Monday, November 26, 2018

Boulders and Chockstones

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

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

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

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

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!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Heron, the Kayak, and the Grebes: Part I

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

This is my lovely entry for Dinner@Eight Artists exhibit this year.  This is the final exhibit after a 10 year run and the theme was to choose something from the past 9 years.  They were: Edges, The Space Between, Beneath the Surface, Rituals, Exquisite Moments, Reflections, Affinity, Patterns, and Personal Iconography. I think this piece was best represented by Affinity.

Artistic Statement: I have a strong affinity for kayaking. Gliding across calm clear water connects me with nature in a way that soothes my soul. In this view, I intentionally place the birds closer than they actually are because it represents the closeness of my emotional connection to this water world.

And, as an extra challenge, I decided to try my hand at writing my artistic statement about my quilt using ALL the past themes of Dinner@Eight.  That was not an option on the entry form, but here goes:
My affinity for kayaking is an exquisite moment, one that has become a rejuvenating ritual.
I see reflections of the edges of the city on the water and think about the space between nature and urban development. As I row, I observe things beneath the surface, the patterns of the waves, and I contemplate the personal iconography of the heron and what it means to me.

Yaassss! I have thoroughly enjoyed my time and the work I have done for this exhibit over the years.  I think some of my best work has been expressed because of the challenges offered by Jamie Fingal and Leslie Jenison.  It has been an honor and a privilege and I am so happy to have been juried into this last round of exhibits!  Thank you Jamie and Leslie!

I have also been overwhelmed by the response to my quilt on Facebook.  I appreciate each and every comment, so thank you for that!  

For those of you who have wondered about the process of creating a whole cloth batik quilt, I have included some process photos.  The main idea is to build up the layers of colors and wax.  It requires a specific sequence and lots of thought.

First I make a full scale drawing of my idea on paper.  I tape the paper to my sliding glass door, and then overlay a piece of white cotton fabric.  The fabric is held to the door with scotch tape as well and I trace, in pencil, the design lines onto the fabric.

This is the first time that I decided to make the entire piece, start to finish, by leaving the fabric attached to a wooden frame.  And since I did not have a frame large enough, I headed to Home Depot for some wood.  I cut the wood, used screws and cross bars to hold it together, and then painted it in several coats of polyurethane, sanding between coats.  In this photo I have pinned the white fabric to the frame with push pins.  This step is repetitive and a bit painful for my fingers.  Once I get them just a little in, I tap gently with a hammer.
In batik, the wax can be used in two different ways.  You can paint the liquid wax on the fabric in any place where you want to keep that color. Below, I have carefully painted wax on the white of the heron's neck feathers. I want those feathers to remain white. A different function for the batik wax is to build a "damn" or a "wall" in which I will apply the dye color I want and it will run right up to the edge of the wax (provided that there are no cracks in the wax).  For example, I drew a liquid wax line on the heron's neck to separate it from the white background.  I am planning to add layers of light grey, medium grey, dark grey, and blue dyes in this area, one layer at a time.

In this photo, I have added wax around the kayak and yellow dye for the kayak and the bird beaks. Then I added a lot more wax outlining the grebes, the heron head feathers in order to fill in with black dye.  After the yellow dye has dried, I applied more wax to protect that section of the kayak to remain yellow.  In this photo it looks like a wet yellow.  The section that looks like a dry yellow will have layers of orange added later. I have also added wax on the oar handle to keep it white.

This shot is after many layers of orange dyes for the kayak, blue dye for the heron wing, grey dyes for the heron neck and body, and brown dyes for the herons legs.

Here is a shot of the heron head when I added the blue dye to the neck area.  The background is a bit wet still, and it's not looking very good.  I am not at all worried, because of my experience in batik, I know that it is proceeding as planned and in my mind's eye I actually see it as the photo below, with all the quilting added.

The finished head, with the wax boiled out and all the quilting completed.

Several examples of the layering of wax and dye.  The heron's legs are outlined in a wax wall and filled with brown dye. The brown looks darker than it will be because the dye is still wet.

In the next stage, I put wax "stripes" on the first coat of brown on the legs and then overdyed a darker brown. The wax is applied with a tjanting tool, and can be a bit drippy.  Here is the shot of the completed legs with quilting.

The oar was super fun! I dyed a light colored blue for the entire oar tip.  It looks much darker in this photo because the dye is wet. After it dried, I added the wavy texture lines in wax.

Then I over dyed the oar with several shades of darker blue.  I enhanced the shape of the oar with different colored blue threads to highlight the center and darken the edges.

However, before the quilting can start, the quilt top is rinsed and dried between every dye application. At the end, it is unpinned from the frame and boiled in a giant pot on the stove.  I then wash it and fix the dyes. After drying, it is ready for basting with batting and a quilt backing.  Then the quilting begins. Here's a shot showing some of the threads I used.  I am driven by color!

The dense quilting lines were a bit tiresome.  I used free motion machine quilting for this project. And, I use a lot of starts and stops.  And, this is the stage where I was burying the loose threads with a needle.

I love the way the quilting lines look on the back!

A close up of one of the grebes for you!