Thursday, March 31, 2011

More from Empire Quilters' Show

Here are four more photos from the Empire Quilters Guild show last weekend. As before these are not always my favorites but ones that I liked for a specific reason. All four here will be seen to better advantage if you click to enlarge them and then click again to see details. The above is In the Spotlight by Renee Fleuranges-Valdes. Its dramatic impact speaks for itself. She had a second quilt with other African figures that was equally impactful.
This is Forms by Judith Plows. It is an interpretation of a photograph of her house. I love the clean planes and I especially love the square leaves that cover the tree [a "trick" I might use some day] These leaves echo the modern angularity of the house.

I took quite a few other photos but some caught the back of a viewer's head or were shot at a bad angle or had a shadow on them -- that is the hazard of a very successful show when many people crowd around the exhibits and also try to photograph them. Happily at this show the lighting was mostly few satisfactory. Bad lighting at quilt shows makes me very crotchetty.

A leaf again--only a partial view of a 4-part quilt called Vivaldi, the Four Seasons. In this case all were these large leaves but appropriate colors for the seasons. I loved especially the very close quilting and, in this which is summer [I think] the fabrics were very beautiful colors.

Finally below is a favorite, partial view of Jane Broadus's Rats Recycle for New York. [you must double enlarge this] For readers who are not New Yorkers, I will assure you this is an exaggeration although I was rarely walking the streets in the wee hours so might have missed a sight like this. I saw Jane and she told me there are 108 rats on the quilt and she "loved sewing on every one." Nobody is crazy about rats but as she shows, they have their niche in the ecology.

Monday, March 28, 2011


I went down to New York largely to see the Empire Quilters' biannual show which is always a very good one -- and it was once again. There were many wonderful quilts but I took photos largely of ones that were not in every case my favorites but ones that inspire me to try some aspect of what the quilter did. The above is "Eucalyptus" by Babara Hull. I love her colors and fabric choices but what I want to try is the reverse applique that she did. She did very fine embroidery around some of the leaves.
"Starry Batik Path" by Sylvia Hughes seems a very traditional quilt with the alternating plain squares and the star squares but I really love that kind of quilt and I've loved that star pattern for years. The quilt offers an opportunity to use a variety of batiks from my stash and would give me a much delight to make. I probably will do so ... but I can't even imagine at this point how I'd fit it into the many things I want to do.
"Solar Burst" by Laurenda Liang is especially interesting because the light colored points are three dimensional -- she made all of them separately. They are sewn down by the central circle which I believe was appliqued after the background stars were sewn, and then the very tips of the light stars' points was just tacked so the points seem to float atop the rest. I love that look. Something that would be time consuming but fun to do.
Not really last, because I have some other inspirations I may show in a few days, "Bamboo" by Susan Kraster was a queen size quilt. In just a minute one can see how simple the block is, but how very effective it is. This can be a scrap quilt with even more fabrics than the palette Susan used. I think the red stripping is very effective. I am fairly certainly I will try this block ... when I get a chance.

The frustration is that there are so many good ideas, especially for someone who already has a large stash and loves make stash/scrap quilts. I'll write a bit more about the show in a few days. I'm very, very happy I was able to see it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bayberry Guild Speaker

Today's speaker at the Bayberry Quilters Guild meeting was Sarah Ann Smith from Maine. She is especially known for her journal quilts but also teaches other aspects of quilting. Today's lecture and display of her work was the journal quilts; she brought quite a few she had made and exhibited in the Houston show. She also had a slide show with many examples of other quilter's journal quilts. For anyone who doesn't know, Journal quilts are usually the size of a piece of typewriter paper, i.e., 8-1/2 by 12 inches. Although there's no rule and anyone deciding to make her own set of journal quilts can chose the size that suits her.
The first picture is a self-portrait Sarah Ann did, I especially like the yellow hair that escapes the frame of the central picture. It is a nice likeness. I think we all could relate when she said it took a good many photos to get one she liked enough to work with.

The next picture is one I especially liked because she not only found a way to do a quilt about night, but she put her family -- in silhouette -- in the picture. You may have to click and enlarge the image to see the family well. I love the way she handled this element.
The last picture is from as series about the elements, here, it's fire of course, with the Firebird. Sarah Ann used the journal quilts to experiment with all kinds of new techniques which included a lot of use of sheer fabrics and unusual surfaces like Angelina fibers, heat treated Tyvek, couching, beading, all kinds of machine thread work and much else. It was usually in service of an image even when she did a series to work on her color sense.

I would have loved to photograph more but many other women were trying to get a good look and I didn't want to stand in everyone's way. I did explain to her that a year or two before I first heard about the journal quilt project, I had decided to do a journal or "diary" of daily quilts, only 4x6 inches to record my 65th year of life. It was a good year and I knew it was going to be one of a kind. The diary quilts were, of course small and some were extremely simple, but each related to that particular day in some way. I missed a few days, but only 10 or 15 total. I have them, of course. I Xeroxed many and made a book of them. I don't really know what else to do with them -- I put 20 went into a wall quilt. I've thought of writing a verbal journal about the year and using them as illustration but I don't think I am inclined to do that -- they served the expressive purpose I needed at the time.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Art Quilt Collection

Amazon's superior marketing intelligence [such as it is] told me I might also like this book since I was purchasing the Twelve by Twelve which I wrote about a couple posts ago. So I purchased it too and put it aside until I finished enjoying the Twelve By Twelve [enjoyed very much!]

This is a different breed of cat as they say. The full title is The Art Quilt Collection, Designs and Inspiration from Around the World. It contains very nice photos of nearly 150 art quilts which gives a good idea of the enormous variety of approaches to art quilting. The quilters are from around the world, with a really nice selection from Europe and far more than you might expect from Israel [since it's a very small country], I didn't see any from New Zealand and only a couple from Australia [I know there are thriving art quilt groups in both places]. There are a few from Japan. The American ones leave out a lot of extremely well known at quilters, perhaps on purpose. It's a lovely book to look at -- what I call eye candy. There are short artists' statements, there are no bios of the artists. There are 4 to 6 little sections on techniques which are clear and interesting. I am not sorry I have this book as I love looking at the great variety and getting acquainted with art quilters' work I did not previously know. It is in an entirely different category than the fascination and information in the Twelve by Twelve book. The forward by Linda Seward [a name unknown to me and there is no information on who she is in the quilt world] gives me no idea how this collection was pulled together. I really want to know a lot more. Meanwhile, as I say, it's lovely to look at.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Yum! Unbelievable!

I should have taken a picture, but it looked very much like this stock picture -- the flan, called something like "puden" in Portuguese -- meaning pudding. But not just any pudding and not just any flan either. I can go rapturous about certain chocolate desserts and sometimes even a hot butterscotch sundae, but yesterday's FLAN was so good I couldn't believe it. I was beyond word and resisted the urge to confine give in to childish gurlges of pleasure.

A few women from my writing class were here including Patty who shops at the Brazilian specialty store which I generally don't go into when I shop at the fresh produce store on the other side of the parking lot. Words fail me when I wonder how to describe the flavorfulness of the flan -- yes, the huge puddle of carmelized sugar sauce was wonderful but it was the flavor of the super eggy, super sweet flan itself that was better than any other I've ever had. I have a not very big piece left -- happily each person took some home -- and I will share it with my daughter so she can taste this amazing flan also.

Before and after the flan we had a wonderful female gabfest -- and some talk about writing [alas, they helped me convince myself that I must do some major rewriting of the opening of the novel I've written about an elderly quilter] but a lot of talk about concerns of seniors. Two of the women are in ministry/care giving professions and deal mostly with needy older people. I'm happy people of their sensibility and character are working with others who are ailing and needy.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Twelve by Twelve , the book

The Twelve By Twelve group have been blogging and challenging one another to make 12x12 inch quilts on a specific subject [two months deadlines] for almost as long as I've been writing this blog. I discovered them not long after they began their blog and have been a faithful follower -- mostly a lurker. After two years their work became an exhibit at the big annual show in Sydney. Now the first two years of work is a wonderful book that is only just available here in the US -- I ordered it on Amazon soon after I read that that it would be available in March.

I am very much a book person -- I love having the solid object in my hands so I can read a bit when I'm having coffee, flip back and forth through the pages to remind myself which quilter is which. I had seen all the quilts on the blog as they were "revealed" but now I almost have them in my hands. I hope someday to see the exhibit somewhere. No matter how good, a photo is a weak imitation of a quilt.

The book is meatier than most quilt books which makes it especially exciting and worthwhile. In the same Amazon order I got another book of art quilts but have only glanced at it so far -- it's full of wonderful quilts with short artists' statements and I'll write about it in a week or two. But now: Each of the Twelve has a "chapter" in which she writes more intimately about her own participation in the group and what it has meant to her. She also discusses her creative process in reference to one particular quilt. At the end of each chapter is a bit of information specific for the reader about how the reader can form her own group, or about quilters' blogs, etc. And of course the photos! The quilts themselves. I get a sense of each artist's style, of her creative journey through this group. These women were almost complete strangers to one another when one started the group, they live on three continents. Over the two -- now three -- years they have made opportunities to meet, not yet all together. They are both respectful and supportive of one another's work and they write openly of their false starts and their learning process. The book becomes a role model for any quilter who is just beginning to venture into art quilting. It's a source of inspiration for any quilter who wants to go beyond traditional quilting.

Sometimes I buy books full of art quilts, look in awe at the work, usually have little idea of the process by which the work was made, and wonder a few weeks later if I spent my money wisely just to look at pretty pictures. This book is so much more than pretty pictures! I continue to follow the blog -- see the side bar of this blog -- and have begun to think of them as a group of people I almost know personally. They have individual, personal blogs which I often read also where they write about other things in their lives, both as artists and as individuals, so the sense of community is broadened. They are as much a part of my quilting life as are the members of my local guild. The book will "live" on my coffee table where I can pick it up often.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Study for future quilt

How to capture my fascination with the spew of seashells and seaweed on the beach that I study when I walk there -- that is the challenge I've set myself for a small quilt challenge put to the Bayberry Quilters by the officials planning a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the National Seashore here on Cape Cod. We members of the guild have been asked to make quilts 16x20 that depict something about the National Seashore. The quilts will be displayed first at our guild show the first weekend of August and then move to the visitor's center at the National Seashore to hang until sometime in October.

I immediately thought of showing the horseshoe crabs that I find so fascinating when I find them washed up on the sand. They are many sizes from "babies" 3 or 4 inches across to "ancients" 10 or 12 inches with blackened, and often encrusted shells. I had thought of printing photographs on fabric and appliqueing them to a quilt. So far my printer has not been cooperative -- it's very picky about the papers it will accept.

Secondarily, I knew I wanted to create what looked like wave-washed sand and add other shells and seaweed. I have a piece of upholestry fabric that is almost okay but it needs some toning down. So I painted it with thinned acrylic. In this trial piece I think the tone is too white and I will use a tan on the eventual piece. I'm happy with my free quilting with high loft batting that gave me the sense of the wave washed sand. I have other upholstery fabrics with seashell prints. The colors needed to be toned down with pencil and marker -- but I think I will get pastels or blendable crayons to use on the next piece. Then I searched through my small stash of crewel yarns and found a green for the seaweed -- it's not as bright as the fresh weed but that's okay. It's usually tangled with shells so I have tied some shells through the holes that were in them when I picked them up. This one quilt is only about 9x9. When I make the larger one, I may find a way to include a horseshoe crab shell, I will make sure that the shells I cut from my printed fabric to applique are species found here and not something exotic from Aruba or Tahiti. I'm even thinking that there may be some clear fixative I can spray in spots to hold a sprinkling of actual sand on the surface.

This really is a labor of love. I have only discovered the joy of walking on and studying the seashore in the last couple of years. It's a delight to think about how to make this experience work within the small scope of a quilt. The next one will have the elements this has but will be different. I have until August but will get to work on it before long, after I've thought about this a bit more.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hand Knit Mittens

These mittens are the result of a private swap. A talented young woman in Canada made them for me in exchange for some selvage/pictures for her children's rooms. They are made of wonderful thick wool and the red has a nice bit of blue tone in it. They fit perfectly and feel wonderful! When I thought of it, I've reached my ripe old age and have never before had hand knit mittens. Better late than never in this case.

I'm hoping the weather will remain warm enough not to need mittens but there's no guarantee of that. If I can get in another nice walk by the ocean this weekend I'm sure the mittens will go with me. And I'm sure I will wear them a great deal next winter. I'm as delighted as if Santa himself had popped into my mail box and delivered them. No one in my whole family was a knitter; it's a rare treat.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Colors for fun

If I were into perfection I would not show this quilt. That bowed lower hem was not intentional, in fact, it looked perfectly straight on the work table. The final shape has to do with unequal amounts of quilting, plenty in the middle and almost none on the edges. I hung this and thought about simply cutting all the edges off and doing a very slender binding - I might yet.

In fact this is basically a doodle -- I had all these bits of color in little scraps I didn't want to throw away so I cut them into rectangles,1x2, and played with them. I had no plan about balancing the circles and the rectangles, just wanted to see what my playing would produce. This is it. I enjoyed putting the colors in different places. As I say, it's in the nature of a doodle. And, if I live with it like this for a while and get bored quickly, then I will probably cut off the borders and simply bind the central rectangle with the interesting little stripe I have along the edge or simply with black or a bright color that will be turned to the back.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Another poet, on the margin

Here is another of what will be nine or twelve squares of selvages with quotes from and pictures of women poets -- the poets who, whatever prestigious prizes they have garnered, seem to remain on the margins of academic recognition as poets. This is Mary Oliver, who has won a Pulitzer Prize. She writes nature poetry, mostly about Cape Cod. I was dismayed to hear an academic dismiss her recently as of less interest than certain male poets he preferred.

This piece like the one I showed a few weeks ago of Kay Ryan, is unfinished. The photographs are paper, I will copy them onto fabric and sew them on all in good time. I suspect I could eventually made 50 blocks because I suspect I can find fifty women poets who are not rated as highly as I think they deserve to be. But I will probably only do a dozen, and perhaps try to find a venue in which to display them.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Surely Spring Is Coming

Hello, Robin Redbreast! As I sat sewing this morning I became aware of a couple of birds hopping about on the brown grass and lo! First one robin and then another, and they seemed to be finding some tiny morsel beneath the matted old brown grass and the few springs of new green grass pushing up. The sun was bright and beautiful but the temperatures are in the mid-30s. The tree tops across the street are dancing in the blustery wind that keeps me indoors and not out having a walk which I very much want to take.

Besides the robins there were some glossy black birds -- no, not the crows that appear early in the morning, maybe these were grackles although I thought they were a little small for grackles. Does insect life begin to stir with the warm sun on the old grass? Oh, my, there is so much I don't know about the natural world.

I have a bunch of quilt projects in process but nothing worthy of a photo yet. But soon I think.