Saturday, April 06, 2019

Rooftop Gardens
14" x 11"
This is my latest finish, a tiny quilt for a member's challenge for Visions Art Museum.  The theme was Urban Gardens, so I think this will fit. The exhibition will open April 20. I am also excited because it is my first time to submit to a member's challenge, and there is an opportunity for some kind soul to buy this cheerful little piece.  I will get to keep half of the sale and the rest goes to help support Visions Art Museum.  A win-win situation if you ask me!

It started because I wanted to dye some batiks turquoise, which need warm temperatures and it was still too cold here.  So I pulled out my stash of solids and just started piecing....
Then I realized the member's challenge theme, so I thought these little blocks would work perfectly if I added a frame around them to make them look like windows.  I tried different colors, but this one worked the best.
Except that after I did it, I didn't like it, so I undid it...
A seam ripper and moving back to what I liked, which was the original blocks.  Simplified, abstract, colorful and bold. And then I remembered this gorgeous batik fabric I made several years ago when I was making THIS quilt (scroll down to see the fire hydrant).
With some Mistyfuse on the back, and some fussy cutting, these would be the perfect addition to make some flowers for my rooftop. Plus, I really like how the "plus" motif duplicates the "plus" motif in the pieced blocks.  :)
And then the quilting....

I also liked this quilt so much, I almost didn't send it.  Sigh...I'm not sure that's a winning strategy for an artist.  However, I am also really glad that I made it early enough that I got to look at it a while before I sent it off.  This will be another one of those that I will not be sad if it does not sell.  :)

Monday, February 11, 2019

Hidden Messages, Part III
69" x 72"

I have been working for weeks trying to photograph an image of my quilt (here and here), so that you can see the light shining evenly from behind all the circles, revealing the hidden message.  And, I think I like this shot with the sun behind it better, mostly because the lighting looks real, and bright, and pretty.

Unfortunately, because it is not lying flat, some of the letters are hard to read, and it is a bit distorted from the wind.  You will also notice the darker "grey" area at the top. I wrapped the top of the quilt to the back to make the hanging tube.  I didn't want the hanging tube attached in the normal way because it would interfere with the ability to read the first line of the poem.

To get the next image, I hacked a LED light fixture and used it like a small light table and then photographed two blocks at a time.  It took forever to take all the photos, and even longer to assemble them into one photo, carefully trying to match the exposures and brightness and line up all the grid work.  I'll be honest, it doesn't look that good.  For some crazy reason, my camera had ideas of it's own, and it changed exposures for every photo because of the light it perceived, which was different for every pair of circles, and empty white blocks.  I tried a LOT of different settings. None of my choices gave me a consistent exposure, so I opted for second best and tried matching by hand in Photoshop for each one.  Eh, it's not a perfect process...

I do like how much I was able to pop the contrast and brighten it up a bit.  I really dislike how the white part looks tinted with either yellow or grey, and the more I tried to get it to look white, the more it blew out all the quilting lines.  It was so frustrating!

Meanwhile, now that the poem is revealed, I can share with you some more process shots.
The first part was making the white part of the quilt.  The machine quilting was on my Juki, with a walking foot.

Lots, and lots of lines!

The fun part was selecting colors for the letters, and colors for the circles.  And then making them! This was my original selection of fabrics.  Little did I know that I would be changing these later.  I opted to toss out the purple and pinks, and added umber, ochre, and red.

Next was using Mistyfuse to apply the letters to the background.  I absolute loved the way these looked, and considered ditching the circles all together. Who can resist text on quilts??
However, now that it's finished, I am really glad I added the circles.  I think it makes a really nice metaphor about how hard it is to see the truth sometimes.  Thank you for your patience and following along with me!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Hidden Messages, Part II
69" x 72"

Last time I posted about this quilt,
and I alluded else.  So today I will share it with you!

I appliqued a letter on the quilted background (with Mistyfuse, and invisible thread for the machine quilting), and then I hand appliqued a circle on top of each letter to cover it! Below is a process shot of some of the letters already covered. All the letters were hand cut with scissors.
Under normal lighting, you cannot see the letters, as the circles are opaque. However, when light shines through from the backside (for example, holding the quilt up to a brightly lit window), the fabric becomes transparent and you can see the letters!
So even if you cannot solve the color coded cipher, you could read what it says.  It reminds me of the expression, "light is the best disinfectant"; which is a version of George Washington's:
"Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light"
Indeed, the perfect complement to the actual message hidden under the circles!
Also, I wanted to reveal the poem today by showing you a full shot of the quilt, brightly backlit, so that you can see all the letters.  Unfortunately, I am having a bear of a time trying to get that to happen.  I wish I had a giant light board to take a photo, but I do not.  I tried having two assistants hold the quilt up with the sun behind it, but that did not evenly light all the circles, and well, there was wind.  I am not giving up.  I welcome all suggestions.  And, perhaps I foolishly believe I will succeed in this endeavor!  Wish me luck!

Friday, January 11, 2019

Hidden Messages
69" x 72"
This is one of my latest finishes.  I love this quilt so much!  It looks so randomly modern.  However, it is not at all random.  I have color coded the circles with the alphabet and spelled out a poem.  I am so curious if anyone can actually decipher the code?

And, this is just one level of hidden messages contained within this quilt.  As an aside, I find it a fabulous metaphor for people too, that there is more than meets the eye.

Here is a closeup shot.  The white background is one piece of fabric.  I quilted it with the black grid lines first, and then quilted the horizontal light blue lines (reminds me of a hybrid between wide ruled paper and graph paper).  Then I hand appliqued the circles into place.

To make the circles, I cut out 4" circles of freezer paper (a LOT of them), ironed them to the fabric, then cut with scissors around the circles leaving approximately 1/4" to turn under.  I used the iron to press the edges under using the freezer paper as a guide.  I removed the freezer paper and then hand basted the turned edge.  Then they were ready to place onto the previously quilted surface and hand applique into place.  It was a huge amount of work, but I really enjoyed every step.  Except one.

When I finished I did not like the way the colors worked together.  It was hugely disappointing after so much work.  The original color palette looked fantastic when I first started, so I also found it a bit confusing.  But I knew it had to change or I would never like it.  So I ripped out the offending colors and found some new ones.  Here are the ones that did not make the cut.
And, I was so glad I did the extra work! It made all the difference, and now I am super happy with the overall look of the quilt.  Here it is hanging in my house.  I agree, it is hung too high for now, but....cats....  (ps. Sharky likes it too!)
Also, I have only shared about half of what this quilt has going on.  Stay tuned.  There are more hidden messages to be revealed!  :)

Monday, November 26, 2018

Boulders and Chockstones
47" x 45.5"
It is my pleasure to share with you one of my newest quilts!  This one was a complete joy to make! This quilt is about the myriad of supporting players in our lives. While the charismatic boulders play the leading roles, it’s the little chockstones, wedged in just the right places, that provide the support.
The first thing I did was select a color palette.  I love this combination of greys with yellow, green, orange and magenta.  Unlike the photos above, the actual magentas are a nice bright pop of color that goes so well with the others!
Next, I made a background quilt of all white and did straight line quilting in groups of thread colors.  It's a subtle effect, but later I found that it was very useful in helping me line up and attach the big boulders.
The big boulders were machine pieced in blocks to get the little animals in the middles. 
Then I drew a giant boulder on freezer paper and pressed on the back.  With scissors I cut 1/4" larger than the paper and then used my iron to carefully press under the edges to the backside, using the freezer paper as a guide. 
Peel off the freezer paper, hand baste the folded edges, and it was then read to attach to my pre-quilted background.  Because the large boulders were....well, large, I put a layer of Mistyfuse to the backs of them.  Then I arranged them on the background and pressed into place.  SO EASY! 
Then, one by one, I hand appliqued all around the edges of each and every boulder.  I love hand applique, so I enjoyed that part too. And, I like the way the turned under edges look.
Next, I put tracing paper on top and sketched in some tiny chockstones.  I used these little mini-sketches to make the tiny rocks and help with their placements.  In retrospect, I am not sure I needed to do that much planning.  Many of the little rocks were moved to different locations and used in different ways than I originally planned.  I also discovered that I needed a lot more little rocks than I expected.

I probably could have obsessively filled every blank spot between the big boulders, because I loved the little rocks so much.  However, I also really like the shapes made by the white background, so organic and interesting, and those shapes disappear if you add too many little rocks.  In design language this is called the negative space. So, with great hesitancy, I stopped making the little rocks and let the negative space totally rock!
I finally added some machine quilting to the tops of the large boulders in giant organic spirals with contrasting threads.  Absolutely loved this part!  And, because of the Mistyfuse on the backs, the shapes were held in place really well during the quilting of the large spirals.  This means that there were no distortions or wrinkles from the last stage of quilting.  A welcome outcome because this part is a technically challenging to do well.

This is my second boulder quilt.  Four of the boulders here were my prototypes for making this quilt:
Boulder Field was made from boulder shaped blocks that were completely machine pieced.  I loved the way the boulders fit together in the design of this quilt, but I also wanted to try appliqued boulders to enjoy more freedom in the placements.  I can't decide which I like better!  Both of them work for me!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

LOVE Flowers
18" x 18"

My dear friend, Jamie Fingal, has a new line of fabrics coming out this fall at Quilt Market in Houston.  It is called Heavy on the Metal and it is produced by RJR Fabrics.  It is a labor of love and I expect it will be hugely successful for her!  If you check out her blog, you can see some of the fabulous 'heavy metal' art quilts she has made with zippers and safety pins and measuring tapes.  My favorite quilt is the little red and black quilt of a dress with the skirt made of red measuring tape fabric.  It is wonderful!

Jamie gave me let me choose 10 fabrics with the request to make a small 18" quilt. I selected these, along with a few extra from her lines Hopscotch and Sewing 101 to blend with it.

The motifs are fun!  I especially like the zipper fabrics!  And, they all sparkle, just a little, with the use of metallics on the fabric.  I washed and dried my fabrics, and they held up great! I really enjoyed this small project, made that much easier by using Mistyfuse on the backs, cutting my shapes of flowers, stems and leaves, and then simply pressing them into place with the iron. So fast, so easy!  The quilting went quickly too!  And I added a bit of satin stitch and hand quilting to finish it off. You can see the entire fabric lineup on her blog.  I am wishing her the best of luck with this new line!

Monday, August 20, 2018

Double Bind
32" x 42"

I am so happy to share with you that my quilt has been accepted to Quilts=Art=Quilts at the Schweinfurth Art Center, in Auburn, NY, October 27, 2018 to January 6, 2019.
I was inspired by patterns I saw while swimming laps at the pool.  I used four of those to make the fabrics for this quilt, along with some hand dyed solid fabrics. It has undergone a number of different compositions before settling on this one.  I guess that's why it didn't look good to me before, because it just wasn't finished yet.  And this one didn't really come together until I decided to add the swimmer in the lower corner and the text.  Now it really pops for me.  I love the graphics so much!
The emotional content of the quilt came from my father.  I have been thinking about him a lot lately.  He lives in an assisted living facility and fell.  He vividly remembers the pain, and the lack of balance and loss of control when walking.  So he decided not to walk again.   He is bedridden and doesn't really eat much either. And he is having memory deficits too. It is hard to watch the slow and inevitable decline.  It is hard to be so far away.  It is hard to have so many memories of things that didn't go quite right and trying to resolve them for myself.  Let me just say that for this one, the problem has been resolved.  I can go swimming now and I can get wet while doing it!
Notes for inquiring minds:
The swimmer and the fins are made using a paper laminate process. 
The text was made from a screen print with black fabric paint.
Both the swimmer and the text were fused on with Mistyfuse before quilting.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Days and Nights 2.0
16" x 16"

This year I was invited to donate a small quilt to the International Quilt Association's annual auction in Houston.  I could say that I feel honored by the request and happy that there is something I can do to help an organization that I highly value. However, I have mixed feelings about donating my work. And this seems to be a problem for all types of artists as discussed in these links.

From the Huffington Post, Mat Gleason, The Career Benefits of Boycotting Charity Art Auctions
From the NY Times, Donating Work for Charity has a Down Side for Artists
Or this one From Art Career Experts: The argument against donating art to charity auctions
which my favorite quote is ………….I would love to hear the story of the artist whose career rocketed to success because he or she donated a work to a charity auction and this act alone tipped the first domino toward an avalanche of success coming his or her way. This narrative is always implied. I’ve never seen it happen.

The issues that concern me the most are:
1.  My textile works are incredibly time consuming to make. And, by donating my work, I do not get to set a minimum price for the work.  It could sell for a lot less than I would sell it.  This helps the buyer, but it drives down the market value of my work.
2.  The organization keeps 100% of the profits.
3.  For all the different charities to whom I have donated work, I have yet to even have my name or website associated with any marketing or promotional materials. And, this is such a great but missed opportunity for cross-promotion.
4.  It is rare, so very rare to receive any sales as a result of having my work in an auction.  To date, I have only had one small one, and I feel lucky to have gotten that one.
5.  Also, the tax code is written so that I can only write off a tax deduction for the price of the materials, which are minimal compared with the time I invested in making it.
6.  Also, for the charity asking for the donation, because there are so few upsides for the artist, they end up getting pieces donated that are not the highest standards.  There is no incentive to donate your very best work to an auction.  And, though I love this little piece that I am donating, I don't think it's my best work.
seeing the texture emerge, machine quilting and before the hand quilting
after the hand quilting
I like the suggestions offered by Maria Brophy in her blog post here. I haven't used it yet, but I am considering it for the next request I get.

Thank you for the opportunity to donate art to your organization.  I would be honored to have my artwork and name associated with yours and the great work you are doing.
Due to the extremely high volume of requests from many great charities, I have developed guidelines that enable me to donate artwork at less than retail cost.  These requirements also help me to reduce losses since current U.S. tax laws are unfavorable to artist donations.
Please consider offering these terms for all of your future artist donations, as your organization will benefit from it greatly by attracting top quality, high value artwork; and over time, will become known as the go-to-organization for unique and valuable art.
My donation guidelines are:
  • The organization agrees to split the proceeds from the sale or auction 50/50 (50% to the Artist and 50% to the organization).  I ask for payment within 7 business days of the sale.  The name, address, phone and e-mail of the buyer will be provided to me for my records.
  • A minimum or a reserve price will be set and will be designated by me.  (This is required to honor the value of the artwork for my existing collectors and partner galleries.)
  • In the event the artwork does not sell, it will be returned by the organization to me, at the organization’s expense, within seven (7) business days following the auction or sale.
If these guidelines are agreeable to you, please let me know and I’ll draw up a Consignment Agreement and send you photos of my donation for your consideration.
Artist Name Here.
And, yet, this time, I am sending a quilt and getting almost nothing in return. I ask myself why, and the answer is quite predictable.  This little piece was lying around in my closet, unfinished, unused, and unseen.  It took little time to quilt it and finish it, so off it's going, into the world.  The issues I raised here are real ones for me, but not always so simple when actually responding to these requests.  I usually say no.  Sometimes I say yes.  I ask you to consider that if you are willing to buy a piece at an auction, consider also buying a piece directly from the artist, or inquiring about having a small piece made just for you!

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Heron, the Kayak, and the Grebes: Part II
30" x 50"

This abstract quilt references a kayaking adventure on Lady Bird Lake in Austin. I was enjoying the beautiful scenery, but also keenly aware of the ever increasing influence of population growth and corresponding growth of new downtown towers. 

The story behind it's construction:
This piece was made using tiny, tiny pieces, all cut with a rotary cutter and sewn by machine.  I started with some sketches with copic markers of the patterns I wanted to try with fabric, and a life size sketch of the curved background.

I practiced the piecing on a tiny scale to see if it was something I could even do.  My goal was to make the tiny inside squares only 1/4" square.

It is pretty small!! Next step to try a larger sample involving more blocks and learning how to sew tiny blocks together and manage all the thicknesses of all the tiny seams.  I really doubted if my machine was up to the task.  The blocks get rather thick with all the seams and I thought the sewing foot would slide off the edge, but it didn't! (All of the seams are pressed to one side.)
It was definitely doable, so I proceeded onward.  To have that many little pieces, I would need to cut a lot of squares.  The first day I worked so many hours, my body hurt too much to sew the next day.  And, I didn't get much done!  I needed to work smarter.  I learned how to cut long strips, and line them up, side by side, so that with each rotary cut, I got a lot of little squares. I usually worked ahead enough to cut squares for about 2-3 days of sewing. It would have been impossible for me to cut all the squares at the start, so I just alternated the tasks of cutting and sewing.  That worked pretty well.

I usually worked on one section at a time until I got tired of the color palette and then I moved to another section.  This kept the work fresh for me. 


As I worked, I was constantly surprised at how big the original array of tiny squares was compared to the size of all the pieces sewn together.  I called this skrinkage.  And you can see it here from the individual blocks before and after they are sewn together.
Another thing that kept me sane while working through this massive repetitive task was chain piecing, and not just the individual pieces, but also the blocks.
As the block sections began to accumulate, I pinned them on top of the paper template until the paper was completely covered, creating rather unwieldy shaped pieces.
It took a very long time to make actual visible progress on this quilt.  And, I would get in a frenzy to make progress, only to find I needed to take a break.  Some things I enjoyed about this quilt:
The middle section has slightly longer blocks.  When working through the steps to make them, one of the stages reminded me of little caterpillers.  I always took such delight to see them appear!

Also, the day that I finally reached the half way mark.  I can honestly tell you that the thought of ending it right there crossed my mind quite a few times before I continued onward (and I am so glad that I did!)
And then there was the day I was goofing around with this little guy.  You can see the video on my Instagram account.
Eventually, the giant irregularly shaped pieces were ready to remove from the wall and trimmed to the correct shapes with scissors.  I also stay-stitched along the curved edges.  And, then I had a plan!!  I would treat each piece like a separate quilt.  I layered the full sized backing and batting onto the floor, and pin basted only the yellow section.  Yes, it is also difficult to pin baste through all those seam allowances! Ouch!
I quilted it by machine.  Then I used a narrow black piece of fabric to bind the overlapping edge of the middle section.  I stitched the binding to the right front edge, flipped it to the back, and used Mistyfuse to hold it to the back.  It made an easy and beautiful finish to the edge.  I simply placed it on top of the quilted yellow section and pin basted in place.
Then I machine stitched along the black edge and then quilted the new section.  I repeated those steps with the blue section.  It made the project so much easier to push under my sewing machine.  Even though it doesn't look like a big quilt, it was very heavy and stiff because of all the seam allowances. Here is a photo of the quilting from the back, a different pattern for each section.
All that was left was the actual binding around the edges (which you can just barely see in the photo above).
I'll end with a detail shot:
Oh, and one last thought.  This quilt is my entry into Quilt National this year.  I don't always have a quilt that falls correctly into the timing of this exhibit, and I am grateful to have one this time around.  I am also just so incredibly relieved and happy that they have loosened up their restrictions on letting images be seen on social media and private blogs.  It has been so helpful to share my process along the way with you on Instagram and Facebook.  It kept me going on more than one day! So, thanks if you were a part of that! Quilt National is one of the most selective venues to get into, so I hope you will wish me luck!