June 23, 2012

Seasonal Palette - Update 7

This is as messy as I ever get in the studio, but it’s a good kind of disorder, a happy fiber frenzy with good results.  Once I have all my components readied, and a basic layout organized on the design wall, it’s time to assemble everything, to make it all work together and fit together.  It’s a trial and error process, but with less error as I gain experience.  Bit by bit I cut pieces to fit, seam things together, press, trim, and repeat.  I like to set aside an otherwise unencumbered day for it, as it works best when I can get into an uninterrupted state of flow.  For this project, I was slightly constrained by needing it to all work out to a predetermined size--not a simple equation, as the quilting, and then the rinsing, shrinks it down a bit.  But it all worked out well and the top came together quite nicely.
The next step is to layer the top with batting and a backing fabric.  I use a type of “fusible” batting; it doesn’t have a permanent bond, but pressing activates a sticky resin coating that holds things together temporarily.  On a big piece like this I also do some pinning to help keep things unified.  Any shifting that occurs while handling and quilting can be corrected by re-aligning and re-pressing, and the resin rinses out after quilting and leaves the hand of the fabrics unaffected.
Then it’s time to put the assemblage under the needle.  First I use a walking foot to quilt along major seam lines to anchor everything together.
Then I switch to a free motion foot and do the intensive and closely spaced quilting that adds so much dimension and texture.  At this point the I drop the feed dogs (those little teeth in the bed of the machine that move the fabric along) , put on gloves with grippy finger tips, and move the quilt under the needle by hand.  It’s analogous to a drawing where the pen (the needle) is stationary, and the paper (the fabric) is moved to create a design.  I work in a completely free-form fashion, without marking the top in any way, constructing a grid or maze where I move in and back out again and again.  It’s a very meditative and Zen like activity, except that it goes by very quickly, at umpteen stitches per minute.  It helps to keep an eye on where you are going next, and only half an eye on where you actually are.  There’s probably a parable in there somewhere….
There’s also a bit of an upper body workout involved, to move the bulk of the quilt around and keep it where it needs to be.  Lots of breaks to stretch and get more beverages help.
When the quilting is finished at last, the work is rinsed, laid flat and blocked to dry, trimmed, and bound around the edges.  Finally, a hanging sleeve and label are hand sewn on the back.  I failed to photo-document these parts, but they are not all that compelling.  I do them in a solid craftsman-like way, but by then I’m sort of over it; I’m more of a process person than a product person.

I’ve officially named this one “The Organic Landscape”, as it was originally envisioned as a sort of companion piece to my “The Organic Garden”.  I hope you’ve enjoyed following along as I’ve shared the inspiration and the process.  (You can track it back by clicking the “Seasonal Palette” tab at the top of the blog.)  The final reveal will have to wait until it is unveiled at its first venue, the SAQA Seasonal Palette Exhibit at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, TX, Nov. 1 - 4, 2012.  Included in the exhibit will be documentation of the process that each artist has assembled.  I’m really looking forward to seeing the work of the other artists involved in this project, and I know that collectively it will be amazing.  The good news is that there will be a book published on the exhibit, so stay tuned for further updates this fall.

And as always, thanks for reading and commenting.

June 22, 2012

“Ginger” featured in Machine Quilting Unlimited

I’m thrilled to share that my art quilt Ginger is featured in the July/August 2012 issue of Machine Quilting Unlimited magazine.  It’s on the back page, in their “Jaw Dropper” feature, with a full image and a close up showing the intensive machine stitching.  Ginger features a cyanotype on silk for the center panel, with patchwork made entirely of Mysore silks from India, and measures 60” x 60”. 

You can read about its inspiration and design on my previous blog post here

But it’s not all about me!  My advance copy--it will be on news stands very soon--is chock full of the wonderful blend of beauty, inspiration, and information you can use that has become Machine Quilting Unlimited’s trademark.  There really is something here for everyone with an interest in machine quilting, both as craft practice and as an artistic expression.  I'm particularly enjoying the article on my friend Judith Trager’s Grand Canyon Series in this issue.

Look for it in the stores or in your mailbox!  And as always, thanks for reading and commenting.

June 16, 2012

Ironville Ramble

Indian Pipe plant
I’m having a great year so far for seeing natural wonders I’ve only read about previously.  Today I saw the elusive Indian Pipe, aka Corpse Plant, aka Ghost Plant, Monotropa unifloraIt’s not a fungus, as it may appear at first sight, but a heterotrophic, or non-photosynthetic flowering plant in the same family as blueberries.  It’s parasitic on particular fungi, and these fungi are mycorrhizal with photosynthetic trees.  A fascinating life cycle, and a very handsomely marked plant.  There were several clumps of them:
Corpse plant, Monotropa uniflora
We had a great ramble around the countryside today, without having to drive anywhere first.  We are fortunate that the area around our hamlet, Ironville, has lots of back roads and small parks to explore.  June is busting out all over, and there were lots of common and uncommon wonders to behold.  The milkweed is starting to bloom, and attract bees:
Milkweed blossom
The last of the  wild white mulberries were eagerly eaten and savored:
White mulberries
The wild wineberry crop looks promising.  They have a distinctive sticky calyx, which will soon open and disclose the berries.  These are one my favorites, and I’ll need to check back soon:

Wild wineberries
The wild blackberries are also coming along, but none were ripe enough quite yet:
Wild blackberries
But we hit the jackpot with the wild black raspberries.  There were plenty-- I almost had my fill, if such a thing is possible--and there are more coming.
Wild black raspberries
One of the neighbors has a small menagerie on their property, and they allow visitors to say hello to the animals.  There’s a nice variety of poultry, a few sheep, and a goat with a bit of an attitude:
The also have a beautiful little miniature horse, who thought that surely I must have a carrot on me.  (Note to self--next time, carry carrots.)
Further along along the road is Danny’s abode.  I’ve written about Danny before.  He was abandoned some years ago, then rescued and provided with a shed and a bit of land to roam about.  His shed sports this sign, which is good advice for all of us fortunate enough to have food, water, and shelter:
Today, someone passing had provided apple and carrot treats for Danny, which he was happily and greedily devouring, with a wary eye on me lest I should try and share it.  Danny has a pretty good gig.
Danny the sheep
Along the verge we spotted wild yarrow:
Wild yarrow
And lots of chicory plants in bloom; this one attracted a small bee:
Chicory flower
Here’s a mayapple.  It’s a spring ephemeral, so the foliage is fading, and the “apple” is ripening. 
Mayapple leaf and fruit
I used a cyanotype print of a mayapple leaf in my Deer and Mayapple art quilt:
"Deer and Mayapple"
We saw lots of tall blue lettuce, about 5 feet high at this point and setting flower buds:
Tall Blue Lettuce leaves and flower buds
This is another plant that has found its way into my artwork, in my Tall Blue Lettuce quilt.  I have a weak spot for anything with big leaves:
"Tall Blue Lettuce"
I got a great shot of what appeared to be an unusual bee (all photos enlarge when clicked).  It’s actually a syrphid fly, aka hover fly, aka bee mimic.  The distinguishing features are the single pair of wings (bees have two), the truncated antenna, and the lack of pollen pouches.  It’s a fine example of Batesian mimicry:
Syrphid fly
The ubiquitous tawny daylilies were in full bloom:
Tawny daylily
As was the mullein, Verbascum thapsus, with its tall yellow flower spikes borne on second-year plants:
Mullein flowers
So many wonders on a six mile walk near home!  You know it’s been a good morning when your hands are stained with wild berry juice:

June 12, 2012

Images 2012 Opening Reception

I drove up to State College, PA  to attend the opening reception of Images 2012, the juried exhibition of the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, and pose for the obligatory photo of me with my work, Silk Mill #1.  It’s the first in this series, and the first time it’s being exhibited, so that grin on my face reflects my joy and appreciation at participating once again in this fine event.  Images, a juried mid-Atlantic regional exhibition for fine art and fine craft, was established by the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts in 1989 as a complement to its nationally recognized outdoor Sidewalk Sale and Exhibition, and has evolved into a well-respected exhibition for both emerging and established artists.
The exhibit is held in the Robeson Gallery, a spacious and gracious venue, and it’s always interesting to see how the staff arranges the display to fit the accepted work.  This year many of the fiber pieces were grouped together on a long wall.  From right to left, that’s my Silk Mill #1, Light and Shadow by Mary Lou Pepe, Stills From A Life 38 by Dominie Nash, then Highline Beeches and FLP: Improvisational Moment with Scarves, both wool tapestries by Carol Chave.
Here’s a better view of Stills From a Life 38, and you can see the entire series here.  I’ve had the delight of seeing Dominie’s work in person several times before, and am always impressed with her design sense and mastery of the medium.
One of the great pleasures of attending an opening is discovering new-to-me art, and having the opportunity to meet other artists.  I was deeply drawn into the aerial landscapes of coal mine tailings by photographer Peter Stern.  We had an very interesting conversation where he shared a bit about his process--he pilots his own small plane at low altitudes, and holds the camera out over the edge of the cockpit to take the photographs.  Even more astonishing than the technique, however, is his ability to capture the light at just the right moment for dramatic impact.  In the course of conversation we also discovered a mutual admiration for the Susquehanna River and the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge that loom large in my personal artistic narrative.  Here’s Peter with three of his photographs; the small acrylic on the ledge is Striations #1 by Rodney Fulton.

I also had the distinct pleasure of meeting the lovely and talented Susan Parsonage, and viewing her three woodcut monotypes on display.  She achieves beautiful texture and patterning, and lively movement, with her updated version of this time honored craft.  Susan’s website is under construction, but I will be sure to update once I have her site address.  I‘m looking forward to taking an in depth online tour of her work.
Here’s a closer look at her Fathom, a color woodcut with chine colle.  Forgive the skew; I was trying to avoid excessive glare from the glass, and while the picture doesn’t do the work justice, I hope you can get an idea of how luscious it is.
Courtesy of my friend Anni Matsick - a wonderful illustrator - here are a few general shots of the gallery space.  I was so engrossed in looking at art and talking to artists that I neglected to take some, so thank you Anni!
More about the exhibit can be found at the Festival Banner Blog, including this recent post about the reception.  Lauren, the Festival intern who is providing content for the blog, did a brief interview of my at the reception.  You can watch it here:

Sue Reno interview on YouTube

CPFA also has a Facebook page that provides coverage of the outdoor Festival and related events coming up in July. AnniMatsick_Images2012gallery
For even more  information, you can stop by this previous post where I link to my coverage of Images receptions in years past.  It’s always a good time!

June 7, 2012

Columbine Acceptance - In Full Bloom

I am happy to share that my work, Columbine, has been accepted into the special exhibit “In Full Bloom”, which will debut at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, TX, November 1-4, and then travel to Cincinnati, OH and Long Beach, CA in 2013.
Columbine, detail 2
This was my first time applying to this exhibit, but it seemed like a good potential fit as much of my work is botanically based, and I am really thrilled to have been included.  Of all the entries, only 28 were chosen.
Columbine, detail 2
This quilt has four cyanotype panels on silk, and the patchwork is a mix of silks and cottons.  It's one of those that really needs to be seen in person, to catch the sheen of the silks and the texture of the stitching.

Here’s the blue columbine plant that was the inspiration for this quilt, as well as the source material for the cyanotype prints.  It arrived as a volunteer from points unknown in my asparagus bed years ago, and as it is happy there I let it be.  The timing is good, as it blooms when the asparagus is ready for picking, so I get to admire it up close and personal for weeks each spring.
Blue Columbine Plant

June 6, 2012

Skunk and Garlic Mustard Acceptance to Pushing the Limits

I am very happy to announce that my latest work, Skunk and Garlic Mustard, has been accepted into “Pushing the Limits 2012”, at the artspace Gallery in Richmond, VA.  Pushing the Limits is a biennial exhibition that aims to expand the definition of fiber work within contemporary art while providing a venue for established and emerging artists.The juror is Katie Shaw.  It opens on July 27 and runs through September 23rd, and will run in concurrence with shows by Heidi Field-Alvarez and Mary Buchanan (July/Aug) ,Santa DeHaven (Aug/Sept), Brigette Newbery (July/Aug) and the SAQA  “This is a Quilt!” show (Aug/Sept).
Skunk and Garlic Mustard
I made Skunk and Garlic Mustard, and the other works in my Flora and Fauna series, because of a love of the subject matter - the animals and plants I share my suburban Pennsylvania environment with - and a desire to express  the beauty I see in the glimpses I catch of their presence and their life cycles.  I find it a privilege to hold their skeleton remains in my hand, and marvel at the intricacies  of their construction, and their suitability for the life and diet of the animal.  They are not meant to be macabre, or induce squeamishness, but occasionally a viewer interprets them in that light, which is of course an interesting part of the conversation that art enables.  I recognize that they don’t always have the same initial appeal of the works in my botanical and architectural series, and while I don’t deplore that fact, it can make finding venues for display a bit problematic.  So I am double grateful for the opportunity to exhibit Skunk and Garlic Mustard in what promises to be an excellent show full of all kinds of wonders.
Skunk and Garlic Mustard, detail 1
If you missed it, my New Work post yesterday has more about the construction of this work, with bonus photographs.
Skunk and Garlic Mustard, detail 2
And as always, my sincere thanks for reading and commenting.  I try to respond individually to every comment, but if I somehow miss yours, please believe that I appreciate your input.

June 5, 2012

New Work - Skunk and Garlic Mustard

Skunk and Garlic Mustard
I am delighted to share with you my latest work, Skunk and Garlic Mustard.  It’s part of my Flora and Fauna series, where I fool around with the skulls of local wildlife, combine the images with prints of plants that have an association with the animal for me, and add a vintage textile.
Skunk and Garlic Mustard, detail 1
I take a lot of detailed macro images of the bones, and then pick some to process and turn into cyanotype images on fabric.
Skunk and Garlic Mustard, detail 2
I then make type of monoprint, a heliographic print, where I use the plant as a resist on painted fabric that is left in the sun to dry.  For this work I used garlic mustard, an invasive non-native that unfortunately grows rampantly in the Pennsylvania woodlands, and also in my garden.  I spend a good deal of time each spring uprooting it from my beds, fighting the good fight.   I also incorporated a really cool piece of vintage embroidery covered with  french knots, and an assortment of hand painted and commercial silks and cottons.  I kept the color palette very cool and understated, to better contrast with the prints.  I like the way the colors set the tone of the piece.
Skunk skull
I had the luxury with this one of working with the entire skunk skeleton, courtesy of my daughter, who found the dear departed soul under her dryer vent after a long and bitter winter and gifted me with all the interesting bits of it.
Skunk skull and jaw bones
These are some of the arrangements that didn’t make the final cut for the piece, but are too cool not to share.
Deconstructed skunk skeleton
Here’s an equally cool view of the helio print as it was drying. You can see how the leaves are shriveling in the sun and pulling away from the fabric, leaving their ghostly images.
Garlic mustard mono print, in progress
Working on this series is deeply satisfying for me.  It is simultaneously my homage to the wildlife I share my suburban environment with, the plants that I spend so much time trying to either nurture or eradicate, and the anonymous women who stitched the vintage textiles.  I hope you enjoy this latest effort as much as I enjoyed creating it.