Thursday, May 28, 2015

Why DON"T people buy art?

It's not easy selling art quilts, is it?
 At least I've not found it so....I thought at first that people don't buy fiber art because they think it's more difficult to clean - or will gather more dust....of course neither is true.  Think of a "dream catcher"  - nothing catches more dust than one of those!  And how often have you laundered a calendar or a poster?

Having visited several different homes recently - new acquaintances, I think people simply don't buy art at all.   Perhaps  the odd poster, or dust ( sorry, dream) catcher...but not real art.  Even the tallest walls are depressingly empty, around the windows might be fancy drapes with succulent valances, on the floor, beautiful Chinese or Persian rugs, quartz in the kitchen and the most luxuriant fittings in the bathroom...but no art.   Why not?

Why don't people buy art?

Like everything else there are probably lots of reasons but some of the chief ones I've come across are:

1. Money:  Real art (i.e. not a reproduction) is seen as being too expensive.  And quilts certainly are expensive - the amount of time it takes to make one, if truly reflected in the price, would make them monumentally expensive.  Nearly as much as a tv, or a computer, or a year's supply of phone cell coverage or a few month's worth of eating out.    And we know how much more important THEY are!

2.   Supply and Demand: There are a lot of objects and services out there competing for money.   There are all those expensive electronics to buy and then their service plans, and the extra insurance we all need these days (though sometimes I REALLY wonder about that!).  There are a LOT of things we can spend out money on!

3.  Hidden value: Few see the value of owning art.  You never  see people comparing the paintings or wall textiles they've bought.  At a social event, frequently everyone is whipping out their smart phones (very smart most of them because they make people feel instantly better about themselves for owning one!), or their iPads, trooping out to look at the new car ...and I'm sure in some places, their artillery! but rarely do you hear "oh you must come and see this wonderful art quilt I just bought".
Have you ever seen a tv program about owning art?  And yet look at how often all those other products are seen in adverts:  the cars, the computers, the clothes, the fancy houses, even the recreational drugs to be taken in the bathtub!  Society as a whole doesn't value art probably, in part, because big business isn't out there advertising it!

4.  Fear of looking foolish, uncertainty:   It's easier too to judge the cost of a car - if it's bigger and faster and shinier then we know it's worth more.  Hard to judge that with art work.  People are unsure of the value of a piece of art - whatever medium.  They worry that others might think they've spent too much, that they've been taken for a ride (and not in a big, fast, shiny car!)  The average perception of the value of something called a quilt is based on Walmart prices...craft fair prices.  
They're worried that they're making a mistake, they don't know whether or not they'll still love the piece in a year's time...  If you think about it, it does take quite a lot of guts to drop a grand on something that you're unsure of.  That's a lot of money for most of us to justify spending.  And most art quilts cost even more than that:  in a show like Quilt National, I bet there are very very few pieces that are not well over a grand.

5.  Lack of knowledge: most people have absolutely no idea how much a piece of art can enrich a room, how it can simply make you feel good to look at it.  When we make our art quilts we feel very good!  We've pulled it off, we've got our idea out reality.  That's a great feeling for us.  But will it make others feel good to look at it, will it enrich Their lives as well as ours in having made it?
Is that so...and can we convince them that it is so?

6. Unconsciousness of the continuity that owning art work gives you.  this is especially true for those of us who have moved a lot in our lives...every time we've moved the first things I have unpacked and hung are the paintings and hangings; immediately our surroundings become home.   The dearness of the familiar composition is something that's hard to convey unless you've done this.

Alas, knowing why doesn't really help the cause....every art quilter I know has a cupboard full of the beautiful creations, all rolled up.....

how do you feel?  

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!!   Elizabeth

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Seeing is Believing.

Many many artists these days, let's face it, work primarily from photographs and there's nothing wrong with this.   As a starting point.  But there comes a time when you MUST forget the photograph and pay attention only to the piece you're making - whether you're at the sketch stage or the blocking out of the quilt stage.

Adhering too closely to the photo leads to many problems.

1. Objects:
The photo is not necessarily a good composition.  the shapes and lines might well be in the wrong places!  Wrong in the sense of a good coherent, pleasing and Interesting arrangement.
Don't put the tree slap bang in the middle just because it was there in the photo!

2. Horizon Line. As it happens, the most common thing to have right in the middle is the horizon line - because  that's the way we look through the camera - holding it at that mid point to take the photo.
However a composition is invariably much more interesting if the horizon line is high, or low...not right in the middle bisecting the image exactly in half.

Note in the above photo, I've got a nice low horizon, and  the focal point is off center...but see how the camera makes all those deep shadows into one dark black?  in actuality, they were dark green, marroon, purple and blue... 80% and 90% black not 100% black.

3. Focal Point: Also when we compose a photo, we usually put the focal point right in the middle...but in a composition in cloth (or paint and paper), the design is much more interesting if the focal pint is NOT exactly in the middle.

4. Value: The values are almost certainly going to be wrong - it is well known that the camera tends to push all the light values into one Super Light value, and to put all the darks into one Really Dark value.
If you think about values on an 11 point scale : 0% dark, 10% dark, 20% dark all the way to 100% black, the camera will probably get the middle values: 40-70% about right - in that it will show them as being different....but it will frequently blur the 80, 90 and 100 % together.  Ditto at the light end of the scale.

5. The subject of the photo: The photo is only what the camera sees and not what you actually see (your Eyes are much better and you have Two of  them!).  Look with your eyes, then compare that visual memory to the image on the camera ( or these days for it seems every one except me still muddling along with a dumb one...) the image on your (perhaps not so?) smart phone.  Where is the sparkle?  Where is the depth?  where is the subtlety of tone?  Where is the sense that the air is soft and misty or sharp to the point of crackling?

6. Your own impressions: Nor does the camera view reflect what you feel, what you sense in the temperature of the air, the stillness or windiness, the smell, the sounds, perhaps even the taste.  A camera can't capture these...but you can take a quick moment to note them all.

7.  Make notes: So when taking the photo, don't just hastily whip it out, snap snap snap, barely even look at the scene with the Real Thing: your artist's eyes....instead look and look and look - capture it all in your mind and then take the photo, for reference.  Make a few notes on a scrap of paper if you can.  I usually carry a pencil and a few 3x5 cards with me when out for a walk.  It's amazing how often you have Great Thoughts when walking!

8. Color: On the other hand....a photograph can tell you something about the color of the objects in the scene, because it just images what is there.  It doesn't label the colors as our brains do - frequently incorrectly as it happens.  Look at the tree you have just photographed - see how many different greens there are?  often the leaves will go from very light, almost white to very dark tones.  If  the sun is warm, or there are reflections from a warm toned object, they'll show those overtones too.  And vice versa with cool tones.  But what does the brain do??  Leaves are green...all the way round!  Look at an orange sitting in a sunny window.  Our brain says oho that orange is orange all over....but - no - really look - see how it's almost white where the sun hits it?  see how the underside reflects the color of the window sill?  see how there are blue shadows, and green shadows?  This is even more noticeable if you can get a naked person to sit in a sunny window!!  I guarantee you'll see practically every color there is - but probably NOT beige!

 9. Rose colored spectacles: If ever I see another quilt with a bright blue sky, a bright green tree, a bright red barn, bright yellow chickens, brown fences, purple and pink flowers, I shall have to search out those rose-colored glasses again - long retired and used only for the sake of my stomach when eating school dinners (I went to a convent school where the usual fare was grey mutton, grey mashed potatoes, yellowish grey swedes followed by grey rice).  Ugh......

10.  Color is light, light spreads: Trees are rarely (if ever) a solid viridian green, fences are rarely a solid brown etc.   Just look and see!
And if the sky truly is blue, that blue is usually reflected (to some extent) in anything that is in any way glossy that is facing towards the sky.

yes Seeing, really really really Seeing...can lead to Truth!
and you know the adage:  Truth is Beauty!
If you have been, thanks for reading....and do please comment - I promise I won't put those rosy specs on to read your comments!


Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Magazine Interview and a Divided Quilt

No, the Magazine interview isn't about the Divided Quilt!!
 But it is about the quilts I've made - and not chopped up! -  plus a very nice interview I had with Rose de Boer, the Editor.
 The magazine in question is Quilting Arts Magazine.
The June/July issue is coming out on May 26 - alas I'm not a cover girl (well that was hardly to be expected with my hair!) but my quilts are on more than one page...somewhere inside!  So, do take a look!

And the quilt I divided up??'s the story.  I need two gifts for two ladies who have been very good to me, and they are good I was wondering what to take them...and then I had the idea of cutting a quilt into two and giving  them half each!  It's not a very big quilt...originally about 18 x 24...but I always liked it and it's travelled around quite a bit - time it got a good home - or Two Good Homes!

Here's the original:

I love cutting things up and creating new things...and in my classes I'm always suggested people crop their sketches.  So often we put Far Too Much into one image.

So here are the two....tell me what you think!!

I hope my two friends with be happy with them!  And that they think these are more fun than a bottle of wine or a box of chocolates...though of course it does depend on Which Wine and Which Chocolates!

If you have been, thanks for reading!
Love the comments....please, more!


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Why are there so many Quilt teachers?

I notice that a great many quilt makers are teaching nowadays;  I wonder why?

If I talk with my painting friends, very few of them teach.  And in my piano playing group nobody teaches at all!  Nor in the square dancing group.  So what is it about quilt making that leads one to teach?
For me...I had one lesson - the very first one in traditional quilt making where you cut out precise triangles and put them together also very precisely to make a cushion/pillow cover.  (Cushions and pillows mean different things in the UK and  the USA by the way.  An American pillow is an English cushion!  I've never yet discovered what an American cushion is!  Also it took me a long long time to realize that in America, a garden is actually nothing more than a vegetable patch - people say "I'm putting in my garden this weekend" and you're thinking "a whole garden???!! in a weekend?!!"..ah well, I digress.)

My beginning: I had one quilting lesson, the teacher had to go into hospital, I went to visit her - no grapes, no health enquiries just "when is the next lesson?"  Like an addict!  I quickly volunteered to help her teach the next lesson and the one after that....and so it began.

And so, I began teaching because I wanted to learn...and I would say that has continued for me.  I wanted a class in design - nobody was teaching it, so I went out and learned it in a different medium, then taught it to myself for fiber, then was asked to teach it to others. (of course now, Everyone is teaching design!)

For me teaching has always been about what I wanted to learn myself.  I love to do the research required before I put a class or set of classes together.  I rarely devise a class where I already know everything!  I want to be able to go out and learn something new, analyze and synthesize, really get to know it and then put it together in a class.  So I really enjoy coming up with new classes.  I don't know how people can just teach the same class over and over.  When I was a university lecturer and had to do three sections of the same topic in one semester, I felt like an automaton!!  Of course soon I would deviate from the curriculum in three different ways!

 I'm currently really enjoying putting together a Master Class where I get to choose the topics!!  (if you're interested by the way, call Linda at  508-477-0057 , she's organizing it and there are a couple of spaces have recently opened up because of late cancellations.  Cape cod.  June 8-12). 

  I've chosen to study something called the Hidden Order, the structure that holds a composition together.  It's a way of seeing the bones of the design, like the skeleton supports the human body.   But that's just the first thing!  
Then I thought it would be really interesting to look at some of the male abstract artists that I ignored when I developed my Abstract Art for quilt makers class.  Funny that...ignoring the white males!!!  So we're going to take a look at them, examine and analyze their abstraction processes then apply those to quilt design. 
  After that, I decided it would be really neat to show how one photograph can lead to many many different designs.  By the end of the week everyone should have a whole folder of great designs, and several small quilts all blocked out.  
Lots of critiquing to help make designs stronger - which I could have used myself when I made this shaggy dog below!!

This winter, I plant to expand the Hidden Order part of this class into an online class for next year....and then develop a Part 2 to my Abstract Art for Quiltmakers class after that.
But who knows what I will stumble across that I really want to learn!

So Learning is why I teach.  Here's a link to my workshops.
Of course there is also the wonder of visiting so many different beautiful places.  I've been all over the West Coast now from San Diego  upto Salt Spring Island (July).
On the East Coast I've been down to Sanibel and upto Cape Cod - never, alas, to Maine!!
I've been from Alabama to Canmore, north of Calgary. From Gateway Canyon to Hudson River Valley.

But why is teaching so popular for other folk?

Perhaps one reason  that people start teaching early is because the basics of quilt making are pretty straight forward and easy and it's so much fun you want to tell everyone about it and get them doing the same thing!

Another reason is  that it's a lot easier to make money (albeit not a lot) with teaching than it is with selling work which seems to get harder and harder every year.

What d'you think?   Why are so many of us quilters out there teaching? Do comment!

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!   Elizabeth

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Working in a Series class is open for enrollment

My Working in a Series class is open for enrollment at the Academy of Quilting.
The Academy is a great website with all kinds of really affordable classes - plus you don't have to leave home to take them!  And you meet people from all over the world - one of the really great things about online teaching.

I have 5 different courses on the website and each one runs twice a year...once a year I think up a new class and it's added to the roster!  So you can tell I've been doing  this at least 5 years....

The next class coming up is Working in Series.  In the very first lesson, these topics are covered:

  • what it means to work in a series
  • why you should do it
  • inspirations
  • using past work to chart your course
  • motivation, practice and managing your time 
  • ways of working in a series
  • how to develop a series
  • choosing your theme 
  • how long a series should be

There are four lessons in all and each one moves you further towards making the right serial plan for you - by the fourth week you're all set to begin and you have a rough outline of your next year's work!

The class is similar to the first part of my book Working in Series - though the book goes on to cover some other design issues.  The benefit of taking a class on line is that you get individual help with working through the exercises - also since everyone else is doing that too it really motivates you to get moving!!  Sometimes very hard to do...there's always some shopping or cleaning or correspondence  that seems to need  to be addressed!    But Making a series of quilts helps you in so many ways...and if you want to be a serious artist and develop your own style and voice, this IS the way to do it.

I hope to see you in class!
If you have been, thanks for reading!
and...feel free to ask me any questions about this or any other of my classes, in the Comments section.  I apologize for the security stuff, but believe me the one time I lifted it the site was Deluged with Spam, great whopping droves of it!!!

and thank you very much for all your comments on the two Athens quilts!!!  


Friday, April 24, 2015

Bits and Pieces

Two New Quilts

Just finished a second small quilt featuring Athens, Georgia - a small college town with a lot of trees!

Here's the first one I made:

I liked this idea a lot, so I tried it again with a very different value pattern - changing the value pattern  (i.e. the arrangement of darks and lights) can convert a very different mood to a quilt.

So here's the second version:

Not only are the values different, the light is much warmer...a few details have been added and a few taken away but I worked from the exact same sketch.  Tell me which one you like best - and why!!!

Both are around 30" by 20" in size....not very large.

My next  piece is going to be another landscape; I just redid the landscape page on my website

and I really liked the look of the landscape pieces all together like that, so I thought I'd try another!

And after that...I have a different sketch of Athens - with even more trees - that I'd like to have a  go at.

Show in England

Meanwhile I'm in a show in Bilston, UK (or rather one of my quilts is).  I sure wish I could be there because they are having special lectures by some of the artists, and even a Clare Smith dye as you watch it drip quilt!!  I remember that one of the contestants on Project Runway did that and it was spectacular.  Of course they used Rit dye...the model walked onto the runway in a white dress...and when it rained (not a common occurrence on a runway!) the dye was activated.  In Clare Smith's pieces I don't think they actually cause rain in the gallery, probably a more local source of water!

 Here's the announcement about the show from Through Our Hands. Apologies for the extra spaces which are totally resistant to deletion! Note that you can sign up for this excellent free online quilting magazine.

All the artists here at Through Our Hands are delighted to let you know that our 3rd major exhibition opens at Bilston, UK, on 16th May.  It will feature new work by 24 of the world's most innovative textile artists who seek to push the boundaries of quiltmaking.

And, as a special treat, Through Our Hands, The Magazine, will be publishing an exhibition special, featuring all the work in the show.

The work of all 24 artists, can be seen in beautiful full colour illustrations, along with their insirations, methods of work, and artists statements.

Don't forget to tell your friends so they can sign up to read it online.  Simply complete the newsletter form on the front of the website and we'll send them a direct link.

Live Master Class 
And finally....I'm going to be teaching a LIVE master class focussing on design - lots of different aspects with different assignments in June in Massachusetts.  email me at: elizabethyork100 at yahoo dot com  for any details, there are one or two places available.

I look forward to hearing from you about the quilts at the top!
And, if you have been, thanks for reading.....Elizabeth

Thursday, April 16, 2015

To be Equal or not to be Equal....

Just read a charming little children's book about design that says a great deal quite succinctly.
it's called A Book about Design: complicated doesn't make it good   by Mark Gonyea.

He states that good design rests on how we perceive relative shapes, sizes and colors (amongst other things).

In Chapter 1, he begins a little narrative of two shapes, let's say two squares, equal in size and while different in color, the colors are both mid value and equal levels of saturation.  Wherever you might put those shapes in your design, neither is really dominant.  They're equals - and like the two players on a tennis court, you look first at one, and then at the other.  BUT if one of those tennis players is a LOT bigger, or in human terms a much Bigger Name, then that one will stand out.

But...the story continues....the second lesser named player develops an attribute that makes us want to look at her.  It could be anything, a funny wiggle, an unexpected tremendous backhand, or perhaps she has a bright orange dress and the Big Name wears a plain grey one.  Any change in one person's shape (the wiggle), the color (bright saturated orange) or ability (stature of her playing) will now make her the dominant one:  the one we want to watch.     She has drawn attention to herself.

But then....the Big Name develops the same attribute, when Lesser Namw wiggles, she wiggles - since they're now both wiggling (just imagine!), neither is dominant.

But then, the Lesser Name, changes her racquet and suddenly her game improves immensely - now we start watching everything she does again.

So you can see how, when you have two or more squares in your quilt, any changes you make to one square will affect the other.  They might begin as equals, but if you do anything Interesting to one, then we'll see that one as dominant - it will dominate our attention.  This is human nature, we're hard wired to do this.  Interestingly even if it's negative.  So we all paid a lot more attention to a certain ex-governor of Alaska because she was different - even though she was different in largely negative ways.  She made the other candidates look somewhat boring!  Until of course, another candidate with a Different Quality came along, and then our attention went to that one.

So two clear points  to remember:
1. Make it a bit different and it will stand out, and it will also make the other one look less interesting.
This works with all the shapes in a quilt design, it works with athletes, comedians, politicians, products in the super market etc etc.

2. When things are in close proximity, they affect each other.

Well that's just Chapter 1!  This is a kid's book with profound implications for life!!!    Definitely succinct to the nth degree!!  Strangely enough, my kids thought the book boring - and I, the designing grandma, though it fascinating.....hmm is second childhood on its way already?

If you have been, thanks for reading.
  Now to go and play with shapes....     Elizabeth