Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Quarterly Report: Update

One day in January a poem fell out of my fingers and onto my keyboard.  It's the first poem I've written in 50 years, so I thought I'd share it with you.

                        Studio Thoughts

In my messy studio, I am master of little.
Invisible mistifuse disappears and reappears at will.
Scissors dull and needles rust for no reason at all.
Bits and bolts of fabric dance about while I sleep, merely to confuse me.
Thread, carefully wound, unwinds itself.
And the dust bunnies are mating.
Why then do I love it so?
Because it's mine.
Because time holds still there.
And sometimes, when I least expect it, I make something  beautiful.

Also, in January, my Wednesday Critique Group hung a large show in an unusual place. The Pinnacle Center is a gigantic office building in Tysons Corner (northern VA) that is dedicated to showing art, most of it hung in huge windows in the corridors off the main hall.  Here's a photo showing us measuring the size of the windows....
  and above is Donna Radnor and her iPad, to give a sense of the scale.

Apparently, the concierge in the main entry says that they are getting a lot of nice comments about the quilts from people coming through.

Leaf Time

I took a little half-day class at Capital Quilts, learning how to work with a new product: InSpire, which is more rigid that TimTex, but is moldable when heated.  We made little pieced leaf bowls.  Here's a photo of the first step, when the backing is fused to the InSpire, and the bits of fabric are laid out inside the drawn edge of the leaf:

Yep; that's my black and white leaf, but the hands are those of Alison Zacharkiw, the teacher.  In the next photo, she's demonstrating free-motion drawing of the veins in each segment:
And then, zig-zagging over the junctions where the pieces meet (actually this is a tiny bit of movie, and you can hear the needle noisily punching through the stiffener):

We couched embroidery floss down the center vein of the leaf. Then, we carefully cut around the shape, and did a zig-zag around the perimeter (needle going on the fabric and then off the fabric to make the bound edge) several times 'round.  The final step was to heat the leaf with an iron, and then quickly press it to an inverted drinking glass, pleating the leaf with our hands to give it shape. 

Here's the final piece, front view and back view:

I so enjoyed the process that I made a whole bunch of them; here's a few:

The Graphic Memoir
     I had no idea how popular "graphic novels" were becoming, but I saw that Politics and Prose (favorite DC bookshop) was advertising a course in producing a graphic memoir, taught by Janice Shapiro, a published artist/writer from NYC, so I signed up in February. I discovered that P&P has one huge wall just devoted to graphic novels.
     Janice shleps down to DC once a month to teach us how to do one ourselves.  At the end of 6 months, we should have produced a small book on some aspect of our own lives.  The story I've chosen is "It All Began With Georgie".... how I found my way to quilting (which you can see if you go to the very first entry in this blog!).
     We're learning storyboarding, sketching, working with india inks with pen and brush on bristol board, lettering, use of perspective, etc.  Since we are the central character and must be recognizable in different pictures, seen from different angles, we had to practice drawing ourselves, first.  Here's a page of "me's":
(Too bad I just had my hair straightened?!) Anyway, I don't know how, but I'm sure that some of what I'm practicing in this course will find its way into my quilt art. Scott McCloud has written several paperback books on making comic art, if you are interested in this topic, and a very poignant example of this art form can be seen in the 2-volume book, Maus, on the Holocaust.


The Fence was accepted at Black Rock Center for the Arts for their annual fiber art show.
Graphic #1 will be at FAVA's Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary Quilts:  The Artist as Quiltmaker, May 13-July 29, 2012.
Dreaming of Spring is hanging at the Pinnacle Gallery (above).

Gotta Dance is hanging in my son's new office waiting room (The Body Image Therapy Center)!

And my SAQA auction piece, Yes We Can, has been sent in for early admission.

More Classes
       I signed up for an all-day course in AirBrush painting at a local art store at the end of February.  It was fun, but I could only take the first part of the day, planning to take the second part on the next class cycle.  Here's an example of one piece I played with:

By the time I left the class, I had itchy eyes, a cough, and several "Black" sneezes.  There were 12 of us (plus teacher) in a closed room, arrayed around a rectangular table, each spraying away with black airbrush ink. No one wore even a mask, including the teacher.
As the cough lingered, I wrote to Susan Shie (airbrush artist extraordinaire) about her process and the kinds of paint she uses. Her letter back to me was a powerful wake-up call, and I want to share it with you here (with her permission), in case you're ever tempted to try airbrush work:

"This is totally shocking... I wear a very serious respirator with filters on it that catch particles and fumes both, and pre-filters over the filters, when I airbrush. I also have a serious exhaust fan built into the room's window. My respirators are 3M 6000 models....these are latex-free respirators. Paper masks are not enough protection.

I would never, ever airbrush with more than two people working at once, even with them wearing respirators. Respirators, not paper masks.

My paint is water based airbrush paint, but the only difference between that and ink is the thickness. It's all about pigments, which are heavy metals, all of them, and about the synthetic compounds that bind the paints, inks, whatever.

It doesn't matter what you're putting through the airbrush. As you see, it got into your lungs, and your body is desperately trying to expel it.....it's all toxic....The instructor is getting the worst of it, teaching over and over, but each student is terribly abused by such irresponsible behavior. I would never, EVER allow one person to use an airbrush unprotected,not even outside! The health problems are not just risks, but are givens."

Postscript: I printed out a copy of Susan's letter and took it to the store manager where the course was given. She was very angry, glanced at the letter and put it down on the table. Didn't she want to keep it? No. Or share it with the (young) teacher? No. She did not step up to the problem in any way.

So, wanting to make something useful of this experience, I'm sharing it here.  If even one person can be spared the experience that I had, I will be grateful.  Pass it on, as a rumor!

     I had a better experience taking a class with Saaraliisa Ylitalo on JOOMCHI, a Korean art of making textured papers. Here's the beautiful Saaraliisa (no, I'm not misspelling...it's a Finnish name):
The process begins with sheets of mulberry paper, painted thickly with water, then layered with 2 or more sheets of tissue or other paper:

Repainted with water and then rolled out to remove air bubbles:

Then scrunched up into a ball to be pressed as the ball is passed from one hand to another.  For 40 minutes!

What's happening is that the paper fibers are being "felted"; the paper is unrolled, scrunched again in a different direction, and then refelted (plus two more scrunchings).  Oy!

When I got mine home, I ironed it out, and here's my joomchi paper, hope you can see the texture as well as the bits of colored paper sandwiched between the other sheets.  It shrunk to about 
8"x 11", and has a quality almost like fabric.  

What I'm working on....
     I'm making some progress on my dancing rubber chickens, altho' there's a lot more work to do:

       I've been drawing and photographing hands for some time, and am starting to make tiny hand quilts, which may find their way into a large piece later.  Here's a few:

      But more than anything, the thing I'm most proud of...and exhausted by...is a total reorganization of my studio.  It all started when I took my Bernina out for its biennial cleaning, which led me to clean my sewing table, which lead to cleaning the chair, which led to taking out my messy stash of blue fabrics.....and, you can see where I'm going.  It's taking ALL my free time to keep at this, and I have 2 enormous bags of give-away fabric, but look --- just take a deep breath and look -- at this shelf!!!