Wednesday, December 28, 2011


piss quilt

Quilters often say they wish that “they” (critics, museums, galleries, collectors, the public) would recognize quilts as a mainstream art medium.  Other media, for example photography,  have developed to the extent that most museums now include  photographs in their collections and display them regularly.   So, why not quilts? At least part of the answer is that quilts have not developed from their early beginnings in anything like the way that other media have.

The possibility of printing very large color photographs has lead to major shows of photographs in museums and galleries but these photographs are nothing like traditional photographs. They are often artfully staged then super-hyped by computer manipulation  and finally displayed with back lighting that makes them very stunning and dramatic.  I’d love to see a large transparent quilt displayed like this! but I haven’t.

Traditional paintings were  made from paint upon a rectangular stretched canvas.  Traditional quilts were composed from three layers: pieced fabric patches assembled into well known  geometric patterns, batting (which might be cotton, or an old blanket or even newspapers or corn husks), and then a backing fabric. Contemporary paintings, however, might be made quite unconventionally - collages of plants or pills for example, painting on mattresses (and 0n quilts!), wall reliefs composed from tiles and foam, rubber and old tires, gold leaf and scraps of paper.  and these seem to be the kinds of works you see in current museum shows. You don’t see conventional paintings – however skillfully made.  And it’s rare that any quilter has stretched the medium as far as this.  Kyung Ae Cho did - with her wonderful slices of wood piece that was in a Quilt National some years ago, but I notice that she has now moved out of the quilt world and has been totally accepted by the fine art world.

Contemporary art is rich, diverse, and unpredictable.  While  painting, drawing, sculpture, photography and crafts are still popular,  new media  are more likely to be seen in contemporary art shows: film, video, audio, installation, performance, text, computers.  And media are frequently mixed.  It’s hot to use an “old” medium  in a new way: paintings that are pixilated, drawing with chocolate. But how many quilts have you seen made from chocolate? (though it’s a grand idea!).

Contemporary art is in flux.  New technologies make so many things possible,  and also knowledge of art from different countries is mixed in with local art; there’s a significant amount of cross fertilization.

But I’m afraid, and correct me if I’m wrong(!), we don’t see these kinds of things in quilts.  Quilters tend to stick very much to making quilts the way they were always made.  There’s nothing wrong in this, but that’s one reason why the contemporary fine art world is not very interested.  They’re not so interested in paintings made the traditional way either.

Current culture is used as a basis for art and diverse and rapid changes in what is available on the internet and seen on the street makes for lightening shifts.  A few years ago quilts made from drug bags were displayed in New York galleries, but I didn’t see them pictured in any quilt magazine.    There are but  a few quilt artists stretching to use the detritus of modern life as their material for quilts: Pat Kroth has worked with discarded scraps of paper and fabric, for example.

Another difference I notice between “art quilts” and contemporary art is in content/no content. There  have been times in the 20th century when there was more of an emphasis on form than content in the art world and artists who were preoccupied with formal matters such as the properties of a specific medium or the role of color or composition.  But the contemporary belief  is that  such a formal approach doesn’t allow one to interpret art that expresses the artist’s inner vision, or art that refers to the world at large.   In mainstream art, it is evident that artists are focused on meaningful content.  They are motivated by a range of ideas much broader than their own personal emotions or their need to display a mastery of media and techniques.  Some of the issues they have addressed: politics, social issues, science and technology, media, popular culture, literature, man made environments, the flow of ideas generally.   There are a few quilters who are, thank goodness (!) beginning to address some of these topics: Shawn Quinlan, Kristen La Flamme and Wendy Huhn come to mind (though I notice that several of these folk don’t use the Q word!), but, again, not many.

Are the themes in contemporary quilts those we see  in contemporary art?  For the most part I find that quilts tend to be less personal and less political and many of them are ‘art for art’s sake’.  I don’t think this is either good or bad, but it does explain why the few art critics that are left (as opposed to a huge proliferation in political commentators!) aren’t much interested in what’s going on in the quilt world.  As an aside, wouldn’t it be wonderful if all those gasbag hot air political chat shows were actually about art??!!  Can you imagine Chris Matthews arguing at full voice about the merits of Nancy Crow versus Ruth McDowell?  Or the validity of simply printing digital photographs onto cloth because it can be done, or the meaningfulness of layering random surface designs one on top of another?

Are you ready for quilts that incorporate elephant dung? (Chris Ofili)  Do you want to enclose quilts in tanks of urine?  (Andres Serrano).  These are some of the ideas that have gained attention in the art world.  I think that the answers to questions as to why art critics arn’t interested in quilts are evident in both formal and content areas:  quilters don’t really want to stretch the medium to uncomfortable (if not breaking) lengths, nor do many of them want to address some of the contemporary issues evident in main stream art.  As I said before, neither good nor bad, but, rather, why!

And, if you have been, thanks for reading…now for a nice cuppa tea…then to go and start filling the tank…..


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Masters Art Quilts vol 2: a review

attachment I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of Masters Art Quilts Vol 2. Major works by Leading Artists, curated by Martha Sielman and published by Lark Books in 2011.


The concept of the book is a wonderful one: leading artists in the art quilt medium from around the world are represented with a short introduction and almost a dozen images of different pieces. Nearly all the artists are absolutely amazing and you find yourself drooling over their work. The square format is very appropriate to the medium and the book has a generous 414 pages. The great artists we all know are included and also some that are not so well known and it’s excellent to have several pieces by the same artist. So many shows, and therefore show catalogues, are so very bitty because of the arcane rule of one person one piece. Most of the pictures are a good size – thank goodness none of that arty trend of a small photograph in the middle of a white page! The text often gives interesting information about technique – which I know we’re always curious about!

Some of the artists are amazing and very often I’d only seen one or two pieces of their work before, so it was a real treat to see so many examples. Leslie Gabrielese’s work is fascinating and one or two bigger details reveal the technique. While at first sight his quilts look very representational, as you examine the technique you can see that he has totally justified the use of fabric as his medium. His subtle use of commercial fabrics is elusive until you come in close, and then the stitching adds a wonderful edge to every line. Shades of Edrica Huws! Plus marvelously balanced compositions.

I would have liked to have known the rationale for choosing these 40 artists…some are obvious – like Dorothy Caldwell and Rachel Brumer serious artists who’ve been making work for a long time with several museum shows to their credit, but others not so well known – or known more for popular success as teachers and entertainers…rather than for their art work. It is also good that some not so well known artists who are doing very interesting work are also included. I often wonder if there are hidden geniuses out there who just don’t enter shows and we never see their work. (which is one reason I’m against very high entry fees).

There are only a few criticisms I would make, specifically these relate to the quality of some of the photographs, the size of some of the details, the introductions, and some points regarding the design of the pages.

Photographs. So often it comes down to the quality of the photographs; we hear that all the time from jurors and now that there are such excellent digital cameras out there, there is really no excuse for blurry images of which there are quite a few in this book I presume the artists submitted their own images (Horst-Beetsma for example) but I wonder if the editor should have culled those that were not very clear or at least asked the artist to resubmit.

Details. Sometimes the details are apologetically tiny and timid. I would have loved some good sized details but a very small detail that is only about 5% bigger than the picture of that section in the quilt as a whole has little point and is distracting. The ones that show a close up of the stitching, however, are very good. And we could have used more details especially of complex work like Anna Torma’s. Overall more and bigger details would be most desirable. Sometimes details reveal really striking stitchery even though the full composition can be somewhat awkward and unresolved. Composition counts!

Text: It’s great to include a pithy comment by an artist e.g. Dorothy Caldwell: “I have deep respect for cloth. It’s very powerful when it retains traces of its previous life, gathers history, and becomes something new.” But some of the comments tend toward the obscure and meaningless. Most, however, are fascinating: some artists prefer to stick to descriptions of technique, others talk about their philosophies.

While the text by the curator is kept fairly short and to the point giving a few details about each artist, I would have liked a little more bio – you don’t really need to describe the quilts when you have the pictures right there. More information about the artist in a more tabular form: place of residence, education (brief), shows (major only), website, main construction and style would have been useful. Also, their major strengths as perceived by the curator and her reason for including them. Plus, I think, everyone would be fascinated to know their answer to the question “how do you start?” It’s always good to have real details instead of just vague generalities. I think also an alphabetical sequence would help one to find them; I don’t know what the rationale of the actual sequence was and I found myself hunting around to see if various folk had been included.

Page Design: Love the square format reminiscent of the quilt, but don’t like the edge of each page having the artist’s name so large - very often it crowds the image and just looks messy. Also don’t under stand why each page has a half inch of grey along the bottom? Did the book designer think we wouldn’t know which way was up?

More strengths!
didn’t see the first Masters book but was told that the second one includes a lot more international artists and they are magnificent – especially the Australian ones. Their aesthetic is so strong: pure and clean, minimal without being boring and with wonderful surface texture. In fact there’s a very clear national feel to a lot of the work: the Australians: bold and clear, the Japanese: delicate and detailed, the Europeans: sophisticated and rich. Complex and somber and memory laden from the Middle East. Obsessive precision from Switzerland. Alas, not everybody’s country of origin is mentioned. An interesting and revealing extra would have been a map of the world with the artists location indicated. We could then see just how far this movement has extended.

Unlike many show catalogues, I felt that nearly every quilt was worthy of inclusion – so there were lots and lots to ponder over and think about and a stupendous variety of images and styles, techniques and colorations. The overall concept of the book is great – it’s an encyclopedia of major quilt artists; this is a book to savor over several evenings and then dip into over and over again.

This is a wonderful and extensive collection of some of the best of our time; an important addition to an art book collection. Thank you, Martha, for a great idea! And thank you to Lark books for publishing the book and for sending me a copy!      Elizabeth

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Importance of being Thematic

all that glitters is not gold

All That Glitters is Not Gold

There are  trends in the art world as in any other and I’ve observed that the current art world is very focused on meaning.  Abstract patterns of minimalism and optical art are much less popular;  we are all  wondering about the meaning.  Perhaps abstraction is for affluent times?  And when everyday life is uncertain and worrying we look for meaning?  When we feel threatened, when emotional levels are high, we need to figure out what is going on and to express our feelings about it.   While “popular art” becomes even more sweet, saccharine, whimsical and unaware of the looming clouds, references to the desire for personal meaning and expression are consistently being made in mainstream art.

gatheringstorm72dpi Gathering Storm

In a book by John Blockley, one of my favorite watercolour painters, I read:

“Painting is not about perfectly executed technique, desirable though this might be.  Better an original statement, expressing a unique viewpoint, something to make people think.”

The judges in “Work of Art” – the Bravo TV reality show that challenges young artists to make works of art addressing a specific challenge have a similar touchstone and standard.  Each week one contestant is eliminated;  the last man (or woman!) standing gets a show at the Brooklyn Art Museum (alas no fiber artists on the show, though I’d love to see what they came up with – though the 24 hours which is usually given would not be long enough for any fiber art I know of!).  The judges invariably give the weekly prize to the artist that produces something that is both fresh and deeply rooted in their own experience.  They don’t like derivative art, they don’t like art that is solely about technique and they do want something that is totally personal and meaningful.

They want the artists to think deeply and out of their thinking create something that communicates something very personal and meaningful from their own lives.  One of my more successful series of quilts was based on a photograph I took one terrible day in my life.  Looking back over the snapshots from that time, I could see that that one photo summed up some of the feelings I’d experienced that day.   But this is hard to generate de nouveau!  How can you say – I’m going to have an awful day next week and I’ll be sure to have my camera with me?!!

I notice that relationships are a key theme in the artwork that is considered special.  It’s interesting that it’s an issue rarely addressed in art quilts.  Other current themes, according to Robertson and McDaniel in the book:  Themes of Contemporary Art are: identity, the body, time, place, language, science and spirituality.  Some of these I have seen in art quilts – language particularly, the work of Robin Schwalb comes to mind but there are many others.  Here is Robin discussing the power of art to express emotion:


In my next blog I’m going to review a book I was just sent – the publishers must have read my wishlist because it was on there!  But in the blog after that I want to revisit some of the themes that Robertson and McDaniel have delineated and look at whether or not the quilts I’ve made would fit into any of them.

To be creative is to think!  To think is to be creative!  Send me your creative thoughts……

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

Friday, November 25, 2011

Quilt University

I’m starting two 4 lesson classes at Quilt University in January: Inspired to Design in the first week and Working in Series in the last week.    I just received a note from the Dean to say that 

“Registration for all January classes is now open.  Because the winter months are our busiest time of the year, many classes are filled by the time we send the January newsletter.  If there is a course you are especially interested in, I hope you will find time to visit the site and register early so you will not be disappointed. '”

Taking a class online in the winter is great because you don’t have to turn out in the wet and cold!

If you haven’t taken a class with me before, I’d start with Inspired to Design.  It covers some of my design methods right from the beginning:  all the steps from choosing an inspiration, through drawing designs, choosing a color scheme, cutting out the shapes and pinning them together on the design wall, sewing together, machine quilting and finishing.

Working in Series is for people who are at a stage where they feel as if they want to go further into this wonderful art form and develop their own style, their own voice. 

I think it would be too much work to try to do the classes at the same time, and I’m sure they’ll both be repeated in the Spring so I don’t recommend that you sign up for both.

It’s fine to repeat a class, in fact I would think you’ll probably get more out of it the second  (or even the third) time around; there’s a lot of information to digest and the Discussion Forum is very active.

The fun thing is that people from all over the world take the classes, so you learn what quilters on every continent are doing, what their inspirations and concerns are.  If people don’t speak English they use translation programs.

The cost of the classes is very reasonable  (under $40 per course) and I have kept the supply lists to things nearly everybody already has in their sewing rooms.

I look forward to meeting you in class!  Now…back to the sewing machine!   If you have been, thanks for reading!  Elizabeth

PS After Christmas I plan on developing a new class, maybe for later next year, do let me know what kind of a class you would like.  What’s the class you’ve always been looking for and never been able to find?  I have some ideas, but am very interested in what you might want.  Thank you!!

PPS If you're thinking of a special present for yourself or somebody else, please take a look at the pages listed at the top of this post! Thank you!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Interesting but not fulfilling

Well the four day show and sale (see last post) proved to be an interesting little tidbit, but not exactly filling or satisfying in any way!

Here is a couple of photographs that demonstrate this:














Notice the vast amount of interest being given to the quilts by these customers!!  One is looking at t-shirts and the other at jewelry.  The overall impression I got from the public was that while they loved the quilts, what they really wanted to buy was  either stuff with which they could adorn themselves rather than their walls, or, “safe” useful items to give as gifts.  I really think you have to be in the art world in some way to want to own some art and also to feel that art is a worthwhile expenditure.   I did sell some items: the two quilts I had discounted heavily, a couple of watercolors and one of the shadow boxes which is great.  But every piece went to an artist or an art teacher. 

Is this a reflection of art no longer being taught in our schools? If you’ve never made art you don’t realise its worth both in monetary terms and in how much it can add to your life?  I think this is probably so.  I know there are things of which I have no appreciation (sports for example) because I grew up in a totally sport-free environment.  Also I am “eat-to-live” rather than “live-to-eat” having had a father for a cook who thought that the way to fry rice was to empty a box of it into a frying pan.  “What’s for tea, Dad?” we would ask when we came home from school.  “It’s a mistake” he would reply!  We learned a lot from all those “mistakes” we ate!

I also think the lack of awareness of the value of art is a result of television.  We are bombarded from birth with advertisements many of which suggest that improving how we look (by virtue of the products being advertised) will bring us sex, money, fame and success.  Have you ever seen real paintings, or beautiful artifacts or art quilts being advertised on television??   Have you ever seen a well endowed young woman (or man for that matter, though endowed somewhat differently!) draped over an art quilt?

Furthermore, now that the financial crisis is upon us I notice that communities (ours included) are saying oh one place we can easily save money is the one percent for art idiocy that we used to do.  So there will be even less awareness of art in our futures, and, more importantly, in our children’s futures. 

And are those one-percenters buying art?  Or are they buying more and more houses in exotic places, so many that they don’t know how many they actually own?

However, I am most grateful that there are few artists and art lovers around who do still appreciate art!! Thank you so much for your encouragement!  And now, back to the sewing machine….if you have been, thanks for reading!  And do write in with your comments, the cogitations of others are much more interesting than my own!  Elizabeth

PS C&T just brought out a nice little postcard book: 30 “architectural quilt” postcards of which 7 were ones I made I’m happy to say – though I couldn’t stretch them to include any of the industrial architecture!


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What I’ve been getting up to

When I visited Cindy Friedman in Philadelphia after the Art Quilt Elements jurying, I saw a lovely little row of shadow boxes in her living room.  They looked like so much fun I thought I’d try my hand especially as I’m going to need small work for the Studio Group Sale which starts in 2 days!! 

fallsale2001 If you’re in Athens any of these days come and visit us – I’ll be desperately ready for a chat!!  the show is at the ATHICA gallery which is in the Chase St Warehouses, Tracy St – basically just behind Boulevard.

shadow boxes 1-4


So two needs coincided: the need for small work for the show, and the need to try out the shadow box idea!  Especially with silk…I was just about to drop a box of silk scraps off at the thrift store (where I’m afraid I probably took the quilt I lost – I’m such an avid chucker outer!)….I snagged back my box of silk and cut it up into these little fellows and they came out quite well surprisingly!



shadow box neighborhood shadow box trees









Above two neighborhood pictures and below two birds…


shadow box angry crow

shadow box condor








Forgive the reflections – I have no idea how to photograph through glass!  Now I must decide what to charge for these little fellows.  Unfortunately even though the boxes are only 8” x 10”, they cost $14 each (shipping or tax, they get you either way brings the price up).  Then there’s a couple of hours of work involved with each one.  In Philadelphia, they sell for $125 apparently, but this isn’t Philadelphia!!

so…any suggestions?…….and I’d love to see you at the show!  
If you have been, thanks for reading…..Elizabeth

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cluck cluck cl cl cluck!


When does working in a series become working to a formula?

I’ve certainly see this happen time and again with those so-called best sellers of the NY times variety!! (by the way, I’ve read that they’re only “best” sellers because when the publishers ship masses of them off to airports and the like, that’s considered a “sale” – the fact that they are then pulped (or turn their readers brains to pulp, one or the other!) is irrelevant!)

It’s definitely good to work in a series - for many reasons: to develop your own voice, a signature style, to really plumb the depths – and the heights (one would hope!) of your subject, to become excellent at that particular technique (compositional or technical) and to reach the point where the ideas are fresh and different and therefore much more engaging.

But if you go on and on and on and on, I really do think that often the work gets very stale and formulaic. How many times have you flipped through a catalog, seen a quilt and said “oh it’s a so and so, seen that a million times before, why on earth does she not do something different?”!

If you’re going to work to the same parameters, it’s still important (perhaps even more so) to come up with new ideas all the time. The viewer is important, I think few would deny that. And those that do are probably either kidding themselves, not very self-aware or like Narcissus ( for whom gazing at his own reflection in the pond was enough for his whole life). We want people to see our work, we want to convey a message however simple. We want them to stop and look and listen. We don’t want to hear that hackneyed phrase which I loathe: “been there done that” . A phrase nearly as bad as “stepping up to the plate”; actually since I’m not a sports fan and had never heard of baseball growing up, the plate stepping exercise to me was something that maybe Alice did after swallowing the Drink Me potion! – so it was a bit more interesting the first 2 or 3 times I heard it.

You’re not going to stop people in their tracks, you’re not going to develop your own vision further, if you keep on making the same thing. Okay you changed from a cool beige to a warm one – not enough!! You added a line here a line there, or flipped the design upside down….so? You gave us the 50th tired old chapter in the series – remember it’s only the few that feel that 49 verses of On Top of old Smokey are 49 times as good as one verse.

People are still queuing up to buy your work? Well maybe that’s because you are using the same marketing tools as those NY Times publishers! Good luck, but you’re now singing flat.

No more old tired hens boiling in the quilting pot, please!

If you have been, thanks for reading!! And all comments (except those using phrases about stepping upto plates, saucers or anything else) SO very welcome!! Elizabeth

Friday, November 4, 2011

How to get rejected from a Quilt Show, Part 2

In Part 1 a few days ago I wrote about several important things you should remember when you enter an art quilt show. Here are some more things to bear in mind!

6. Maturity: ageing in place. Whatever you do, be very careful to make sure that your ideas have matured well in the market place already; stale bread makes excellent toast, fresh bread can upset your stomach or even give you piles* if you sit on it!

teeth 7. Midnight vitamins. In the middle of the night, it struck me that if you’re actually going to go to the lengths of composing the shapes in your quilt, make sure they are set out separately and boldly, like the teeth of someone with advanced scurvy. Every tooth has its own space and is therefore of considerable prominence.

8. The importance of an art education. A neat thing to do is to copy a famous artist’s work – the jurors will never notice that Andy Warhol or Monet has done it before



bike 9. Drawing ability. If you’ve done a drawing and it didn’t work out quite right – make a quilt from it!! A bad drawing is an excellent start for an interesting quilt.





10. The natural look is in. Whatever you do, don’t make any attempt at designing the quilt. You want it to appear as if the various patches and sections have been slapped on higgledy piggeldy, that way it looks a lot more natural.

11. Working in a series. Jurors really like being able to recognize a quilt as being part of a series; if you’ve had success with something before, whatever you do don’t try to change it. Stick to a proven formula – look what happened to Coca-cola!

12. The post modern movement. Jurors particularly like a generally lumpy, unbalanced and muddy appearance to a quilt. This is called “post modern” and is both avant garde and garde derriere (as in watch your back or, beware of sitting on warm substances).

13. Eve’s dilemma. The best work has no substance. Substance is so stuffy and hard to digest. It’s vital that you don’t expect the jurors to think, thinking is the root of all evil. Furthermore, wishing for knowledge led to that first lady’s downfall!

14. Fast and Easy is the B(u)y word! And don’t worry about craftsmanship; that idea is so yesterday!! The important thing is that you made the piece Quickly!! Preferably while standing up eating a hamburger, watching chat tv and painting your toenails. The better the idea, the more important it is to execute it poorly.

15. Cross pollination. Don’t confuse a genuine naiveté (shudder) with a cross between folk and hallmark. Hybrids of that nature are very acceptable and will win you plaudits (somewhere at least) all the time.

16. Cloth? Fabric? Textile? Merely a substrate. Don’t even think about the medium and how it plays with the idea; the cloth is there because you like to pet it, and you can make anything with it that you wish. It doesn’t have to be justified.  jump

17.    Exercise the jurors. A lot of different ideas in one piece is very exciting, that will definitely get the jurors jumping up and down and exclaiming.


18. Necessary cautions. However, it’s very important not to take one idea and push it as far as you can, after all you might fall over, and then you’d be in the drink. Don’t take any risks!! Quilt insurance does not cover them.

19. specifications. “they” say a lot of pieces get rejected because they’re entered into the “wrong” show and actually suggest you find out the kind of work that that particular show is interested in!   Well, this doesn’t apply to you! If your work is good enough (and you know it is!) even if the show specifies they only want red pieces and yours is blue, don’t worry about it.  If that particular art center or gallery has only ever shown large pieces and yours is small, that doesn’t matter either – because if you’ve worked hard at making it, especially if it’s got a lot of beads on it, it will be bound to be accepted.

20. The name of the game. And finally: the title!!! It should have at least two meanings, jurors love puns and the more strangled they are, the better. Sentimentality is excellent too.

There are so many ideas I could give you about entering a show, but I’ve limited myself to these few. Together with the suggestions I made in part 1 of this post, I think your future is assured! I just hope mine isn’t too!

If you have been, thanks for reading!



Sunday, October 30, 2011

Entering Art Quilt Shows Part 1


Last April 1, I posted a piece about a new quilt show and since then I have been cogitating upon what advice I might give to entrants. I came up with so many different ideas, I thought I’d split them into two posts. These are some of the very important things to remember when entering a show.

1. The quality of the photograph: Remember the juror has very little time to look at your piece, so you really don’t need to bother too much about how the photograph looks. If the instructions say the image should be “300 ppi” that really is just a “serving suggestion”, you don’t need to bother about it much. Any number that has a 3 in it will work.


2. Principles. Be sure to have some. You’ve probably heard about the “principles” of good composition…well, when it comes to choosing which pieces to enter a show, be sure to get them right.

Harmony or unity simply means that all the different pieces of cloth are joined together. Variety or tension is an indication of how tightly the stitches are pulled together and is best ignored. In a detail shot, you can show the judges just how well you ignored tension! A pulled out stitch or two or a nice lumpy seam is exactly what they’re looking for.

Balance and proportion are guidelines only if you are actually going to wear your quilt whilst climbing a ladder. You want it to hide the naughty bits as you go up, and to support your weight if you fall down. Otherwise, this “rule” is just another piece of bureaucratic flimflammery!

You’ve heard them talk about getting rhythm and movement into a piece? What that means is that you should be sure to repeat a shape you like several times. Keep those shapes identical and the same distance apart, think about a funeral march: dum dum dum…whatever you do don’t put in any twiddlededees!! Asymmetry is anathema.

basic dyeing 2

Movement means that you’ve got to do all you can to make this quilt stay in place. Think of it being like a target. All important elements should be slap bang in the middle and if there are secondary objects – one on each side, exactly balanced is a very good idea.

And I’m sure you’ve heard some misguided fools talking about economy and simplicity? I know I have!! What idiots they are – everyone knows more is more. Stick everything on that baby you can!! Jumbles are good! Everyone loves a thrift store much more than an austere gallery. If the different parts of the quilt are ugly, jumbling them all up will really add a certain something to the piece! A “je ne sais quoi” that could be your “piece de resistance”! (you’ve heard of resist and discharge processes, this is where the resist part is important).

3. With purpose aforethought. It isn’t important for the jurors to have any idea of what your purpose was in making this quilt. In fact you don’t need to have any purpose. It’s much better if you think now it’s time to use up this horrible pink fabric with purple dots, it’s been hanging around in the closet for too long. It’s very important not to have any meaning to a piece, the less content the better. It’s all about form!

bw screen 3

4. Crime de passion. Jurors really don’t like genuine emotions, so distressing. You’re much safer with saying something that has been said before. A different point of view might be a little confusing to them. Stick with the obvious and water it down if you can.


5. Containment. It’s very important to make sure you have a good solid border around your piece. A dark color is preferable, and the more borders the better. You want to make sure the central motif is firmly nailed into place. The softer and more delicate it is, the heavier the border should be – you can never be too careful!


Be sure nothing will get up and have any spirit; at all costs, the piece should not have any life or movement to it. That’s very disconcerting and might put the jurors right off their stride, it could even wake them up. Lifeless work is much better.

Part 2 of this sage advice will appear in my next blog; I do hope you feel that the ideas are helpful! So, if you have been, thanks for reading! Elizabeth

Friday, October 28, 2011

Quilt goes walkabout


lavender gothic k


Has anyone, perchance, seen this quilt?

It seems to have gone walkabout!  I can’t find it anywhere and wonder if the poor thing got left behind someplace.

It’s called Lavender Gothic and is about 45”h and 32”w

Unless it’s managed to creep right inside another quilt, it’s not snoozing away on my quilt rack, nor is it hanging anywhere in the house.

Have you ever had this happen to you?

Thanks for looking!!  Elizabeth

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The experience of the art fair

On Saturday I took part in an art fair – these are not for those who are sensitive, easily bored or optimistic about making a fortune!  Most dishearteningly, no one bought any art I’d created, though some t-shirts and scarves, I’d experimented with, were sold for bargain prices….

However, even men stopped to look at  and comment upon the quilts (as opposed to odd men, though I suppose there were a few of those too!), because they were surprised at the images they portrayed. 

This last couple of years, frustrated by the easy charm of landscapes and despairing of descending into trite tweeness, I began to look around me for something a little gutsier as inspiration for my quilts. I became fascinated by industrial landscapes – especially the ones that are disappearing so quickly in the western world: the steel mills and their immensity, the collieries with the winding wheel macabrely echoing the sinister wheel of fortune – O fortuna

My first industrial landscape quilt was sparked by a glimpse I had across Hamilton Bay, Ontario of the Hamilton steelworks...I was being driven by on an overpass, heavy traffic, couldn't off further down and found a quiet road underneath but couldn't see the steel works - even standing on the roof of the car!! So tantalizing! I kept getting glimpses of this bizarre landscape across the lake but without a boat or a telescope..and I had neither…couldn’t get close enough. But sometimes an image just sticks in your mind, and a year later, I was able to persuade someone to take me out sailing with him and I got all the photographs and visual references I needed!


My first quilt based on these views was Rusty Answer (41”w, 24”h)(see below)…I loved the sense of distance across the water so opted for a deep foreground, highlighted by increasingly dense stitching. I used one strand of embroidery floss for the lines closest to the plant and then gradually increased the number of strands, ending up with 6 in the rows “nearest” to the viewer. In the late afternoon light, certain sections of the steel plant had glowed – I’d seen this from the overpass, so even though from the water everything is a uniform grey…I added in those beautiful warm colors.


The next piece (Heavy Metal 41”w, 42”h) was a close up. I wanted to emphasize some of the textures I had seen. The large grey areas, therefore are quilted with a pattern stitch to bring this out…also the water in the foreground is quilted with a metallic thread so that it glints as you walk by.




Then I thought it would be interesting to go in even closer and, with inappropriately pretty colours, reveal my second theme of the environmental problems caused by thoughtless industry. This is “What Pretty Smoke!” (36”w, 43”h).  This was one of the quilts I showed at the local art center yesterday.

One of the most impressive things about the site was the width of it…so I emphasized this in Steelyard Frieze (68”w, 35”h).  Scale is so often very important as I discovered when I was a juror.   Intimate things need to be small, yes, but if you’ve got a big message or a big subject, the quilt has got to be big too!  This quilt is currently hanging in a power station in California in a special show called the Power of Art!!  then it heads upto the Hamilton Museum of Steam in Canada.  Great venues for an industrial piece.




The more I made the more I came to appreciate the strange beauty of industrial sites …I remembered years ago having seen an old cement factory in my home town of Athens, GA, …so I rediscovered it, lots of photos…and 3 quilts! Here’s the first one: Cement Works (42”w, 40”h)..

The Cement works are directly opposite the Athens Institute of Contemporary Art (ATHICA) where the Studio Group (of which I’m a member is having their annual 4 day show and sale (we hope the latter noun is as valid as the former one!)}Nov 17-20.  It will be fun for visitors to see the Cement Works both outside and inside the gallery!

red abandon carnegie


Here are the Cement Works again…..



and again…tracy st silo snapshot

……..maybe at the Athica show and sale, the men (both even and odd) will be looking for surprising presents for their wives, girlfriends, partners etc!!! You never know!

Mind you, four days we’ll be sitting there…I’ll have to take a kettle and a teapot with me..there’s no getting away from it!  Come and have a cuppa!  Meanwhile, if you have been, thanks for reading!                                  Elizabeth

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A fun day in Athens, GA

me laughting with Petergate

Eighty artists selling original work will be at Lyndon House Art Center, just off Hoyt St in down town Athens on Saturday October 22.

Hoyt is parallel to Dougherty and one block North.

  If you’re in the area and have never visited Lyndon House this is a fun time to do it!

There will be a full schedule of live entertainment during the day of the market beginning at 10am on the outside steps/stage area of the LHAC.  

We will also have indoor entertainment throughout the day.  There will be several food vendor trucks selling a variety of foods and drinks on Saturday.  An eating area will be available in the Community Room of the center. Tours of the Lyndon House (an ante-bellum home that was used as a hospital in the Civil War), artist demonstrations, and children’s activities will all be going on to create a festival atmosphere. 

I’m going to be there with quilts, postcards, shibori dyed t-shirts and watercolor paintings (both framed and unframed, so the price will be right!) along with 79 other folk representing every art you ever heard of!  And probably some you never knew about!

The fun starts at 10 am and continues till 4 pm.  Come and visit us!

Look forward to seeing you!  Elizabeth

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sailing…while rethinking the F method….

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I had a great time visiting with the Art Quilt Elements committee  in Philadelphia this last weekend.  I toured the Wayne Art Center where the 10th anniversary AQE exhibition will be held next Spring – two gorgeous galleries and lots of lobby space too.  Even if they hang my quilt in ladies’ loo, I’ll be quite happy because it’s also  super!

As well as seeing lots of quilts and indulging in lots of quilt chat and gossip,  I was also introduced to the best f**ing I have ever seen!!!  As you know I’ve always eschewed this activity with great vigour but now I have to rethink having seen Cindy Friedman’s shadowscapes.  

Friedman_The Outing_32x32

Cindy fuses  silk organza onto pieced silk backgrounds creating glowing light filled scenes.  There is none of the flatness and glueyness that I have seen in other fused work.  The hand of the quilts is soft and luscious and the fabrics work together as one beautiful surface.  Cindy achieves this by going over the fused piece three or more times to remove every last trace of glue that is not absorbed by the silk fibers.  The work is meticulous and gorgeous!  She very kindly and generously showed me step by step just how she achieves this – not that I think I could ever come anywhere near her expertise (she’s been at it for a long time, she told me!).

Here’s a detail:

Friedman_The Outing_DETAIL

SimpoSolo On the left is a typical first piece.  Cindy collects photographs taken in strong sunlight – many from her frequent trips to Botswana – which show deep clear shadows.  The image is converted to a silhouette so there are no distracting details.  Then using Photoshop she can play with the secondary designs created by the pieced backgrounds and the repeats of the figures+shadows (as you can see below).  Do check out her website for more detailed pictures.





BotswanaBlues34x33.2010 I’ve never seen such beautiful fusing!!!  I might just be going to don a disguise to sneak into our local fabric store and pick up some of the hitherto despised fusing material myself!!

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I was also exceedingly well wined (well actually beered!) and dined by Deborah Schwartzman and, very excitingly, taken sailing on the Hudson River by New York City by Carolyn Lee Vehslage – what a great weekend!!


I was in Philadelphia because I was privileged to be a member of the jury for Art Quilt Elements 2012 with Sandra Sider, president of SAQA, and David Revere McFadden, chief curator at the Museum of Art and Design.   It was a really great learning experience and I’ll be writing more about it later.  Suffice to say – if you didn’t enter this show, you should have!  It’s the leading East coast quilt show and 2012 will be the best ever.  This year there were the greatest number of entries they have ever had -  from many US states and several foreign countries.  SAQA and SDA plan a joint conference to coincide with the opening of AQE 2012 at the end of March and Philadelphia will be bursting with fiber art!  

And now, to take off the six (yes, six!) layers of clothing I wore for the sailboat, don my wig and dark glasses and head down to the local quilt shop.  So, if you have been, thanks for reading!!  Elizabeth

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Great Week at Arrowmont

Teaching workshops is so rewarding when you have motivated, hard working and insightful students as I was lucky enough to have at Arrowmont (Tennessee) this last week.   Here are a few photos, some taken by me and some by Frances Arnold.  Alas a few folk got away before I could get a picture of their work, so regrets to all of them for my tardiness.

fall 2011 arrowmont and sunflowers 008 This is the setting for Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg TN, looking south to the Smoky Mountains.fall 2011 arrowmont and sunflowers 028


Gatlinburg at night……wonder if there’s a quilt in here somewhere?!






Setting up for the workshop……

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Rosie gets to work on her piece – note the ladder!!!  She’s using a combination of weavings, arashi and clamped resists.

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Denny’s piece was inspired by DNA, and she had a second one all pinned out, but alas didn’t get a picture!!  As you can see I was running to get this one (hence the blur)!  Great shibori insert in red.

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Elaine’s piece inspired by the autumn leaves, wonderful subtle use of her shibori fabrics….

and, below left, Linda’s piece inspired by the ski slopes.  It shows clearly the great value of very soft minimal shibori.  This was done by pre-dyeing only the string.

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Frances’ archway piece….again a very subtle use of shibori.  Shibori fabric is so strongly patterned it can overwhelm a piece and you have to be careful and sensitive about its use.  Great sense of depth in this quilt.





We were all wearing the shibori by the end of the class!!





And finally – the gorgeous fall views coming back south over the Smokies…..

fall 2011 arrowmont and sunflowers 051 yes it really was like this!

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Look at all that delicious aerial perspective!!!

This week I’m off to jury Art Quilt Elements and I think this will be a fabulous way to learn the strengths and weakness of art quilts; I’ll report back on my thoughts about the process rather than any specific pieces, I know I am going to learn a lot and there will be a great deal of cogitation!!  After that there are art and craft sales locally in which I’m participating for the first time…I’ll give details as we get nearer the time.  But before all that, I’m off up again to the North Georgia mountains to do some hiking, just too beautiful to miss…maybe I’ll see you there!

If you have been, thanks for reading!    All comments vastly encouraged!    Elizabeth