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Textile Exhibitions Montevideo, 1

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

Several outstanding textile exhibitions opened during the recent World Textile Art  Biennial VII here in Montevideo, and they remain open for the next few weeks.  Do take time to see some of them if you’re here.  On Sunday we visited a group show at the Municipal Exhibition Centre, Subte, on 18 de Julio, and found a terrific selection of medium- to large- works including several ceiling hung installations, covering a wide range of  media and techniques, conventional and digitally modern.

My comments on each piece are totally uninfluenced by the catalogue of which there wasn’t even a gallery copy available. I was assured by the receptionist that there definitely is one, obtainable over at the nearby bookshop, but it being sunday, that was closed. Yesterday, Monday, was one of the funny optional or working holidays they often have here and some businesses, the banks and government offices close, other stuff is open, but it’s hard to predict which one will be open.  As we’re half an hour out of the city area where all this is located, I’ve left it for another day. Ah, the delights of Uruguay are sometimes sadly blighted by illogical thought.  I will get a copy, of course, but I simply had to write about how I felt about this exhibition NOW.

Did you know most people turn left when entering  an exhibition or a retail centre?  Predictably I did, and first up came across this piece which I think is my overall favourite in the show – We Are Islands by Bolivian artist Erika Ewel :

Erika Ewel,  Bolivia,  We Are Islands  100cm W x 140cm H approx.

Erika Ewel, Bolivia, We Are Islands, detail.  “construimos fronteras” – we build barriers

It owes a lot to the tradition of patchwork, of course, though it is not layered, and therefore not quilted. Each square is of photographic printed texture suggesting landscape, on vinyl squares.  All these squares have something embroidered on them by either hand and/or machine.  Apart from the words (on which more later) there are embroidered circular shapes, and lines of stitches – ties? bonds? pathways?  Some connect, others just finish abruptly, not seeming to have arrived anywhere.  When I first saw this work, English C17 poet John Donne’s famous poem No Man Is An Island came to mindbeginning as it does with these immortal lines –

“No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.”

The words and phrases embroidered onto this work mentioned islands, isolation, barriers, wanting to leave, being alone … they sounded dark, and disturbed me, and I found myself asking Erika with some concern if they were her own feelings or someone else’s … Erika said they are her own, but in the following discussion she pointed out she herself is not suffering depression, but that these sayings and words refer to a general condition among people today. This english translation from her website still sounds to me a slightly grim view of the world: “Every being is an island, we live locked in our worlds, we build silences, we build barriers between us, we want to protect ourselves from the world, without realizing that we are isolated and left alone.”  However, as Donne reminds us, none of us really are on our own, and it is incumbent on us all to be aware of, and responsive to, the people right by our sides.

With my own background of patchwork, hand and machine embroidery and quilting, I instantly related to this piece on a technical level.  Unfortunately when I saw it sunday afternoon, the taped construction holding each square edge to edge had given way in one place on account of heat and humidity in the gallery, so in falling forward the viewer was able to see a bit of the back that revealed much about possible or likely steps in the making of this piece.  It was educational and inspirational actually, and oddly enough it did not seem out of place to me, artist and teacher that I am … but then I realised it was not meant to be like that.  when I successfully contacted Erika she told me it had been repaired after I left the gallery.  These images were supplied by Erika Ewel herself, to replace the ones I took with the fallen flap hanging down – unfortunate but enlightening maybe, but I’ve binned those pics.


Ivan Sartor, Uruguay, Forensic Evidence   100cmW x 150cmH approx

Nearby is another piece coupling strong visual with carefully chosen title to produce a powerful piece.  I doubt the catalogue will contradict me – my interpretation is that this is Sartor’s statement on the incarcerated and murdered victims of the dictadura, the military dictatorship of the 1970s-80s.  Uruguay has never had a public truth commission or similar air clearing process to cover what went on in these dark years of it’s modern history, and there are many here who will not talk about this painful period, especially to foreign strangers.  I know people who to this day will not patronise a certain shopping mall because part of it is housed in what were prison buildings from which some people disappeared, never to be heard of again.  Though in recent years there have been reasonably publicised excavations of mass burial sites often in or near military sites, today it is an open secret that some high profile members of the military and general community who were actively involved in the brutality of that era still walk free, never having had to account for their actions or complicit silence at that time.  It’s a touchy subject here. Thankyou, Ivan Sartor, for your thought provoking piece.


Embroidery always attracts me, and next was a life size self portrait on cream fabric in fine black hand stitch by Zina Katz of Argentina.

The most potentially creative stitch in my opinion, simple straight stitch is beautifully used here to create the look of a pen or pencil sketch.  With all stitches, as the thread passes across the back of the fabric before coming up somewhere else on the front, a related but different pattern of lines develops there, too.  Therefore this piece was hung so both sides could be enjoyed; and interestingly until I saw the angel wings on the back I had not noticed their subtle presence on the front.  From her website I learned that Zina Katz’s love of and skill in both drawing and stitching frequently combine in double sided works, of which there are many images on line here

Zina Katz, Argentina, Self Portrait,  front (upper)  and back (below)



Carmen Tejada, Mexico, “Sin Maiz, Ho Hay Pais”  80cm W x 180cm H,  approx.

The title literally means that without maize, (corn) there is no country.  This beautiful pale creamy gold hanging used the husks of the corn for texture, but I’m not sure if it was woven or made with a rug hooking technique while the corn husks were still green. I imagine it is now very fragile now the fibre has dried out.

Cecilia Koppmann of Argentina has this beautiful work on show, and I am very sorry I did not make note of the title – but I will add it in when I get the catalogue.  Her rich sense of colour as ever, and technically it is superb.

Cecilia Koppmann, Argentina, Quilted patchwork wall hanging,  1mW x 1.5mH approx

This next piece is gorgeous, and I apologise for shooting it on the angle – the upper and lower edges are both horizontal.  Various textured papers and lacey fabrics including possibly paper doilies and other finely patterned fibre pieces, seem to have been painted and collaged to a fabric base. various pieces protrude beyond the  border of the rectangular base, emphasising the lacey delicacy of this piece – it must be very light in weight.  There’s a pocket along the top edge containing some thin supporting material holding the upper edge straight and flat against the wall … so why it has been mounted on the wall with these heavy clunky looking hooks, with no effort made to hide them from view – is way beyond me!  and I cannot believe this was the artist’s doing.  It totally detracts from the effect that should have been achieved.

Romina Safdie S, Argentina, Cerro Dorado (golden hill), 1.25mW x 1.9mH approx



I have another couple of wonderful pics to show, but will hold them until I can check the names of their makers in the catalogue











Something Spherical

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017

On July 22 last I blogged of how in a little demo to visiting artist friend I had come up with a small group of samples of half circles inset into a contrasting background (there’s a pic in that link)  I kept them up on my board for inspiration, not knowing what I should do with them but wanting to do something, definitely.  And then I went off travelling.

Visiting USA family and friends in August, I was in Greeley, CO, the day of the recent Solar Eclipse over North America. Out on our daughter’s back lawn, equipped with eclipse viewing glasses, eclipse pizzas, gorgeous eclipse devilled eggs, solar eclipse vodka, sunkist raisins and lots of other appropriately named or labelled refreshments, we enjoyed a solar eclipse brunch party with some of her UNC Botany Department colleagues. Though we were not in the zone of total blackout, the effects were dramatic enough, including a temperature drop in a few minutes of eerie ‘dusk’ at about 11.15 am.   The whole event was awesome.

After returning from my travels, it all clicked into place – I needed to do something ‘solar’ using these samples on my wall as a starting point. I have always loved these scales or dome shapes – which first appeared in my work 20 years ago, eg Pahoehoe 1 and 2Afterglow and recently in the Kimberley quilts. Here they have become the dark and light sides of spheres, in the loosest sense possible, mis-shappen and mis-matched. There’s no such word but there should be a made-up one I can’t get out of my mind, ‘ecliptical’.  I found enough of what to me are moonlight, nocturnal coloured fabric pieces and scraps – not my usual palette at all – and envisage lots of hand quilting in pale gold thread …   


You know I love grids – and these units are trimmed to 4 1/2″. A new project is underway, positive vibes so far, it’s lunar rather than solar, and the list of title ideas contains interesting possibilities.




The SAQA Online Auction Begins Tomorrow!

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

“Whirlwind”,  2017.    12″ x 12″ ,  30.5cm x 30.5cm

Tomorrow, September 15th, is the first day of the annual SAQA Online Benefit Auction.  This year, for the first time, this first day is Diamond Day, on which every quilt offered for auction this is for sale at $1000 per piece – a wonderful opportunity for one of my collectors to secure this piece, “Whirlwind”!  Diamond Day opens at 2.00pm Eastern Time USA, tomorrow, September 15th – which is 22 hours from now as I write.

If it’s unsold on Diamond Day, my quilt will be offered 18-24 September in Section 1  (scroll to row 3) There are some wonderful pieces in this section, so as it’s a reverse auction, don’t linger indecisively too long! Anyone, anywhere, can participate.  For more information on how to purchase a quilt in the auction go to Bidding guidelines and FAQs

Art Quilting In Uruguay

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

I’ll be speaking on this topic a couple of times over the next few weeks – in Colorado on monday 21st August, at the monthly meeting of the Front Range Contemporary Quilters, (a fabulous group I belonged to when we lived in CO) and to the delegates at the Ozquilt Conference dinner in Launceston Tasmania, on saturday September 9th.

I will be showing and commenting on work of talented Uruguayan mixed media textile artists such as Lilian Madfes who unfortunately does not have her own website.  However you can start here and search for other references to her online.   From an exhibition of Lilian’s work in 2011, this piece, about 75cm sq, really fits within the definition of an ‘art quilt’ – at least two layers of fabric or something that serves as a fabric, held together by stitching or something that functions as stitch.  Not here, but in the US, I have seen layers of fabric held together with stapling and even pinned with dresssmaking pins; in each case very pertinent to the theme of the work of art in which they were used.


A Sample In Time …

Tuesday, July 25th, 2017

Browsing in some old photo files this morning I found this group relating to a project in which I was involved and wrote about in a 2009 post.  I remember being really thrilled at receiving a large group of images quilter photographer Gloria Currie emailed that week, although I had seen some of them before on paper.  This pic shows the letter side of the 36 double-sided quilts, each letter forming part of the entry signage to the Australian touring bicentenary exhibition of 1988. Each quilt was designed and produced in major regional centres around the country, with a designated letter on one side and the reverse side of each depicting something typical of that particular region.  It was all wonderfully coordinated by someone or other in Canberra, home of the Bicentennial Authority of the day.

Entrance to Australia’s  Bicentinary travelling exhibition of 1988

The main centre of the huge gold mining industry in Western Australia’s Eastern Goldfields is the City of Kalgoorlie Boulder.  Gold is still produced there today, even after more than 120 years of continuous gold mining.  In such a place the obvious choice for our quilt’s reverse side was something to do with gold and its history there.  Members of Goldfingers Embroiderers and the Patchwork Pollies formed a group to carry out the big project, led by quilter Margery Goodall.  With a desert landscape colour scheme throughout, our assigned letter was H, for which we chose traditional crazy patchwork, seen here with Margery standing in front. For the other side we settled on a traditional medallion-style design featuring a soft sculpture of the most fabulous gold nuggets ever found in Australia –  the legendary Golden Eagle Nugget with yours truly standing in front of that, just the day before we were to leave the Goldfields for USA in 1987.

Margery Goodall and Alison Schwabe in front of the sides of the quilted banner.

I was happy to sign up to do some free machine embroidery depicting landscape, mining buildings and headframes on the surrounding red-brown fabric, which was easy enough for someone with my experience of fme.  When it was suggested perhaps I could do a gold nugget for the centre ? I blithely agreed, having no real idea and knew there would be no pattern source.  I’m an experienced procrastinator with a finely tuned sense of just when I need to cut it out and get on with it 🙂  So, after weeks of procrastinating and agonising over the folly of offering to make such a thing, and faced then with a fast approaching deadline, I finally got down to experimenting with samples, naturally.  I probably had possiblities turning over in my mind for weeks, but once I focused under pressure, the Golden Eagle Nugget took me about a day to figure out and make.  I cut the shape from gold lame, toned it down in places with brown paint, layered that with batting and free machine quilted it to give the lumpy surface texture.  I then backed that and stuffed between those layers with cushion filler and sewed it up like a little pillow.  Phew! I was hugely relieved and just a bit proud of the result.  Below the eagle is a little pic of the main street water fountain statue of the prospector Paddy Hannan whose discovery of gold nearby led to one of the most fabulous gold rushes the world has ever seen.  What a joy to wander back in time through these photos, enjoying the memories and reminder of the proven value of making samples whenever entering uncharted territory! 

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