Installed in the Library


If I could be a book, I'd choose to be in a library, something pithy and not too popular, but the kind of book that when someone checked me out, I'd be a surprise, something to read and savor, something to share with my friends.

Well. I'm getting into the Parman Branch, but it's not as a book. Thursday, the San Antonio Library Foundation and SA Public Library will dedicate a new children's area dedicated to the memory of a young girl who died at age 16 of cancer that she had fought most of her life. The young girl, Ana Macias, became the reason for gifts from family and friends and library supporters. You are invited if you're in town or near -- 5:30-7 at Parman Branch, outside Loop 1604 on Wilderness Oak off Blanco.

I was asked to make a large art quilt "tapestry" to put on the wall in the new area. Here's what I can tell you about it. I prepared this fact sheet to leave with the librarians and to give the foundation for their records:


Ana’s Nook

Art Quilt “tapestry” by Susie Monday, 2012

Commissioned by the San Antonio Public Library Foundation

Materials:  Cotton, silk, rayon, cotton blend and other textiles, wooden frame, cotton batting and sound absorbing batting, paint, dye, fusible webbing and dye. 

Techniques: Fused raw-edge appliqué with free-motion quilting and hand embroidery. Fabrics created with a variety of surface design techniques including batik, screen printing, hand-painting, dye and textile painting on both new and repurposed fabrics. The art was treated with a UV light barrier chemical to help limit fading. 

This triptych was designed especially for the gridded translucent wall of the new children’s area at Parman Branch Library. The librarian Haley Holmes and the staff of the Library Foundation wanted something that would be visually interesting to children, would help absorb sound and would include “Ana’s Nook,” in honor of the memory of Ana Macias. The design was inspired by a picture Haley had of an apple tree quilt. 

Susie took off from that seed of an idea, using the colors of the library interior and those of the new Ana’s Nook furnishings. The fanciful art quilt includes two apple trees on either side and a Spanish oak in the center and depict the trees  against a nighttime constellation of stitched names of children’s book heroes and heroines. Ana’s Nook is printed on a sign that hangs from the oak and one of the apple trees (repurposed in traditional quilt fashion from a pair of worn-out trousers) has several pockets full of leaves. A quarter moon hangs in the tree branches and moon beams sparkle a path through the piece.

Each leaf is different in color, pattern and stitching, and while some of the book hero names are easy to read, others are blended into the background, so a kind of hide-and-seek of names can engage the viewer. Hand stitching adds more pattern and texture, with large cross-stitched “x”s and Long running stitches as part of the grassy hills where the trees stand.

Susie Monday is a textile artist with more than 15 years experience in the field. Her work is featured in public and private collections across the hemisphere, and has been featured in exhibits in the U.S and internationally, including at the International Quilt Festival, Gallery Nord, the Witte Museum, and the San Antonio Public Library Gallery. She works in her home studio near Pipe Creek, El Cielo Studio, where she also teaches fiber art and creativity workshops. She is also an adjunct faculty member at the Southwest School of Art, and a Creative Learning Specialist for the International Programs Department of Alamo Colleges. Her new book, coauthored with Susan Marcus and Dr. Cynthia Herbert is coming out October 23 from Greenleaf Book Group, The Missing Alphabet, A Parents Guide to Developing Creative Thinking in Kids. Susie graduated from Trinity University in 1970.


 Here's the invitation to the event:


Working from Inside-Out

above: Milagros and Apocolyse

I was chided by a friend and sister fiber artist last night for not telling her (and others) about my recent award (first) at the Fiber Artists of San Antonio exhibition at Gallery Nord here in San Antonio. Not really false modesty -- I simply have not been able to get to the exhibit to take some en-site photos!

2009 NW Military Highway
San Antonio, TX 78213
T: 210.348.0088
F: 210.348.6862

Gallery Hours
Weds-Sat Noon-5pm
Closed Mondays and Tuesdays

But since time is flying, and the exhibit goes down at the end of the month, here's the notice (Gallery Nord is open Wednesday through Saturday in the afternoons) and a bit of back story:

First, the work that was recognized by Juror Ilsa Aviks was one of the series I worked on this August about the death and life of my father, James Lee McAtee, Jim, who died earlier this summer. This particular work is called Milagros, and is about the gifts of spirit, teaching and everyday life that blessed my life through my father's care and conversation, from writing letters, to important facts of the heart.

Ilsa, I heard from one of the artists present at the judging, recognized the joy and meaning in this piece. I think I benefited from having her judge the show, as Ilsa is a strong proponent and advocate of working from a personal narrative, whether literal, figurative (as in my work right now) or abstractly, as she does with her own stitched works.

I am also really happy to have work in this gallery because of its wonderful modern design. The space was created by architect Allison Peery, who I had the privilege to know in my youth. This gallery is a wonderful space to be in. From the gallery website:



Allison Peery considered himself one of San Antonio’s few uncompromising modern architects. The exterior of the building is simply dramatic with its soaring, winglike roofline balanced by an abstract design of stained glass and mosaic tiles at the main entrance. The interior, with its plentiful natural lighting, consists of three gallery areas - two on the main floor and an upper gallery reached by a curved staircase. Peery’s modernist ethos of expressed structure, honest and coherent use of materials creates the perfect environment for exhibiting contemporary art.

Art Quilt at Southwest School of Art

The Southwest School of Art All-School Exhibition opened last Thursday, and the show is a lovely, varied, strong one, and not just because I'm in it. It was great to see Rosa Vera's Crow piece open the show, a mixed media fiber and paper work she shared during a March workshop out here at El Cielo.

Detail of Rosa Vera's Crows.

With such a diversity of media and approaches, its remarkable how well the curatorial staff does at getting this show on the walls of the  galleries. If you are in San Antonio this summer, be sure to stop in and see the exhibit. You'll also so a beautiful piece of Lisa Kerpoe's art cloth, a fiber piece by Miki Rodriguez of Laredo (also a participant at one of my workshops) and a host of other beautiful masterly works of craft/art.

 This art quilt is titled Just Beyond My Reach. It is about 3 feet by 4 feet (measurements are somewhere!) and is fused, raw edge applique and free-motion quilted. I used fabrics that were hand-dyed, stamped, stenciled, batiked and created with monoprinting, as well as a few pieces of recycled ethnic textiles from thrift store finds. I decided quite a long time ago to only buy fabrics at thrift stores, with the exception of Indian silks, indigenous textiles and cotton batting. So far, so good! I use my own body as a template pattern (which in itself is an interesting process sometimes.) 

If you are a working, selling, making-a-living somehow artist you can probably figure out what this one is about. But I guess it even has a more universal text, as well. We are all probably living with that feeling, and it's one that generally does no one any good, but, hey compassion for one's foibles is a necessary kindness.

Here is a detail from Lisa's art cloth work:


 And here is a shot of Miki Rodriguez' work, Arroz con Pollo (chicken with rice)

The BIg Freeze, and the Studio Thaw

Its COOOOLD outside. Guess that's the state of the union. We had rolling blackouts yesterday, but "they" seem to have figured out the grid for now. And, dispite dripping the tub, the water in the house is frozen, nothing to do but wait for the thaw (tomorrow it will be 43) and hope for the pipes' best. We've never had pipes freeze before so this is a major distraction and anxiety (i foresee torrents of water coming down from the attic). I am glad there is no El Cielo workshop going on! At any rate, send me pipe fairy prayers and, gee, while we are at it, if its going to be this dadburn cold can't we muster up a little snowfall tonight? Just a bit. Just to make the visuals complete.

However, while the freeze is going on its business, I have had some extended time in the studio (where the water still works). And that has been wonderful. It's a creative thaw I've been anticipating and hoping for. The place is still a mess from teaching supplies in and out, but instead of being my (yeah, right) regular neat and orderly person, I just cleared a workspace and dove in.

The piece I am working on is one that's been in my head for a long while, since working on collage examples for the Text on the Surface workshops. I discovered it when I took everything out for the Southwest School class this past Monday. There have been several calls for entries that I want to respond to, and at least one of them had to do with working outside of one's comfort zone (SAQA, I think) and another one has a theme that fits the collage perfectly. So rather than do my usual work-on-the-table improvisation, I actually made a paper pattern, am printing some of the elements, cutting others, and will have this big text based piece done by the end of the week I hope.

So, stepping out of my usual narrative, goddessy, archetypal themes, this one will be modernism, pure and simple (sort of). Its quite scary to spend time on something so different (though I have been ooching toward more formal, abstract work for a little while) but I suspect I have to do so this time in order to renew something important, to step beyond my own pictures of my own work, and to take a chance. That was the thaw I needed in order to get myself back to the design table in an authentic way.

So what about you? I'd love to know what risky business you are trying for your own creative thaw.

Beneath the Surface


Quilts, Inc. has posted the online version of the Beneath the Surface exhibit, curated by Leslie Jenison and Jamie Fingal. Here's the link:

And here are some more photos and information about the exhibit on the curator' blogs.

Other pictures on Leslie's blog and Jamie's blog


True Love Commission

I've been commissioned to make a little house shaped art quilt for a wedding gift -- I got carried away and made three! These are small -- about 18" tall -- and reasonably priced. If you have a wedding coming up and wish to give a gift of art, email me through the contact form for sales information. Or maybe you just like one for yourself. Support the arts.

How do I approach such commissions? It's always a quandry, as I don't exactly know how to make art to order. I prefer to do one-of-a-kind work and so looking at my other pieces only gives someone an inkling of what I can do. For larger work, I do make sketches, provide color samples and give clients a chance to weigh in on size, color palette, general topic and themes to be included. And I always have a "kill fee" if something doesn't work out that includes my out-of-pocket fabric and supply costs -- but since I assume I will sell the art to someone eventually, I don't worry about the time or effort involved. I'd rather have happy collectors.

But for small pieces like these little art quilts, I generally try to do more than one, especially if, as in this case, the commissioner was pretty open about what he wanted to give. I enjoyed working with an intensity to get these completed within the week -- I used some fabrics and central image panels that were already done -- and of course I had to fit this task inbetween all the other work of the week, including prep for my next two extensive teaching gigs -- next week in Dallas (a New World Kids training for Big Thought) and the week after at the CREATE mixed media retreat sponsored by Cloth Paper Scissors.

The pomegranate piece above, and the pear below both used the Rainbow Printing with Water Soluble Media technique that I'll be teaching in Chicago. (Whoops, I took the photo and emailed it from my iphone --its sideways and I can't figure out how to rotate it, so you'll have to rotate your head or screen.)

Here's more info:

Making an art quilt with an original image and multicolored screen print is one of the most fun and satisfying techniques I know -- the technique works for all kinds of images and styles, from hyperrealistic to expressionistic to abstract -- and although the supply list seems a bit daunting, the materials are probably mostly things you have in your studio. My blog has some examples and further information with this page link, if you'd like to see more.

The good news is that I will be teaching Rainbow Printing with Water-Soluble Crayons at the CREATE Mixed Media Retreat, sponsored by Cloth Paper Scissors, at the end of August. My one-day workshop on Rainbow Printing is Thursday, August 26 from 9-4 at the Rosemont Hilton near O'Hare.

Rainbow Printing with Water Soluable Crayons
(6 hours)

Date: Thursday, August 26
Time: 9:00am-4:00pm
Technique: Printmaking & Collage
Instructor: Susie Monday
Price: $140
Kit Fee: $5

Using all manner of water soluble media--water color markers, water soluble crayons and oil pastels, chalks and pastels -- you will create original fabrics using hand painting, screen printing, and stencils. Construction methods for a small wood-framed art quilt will be demonstrated, and many examples of use of the fabrics in multimedia work will be shared, but the emphasis will be on making a variety of textiles that can be used in work back at home. These techniques use textile paints and polymer media in interesting multi-color applications, with layering, tinting and color washes used to add depth and subtlety. The improvisational prints are similar to mono-printing, but can be used for highly detailed realistic imagery, as well as for abstract color field experiments.

(See registration for the supply list)

Thursday, August 26
Printmaking & Collage
Susie Monday
Kit Fee: $5

Using all manner of water soluble media--water color markers, water soluble crayons and oil pastels, chalks and pastels -- you will create original fabrics using hand painting, screen printing, and stencils. Construction methods for a small wood-framed art quilt will be demonstrated, and many examples of use of the fabrics in multimedia work will be shared, but the emphasis will be on making a variety of textiles that can be used in work back at home. These techniques use textile paints and polymer media in interesting multi-color applications, with layering, tinting and color washes used to add depth and subtlety. The improvisational prints are similar to mono-printing, but can be used for highly detailed realistic imagery, as well as for abstract color field experiments.

Go to and click on the CREATE RETREAT LINK for registration.

I'd love to have a few more participants -- the max is 18 -- and time is short until the event begins. If you or someone you know lives near or close ot Chicago, or is looking for a fun artful retreat, please pass along this message to them via email.  I appreciate your help with spreading the word.

If you have questions, or ideas for how I can get in touch with folks who might be interested in attending, please let me know!  Thanks for helping me get the word out.

Beneath the Surface

Here's a link to a video of the "Beneath the Surface" exhibit, curated by Leslie Jenison and Jamie Fingal, as it appeared at the Long Beach International Quilt Festival. I have a piece in the show (above), "Powers of Ten." This piece, with its complex juxtaposition of many kinds of fabrics, was inspired by the Ray and Charles Eames film from the 1960s of the same title. The film looks at the similarities of structure and form of the microscopic and the macroscopic, cells to galaxies. I used a number of the inkjet transfer techniques in this quilt that I have been discussing on the blog lately. Here's a detail showing an inkjet transfer using polyester film:

My quilt isn't part of the video, but there are artists featured here whose names you'll recognize, including regional artists Barb Forrester and Linda Minton, and our own San Antonio curator Leslie!

If you'd like to buy the book catalog, you can find it at BLURB The pages will be included later in the preview, after the show in Houston. You can also see more of the quilts online at the Quilt Inc. site under Special Exhibits.

P.S. This quilt is for sale. If you are interested in it going home with you after the touring exhibit closes, send me an email and we'll talk turkey!

How to Make an Art Quilt, Again

One of the most-read posts I've made on this blog has to do with my process of making an art quilt. Interesting enough, the piece I was working on (a large Virgin/pomegranate figure) got stuck in the middle, even as I was writing about the process.

Did I tell you about that? Nope, don't think so.

I finally finished the piece after about 5 months of mulling and muttering, just in time for it to go into an invitational exhibit at the Kerr Arts and Cultural Center. Then, as is a sneakly (surprises me, every time) and productive little pattern of mine, I quickly made two other related pieces, spin offs from the theme that emerged as I was mulling and muttering (and as you  will see, slashing off about one half of the original quilt).

These are all inspired by the story of Persephone, her acceptance of her role as Queen of the Underworld, her visit over the River Styx and her mother Demeter's weeping over the loss of her daughter.

The colors are off in these photos, silly me, I shot the pics with the pieces on the new brilliantly chartruese walls in my hallway, which taught the camera some weird color tint, and I couldn't quite adjust them back. So, that's a good reason to go to Kerrville to see the originals, right?

Then, as I prodded along on my also stalled-out-for-months online course, TEXT ON THE SURFACE, I finally made it the next to last chapter and did another stab at describing my process of design and production.

Here it is. Hope you enjoy this flurry of self-examination on my part, and that it inspires you to consciously think about and write about your own process of work and how you got there. If you post something on a blog or website, please leave a link in the comments, so we can share each other's insights and an appreciation of the diversity of our creativity. So here it is, straight from the auxillery info in the course:

How I make an art quilt (and why I got that way):

Let’s start with the history - I come to quilting from an art background, as a painter. I never have learned proper quilting skills I fear, though I am getting better with piecing and bindings and the like!
Even in my undergraduate studies as a studio art major, I was drawn to stitch  -- my senior project and exhibit was actually an installation or large stained canvases and stitched and sewn stuffed sculptures that were made from paper bags (need I mention that I was in art school in the late ‘60s).
I formally entered the world of textile/fiber art with I started studying with Jane Dunnewold and with the guest artists she brought to the Southwest Craft Center (now Southwest School of Art and Craft). I started dyeing and printing fabric and then had to have something to do with it. Not being a garment mater (due to bad early history in Home Ec in the 8th grade) I thought I would try making wall hangings -- and I had done a lot of collaborative fabric stitched pieces with kids during my career in arts and education. I took a weekend workshop from Sue Benner and discovered for the first time the world of WonderUnder, and that I did’t have to be good at sewing to make a quilt. And that I didn’t have to bind the edges.

So that set me free and I developed my approach over the past 12 years. When I turned 50 I decided that if I was ever to be a “real” artist and do my work, I had to stop working full time for other companies, nonprofits, etc, and just leap on faith that I could support myself somehow as an artist. So far, it’s worked.

So, on to the work:
I start always with an inkling of an idea or story or theme, then I play with colors and textures. piling up fabrics that catch my eye and please my color sensibilities. Most of the fabrics I use are recycled from something else, then dyed, stamped, stenciled, screen printed, etc. I use a good deal of ethnic embroidery, embellishments and pieces of hand-woven fabric from indigenous people around the world. Almost all of these treasures I find at thrift stores.

The majority of my dyed and printed yardage also starts with recycled fabrics -- table linens, dresses and skirts, botls and scraps tucked away at flea markets, old cotton sheets and even mattress covers and old quilts for the batting layer. I like it that the fabrics I use have history, stories I don’t even know about. I do buy some new shantung silks from Indian sari stores, usually overdyeing the original color with a wash or glaze of something else. I also purchase bolts and bolts of fusible webbing, new batting and, sometimes, felt for lining small quilts.

My art quilts are totally non-traditional. I fuse every layer, then free motion quilt them, catching the edges of all the fused pieces. In order to make the quilt as flat and unwrinked as possible, I often”build” the quilt on the batting, designing as i go and fusing as I go, cutting the shapes (sometimes from patterns drawn on the fusible web paper) while still adhered to the release paper or backing paper. I don’t generally have an allover design on paper, but sometimes I work from smaller studies, adapting the design to the new scale.

My stitching is usually very loose, though I like to use it as a kind of drawing tool, adding veins to leaves, lines to hands, sun rays, flower details, wind currents and waves. I put the feeddogs down and use an machine foot with a round opening and put the setting on darn, with everything else on “0”. Probably  my favorite stitch  pattern is a looped back on itself spiral. I really think of the quilting as a kind of scribbling over the surface of the quilt, adding the design element of line and texture. I sometimes take large pieces into the local quilt shop and rent their longarm machine (I’m lucky to have such a resource that is very reasonably priced -- $10 an hour) and do a lot of quilting to get the piece connected with one color of thread -- usually a varigated one -- then I get the quilt home to my Bernina and add more detailed quilting.

When the whole piece is quilted, I take another look, then go in with hand stitching, embellishments occasionally, and over printing with screen-printed patterns or details for more texture -- or to add a little energy to any boring parts of the quilt. I don’t like to have areas that are too quiet.

I use the same techniques on fabric paper/cloth paper as I do with fabric and I like to combine unusual fabrics, papers, photos on fabric, etc. This use of a wide variety of materials is probably one of the signatures of my style. My smaller pieces are often wrapped and stapled around wooden internal frames, built of white wood, nailed and glued. I then blind stitch a backing fabric over the back of the piece, which finishes it more like a proper quilt. I started doing so at the recommendation of Arturo Sandoval who critiqued some of my work when here in San Antonio for a workshop at the Southwest School of Art and Craft. He convinced me that while painters don’t need to finish the back of their canvases, we who are working out of the quilting tradition should do so, because it is just part and parcel of the tradition.

My neighbor Rick Murray is my construction expert. He makes the internal wooden frames that I stretch my smaller pieces around. When I use the frames, I don’t put a fabric back on the pieced quilt. just the batting layer, since it is often a piece of recycled mattress pad from the thrift store!

Like Benner, I finish the edges of my larger, none-frame-mounted pieces with layers and layers of zigzag stitiching around the cut edge of the finished piece. I don’t trim and cut a piece until it is quilted and when I work for a particular size to enter in an exhibit I make the quilt a couple of inches larger in every direction, then cut it to size at the end. I stitch the edges with varied colors of threads and change the width and stitch count often as I stitch around the edge. This is the boring, or shall I say, meditative part of my process!

Story Wall

Story Wall, 16" by 20," art quilt by Susie Monday

Forgive the cross-posting, but since it looks like I need all the possible posts I can find to appear here -- due to my busy schedule and apparent inability to write on this blog lately -- you can see my new little quilt here, and then go to the challenge quilt site at textileabstractions.blogspot to see the other challenge quilts in the group -- we hope there will be 12 by the end of the day!

This wall-themed small quilt is quite obviously inspired by the paintings found in rock shelters in South Texas and other parts of the desert Southwest. The images were my own petroglyph experiments and adaptations of rock art photos I found in various books. None of them is a literal copy of an actual rock painting, since I wanted to avoid copyright and cultural appropriation issues -- though in this case, I think these artists are our common ancestors, even those of us with primarily European heritage.

I used fabrics that I first rusted and then screen printed, then used a photo transfer technique that I have recently experimented with for teaching purposes. First, you take an image, copy it using an ink jet printer onto wet media polyester film. While the ink is still wet on the film, turn the image face down on your fabric, which could be pre-moistened with a thin wash of fabric medium or gel medium, or even just dampened with water. Brayer or rub the image to transfer it onto the cloth. The image will also transfer on dry fabric, which then can be painted with medium or water --  each technique leads to a slightly different but quite painterly effect. This technique seemed quite suited for the theme, since the results are kind of rough and integrated into the surface texture of the fabrics.

I pieced and fused the little art quilt using other fabrics in the earthy palette, all small "samples" that I've made in different teaching situations. Then added a layer of batting and a backing.

I added a good deal of hand stitching with a variety of threads and thin yarns. Then, I added one more layer of printing with a thermofax screen, and finished if off with machine free-motion stitching that emphasized the different shapes.

The biggest challenge for me with this quilt was narrowing down how to interpret the theme, and making some global decisions about how I will "answer" each of the challenges for this project. While I welcome the idea of creating from different impulses, I still want the work to teach me something and to also still speak with my voice in a particular way, holding a sense of series through the media chosen, the techniques used and the approach to each different theme. I decided that each of my challenge quilts would make use of a photographic image in some way, would have a frame created by a border, and would use a transfer technique in an interesting fashion. I also want to keep a narrative perspective, rather than a completely abstract approach (dispite the name of this challenge group!).