Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Report from Quilt National '13


Just got back from my fifth Quilt National!  What a wonderful quilt show this is...or perhaps I should say art show - for many of the pieces shown there would be equally at home in any fine art gallery.  85 quilts were chosen from 851 entries.  Rather fewer entries than previous years: 2011 (1000+), 2009 (1000+), 2007 (1151).  I wonder if this is because several well known art quilt makers, stalwarts of many shows, are now too famous, or too old to be bothered entering? There's a whole new slew of folk coming along, but finding the time and money for art  gets harder for  younger people every year.
Of the 85 quilts, I thought 33 were absolutely stunning and very inspirational, and of course there were some that were clever or very attractive, and some you wondered about!  Alas, the jurying for prizes was also done by photographs and not from the real thing which I feel is a disservice to both the medium and the artists.  I know if I asked they would say: Oh we have to do that so we can record the prize winners in the catalogue...BUT BUT why is having the listing in the catalogue So important?  You could easily have on the last page information to a website page where the prize winners are listed.  Plus it would be really fun to choose those whom you thought should have got a prize -  and then go to the website to find out whom the jurors chose.

The catalogue by the way is very well done; published this year by Dragon Threads instead of Lark Books, and is available on the QN website. Since you can see the full pictures there of all the quilts - but very few details, I'll show you some details and some of the people who were at the opening!

The quilt at the top is mine - one of my industrial quilt series but the emphasis here is very much on what we're doing to our environment.  Can you see the little boy (life size) crouched beneath the oil derrick?  The weight of our demands for huge amounts of cheap energy is on the backs of our children and grandchildren.

 Exploitation of the environment was a theme addressed by several quilts in this show, also other major issues like child abuse and Alzheimer's.  May our voices be heard!  And, thankfully, many artists made work about beauty - both obvious and hidden, loud and quiet!

One of my  favorite pieces was Gabriel by Anne Smith of Cheshire, UK.  I don't know anything about Anne but she has a wonderful sense of humour: "Gabriel has a job to do - he is a messenger - but what does he do on his days off from serious work? What does he wear?"
This is just a detail of the entire quilt - which you can see on her website too...an amazing piece with lots of fascinating sections...love his feet in sneakers (I mean what else does an angel wear on his day off?) dangling off the quilt.

 Here's a detail of Deidre Adam's quilt:
and Deidre standing in front of it!

a detail of Luanne Rimel's heavily stitched piece - masses and masses of beautiful stitch texture:
a detail of Marianne Burr's amazing piece...look at all that embroidery!! Marianne says that she was an embroiderer first...then learned about art quilts.  Her quilt is also the cover of the book.
 And here's an overall view of the first hour or so before the hordes came in and it was packed out! Yes that's Del Thomas in the middle but I'm not sure of the other folk!

 Dear Patty Hawkins by her lovely Colorado quilt.

Another beautiful stitching detail - this time from Judith Plotner's work...as you can see it also has a very irregular edge.

And finally my dear friend Robin Schwalb making a beautiful come hither Kitty face for me!!!

Do buy the book to see all the quilts in full and do consider entering yourself next time!!  Deadline for entries will be sometime in September next year...start designing now!

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Working with Photographs

Apologies for not blogging last week - I was having too much fun staying with a group of friends on Jekyll Island, GA.  Jekyll is a state park and although "they" are always nibbling away at its natural landscape with various "developments" aimed at the top 1%, much of the island is unspoiled.  Some of the beaches have been voted "most romantic" and are used for weddings:  I came across a wonderful "sculpture": an empty beach with two rows of perfect white chairs!  Facing towards the sea...I thought it was a comment on how little attention society is paying towards the environment, but was told: " no...it's a wedding".

Of course we took lots of photos which will be used for both memories and inspiration.  Not all photos are good inspiration for all mediums, however.  Take a look at these two:

This would be quite difficult to make into a quilt because art quilt designs based directly on photographs are  really fiber collage.  And collage is is the process of sticking shapes together.
Now it does work okay for a watercolor, because it's quite easy to use line as well as shape in a watercolor:

I've isolated one tree, added color and value and put the ocean in as a back ground...

Let's take a look at a different photograph:

one in which there are distinct shapes:

Now this is a candidate for both a watercolor and a quilt design.

First step is to crop and desaturate.

And the next step is a quick sketch:
and then the painting:
and I've not yet made the quilt...(I've promised myself an abstract year!) but as you can see from the sketch there are clear big shapes and it would be a fun piece - next January!

I feel that when you're choosing a photograph from which to make a design for an art quilt, you need to look for good shapes that bear some relation to each other (unity) but are not identical (variety). Furthermore, I really like it when the image tells a story.   Here are Marti and Heidi enjoying a bit of wave watching (I could tell because of the gentle snoring!!) and it brings back for me a lovely quiet day by the ocean.

So, if you have been, thanks for reading!  And for anyone going to the Quilt National '13 at Athens, Ohio - I'll see you there!!  Look for the tall gangly bird with short blonde spikey hair!!


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Sensation and Sensibility

I keep thinking about something the curator from the Museum of Art and Design said when he was jurying the last Art Quilt Elements show.  He was disappointed that there weren't any quilts using contemporary art ideas: video, electronics, synthesizers, installation devices, things that look like quilts but arn't made from cloth and vice versa!
Jeff Koons

Dogs made from balloons recreated in metal and blown up to giant size, strange materials like elephant dung.

  I mean have you ever tried to sew elephant dung to cloth?
though it looks like somebody has managed to make shoes from it!!

  Looking at the most recent Art in America magazines I can see where these ideas are coming from; there's hardly any straightforward painting represented in the articles - though plenty in the adverts!  It's a bit like the fashion magazines that you buy to look at the advertized clothes rather than the peculiar arrangements of cloth on immensely tall, anorexic, terminally depressive models in postures designed to dislocate half the joints in your body.

  Articles in art magazines and jurors from the art world are avant avant garde - they want to see something new, however awkward and unsustainable.  But most art is there to add beauty and meaning to our lives and I'm sad that many contemporary artists seem to have forgotten that.  There seems to be a real dichotomy between the two kinds of work.  With a few exceptions, though, I really think that work that shows Truth and Beauty (yes, those currently unfashionable qualities!) will be that which will stand the test of time.

Where Bong Trees Grow
 Meanwhile we have a choice!  If you want to be provocative and catch the juror's eye, then start attaching the wires right now!  If you want to show the world the beauty of the stitch, the cloth and the marks made by the maker's hand on the cloth then you might not get into some shows, but in the long run I think you'll be more satisfied by what you've made.

I'd love to hear from you if you disagree with me!! It's also very good if you don't!  Opinions please!

Meanwhile I'm gearing up for a new Inspired to Design course which starts with Quilt University this Friday;  there's time to sign up until Friday or even Saturday if you've thought about doing it.  This is the workshop that goes with my new book also called Inspired to Design and available from me (signed, dedicated) or from Amazon or your local quilt store.  Taking the workshop would support you working through the processes and I would give you as much feedback as you wanted on both your designs and your quilts.  Might even figure out what to do with that elephant dung!

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

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Networking and marketing

Lighthouse, Mull
Like many artists, I really enjoy the creative process and hate the networking and marketing aspects of our trade.  I hated it in my previous life as a clinical psychologist too!  However, with psychology you can't really share what you're doing with the public at large - and you can with Art.  Last Friday, we had an art fair in town.  I organized it with two other folk; we're all very different so it worked really well. I'm a big picture person and somewhat impulsive, the other two are detail people and very thoughtful and cautious!  A  nice balance.

 It was, perhaps not surprisingly, difficult to persuade some of the artists to even show their work and communicate with the public but once they got into it they loved it. You get a great jolt of energy (much better than those horrid drinks!) from having Real People, the wandering through public, exclaim with pleasure upon seeing your work.  The praise, however gentle, does lead to renewed energy when back in the studio.  It also helps you to see your work with different eyes - what did people respond to the most, what resonated the most.  Which art work did they spend time over, relating it to their own life experience?

Iona in watercolor
Several people remarked to me with surprise that they had made big sales -  to friends.  They wondered why those friends hadn't bought from them before.  But there's something about a fair; it's hard to go to a friend's house with the intention of purchasing something.  There's a lot of pressure - you feel you don't want to insult them if you don't see the perfect thing and it's all very awkward.  Whereas in a public setting like a fair, all the artwork is well displayed, you can look at it and walk around the fair while thinking about it.  You've got more time and space and the pressure is off.
Iona, in fabric
 It's said that you need to see something seven times before making a big purchase.  At a fair many people see your work, nothing may happen that day, but then later as the person recalls your work, looks you up on the internet..gazes at the empty wall in their house that would look good with a special piece of art...then gradually they may realize that they have to have it! A phone call is made.... As an artist who sells their work, I want a person to take their time and be really sure before they buy anything; I hate the thought that they'd come down with a case of Buyer's Remorsitis!  so I'm always thrilled to get the phone call or email several days after the fair: "I've been thinking about that piece  I saw....".  Music!

Well...back to work!  And, if you have been, thanks for reading!   Elizabeth
I'd love to hear about your experiences with networking and marketing....