Friday, January 29, 2010

Charlotte Quilt Symposium: registration is open!

Today is the first day you can mail your registration forms for North Carolina Quilt Symposium 2010! This year, symposium is in Charlotte, June 3-6. NCQS includes workshops with internationally known teachers, lectures, a quilt show and vendors, and lots of other fun activities.

Participants can stay in dorms at Johnson & Wales University in uptown Charlotte, or at hotels. I’ve heard that it is really fun to stay in the dorms, and at night, it is basically a great big pajama party, with lots of laughing, stitching and fun. I can’t wait!

It’s almost impossible to decide what workshops to take, with this lineup of teachers, offering everything from traditional piecing and applique to surface design techniques, thread painting, dyeing, and mixed media:

Charlotte Angotti
Cynthia Corbin
Melody Crust
Patti Culea
Kim Diehl
Karen Eckmeier
Ellen Anne Eddy
Robbi Joy Eklow
Flavin Glover
Bonnie Hunter
Janet Lasher
Susan Purney Mark
Velda Newman
Jenny Raymond
Paula Scaffidi
Pat Sloan
Karen Stone
Carol Taylor
David Taylor
Laura Wasilowski
Elin Waterson
Terry White

There really is something for every quilter’s ability level and interest.

The quilt I designed is the donation quilt for Symposium, and the pattern will be available for purchase there, with all proceeds benefiting the Symposum fund. It is called “Nothing Could Be Finer.”

To download registration materials, click here. And I’ll see you there!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pink Rose

Here’s the little piece I made for ToteTuesday (see my previous post), all finished. It is 8-1/2 x 8-1/4". It’s getting a label and going in the mail tomorrow. It will be auctioned off on Feb. 23!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A pink rose for ACS fundraiser

This afternoon, I worked on a project I will be donating to ToteTuesday, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society (ACS) spearheaded by Virginia Spiegel. My latest works, a series of orchids for an upcoming exhibition, are wholecloth painted pieces that start out as white fabric (Pimatex PFD by Robert Kaufman). I paint the entire surface with acrylic textile paint, and then quilt them. I decided to execute this small project the same way.

It is based on this photo from my garden, which I took several years ago:

Now that I can see the photo and the painted piece next to each other, I can see some areas that need to be lightened and others darkened. Somehow it helps to reduce the size and stand back; I can see the little details that can make a big difference. I changed a few things – I’m not trying to reproduce the photo exactly – and made the background more dramatic. It is a little piece, about 7-8".

This little art quilt will go in one of my friend Peggy Schroder’s “Have a Heart” totes that will be auctioned off in February, with 100% of the proceeds going to ACS. I’ll let you know the exact date once I know it. You can read more details about the fundraiser at my Jan. 15 post. If you want to contribute to a fabulous cause and get some great loot, please check out these totes and consider bidding!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Last orchid piece done!

Freckles 24.5 x 35"

With about a week and a half until we hang the Fiber Arts Options exhibition at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, I have finished quilting my last orchid piece. I’m calling it Freckles. I still have to face it and stitch on the label, but it is done!

Here is a detail shot:

And I am loving the new #15 foot for my Bernina. I have been using the clear plastic free-motion foot (#29), and really liked it. After about six years of heavy use, and I broke through my original plastic foot and had to get a new one. But several of my quilting friends urged me to try a metal foot, so decided to give one a try. This one has a bigger loop than the regular darning foot, so I can see where I’m going better, and I think it will hold up better under the heavy-duty quilting I do!

Here’s a recap of my pieces for the show (from top left: Purple Phalaenopsis, Freckles, Pink Phalaenopsis, and Ruffles). Which one do you like best, and why?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Postcard from Glacier National Park

"Post Card from Glacier National Park: Avalanche Lake"

Did y’all get your copies of the February/March 2010 issue of Quilting Arts magazine? Mine came yesterday. If not, you should be able to get it at newsstands soon, and of course, you can get it online at Quilting Arts.

I’m so excited that the first lesson in my Thread Sketching 101 series is out! Throughout 2010, I’ll be writing about using thread to add color, dimension, texture, line, pattern and movement to the surface of an art quilt. This first installment focuses on adding color with thread.

The tiny art quilt above, created for this lesson, is only 9-1/2" x 6-3/4". It’s great to work small when you are learning a new technique, so I am making most of the projects for this series pretty little. This baby is based on a photo I took in 1987, when I visited Glacier National Park for the second time. Glacier is my favorite wild place to be.

I just finished writing the next lesson, which focuses on line, and has some more in-depth information on stabilizing your work before thread sketching.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Coming along

This piece is really coming along. I painted all last night. Just some detail work now. I am thrilled with this so far. I am finding it valuable to take a photo every now and then, because seeing it much smaller helps me to see areas that need more detail, or a higher contrast in value. There are a few areas where the petals overlap where I need to darken a bit. See, I learned from the Purple Phalaenopsis debacle! (See previous posts.)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Pink Orchids in progress

With less than three weeks to go, I am starting the last of my pieces for Fiber Art Options’ group show, “Orchids: Sensuality Stitched” (see the previous post). Cutting it close? Yep, but I often do. I must like the adrenaline rush. The photo above shows the piece in progress, in the painting stage.

I’ve been getting some questions about the process I use for these. They are wholecloth painted pieces. I start with Pimatex PFD (a tightly woven cotton fabric by Robert Kaufman that is Prepared For Dyeing). I trace my design onto the fabric and tape it down, very taut, to my kitchen counters. They are really old, ugly yellow laminate. It is probably a good thing that we can’t afford to replace them, because I use them this way a lot, since I don’t have space in my studio for wet work. The paint comes right off with SoftScrub when I am done.

The photo above shows how I work. That’s the original photo (shown below) taped up to the microwave. The kitchen is not terribly functional at this point, so I try to find a good block of time, a few days, where I can invest a decent amount of time on this one project. I can still prepare simple meals on the other counters, or we can eat fast food for a bit. I’ve probably put in about five hours of painting so far.

I don’t mix too many colors at one time, because I’m pretty much constantly interrupted by the kids, or the plumber (who was here this morning and left us with an audacious estimate to fix a water line problem) or the telephone, or the ten million other things I am juggling. When I have to, I put plastic wrap over the paint, wash my brushes and let it wait until the next ten minutes that come open.

I’m excited about this one. The colors are delectable.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

“Orchids: Sensuality Stitched” exhibition starts Feb. 6

“Orchids: Sensuality Stitched“ is an exhibition of artwork by Fiber Art Options, a group of seven artists from the Charlotte area who work in fabric, paper and thread. The exhibition captures the exotic, colorful essence of the most diverse plant family on earth. Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden is hosting the exhibition’s first showing as part of its Orchid Spectacular.

Members of Fiber Art Options are Linda Stegall, Janet A. Lasher, Deborah M. Langsam, K. Grace Howes, Nancy G. Cook, P.J. Howard and me. We will walk visitors through the exhibition, demonstrate our techniques and talk about our work on Feb. 6 and 7 from noon to 4 p.m.

Want to go?
Feb. 6 through March 14, 2010
Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden
Belmont, NC

Friday, January 15, 2010

Thread Sketching 101, Lesson One: Focus on Color

"A New Box"

My first column on thread sketching is in the February/March 2010 issue of Quilting Arts magazine, which is hitting mailboxes now. Throughout 2010, I’ll be writing about using thread to add color, dimension, texture, line, pattern and movement to the surface of an art quilt. The first installment focuses on adding color with thread.

Thread sketching is something I discuss in my Quilting Arts Workshop DVD, “Master Machine Quilting: Free-motion Stitching and Thread Sketching,” but in the column, I’ll go provide lots more tips, go into more detail, and teach readers how to get great results through exercises and practice.

When I was a kid, I always loved getting a new box of crayons. Preferably the giant 96-count box with the built-in sharpener. I loved the look, smell and feel of those perfectly sharpened, waxy crayons. Pristine, before you had to tear the paper down. I’d take them all out and rearrange them in a spectrum. So when I wanted to demonstrate how much you could do with thread alone, crayons immediately came to mind.

Quilting Arts will be offering my “A New Box” design (above) as an online extra. It’s a great way to practice your thread-sketching skills. I don’t see it on the website yet; I’ll update this post with a link when I do.

Tote Tuesday: I’m on board!

An online friend, Peggy Schroder, has asked me to participate in Tote Tuesday, and despite my fairly substantial obligations and deadlines right now, I just had to say yes. Have you heard about Tote Tuesday yet? It is the latest fundraising idea from an extraordinary woman and artist, Virginia Spiegel, who has raised nearly $200,000 for the American Cancer Society through Fiberart For A Cause. If Virginia can do all that, and if Peggy can organize filling the tote, then I can certainly contribute a small item!

Here’s the information on Virginia’s blog:

ToteTuesday, a Fiberart For A Cause fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, will open Tuesday, February 2 and continue through March. It’s a fundraiser AND a showcase for everything that is fun and creative about the fiber arts.

ToteTuesday will feature themed totes filled with unique, beautiful, and inspiring items from the worlds of fiber arts, knitting, art quilting, mixed media and surface design.

You can expect totes offering original artwork, autographed books, hand-dyed fabrics, discharged, rust-dyed and painted fabrics, beads, gorgeous yarns, handmade journals, fun and useful materials/tools for mixed-media and surface design, certificates for online classes and much, much more.

Themed totes will include either a nifty purple Relay For Life (the ACS’s biggest grassroots fundraiser) tote or a custom-made one.

There will be an auction from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. every Tuesday with a required opening bid with additional bids requested in $10 increments. There will also be a Go for the Gold! price if you can’t wait to own the tote AND want to be a champion supporter of the ACS.
I’ll be contributing an item for a tote bag called “Have a Heart” that Peggy is sponsoring. She is sponsoring four tote bags in all (wow!) and the “Have a Heart” one is the first of hers. It will be auctioned off in February, before Valentine’s Day.

A list of the 24 themed totes now in progress are listed on Virginia’s website. The auction of the totes will take place Tuesdays in February and March on Virginia's blog.

One hundred percent of the funds raised by ToteTuesday will be donated directly to the American Cancer Society.

Want to know more about Virginia Spiegel? Pokey Bolton, editor of Quilting Arts magazine, has a great new interview with Virginia on her blog.

Note: The Tote Tuesday logo was designed by Jeanelle McCall.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

PaperClay Valentine

I played with Creative PaperClay for the first time at our Pandoras meeting on Monday, and followed instructions by Elaine Thomas in the January/February issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine to make this cutie. What fun! I started out by molding the clay around a lump of aluminum foil (see photo at right), then let it air dry.

I painted it with liquid acrylic paint in pretty bright colors. The red of the heart, for example, was a cherry red. I needed a teeny-tiny brush to do the features, since the whole thing is only about 3" high, and the face is about 1". After that was dry, I coated the whole thing with brown paint, and wiped most of it off to give it a more mottled, antiqued appearance.

The ruff around her neck is made from a strip from a beat-up old hymnal I found in an antique store (no, I wouldn’t rip up a perfectly good hymnal, Mom!) Last, I added some superfine glitter on her collar, and a little bit overall on the heart. I am still considering giving her a little birthmark mole.

Elaine’s directions were very easy to follow, and I was pleased with the results. Next time, I’ll try to do something in my style, instead of following hers, but this was a great learning experience. I’ve been wanting to do some Halloween pieces, and the PaperClay will be perfect!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Lessons from the purple orchid

This is my piece, Purple Phalaenopsis, today, after major changes. I almost burned it in a ritualistic bonfire a few days after Christmas. In the process of reworking this piece, I have learned some important lessons about art, the critiquing process, and about how much to trust myself as an artist.

Want to hear the whole, sad story? Okay, here goes.

This is how it looked about a month ago, when I took it to a meeting of Fiber Art Options, a group of fiber artists in the Charlotte area:

Purple Phalaenopsis on 12.12.09

I was generally pleased with it overall (okay, to be honest, I was pretty excited about it), except for the labellum. That’s the fancy name for a specialized petal that acts as a landing platform for the pollinator. It is sometimes called the “lip.” It’s right below the column (or “nose”), which is usually a white waxy structure in the center, and contains the male and female reproductive organs of the flower. On my quilt, it is that elongated darker purple blobby thing below the white area.

I showed the piece to my group, and they confirmed my suspicions.

They told me that I had quilted the labellum too heavily. (Lesson 1: Quilt heavily on areas that should recede; quilt lightly on areas that should come forward.) It also didn’t help that it was darker, because dark things also appear to recede, while light things appear to come forward. Part of the reason for this problem was that I was trying to faithfully reproduce my photo. (Lesson 2: As an artist, you have the right and the duty – and the artistic license – to change things so that that your piece works better.)

Purple Phalaenopsis (detail) on 12.12.09

Then they moved on to other problems. They told me my background colors were too bright and too clear, and popped out too much, and needed to be toned down. They told me that there was visual confusion as to where my petals were, because the colors along the edges were too similar. They told me a bunch of stuff, and one person suggested one solution, and another suggested a different solution, and before long, my head was spinning and I considered running from the room. I stayed because I like these people, and I respect them. I trusted them to tell me what they really thought, and they did. (Lesson 3: If you ask for a critiqué, you have to be prepared for criticism. But you still have the right to draw a line in the sand, and politely explain that you’ve had as much as you can handle for that session.)

And so, after leaving that meeting, over the next week or so, I pondered what to do. I lamented my lack of formal art training, which might have helped me see what I needed to see, and avoid these pitfalls. I stopped thinking about the joy that creating the piece had given me – the process – and obsessed over the finished piece – the product. I let all the criticisms from others, and my own negativity, get to me, and I started hating that purple orchid staring down at me from my design wall. (Lesson 4: In the end, it doesn’t matter what others think as much as what you think about your own work.)

And then, determination set in. That orchid was not going to defeat me. I was going to fix it. I would rebuild it, better than before. (Cue the theme song from "The Six Million Dollar Man.”) I got out my paints and made some places lighter (the edges of some of the petals), some places darker (the areas of the petals that were going behind other petals), and some places muddier (the green background areas).

I repainted that d**n labellum. I put it back up on my design wall and pondered some more. Nope, still not right. I took it down the next day and tried again. And again. And then I cried (just the littlest bit). In the darkest hour, I started seeing it going up in flames in the backyard, and toasting marshmallows over it on a cold, clear winter’s night. A revenge fantasy. Go to hellum, labellum! I went to bed that night despairing.

Morning came, and, rested and more hopeful, I decided on a different tack. It didn’t make sense to burn it. Its image was already being used in online advertising for our groups’ exhibition. No, I would admit defeat, and with proper humility, begin again. Not on the whole piece, but on the most problematic part: the labellum. I re-sketched and painted that piece on a fresh piece of white fabric. I cut it out, leaving a seam allowance, and pinned it in place, and appliquéd it to the background, covering the hideous part. I stuffed it with a bit of fiberfill, so that it would physically stand out a bit more. Appliquéing was difficult, since the paint had made the fabric very stiff, and since it was in the center of the quilt, it was impossible to scrunch up the fabric as I worked. My fingers were literally bleeding while I worked. But I persevered. Next, I quilted it, but only a little bit, to emphasize the folds and curves. (Lesson 5: Things are always better in the morning. Sleep and a fresh perspective can work wonders. And “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”)

Did it look better? I wasn’t sure. I was so frustrated that I didn’t know whether to trust my judgment and my instincts, and frankly, I had reached the point where I didn’t care. My goal was to sew the new labellum on there and hang it up for a few days. If I still hated it, there was plenty of time for that backyard conflagration. I’m still not sure what I think. Probably it is better. I haven’t burned it yet.


“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” — Samuel Beckett


Here’s the next piece finished (except for the facing) and ready to enter the fray. As my husband is fond of saying, “We soldier on.”

Some detail shots:

Monday, January 11, 2010

January Pandoras meeting

Today was our January meeting of the Pandoras, my local fiber art group. It happened to fall on Grace’s birthday, so of course we had to have cake! Fluffy white cake with cream cheese frosting and lemon curd… yum! Grace’s husband interrupted our meeting every 10 minutes with a phone text message saying “Happy Birthday!” Very sweet, don’t you think? I love this photo of Grace, showing the cute little gap between her front teeth. She is very fun-loving and has the most amazing laugh. Happy Birthday, my dear friend!

Here is Grace in a more serious mode (below), working with watercolor pencils and Caran D’Ache Neocolor II Watersoluble Crayons crayons on fabric. She is experimenting with using them on one of her orchid pieces she is doing for our Fiber Art Options group exhibition next month. While we usually work on the same project (picked out by the host), this month we brought our own things and just worked side by side.

Michele worked on this lovely beaded fish piece. She’s done several of these beaded buttons, and they are to die for! Michele works in a very eclectic mix of needle arts… quilting, beading, needlepoint, doll-making…

Meanwhile, Alisan and I tried out Creative PaperClay for the first time, and followed instructions by Elaine Thomas in the January/February issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine to make folk art Valentines. (You can see Elaine’s wonderful work on her blog, her Flickr account, and her Etsy shop.)

Here’s how mine looked after I shaped the clay. The heart is built around molded aluminum foil, so it is very light. I’ll post photos of it once it is dry and painted so you can see how it turns out.

I really liked working with PaperClay. When I was in college, I made some pieces in porcelain clay while working at a YMCA camp during the summer. This has a similar feel, but has a little more spring or flexibility to it. It does not need to be fired, but simply air dries, and can then be sanded and smoothed before painting. It can even be wet again and re-worked somewhat.

I enjoy working three-dimensionally… guess I had forgotten how much. Must… resist… temptation… focus, focus!

Another embroidery piece

Last summer, I embroidered a piece I called Petri Dish Promenade. It was done on a piece of white fabric I had batiked with soy wax, and then dyed. I still have not decided what to do with it, but I’m leaning toward making a simply-quilted background and stitching it to that, rather than trimming it in any way (after some of my fiber art friends who saw it were aghast at the thought).

A few months ago, I decided to start another similar piece, this time using a piece of clamp-dyed shibori fabric I dyed last year. The black-and-white background gives quite a different effect, much starker. It is 18" x 20". And this time, I’m working with squares, diamonds and angles – quite different from the circles in Petri. It’s still in progress; I’m working now on the red patch at the bottom right.

I’m using all different weights of threads and flosses by many different manufacturers. The stringy bits are actually the threads that came out of my dryer after I washed quilting fabric (mostly hand-dyeds) for the first time. And a bit of hand-dyed silk hankie here and there.

I just love the simple hand stitching and French knots.

When I’m not working on a needleturn appliqué project, this is what I take to my kid’s soccer practice, piano lesson, dentist’s appointments, etc., to keep me busy. In between, it lives here (on top of this adorable child’s toy dresser) in this beautiful African basket:

I made the liner using a pattern by Clothesline Quilts. Inside is a little quilted bag with all my shreddy fabric bits:

… and below that, some of my embroidery threads: