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.

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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!

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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.  

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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