Archive for the ‘craftsmanship’ Category

A Studio visit with Margaret Whyte, Montevideo Textile Artist

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

p3190010Recently I visited a prominent Uruguayan artist, Margaret Whyte, well known for her large scale fabric and stitch conceptual installation works,  featuring extensive use of recycled and salvaged materials, particularly textile-like materials.  Just by chance I met her a few weeks ago at a gallery in the Museo des Artes Visuales,where her work was then on show.  See picture right, photographed with permission of the artist, showing part of the exhibiton ” Belleza Compulsiva”    It was the second show of hers I had seen in several years, and to my delight she seemed very interested in our meeting.   I love meeting other artists and talking directly about what we each do.   She works in a studio located in the Fundacion de Arte Contemporaneo, www.facmvd.org  in the old city area of Montevideo, in a quite small room surrounded by other artists in other rooms on the several floors of an aged apartment block.   Some were working when I visited, all doing a wide variety of very contemporary 2-d and 3-d art with  a preponderance of painting.  In addition to Margaret’s work which had interested me for some time, I was especially taken with the paintings of Fernando Lopez Lage – check the above URL – go to the list of artists and scroll to his name.  His colourful paintings comprise bands and stripes/strips of colour,  wonderful combinations, quite reminiscent of some contemporary quilters’ works, and the Australian abstract landscape artist, Jules Sher. (one of my favs)  Very large portaits are painted by Maria Carla Rossi, who was  not around, but a striking work in progress was waiting for her return.  I was however puzzled by the art of Cecilia Romero, who presents objects she picks up on the streeet, such as a cupboard door handle or a piece of cutlery or jewellery, encased in frames where they nestle into backgrounds of padded fabric looking as if they are in presentation cases, and I wonder does framing them in some way confer preciousness, value ….I didn’t come to clear terms with that.  There was another young female artist  painting  an image of a clutch purse as if seen through cyclone mesh – from the pics around her work area she has a message about women being victims of the fashion industry. I liked her work, and will try to find out her name although she did not seem to be listed on the fac website. 

But back to my visit with Margaret.  She keeps another studio space where she stores most of her fabrics and threads.   In this room at the fac  was a big work table with a mezzanine storage area above her head height – of course, older buildings have very high ceilings.  Margaret herself has done a lot of  abstract painting but is currently working in fabric.  Her sculptural works are large panels of colour, texture and shape,  worked directly onto artist canvases, or  richly ornamented 3-d  large figures.  She uses a lot of paint on the canvas and then adds manipulated fabrics and other materials, perhaps more paint and large hand stitches and coils and drapes of wrapped stuffed tubes – the whole having a rather rich voluptuousness, a medieval costume quality, and yet sudden details disturb, such as fish hooks appearing from somewhere in the manipulated fabric…. 

I meant to ask more questions about the rationale behind Margaret’s work, but we also got talking about my work, too.  I took  ‘Maelstrom’ and Timetracks, 8, to show her what I actually do since she only knew my work from the website.   She commented my work was ‘neat’ and was pleased she referred to it as ‘art’  .  Even the tracks  works such as Timetracks 8 she thought is neat, too, and I was a little taken back at that, even with all the raw burnt edges and hanging threads.  Interesting.  Should I  be concerned about this?  Probably not.  Everything is relative, and her work is definitely not ‘neat’ – it is exhuberant,  almost wild, by some measures  ‘raw’.    We had  a conversation too about mixing with and working among other artists.  I have mixed views on this, it could be interesting and exciting, on the other hand loaded with potential distractions,  and I know, or think UI know,  that I do best when working on my own.   That conversation caused me to look at the various feedback structures I have access to, and consider their importance to me.  It also set me thinking yet again about the ‘quilt industry’ and its relationship with the realities of the C21.  On that note I am especially looking forward to the SAQA conference where someone will be speaking on this very aspect – where to from now kind of thing.  Contemporary craft and art will change to reflect to some extent the pressures the world is under, I am certain.  This was a thought provoking visit.

Man-made Surfaces

Friday, February 8th, 2008

Just looking through and sorting some of the pics I took in Egypt last year I found some of these man-made surfaces. They intrigued me just as much as the massive temples and monuments with carved and painted pictorial records and stories that we experienced in our classic tour of Upper Egypt. The tomb and temple carvings were magnificent and along with the massive scale of these buildings, totally awe-inspiring. I’d like to go back and see more, at a cooler time of year, but the problem then is the place is totally packed with tourists like me …

In and around the architecture, all over the place I noticed lots of interesting patterning. Examples such as these were very inspiring, but rarely noticed by visitors focused on all the grand scale stuff around them. I feel they may influence something I do in the future especially once I get my laser cutter. We’re still making customs inquiries, so my order is not firmly placed yet. Uruguay being basically on holiday for another few weeks, we are not expecting answers any time soon.

The main area where I see these surface patterns inspiring something is quilting treatment, machine or hand. For example I can envisage hand made knots, or a knot plus bead, something lumpy set out in the kind of grid pattern of this ancient door in a gate in the wall of the old city of Cairo, UL: the UR panel is a ceiling covered with the 5-point stars that appear in so many temples and tombs 0f the pharaohs; and I have already used this once as a machine quilted motif for the quilt “Gift of the Nile” shown in part on the blog for october 7, 2007. LR is some of the highest part of the gateway to a temple at Luxor (I think) and who knows – I just like it; and finally LR a texture I love, the mane of a lion carved from granite ,standing outside a temple. Granite is really hard but these lines are so beautifully fluid and hair-like. I see it as a machine quilting pattern probably but possibly in combination with hand stitch.

On one of the lists to which I subscribe, in the past week one writer commented that she had to quilt something and was procrastinating since she didn’t like doing quilting. Well, you don’t have to quilt anything. You can tie with wool other threads and string, buttons, staples, safety pins, sewing pins – I have seen all these used to function as the quilt stitch does – ie hold layers together. And, one can always farm it out to someone who does love to quilt. Personally, I find the old under/over/under/over thing beautiful in the right place, ie a carefully constructed and quilted traditional geometric or applique quilt, especially the baltimore album quilts. But so many people are working to produce non-traditional quilt designs these days that it seems amazing to me that they feel bound to quilt them as they always have using the traditional under/over/under/over, painstakingly doing x stitches to the inch, in fine pure cotton thread. Or if they are machining, the now rather unimaginative meandering and stippling seems to be the limit of some repertoires. If you paint, print, applique, collage, dye and and piece non-traditionally to produce non-traditional quilt designs, to me that begs exploration of intereasting, unusual quilting potential. You can quilt with anything from microfilament to heavy string, ribbon, and everything in between whether the label says ‘quilting thread’ or not.

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Also From the Museum in Auckland

Saturday, May 19th, 2007

Hung up high, ie out of reach, was this taifaefae patchwork coverlet from Samoa, with the patchwork itself being a little less than than double-bed size, each of the tiny patchwork pieces forming the motifs measuring about 3/4 inch/ 1.5 cm approx square. Hard to tell if it was hand or machine sewn, and pieces that small will tend to buckle a little regardless of technique used.

I would love to have been able handle this breastplate and turn it over to learn more of the construction. An intriguing jigsaw of slices of bone, measuring about 10 inches /25 cm across, and with what looks suspiciously like blood on the two left hand side panels ….. my imagination is just too vivid for my own good sometimes.
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Anatomy of a Commission – Day 6

Sunday, March 11th, 2007

Today and yesterday I really pushed to get the last piecing done, with a self imposed deadline of this afternoon.

The final size is to be approx 2ft x 3 ft, so this is about 3’4″ x 2’6″, as it will ddraw up in the quilting

Over the next few days I will be communicating with the client, who can if she wishes at this stage propose any minor change; and then within the next few days then it will be layered and basted. While those processes going on, and while I do things like have some overdue (about 30 years overdue!) beauty treatments, a medical appointment and lunch with the girls, I will be mulling over the thread to use in the machine quilting I plan to do, metallic gold? metallic bronze? neon pink or orange? a change of neons from top to bottom? a change of metallics from top to bottom?… or something else I haven’t thought about yet…

And then there’s the matter of to bind or face, but during the fabric and scrap auditioning phase, I found a couple of great binding potential bits, both long enough although from other projects: so, a firm believer in the ability of the mind to quietly work on this over time, I will get them out and pin up beside the quilt to look at as I decide the other things.

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Scraps Breeding

Sunday, March 11th, 2007


…so here is the final scrap heap, including the slivers that found their way into the wasebasket – before I throw out anything a few of these will make their way back into the snippets collection -there’s after all a pretty fine line between slivers and strips, and one day I might just need one of them….

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