January 25, 2011

Watt and Shand # 8 Acceptance for "Inside Outside"

I'm very happy to announce that Watt & Shand #8 has been accepted to "Inside Outside", an all-media exhibit May 13 - June 19, 2011, at the Goggleworks Center for the Arts in Reading, PA.  The juror is Bruce Samuelson.  This work is part of my 10 piece series on the transformation of the former Watt & Shand department store into a hotel and convention center, wherein the facade was preserved and incorporated into the new construction.  You can see the entire series on my website; I also blogged about extensively and you can track back the works in progress by clicking on "Watt & Shand" under Labels in the right sidebar.  The images for this piece are from photos I took in Feb. of 2009, when the work was nearing completion, and workers were installing the renovated balustrades.

The theme for this exhibit is "A Broad Interpretation of Space and Place on the Edge and in Between".  That fits neatly with the images and format I used  in this piece,  plus it's always a thrill to get a fiber piece into an all-media show.  I think it will be a very interesting exhibit and I look forward to seeing the variety of work at the opening reception.

January 12, 2011

Sacred Threads Quilt Exhibition

The Call for Entries is now open for the Sacred Threads 2011 Exhibition.  I am honored to be a juror for this year's exhibit, as I believe strongly in the mission and purpose of the show:
"Sacred Threads is an exhibition of quilts exploring themes of spirituality, joy, inspiration, peace/brotherhood, grief and healing. This biennial exhibition was established to provide a safe venue for quilters who see their work as a connection to the sacred and/or as an expression of their spiritual journey.

The objective is to create a dignified exhibition of artwork that touches on both spiritual and personal levels all those who view it. We want to share with others the experiences of quilters whose stories may be a source of healing and strength."

This year the biennial exhibit has moved from Columbus, OH to the Washington, DC area, and is being co-chaired by the talented and able Lisa Ellis and Christine Adams.  I would like to encourage all of my fiber art and quilting friends to consider submitting an entry; the call for entries is here and the calendar is here--the deadline is March 9.  The digital submission process that Lisa developed for the show is wonderful--I'd go so far as to call it easy--and the entry fee is reasonable.  If you wish, you can make your work available for sale, and there is no commission charged.  I would love to see this show continue to grow in stature and importance, and look forward to reviewing the entries--I know it will be a difficult, but rewarding job.

Lisa and Christine were interviewed by Leslie Riley, and you can listen online here for lots of great and inspiring information, history, and backstory about the Sacred Threads exhibit.

January 5, 2011

How (and Why) I Add Beadwork to Fiber Art

I'm in the midst of adding beadwork to "Squirrel and Locust" right now, and I wanted to share a bit about the process and the motivation for it.  I start with an assortment of seed beads, teardrops, cubes, and bugle beads and so on, and spread a small amount out on a piece of vellux.  Remember vellux?  A foam core with brushed nylon on each side, once popular for inexpensive, lightweight blankets?  I never cared for the blankets, but a square of vellux works great to keep beads from rolling away.  Here I have the vellux in an embroidery hoop to keep it flat and stable.  Below is the extreme closeup, showing how I'm using the tip of the needle to pick up a few beads--2, 3, or 4 usually, depending on their size.  And yes, I always wear a thimble on my middle finger of my dominant hand (the right) when doing hand sewing. 
The beads are then slid down the thread--more on that later--and laid in place on the fabric.  The fabric in this instance is the three or more layers, already stitched and quilted, of "Squirrel and Locust". The fingers of my left hand are underneath the fabric, supporting it, and my left thumb is on top, ready to grasp the thread and hold it in place for the next step.
With my right hand, I insert the tip of the needle at the edge of the last bead, and push it through; that hand then goes underneath, grasps the needle, and pulls the thread taut.
The needle is then pushed back up in the middle of that run of beads, in this case, behind the last two.
The needle is then reinserted through those last two beads and pulled through, and then it's time to pick up more beads.  This constitutes the "beaded backstitch".  It's a bit quicker that stitching each bead individually, but still ensures that the beads are very firmly anchored.  After a bit of practice, I can get a rhythm going, and while it is slow, methodical work, it's also meditative and soothing, just the thing to keep the hands busy while the mind wanders where it will. 
Here's part of my bead stash.  I like to keep them in tubes--the ones meant for coin collectors work well--and sorted by color in fishing tackle boxes. I'm particular about the beads I use, and very leery of the kinds often found in craft stores.  They need to be strong and smooth, relatively uniform, and colorfast, so I buy them from specialty vendors.  I have a nice but modest collection, and I always lust after more.....
I also use semi-precious stones and larger glass beads in my work.  I keep them sorted in the types of boxes  meant to hold cards of embroidery threads.
After much experimentation, I settled on Silamide bead thread as my favorite.  It's nylon, very sturdy, and doesn't kink or shred.  I use it doubled, and bury my knots on the backside of the work, but don't bother to try to hide the stitching.  I don't need a lot of colors, as I am mostly trying to match the value of the background fabric.  I generally use English #10 applique needles, they are sturdy enough to go through the layers of cloth and batting without bending, but still slender enough to fit through the beads.  The scissors are Prisms from Dr. Slick, made for fly tying, but great for sewing as they are very sharp and have fine tips, for those occasions when I need to un-sew something. Plus they are beautiful and make me happy. I forget which fishing supply site I bought these from, but there's a good picture and description of them here.
 That covers the basic "how" of adding beadwork, but to me the more important and interesting part, as with the employment of any technique, is the "why".  I use beads to add another layer of texture and interest to a piece, as I did here in "Sycamore", where I was referencing the texture of the tree's bark:
I am also interested in the lines where two images or fabrics meet.  I like using beadwork along intersections; it simultaneously blurs and emphasizes a straight line, and can provide a loci for curved lines, as it does here in "Tulip Poplar".
I also like adding beads at botanical intersections, as I did here in "Wood Poppy":
I don't always think that a piece needs or would benefit from beadwork, but once I commit to it, I always feel that the hours and hours of hand work are worthwhile.  The beads don't overwhelm the other design elements, but they add a subtle and enticing twinkle when a piece is viewed from a distance, and a lot of satisfying detail when viewed up close.

January 3, 2011

Watt & Shand #1 Acceptance at AQS Lancaster

I was very happy to find the "fat" envelope from AQS (American Quilter's Society) waiting for me in the mailbox today, holding the acceptance of Watt & Shand #1 into the Lancaster show
This was the first in what ended up as a 10 piece series, documenting and celebrating the transformation of the former Watt & Shand department store on the center square in Lancaster, PA, into a modern Marriott hotel and convention center.  The developers took the extraordinary step of preserving the facade of the historic building and incorporating it into the new construction. I was mesmerized by the process and spent years taking photos of it, and sometimes I got lucky, as with the shot of the welder, above.
I documented the series extensively here on my blog, and you can track it back by clicking on "Watt & Shand" under Labels in the right sidebar. You can also see the entire series here on my website.  They were all exhibited in a solo show last March at the Lancaster Arts Hotel Gallery, and I had a great time meeting and greeting visitors to the exhibit who were in town for the quilt show.
The AQS show is held in the Convention Center, so this year, I will have the pleasure of exhibiting a work about the building, in the building.  How cool is that?