November 24, 2009

Watt & Shand #8 Underway

I've put together another top in Watt & Shand series. It features images from February of this year, when the construction was starting to wind to a close. A worker was on the roof of the original building, installing the replacement balustrades when I took these pictures.
My focus for the design of #8 was on repetition and scale, and I kept the color scheme somewhat muted, at least by my standards, so as to key in on these elements.
One thing I am enjoying about working so intently on this series is the familiarity I am gaining with the details of the building. I've spent years taking the photos, a lot of time choosing, editing and tweaking the ones for each quilt, and then more time putting the prints onto fabric in various ways. This is all followed by a lot of intensive stitching, tracing the outlines of the windows, the stonework, the Beaux Art ornamentation, and construction structures like scaffolding and cranes. It's all been time well spent, for at this point I feel like I know my subject matter, in terms of line and form, very intimately. It's opened me up to new lines of thought and expression because I am so confident of the fundamentals.
If you are new here, you can follow this project back to its inception by clicking on "Watt & Shand" under Labels in the right sidebar. And if you have been following along for some time, thank you very much, I so appreciate everyone who checks in and comments.

November 18, 2009

Watt & Shand #7 in Progress

How great is this image? I got lucky the day I captured this moment in the construction process. It's one of the images from March of this year I am using in Watt & Shand #7.
#7 also has this cyanotype image, a bit of a departure from the way I usually print them that is pleasing me very much. The whole piece has a very dynamic and energetic feel to it so far.
If you are new here, you can follow the evolution of this series, where I chronicle the conversion of a historic Beaux Arts building in Lancaster, PA into a hotel and convention center, by clicking on "Watt & Shand" under Labels in the right sidebar and tracking it back.
And just a reminder that my solo show, "Nature Quilts" continues for the rest of the month at Isadore Gallery--check the website for details and stop in if you are in the area. Thanks!

November 11, 2009

Isadore Gallery Opening Reception

Pictures from an exhibition--here's the street view of Isadore Gallery on Friday at the start of the opening reception:
The gallery was packed almost non-stop for the entire evening. I had the distinct pleasure of talking with many of the visitors about my work, art, and life in general.

I am greatly indebted to the owners and staff at the gallery for the care and skill with which they hung and lit the work. The exhibit flowed very nicely around the gallery space.

I am grateful for the work they put into publicizing it and bringing in the crowds--there were an estimated 500 people through the gallery over the course of the evening! I also benefited from the vibe of First Friday, which plays a critical role as Lancaster positions itself as an arts destination. Gallery Row was hopping all night long.

The exhibit is up until the end of November, so stop in if you are in the area (check the website for hours.)

I was a bit tired at the end of the evening, but very happy!

November 5, 2009

Today's Feature: Cold Cave

The final installment of Today's Feature spotlights "Cold Cave", a work based on numerous visits one of the largest tectonic caves in the eastern U.S. A cool wind blows up from the narrow cleft in the rock at the mouth of the cave even on the hottest summer day, and the brave and/or slightly foolhardy can venture in some distance and experience the utter and total darkness. Experienced cavers can explore the extensive labyrinth and despair at the graffiti left by the disrespectful. I went in once years ago, but today consider discretion the better part of valor, and now just content myself with a peak inside and the appreciation of the surrounding woodsy terrain.


The center (blue) image has been manipulated in a photo program, then printed on silk satin. The two pale images on the sides were printed on cotton, as were the two leaf panels. Other panels are from fabric I handpainted, and the fabulous bit of vintage damask on the upper right was sugar-dyed by my friend Deb Lacativa. The borders on the left and bottom are from a piece of ikat rayon I brought back from India in the 70's and have been hoarding for just the right moment, which finally came. It is embellished with couched yarns and handbeading with seed beads and larger glass beads . You can read more about it as a work-in-progress by clicking on "Cold Cave" under Labels in the right sidebar.


On the face of it, this work contains a lot of seemingly disparate elements, but I feel they all work well together and contribute to a whole that is larger than the sum of its parts, and that it successfully conveys the concept of a cold cave in the woods.

"Cold Cave" was selected to be exhibited as part of Images 2009 at the Robeson Gallery, Penn State University this past summer. Starting today, you can see it at the Isadore Gallery in Lancaster, PA.
I hope you've enjoyed my in depth look over the past few weeks at the work for this exhibit, and I especially hope that if you are in the area you will stop in and say hello at the opening reception tomorrow, November 6th, from 5 - 9 p.m. And my thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read my posts and comment or email me--I greatly appreciate your encouragement and support!

November 4, 2009

Today's Feature: Royal Paulownia

Today's Feature is "Royal Paulownia", another large-leafed wonder. If you've ever been out and about in the eastern or midwestern U.S. and found a really big leaf, it was probably a Royal Paulownia. The tree is not a native; it's an sometimes deliberate, sometimes accidental import from the orient. It self seeds rather enthusiastically, and often shows up along roadsides, recently cleared areas, and weedy gardens as a sapling that looks to be on steroids. The mature trees-and they are fast growers-sport cascades of purple flowers early in spring.
The top image is a heliographic print, and the one on the bottom is a cyanotype. The borders are pieced from silks brought back from Mysore, India, combined with handwovern Indian cottons. It was very heavily and closely stitched, except for the leaves, where the stitching for the veining is more widely spaced. I rinsed, then blocked and dried the work after the stitching, causing the wrinkling and patterning on the leaf surfaces; I then used a dry brush technique to enhance those textures with paint. The final step in the construction was handbeading with seed beads and semi-precious stones.

I am deeply honored that "Royal Paulownia" was selected to be a part of the exhibit "Connecting Colors and Cultures: First Kyrgyz-American Quilt Exhibit" which was held at the Museum of Fine Art in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. You can see it later this week in Lancaster, PA, at the Isadore Gallery.

November 3, 2009

Today's Feature: Sumac

Today's Feature is "Sumac", named for the smooth sumac, or Rhus glabra (not to be confused with poison sumac). It's a very common wild plant here in Pennsylvania, and it puts on a magnificent display of fall color. There's a big patch of it in a wooded spot at the end of my street, and when the slanting fall sun hits it in the afternoon it's just spectacular.
The main panel is a heliographic print, done with textile paints on fabric and using the plant itself as a resist. I got very lucky with this one and captured the colors and leaf images just right on the first try. It hung on my design wall for months while I concocted and then discarded various schemes for enhancing it. I don't usually dither, so dropped the indecisiveness and jumped into a simple and elegant scheme of warm tones and rich textures. There's velveteen (which sucks up the light and doesn't photograph well), red and yellow silks, a bit of Seminole piecing, and just the right amount of embellishment with seed beads, larger glass beads, and semi-precious stones.

"Sumac" has done well for me on the show circuit; it was juried into Materials Hard and Soft, a fine craft exhibit in Denton, Texas, and it won an award at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas. It will be one of the works in my solo show, opening in a few days, at the Isadore Gallery in Lancaster, PA.

November 2, 2009

Today's Feature: Tall Blue Lettuce

Today's feature of work that will be at the Isadore Gallery is "Tall Blue Lettuce", eponymously named for the plant, Lactura biennis, whose leaves form the prints. It is yet another example of easily seduced I am by an oversized leaf. I was stopped in my tracks while hiking one day by this six foot, rankly growing plant with foot long, hairy leaves and blue flowers, and hurried home to begin work on this interpretation.
The biennis in the name refers to its growth habit; as a biennal, it grows a rosette of leaves and a taproot in the first year, and in the second year it uses the reserves in the root to shoot up and produce blooms and seeds. It has a variety folkloric uses as a herbal remedy, not that I've tried any of them, and is very common over a wide range in North America. Once you've identified it, you spot it everywhere, especially in moister environs, and in your own backyard if you've been slack about the weeding (ahem).

The print on the left is a cyanotype on cotton, the one of the right is a heliograph, and for both of them I added the veining with hand embroidery using variegated threads. The borders were pieced with Seminole work, and it's extensively machine stitched in a variety of patterns. It's a big, cheerful, in-your-face kind of piece, not unlike the plant, and has proven very popular on the show circuit, winning an award at The Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza, serving as the cover quilt for an issue of The Professional Quilter Magazine, and as part of a feature article in Quilter's Newsletter Magazine.

November 1, 2009

Today's Features: The Fledgling and Tulip Poplar

It's a two-fer today, the first of November, as I continue to highlight work that will be at my show at the Isadore Gallery, opening later this week. First up is "The Fledgling", my celebration of being in the right place at the right time with a camera handy. Every year we have robins nesting on a high beam underneath our deck, and it's entertaining to watch them grow. This bird had just fledged-left the nest-and made its first short flight to the adjacent locust tree. Once perched there, it was temporarily unable to go any further, and by sidling up slow and easy I was able to get some great photographs.


I messed with this image digitally a bit, then printed it onto a tightly woven pima cotton. The green background is a heliographic print made with leaves from the same locust tree. Visually, it serves as the vast unknown that the fledgling is preparing to launch into. The other borders, evocative of earth and sky, represent its parameters in the natural world.

"The Fledgling" was shown widely in quilt shows, including the touring exhibit of Sacred Threads.

Next up in the spotlight is "Tulip Poplar". I love these trees, with their tall, upright structure, distinctive leaf shape, and especially the flowers, which do resemble tulips a bit. I once lived where I could look down on a tulip poplar from a second story window, an ideal vantage point for appreciating the flowers.
The top two leaf images are leaf prints on silk, and the bottom ones are cyanotypes on silk. There's a lot going on here--different textures in the supporting fabrics (silk, corduroy, wool and hand painted cotton), a variety of stitching patterns, couched threads, and beadwork with seed beads and semi-precious stones. It all brings a sense of energy and movement to the work, as if the leaves were swirling in the wind on a fall day not unlike today.