January 29, 2012

Seasonal Palette - Update 4

I love picking out fabrics for a new project.  It’s one of my favorite parts of the process--exciting and stimulating to the little grey cells.  It involves choosing the color scheme, but since I am working with textiles, there are also the secondary factors of texture, fiber content, and patterning. 

I think I have a different relationship with the fabrics in my stash than a lot of other quilters.  With me it’s personal.  I have a collection going back decades to dressmaking scraps from the clothes I wore as a child. I am not sentimental about them, but I relate to them in terms of their context in time and space.  Other fabrics that I’ve purchased were all deliberate acquisitions, and I can remember the general time frame and location of where I obtained them.  Same thing with fabric that has been generously gifted to me, or that I’ve purchased from other craftswomen--they are linked in my mind with the person and the circumstance.  The fabric has meaning and history, some are heavy favorites that have been used in multiple projects, and all of that comes into play when I am auditioning them for something new.  None of these factors will necessarily be evident to the viewer of the finished work, but it’s highly relevant to whatever it is that happens in my conscious and subconscious mind as I  am working.

Given that context, I am genuinely puzzled by the popularity of fat quarter bundles ( a fat quarter is 18” x 22”) or jelly roll bundles (2.5” by 44” strips) on the market.  I can’t imagine letting someone else pick out my fabrics for me, even granting that they are lovely and well coordinated assortments.  If I like a textile and am going to include it in my repertoire, I need at least a yard, ideally more.  And I need to be able to find it when I want it, so I am fairly well organized in that regard.  I needed some publicity shots of me in my studio, so here in the background you can see some of the labeled bins I store things in.  I sort by fabric content and then by color.  I’m not afraid of disarray while I’m working, but when I’m done it all needs to be sorted out again.  Part of the sorting is keeping swatches of everything used in a project.  The swatches go into binders with notes and other relevant ephemera associated with each quilt.  I’ve done this from the very start of my art practice, so when documentation was called for as part of the Seasonal Palette exhibit I was very much on board.

For this project I wanted mostly the clear, bright, somewhat saturated colors that signify mid to late summer to me.  I’m using a few commercial fabrics, some silks I brought back from my trip to India and cottons I’ve hand painted and printed.  (If you are new here, be sure to click on the “India” tab at the top to see recent and vintage India travelogue posts.)  Here you see them cut into strips and sewn into sets preliminary to being cut up for Seminole patchwork. I’m quite pleased about the one on the right with the leaf prints.  SueReno_SeasonalPalette07
I’m a huge fan of the plume poppy plant, and have used its leaves in numerous small projects and a huge art quilt. One of its attractions is its large leaves, but the scale of this project wouldn’t accommodate them. So I focused on the tiny leaves that sprout up in the intersections and tops of the stalks.
I picked dozens and dozens of the little leaves, and laid them out in a grid to make a heliographic print of them with green textile paint.  You can see a similar print, with larger leaves, in process below:
I cut the printed fabric into strips and used it in the piecing.  It’s very fiddly and time consuming work, like a lot of what I do, but well worth it for the story it tells in the cloth.

January 24, 2012

Columbine and Plume Poppy acceptance for AQS Lancaster

I’m very happy to share that two of my art quilts, Columbine and Plume Poppy, have been accepted for the AQS Quilt Show and Contest in Lancaster, PA, March 14-17, 2012.  This is my hometown show, which makes it even more exciting.  I’m really looking forward to seeing some of my friends and fellow art quilters when they come to town.  It’s held in the Lancaster County Convention Center, which is part of the repurposed Watt & Shand building that’s been an obsession of mine for some time (see my series of ten art quilts about the building renovation here.) 
Columbine is a newer work, and this will be its first outing to an exhibit.  Plume Poppy is BIG - 81"h x 74"w - and  really needs to be seen in person to appreciate the scale. 
If you are planning on coming to Lancaster, there will be an unique opportunity to see ALL of the amazing Esprit collection quilts at the Lancaster Quilt and Textile Museum during the show week.  More information is here.

January 23, 2012

Ginger in Progress - Update 3

I finished the quilting and removed the basting on “Ginger” this weekend.  It looks radiant! The top is made entirely from Indian silks, with a cyanotype on silk for the center image, and it just glows:

Sue Reno, Ginger In Progress 8
The back is looking very cool as well, you can see all the patterning from my free-motion quilting:

For the uninitiated, free-motion quilting means using the sewing machine as a drawing tool, and the thread becomes the line.  I disengage the feed dogs, the mechanism that normally moves fabric through the machine, and move the fabric with my hands.  It’s a learned skill that becomes becomes honed with practice, a bit like riding a bike or any other activity that requires hand/eye coordination.  The trick is to get the right speed and “flow” so the the design seems natural.  I find it helps to look a bit ahead of where I’m at and to stay focused on where I’m going.  This patterning, which I use a lot in my work,  involves creating a box, sewing into it, then stitching back out.  It’s very meditative, and I make it all up as I go along.
Next up is rinsing  and drying the work, which will create even more texture and sheen, and then a binding to finish off the edges.  I am working like a madwoman on multiple projects and deadlines right now, so I will fit this in where I can.  I’m very happy with how it’s turned out thus far.
You can see the previous posts on this work here and here, or click on Ginger under updates in the right sidebar. Many thanks for reading and commenting!

January 22, 2012

Turkey Hill Point Hike

Turkey Hill is a favorite local destination for a moderate hike, and one that affords great views.  We ventured out recently on a mild January day, and were rewarded with panoramas like this:

The trail  has recently been rerouted due to the construction of two windmills at the top of the rise.  They supply electricity to the nearby Turkey Hill Dairy.
There’s new signage at the overlook, and I learned that the first surveyor of the area, Benjamin Latrobe, went on to work for President Jefferson as the architect of the U.S. Capitol building.
This is a lovely spot, but not a pristine one.  In addition to the windmills, it’s also adjacent to  the large (and well managed) Frey Farm Landfill,   But no matter, the lookout is  wonderful.  I made a small art quilt about it years ago, View from Turkey Hill.  And it's the site of my great pawpaw discovery of '09.
Headed back down the trail:
A portrait of the artist in her natural habitat:
Cool designs from a carved out step into fallen timber:
Four views of a fungus:
It’s a huge and spectacular clump of Chicken of the Woods growing on a stump. It’s unusual in my experience for having a lot of honeysuckle vine incorporated into it:
This variety of fungus can be quite bright and colorful when new, but this one has faded to beautiful, subtle hues:
The patterning is also superb:
A small art quilt from my past, showing Chicken of the Woods in its more common vertical orientation on the side of a living tree:
After our hike, we stopped a favorite local watering hole for a late lunch and a libation:SueReno_TurkeyHillHike11
And from there strolled across the railroad tracks in Marietta for another view of the Susquehanna River from the shoreline.  I never tire of the river.

January 19, 2012

Seasonal Palette - Update 3

One of the recurring themes in my work is the use of cyanotype to make prints on fabric.  I never tire of the process.  It is exciting and almost magical each and every time.  It encompasses so many of my happy obsessions--plants, photography, fabric, and working outdoors, at the (hopefully tender) mercies of the elements.  I could set up UV lights and expose the prints safely indoors, and I’m all for keeping my options open, but I think that would take some of the pleasure out of the experience.  Of course the viewer can’t tell where and how I made the print, they simply see the result, but my joy in making it is an integral part of the process for me.  Perhaps that’s why most of my work is so cheerful, however somber my intentions in beginning it might be. 

Above is one of the prints I showed underway in my last Seasonal Palette post, a painted fern specimen.  The lighter blue lines top and bottom are from the edges of the sheet of glass used to hold the fern in place, and they won’t be in the finished work in this instance.  Below is a section of another print, a length of ornamental sweet potato vine.  I pinned it in place for the exposure, and you can see lovely variations in shading along the edges of some leaves where they lifted a bit.
I made five prints for this work, and pinned them up on a design board to think about them for a bit.  One of the criteria for this exhibit is that the work must be a specific size, 78” tall by 32” wide.  I wanted the design to be engaging all along its length, so it took some rumination and experimentation with placement to work all that out.  My usual working method is to start with the prints and add patchwork elements around them, working outward until the proportions and flow seem correct.  At the end I square everything up and then measure it.  It’s a nice advantage IMO to working with fiber and/or mixed media; the imagery can grow organically.  For this piece, I needed to think more like a painter who starts with a specific size of canvas, where everything needs to contained and constrained proportionally within that space.  I’ve had to think IN the box, as it were.  Not necessarily a bad thing, just different.

January 18, 2012

My Foto/Fiber Bonus Pack

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the first three “Red Carpet” fiber postcards will be part of the three Fiber Bonus packs I am donating to Virginia Spiegel’s Foto/Fiber Fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.  But that’s not all, folks!  I’ve raided my studio and pulled out some of my favorite things to add to the fun and sweeten the deal. 

I love collecting vintage linens and using them in my work.  Some time ago I scored a set of quilt blocks embroidered with flowers.  I used most of them in a bed quilt top (it remains a UFO at this point) and have decided to share the rest and so am adding one to each Bonus.  With a little research I’ve identified the designs as  Eveline Foland’s “Memory Bouquet” pattern.  The patterns first appeared in the Kansas City Star newspaper from October 10 through November 11, 1930.  The quality of the workmanship in these blocks is really excellent, and they are in very good condition for vintage blocks.  They measure approx. 12” square, and  would be wonderful either framed or incorporated into a project of your own.  They are all different, but here’s an example:
But wait, there’s more!  In each pack I will be including one of my original cyanotype prints on cotton, made from a photograph taken in my garden.  They measure approx. 8” x 10”, and again, would be suitable for display as is, or used in your own artwork.  Here’s one of them:
Next up, a piece of my hand painted cotton fabric, measuring approx. 11” x 22”.  I have never offered either my cyanotype prints or my painted fabric for sale, so this a unique opportunity to own a piece of my work in this format.
Another one of a kind item--a strip of Seminole patchwork, approx. 16” x 4”, left over from my award winning quilt Sumac:
Whew!  I think it will all fit in the envelope, and if there’s room I may find a few other little treasures to tuck in there.

So mark your calendars for February 15th and 16th, and hop on over to the Foto/Fiber Fundraiser page for more details on how it all works.  There are many amazing artists donating their work, and 100% of the proceeds go to the American Cancer Society.

January 17, 2012

New Fiber Postcards - “Red Carpet”

I’ve just completed a new set of fiber postcards/mail art pieces.  I’m calling it “Red Carpet”.  It’s based on the magnificent display my red maple tree puts on each year when the leaves drop to the ground, usually all within a day or two.
I did a set on the same subject, “Carpet of Leaves”, way back in 2005, and it was very popular.  Here’s a card from that series:
I thought it was a good time to reprise the theme.  Both sets were made in a similar fashion, starting with a length of white cotton fabric.  I painted the fabric with textile paints and arranged maple leaves on it, then put it out in the bright sunlight to dry.
A heliographic print resulted, as the paint wicked out from under the leaves and the image of the leaves remained.  This was layered with batting and stitched heavily with a variety of specialty threads.SueReno_RedCarpet2
After washing and drying, to intensify the texture of the piece, it was layered again with peltex (a stiffener) and a backing.  Individual 4” x 6” cards were cut, and the edges stitched to reinforce them.  Here are all 25 cards in the “Red Carpet” set:
Some of them will be going out in a swap with my fellow artists over at Postmark’d Art.  I’ve been a member of this group since it’s inception, and have swapped dozens and dozens of cards, but have been on hiatus for the last several swaps due to being overcommitted elsewhere.  I’m happy to be back on board and looking forward to the exchange.

And….drum roll please….the first three in the numbered series of “Red Carpet” cards will be part of my contribution to Foto/Fiber 2012 Fiber Bonus, Virginia Spiegel’s  Fiberart for a Cause fundraiser to benefit The American Cancer Society . I’m so pleased to be a part of this worthwhile effort that I’m raiding my studio for all sorts of goodies--more on that tomorrow!

January 16, 2012

Seasonal Palette, Update 2

I’ve been working joyously on my entry for the SAQA juried invitational exhibit, Seasonal Palette, that will debut at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, TX this autumn.  My season of choice when applying was summer, and happily I received it as my assignment.  Since so much of my work is botanically based, and I love making images of fresh plant specimens, I knew I would have plenty of material to work with, both conceptually and literally.

The Organic Garden
Of the works in my resume I submitted to the jurors, they particularly liked The Organic Garden, and requested that my new work for the exhibit be in a similar vein.  It’s a good choice, and one I can willingly riff on.  I’m not looking to duplicate it, but to capture the same kind of botanical exuberance and abundance, while using the saturated colors of high-to-late summer. 

The timing of the acceptance was such that I had a limited window of opportunity to make summery prints, so even before I was sure of the ultimate direction and composition of the work, I ordered some treated cyanotype fabric and got busy.  Depending on the type of plant, and the size of the print desired, I pinned the specimens to a board, or flattened them under glass.
Making cyanotypes is a fascinating blend of science and art--because I am dependent on the angle of the sun and the meteorological conditions on any given day, as well as the freshness of the treated fabric and other variables, the exposure time for a print is reckoned both by counting the minutes and by guesswork based on experience.  The cyanotype gods were with me on this occasion, and I got some wonderfully crisp and vivid prints to work with.

Part of the criteria for this exhibit is the documentation of the creative process.  I don’t like sketching and formal preplanning of my work, but I do love documentation.  I always take pictures of the work as I go, save fabric samples, and often do work-in-progress blog posts, so this is right up my alley.  I will be continuing to share parts of the process here, so stay tuned, and as always, thanks for reading!

January 5, 2012

“I’m Not Crazy” - Call for Entries

I’m very pleased to announce that I will be serving as the juror for the upcoming SAQA exhibit “I’m Not Crazy”.  The exhibit curator is Kathy Nida.  I’ve admired Kathy’s work for many years and am excited to be working with her; her work shows great originality, and she is bold and fearless in her artistic expressions.  Her theme for the exhibit is excellent and provides the framework for a variety of interpretations:

Theme: Mental illness carries with it a stigma; many of us have experience with disorders, temporary or permanent, curable or not, that in the past and in some cultures even today would be labeled as crazy. That stigma can make it difficult to admit its effect on our loved ones or ourselves. Disorders as common as anxiety or depression, or less common, like schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder, can have a devastating effect on families and friends, and on ourselves. Negativity towards those who have these disorders often causes many people to keep the diagnosis hidden from friends and family.
  • What does “crazy” look like?
  • What does it feel like?
  • How does the world look through the eyes of someone experiencing a panic attack or depression or other mental disorder?
  • How does loving or caring for someone with a mental disorder look and feel?
We’re looking for work that covers these experiences: from the eyes of the caregiver, the friend, the family member, and, of course, those who have experienced any of these disorders themselves. Your work can reflect the disorder or the chaos it holds on our lives, it can be humorous, it can be sad, it can be crazy or incredibly calm.

Please go read more about it on Kathy’s blog, or go to the SAQA Call for Entries page.  You need to be a SAQA member to enter, but membership is very worthwhile for anyone working in the art quilt/fiber art field.  I’ve been a member for many years, and a Professional Artist Member since 2009, and value the many opportunities membership provides.  “I’m Not Crazy” will have a lot of visibility, with 7 venues already booked through the Mancuso Quilt Festivals, and others possibly to follow.

The online entry opens May 1st and closes May 31st, so you have time to produce new work or consider which of your current work would best fit the theme.  I know this is going to be a great show, and I’m really looking forward to reviewing the entries--I hope yours will be among them!

And since I always like to have an image in my posts, here’s a gratuitous photo of one of my favorite calm and peaceful places, the Susquehanna River as seen from an overlook near Lock 12: