Exhibit at University Presby

I  have a small but, I think, quite nice, exhbit of work at University Presbyterian Church in the SOL Center. It will be up through Easter, and I will be doing an artist talk on the coming Sunday after services (noonish?).

The church is at Bushnell and Shook in San Antonio. And, as a born-amd-bred Presbyterian, it's an honor to be there -- there is something really satisfying about having more than one or two pieces of work in a public forum. It is a pleasure to see 15 or so pieces of work all on nice walls all in the same space. The work in the show is from 2009 to now, with quite a bit new work. I see it differently on a wall that is not my own.

I admit to having some misgivings about not being in a "proessional" venue with my work. There aren't many such available in this community; textile art is marginalized between art and craft. No excuses: I also am not the best at spending time and effort finding exhibit opportunities. Meanwhile, with the help of friends, this one came my way; the space is quite nice; I had lovely help hanging the show; it has an interesting and valued stream of people going through it for classes, events, church services and more. So if you get a chance, stop by. Ask at the church office if the Sol Center is locked. Ask for prices if you are interested in purchasing work -- 25% of purchase price goes to the church.

Therapy Strips, Thanks to Rayna

Rayna Gillman's new(ish) book, Create your own Free-Form Quilts, has inspired me to try my very first all-pieced art quilt. Yay, Rayna. For an art quilter who has come to textile work from the art not the quilt world, this is a big and scary step for me.

But, thanks to Rayna, I now know: The 1/4" seam rule is not so set in stone. Sometimes crooked is good. A piece is a piece is a piece and it can always be cut and pieced again. 

That's just the start. Here are my "therapy strips" waiting to become something else. I also actually have a nice set of pomegranite "blocks" put together and am trying to decide if they are done or need to become my own version of a 9-patch. (And, they are very therapeutic, just the thing for me to do when I need studio time, but don't know exactly what to work on next -- or ever again).


Hurray for writers who take us out of our fears. Thanks, Rayna.

Time Flies. Getting it Done.

And gets away from us sometimes. This is new piece --  Century Plant  -- that's part of a two-year challenge to make 22" by 16 " art quilts every two months -- there are 12 artists participating. If you'd like to know more about the piece, what inspired it and what techniques I used for the surface design, head on over to the blog site for the challenge at Textile Abstractions.

I worked on much of the background fabric during last weekend's wonderful Petroglyph/Prehistory workshop. And as usual I forgot to take photos. I hope that those who attended will send me pics of their work in progress and completed. It was a small group, but we had a wonderful time working together and I think everyone got something good out of the experience.

And, to elaborate on a way for you to spend some valuable time:

At the suggestion of several who were here this past workshop, the next El Cielo experience is going to be a UFO workshop, matched with some teaching and technique practice on finishing details for show submissions -- such as, how to make a proper sleeve, options for edge finishings, how to write a GREAT artist statement, improving your bio statement, packing tips and other ideas.

The UFO portion of the workshop will include peer review and suggestions from me about how to proceed on a piece (or several pieces) that is giving you problems, or just needs a bit of something more, some digital BEFORE and AFTER ideas done on the computer for a piece that needs triage, and, of course, time to actually work, with friendly support, on something you want to finish. YOu can bring a machine or share time on my Bernina (let me know ahead of time), use the printing table, make some rusted fabric, use the computer and printers, etc. You can use the studio and its resources (but if you know you need a certain color of ink or dye you'll need to bring that, as well as batting and fusible web if you use that). I will ask my handy neighbor to be available to make shadow boxes, wooden frames or panels, if you bring the wood (he charges modest fees) and we'll all try to get some stuff done. 

If you need thermofaxes, I'll charge the cost for those $12 -- $15 each.

Plus, we'll have fun, eat, drink, talk, swim and sit in the hot tub if you wish and, I'm sure, laugh and cry over the challenges of finishing up stuff (PS The advice you get about a piece that you really don't want to finish will be to pass it along, cut it up, throw it away or recycle it into something else!). What better way can you think of to spend a summer weekend?

The dates I am looking at right now are either Friday, Saturday, Sunday July 9-11, July 16-18 or August 13-15. If any reading this have a preference and can commit  (with a deposit) to one or the other, send me an email and I'll set the date for your preference.

The workshop fee is $160, with a $10 discount for checks received before July 1. Accommodations are first come first serve and range from upstairs private room with bath for $30, shared (2 bed) room with private bath for $15 per person, $15 for downstairs room with shared bath, free room for blowup mattress and shared bath and free for studio or sleeping porch bed. For those of you who haven't been here before, the  food is great, if I do say so myself -- everyone contributes something for the potluck. Dinner Friday is optional (you can arrive any time after 4 on Friday). We usually finish about 3 /4 on Sunday. I can arrange airport pickup if necessary, and if you do fly in you can stay til Monday for an additional room night charge and maybe an extra bit for the food costs -- or we can eat out on Sunday night.




Cool Offer from Quilting Arts

From the website: Quilting Arts June/July 2010


Inspiration and techniques! Thread sketching; needle felting; hand stitching; recycled sweaters; 3-D embellishments; batik with soy wax; Dunnewold on design; circular quilts; “Inner Animal”; and more!  Continue thread sketching with Susan Brubaker Knapp, with a focus on texture. Learn Jane LaFazio’s techniques for creating colorful and unique fiber art that encompasses needle felting and hand stitching. Discover how squares from recycled and felted wool sweaters serve as the base for Morna Crites-Moore’s embellished art quilts. Explore soy wax batik alongside Melanie Testa. Use fabric-covered wireform mesh to create sculptural elements. Learn about the inspiration and techniques behind Victoria Gertenbach’s wonderfully graphic quilts. Take a sneak peek at Jane Dunnewold’s new book: Art Cloth: A Guide to Surface Design for Fabrics. Check out Laura Wasilowski’s method for creating small circular quilts with colorful fused appliqué and quick-wrapped edges. Gain insight from Jane Dávila on taking commissions. Enjoy more inner animal reader challenge results. Get to know art quilters Geneviève Attinger and Sylvie Ladame. Read about the smokestacks and factories featured in Elizabeth Barton’s industrial landscape quilts. And don’t miss Goddess Robbi Joy Eklow’s recent home décor adventures.

Looking for some great image transfer ideas for art quilts? 

Here's a free ebokk offer from Quilting Arts magazine (which, by the way, has in it this month an article profiling French artist Sylvia Ladame that I wrote!).


Click here to download

Sneak Preview of Challenge Quilt

I am participating in my first Quilt Challenge group -- a little personal challenge in follow-through for me, since I tend to get lots of things started and then, whoops, quite a few of them drop by the wayside. The challenge is one in which 12 participants each make a smallish art quilt every two months, with each member choosing a theme single word in turn. The word/theme for the first quilt is "wall." And along the same set of goals, here is my mantra for the month:" MAKE ART EVERYDAY. No matter what else is going on, or where ever else I am other than the studio (this month has a good deal of travel for teaching in it). So far, so good!

For the quilt challenge, I decided to continue some work I 've been doing with prehistoric imagery for this first challenge -- since it seemed to be a perfectly good fit -- rock walls, rock art! And it's given me a great opportunity to continue experimenting with transfers using polyester film and textile medium -- an interesting way to get a kind of organic quality to the image that fits the theme.

I also wanted to try and use words in each of the challenge quilts, but this one may take the prehistoric images as a preword word! If I find a poem or excerpt from a poem about cave walls or shamens maybe I will try to work it in via the quilting. If this one doesn't work out, I have another piece of fabric in the works that might be better. It's been interesting for me to have a two month stretch to work since usually I don't spend this much time on a small art quilt.

This photo shows the kind of effects you have from the image transfer, though this is a sample from another project, not fabric I am using in this piece.


This work was inspired by the Petroglyphs and Prehistory workshop that I taught here at El Cielo this fall. You can see more of the design work that is adding up in this piece on my blog entry for that event here.

How to make an art quilt my way, part 2

When last you saw this quilt ....After being stuck for a time, and being out of town for longer, I finally made some real progress on what is turning out to be someone living an archetypal life between Eve and Our Lady of Guadalupe, complete with pomegranates, of course.

The snake snuck in, though. And a new arm.


When we last left this quilt, it was still on the design table. I got it fused together, and then up on the wall for final fiddling around and problem solving. I also took lots of photos and screened the results on the computer to start the process of thinking how I will trim the finished product -- though That Decision won't really come until the end, after all the quilting.

Next I go to the machine (or machines -- I am considering renting time on the local quilt shop's long arm to do the "first layer" of free motion work. I don't much like it for all the detail work, since I like to change colors of thread. One factor pushing me this way is that it seems my machine is acting up and, gee, I suppose it must be time for a service call.


How to make an art quilt if you're me


Start with color.


I do this a lot. Over and over. Til its right from the beginning. And yes, the studio stays a mess til this part is done.

(and a bit of a notion of an idea, theme, relation to something earlier done)

Continue with shape and composition.

Work from strong suit to strong suit.

Keep it on the table until it's together enough to put on the wall.

(Where I am now.)

Pin up and look. Keep it up. (still to come)

This pomegranate virgin is in my heart, singing of abundance, life force, generousity of spirit. I am holding her in my heart right now.

What is your process? Where is your strong suit? Do you let yourself start there or try to follow someone else's formula for success. I think your main task as an artist is to discover those gifts, honor them, and let them lead your process. Don't believe other people's formulas. Maybe you try them out to see what works and not, but in the end, just as you stitch together your cloth, you stitch together your way  of working. It will be as unique and as personal and as much a part of your "voice" as any other aspect of visual style or content.

Art Quilts at Baylor

Jack Brockette sent along this photo -- his wife Ann took it, I think.

This exhibit at Baylor University's Martin Museum is up through the weekend, Nov. 14. If you are in Central Texas, please stop in and see the wonderful and diverse work by the participating artists: (in no particular order) Jack Brockett, Sue Benner, Liz Axford, Connie Scheele, Jane Dunnewold, Ann Adams, and me. I am honored to be included in such a group of stellar artists!

The exhibit was curated by Mary Ruth Smith, who is on the faculty at Baylor, and beatifully installed by the museum staff headed by Karin Gilliam. We were hosted by the university at a luncheon and lecture by Kay Lenkowsky, quilt artist and author of Contrmporary Art Quilts. It was a treat to meet her, and to spend time with all of these talented artists. Our work is so different and the exhibit revealed much to the local audience -- many of whom I think had never seen a quilt that wasn't made for a bed.

I grew up from age 12 to 18 in Waco, so it was a particular treat for me to be part of this show and to have all my family and relatives there able to attend. My father taught at Baylor for many years, my uncle was a dean and VP and my aunt also taught there, plus brothers and sister-in-laws, all are grads. My parents don't travel much anymore, so it was really wonderful to have them attend the reception.

Here are a few pictures from the reception:

Kate and Liz deep in talk.

 You can catch a glimspe here of Jack's hanging work and Jane Dunnewold's piece on the wall.

Here's a few other pictures from artists who participated, with their permission:

Sue Benner's "Cellular Structure VII"

Liz Axford's "9-patch" take with felted stitched work:

Another Artist Profile

I have had my third artist profile published in Quilting Arts Magazine this month -- it's about Cathy Kleeman and deals primarily with her right-brain/left brain balancing act as an artist. I've enjoyed talking to the artists whom I've interviewed for the  past three issues -- and the good news is that I'll have an article about my "rainbow" prints with water color crayons and polymer in an upcoming article, the first writing I've done for QA that will be about my own work!

But, since this one was also the cover story, that's a pretty nice accomplishment, too!


What is an art quilt?


Everytime I think that surely the whole world is into art quilts I meet someone who looks puzzled and asks me "huh?" Quilts hung on the wall is sort of part of it, but many people also hang their "traditional" quilts on the wall. And, frankly, I'm not so sure that the borderline between traditional and art quilts is all that clear in the minds of many who even like to tinker in the trappings.

I certainly don't want to replay the whole art vs. craft discussion here, nor do I believe that we gain a lot by debating what exactly is art -- it's a lovely question that's been asked and answered for ages. (I personally like what Rudyard Kipling wrote in 1890 in Conundrum of the Workshop:

“When the flush of a new-born sun fell on Eden’s green and gold,
Our father Adam sat under the tree and scratched with a stick in the mould;
And the first rude sketch that the world had seen was joy to his mighty heart,
Til the Devil whispered behind the leaves, “It’s pretty. But is it Art?”

But I do think its worth stating and restating a few times on this blog, one the purportedly is about the studio life, practise and output of an artist who makes art quilts (aka contemporary textile paintings) and during this season of entry forms (esn't every season now?) it's nice to revisit what some of the "big kids on the block" have to say about it.

Here's Lisa Call's take on the topic, from her Squidoo lens (and she quotes and attributes several others):

What is a Contemporary Art Quilt
From Lisa Call’s http://www.squidoo.com/artquilts/

There is a lot of discussion in the art quilt world about what exactly an "art quilt" is and what we should call them. The simple term "quilt" is deemed unacceptable by a large portion of the general art quilting population because of the connotations of traditional quilt that it carries with it. So most people prefer to add some type of disclaimer to qualify the type of quilt they make.
One of the more common terms is "art quilt". I prefer "contemporary quilt". Some people say "fiber art" or "studio quilt" or "textile art" or "soft painting". But the question remains - exactly WHAT is a contemporary art quilt? Generally it refers to a quilt that was intended to be art and hang on the wall vs. placed on a bed. Although some art quilts might also be bed quilts.

What is Art?
As contemporary art quilts are "art" it's good to think about what art is when trying to define them. Of course defining art is difficult but the definition I prefer I read on Alyson Stanfield's Art Biz Blog

"What is art? . . . art is the deliberate creation of aesthetic sensations. Art is a work of a human being, not of nature. It is not accidental. It produces something that is perceived through the senses and results in a personal emotional experience. . . .

". . . it is the conscious, deliberate production of an event or object of beauty (or emotional import) by a human being, employing not only the skill of the craftsman, but in addition, an element of creativity--original, inventive, instinctive, genius. An art object is an aesthetic artifact, deliberately created.
Art actually lies in the act of creation, not in its result."

--G. Ellis Burcaw, Introduction to Museum Work, page 66

Definition of an Art Quilt
From the "Authorities"
This is Quilt National's definition:
The work must possess the basic structural characteristics of a quilt. It must be predominantly fabric or fabric-like material and must be composed of at least two full and distinct layers - a face layer and a backing layer. The face layer may be described by any or a combination of the following terms: pieced, appliqued, whole cloth, stitched/fused to a foundation. The face and backing layers must be held together by hand- or machine-made functional quilting stitches or other elements that pierce all layers and are distributed throughout the surface of the work. At least some of these stitches or elements should be visible on the back of the work. As an alternative, the work may be a modular construction (an assemblage of smaller quilts). Each individual module, however, must meet the above structural criteria.

This is Studio Art Quilt Associates's definition:

SAQA defines an art quilt as a contemporary artwork exploring and expressing aesthetic concerns common to the whole range of visual arts: painting, printmaking, photography, graphic design, assemblage and sculpture, which retains, through materials or technique, a clear relationship to the folk art quilt from which it descends.

The art part of the definition is the most debateable, and as Kipling wrote, a longtime call and response.

The majority of Westerners today, if a survey of more than 500 people conducted by Carolyn Boyd’s anthropology class at Texas A&M has any validity, think that

“art is created for the sole purpose of being aesthetically pleasing to people within society and with minimum purpose beyond that of intrinsic enjoyment.”

Boyd is studying the rock art paintings of the Pecos River and, she views those great works in a somewhat different light, one that does not make them ART at all, but something more utilitarian than what that survey indicates most Americans think about art.

Human beings are makers – we evolved these opposable thumbs and then just couldn’t help but start making tools, making clothing, making shelter, making food fancier, making stuff.

As we developed more skills and fancier tools --and perhaps the time to spare, we started pleasing our senses with the things we made --adding aesthetic considerations to their functionality with decoration, embellishment – and also just with making things that had inherent sensory-pleasing qualities of texture, color, shape and form. This concern, these considerations have changed, but endured even into the industrial and post industrial, electronic world. Craft and technical skills become valuable.

We make stuff – and try to make it pleasing --but we humans also make stories. As story makers, we are as concerned with the why and how come and what happened then and what happens next as we are with making our lives run more smoothly. A story, in this broad artspeak meaning, can be a narrative, a question, a confusion, a conversation between formal elements like line and color, a public outrage, a private history -- and it can be done well or poorly.

And to me that’s where the art comes in to the quilt.

What I do

Flaming Eyebrows, detail art quilt

This post was originally published on Michele Foster's www.quiltinggallery.com. Check out the post and comments there, as well as great guest spots from some wonderful quilters.

Angels, saints, sinners, strange beasts. fire eye-browed women and prickly landscapes step out of the air and into my work. I can’t help it. These odd characters and scenes aren’t predetermined, they just happen. I don’t use patterns, rarely make sketches, refuse to pin, never measure (except at the very end), sometimes I don’t even worry about the back of my quilts and the knots and snarls that bedevil us all whether we admit it or pick them out or not.

Let’s get one thing straight here at the start. Some of you are traditional quilters. You are the backbone of the interest and the audience and most of the quilt store customers and you are skilled! I am not. A quilter really. Nor am I really very good at quilting. But I think I make good art. That happens to be made of fabric. And stitched, and usually three-layered.

I intentionally make contemporary textile paintings (see Lisa Call’s blog for her ideas about that) and they are quilted (free motion) and they are also fused.

Intensely interested in pattern and color and texture, paint just doesn’t work as a medium for my ideas, and, as an artist, it is my path and passion and calling to get my ideas out of my head and into the world in the best available materials. I began sewing at a young age, but the precision required by my home-ec teacher (and that dates me, right) was an unwelcome discipline and an unnerving challenge. So I went into theater and visual arts and then later became an arts and arts-in-ed educator, museum designer, writer and teacher (there’s even a new book for parents and grandparents who want to encourage creative kids, see www.newworldkids.org), but I kept coming back to cloth.

My personal revival came in a surface design course at the Southwest School of Art and Craft in San Antonio (where I now teach in the fibers department) and in a discovery that I could actually learn to paint and pattern and design fabric. Then I had to figure out what to do with the stacks of stuff I was making and I discovered art quilts. Among those who have influenced what I now do: Jane Dunnewold, Sue Benner, Leslie Jenison, Kerr Grabowski, Rayna Gillman, Lisa Call, African textiles, Mexican embroiderers, Guatemalan weavers, limestone layers, the Art Cloth Network, the International Quilt Festival (where I also teach) and lots more.

I told you what I don’t do much of in the first paragraph. What I do do: journal and observe, listen to my dreams, follow my obsessions, pile up cloth and look at the colors together, mull over design elements and sketch, sketch, sketch images, doodles and private marks then turn them into thermofax screens for printing paint and dye, improvise dyed fabric using Kerr’s methods of deconstructed screen printing, iron WonderUnder or Mystifuse to every piece I like, sometimes piece together long rows of 5’ strips and other background fabric, then start cutting with a vague idea of what it is that is speaking to me. Then I free-motion stitch the quilt, possibly even go back and print another layer of imagery on top of it all. Sometimes I mount my work on wooden frames, sometimes it just hangs on the wall.

And yes, someday I really do want to make a bed quilt. But I am terrified of the binding. And the basteing. I read you so that I will have the courage to try someday!

For those who comment here, or on my blog during the rest of the month of February, you’ll be entered into a drawing for a free copy of that book on creativity (it’s even good for grownups who aren’t around kids): New World Kids at www.newworldkids.org