Archive for the ‘General’ Category

SAQA Auction – Today is Diamond Day!

Friday, September 13th, 2019

Today, September 13th, is the first day of the annual SAQA Benefit Auction. Today is Diamond Day – on which any and every quilt donated to this year’s auction is for sale at $1000. Bidding for your must-have quilt for $1000 opens in a few hours’ time at 2.00pm Eastern Daylight Time (Washington DC zone USA) and this phase closes at 12 midnight EDT.

As they were donated the quilts were divided into three groups, and next monday, September 16th. the reverse auction commences for Group 1, starting at $750 with the price falling every day until a quilt sells or the bidding for that group closes at the end of that week. My Ebb&Flow #30 will be auctioned in Group 3, the week beginning Monday September 30th. Full details of how the auction works at includes bidding guides and FAQs. It’s interesting that my works usually sell for a similar price per unit area to my larger pieces. (Fascinating side note – would you believe some makers price their works at $/square inch?)

Ebb&Flow #30 12″ x 12″

All the auction quilts are 12″ x 12″. All are original designs and made using an enormous variety of surface design techniques, including hand painting, digital printing, hand and machine applique, machine collage, and variations of ‘patchwork’ This year mine is another improvisational patchwork piece in the Ebb&Flow series.

You can see them all on SAQA’s website displayed in the three groups in which they’ll be auctioned. You can place a bid from anywhere in the world using your credit card, and if successful, of course they’ll send it to you.

There are always a few artists whose pieces are in hot demand and go on Diamond Day or for the $750 on the first group day. It would be a great thrill to be among this year’s top earners for SAQA, an organisation I have supported every year it has been held, bar one.

Sweat Of The Sun,Tears Of The Moon

Tuesday, August 27th, 2019

In the 80’s several friends tried to get me involved in quilting, but I resisted, saying I didn’t have time, which was true at that time – creative embroidery, stitch, was more important to me. I’d had attended several fabulous workshops by inspiring teachers, and was using stitch (hand and fme) with paint and found objects to express my interests in landscape. I was invited to have my first solo exhibition, Sunburnt Textures in 1987; and at the end of that year we relocated to USA for a while. Through a new neighbour, Carol, I finally met traditional American geometric patchwork, an intense affair that dominated a large part of my life for a couple of years. However, that ended amicably enough when I was introduced to improvisational piecing, IP, and I haven’t looked looked back since.

I still carry several enduring marks I’d call influences rather than scars, the most obvious being use of repeated units of surface decoration (traditional ‘blocks’) in an overall design of rows. Other artists who share my love of grids include a favourite, Agnes Martin, Guillermo Kitka, James Sienna, Sol Lewitt, Sean Scully and Chung-Im Kim, about whom I wrote

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The first sample, on the left was a quick demo to show artist friend Lillian how easy IP is. Excited by this little sample, after she left I made a few more. However, a particular technique doesn’t necessarily translate to ‘a work of art’, and those samples sat on my wall for nearly a year. I gave them regular, thoughtful attention, but nothing clicked until after I’d watched the 2017 eclipse of the sun in Colorado.

Staying with our daughter Anna in Greeley CO at the time, in an area expecting to be in about 80% partial darkness, and with UNC classes cancelled for the day, the obvious thing to do was organise an eclipse party with fellow UNC grad students.

All food and drinks had sun-related labelling, and my personal favourite were the eclipse eggs. Later a pizza was served with a partial eclipse of black olives on a cheese background …

Even in the C21 in a modern civilisation, that silence of birds and animals which descends as light disappears or fades at the wrong time of day feels strange, eerie, truly awesome. To the ancients on all continents, eclipses of the sun and the moon, and the transit of comets and planets across the sky, and their regular appearances on different cycles, were mysterious and sometimes fearsome events, often a pretty handy tie-in to primitive religious beliefs. I remembered a TV documentary Sweat of The Sun,Tears Of The Moon seen 30+ years ago, and this brain activity led to my 125cm x 60cm diptych by that name. It will be at the 2019 Quilt Festival in Gramado Brasil in the masters(teachers) exhibition: because of course, that is where I will be teaching in 3 weeks’ time.

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Sweat Of The Sun, Tears Of The Moon diptych, 125cm x 60cm

Virtue Signalling Via Hand Stitch

Monday, August 26th, 2019

Tempting as it might be to head off grid and into the remaining forest or out into the desert, most of us do need to remain somewhere in plain view, connected to the rest of the world by mainstream media and the mass of other sources that present us with information. Some of this framework is vital, and other stuff we filter by our own preferences. I turn the tv off after I’m out of bed and dressed, turning it on again early evening for the day’s news. Even if there’s a stunning Breaking News thing going on, most of the time it can wait until further detail has been gathered up and presented with some kind of analysis.

People have different ways of coping with news overload and big issues of the day. The importance of many of them depend on where you are, but for all of us around the world there is a massive plastic problem, some serious environmental issues need addressing or mitigating and then there are family stresses, downsizing, upsizing, gun violence, bees, gender bewilderment …. Many facets of modern life present us with pain or discomfort that needs alleviating, and for many people today the Slow Stitch Movement has much to recommend it as a calming therapy. I’ve posted about this before –

A recent comment by a hand stitcher about a pic of what she’s currently making was about more than just calming through hand stitching – it was also a perfect example of virtue signalling via stitch. The stitchery was a bit minimalist, and by hand. The stitcher said she carefully thinks about every stitch, and was looking for any hints or guidance, for which I read ‘approval’. Hand stitching is very relaxing. I do a fair bit, as quilting mostly; and while I do think about what I am doing in general terms, I don’t focus on every single stitch until I get to a corner where something has to be fitted in! I’d be no good at all with the disciplines of sashiko as these images show, compared with the following examples of my own hand stitched creations 🙂

Heritage 2 detail
Desert Tracks 5 detail

Somehow in the quilted textile world there are lots of subtle, unwritten rules for people to follow and become a bit obsessed with. I’ve had quilters tell me they they only use scissors to cut their fabrics, as if this is somehow better (implying more correct) than the new fangled rotary cutter technology which for 30+ years has been a universally accepted speedy and labour saving cutting device in the p&q world. Quite often this person will add virtue by saying that they always hand stitch. Still more virtue is gained if they declare they use only cotton 🙂

For the record, I have always pieced patchwork by machine. My thread of of choice for the past 20+ years has been Gutermann’s Skala, a polyester multi-thread of a kind often labelled ‘bobbin thread’. Despite being very fine, it’s as strong as or stronger than any cotton machine thread. If I want to unpick something, all I have to do is grab the end of the top thread and out it comes. That really suits how I work, piecing into and taking out segments from lots of groups of fabric strips. I have cones of white, cream, light, medium and dark grey, and black, plus stand-by cones of grey and black, just in case. They’re 10,000m cones, so running out is unlikely, but I do live in Uruguay.

Also this week, a member of an improvisational quilters facebook page wrote extensively on how she sews her improv patchwork all by hand. Whoop de Doo! Since improv piecing involves cutting and rearranging segments and groups of segments, but hand stitching needs to be anchored with a knot or backstitching to stop a broken/cut thread unravelling, I routinely advise people that don’t recommend it for hand stitchers.

Piecing by improvisational techniques is very calming, I find. It’s my go-to-favourite surface design technique. It’s not difficult, but it’s also not super fast. I’ve never been interested in those ‘quilt in a day’ super fast project books and patterns for time-deprived moderns. As a senior, I’m never in that much of a hurry, though this is not related to the fact that I do best under pressure, and am a bit of a last minute wonder when faced with a looming deadline. It goes without saying I am a skilled procrastinator :-)

Afterglow,1999. The relevant pencil diagrams and typically brief notes from my sketch book.

People often give the impression that they believe ‘improv’ is a speedy technique, requiring little skill that permits makers to rush ahead without any preconceived plan: grab a couple of fabrics, sew them together, throw that onto the design wall, and see what happens. While there is always opportunity for an exciting serendipitous moment, I believe successful improvisational quilt actually needs some, albeit minimal, planning.

Gramado In September

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

I hear there are still a couple of vacancies to the introduction to improvisational patchwork class I’ll be teaching in Gramado, next month, but I’m very happy to see the advanced class is already full!

As many already know, improvisational patchwork, improv, or IP, is quite different from how traditional patchworkers make their quilt tops. IP has been widely adopted by Modern Quilters and art quilters and you’ll find some overlap, with some of the same exciting quilts turning up on each of these links. Of course, for other exciting stuff you can go to my own website and articles about me 🙂 My Colour Memories gallery includes several wall quilts that I made within a year or two of learning this technique.

I learned IP not long after learning traditional patchwork in the USA, which I still love, and it remains a huge influence in how I make quilts. I love straight, regular grids of squares or triangles inside of which are improvisational/freehand patterns:

By playing around dividing triangles and squares, the basic shapes of traditional patchwork, with straight, undulating or curved lines, you can easily make up your own unique patterns, including fabulous borders and blocks. Some favourites developed out of experimenting with a traditional block, such as this one based on the basic Drunkard’s Path block

… which I think of as sunrise or sunset, depending on where the rays are pointing …

I just happen to love regular grids, but IP squares and triangles can be as wonky and irregular as hell, you just need to know a couple of simple things about joining irregular shapes: (plus finishing the edges, too) :

Fire Danger 2, 1999, 90 x 60cm
(photographed against black background)

So to get everyone’s creativity revved up, I’ve had fun working out a combination of demonstrations+powerpoints, including some ideas I’ve always thought good but never actually tried myself 🙂

20 X 20 – An Exhibition Of Small Format Mixed Media, By Uruguayan And Chile Artisans.

Tuesday, August 6th, 2019

Late last week I called in to Centro Cultural FUCAC at 18 July 2017 Montevideo to see a small format exhibition textile sample exhibition (M-F, 12-8pm) curated by Blanca Villamil, and participated in by 20 Uruguayan textile artists and 20 Chileans. This exhibition closes at the end of this week.

Wherever we’re from, cloth and stitch are central to all our lives from the moment we’re born. As far as we can go back into human history via archeology, there are always signs of that part of human nature which drives us to decorate garments and other objects. Human nature knows no national boundaries, and we all recognise something as hand decorated or hand made, even if we have no idea of the meaning of any symbols used.

The exhibition information card speaks of makers in Uruguay and Chile this way – roughly translated – if they have and unleash their emotions our hands don’t know about countries…. these small pieces, 20cm x 20cm, are emissaries of diverse worlds that materialize in the textile, opening a different field of perception; for the artist who builds like the honeycomb his honeycomb, as for the one who participates with his attentive gaze and the avid heart. Fine words about a joint effort, but nothing to suggest what the artist’s brief was, other than stitch or do something else with fibre, and present it in 20cm x 20cm.

These 20cm squares were attractively mounted in well spaced pairs on white boards, Chilean beside Uruguayan. As far as I could see, some pairs bore some visual relation to each other, but many did not. I photographed what I thought were the best, sometimes both but more often just the one.

To curate any showing by 40 people is hard, and 20cm x 20cm is a very small space in which to design and execute any textile featuring hand embroidery, embellishment with found objects, weaving, applique, felting, needle weaving , machine embroidery, wire crochet or knitting, fabric manipulation techniques (and I’ve probably missed something) Were they all trying something new? Were invitees given a technique at random to work with? For the most part I knew nothing about these artists’ work, so I couldn’t tell. Of those whose work I do know, I felt that the change of scale and perhaps change of material was not handled well. Many of the pieces appeared to lack thoughtful design. But, if these were ‘just samples’ I can understand that. My own samples are usually nothing to write home about, and generally don’t see the light of day, even among my closest friends. So I found this exhibition puzzling. I asked and looked around, but there was no information sheet or didactic panel on display to enlighten the viewer.

This first pair are the nicest pieces in the show. Each shows thoughtful design and well handled materials and techniques. I love them both.

Denise Blanchard CH and Blanca Villamil UY

What follows, in no particular order, is my selection of the best of the 40 pieces.

Sylvia Umpierrez UY
Romina Ulloa CH and Nilda Frankiel UY
Carolina Oliva CH and Monica Poliero UY
Paz Lira CH and Ines Iribarne UY
Nora Rosas UY
Felipe Maqueira UY
Beatriz Oggero UY (I apologise for this poor photo)
Andrea Bustelo UY (poor photo, sorry)

After I’d seen this exhibition, a Uruguayan artist friend expressed her disappointment with this show, and I share some of that. Being a fan of hand stitch, I found some great textures, including some interesting enough to use on far bigger pieces, and perhaps those makers will do that. Of the pieces I didn’t include, far too many just looked like the maker hastily plopped something onto a 20cm background, did a bit of stitching or gluing, added a bit of coloured fiber, or a button or two, and sent it in, that is, most failed to use the potential of this small format to create something special and worthy of showing to the public.

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