Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What are your Goals?

I was surprised to read a few weeks ago ( I don't remember where) somebody saying they always hated it when a teacher began a workshop session by asking about goals.  Whenever I hold a workshop I always start  by asking people what they hope to get from the workshop. To me this is not a  time filler or a trite obvious and redundant way to's a crucial question. 
There are lots and lots of things I could cover in a workshop, so it’s much  better for me to talk about the things the participants are interested in than prattle on with whatever I want to say!

Asking myself what my goal is, what I want to achieve with a piece, is important for every piece I make, every series of quilts that I contemplate and in fact,  for the whole of  “the full catastrophe”.

Zorba the Greek - one of the best educational films ever made! and yes I’ve discovered the fun of embedding YouTube into the blog!!  apologies!

I think it's really crucial to know why you are doing know what your motives and intentions are.  Without that, how can you mindfully engage with the activity?  I will add that I think it's just as legitimate to take a class for fun, or to be with like minded people as it is to learn how to use colour, or balance a composition.  So I don’t think one’s goals have to be presidential! or philosophical!    But since my goal as the teacher is to help you reach your goal, I can't do that if I don't know what it is.  My goal isn't necessarily therefore to teach "the curriculum" - that's one of the reasons I got out of formal education!  (Where you have to teach x or y even if the students want to learn z!)   I probably focus on self knowledge as a result of working as a psychologist for several years where sessions would often begin with in this way.  I've never been a travel agent, but I presume their first question of the would-be traveller is "now where d'you want to go?"  How could you help them get there otherwise?  And it’s fine if they say somewhere sunny, not more than 3 hours away and with something fine to look at! That’s a clear goal!

When I take a workshop  myself I want the instructor to know what I want out of the class...and I'm frustrated if they appear disinterested in my goals or  if they want to work to their own agenda of teaching me exactly what they have down in their Lesson Plan, nothing more, nothing less!  In fact I've walked out of classes like that!  Or at least gone and got some stitching to get on with while they witter away on whatever they feel is important to them!


Knowing what you want to achieve with a particular piece helps with many artistic decisions.  If I'm making a piece about  a specific place then I want to know what particular characteristics or sensations or feelings about the place I want to communicate in that piece.  Was it the quirkiness of the town?  The age of the building?




The strength of the tree?  The wierd patterns the chimneys made?  The pattern of branches against the moor?  The harmony...or the discord?

what pretty smoke full


The discovery that the industrial building (while being both practical and mechanistic) also has a surprising beauty?





a summer day, long ago 300 full

If it's an abstract piece, then I might want to convey the relationship and balance between several forms, or lead the viewer's eye through a delightful dance!

If you don't know where you are going, maybe you'll stumble across some unexpectedly beautiful scene, or maybe you'll just fall flat on your face!

When I think about entering shows, I ask myself the same question:  so what d'you hope to get out of entering this show?  If a piece is going off to the other end of the country, and then after a few weeks reappears..and that's all that that worth the time and the money? (which can be considerable: shipping there and back, packing materials, fuel for the drive to the shipping office plus the entry fee, the envelopes, stamps, Cds and drive to the post office..).

So now I’m off out into the garden: it’s a beautiful morning and my goal is to enjoy the light on the leaves, the song of the birds and the breeze on my face!

If you have been, thanks for reading!  Elizabeth
PS  I just updated my “Quilts under $950” page on my “art quilt store” blog:

Monday, September 27, 2010

the Story behind the quilt

There’s a little town on the Yorkshire coast I’ve always loved.  It’s Whitby…Captain Cook sailed from there to discover various islands (some quite large!) in the South pacific, also bestowing upon some of the inhabitants various “gifts” including STDs……And of course Dracula sailed to Whitby (albeit in a coffin at the time) bringing myth and legend!  Now they even have a Dracula festival!  But the Whitby I knew had nothing to do with any particular characters, real or imagined.  Instead it is the place itself that always charmed me.  The nooks and crannies, the long stone steps worn with age up and down the cliffs, the old buildings, the best crab sandwiches ever, the abbey, and the youth hostel where we stayed, the cliffs full of fossils, the bustle of boats in the harbour, the really neat knitting shop!
  Whitby is located on the estuary of the River Esk and is built on the steep sides of the valley.  To get there you drive across the North York Moors which are magical in themselves, especially when the heather’s in bloom.  


I love making quilts about places – people say “oh you’re the one that  makes cityscapes” – but I see my quilts much more as ‘placescapes’.  I try to get something of what I feel about a particular place into the quilt..whether the place  is a real city like York  ,





or an imagined underwater “drowned city”                                                                                                   




seen across the Mersey…







or water under cliffs

cement works 300


or a local factory:






My memories of Whitby were about the sights, the 383214-R1-E016sounds, the smells and the kinaesthetic movement – the climbing and climbing of all the steps!  So I had to do a quilt about the steps – this was one of my many photographs of the old alleys…which are mainly steps!I loved the way the steps are worn, the old stone houses and the feel of the stone, the sense of going up and up, the contrast of the old fisherman’s houses with the Victorian one at the top.


I made the first quilt…and liked the idea so much, I made another one working from the same image:



Both quilts are happy in new homes now – one on the West Coast and one on the East Coast of the US…but I have all the memories!



If you have been, thanks for reading!!  Elizabeth

Friday, September 24, 2010

The visiting artist’s advice…stay loose..but put in the work.

IMG_2488 A couple of days ago I posted about the presentation that Nick Cave gave to the students at UGA this well as showing us many pictures of his sound suits and tondos and sculptures made from found objects, he also talked quite a bit about his process.  He stated that he didn’t want “to be responsible for the decisions he made about what he would do with the “surreal” objects he find in thrift stores.…” I want them to come from the gut, intuitive and fresh”.  For example a sound suit made from beanie babies!  He told us that he had given each of his 5 brothers a sound suit for Christmas ..“and they were shocked”!     but he doesn’t keep them for himself. 

He’s most involved with the idea of using the suits to facilitate and build community with a performance.  He’s had several shows with professional dancers wearing the suits and creating the sound effects of the twigs creaking, or the buttons slapping against one another, or the hair (he’s working with human hair now) swishing through the air.IMG_2487

The sound suits have many layers of meaning: they’re about surplus and abundance, but also Medicine Man costumes.  The shape could be “a mitre, a missile and a condom” or a one-man band.  They have no face because “that hides race, gender,class and you see the form without judgment”.

He likes to work with drawing, and collage and stitching ++…the  suits each take about 3 weeks to make with three or four people stitching on it.

He came back several times to the importance on staying loose and free..
IMG_2480 He starts with what he finds at the flea markets, “I go nuts, I don’t know what will inspire me or provoke an idea…”.  He has always done a lot of work and he finds it important to “pay attention to myself and be quiet a lot”.  “You never know what’s going to affect your life and change your thinking”.  Now he wonders: “Do I want to matter in the world?”.    The idea of performance came when he saw a group of kids break dancing in the street and asked them if they would participate in a performance.  “They didn’t know me – but then they put on the suits and danced!”  “And I realised what I was doing had a purpose.”    He plans a 90 sound suit performance…”this is fresh and healthy!”  Even though he could have as many shows as he liked in great galleries, he feels the community work is paramount: “it’s extraordinary to with with a community to build a piece, it can be very intense”.

To the students of art: “Work harder, and keep looking at what’s going’s so competitive out there..produce!..what you don’t know is more stimulating and motivating”.  About his graduate students in Chicago: “they have to deliver!  Crying doesn’t work for me!  They have to come out knowing how to trust themselves”.  

He continued: “Forget networking, instead… produce work, don’t get caught up in systems”….and feed the muse with travel, visiting museums, seeing artefacts.    Work.”

and so, to the studio…  this has to be the end of my networking…for today at least!  If you have been, thanks for reading!  Elizabeth

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Visiting Artist

I always love to go and hear a talk from a very well established artist and last night went down to the university art dept to Nick Cave’s talk about his work.  The university has a resident artist program: each month artists come for several days to work with the students (lucky students!) and to give a talk which anyone (including old lady quilters) can attend.   though actually I think I was the oldest by miles as the room was absolutely packed out with students most of whom had considerably decorated body parts …

IMG_2489 I really felt quite undressed by contrast!  

However, it  is really important to see as much art as you can and to have a sense of what is happening in the contemporary art world – what are the major artists working with fiber doing?    Nick Cave is a fabric sculptor and performance artist.   He makes amazing costumes, called Soundsuits , there are lots of images on the internet.

He  was born  in Missouri in 1959,  to a single mother, and has many siblings.  The family had little money and thus began his interest in making art from found objects.   He did his undergraduate work (and learned to sew!)  at the Kansas City Art Institute  graduating in 1982.  He also studied dance with  Alvin Ailey.  He then went to Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan in 1989 for his post graduate studies.  He is now the director of the graduate fashion program at School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Cave stated that he is “committed to the practice of art making, to education and especially to using art as a vehicle for change”.  He’s always worked with found objects and visits flea markets and thrift stores constantly – describing the manic glee and elation at a great find!!  And what amazing stuff he does find!!  I’ve never seen things like this in Georgia, but maybe NYC and Chicago flea markets have better pickings!

He’s worked on a series of sculptures addressing stereotypes..taking objects like the lawn jockey and changing its meaning…IMG_2474

(apologies for the qualities of the photos..taken in a dark auditorium with a little point and shoot, across the heads of many students).

The lawn jockeys were raising amazing beautiful things above their heads, instead of having objects trailing down from their hands.  Cave saw the replacement of meaning – from below to above – as a reconciliation.


Here the jockey supports a whole tree of birds…..






He found this Op Art painting at a flea market, and arranged it with the statue of the praying person, and a whole shelf of dice collected from thrift stores.  Entitled
“I wouldn’t bet against it”, the piece emphasizes the role of choice in life.

He talked about the wonder of “bringing together existing found materials..I never knew what would come together…I was open to waiting”.  He saw this as “renegotiating your relationship with these images”.

In one flea market he was “mesmerized by a kitty cat pillow”:

IMG_2477 it became the head piece for a sound suit.  the rest of the costume is made from sweaters cut and resewn into a body suit.  The more ornate,kitschy and colorful the better!   Then an armature was added over the shoulders and onto this were wired birds and flowers.
He talked about the “opulence of extreme embellishment” as in tattooing – of which (as I’ve mentioned!) there were many examples in the audience.  The guy sitting next to me had an amazing bunch of flowers tattooed high on his thigh – I got a brief glimpse but daren’t ask him to reveal more so I could get a photo!!  I don’t think I’m going to get tattooed but some of the leggings made from old sweaters were mighty fine!  Fiberart at its best! Would this get into Quilt National?!

More later…if you have been, thanks for reading!  Elizabeth

Monday, September 20, 2010

Tis the Season: the juror vs the critic

 I've a lot of experience critiqueing (mainly in my online classes) and some (limited) experience as a juror and  I began to wonder about the role of the juror vs the role of the art critic.  Too often when faced with the yes/no response from a juror we tend to think of the juror as a critic…but there are actually many differences between the two.  The juror has only the y/n binary response sorting the quilts presented into two (metaphorical!) piles only...also we never know why one quilt was chosen, another rejected. Whereas the critic has a much broader role which may or may not (according to the critic, they vary) include indicating whether or not they think the art is “good” or “bad”.    Unfortunately, there are many jurors but few critics in the art quilting world.

Critical reviews are valuable to both the general public and the particular artist.  although some artists choose to disregard (or  consider invalid) a poor review, in fact, a thoughtfully written review, can help the artist gain insight into their own work,  and enable them to see it in both a wider  historical and  geographical/cultural view.  It’s hard to step back from an individual piece and see how it fits in with both one’s own body of work, and that of work being produced by other artists.

One of the goals of art criticism is to introduce the work to a wider audience – not just the art going intelligentsia, or the magazine-buying quilter, but everyone – all classes, ages, occupations and levels of society.  A lot of people out there still think of quilting as a bedding medium, not an art medium – they are truly surprised when it’s suggested that a quilt can hang on a wall! An art critic would act as a public educator: art can be paint on canvas, clay formed into vessels, glass hanging in light, fiber on a wall.  I met a well educated woman just yesterday who told me that quilting was a lost art because nobody hand quilted anymore!

Today there are many journals of art criticism offering a wide variety of reviews about art from many different angles.   We can learn so much about ourselves as well as increasing our art knowledge from looking at art, examining our reaction to it, and reading about the critic’s (hopefully more broadly educated) reaction.     I enjoy reading the short critical reviews in  magazines like Art in America, for example.   Some writers focus on describing the work – perhaps in ways I had seen, or perhaps not.  Others compare the work to other artists..which can lead one to follow a trail that broadens and has many side trails!  Some offer value judgments with which one might agree or disagree – but all the reviews make you spend more time thinking about the art. 

Most critics feel that the phrase “art should speak for itself” is a cliche.  They suggest that art is strongest when it forces the viewer to engage with the artist.  The work should entice one into conversation, but not  be a direct obvious advertising-like statement that leads one to put up the shutters, rather than peer in through the window! (o yes the glory of the closely stitched mixed metaphor!)  Stay tuned!!!  I don't want to be hit in the face with the obviousness of your image,   I want to be intrigued enough to want to stay and figure out what is going on for myself…intrigue me, entice me, question me and pull me in…

A critic, of course, may have his/her own agenda.  Clement Greenberg was famous for his desire to drive a revolution bringing change and progress to the contemporary art world – he has been called the “Moses of the art world” – feeling that he was the one with the vital set of rules on stone tablets tucked under his arm….but today’s critics are less didactic though alas, often very dense in their writing.    Greenberg felt that one couldn’t intellectually determine one’s response to art: that one should follow one’s automatic response with bravado and nerve and then work hard to “determine the difference between good and bad”.    One of the exercises I have done in my workshops is to show very good and very bad art - (IMO of course!) - not stating what I think of  the work, allow a discussion to take place - if you think it's good (or bad), then tell us why....

 Other critics have sought to show the public the connection between a society, its culture and its art.   They feel that the art should communicate about that culture rather than adhere to specific aesthetic goals (which can often render the art as dated by “fashion” within the art world).   All seek to educate us, and to encourage us to spend more time with art.  I think that this is very difficult for today's quilters - how to hold onto the tradition and at the same time make one's work relevant to today's culture?  I find myself doing one thing or the other, and entering the work into different shows bearing in mind the particular bent of  the juror.

Criticism has been defined as using language to explore visual images: trying to clarify one’s thoughts, emotions and understanding about a particular work.   It should help us to see why we respond to this landscape, and not that one – when they may both be views of the same river.  Why is this one more effective than that?   From this kind of criticism, we can learn how to strengthen design, how to make better art, as well as how to understand and enjoy good lasting art – rather than art that is like candyfloss, a quick cheap flick of sweetness that soon grows stale.  

  The critic’s task is to put into words the effect that a work of art can have upon us.    Thus the importance of the dance of communication between artist, the critic and the viewer.  
I wish  we had more art critics writing about art quilts, and didn’t have just those yes/no responses, all of us -   art quilt makers, and viewers and collectors  - would be better served.
So, what d’you think? Can the emphasis be switched from sport (running races with people coming in first, second, third etc) to education (leading us to a broader understanding of what the medium is about and what it can do)?

If you have been.....thanks for reading…. all comments Very Welcome!    Elizabeth

Friday, September 17, 2010

First paper, then fabric!

There are a lot of books and articles that suggest loosening up exercises – not only for the body but for the creative mind too!  I rarely give myself time to loosen up, but after a summer of travel and with none of the series of ideas I’ve worked on before sparking a “next quilt that must be”, I think it’s time to try some of these exercises.

I find it frustrating to try them with fabric, because you have to get up and down and pin and stand back and then repin an inch away – now if I had a butler to whom I could say “Johnson! just half an inch to the left with that red bit please!”  now that would really work….but until that time I think I’ll try my creative explorations on paper.  The good thing about paper is that you can try lots of ideas in a small space where’er you are, and you don’t have to commit too much time or physical effort to it.

I have worked on paper a lot refining possible ideas based on some realistic image – usually a photograph or set of photographs that I had taken.  But I’ve done very little “creating” straight out of my head.  I think it’s very difficult to sit with a blank piece of paper and tell yourself to draw.  But, it’s not too hard to give oneself a few directions to follow.

When I took the painting class last month in England, one of the other students fell on the first day and badly sprained her wrist so she had to use her non dominant hand for the rest of the week.  And it really loosened her up!  So my first idea is to make some marks on paper with my non dominant hand, and to cut off that old critical brain even more, I’m not going to even look at what I’m doing.  Immediately some questions spring to mind:  continuous line, or not? thinking of or looking at something, or not?

The great thing about questions like this (and this happens in workshops a lot where someone will ask me should I do it in blue or pink?  and I say, try both and see which gets nearest to your original intent) is that they yield more possibilities.  I won’t try to answer the questions in my head, but instead use them to generate more drawings.

Once I have a bunch of these improv drawings, then I can take a look at them – rotating them as I view them and see if anything springs to mind – a still life, a landscape, a street scene.  I can remove lines that are “in the wrong place”, or add lines…and then add some values to develop the sketch further.

so first with some non continuous marks:

I made four copies of a few marks, then turning them into four different orientations came up with four possible ideas:








Well those two both came out to pond scenes…this is probably because I’ve been down looking at the neighbourhood pond these last few mornings….but they have a very different feel..I’ve drawn the original lines more heavily so you can see them.

Working fsom the same initial marks, the next two I oriented vertically:









These turned into a still life, and a sort of figure…that could be further embellished into a Green Man. 

What’s really interesting is that although I started out with random marks, once I really looked at them I related them to scenes I’d gazed at recently (my brother in law has an outdoor arrangement of pots in the corner of his garden), or had thought about for quilts before (Green Men).  When we’re given abstract marks it’s really hard to stay abstract, we always want to make sense of things.  Well…I do anyway!!!  I know some very famous quilters who do manage to stay abstract!!  I guess I’ve just done too many anagrams in my life!

After the scattered mark exercise,  I tried a more continuous line:



Yes it does rather look like a mountain scene!!   and so,  by the thoughtful addition of a few more lines and divisions….we have a mountain quilt!



yellowmountain72dpi It’s a fun process…and now I’m headed down to the studio to do some more!

Love the comments!  Then I know you’re out there…and, if you have been, thanks for reading!    Elizabeth

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Travel Sewing Kit

The first thing I put together when I’m travelling is a sewing kit.  No, not one of those mending things with strands of nasty knotted threads in horrible colours and impossible to thread needles…..



…but some fabric, some threads ( I usually use embroidery floss), couple of needles and a small pair of scissors.  Plus a small reel of tape for marking stitching lines. 


I have a horror of being bored!  Just watching telly is never enough!  I like to have something to do with my hands and I love to stitch.  But it has to be small, I never want to check luggage and travel very very light.

A small kit enables one to experiment with different ideas…so on my last trip I wanted to see if I could combine screen printed fabric with solid dyed fabric..simple 2 or 3  section compositions.  The challenge with the stitching is to see if I can pull the two areas together to create a whole, but not in so rigid a fashion as to be predictable and boring. 

I had printed about two yards of a house fabric with strong beams but wobbly roofs…it was pretty much black and white.  So I want to add colour, integrate the sections and experiment with different kinds of stitching.  It’s always good to have a lot of goals! That way if you miss one, you might achieve another!!  (yes I want to paint a picture and make a mess! This is doable!)

So  IMG_2469on the first piece I decided to try out a very bold large stitch..

.. to see what that would look like..really nothing more than that – how big can I make the stitch?  I like the way the doubled lines form kind of rays across the piece…

you can see that in the detail below



but I’m afraid that they are not strong enough to pull these sections together….However when I started to think about maybe cropping the piece, I noticed that there’s a little man in there!!!  He’s walking past the large windows…aha!  Now what’s really interesting is that in the painting workshop I did in England, we talked about how you could insert simple figures into a landscape… maybe, even though this was not part of my original intention, I could enhance the figure to give a sense of movement and continuity!

Couldn’t have done that had I not got something to play with.



Now on the second piece (never got to the third one, but I did have another, just in case!) – I decided to play with little textural stitches, not so much a definite line as more of a soft texture.  I like the way this little piece is shaping up and a landscape is beginning to form…is there a person in there?  hmmm..I shall have to wait and see!

If you have been, thanks for reading!!!  And do comment on your own  travel/anti boredom kits!   Elizabeth

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Glove Box

Today’s blog addresses Practical Matters – these too require significant cogitation!

The Glove Box
I dye (immersion, paint, screen, monoprint, tie dye etc…) all the fabric I use in the quilts.  I use Procion MX dyes as they don’t require heat to fix and are very strong and fast.  However they do need to be mixed, as they come in powder form.  When I first started dyeing fabric I took a workshop and was horrified to see people cavalierly flinging dye powder around like flour in a pasta shop!  As I already am one of those very wheezy types, I definitely do not want to be breathing in variously coloured powdered chemicals!  In my next class, we were told to wear masks to mix the dye.  This didn’t make a lot of sense to me: while mixing the dye,  our faces were protected, but our clothes, the counter and the environment were not….and then we took off the masks!!  Anybody who has wiped down a counter after mixing dye knows that there are loads of tiny particles every where…

So then, I attended improved class number two!  Here we were told to take a box and fill it with damp newspapers and drape plastic over it..well you couldn’t see a darned thing!  I’m very adept at spooning dye powder anywhere but the right container when peering through murky plastic….

So, I quit the classes and cogitated.  What was needed was a box made of something rigid and clear; it also needed to be totally contained.  Going on line I discovered Glove Boxes used by lab technicians; the boxes looked great but were about $1000.  Mentioning this to an intrepid friend (it’s always good to have a few of those!), she said “if you can provide transport, money and a sketch, I think I could use the table saw at the local art centre…we could make two boxes, one for you and one for the centre!”

And so it was done, I borrowed a truck, we drove to the nearest store that sold large acrylic sheets, bought one about 8’ by 4’ – had them cut it in two so that it was easier to load and unload.  Also bought a little instruction book for working with acrylic and a can of the ?acetone (or something like that) that melts the edges so you can “glue” the pieces together.

Here are the sizes of pieces we cut out:

IMG_2468 The measurements are somewhat arbitrary – we just used up as much of the sheet as we could.  The height is the most important – it needs to be tall enough for a big jar of dye with a hand entering and retrieving a spoonful of the stuff!

The incline on the upper part of the front makes it a lot easier to see what you are doing.  Having cut out the shapes, we assembled the sides, the two fronts and the back.  This forms a box without a bottom or a lid.  The lid  just rests on top – with a little overlap.  This makes for easy removal.  

Before assembly, we cut two holes in the front for hands and forearms to enter the box.  I posed in front of the box so we could get the width apart exactly the width apart of my arms.  We cut two  1” rings from plastic plumbers pipe the same diameter as the holes – about 6” (it says 4” on the sketch, but 6” is much easier!).  Then we attached plastic sleeves with hose clamps from the auto store to the rings.  Then I  inserted a very long pair of gloves into the sleeves with just the hand bit at the end poking out.

Before mixing dye I put a damp towel in the base of the box – you could use newspapers, but a towel is easily washed.  I also spray the sides with a fine mist.  Into the box I put the jar of dye, a container with urea water, a container of water for soiled spoons, several dry measuring spoons, a stirring spoon, and a jug of water to add to the dye if needed plus a damp rag or two,   the lid of the dye solution container, plus a spray bottle of water.  Then I put the lid on,  insert my arms into the sleeves and gloves…and then the phone rings or I sneeze, or I’ve forgotten something!  But apart from those little problems, it works great.  I open the jar of dye, spoon in the required amount into the container, stir, add more water if necessary.  Put the dirty spoons into the assigned container. Screw the lids on the dye and the dye solution containers.  Spray everything down with water.  Shake the dye solution container well, spray down again to make sure there’s no undissolved dye powder loose in the box…and then extract myself.

I usually make up a pint of dye solution of each of several different colours: cool and warm yellows, reds and blues plus a black and probably a fun colour too!  It’s a bit of a performance, but no wheezing and no masks!  The dye solution will keep in a small dye studio fridge for months and months.

Here are a few photos of the box:                                                                                                                                                                           


This is the profile view, you can see how the inclined lower section makes it easier to see what you are doing.  You can also see the plastic rings, with the hose clamps, sleeves and gloves. 

(As well as a gorgeous autumn clematis in the background!)

















Above is the view from the top (the lid is not on).  You can see we used 1/2” acrylic sheet – this was not necessary and did mean the saw got very hot.  1/4” would have been ample – but we didn’t know!


And above is the view from the front.

I hope this information is helpful; I’m sure there are many other ways of achieving the same goals – I’m happy for you to copy these ideas.  but…please don’t say that “Elizabeth Barton mixes dye in a baby incubator” as once was said on the net!!!  No babies were relieved of their incubators to make me a glove box!

If you have been, thanks for reading!!  Elizabeth

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Home from Festival of Quilts

“Home, James, and d0n’t spare the horses!”

…..and thanks to 2 flights, 12 trains, one taxi and 2 van rides, I am home! (no actual horses, though).   It’s so good to get back home after three weeks on the road, but it’s also very good to have seen so many places and faces. 

My first week away was at The Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, UK. 
Dominie Nash and I hung about 25 quilts  in a lovely little “gallery” within the exhibition center.

uk summer 2010 009

We had very good neighbours – Susan Denton was showing her gorgeous Cornwall quilts on one side, and Jane Dunnewold fascinating mysterious new layered pieces on the other. Susan Shie was just a couple of blocks away, Pauline Burbidge just around the corner!
uk summer 2010 010

There were also galleries showing European quilts, a Quiltart show and the huge British Patchwork show, as well as a million vendors and 34,000 visitors.  Thank you to everyone who stopped by to see our work and say hello!  

We interspersed our pieces – on the left one of Dominie’s dynamic still lifes featuring Linda Levin’s scissors as a major design element!  on the right my strong red/blue piece about the Hamilton steelworks.  Had to be strong to balance those scissors!

uk summer 2010 011

Even though Dominie’s work is about the beauty of small things, and mine about the beauty of large buildings, the quilts worked very well together. 



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As you can see, we had a nice large table with a cloth to hide all our shipping boxes!  Shipping was much less of a hassle than we had worried about – thanks to the excellent help provided by the show’s shipping company.  After we’d laid out the show on the floor, a team of carpenters arrived, cut hanging poles and had us screwed to the wall in no time!uk summer 2010 014

We had deliberately chosen a specific size: 18” by 24”, to each make several pieces, often using the same fabric (which we’d made by layering alternate surface designs techniques then mailing it off to each other!).  So we were able to make an intriguing array of little quilts…this would be a great way to collect work!  You could buy one piece, then gradually add more!

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We soon realized we should have printed postcards of each of the quilts – people love to buy postcards of the work they see – something to remember if we do this again!


I also taught a class of 14 lovely ladies on designing quilts – and there were some fascinating ideas!  I look forward to receiving pictures!  And we both gave well attended lectures.  There are so many classes and lectures at the FOQ – about a dozen different offerings every day.  It was a great experience.

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And then I climbed to the other side of the fence and went down to Devon for a painting workshop – so relaxing to just be told what to do and taken everywhere I needed to go (it was plein air) and fed 3 delicious meals a day!                                                                                 

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It’s fun to be the teacher, but oh so lovely to be a student! If you look closely you can see the group gathered on the quayside with their easels!



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And here we are watching the teacher demonstrate.   I was very interested by the similarities and differences in a painting class and a quilt class..In a painting class the teacher can spend some time each day doing a demonstration, and often finish a piece..imagine being able to do that for a quilt!  It’s so much slower a process, even to demonstrate developing a design would take up far too much class time – however I’m thinking of taking a lot of step by step pictures the next time I design so that I can emulate some of this demo process in both virtual and actual classes.   The discussions about what make successful pieces (whether paintings or quilts) are very similar…with emphasis being on developing strong value patterns, repetition and so on.   We were lucky in having a very generous teacher who indefagitably (well with a few tea and coffee breaks!) tracked us down across the beach or quayside as we scattered to paint. 

It would be so much fun to try a quilting class like this!!  Have people sit down with their sewing machines in a beauty spot, and the public walk around and admire!!

If you have been, thanks for reading!  And I hope to get back to my regular blogging routine!!  Elizabeth