Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Basic Dyeing for Quiltmakers: A New Class: You Do It!

I really don't like to have to use commercial fabrics and commercial colors in my quilts -
 I want it to be all mine!
 "Me do it" as the toddlers say!!
oh yes, I'm told I was truly one of those ornery independent little tikes!!

I really like to keep things simple so that's what I've tried to do with this class.  But I also like to understand how to make certain colors, and why some color schemes work and others don't.  And so this class explores some of that in a little more depth than usual. For example, one of the sections addresses neutrals in great detail: what they are, how to create them and why you might want to use them.
I also describe how to choose colors from a color inspiration photo, and then dye them all yourself!

If you’ve never dyed before,
 this is the class to take.
If you have taken a class but ended up feeling confused about the whole process,
  this is the class to take.
If you have taken a class, and felt like it was all too much work,
   this is the class to take!
If you have taken a class and had wimpy or muddy results,
   this is the class to take!
If you have read about a class where you had to dye thousands of little square samples before you could even think about what you needed to make that quilt you have in mind,
   this is the class to take!

If you want to be able to dye a reasonable approximation of any color you see anywhere,
   this is the class to take!

There's still time to sign up for my new class for academyofquilting.com which starts on Friday Jan 2nd!   Academy of Quilting classes are priced very reasonably - they suit any pocket, you can study and learn all sorts of things in your own home.  I love online classes - no travel, no worrying about airports, no traffic jams, no trying to figure out who should look after things at home.  Plus in online classes you get to meet people from all over the world!!  Do join us!

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!!
A Happy New Year to Everyone - full of the Joys of Learning!!  Elizabeth

PS all the quilts shown are ones I've made with my own hand-dyed fabrics

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Keeping Quiet

I wanted to reproduce a   poem by the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), (translated by Alastair Reid) for you which is called Keeping Quiet....but alas the required permissions to do so are incredibly laborious.   The publishers (not the poet!)  want me to have a copy of the book in hand so that I can fill in a form with about 20 different esoteric bits of information - almost to the point of counting the full stops (periods) in the entire book!!! Plus full details of my entire existence!!!

The poem is so appropriate at this time of year - when we're singing about silent nights but not really thinking (or cogitating!) about the importance of silence.

 The message is so strong - for all of us of course, but for artists in particular.  It is difficult to create beauty in the midst of noise and chaos....we need silence.

It begins:

And now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth
let's not speak in any language,
let's stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

and here's the link to the full poem...do read it.

 All my very best wishes  for the holiday season (however you celebrate it) to all my blog readers.
And if you have been, thank you so much for reading all year long!  Elizabeth

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Question of Confidence

I recently asked several folk what they felt were their chief weaknesses in art quilting and was surprised by how many responded that they felt one important thing was that they didn't have enough having confidence in themselves as an artist.

I remember seeing a study of disadvantaged youth in LA who were not performing at all well academically - they were giving special training in self esteem.  It was thought that what they really lacked was feeling good about themselves as people.  At the end of the training, their self esteem was indeed improved...but their academic performance was, if anything, slightly worse!

Some years ago Robert Hughes was quoted as saying:

"The greater the artist, the greater the doubt;
 perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize".

Now I do know that just because all As are B, it doesn't mean that all those who are B are A!!!
So I'm not suggesting we start giving lessons in doubt!  But also it's clear that encouraging confidence in one's art is not going to be helpful either - IF the goal is to improve the Art.

And it really does depend on what the goal is:  we do know that confident people generally do better in the market place, they are considered better student by their teachers in school, are more likely to be hired in the job market, make more sales etc....and if your goal is to sell your art - not matter how mediocre it is, then probably working on improving confidence is a good idea!!!  But if you want to make better art, then do two things:

1.  find out is good
2.  practice doing it

yeah - I know!  No easy answers!  I always used to hope that over the next hill in whatever I was learning, or in whatever endeavor I was engaged, there would be a green and pleasant valley where everything was easy - amazing art would literally drip from my fingers!!!  Then I started reading about famous artists and their doubts, their constant struggle and I realized that uncertainty is the norm in good art.  If it's getting easy, it's probably getting trite...

So...don't worry about confidence!  Don't be fooled by the confident...instead ...get back to the art of making art!!  

If you have been, thanks for reading!  I'm off to perfect the art of making a nice cuppa tea - it just needs a little more practice.    Elizabeth

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The List of Important Features

It is a truth universally acknowledged that an artist should have a singular “voice” or style. 

People say this is important.  One's work should be recognizable for various commercial reasons, getting into shows and so on.... but I think a much better reason is that the only way to become really really good at something is to practice it over and over and over.  If you’re practicing a lot of different things at once, you simple won’t get as much practice at one thing. Of course I'm as guilty of this as the next person !!!

It's so much fun to try a lot of different new things, but like any kind of performance, whether gymnastic, or pianistic or artquiltistic you need to practice and perfect one type of piece.  In quilt making, at least, we don't have to work on the SAME piece over and over - though it really seems like a few (well-known) people do!!  But I do think we need to be making the same kind of work - whether it's delicate little appliqu├ęs, lots of embroidery, amazing chunks of surface designed fabric beautifully balanced (nobody is better than Elizabeth Busch at this), or the ubiquitous "improv', knock-offs from Gees Bend, quilts.

And talking about Gees Bend, I saw they currently have a show in Atlanta airport, and the pieces are small and completely unfinished - they are small framed tops...definitely worth checking out if you're in the area.  It's at the T gates - I can find no mention online as to how long the show will be up, but Bonnie Hunter's blog has some pictures.  Also the Metropolitan Museum in NYC has just announced a gift of 20 of the earlier Gees Bends quilts from Southern Art collector William Arnett.  Brilliant!

But back to our own work: while having a clear style  is partly the result of much practice and experience, it is also, I think, a matter of knowing your own taste.  Some day - when you've nothing better to do! - it's a great exercise to print out (or line up on your computer screen if it's big enough - scrolling through on a "smart" (so called!) phone does not count! - to print out at least a dozen images of quilts you've seen that you really really like and admire.

Looking at them all at one go, what similarities can you see?

1. Is it color?   or black and white? neutrals, restrained sophisticated color schemes?
2. Representational, impressionistic or abstract?  landscape, cityscape, figurative?
3. Improv or designed?
4. referring back to traditional quilts?  or not?
5. Using a lot of surface designed fabric?  Or commercial fabrics? or solid colors?
6. does the content relate to a specific topic?  like nature? or social commentary?
7.  what is the emotional impact?  An expression of beauty? of elegance, of energy? or something else...
8. Is fine workmanship a major feature, what particular skill does the artist demonstrate?

I'm sure you can think of other topics, and the images themselves will suggest topics to you - please put them in the comments so that we can all add them to the List of Important Features.

Once you have the list...take a look at your own work - how does it compare?  are these things that you find are most important when you are Looking at other people's work, evident in your own work?  And if not, why not?  Why are you not making the work that really turns you on??

Well...after so much cogitation, I think a nice cuppa tea is in order...so , if you have been, thanks for reading!   Elizabeth