Thursday, August 14, 2008


I got a notice about two weeks ago that was sponsoring an artists' call for ObamaArt, and I got so excited! I've been an ObamaFan since I first heard him speak at the last Democratic Convention. I've found myself cutting out photos of him and saving excerpts from his speeches, as I came across them in newspapers and magazines. I've read his two books, and I continue to experience him as the most remarkable political figure and the most inspirational since JFK. So I buckled down (that is, told my sweet husband, David, that he was on duty to make the suppers until further notice), and produced the quilt below within the two week window of opportunity. I photographed it and sent it in before the deadline, but I still need to do the label, the sleeve, and a bit more surface quilting.

The idea of the image is that from a distance, I hoped it would look like Mr. Obama is looking out of a multi-paned window. Up close, each pane is a page of a letter that I wrote to him. It's called "Dear Mr. Obama." If I'm very very lucky, it will be selected to be shown at the Democratic National Convention. If not, it will be placed on MoveOn's eBay page and auctioned off, proceeds to go to liberal causes. Here's a shot of the quilt, and a detail of page one.

What I've Done This Summer

Well, the summer started with the discovery of a new spring veggie to add to my series: a ramp. I bought this little fellow for 5 cents and took him home and posed him and photographed him and drew him from several angles, and several hours later I began to realize that there was a funny smell in the air. By evening, my ramp was in the garbage can OUTSIDE. So here's the final product. It's only 9 by 11, and the letters are done by couching perl cotton.

You may notice a little red triangle at the bottom of the ramp; that's my new "secret signature." I tried all sorts of arrangements of my name, my initials, and finally fell upon this as I picked up some scraps of red silk from the floor! It'll be hiding in my quilts from now on.

The next piece I finished was unearthed during the above clean-up. It began as a study of negative space and flower suggestion, with just the outline of a line of coneflowers. I noticed that the color values were very similar, which was why I had set it aside for who knows how long. Now, finding it again, I kind of liked the similar values, and decided to continue that theme, adding a tiny inner border and outer border. It's hand quilted with metallic thread, and beaded for practice. I don't know whether it "works" or not, but I like it.

Another project I started is to work slowly through the Art Quilt Workbook by Jane Davila and Elin Waterston. I'm loving this book,and learning a lot! Each chapter teaches several things,and includes a list of websites to visit and artists to learn about, whose work illustrates the topic of the chapter. The chapters end with production of a small (9 x 12 inch, vertical) quilt. I'm only up to chapter 4, but here are some of the small quilts that have come from this work. The first is called "Thistles: A Color Study." My goal in this piece was to practice showing distance (which I did by having farther flowers be smaller and less distinct, and using overlap to show what's in front of what) and to break the borders. Here's the quilt, and below it I'll tell you what I REALLY learned.

You've probably noticed it already. The orange flowers, which were to be behind the thistles JUMPED in front of them. Why? Because warm colors come forward and cool colors recede. I hope I won't forget that again.

The next exercise, in Chap. 3, was to do a little pear from a pattern. Here's "The Pink Pear." I added the leaf, which is two-sided, and has a little bit of wire down the middle vein so the leaf is 3-D and can be "posed" in different ways.

The quilt made for the final exercise of Chap. 3 is called "My Lily" and is based on some lovely lilies that grow in the shady part of my backyard. They're short lived but have large flowers with fluffy, ruffled petals, strong red-orange pistels (or maybe they're stamens?), and sturdy leaves and stems. I must have tried a dozen times to draw one to get a "pattern" for a quilt, and finally a friend suggested that I lay tracing paper over my best drawing, and deliberately leave out lines, simplifying the image. I could do that several times until I got one that worked. That was a very helpful suggestion.

One of the artists that I discovered through this Workbook is Raoul Dufy, and I found his early work particularly appealing. There was one picture that looked like blobs of color, over which he would do an outline of a flower. I had just been practicing my hand at dyeing fabric, and several of my fabrics look like "blobs of color." (And some look even worse than that!) Anyway, here's my attempt to do an "Homage to Raoul Dufy":

A group of friends will be getting together to work through the book this fall, so I get to take a hiatus from homework till they catch up.

Another wonderful thing that I did this summer was to spend a week at QSDS, where the "big girls" play. It was exciting all week, just being in the company of so many artists working up and down the hallway in the hotel where it's held. Several times a day I would prowl through the Master Class to see how their work was progressing. Wow.

Now, I studied with Jane Sassaman, one of my very first quilt teachers, in a course she calls "Shape Shifting" -- but by the end of the week, I still had the same shape! If you ever have a chance to take a class from her, do so. She's organized, inspirational, kind and supportive...qualities that are hard to find in the aggregate. I think I was still stuck on thistles (pardon the pun), so one of the pieces I worked on was an abstraction of them; I'm going to call this piece (if I ever finish it) "Thistles for Jane." Below is a shot of Jane taking a photo of an early stage, and below that is a shot of where it stands now.

The actual color of the background is somewhere between the two pictures above. My next step is to decide where the borders will be -- e.g.,when the center is "done." My daughter, who is an artist, used to paint these enormous swirling abstract paintings, and I recall asking her how she knew when it was "done." She looked at me in amazement. "Mom, the picture tells you when it's done!" I keep listening, but so far no objects have spoken up.

I started a second piece in Jane's class; I got an urge to do a black and white, of course, I began with a piece of the brightest pink fabric I had with me. You can see it below as it sits in my "to do" pile. I don't know if I like it enough to continue working on it, so I'll let it marinate a bit more.