks ago, so it was a wonderful opportunity to catch up and enjoy her company. (My thanks to Pat for a few of these pictures.) Here we are, with Pat on the left:

Following are a few more gallery shots. Pictures of all the work in the exhibit are online at the Images 2008 site.
The beautiful and dynamic quilt on the right above is On the Edges by Cathy Kleeman. Ours were the only two quilts in the exhibit. The fiber/sculpture pieces on the left are by Passle Helminski.

The fiber work/installation on the left above, Darcy Meeker's black hole/white hole, needs to be seen in person to be fully appreciated--layers of delicate, hand sewn silks with growing/diminishing circular marks.

Another general gallery shot, with Nancy Palfrey's Sarah on the right.

And finally, a bit of a vanity shot of the artist, below. Like many artists, and particularly fiber/quilt artists whose work is enormously time consuming, I spend many solitary hours in the studio working to bring forth something I've envisioned in my mind. It's important to get my work, and myself, out into the world to interact with people. This is a good exhibit and was a great experience, so it's no wonder I look happy! The exhibit runs until the middle of July, in conjunction with the Festival of the Arts on July 10-13. If you get a chance to go, I would love to hear your impressions.

June 10, 2008

Mystery Fern at Images 2008

I'm very pleased to announce that my Mystery Fern has been juried into Images 2008, a regional fine art/fine craft exhibit at Penn State University. The opening reception is this Friday, the 13th, in the Robeson Gallery. I'm planning on attending, and would like to invite anyone who will be in the area. Details are here, along with an excellent essay by juror Dinah Ryan.

For years this fine art exhibit was held concurrently with Craft National, a venerable fine craft show. Last year they combined the two exhibits, which I take as an acknowledgement that the distinction between the two categories is becoming blurred. I feel strongly that art quilts/fiber arts are as valid a form of artistic expression as painting or photography, and it's rewarding to see it recognized in this fashion.

Last year there were three art quilts in the show, my The Organic Garden, and two by Carol Taylor. They were wonderfully displayed in a rotunda off of the main gallery, with three windows that faced a curved interior entrance ramp into the space. From the ramp, you had a tantalizing glimpse of the backs of the quilts. The backs are not generally made for display, but they do often offer a lot of texture and interest, and the stitching outlines the design motifs on the front. Here's a picture of the back:

And here's how it looked inside the rotunda:

This year, from reading the list of exhibitors, it looks like there is one other art quilt, a beautiful work by Cathy Kleeman that was included on the exhibition postcard. I'll be very curious to see how the art is displayed this time.

Here's a detail shot of Mystery Fern, a section with a heliographic print on hemp/silk fabric:

This was originally just my working title for the piece, while I waited to make an identification of the variety of fern portrayed. I never did make a positive id, but I realized that for me this piece symbolized the sense of awe of the natural environment and spiritual renewal that can be found on a good long ramble through the deep woods, so I kept the name.

June 8, 2008

Step Away From the Beads

Sometimes the tricky part is knowing when to stop. I've been spending all my time, not otherwise taken up by the necessities of life, for the past week adding beads to the Sycamore quilt. I would add some beads, put the work up on the design wall and look at it for a bit, then take it down and add more beads. It's a relatively big quilt, 69" x 45", so it takes a lot of beading to make an impact on a area that large.

I enjoy doing beading, in a somewhat obsessive/compulsive way, despite the difficulty of working on a piece of this size and the havoc it wreaks on my wrist. I'm not impatient about it, and I like watching the patterns unfold. I think in this instance it works very well to convey an impression of the tree bark.

But at some point, I realized the right balance had been achieved, and I put the beads back in their containers and shelved them so I wouldn't be tempted to add more. It's time to move on to other projects.

June 3, 2008

Quilt Odyssey Acceptance

I'm pleased to announce that The Organic Garden has been accepted into Quilt Odyssey in Hershey, PA. I really like this show. It's not huge, but all the work seems to be so carefully chosen. It's close enough that I can attend each year and appreciate the beautiful exhibits.

This show treats the artists well, with a free admission pass, and exhibitors ribbon, and encouragement to "spend some time by your quilt answering questions from curious quilters and admirers." I spend a lot of time hunkered down in the studio, working, so to get out and talk to people about my work is a treat.

It's interesting, too, to hear candid opinions about my work from casual viewers. Kind comments are always welcome and appreciated, discussions about motivation and the fine points of the craft are stimulating, and sometimes I hear a point of view that hadn't occurred to me. It's stimulating to get my work out there, and I always come home from an exhibit excited and motivated.

June 2, 2008

Binding, Beads, and a Beetle

I've got the binding on the Sycamore quilt:

And I've started on the beading:

It's a fairly large quilt, so it involves a LOT of beading. I don't often do beadwork on a quilt this size, and my wrist and shoulder are reminding me why....But I felt very strongly that it needed it, and it's really adding to the textural effect of the sycamore bark that I'm aiming for. Plus it's a very meditative kind of activity. I'm just focused on which bead should come next, and where it should go. It's very restful.

I've added a Sycamore label on the right so you can bring up the series of posts so far.

And now, apropos of absolutely nothing, a spiffy looking American Carrion Beetle - Necrophila americana- I came across on the path down at the lake this morning.