Welcome to my blog. I was invited to contribute by Alicia Merrett UK, http://aliciamerrett-colourandlight.blogspot.com/ Follow the link to read her fascinating post for Monday 10th November. She and I have known each other for years, and when looking at her work I have always felt Alicia’s passion for everything she does is reflected in her confident use of strong, vibrant colour.
Bloggers on this Hop are asked to consider 4 questions, which I’ve kept as headings in my post. At the end of this article I will introduce the two bloggers who I have invited to write for us next Monday November 24th. Follow their links to discover more interesting textile and fibre artists who blog.
What am I working on?
I’m hand stitiching in black a whole-cloth quilt of burnt orange silk. If you know my recent work, this might not sound like Alison Schwabe at all! But, in fact it is an older theme revisited. Looking back over earlier work occasionally sometimes sparks a new approach. It is where I found inspiration while considering a submission proposal for the 2015 “Golden Textures” exhibition in Maryborough, Victoria, Australia. Of course, the title provided an irresistible link to my original 1987 mixed media piece, ‘Sunburnt Textures’, title piece from my first solo exhibition that year. As part of the proposal I submitted a line sketch based on it, and here I’ve collaged the images to show the connection between old and new:
I’m coming to the end of the extensive hand quilting and surface stitch, as when completed “Sunburnt Textures 4” will measure 1.25m x 90cm.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I’m not sure that it does differ greatly. It often includes the ubiquitous modern techniques of freeform machine piecing with hand and machine quilting. I glue and fuse materials sometimes, and the Tracks works involve burning and melting for texture. My sense of colour, though, is said to be strongly individual and very Australian.
Overall it’s pretty low-tech compared with much being done in the art quilt world today. It’s located somewhere between the traditional and the more technologically dazzling innovative styles that spring from new computer equipped sewing and printing machines, new materials, chemicals and processes. This is partly due to being geographically isolated from easy access to such things, but these days you can obtain and lug around pretty well most materials and equipment if you have a mind to, so there is an element of choice, too. I’m no technophobe, but have found as a result of avoiding a lot of the must-have dazzling new I have found it easier to experiment with and develop ways of working with materials and tools I do have around me. And I’ve had time to think about why am doing what I do.
Why do I write/create what I do?
Fabric and thread populate many of my earliest memories. My creativity was always encouraged as a child, so considering the ’50’s in which I grew up, it was inevitable that early in life I found the creative potential of textiles to which I have always turned and returned. Additionally, I studied geomorphology and married an exploration geologist whose work has taken us to live in many hugely different landscape environments; so its hardly surprising that my art is landscape inspired. All landscapes change over time, but Landscape has come to represent change within my life, too. At the time of making the first “Sunburnt Textures”, 1987, I was a self-designated ‘creative embroiderer’ working in paint+stitch+found objects. For nearly 20 years I had been living in remote mining towns in the arid, harsh Australian Outback. However by 1988 I was living in Denver USA, and was drawn to the world of traditional American geometric patchwork. It was a wonderful cultural experience to become involved in a guild and a bee, but right from the start although it took me a while to see this, I approached quiltmaking from the point of being ‘an embroiderer’ – check out Ancient Expressions 1, for example, and the following quilts in that series. I learned to draft patterns and produce accurate piecing, but almost immediately became exposed to ‘improvisational piecing’ that contemporary piecing which after 25 years has become a contemporary tradition, I had found a very exciting way to work, and piecing fabric as surface design is still my very favourite way of making textile art. The skills I developed for curviness of line and shape were developing during the time I made the next series Colour Memories quilts linking place with memory of particular colours I found I had for places/landscapes. More recent works focus on change in life Ebb&Flow In physical terms change leads to eventual decay of any surface of landscape and of every living thing. As I began considering the effects of change in Life, the Tracks have evolved.
I believe all artists’ work reflects accumulated influences from every aspect of their lives. As our lives lengthen those influences become more complex and more deeply embedded in our artistic vision.
How does my writing/creative process work?
Writing about my ideas helps clarify my mind or consider a question. Writing is at the heart of one of the tasks so many artists say they dread – producing an artist statement. Though I think the very best statement of all is a brief, carefully chosen title, I don’t mind putting together a long and short version of a written statement for each work. To me it is no chore, probably because of the way I start and carry through on an idea.
I doodle a small pencil sketch of what I have in mind onto a blank page of a book given me a long time ago by my artistic son. I think about how I could make it, and gradually form a plan of action. I add to and subtract from these brief pencil jottings until I feel I’m ready to start by fusing, piecing or whatever other technique I’ll be using. I audition fabrics and revise them as I work. I’m prone to making lists of words to capture essences of ideas, and sometimes jot down a quotation that seems important. When it comes to writing a statement on the finished work then, the bare bones of my ideas and revisions are on that page, and its easy to assemble them into a statement. It really is the nearest I ever come to the popular notion of ‘journalling’ in a book. These notes are always in pencil so I feel free to use the eraser when revising them. In that book there are threads of many ideas, and some develop, but there are plenty are dead ends, too! Here is a collage of snippets from several pages:
My other main way of writing is on this blog. It’s been running a long time now, and I think of it as my journal in digital format. I often take photos while going about my daily life, and share them as starting points for posts. Though I sometimes use my blog to inform and educate readers, more often it’s a record of things that interest me. My life has lengthened, and the influences around me have become more complex and deeply embedded in my artistic vision. Books I’m reading, observations about people, exhibition reviews, records of travels, inspirational images, sample making and experiments with analysis of their future in my work, pet peeves, issues in the textile arts – all these things and more go into the melting pot of my blog. If you and I are meeting here for the first time, I invite you to scroll through some recent posts, or wander in the archives. Feel free to contact me if you’re wondering why I have or haven’t blogged about something – but let me warn you, I don’t include my wonderful children, grandkids, cute pets or recipes here. You can find me on Facebook, too.
So, where to next week?
Clare Smith of New Zealand is a textile and fibre artist who brings to her thoughtful work perspectives from a scientific background, adding them to a wide array of technical and design skills. Clare’s art employs techniques of textile dyeing, surface design and printing and machine quilting. In addition she teaches, writes and exhibits regularly. In 2012 she completed a Graduate Diploma in Applied Art which focused theatrical costume design and production. Follow this link to her blog http://claresmith.blogspot.com/ to learn more about her art.
Del Thomas of USA For more than 7 years Del has been making, writing about, speaking about and actively collecting contemporary quilts. Her regularly maintained blog often reads like an action packed travelogue of places visited and exhibitions attended along trail of the art quilts she regularly acquires. Besides documenting additions to her Thomas Contemporary Quilt Collection, this blog http://www.delquilts.blogspot.com/ gives enjoyable insights into the rich and colourful life of a well known collector.
See you around – cheers!