Saturday, February 22, 2020

The Scrap Quilt

I've always loved scrap quilts....
and I've always loved "making" fabric out of little bits....

sometime ago I made this piece:

Diamond Pane
 I always liked it....and when it won an award at our local annual art show...I started thinking....
hmmm ,that would make a very good online class.

The fun part about this quilt is actually making the fabric which looks just fabulous by itself even if you don't cut it into shapes - like diamonds, or triangles or squares.

Highlands, Fall
 Sometimes I've just put together specific colors in the Diamond Pane..."making" the fabric whenever I had enough scraps of fabric in that particular hue.
Other times, I've just chosen  colors - as in May - that reflect a certain season.
In Highlands, Fall, I worked from a photograph actually matching the colors....and then made "dark" and "light" fabric....

The technique for "making fabric" is perfect for a scrap quilt tedious cutting, very little to buy - you just use your scraps!!  No matching or tracing etc...just happy cutting and sewing and ironing and enjoying seeing the results!  Then you can think whether to just use it as one solid I did in Highlands, Fall...or insert verticals as in May, or cut into shapes like in the Great (Pink) scrap quilt below...

The Great Scrap Quilt (pink)

And Sometimes I've also used the "fabric" as just a part of a quilt.......many uses!
Actually I once made a tank top out of it, and sold it at a fashion show before I could get a picture!!!

If you're interested, my new class about this way of making scrap quilts is going to start next week - Feb 28 at

I do like the idea of a class where the supply list is "what you have in your stash!"

And now back to my stash and my machine!
do write and tell me what you think about these quilts!!!It's always good to hear from you.

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

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Why buy art?

A painter friend of mine yesterday was telling me that she was working hard to get shows all over  town....various public buildings and so on.....and I thought ""Oh I should be doing that...."
but then..."why?"
Why?  Probably the most likely reason why is to sell!  Perhaps to encourage people to take classes.....or maybe for self-validation?
But does having a show like that lead to sales?  Generally I would say no, especially when it comes to expensive items like quilts.

“Many admire,  few buy”  seems to hold more strongly for quilts than for paintings. Quilts are very accessible and when you have a show you get lots of oos and ahhs and how lovelys….people never walk around with a silent puzzled look on their faces!   So why isn’t the work rushing off the walls? What are the reasons to buy and own a piece, and what are the reasons that people actually don't do this?

Many people just don't even consider owning a piece of art though they will definitely fork out a goodly sum for flat screen tvs and cell (mobile) phone bills. Their homes don't even contain a velvet Elvis!  There may be a few school or wedding photos, a calendar or two and that's it.  And yet, a work of art you love and have carried around with you through the years, makes a home instantly when you move to a new place.  The first thing I did when I moved (well the second one! the first was make a cup of tea...except for the memorable move when there was a power outage and the movers couldn't get the king sized bed up the narrow stairs and had to hoist it on a ladder through the bedroom window...we encouraged them and ourselves with several large Scotches - that's what it takes to get a couple of men on a ladder with a large bed!)..the next thing after tea was to decide where the art work was going to go and then it felt like home.  A much loved work of art not only beautifies a home, it can be a home. (or airport! below - at hartsfield-atlanta, gate 27, concourse E)

Some people of course just plain don't have the money - though I think if you add up entertainment and splurge shopping and eating out for a year, you'd be surprised what the amount came to.  If you'd bought a piece of art you'd have something beautiful or fascinating for ever -  instead of extra inches on the waistline, forgettable movies seen that were a waste of time, and clothes you no longer like.    And a work of art can be saved for before you choose, or paid for in installments...

Why is a work of art not considered for a major anniversary gift or to mark a very special occasion?  Why do people buy their children jewelry or a car when they come of age?  I bought paintings for my kids' 21sts!  Cars wear out, jewelry only comes out on special occasions, art is there beautifying your home every day. And it never gets a flat battery!

Some think if they had they time they could make something similar so why should they buy?!  But actually it's very difficult to copy another's work - I've seen several attempts - believe or not people have proudly shown me their copies of my quilts! - but the copies never have the elan, the freshness, the zest and the harmony of the original work.  I think it's even harder to copy an art quilt than a painting.  The mark of the hand is so much more evident.  Plus  the amount time it takes one to learn the trade, develop the skills, design the work and make it is usually vastly underestimated.

Exploding sewing machine!!!

What is different about those who do buy? They are the people who value beauty - and the expression of feeling.  For them to buy a piece, the work has to speak to them very personally, intrigue them, pull them back to look time and again.  And having been fascinated in this way, they have to believe that it would be good to actually own this piece, that it would then be theirs to enjoy each day. It's important to learn that art can be savored, it never gets used up!

It's great to have original art at home, it's even more of a life-savor at work!  I can think of several ex-colleagues I might have done in were it not for the peace and beauty of my art-filled, door-closed office! Especially abstract walk...which I find very calming....this was one of my favorites....

My good painter friend, Mary Porter, says: “It’s really all about energy. (A work of art) is about energy. A good (art piece) gives you energy, feeds you spiritually. It tells you things—something new every time you experience it. Not in words, but on a deeper level. But you have to quiet your mind and observe.” Listen, feel, think….and consider!

It helps to begin by collecting small works (as in water dipping toes) fact many of my first art pieces were traded, then I bought small "within-budget" works.  After this introduction, you move to the stage of knowing the pleasures of owning and you actively begin to look for work.
  If you've never owned anything beautiful you don't know quite how much fun it is!
So...think about it: if you buy, why do you?  And if you don't, why not?
Let me know in the comments!!!  and, by the way, if you have been...thanks for reading!  Elizabeth
PS...there are other reasons for having a show of course...which I'll come back to in due course...since this blog is already WAY too long!

Saturday, February 8, 2020

The art of being fresh

A New Day

D'you remember when a guy being "fresh" was considered...well...a little risky?

And of course, that's what you actually always kinda hoped would happen??!!

Because being fresh gives us something of a thrill!
well perhaps not the kind of thrills your mother would like you to have...
being fresh in your art work is also a thrill.

“Don’t let your art look contrived!” said my friend as we viewed my latest efforts.  I knew exactly what she mean as I love work that looks fresh and spontaneous – while all the while being the product of great thought, balance, compositional control and probably years of practice and the result of many attempts to achieve this effect.  It’s like the actor playing a part in a long running stage play – every performance must be true, valid, dynamic and effortless.  Most great performances (whatever the medium) have this quality – it doesn’t happen as a result of being very young, very drunk and  (one thinks!) very spontaneous!  it’s practice that counts of course.  Practice, practice, practice and then letting go and being in the moment when faced with one’s medium.  I’ve been reading a very revealing book about the performance of tennis  (Open by Andre Agassi)where he demonstrates over and over the validity of this observation.

It's true in music too, my pedagogue says "just relax and let loose and be spontaneous" - with a chopin nocturne!!!!  phew.   it will take a lot of practice...but he knows that a good performance has just that quality of spontaneity, like you just dreamed it up right then and there.

The problem of being too contrived occurs frequently i “Clumsy, Hollow and Contrived” wrote critic Januszczak of de Lempicka’s work where, according to the critic, her attempts to copy Cubism,  and to fake much more knowledge (according to the writer) than she had of that particular art movement were. 

Januszczak writes about deLempicka adopting a style and attempting to use it even though she didn’t understand it and had nothing to offer it in terms of her own imagination.  This is a  problem evident in many a clone quilt! 

Following the inspiration of “primitive” art is a tightrope that many have tried to walk.  And often been  commercially successful, but alas the result of a such a strong source of inspiration leads to one producing contrived art.  Inspiration plus development and work, not mockery and thoughtless reproduction, is required.

The opposite of contrived work is work that has variety, unexpectedness, bold strength not wimpy efforts, and has a clear impact on the viewer. 

I was listening to a talk on creativity recently.  The speaker said that while everyone can be creative much in modern education squashes it!  Most 5 year olds think they are creative, hardly any 17 year old do!  But we can get back into the creative takes practice!   Your first ideas will be based more on memories...yes memories of your own, or other people's art work, your next ideas will be more likely to be your own and novel, but perhaps not very interesting, however if you keep pushing it more and more then the ideas come that are both new...and fresh...and beautiful.

So please don't give up when you have created the first design for a quilt, or done one value study for a painting, keep working, trying different possibilities...this is where the real work of art takes place.....give yourself a number - say a dozen different ways of depicting a tree, or a car, or your first love...and then stand back and evaluate...and I'm sure you'll find that you're getting fresh!

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!
Comments please!!  I love them...and will respond.   Elizabeth

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Is saleability important?

As artists we are driven to make work....but what to do with it once it's made?
Like many fiber artists I have a storage unit piled high with work...
of course all the "pretty" ones, like the one sell fairly quickly.
But that leaves everything else...if you can't sell it, do you

store it?
make it into something else?
give it away?
hang it in your own home?
or if all else fails:
destroy it?

Recently I was asked if, when I was a juror for a well known quilt show,  I chose work that I knew would sell.  Well I don't know what the other jurors had in mind, of course, but the saleability of a work was the very last thing in my mind, never even considered it.  And, of course, when we make work (unless we are being VERY commercially minded!) we're not thinking about a sale.  Rather we have in mind making strong and beautiful work, that conveys the message, the idea, the thought, the feeling that inspired us.

As a juror I looked for work that was well designed and composed, was beautiful in how the separate elements were arranged, that attracted my attention - and held it (much harder!)...and which would, I thought, stand the test of time.  To attract attention, work needs to be strong and fresh, intriguing and novel.  To stand the test of time, it needs to be solidly and cleanly and surely put together - both visually and literally.

So no, I didn't consider saleability either of others' work, or of my own when making it....because whether or not something will sell depends to some extent on factors other than the above. and it was those things that were always my goal.
but have a cupboard full of quilts...or even a whole basement!!

What I have noticed, and I have sold quite a lot of work over the years...but there are still about 40 or 50 pieces languishing at the back of the studio!  unobserved and unloved!...
what I have noticed is that commercial places buy work that fits in with their interior designer's a hospital looks for something calming and soothing and optimistic. (yes we do have to overlook some perfect dreadful art that appears in doctor's offices!!! that could drive an artist to madness if viewed for very long!), the library wanted something that was energetic, the community center something that conveyed a sense of place...and so on.

The private buyer buys something that resonates with them in some way.  You can hear this when they tell you why they're buying a piece, the story they see about that piece and how it relates to them.  I remember one very spare piece being sold because the buyer said "it's for my wife, she loves the beach in winter".
A sense of place is a common reason for buying.
Another is the color...a piece was chosen recently because "I love orange and pink together on blue".

Sometimes a memory....
or, the mood or ambience created by the piece.

but that still leaves an awful lot of work to be disposed of!!!
so...tell me your ideas!
because I'm determined to get my pile down to less than ten before I make another quilt!!!!

If you have been, thanks for reading.   and please please comment...I need your answers!!!

PS...if you're still actually making quilts !  consider a modern/improv Mod meets Improv class starts next Friday at
Modern quilts are elegant, and pretty quick to make! especially using free cutting and improv techniques...and facing instead of binding.....  think about it!!!!