Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Year in Review

2010 was "berry berry good to me."  

There were no new health setbacks, so that's a huge positive point.

I turned 50.  Wow, really??

I rediscovered my love of quilting, and then discovered the world of art quilts.  In the past I avoided anything that was a traditionally female pursuit, just out of stubbornness, but now I feel secure enough to say who cares, I love fabric and colors and designing, why shouldn't I love quilting?  Within the space of one year, I created ten finished pieces, and will have several more soon. (YES, REALLY!)  I took nine classes, including the APWQ retreat.

I had a piece in a public gallery show! (even if it was open to anyone)

The other personal achievement was the closeout and clean out of my mom's house and estate.  It was one of my worst procratinations ever, since she's been gone for six years now.  But in addition to all the issues around the collection, preservation, and saving of "stuff" there was the issue of the house being in Ohio and me being in Washington.  I still feel some twinges about letting all that stuff go, but mostly relief.   And there's still a storage unit there full of the stuff that I couldn't part with.

I also managed to deaccquisition a lot of things here like clothes and magazines.  I now am motivated to get rid of even more, in order to make a nice studio for myself out of the "library" area which now is just the spot for junk to pile.  My beautiful desk from my grandmother's house is neatly organized, but filled with stuff I never use - it's time to revamp that.  After looking at "Studio's Magazine's" small space studios, I realized a nine by nine space should be plenty of room.

Here's to looking forward to a year with more free-flowing creativity and less procrastination!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Marriage? Done?

 I think this is the finished product. I don't really like it.  However, it is a bit better than the photo shows.    It's hard to get colors and shapes to be accurate in a photograph.   Why is it so hard to take a square photo of something square?  It was suggested that I quilt the other areas, and I think I will as there is not much to lose.  I will call it a practice piece.

Start of Day Three

Wow!  I slept too late!  Yesterday was productive.  I sat down to work on the quilt about 9:30 and by 2:00 had it cut out and pinned together, batting, backing and all.   So I took the dog for a walk, turned in some clothes at the consignment store (yeah, and bought a couple new things -  I didn't expect to find anything spectacular, but how could I pass up this silk blouse for $9.99? or the jacket with $129 tag still attached for $12.99?)

Then I decided at 4:00 that I should cook something different than the usual fare.  So I Googled a recipe for White Chicken Chili, and headed off to the store for ingredients.  That turned out yummy but late of course.  So by the time I got back to sewing it was almost 8:00.  I did sew down all the pieces, and started quilting one of the background areas.   I changed the title to "Marriage?"  I really enjoy the process of illustrating an abstract concept with color and fabric.   When I look at abstract art in museums I like to make up stories in my head about what it might mean, usually before looking at the title.

So here's a progress shot -

I worked very improvisationally, with no sketching anything out.  Once I had the central idea of the "river of marriage" in the middle and the two sides approaching it, I was able to just flow with it.   I'm happy with the idea, and sort of happy with the shapes, but it still feels more "cut out" than color field. And the pale blue ties more to the pink/green side and not to the deep purple.  Conceptually it should have been a blend or middle ground. I really kept trying to do the piece without that blue, but it kept insisting on jumping back in.  the gray/purple blobs should have been the river color.  Oh well.  And  I didn't have any ideas how to make the colors blend with each other better.  I wanted them to, but I don't feel this is essential because many of H.F.'s didn't though many others did.  It's a study.  It's an exploration.  It's not a finished work of art.

I think a lot of us are getting hung up on what a C.F. piece "should" be when even the critics don't agree which pieces fit that category.  The fun is in the exploration, so I'm not stressing about it.  I am happy that we had a challenging challenge like this during a week when I actually had some time to play.  UFO's be damned!  :)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Process today....

Check out these photos by Tim Shinkansen -  very "color-field-y."  I love them!

Sometime shortly before falling asleep last night I began to envision a color field quilt called Marriage.  that's what I'm running with.  It took quite awhile to audition fabrics, and I'm not saying that I love what I finally went with, but I'm not going to run to the fabric store and drop $30 on every challenge, so I'm working with my somewhat limited "stash."  

I chose mostly batiks because the texture reminds me of the paint texture in the CF paintings.  It's not just a flat field of color, but has depth.  (Until you get to the later pop-art stuff).

I've tried to cut rough, frayed edges as well.  This looseness makes it seem less like a cut-out or stencil.  Cut outs are fine if you're Matisse, but I'm not.  

Vacation Week day two

Day One was a pretty good balance between chores, errands and fun.   I didn't do any sewing, however.  I intend to remedy that.   I think I will have a go at a QUICK FFFC before getting back to UFO's.  The whole intent of FFFC is to learn to work quickly, not to create monthly UFO's.  And I have some sort of vision for what I want to do, nothing as solid as a plan, but a pile of rich saturated colors of fabric, that were inspired by Frankenthaler and Rothko.  

The point where my brain freezes up is on how to quilt a color field painting.  And if you don't quilt it, is it really a quilt?  Yes,  I know plenty of art quilters who don't feel required to quilt in the traditional sense, but I still have a need to connect what I do to traditional quilts in some way.

I'm debating whether the finished image should by colors laid on muslin to reference Frankenthaler's stain-type paintings, or whether it should just be color on color ala Rothko.   Inspired by but not imitating them...of course.

The other thing that's worrying me about taking this on is that by definition (at least my definition) the large scale of most color field works is what allows them to suck you in emotionally.  A little 12 x 12 overgrown potholder just isn't going to have the effect I want.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Vacation Week and Color Field Painting

Despite my resolution to finish UFO's during this week off,  I find myself drawn into FFFC Challenge 52 which is inspired by the Color Field Painting movement of  the 1940's and '50s.  I find the challenges which encourage us to delve deeper into art history to be irresistible.  The posts on the message board are a bit like art school discussions (just slower!)

I don't want to post a long windy manifesto there on my opinion of the essence of Color Field, expert that I am after four days of study.   :)   So I thought I'd just ramble on here for awhile instead.  From what I've gathered, the key points of any CF work are:
  • not only abstract, but nonrepresentational
  • color carries primary importance over form, shape or style
  • evokes emotion, primarily through use of color
I've chosen a few artists whose work intrigues me to research further, and hopefully base my piece on:  Mark Rothko and Helen Frankenthaler.  I don't believe these are the "best" or most pure or iconic, I just found that their works touched me more deeply than the others.  Rothko's work Magenta Black Green on Orange, seems to be an early example of pure Color Field. A Google Image search of Rothko brings up many more examples of his interpretation. Note extremely simple, mostly horizontal forms and blurred edges.

Other painters that I found interesting and would consider as having at least a Color Field phase are Hans Hoffman, and Clifford Still.  While still using color fields in a non-representative way, these work feels more chaotic or stressful, and not something I'm inclined to attempt to emulate in fabric.  Color Field seems to have matured in the 1960's with many painters using a more geometric or hard edged form, and artists like Morris Louis,  Frank Stella.  Growing up in middle America in the 1960's and '70's I remember seeing and hearing about these types of works, all generically and frequently somewhat pejoratively referred to as "Modern Art."

Wikipedia has an interesting "stub" of an article which shows a chart with one writer's definition of different "Post-Painterly Abstraction" styles.

I think a great response to this challenge would be to simply frame a beautifully dyed piece of fabric.    Alas I don't have one.

Here is a good story by NPR  on Color Field from 2008, which includes part of an interview with Frankenthaler in the 1980's.  I think I choose her to study further in part, because I was intrigued that she is the only woman mentioned in conjunction with Color Field.  So few women artists seem to have made the history books from any period so I am always interested to look at them.  Sadly, while listening to the NPR story, I found out that she was the lover of art critic Clement Greenberg, whose writing defined Color Field and who selected artists to write about...   Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland were strongly influenced by Frankenthaler, but one wonders if they our anyone else would have ever heard of her, had she not been introduced to them by Greenberg?  hmmm.

Monday, December 20, 2010


I've pared down the holiday craziness in my life to a few parties and not too many gifts, so I am actually feeling some sense of calm.  Finishing off those cards and updating the blog stirred me to reflect on how much I've done with the quilting obsession in just one year.   The "Classes" and "Projects" pages go into details on both, so I won't repeat it all.

There are still many more items on the UFO list, and my goal with taking off work the 27th - 31st (besides relaxing and many other projects)  is to try to clean that list up.   Some - at least half - are within reach.  Others need serious focus or I need to face reality and admit they are not worth the effort.    I am notorious with my family for having half-finished projects lingering around for years, but at least I don't feel alone about that in the quilting blogosphere.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cards are DONE!

... well, except I now have to write and address them, not to mention decide who gets which one!  Arg!  I'm going to edit and finish up the tutorial later (right!) but I can't resist posting a few pictures.  This is the completed collection, prior to stitching and gluing.

This is how some of the finished cards ended up:

My favorites from the stocking group.

This goofy leftover red tree turned out to be one of my favorites. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Tutorial for Fabric Christmas Cards

Disclaimers:  (1) I'm not big into measuring or exactness, so if you want exact patterns or dimensions, I'm not your girl.  (3) I'm also sort of low-tech, so if you have fancy machines that do some of this this stuff - go for it. (3) I made this up as I went along.  There's improvisation involved, don't stress!

Supplies -  Materials
Fabric - collect up a good selection of holiday fabrics.  Focus on solids or small prints, something that's readable when cut into small pieces.
Fusible web -  I'm a Misty Fuse Girl, but there are many choices out there.
Blank Cards - I used A2 size,  because when folded these are equal to 1/4 of a standard sheet of paper.
Plain Cardstock - buy an inexpensive ream at an office supply store,  it has many uses.
Decorations - sequins, ribbon, trim, glitter, anything that sparkles and can be glued down.
Markers - gold and silver are fun - pick something that will show up on your chosen cards.
Freezer Paper - another essential material for SO many reasons!
Glue - for your decorations.  Something that dries clear.

Supplies - Equipment
Rotary cutter, paper cutter, or Exacto knife.
Cutting Board
Iron and Ironing board
Sewing machine - fun embroidery stitches helpful, but not essential
Teflon pressing sheet  - I have seen others recommend using parchment paper - whatever it takes to not get fusable on your ironing board.  It's harder than you think.  Betcha mess up at least once!

Overview of the Process
1.  Cover card stock with fabric.
2.  cut out designs and fuse to the covered card fronts.
3.  Embellish the design as desired, including decorative stitching.
4. Adhere the finished card front to a blank card.
5. Write your message inside.
6. Stuff the envelopes and send.

Detailed Instructions
1.  Start thinking of some simple shapes you want to cut out and apply to the cards.

2.  While you're thinking, start preparing some fuse-backed fabric.  I cut the pieces of fabric based on the size of the webbing, leaving a half inch clear zone to protect my iron. If I'd planned ahead I might have sized it to efficiently cut out the card fronts.   You will need enough material to cover your chosen number of card fronts, as well as enough to cut out your shapes and embellishments.

3.  Prepare the bases for the card front by cutting pieces of card stock into 1/4s.

After my first prototype I decided to trim down these 1/4s by an 1/8th of an inch or so, in order to have a bit of the card boarder showing.

4.  Select the fabrics you will use for your background and cut out pieces that are about 1/2" bigger each way (1/4" all around) than your cards.

Fuse the fabric to the cards:
    a.  Place fabric face down on the ironing board.
    b.  Center a card front on it.

    c.  Cover this with your pressing sheet.
    d.  Lightly press to adhere.
    e.  Clip the corners to reduce bulk.
    f.  Cover again and re-warm.
    g.  While it's still warm (but not TOO warm - OUCH!) finger press the edges over the back.

    h.  Carefully iron the edges down so you don't get fuse on your iron.

    i.  Card fronts are all ready for the fun part!

5.  Prepare and cut out your shapes.   I chose a tree, a stocking, a Christmas ball (ornament) and a star.  You also might want to try fussy-cutting some motifs from holiday fabrics, or just free-hand cutting - whatever strikes your fancy.  To make your own shapes with a pattern:
    a.  Draw out your shapes by hand or with your computer.  I used a drawing program to be sure my tree   was symmetrical but I sketched the stocking by hand.

  b.   Cut out 8 1/2" x 11" sheets of freezer paper.

   c.   Print or photocopy your designs onto the freezer paper. They feed nicely through my inkjet printer.
   d.  Roughly cut out the stencils with some border around them.
   e.  Iron them onto the right side of a piece of fused fabric (be SURE your pressing sheet is underneath.
   f.  Cut out the shapes with the paper still on them.

   g. Peel off the paper stencil - you can use it several times before it looses stickiness.
   h.  Your shapes are ready to iron onto your card fronts.

A round quilt stencil with an added knob was an easy shape to cut out.

6.  Go to it!  Arrange your shapes on the card fronts, add your embellishments, go crazy!
These used glitter glue, gold fabric, and stickers.
(I later pulled off the candy stickers, they looked too artificial).

A star cut out of gold fabric, tiny ornament stickers, some gold glitter glue
for the "ground," and decorative embroidery stitches for a border are the
embellishments I used to "finish" my Christmas trees.
7.  Use fabric or white glue to fasten your card fronts to the purchased blank cards, then use markers to write a personal message.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas Cards

I am consistently late with everything I do.  I don't really know why, I'm sure there are deep seated psychological reasons somewhere.   Who cares?   I just say that to preface the fact that yes,  I know that starting a project like making fabric Christmas cards, which I've never done, on the 8th of December is a bit silly.

Nonetheless I happily assembled my stash of holiday fabric, along with a collection of newly acquired sparkley fabrics (Can you believe JoAnn was selling red and green lame- like stuff for $3.50  a yard last weekend??  Bonanza. Also found a great silver lame remnant at an equally great price...  What's the matter with people don't they know quality when they see it????  ;)

So here's the selection, all backed with Misty-Fuse and ready to start snipping and fusing.   Also came up with some sketchy ideas for Xmas trees, and other themes.
What's the big hurry?

Friday, December 3, 2010

"A Beacon in the Darkness"

That's the melodramatic title I gave the city hall piece.  It seems to fit the drama of the spotlights and clouds.

I was prepared and looking for it, though I wasn't sure what gallery it would be in.  It was still a shock to walk in and see it right there on the wall.   There was a bright spotlight focused on it, and it seemed to glow, just as I'd intended.   I'm pretty happy.  I like the way the feathery fabric looks like dark clouds, and I'm glad I went to the trouble to add the lights, they help the "glowing" effect.  All that quilting on the glass block windows was not worth the time, it should probably have had a more contrasting thread color, but I was scared it would  look too dark...  and it would have been nice to take the time to adjust the background color on the scultpture prints to match the stone color better.  They stand out too much.  

Here it is...

I would have been totally anonymous and just slinked away, but I  happened to see Katie there in front of it, which was a nice coincidence, since she'd helped me get some information about the sculptures.

Here's an enlargement of the photo.  Too washed out by the spotlight plus flash.  I STILL don't have a good clear picture.

FFFC #51 - One Shape

Here are some progress photos from my work on this months' FFFC.  It is based on a partial section of the doodle I posted previously.  I finished piecing it last night, although I had to cheat on the red squares, the inner ones are fused onto the back of the piece, I couldn't figure out how to neatly piece them in.  
The close up shows the faint guidelines that I will use for quilting and hopefully for couching some red cording over the nautilus shape.    The challenge is due at 9 am tomorrow, but I want to take the time to quilt it properly, not rush to meet some arbitrary deadline.  Typically people seem to be posting throughout the day on Saturday, but I have too many other things on my agenda,  I will be lucky to finish it by Sunday night.   I TRIED to keep it simple, I just couldn't seem to do it!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Golden Rectangle

My piece for FFFC is a geometric pattern created from the golden section/rectangle.

I really enjoy just playing with geometry on Autocad to see what interesting patterns I can create.  Here's the one I like, that I am trying to piece...
It's not very readable, because I had to print and then scan it.  I don't know how to post a .pdf on this blog.  Anyway,  I didn't feel well, and slept a lot today, so now at 10 pm I'm starting to assemble something... 
The shell sections are gray, the in between is black and the tiny squares will be red.  Then I HOPE to couch red cord over the shell outline.   That will be the fun part.