Tuesday, June 22, 2010

February to the First Days of Summer

Well, I ended my last post in February with a mention of the blizzard, and as is usually the case, there's something positive in every negative. In our case, the blizzard froze us out of our house, but we managed to make it to a motel, where we spent four happy days watching movies, playing gin rummy, and reading. Here's a shot of the comfy chairs on my patio, when we got home:

I -- like every quilter I knew-- tried my hand at
snow dyeing that week. Here's one piece I

I have no idea how this and its sibs will ever find
a way into a quilt....but what the heck...that's what
building a stash is all about, right?

* * * * * * *

Soon after, I started working on my SAQA
auction square, which I envisioned as a girl
sitting on a huge gnarly branch of an old tree,
looking at a beautiful sky. Here's my working

Then I got "fancy"; looking at all those negative
spaces made by the crossing branches, I thought
it would be cool to put in a plaid sky...actually,
a multi-plaid sky.

It didn't work for me. In fact, it made me crazy just looking at it:

So, once again, I simplified. Zap go the plaids,
zap goes the brick wall, water, and far bank.
I lightened the tree limbs, laid them on a
piece of hand-dyed fabric, and moved the girl
to the edge of the image.

This is the design (before quilting) of the one I sent to SAQA. I think it's a little spooky, but
I like it.

Don't forget to check the SAQA website for the
fall auction. There are pages and pages of
amazing small works of art, and the proceeds
of the auction go to support the organization and students in the field of art quilting.

* * * * * *

In March, I took a course in fabric marbleing
with Elin Noble (look at her gorgeous marbled
t-shirt). We stirred huge tubs of goop, made
little brushes out of twigs of hay, tried to
"float" colors, learned about dispersants (way
before they showed up in the gulf disaster), and
laughed and ate popcorn for days.

We dipped little pieces of cloth, paper envelopes,
big hunks of cloth, and Elin even dipped a pair
of her panties. Here's a shot of one one hot
red pan of marble paint (not mine).

When I got home, having NOT read the full
set of instructions, I washed out my fabrics,
and guess what? They faded away to just about
nothing. I salvaged only a few snippets,
which I stitched onto card stock, and sent out
as greeting cards. sigh.

I want to try this again sometime!

* * * * * *

The most daunting project on which I've been working is my quilt on "overcoming racism." Many of the ObamaMama's from our show last year have joined with some new Mamas to dialogue on our Yahoo site, where the ugly spectre of racism is bemoaned and discussed. These are hard times for rational, liberal minds. What can we do? Let's put on a quilt show! What shall we call ourselves? Well, it's still being debated, but will likely be something like "Fiber Artists in Dialogue."

The image that came to mind immediately for me was based on a photograph I'd seen back in 1996, I think, on the back page of the New York Times, in an ad for the Fresh Air Fund. It showed a bunch of little girls of many colors lying happily on the grass together with their heads in the center of the circle. I tracked down the photographer (James Levine) and wrote to ask if I could have his permission to make a quilt from his photo image. He agreed, and wanted to see the final result.

So I slowly began making each face-- over and
over again -- learning many things each time.
In this iteration, you see shadows shown as patches of color; most of them don't work, especially on the face. Learning to build the mouth from the back to the front (first tongue, then teeth, then lips) was a big lesson. Making the face with as few lines as possible seemed to help preserve the look of a child. Capturing giggles on the faces was even harder. And I haven't even mentioned hair!

Here, the faces are a little better, and I'm beginning to experiment with hair and decoration, but -- horrors -- I don't have enough Grass fabric, and no one on the web has any more! so it's time to make templates of the spaces between the girls and patch the grass in.

And here's the final result. I'm calling it"Friends:
May our children do better than we did"
(James Levine likes it, and says he felt honored that his photo was its inspiration!)

There are some amazing quilts coming out of this group of passionate quilt artists (which include Susan Shie, Jeanette Thompson, Debra Gabel, Sherry Boram, Diana Bracy, Edna Patterson-Perry, and so many more).

Now we have to find a few good venues. If you've got any ideas, drop me a line and I'll pass them on to the group. Thanks.

In a related vein, another quilt show is being organized by Michelle Flamer, up in Pennsylvania. There's to be a celebration for the original White House, which was in Philadelphia, and where George Washington and his family moved, along with a number of their slaves. Ironically, Pa was a "free"state, in which slavery was not allowed. Were the slaves set free? Not a chance. Several did manage to escape, and one whose story touched my heart was Oney Judge Stains.

In the markets, Oney had met many free black
people who offerred her help if she wanted to flee.
As I learned it, one evening Oney set the food on the dinner table and immediately left by the kitchen door, heading north. Washington pursued the "return of his property" till he died, but Oney, hidden in the northern reaches of N.H. lived out her days, saying often that although her life was hard, nothing was harder than not having her freedom.

I created my image of Oney simply staring at us and calmly asserting "Let Freedom Ring." Surrounding her are images of the Liberty Bell and Americana symbols, on which words were overlaid. These words were cut from a piece of "boy scout" fabric:
and so on, all of which spoke to me of Oney Stains.

* * * *

Remember my "12 connected" group? You mean you haven't googled that yet? Well, when you do, you'll see more of our challenge postings. Our second challenge was to work only in bright color. So, the next morning, I noticed that there was a LOT of bright color in my kitchen, and that became the inspiration for my piece: blue and white tiles, red kettle, tulips, and some fine fresh fruit.

Shortly thereafter, our Metro-Threads group got to see the SAQA traveling trunk show of small (8") art quilts, thanks to the help of Cathy Kleeman. They were fabulous, and inspired a number of us to begin making these small sized quilts, in which only 8 sq. in. show, but they are mounted in 10-inch frames. Here are several I've done:

a miniature of the above:and two self-portraits:

These little ones are FUN to do.

* * * * * * * * * * * *
I've been working on drawing and sewing white lilies. They used to grow in a little shady patch in my back yard, but I think the ferns ate them up. They were so lovely, and I never quite figured out how to depict them. I began by choosing as a background a shiny piece of red fabric (probably dress lining material) which was pretty snazzy but not real sturdy. So I hand-quilted it to batting and a back fabric, and just loved the way the light caught it. Then I found some white satin (or faux satin, I guess), and I cut out the petals from that, made some raw-edge leaves and stems, and sliced up some lace from my old wedding gown (oh! that must be where I got the white satin too) to fashion a vase. I kind of liked the figure, but it was so flat-looking, especially the lily petals. This piece has been sitting in my UFO pile for quite some time.
One day, feeling brave, I decided to try thread-painting the flowers, after studying lots of photos of white lilies. That helped. But then I noticed that the lace vase wasn't staying put, so I went over the lace designs with free-motion quilting, and then discovered that I could cut away the "plain" parts of the lace material. Finally, to give the piece some sense of gravitas, I hand-stitched some black outlines around the flowers, and then folded the edges and stapled it to a ready-made canvas I had in the house. et voila:

And then, for dessert, I made one more. This lily was about 12" square, and was donated to the QSDS auction in Columbus, Ohio in June:

* * * * * * * *

I spent my QSDS week with teacher Sue Benner in a course called "Driven To Abstraction." Sue was charming, adorable (I couldn't wait to see what she was going to wear each day), and gave us some great handouts and slide and film lectures. I'm posting below a shot of my "design wall" at the end of the week. It shows a paper collage, several attempts at rapid abstractions, and a more labored attempt at a cottonwood tree (taken from the background of a painting by Georgia O'Keefe). I think I learned more about myself than anything else during this week. I learned that my ADD is worse as I grow older. Put me in a large class, with lots of noise, color, interruptions, conversations, and tension swirling around me and I go into brain-freeze. I simply couldn't concentrate in that (to me) chaotic setting. I plan to spend time over the next year studying more about abstraction, using Sue's materials and others, and playing in my quiet studio. That's more my style.* * * *
On a quiet note, I took a little workshop with Lee Porter this spring. Lee came to our PMPatchwork group and gave us a lovely evening workshop on Kantha embroidery. We made practice pieces on three-layer sandwiches of muslin, using only black embroidery floss, making single stitch motifs. Here's a few of mine, ending with a little face portrait of Georgie, who started all this stuff 7 years ago (see the beginning of this blog if you're curious).