April 27, 2008

Two NQA Invitationals

I am both pleased and honored to be able to announce that two of my quilts are going to the 39th Annual NQA Quilt Show in Columbus, OH in June. "White Mulberry", above, will be part of a special invitational exhibit, Contemporary Colorations: the WOW Factor. Here's part of the Thematic Statement: This exhibit presents a selection of 20 contemporary quilts that exemplify a masterful use of color. The “wow factor” may be stunningly eye-popping, insidiously subtle, pleasantly enveloping, or just out and out gorgeous. To say I am thrilled to be included would be an understatement!

Also going to NQA will be "The Fledgling", below, as part of the Sacred Threads exhibit. Sacred Threads "is an exhibition of quilts exploring the subject themes of spirituality, joy, inspiration, peace/brotherhood, grief and healing. This biennial exhibition was established to provide a safe venue for quilters of all faiths who see their work as a connection to the sacred and/or as an expression of their spiritual journey." I believe very strongly in the purpose and value of this venue, and am glad that it is receiving additional exposure. Selected works from the 2007 exhibit were shown at the IQA festival in Houston last fall, and are now also traveling to NQA.

Detail shots and more information for "White Mulberry" and "The Fledgling" can be found at my website.

April 25, 2008

Dogwoods and Violets

It is unbelievably beautiful here in Lancaster County right now. The weather is completely perfect, the leaves on the trees are emerging in that magnificent shade of bright green, and the flowering trees are at their peak. It's like living in paradise.

Dogwoods are in their glory. To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of their demise have been exaggerated . While dogwood populations in the northeast suffer from dogwood decline, over time it seems to me that while the effects are real and apparent, they are not totally devastating. My landscape trees show signs of it, especially in stressful weather years, but this year they are looking grand and prosperous.

I used a photo of dogwood blossoms to make a cyanotype that I transformed into a page for an art book:

It's embellished with hand embroidery and beads. For the same book, I made a heliographic print of the leaves onto silk:

Years of benign encouragement have transformed a shady spot in the yard into a wild violet patch. I've never understood the classification of them as a "weed"; they are so beautiful in bloom, the leaves stay greener than the grass in a drought, and they provide food for butterflies. We hold off mowing this section of the yard until the first flush of blossoms are finished, and the whole area has a purple haze. It doesn't translate well into a photo, but here's a shot at it:

A neighborhood cat, who apparently either knows how good she looks, or is the feline equivalent of Fendinand the Bull, has been spending a lot of time posing in the violet patch:

April 22, 2008

V for Victory, and The Hell with Housework

In the last several posts I've shown how I incorporate vintage textiles into my work. Today I'm I featuring two that are so unique, I doubt I will ever meld them with anything. They need to be enjoyed on their own merits.

Above is a small table scarf. My guess is that it was made in the WWII era, based on the patriotically colored "V". I further speculate that it was a tribute to service dogs that served with the armed forces. I love the way dog and the V are surrounded by the typical flowers.

The next item is little cocktail apron with a very un-50's sentiment. The words are made from machine stitched ric-rac. It is slightly worn, so I assume that whoever made it actually wore it, perhaps while entertaining. I love the sentiment--I hate housework, but cared enough to craft this apron, so please excuse the mess. I'm just waiting for the right social occasion to prance about in it myself.

Here's the detail shot:

April 18, 2008

November Pawpaw, and vintage textiles

As I was auditioning the fabrics for "November Pawpaw", I made the decision to keep the color palette rather muted. I wanted to capture the feel and slanting sunlight of the woods in late autumn, and highlight the beautifully decaying pawpaw leaves found by a stream. Since the color contrasts would be soft, I decided to add depth and interest with textures--one of the lovely prerogatives of being a fiber artist.

The cyanotype in the center is on silk, and I picked a mix of wools and corduroy for the bottom panel. The top panel is a mix of silk, raw silk and cottons, some of which I painted, and the left panel is a coarsely woven multicolor silk twill. That left the right panel. Again I rummaged through the bins of vintage goodies, and after some deliberation came up with a crocheted doily/table runner.

This one had caught my eye at the flea market because it had been worked in two different colored cottons, one the standard white, and one ecru. I love speculating how and why this happened--perhaps the woman who made it was elderly, with failing eyesight, and didn't notice when she picked up a new ball of cotton that it was a different shade. Perhaps she ran out of white, and made do with what she had. (A Pennsylvania Dutch woman of that generation would have been a practiced master at making do.) Perhaps she was attempting delineating the spot where a lamp would be placed on the runner. It's a fun mystery.

I backed the runner with a piece of silk, and did a lot of stitching to keep it in place. I like the texture it adds to the work, and the subtle hint of incipient snowflakes it adds. Below is the full view of "November Pawpaw", and you can see more at my website.

Skunk Cabbage and Possum, and vintage textiles

When I started work on "Skunk Cabbage and Possum", I was faced with an unusual design challenge. I wanted to feature cyanotype prints from a possum skull found on an early spring walk, along with the image of a skunk cabbage leaf. For me they represented the renewal of life--this particular possum was no more, but there would be new possums, and new plants, in the woods this summer, and for many years to come. (There is always an bit of underlying environmental anxiety in my work--I sincerely hope that climate change and pollution do not alter this expectation.)

But a lot of people have an automatic reaction to skull imagery that summons up darker connotations I was not looking to invoke. So I wanted to make an conscious effort to make this work beautiful and cheerful. I looked through my collection and found this dresser scarf with wonderful embroidered flowers and leaves. There were some small holes in the center, but I could work around that, and it was otherwise in excellent condition.

I painted the linen, being careful to keep the paint away from the embroidery threads, for the most part. I cut it up and reassembled it, taking out the damaged bits and reorienting it so it suggested a gentle hillside. I added machine stitching, and added hand beadwork to further accentuate the flowers.

Here's the full view of "Skunk Cabbage and Possum" and you can see more at my website:

April 17, 2008

Mizuna and vintage textiles

When I was working on the design for "Mizuna", I went rummaging through my collection of vintage textiles looking for something compatible. I found an embroidered cutwork doily that my good friend Jan had given me. It had belonged to her mother Ruth, a woman I had known and greatly admired for her kindness, vitality, and positive outlook. I liked the idea of using Ruth's piece in this piece where I was aiming for a balance between delicacy of the leaves and the strength and energy with which they grow.

The shapes in the embroidery design had a similar aesthetic to the shapes of the mizuna leaves, but the bright white of the linen was too harsh. I lightly painted the fabric, and cut the doily in half and realigned the pieces side by side. I added more texture and definition to the shapes with machine stitching. The result is seen just below the clouds in the detail shot above.

Here's the full view of "Mizuna" (You can see more at my website) :

In addition to the hand embroidered piece, I also used some vintage commercial laces. I tried to integrate them into the work so they enhance the design but do not dominate it. I am not trying to invoke nostalgia; I want a fresh contemporary feel and use the vintage pieces to add depth and character.

April 16, 2008

The Bluebird of Happiness

One of the nice things about collecting and using vintage textiles is that occasionally someone is kind enough to pass some along to me. I give them a good home--I clean them, if needed, and do minor repairs, photograph them, and store them properly. And I pay homage to the women who stitched them by incorporating them into my work where it seems appropriate.

Recently Diane sent me, among other pretty things, two expertly embroidered and pristine pillowcases with these cheerful bluebirds on them. They will be joining the flock of other bluebirds in my collection, like these:

And this one, who seems to be hanging out with Bambi and his mother:
These images are either hopeless saccharine, or retro-chic; take your pick. They don't seem to have a direct correlation to the kind of images I work with now, but household items like these were part of my childhood and are now part of my visual lexicon. And they make me happy. Thanks again, Diane!

April 15, 2008

Daffodils and Mules

One nice thing about a cool spring is that the daffodils last a very long time. Above is "Albert Einstein", below is "Ice Follies". Both are from original digital pictures, printed onto cotton, edged with vintage fabric, and stitched.

Living in Lancaster County, I have become a bit blase about many of the sights the tourists thrill to, but one thing I still find extraordinary is the spring plowing. There are many Amish and Mennonite sects that employ technology and machinery in varying degrees, but the most conservative of them still employ mules for plowing.

I saw several mule teams out in the fields today as I was going about my errands. I didn't take pictures, out of respect for their desire (based on their religious principles) not to be photographed. But imagine if you will a team of 6 large and sturdy mules, hitched side by side, walking at a brisk pace through the field. They are harnessed to a plow, which turns over a broad swath of earth, and where the farmer stands and handles the reins. The most impressive part is when they reach the end of the field and need to turn around and head in the other direction. The outside mule makes a large 180 degree arc, the inside mule turns in place, and the four in between keep pace according to their position. I am so impressed by the amount of training and skill that must be involved in choreographing these sometimes stubborn animals.

April 14, 2008

Dealing with Althea

It's finally spring-like here, albeit a bit chilly, and I am on temporary hiatus from studio work to deal with the landscape. A lot of my work is based on plants I grow, and I do a lot of printing and painting of fabric outside, so I suppose the garden could be considered my outdoor studio.

It's an established garden at this point, meaning I spend little time encouraging things to become established, and a lot of time hacking things back that have overstepped their bounds and/or need rejuvenation. Since in the past I planted very intensively (translation: I am a plant junkie and tried to fit some of everything in), there is a fair amount of whacking back that needs to occur each spring. It's fun because I'm aiming for an aesthetically pleasing result, and there's a lot of contemplation and decision making that goes into each pruning cut.

I will spare you the pictures of pruned shrubs, or the even more impressive view of the resultant brush pile, but above is a small quilt featuring the Althea, or Rose of Sharon, variety called "Diana". It's a cyanotype made from a photograph, with silk borders and hand beading. The vegetative Diana has been dealt with quite thoroughly, and will doubtless reward me for my attentions with plenty of blooms this fall. Below is a detail:

I'm about halfway through shaping up some overgrown arborvitae. They are lovely to work on because they smell so good. They require ladder work, which I'm no longer willing to do without a spotter nearby, ready to call 911 should I lose my grip. Below is an arborvitae postcard, a cyanotype on silk.

April 10, 2008

Calla Lilies, Part II

I also used calla lily leaves in my large quilt, "Five Days Last Fall". Above is the panel from November 1st featuring a calla leaf. There are also calla leaves in the border. Callas are very late to emerge in the spring--each year I worry, needlessly, that they didn't make it through the winter--but the foliage lasts late into the fall, until a hard frost.

I'm not done exploring calla images yet. I have a set of cyantypes made from photographs of the flowers that are awaiting my attention. I am tentatively planning to combine them with some vintage embroideries that also feature callas:

Both of the above are from old table runners I found at the flea market. So many ideas, so little time.....

All Things Calla Lily

I tried to gussy them up by putting them in a handwoven African basket, and surrounding them with chionodoxa flowers, but really, they are unimpressive brown lumpy bulbs. Ahh, but they will turn into something like this:

I bought the bulbs at the farmer's market a few days ago, for the incredible bargain price of $1 each. I'm not certain what variety they will be, but any calla is a good calla.

I've used callas a lot in my fiber work. They are pretty much irresistible--the graceful curving shapes, the markings on the leaves, the way they seem so tropical yet grow here in Pennsylvania. Here's a few postcards made from photographs:

The fabric on the side of the photo is a bit of cotton print fabric from my personal stash. My mother made a dress from in the 50's. It's covered with French motifs--the Eiffel tower, a well-dressed woman walking a poodle, a street side cafe. So chic! I dole it out in bits for different projects, and will miss it when it's gone.

A bit more of my 50's stash is on the bottom of this one.

Here's a small quilt I made featuring a calla lily leaf. The center is a heliographic print done on pink silk:

And a detail from Pink Calla Leaf:

More on callas tomorrow.....

April 7, 2008

Architecture update, and the subconscious mind

Work is progressing rapidly on the Watt and Shand building renovation. The interior structural framework has risen to the level of the facade, and a bit beyond. You can no longer see the sky clearly through the facade windows..

Here's a side view showing more of the new interior framework:

I continue to be fascinated by architecture, not so much the bricks and mortar part, or the niceties of design or function, or even what it encloses, but rather the way the structure interacts with the environment. Buildings undergoing renovation, like this one, or the old barn, particularly interest me because they are not currently the barrier to the elements that they were designed to be.

These are the things I ruminate about in the odd moments, and like everything else it spills over into my fiber work. I spent the weekend happily and obsessively working on the design and piecing of my hibiscus quilt. I'm focusing mainly on the leaf and flower shapes, and on the mood and vibe of the plant blooming in the summer sun and heat in my garden. But some of the aesthetics of the architectural shapes seem to have worked their way into it as well:

At this point I am working, for want of a better term, intuitively, and trying my best not to over think the design. I am very particular about the craftsmanship of how it all fits together, and keep basic design principles in mind, but aside from that I try to just let the work flow without a lot of editing. Sometimes I am surprised--happily so-- when I step back and see I've done something like this:

April 4, 2008

Denver National Quilt Festival Acceptance

My quilt "The Organic Garden" has been accepted into the Denver National Quilt Festival, May 1-4, in Denver CO. You can see detail shots of it at my newly revamped website right here. I always get a vicarious thrill when my work travels someplace I would like to go--the closest I got was 2 hours once in the Denver airport--so if you go to the show, please let me know your impressions.

I am becoming increasingly stir crazy at my inability to get out and work in my actual garden. Usually by this time of year I have started a few things and at least puttered around a bit, but it has been consistently too wet, too windy, and too cold. This too shall pass....In the meantime, here's a few pictures of the vegetable garden the quilt is based on, in its glory in late summer.

In front are salvias, then rainbow Swiss chard and other greens and herbs, then a variety of peppers, pole beans, and tomatoes in the background.

In this section, I've got nasturtiums, then eggplants, then gladiolus, and a huge stand of cannas. In back of the cannas is the asparagus bed. It's all kept under a permanent straw mulch, fertilized with compost, and maintained organically.
I don't try and grow everything. Lancaster County has more farm stands per capita than any other county in the nation, and I have four excellent ones near my home, two of them organic. I don't need to grow corn, for example, when a small farmer does a much better job of it. So I grow things that please me, and that I like to have handy at dinner time.

April 2, 2008

Hibiscus and daffodils

I'm working on some prints for the hibiscus quilt. Here they are in progress with some hand embroidery added. I no longer do much hand quilting because of incipient carpal tunnel issues, but I still love doing handwork like embroidery and beading, partly for the pleasure of the stitching, and partly for the aesthetic appeal of it.

It's shaping up so far to be a cold and windy spring. The daffodils taking their time about blooming, but a few have opened. This bit of vintage embroidery is from an Eveline Foland pattern. I have a set of them, with all different flowers, that I am slowing working up into a large quilt. I love the sparse elegance of the lines, a sort of Art Deco look.

April 1, 2008

International Collage Exhbit goes live

The 10th International Collage Exhibit and Exchange has gone live, with an exhibit online and simultaneously at The Real Tart Gallery in Plymouth, New Zealand. The brainchild of artist Dale Copeland, this year's exhibit features the work of 159 artists from around the world. One collage from each artist is offered for sale, one will goes to a permanent collection in a museum--this year, The Amarillo Museum of Art in Texas--and 11 others are exchanged among the artists. This is my fourth year participating, and it continues to be a great experience.

Pictured above is my "The Last Hurrah #3", part of the Selling Exhibit, and below is "The Last Hurrah #4" which will go to the museum. Both are heliographic prints on cotton, stitched, painted, and mounted on mat board. Take some time to browse the exhibits and enjoy the breadth and depth of the work displayed.