Thursday, August 30, 2012

They're Breeding Down There

Somehow while I wasn't looking the UFO's started breeding down in the basement.  Last time I really looked I was at a very manageable 22 items.  Suddenly it's 27!  Ack!

We split this into six pieces, each person to create one, then they will all be sewn together.
Only one done so far, though.
I had completely forgotten the Grateful Threads Pink Petunia Project until I discovered it tucked away on a shelf.  (I’m still organizing and figuring out what to put in all this storage space!) I don’t know if that thing’s even going to happen, but I do want to work on it – hence #22.   Then since my super efficient friend sent me a beautiful beaded necklace in our Facebook gift exchange, I figured I’d better get going on her iPad cover.   Technically I agreed to make six gifts, so I should have added six separate items and deleted “six gifts for friends,”  but the other five are not only unfinished, they’re unstarted.  Hence not UFO’s in MY lexicon, anyway.

The next item to appear was the neutral strip piecing/restructuring piece which seemed to literally start itself the minute I finished assembling Film Strips.  It was bubbling under the surface just waiting to burst forward, as were the figure-ground study(ies) which involved cutting up a stack of 16 squares “stack-n-wack” style then reassembling them.  It is also called a curved piecing study because even though the curves I cut seemed subtle, they really are a bugger to sew!  Good advice from Alison Schwabe who was kind enough to write and share some of her work with me.

I really don’t know why I felt I HAD to make deck cushions…but as noted here, I did.  Learning process, I guess.  I am fighting the urge to play with more paper piecin.  This is a constant battle, since I created ¼ of a Christmas star, and UFO #25.  I’ve been particularly drawn to a beautiful New York Beauty by Venus de Hilo.  You can see her blocks in progress on her site, or her Pinterest page. But I don't WANT to get sucked into something that isn't my own creation that I will get bored with half way through.

What gorgeous colors. They make me drool!  I’d love to do something combining the “white-plus-bright” color scheme of the Galaxy quilt I showed in my last post, but with the NYB patterns.   I think there are nine different designs, so four of each would create 9 blocks…  could be parlayed into a bed quilt with some accents and borders.... NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Contrast! Value!

One of the things that really sunk in for me at the show this weekend is that Contrast is the most essential thing in quilt design.  If I may digress for a moment, there are things that I have "learned" i.e. read in a book and can parrot back, and then things that I "know," and when something crosses that line, that's when it really becomes part of me; I guess that's the best way to put it.  This weekend, the point about value really sunk in for me in a visceral way.

I looked at a large number of quilts that had beautiful, gorgeous fabrics in them, and were very interesting designs, and very well crafted, but as I looked at them, I just thought, hmmm, that's nice. As I looked at the "Hmmm" quilts vs. the "WOW" quilts, what was the biggest difference - Contrast!  Value!  Color is secondary, and can be almost anything, but without a range of values properly placed, quilts just look blah.  Wish I'd taken more pictures, but I don't like to feature a person's quilt and call it "blah."

Instead, let's look at an example of some very similar quilts, that manage to have very different effects within each block of the quilt.  Following are two beautiful quilts, patterns available for sale here on "Broderie."  The first is Galaxy.  Even though the range of values is relatively narrow - few super dark or pastel pale fabrics, each piece stands out from the one adjacent to it.

Galaxy by Trish Harper

Now let's look at "Camelot," also a pattern by Trish Harper.  I want to show two versions, see what you think:    This one, I believe, is executed by the writer of Broderie, Elizabeth Wright.

And this is by Trish herself - as featured on Broderie.

For me, some of the blocks in each are fantastic, some not so much.  Which ones jump out at you, and why?  What do you think about Elizabeth's choice of background?   All are beautiful, to be sure!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

First Show - Moonlight Quilters

Yes, it was only a local, non-juried, local guild free-for all.  But it was still fun to see my quilts hanging in public.  I didn't linger in front of them to eavesdrop on comments; didn't really want to know what people thought.  Other than being mine, they're pretty unremarkable.

I wonder if I could have done something different with the sleeve to make it hang flatter?
I don't see how, with this hanging system.

I was a little disappointed at how this one got wedged into a margin. 

This one looked nice. Wonder how much dog hair it had on it?  
Here are a few other quilts that caught my eye, for various reasons.  I saw this design displayed in a local shop and thought it was wonderful, and thought about trying to create one of my own.  Apparently it was a commercial pattern - here are two examples of it.  It is a nice way to showcase pretty Asian fabrics that lose their effect when cut up.  Pinning the descriptions on the quit was not a big deal on an all-over design, but really distracting when composition was an important part of the quilt.  

This black + batik one intrigued me.  The subdued palette was more sophisticated than many, and the way the pattern is created was interesting. Click the small photo to get a better look.  I'd be tempted to arrange them less randomly.

 The next one was my favorite of the show.  I sometimes have an urge to make a traditional sampler-style quilt, but many of them come out looking like a big hodge-podge.  The fabrics and design of this one really held it together.  I'm guessing that all the fabrics were bought from one coordinating line.  I always have the niggling sense that is "cheating," or at least missing out on the fun but risky process of putting together your own palette.  But it's hard to argue with the result.

The only thing that really stuck out (in a negative way) is that brown circle around the bottom block.

This was a beautiful display of traditional work.  Hand quilted, too.

The vast majority of quilts were very traditional.  The "art quilts" were mainly things like the seasonal ones in the second photo above.  There were a large number of one-block wonders, too.  Those do little for me.  I love the concept or technique, and have seen some fun results.  I tried it myself on that very first baby quilt.  But when the composition of the blocks is so random it doesn't do anything for me.

There were a few more art-y art quilts, i.e. beads, sequins, self-portraits, etc. etc. But absolutely nothing of the abstract type I've been studying, and Definitely none of the type I'm now making!  When I'm reading blogs on line, or studying the major art-quilt shows, quilt national etc. I feel like, there are SO many people doing this, I'm just one little tiny fish in a huge ocean.  But in this venue I feel like a complete outsider.  There have GOT to be more people doing art quilting in this town!  It's a very artistic community.  I just don't know where they are, or how to find them.  I guess I will try going down to an association meeting in Seattle, the CQA or Contemporary Quilt Association.  Or maybe I'll just stay in my basement and make art.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Link to The Free Motion Quilting Project: Question Thursday #28

Leah Day, the queen of the Free Motion Quilting Project had a great post on Thursday, about diagnosing problems with your FMQ.  She is incredibly generous in sharing her skill and knowledge - not to mention 365 different FMQ designs!  I thought I'd post a link to it so I am sure I know where to find it when I need it!

The Free Motion Quilting Project: Question Thursday #28

Monday, August 20, 2012

Odds and Ends

I was able to spend a considerable amount of time in the studio today, although a lot of it was not creative time. I learned how to make hanging sleeves and made a two-piece one for the large quilt. I took five quilts to be in the Moonlight Quilters show which is next weekend. They are:

Beacon in the Darkness

Wonky Log Cabins

Organic Waves

Stolen Moments

Then I worked on the deck cushions.  One is done and the second one just needs a minor adjustment. Three more to make. Greg was right, I should have just bought them at Home Depot.

I looked at my twenty-one yards of new fabric and attempted to visually sort them by value. Way Off! I wish I'd taken a photo of my attempt but I too quickly rearranged them correctly after peering through the "Ruby Beholder." (what a name!)  So work with me a minute on this: enlarge the photo by clicking it - then count up from the bottom, or darkest fabric.  Doesn't it look like #5 & #6 should be moved up (lighter) and #7 &  #8 moved down (darker)?  Now go to the colored photo.  5 & 6 are the chartreuse and magenta.  They are LIGHTER than the blue and sage above them?  How can this be?  I need to be better at this!
This is how they looked after rearranging.
It seems that my weak point is in mistaking bright and/or warm colors for dark values. And also thinking that dull grayish colors are darker than they are. Can you believe that those orange-y fabrics are so light in value!?!

Same stack!
The fabrics look so much more interesting when spread out dark to light. They looked rather boring and too "pretty" when arranged by color as they were on arrival. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Better than Drugs!

Just ordered 21 yards of Kona Cotton solids from Pink Chalk!  Woohoo!


Once I gave myself permission to let go of the ideas I was trying to force on myself and the fabric, I felt free again... here are some (bad) photos of what I played with last night...    I was so gung-ho to stick that gold colored fabric in the blocks with the black + because it would make them all "go" together.  I think it was wrong.  Too light in value, no contrast with the tan.  As soon as I saw it, I heard: "Make visual decisions visually!"  I didn't try it on the wall first, just rushed to get something done.  Do I rip it out, or just move on?
[noontime light bulb moment: cut a skinny line into it??]

Gotta work on the photography. That blue line of tape should be vertical.   Too much stuff between me and the wall.  Gotta work on the design wall, too, for that matter.  Lots more space to be covered.  Wonder if I should use batting or flannel?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Getting Off Topic

After making the little lantern block for the raffle basket, I started thinking I might like paper piecing after all. I quickly googled up a pattern that appeared to be of moderate difficulty as my second project.  I didn't spend a lot of time researching patterns or selecting fabrics.

This one was designed as a poinesettia so I pulled out the random Christmas fabrics and tried it out.  There were a couple minor mistakes, like sewing the piece on in the wrong direction or accidentally cutting it off along with the seam allowance. The dark and light reds should probably have been switched, but oh well.  It took an hour and a quarter.   Three more and I'll have a little table topper or something.

Not sure why I was screwing around with this instead of working on what I "want" to work on..  But I guess the next step wasn't clear.  After finishing the star, I went back to the ribbons.  I knew that regardless of what "everybody" else is doing and regardless of what I'd resolved to do, I couldn't bring myself to put the different random fabrics into one piece.  I couldn't put the purple and coral with the neutrals.  And I was getting really bored with the ribbon concept.  So I gave myself permission to do just neutrals and to make some non-ribbon units.  Suddenly all was good again.  I made some repeated units out of the boring green/black strip:     Now I'm eager to get back to it.  

My motivation has been studying a series the Ellin Larimer did, called Pajama Party.  I really like the way she used strip piecing, and especially like the way that the four work together but each have an independent personality.  My favorite is IV: 

It looks like she will be at Indianola next year.  I'm looking forward to seeing what she's working on now.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Working in a Series

Earlier this week I signed up for an online course called Working in a Series taught by Lisa Call.  I am wary of on-line classes and in general have resolved to stop taking workshops that only result in starting another project that is not what I love and want to do.  But this is different.  For many reasons:
Lisa Call, Structures #113,  ©2010 Lisa Call    39 x 86 inches
Award of Excellence – Quilt National 2011
1. Since I first saw her piece  at Quilt National '11  (above) I have followed and loved her work.  The shapes you see floating on the surface area created by quilting threads of different colors.  The entire piece is very heavily and beautifully quilted.  After seeing all the quilts in the exhibit I went back and spent time with several that I liked most.  I stood and stared at this one for a very long time.  Her other work is equally inspiring to me.
2. Once I started noticing Lisa's work, I also noticed her very organized and disciplined approach to the business of art.  I respect that she works hard at making it her business as well as her passion.  I also noticed that she was very generous with her time and knowledge, sharing what she does and why on her blog.
3. In discussions on the SAQA list this course was highly recommended by two other very good artists.
4.  I think it will give me the discipline I need to take some good well thought out pieces to Nancy Crow's workshops next spring.  She will follow a pretty disciplined curriculum, including weekly lectures by phone, discussions and assignments.  I look forward to critique and discussion with hopefully 8-9 classmates as well as Lisa.
The only question still in my mind is what idea or starting point I'm going to work from to develop a series... I had planned/assumed/expected to continue with the strip piecing style... but Jillian was strongly suggested working on the map quilts, especially given that Sheila Frampton Cooper's show is in November, it would give me a chance to produce something for that, or to develop the start of a series that could lead to something by November....  Sigh.  I just don't know now.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Reading List

Ever since my the Crow workshop, maybe before, I've been asking myself, what makes art art?  What makes good art good?  How can meaning be conveyed through non-objective abstract art?
In my usual semi-obsessive way, I've gone about looking for answers in books.  Despite all the information out there on the internet, I still find sinking into a book the best way to really research something. Call me old-school - you'd be right - and proud of it.

So I bought a number of modern art books, like this one and am browsing all, digging deeper into most.  I found a couple volumes at the used bookstore (You can call me cheap, too.) that looked at the first 50 years of modern art, 1900-1950, essentially.  I really liked this approach because it allowed me to try to understand how art moved into abstraction from a generally representational basis, without trying to absorb 100 years all at once.   My formal art education ended in 1987, and what a surprise - things have changed in 25 years!

Then I stumbled on an amazing book that I am totally devouring, it is the catalog from the Color Chart Exhibit at MoMA 2008.  What an exhibit. It's okay to love paint swatches.  I guess I was not the only one hording them as "art parts."

Then I decided I needed to figure out what had been going on in those last 25 years.. and decided to start with But Is It Art? Which is a short relatively easy read on the evolution of art theory.  More than I ever wanted to know about bodily fluids as art material, but helpful nonetheless!

Finding Your Way

Art has been neglected in favor of sunlight lately.  We had a record breaking 85 degrees yesterday which did drive me to the basement, but only to finish the raffle block, and do some organizing and cleaning.

This morning while procrastinating and reading old blog entries from 2010, I discovered this gem, in a comment from Terry Jarrard-Dimond on a blog entry by Kathy Loomis:

"I'm not especially attracted to grab bags but I do think working with them might spur some ideas and then it is the responsibility of the person doing the making to carry the ideas forward. Besides, if she is just starting out, and she can work in a series, I applaud her but how will she ever figure out what she really wants to make. If I laid out my learning work you might think I had a personality disorder..."

I always feel so much better about myself when I realize I'm not that different from all the other artists I so admire and look up to.  As I was giving friends a tour of the new studio Friday, I looked around at the various pieces I've tacked up everywhere, and thought, what a ridiculous mish-mash.  Now I feel better, knowing that everyone goes through the process, rather than just sitting down one day and knowing.

A few hours after reading Terry's comment, I read a sequence of comments on the SAQA yahoo group about small works versus large, and the benefits of grouping works that "talk to each other," i.e. works in a series.  Then I read, again, about Lisa Call's Working in a Series workshop.   I think I need to do it.

Here's a little visual about my "journey" so far.

This piece is the very first art quilt I ever made.  It was completely intuitively pieced and assembled.
Amazing how similar it is to the direction I am now wanting to go.  I just wandered down a few
other dead ends before getting back on the right road.

FFFC pushed me to produce "stuff" but I soon tired of doing an assignment
when there were so  many other things I wanted to do myself.


I discovered all on my own the joys of fusing vs. piecing and the process of photo-transfer.
I like this piece, although I imagine the juxtaposition of the mini-artworks and the photo
probably makes little sense to anyone other than me.

I still remember the excitement of creating this on the design wall at the APWQ  Symposium,
just a few months  after I'd "discovered" art quilts.  Design Wall!  What a concept!  I'ts probably one of my favorite UFO's I need to get "unstuck" on it.  Add the slashes, or don't add the slashes?