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

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.

Lines = Seams = Lines

August 5th, 2019

Interesting marks, lines and shapes are all around us. I find plenty of them inspirational, providing as they do ideas for my quilted textile art. To me, the patterns made by lines are more important than the colours I end up working with. Line and shape come first, followed by colour and texture, which I rank together.

The joining of pieces of fabric patches, along lines or seams makes patchwork. In the 90s I learned how to make patchwork freehand, and it has remained my favourite surface design technique. It’s not difficult, just a totally different way of working compared with traditional patchwork. It’s made without using pattern pieces or making measurements, though rulers and quilters’ shapes are optional – there are always options. Basically, you just cut and sew as you go, often one seam at a time, following the few technical guidelines to produce an individual design in a nice flat quilt top ready for quilting by hand or machine.

Working this way is known in the quilting world as improvisational quiltmaking, and is widely used today in art quilts and in Modern Quiltmaking, which has become a big thing in the last decade or so. Google improvisational patchwork, and you’ll find many examples. The Modern Quilt Movement attracts many improv makers, and that whole group of quilters work in light bright colours with lots of white or other pale neutrals, and heavily machine quilt their quilts.

However, the technique itself can be applied to whatever colours you love working with. It’s one of my pet aversions to see photos of a group of students from a class all holding up something the same thing as the person standing next to them; so for that reason I don’t provide fabric kits. I have students make their own fabric selections at home before coming to the workshop with fabrics they love. I suggest that about half a pillow case of fabrics is more than enough to work with in a one day 6 hour workshop, where much time can be better used if those fabric choices have been made before class.

I’ll be teaching two classes on this technique next month at the 22nd International Festival of Patchwork, Gramado, Brasil. Whether teaching this technique and its finer points to beginners or advanced students, my goal is always to show how they can use it to piece together their own pattern of lines they’ve found somewhere. Quite a number of my quilts will be there at the festival, on exhibition and as class samples. I’m sure some students will copy one of those patterns using their own fabrics, which is fine, because just by doing that they will be learning a great deal. But I’d like everyone to go away knowing that they can diagram up some simple lines for themselves, choose some fabrics, and start cutting and sewing to develop their own ideas.

Using a simple photo editing program on the computer, scan a shell, crop sections of the pattern, then play with colour ideas. Someone always says they can’t draw, but no one has to!

Studio Archeology 1

August 4th, 2019

Tucked away in a long forgotten photo file I came across this and a couple of other gems this morning. A small piece, maybe 30″ x 30″ (it’s in storage, I can’t check) it’s the result of one of the projects I undertook as a member of a group of experimental quilt makers while I was living in SE Denver CO., back in the late 80s early 90s.

Not having a work visa but having a strong interest in fibre arts, in addition to joining the Embroiderers’ Guild of America, I turned my attention to the craft of traditional American patchwork and quilting. In a deliberate move to learn more about the world of quiltmaking, I joined a local quilting guild, Arapahoe County Quilters, in 1988, and though that group joined a quilting bee, then called the Friday Block Party. We met every friday morning and quilted and gossiped together until lunch time – and sometimes took ourselves out to lunch after that. It was great fun, and that group was one of the hardest I have ever had to leave, anywhere.

When I joined this lively group of keen, very skilled quilters, everyone was making traditional bed quilts and wall quilts; and our group projects were traditional mostly, too. At this time, the late 80s, several Colorado artists working in the quilted textile medium were becoming prominent on the national non-traditional or Art Quilt scene. In addition to the high level of creativity in Colorado, several major travelling exhibitions appeared. Piecemakers, a very experimental group started up in Boulder, and the Front Range Quilters formed around this time, too. Art quilts were attracting a lot of attention, and some of us in The Friday Block Party became keen to develop our own designs and learn some of the non-traditional surface design techniques that we could see others were acquiring and teaching.

A small group of us formed and experimental group to share and learn. We met monthly, and called ourselves Quilt Explorations. Each month we had an assignment of a design idea or concept to explore and if possible make something out of that idea, and when we met the following month we discussed and critiqued each other’s efforts.

Which brings me to this little piece. I really can’t remember what I titled it, though by this time I was an experienced exhibitor of mixed media art, and routinely named my fibre art works. But I can tell you a few things about this project. We were to develop an original design based on something from traditional quiltmaking. I took two traditional patterns, the Diamond In A Square, and Amish Bars, which seemed a good idea at the time! The bright bars were made of an Australian fabric designed by the late indigenous artist, Jimmy Pike. It was hand quilted in bright orange-red thread, and now that I look at it, it’s barely ‘innovative’ at all, though perhaps thirty years ago it was a reasonable leap from ‘traditional’

An early art quilt project done while I was a member of Quilt Explorations group, Denver CO. Untitled, c.1990 Approx 30″ x 30″
Detail of hand quilting patterns definitely inspired by traditional N.American quilt design.

I can’t say this quilt ‘led’ me anywhere on a creative path, but it represents a stage of breaking out of the traditional mould, ‘in transition’, you might say, and therefore important. Though I had actually only made one traditional quilt, a Flying Geese wall quilt and some patchwork blocks. The Friday Block Party had a scheme that each member in turn would ask for a particular block from the other members. and a month later we’d hand them all over to her. When my turn came around, I requested Dresden Plate, and still have the blocks I’ve never put together- and my excuse is they’re in storage, though I’d like to at least get them out. Over the next few years the whole bee became more original design focused, some of its members going on to be art quilt makers, others finding niches in teaching, writing and fabric dyeing. By 1992 we’d changed our name to “Over The Edge Quilters” which was a lot closer to the mark of describing our group’s character.

I will write again soon on very early pieces in the next of what will be an occasional series.

Quiet But Busy

July 30th, 2019

Here is this year’s 12″ donation quilt for the annual SAQA Benefit Auction , in which I participate every year. The auction money raised helps fund the programs and activities of the Studio Art Quilt Associates organisation, many of which I find very worthwhile. I’ve been a member for many years, and as my geographic location prevents me from being hands on at events, contributing to the annual auction is something I can do from afar.

Ebb&Flow #30, subtitled ‘Crotons’ after a FB friend’s comment on the colours.

Although I have not made anything new since mailing that in at the end of April, I have been pretty busy. I mentioned earlier I’ve been invited to teach at Gramado this coming September, and apart from learning some basic Brasilian portuguese, I’ve spent quite a bit of time revamping the beginner and advanced freehand (improvisational) workshops that I’ll be teaching, with help from my wonderful portuguese teacher Moira Riccetto Blanco, who is learning a great deal about improvisational patchwork along the way! Of course, I’ll be demonstrating the basic construction steps. But I will also have powerpoints for each class that cover/reprise those basic techniques, with some ideas sources, along with references to my own work. Moira’s watching that my very brief captions make sense. The PPPs will be shown either on demand or in a loop once everyone gets sewing – it all depends. Bearing in mind that a picture is worth a thousand words, and that I enjoy assembling PPPs, this has all been very absorbing.

In addition to being invited to teach, I am being featured as a master quilter through an exhibition of 12 of my own quilts. So, of course I expect some people will want to talk to me about them, and I’d like my answers to make some sense ­čÖé

As each class is only 6 hours, I don’t want students to be laboriously taking notes, instead I want them to be learning by doing. I know people usually love to start to make something and if possible finish it in such workshops, and while ‘finish’ might not be possible in such a short time, I’m sure everyone would rather sew than take notes! I myself have no trouble listing a few key words and doing a quick diagram, but not everyone can manage that while they’re listening or watching.

The beginners’ class is on day 1, and the advanced class is on day 3. On every day, the festival program will feature many workshops, and demonstrations, plus exhibitions and the razzle dazzle of a vendors’ mall featuring new fabrics, books, notions and demos. I myself could be blown away as ‘they’ tell me Brasilian fabrics are marvellous. Each student will receive brief aide memoire notes of the workshop in their own language (portuguese, spanish or english) with pics and/or diagrams of what was covered. Wanting to inspire with the thought that undulating lines are everywhere in nature, I collaged a set of sand ripples with my 2008 SAQA auction quilt, which came out as a really lovely background to some very brief text –

Sand ripples + the image of my 2008 SAQA auction quilt turned on its side. The natural world is full of undulating lines that can form unique patchwork designs.

A Question On Landscape

July 2nd, 2019

A quilter recently contacted me asking if I teach landscapes. My answer to her included these comments: My freehand patchwork technique is wonderful for landscapes, and your question makes me think again about much of what I have done … I have much experience with landscapes using many techniques, and would be happy to teach a whole workshop, about how fiber artists can make “landscapes” … I never teach everyone in the class to do the same … always encouraging students to follow their own intentions with the techniques that I can teach them to achieve this.

Landscape has always been at the core of the inspiration for my art. When I began to seriously express my creativity through colour and textures of landscape in the 80’s, I did this through stitch+paint+found objects. The world is made up of is made up of and infinite variety of landscapes, all of them to some degree dotted or dominated by streams, rivers, lakes ponds, parks – including but not limited to deserts, beach fringed coastlines, rugged high mountains, extensive icy tundra, tropical rainforest clad ridges and valleys, man made farmlands, highways and backroads and, of course villages, towns and cities. Below are some details from my ‘creative embroidery’ phase, but really, my art has always been mixed media even if dominated for years by patchwork and quilting, p&q.

Colour+texture in paint+stitch

Over the time I have been making quilted fabric works, my interest in landscape has shifted from shape+colour+texture to the current shape as a result of processes by wind, water, temperature change and the activity of Man as agents of shaping landscape we see around us today.

Landscape in various techniques and materials

My p&q phase began in the late 80s and has never ended, while the many sewing and construction techniques I’ve learned down the years are always ready to be considered for inclusion in a new work. While much of what I do comes under the much of my art today fits under the umbrella term art quilting, it is definitely ‘mixed media’ too.

For pieced designs, a.k.a. patchwork, I sew the pieces of fabric together by machine to make a surface design. I also use my machine to sew free machine embroidery, fme, and free machine quilting, fmq. In addition to those, I also do surface designing using any of the following – hand stitch, hand quilting, needleweaving, beading, stencilling, hand painting, hand drawing/mark making, monoprinting, spray painting, stamping, burning, machine applique, couching and more. Materials I use vary, but a favourite is cotton, plain, hand dyed and printed with small textural and striped designs. I have made quilts using appliqued leather. I made one from vinyl with appliqued mylar shapes. I have used nylon and silk organzas, and sometimes use lame or other glittery fabrics.

Translate ┬╗
%d bloggers like this: