March 30, 2008

QHC in Lancaster, part III

I was back at QHC again today, to spend some more time admiring the quilts, stock up on thread, and meet up with Diane Doran. I met Diane last fall in Houston, where her incredible "Under the Rainbow" took a first place, and was glad for the opportunity to see her again today. Above she is pictured with her equally incredible "Grotto". The way she manipulates images is very creative and intriguing; you can read about it on her site here.

By chance, I also ran into Carol Singer--always a pleasure! Here she is standing before her "Rhapsody in Motion". This quilt, like all of Carol's work, is beautifully drafted, technically brilliant and bursting with color. Carol has done it all--teaching, longarm quilting, designing patterns--and is currently working on some quilts that take her work in a new direction.
A good time was had by all.

March 29, 2008

QHC in Lancaster, part II

I had a great time at the Quilter's Heritage Celebration yesterday, as you can see by my smiling face. Here I am posed by my entry in the pictorial category, "November Pawpaw".
I met my good friend, the lovely and talented Mary Manahan, at the show. She surprised me with a gift of her luscious hand-dyed fabrics, chosen to coordinate with my cyanotypes. She is a generous soul, and I already have plans for some of them--they will fit in the hibiscus quilt that is my current work-in-progress.

Mary also took pictures for me at the show, so I will share a few more. Here I am with my other entry, in the Wall category, "Skunk Cabbage and Possum".

I thought the level of craftsmanship and technical expertise was very high at this year's show. I really enjoyed looking at the quilts, especially those by people I know, in real life and online. And while art quilts are well represented at the show, especially in the Wall division, I think this show in general has a somewhat traditional feel, which makes me all the more appreciative that my slightly funky work has been accepted here.

To belie my assertion about the conservative nature of the show, it is one of the few venues that each year features the quilts from Quilt National. Viewing the QN exhibit is always interesting and thought-provoking. I like to do a bit of discrete eavesdropping while looking at the art. In the early years of the show, I would hear a lot of disdain and negative comments about the work not being "real quilts", etc., but in the last several years I hear a lot of educated, knowledgeable, and appreciative remarks. I take this as a very positive sign, and am optimistic about the continued further acceptance of art quilts/fiber art as a legitimate art form.

One more picture--I couldn't resist the opportunity for a photo-op with Morna McEver Golletz at her Professional Quilter booth. I deeply appreciate the interest she takes in my work, plus she is a lot of fun to talk with! Here we are with my "Prickly Sow Thistle" in the background.

March 26, 2008

Quilter's Heritage Celebration in Lancaster

I stopped by The Host Conference Center outside of Lancaster this evening. Setup is underway for the QHC exhibit that starts tomorrow. I was there to loan this quilt, "Prickly Sow Thistle", to Morna McEver Golletz, editor of The Professional Quilter Magazine, for display in her booth. She likes to borrow something bright and colorful to draw the attention of the crowd, and I think this one will work well!

Morna paid me the honor of choosing my quilt "Tall Blue Lettuce" for the fall 2006 cover of the magazine.

Stop by the booth if you are at the show, and consider subscribing--it's an excellent publication.

One of the things I love about living in Lancaster County is the frequency of surreal I was driving back from the Host, I came upon an Amish horse drawn buggy. This is not an uncommon occurrence on the back roads, but this was a 7 lane highway along a busy commercial strip, at rush hour. The horse was doing well considering the semis roaring past it, but was starting to balk. I slowed down and positioned myself behind the buggy with my flashers going, setting an example to help calm the rest of the traffic so the buggy could change lanes and turn off onto a side street. My good karma/good deed for the day!

March 25, 2008

Hibiscus in Progress

I'm making progress with the stitching on the hibiscus images. I really enjoy doing the leaf veining--always as botanically correct as I can make it--and the echo quilting. It really makes the images "pop" as they gain definition and dimension. The echo quilting is a good zen exercise, as the ideal is to make countless small decisions quickly without disturbing the flow of the line. I don't mark any of it ahead of time, just make it up as I go along.

When I was first teaching myself to free-motion quilt, I found it helpful to have just a half glass of wine or beer--no where near enough to befuddle, but sufficient to relax and not clench up. Now I know where the mental zone is, and can usually get there with just a short warm-up on a scrap piece.

Here's more of the hibiscus:

March 23, 2008

Chiques Rock

Today I took a break from the sewing machine and ventured out for a short hike, despite the cold and wind. Chiques Rock is a massive rock outcropping with spectacular views of the Susquehanna River. Above you can see through the trees the two bridges crossing the river from Columbia to Wrightsville. In the foreground is the modern Rt. 30 expressway bridge, and behind that is the Veteran's Memorial Bridge that I've used as a subject for several quilts.

Here's a shot looking upriver, towards the town of Marietta, from the promontory:

And one looking downriver: Here's another view looking upriver, showing some of the farmland and hamlets. The river is very high right now, and is spilling out of its banks at the boat launch in the lower left. In the upper right of the picture, you can just make out the plumes of steam coming from the cooling towers at the Three Mile Island facility, which is further upriver.

March 22, 2008

Sequestered in the Studio

I've cleared the decks of all other essential and non-essential tasks and chores, and have hunkered down in the studio for the past two days to start a new quilt. I'm having an absolutely wonderful time--there's literally almost nothing I enjoy better than the design process. I've got piles of fabrics, prints up on the design wall, the iron steaming, and the sewing machine humming. Best of all my brain is buzzing--I can see clearly in my mind how it's all going to turn out. The pictures give a hint of one of the prints and a bit of the color palette.

March 20, 2008

Semana Santa

Last spring I was fortunate enough to be in Malaga, Spain, during Semana Santa, or Holy Week. It was a peak experience in my life, and when I win the lottery, (assuming I start playing), I am going back. Part of the celebration includes elaborate religious floats, carried in procession by fraternal groups for upwards of six hours through the winding streets of the old sections of the city. There are military bands, and children with huge candles, and gypsies. Not only is the pageantry outstanding, the vibe in the crowd in wonderful, as spectators mingle with participants, and what looks to the untrained eye like chaos gets sorted out all in due time. There's no barriers, and crowd control consists of groups of policemen standing about in small groups smoking lots of cigarettes. There's food, and wine, and lots of excitement and camaraderie. The visuals are stunning, and of course the pictures don't begin to capture the experience, but I'm sharing a few nonetheless.

Some of the floats date back as far as the post WWII period, are meticulously maintained, and much of the gilt is real gold and silver. With the flowers and the candles, and the swaying motion as they are carried on the men's shoulders, they are mesmerizing

My charming and gracious hosts were quick to explain that the pointed headdresses ware part of a very old tradition, have religious significance, and have absolutely nothing to do with superficially similar hats worn by American KKK members. The gold embroidery on Mary's vestments is incredible.

March 17, 2008

The Subtle Signs

If I look down, I can enjoy snow crocuses and the emerging daffodil foliage. If I look up, I can enjoy the red maple buds emerging.
Much more subtle are the changes in the evergreens. The arborvitae are shifting to a slighter lighter green, and the yews are losing the purple cast the foliage takes on in cold weather. It's all very encouraging! Here are an arborvitae and a yew as cyanotypes on silk:

March 15, 2008

More Spires and Arches

Isn't this a strong image? It's the smokestack from the former Kerr glass factory in Lancaster. Those of you who have spent time home canning peaches and tomatoes will recognize the name; among other things, the company made canning jars. The large complex no longer houses the factory, and is being renovated to provide office and business space.

The steeple at St. James Episcopal church is rather modest by comparison, and is dwarfed by the magnificent sycamore that grows in the adjacent graveyard.

This is a another wonderfully historic structure:
To round out my short series on arches and spires, here's my small quilt featuring the Veteran's Memorial Bridge that connects Columbia and Wrightsville, PA:
A detail from "The Old Bridge". The center image is printed on cotton, with handpainted silks and cottons in the borders, and hand beading:

March 13, 2008

Steeples and Arches

The visual opposite of a cave entrance or an archway is a steeple. The former reveal a section of the sky, the later projects a solid structure into the open void. Lancaster is chock full of churches, and steeples, many of them quite old. Pictured above is the steeple from Trinity Lutheran church, the oldest in town and one of the oldest in PA. The congregation was formed in 1730, and work on this church began in 1761. There's some cool photos of modern repair work that was done on the steeple here.

Next up is the steeple of the First Presbyterian Church:
There's a lot of history here as well:
Apart from their historic and religious significance, these structures interest me because of the way they interact with their environment. Here's a bit of vintage embroidery, from a dresser scarf, that shows what an enduring theme this is:

March 12, 2008

More Moorish Arches

I'm still thinking about arches that mark a transition from one space and mood to another. Today's examples are from pictures I took last year at El Alhambra, in Granada, Spain. It's a sprawling masterpiece of Moorish architecture, abounding with arches and other ways to frame perspectives and entice you along. These three examples are to me evocative of the ambiance of the cave I posted about a few days ago. This one gives a glimpse of a formal garden:

And this one looks out on yet another arch:From here it's not a very far leap, at least in my mind, to these embroidered designs on a vintage Portuguese apron:

March 9, 2008

The Winds of Change

March is so changeable. I started out for a walk in brilliant sunshine yesterday; the weather changed abruptly and I headed home into 60 mph wind gusts, dark skies and rain. Very invigorating!

The snow crocuses are blooming. These are small crocuses that naturalize well and spread into big clumps. They bloom a bit earlier than the dutch crocuses and I find them to be extremely cheerful.

Time to plant some pansies.

March 7, 2008

Into the Light

There's something very enticing about an archway, whether it's an irregular one, as in yesterday's cave pictures, or a man-made one. It frames the view, giving a long perspective, but also invites a closer look and a passage through to the other side. I took these two pictures last spring at the Alcazaba, a Moorish fort in Malaga, Spain. The view through the arch above is of the Mediterranean Sea, and the one below of a portion of the gardens within the walls. The shiny stripe in the floor is a shallow water trough.

March 5, 2008

Blue Cave

I've been thinking about the Watt and Shand building and the deconstructed barn I've featured in previous posts, and I'm realizing that what interests me most about architectural structures is not the void they enclose, but the places and spaces where they interact with the sky. The same interaction can be found with natural structures, of course, and above is a photo that I'm working on making into a small quilt. One of my favorite hiking spots features a narrow but extensive cave in the rock face. I'm not a spelunker, and it's a potentially dangerous cave, so I haven't ventured too far inside, but I like the experience and the perspective of being inside and looking out.

I messed around in Paint Shop with this picture, because I wanted to go beyond the earth tones, as lovely as they are, and try and convey more of what the experience is like. I like this variation:

It's a bit chilly and ethereal, though, and not what I am looking for this time around. Here's the one I've selected to work with:
I've printed it out on silk, and am contemplating my next move.

March 3, 2008

Bulbous Iris

The excitement continues to build! This morning in a sheltered spot in the garden I found the first dwarf bulbuos iris bloom. Unlike the larger summer blooming bearded irises, which grow from a rhizome, these grow from fall-planted bulbs, and naturalize readily. The flowers are very complex and beautiful, and have a slight but delightful fragrance.

Later in the spring the Dutch irises will bloom. These sprout from larger bulbs and are taller. I used one of these flowers as the center image in a small quilt. I started with the photograph, which I enhanced, turned to grayscale, and printed on a transparency sheet. I used the transparency like a photo negative in making a cyanotype on cotton, which I then hand embroidered. The borders are cottons and raw silk, and it is enhanced with hand beading.
Here's a detail shot of "Dutch Iris":
I liked this one so much I did a variation on it. This time I also inverted the image, so that the flower printed white, and the background blue. Again, I defined it with hand embroidery. The border fabrics are silk and a vintage nubby cotton, and there is hand beading.
Here's a detail from "Dutch Bulbous Iris":