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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! 

Following A Trail – aka Making Samples

Saturday, July 22nd, 2017

Earlier this week I had a studio visit from local textile artist Lilian Madfes, and while she was here I gave her a demo/lesson in the basics of freehand patchwork piecing   Next week I will go to her studio for her demo of the basics of silk painting, at which she is a master in a very creative way.  When I had given her plenty to use to explore the technique if she wishes to, I talked about the dome-like shapes I often use in my designs and showed her how I do one.  Sewing it up therefore made it a sample – and my readers know I’m keen on samples for trying out any new ideas and materials!

That first one is on the RH end of this pic.  I liked it, so made more, and love where this is apparently going.

Fabric Stash Archeology

Monday, June 26th, 2017
Detail showing animal print background, Ebb&Flow 17, 2009

My fabric stash is very small by most standards, so how could I have forgotten I had still have 2m of the background animal print above?  I thought I’d used it all leaving only small bits in the scrap bag.  But last week, in a downsizing and passing-on mood I was thrilled and rather surprised to find I still had 2m.  Though I’ve handed on a good sized bag of fabric, not all fabric is equal, and this was special to me the moment I saw it.  I remember I was inspired to buy the remainder of the bolt at the time, and will carefully plan how I use this unexpected windfall soon.


What On Earth …

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

Housekeeping on the dashboard of this blog, including deleting a few rubbish comments from spammers and grappling with editing pages and gallery images for the first time in a while, I found several titles of uncompleted post drafts, including the above heading with absolutely nothing written next to it 🙂   Whatever was on my mind a few weeks ago, I was interrupted and didn’t resume it.  Never mind, it seems apt for today’s post.

Yesterday I composed an artist statement on the work “Land Marks” I’m providing for the invitational part of Judith Trager’s “75 Exhibition” in Boulder this coming August.

“Land Marks” 2016, detail

The statement for this piece reads: “Erosional forces acting on the Earth’s surface produce distinctive shapes and textural patterns in every landscape, changes which have come to mean a metaphor for the physical changes we all experience as we progress through Life. Additionally, on every continent are thousands of sites featuring ancient hand drawn, painted and chipped markings of patterns and symbols on rocks, cave walls and even out on vast plains.  Styles vary and we do not always understand their symbolism; but we always recognize them as man-made.  

Recently I have found myself faced with an irresistible challenge to use unconventional materials in a quilt-like way. In this work, Mylar coated nylon shapes were covered with hand-drawn patterns and machine sewn onto mock-patent leather vinyl fused to a cotton fabric backing, thus technically fulfilling the function of ‘quilting’. The fusing process produced unexpected wrinkling, which I feel is a plus, as such things can sometimes be. “

There’s no doubt that writing a statement about a particular work pins you down mentally, forcing you to think and even re-assess how a particular piece fits into your overall body of work.  People who know me well have heard my opinion that the best artist statement about a work is an apt single- or two-word title.  As I make each piece, I keep a list of contenders  as they come to mind.  I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve settled on that lazy cop out, “Untitled’.

Just now I had the notion that I could work around the other way – that is, draw up a list of words such as these key buzzwords frequently found in statements and titles – journey, markings, stitch, cloth, inspiration, texture, pattern, patience, media, environment, media, assemblage, arrangement, response, hand-dyed, textile, embellishment, eco print, designer, pure, mixed – select one, and proceed from there.  I could easily find many more, and I suspect the choice would influence the outcome of the design and the craftsmanship.  Come to think of it, I could just randomly select a word from any dictionary and go from there …


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