At the last minute I wanted a hand stitching project to take along on our recent vacation to Reno NV and Berkeley CA. I still had several of the small needlefelted pieces I started as step outs for the Quilting Arts video shoot last year. I took one of them and added some borders, pulled some likely embroidery thread colors, and packed it up and stuck it in my carry on.
I worked on it a bit on vacation, and spent a lot more time thinking about it. We began our trip on the summer solstice, which was also our wedding anniversary. A few days prior we had been to the Susquehanna River in Columbia to take pictures in the clear soft light of late afternoon. The mood of the piece was trending towards an early summer colorway, so I decided to embrace the theme.
I used a simple running stitch to add line and flow to the river portion. I’m calling it simple, because it’s just a running stitch, in and out of the fabric in a line. But as I worked on it I realized that it was reflective of years and years spent hand stitching and hand quilting. I’ve gone through countless spools of thread and hanks of embroidery floss. I’ve literally worn out many needles over time. My stitch at this point is definitely an expression of “the hand of the maker”, where I strive not only for technical excellence but also for a unique signature.
I used a variety of other simple stitches to add to the “fields” and “woods” surrounding it. I enjoyed the slow pace and improvisational spirit of stitching process very much. I then layered it and added some quilting. I am now contemplating adding beadwork.
As is it measures about 24” square. I am planning to use it as a center panel for a larger quilt, like some of my other recent river pieces. (See Ice Jam and In Dreams I Learned to Swim.) I’m still thinking about what that will look like.
I have a lot of works in progress right now.On the one hand I think I should focus and finish a few of them before proceeding. On the other hand, I am grateful that the inspiration and ideas are flowing freely, and feel like I need to go with that flow.
July 22, 2015
July 19, 2015
I went to Harrisburg, PA today to visit the State Museum of Pennsylvania and see the Art of the State exhibit, where my In Dreams I Learned to Swim is on display through September 13. I had missed the opening because I was traveling, so I didn’t have the thrill of the crowd, but it was nice to have the time and space to view the exhibit at my leisure.
This is a large art quilt, 60” x 80”, and it was such a pleasure to see it so well displayed and properly lit. It had room to breath.
I hadn’t had the chance to view it from a distance before, and I was gratified to see that it held up well and commanded attention from afar.
Even from the other side of the gallery it caught the eye.
As always it’s an excellent and interesting exhibit—do go if you are in the area. One nice feature is in addition to the complete paper catalog, there are kiosks where it is easy to bring up an artist and read their statement. The images are also available online here.
Afterwards we went to The Millworks for a late lunch. It’s a new restaurant, with an emphasis on local, sustainable food and craft beverages, combined with artist’s studios in a remodeled/repurposed industrial space. Both the food and the ambiance were very good, and I plan to return. On the way out I stopped in the communal gallery/gift shop, and bought a bag of roving to use in needlefelting.. I grew up near Halifax, and I was charmed by the mention by name of her angora bunny.
We then went over to Front St., parked, and took the pedestrian bridge to City Island. It was oppressively hot and humid, but I wanted to take photos for my new project, 52 Ways to Look at the River. (Read about its inception here.) The architecture of the bridge is wonderful through the fisheye lens:
And I liked the archways on the nearby bridges:
But for this week's inspiration photo I chose this shot, looking across from City Island to the city of Harrisburg:
I came home, cooled down, and used my new roving in the panel inspired by the photo. The panel is 6” x 12”, on a base of rayon/wool felt. I am trying to keep them simple, a sort of sketch in fiber, and not overwork them. Even so, each one so far has taken about 90 minutes to make. Fiber is a slow medium.
A good day!
July 5, 2015
I am interested in how creativity works. I am especially fascinated by creative practice, both my own and that of other artists, and have written and given lectures on the subject. For many artists, the state of being “in the flow” alternates with creative slumps and blocks. I find that these highs and lows can be better managed with a sustained creative routine.
That routine varies greatly, of course, in accordance with individual proclivities. For myself, part of my routine since 2012 has been taking daily photos, using either a macro or a fisheye lens on my iPhone, and posting them to social media. It gave focus to my day, helped train my eye, and gave me a glimpse into corners of the natural world I might otherwise miss. The habit has been exciting and fulfilling, and helped inform my primary artistic practice of textile based art. I’ve also enjoyed and greatly appreciated the many lovely and enthusiastic responses I’ve received when I posted photos.
It was all great, until all of a sudden it wasn’t. I had been struggling a bit in the spring to find subjects that engaged me, and one day I realized that it had turned from a delight into a chore. So I stopped. I put the project on hiatus and just stopped. If I had been struggling with my primary work in fiber I would have powered through it, but this is an adjunct practice, meant to be fun. While I may still take and post the occasional nature picture, the daily part will remain on hiatus until/if I feel like reviving it. I suspect it may have served its purpose, and it is time to move on.
Which raises the question of what moving on looks like. I feel like to some extent the photos were a dead end. I’m not a professional photographer, even thought I play one on TV. I’m going to move my repetitive creative practice into my true area of expertise, working with fiber.
After a lot of thought and false starts, I’ve devised a project involving the Susquehanna River, a never ending source of inspiration for me. My plan is to get out and observe the river somewhere on its course on a weekly basis for the next year, and then make a small fiber piece in response to what I’ve just seen. Further details and parameters will be worked out as I go along, as part of the appeal is that the project be open-ended and exploratory. I’m calling it “52 Ways to Look at the River”.
Today I cut 52 pieces of rayon/wool felt into 6” x 12” blanks, and will be using them as the foundation for each weekly piece. I anticipate it will be primarily needlefelting work but I’m not locked into that. The idea is that each piece will be the fiber equivalent of a quick sketch, and in the end the sum will be greater than the parts.
Above is my first panel, and below is the picture I took of the river, in Columbia, PA, under the Veterans Memorial Bridge. There’s been a lot of rain lately, and the river is very high and muddy.
I’ll be posting the weekly pieces to my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/suerenostudio
My Twitter feed: http://twitter.com/suereno
My Tumblr: http://suerenostudio.tumblr.com
and Instagram: sue_reno_studio
So pick a platform and join me as I work my way through some imagery!
As always, thanks for reading and commenting.