New Collector

May 16th, 2022

These two quilts have just been acquired by the Australian Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which also serves Australian interests and Aussies in Paraguay and Uruguay. Here in Montevideo last week, I handed them over to an embassy staff member who was about to return to Argentina after some business here. As most of our consular needs can be handled here in Montevideo, I’ve only had to attend the embassy in person a couple of times in the last decade, so I expect that might be the last I see of either of them. I understand they’ll be hanging in areas fairly accessible to the public, and look forward to seeing the installation shots. In their new posts I hope they give embassy staff and visitors pleasure for years to come.

Ebb&Flow #10 “Red Tide” 157cmw x 114cmh
Timetracks#4 “Surge” 100cmw x 106cmh

Auditioning – Going For ‘Shimmer’

April 28th, 2022

In a comment on one of my social media posts this week, I mentioned to someone that I am going for a shimmer factor with my next major work. I want to work on some lovely pearly grey sateen I have, using metallic thread and including that little square stitch motif, of course. I have no recollection why or where I bought that fabric, but right now with all the current drama on the World Stage, I’m feeling the need to create something calming. In conversation with my son about this fabric and colours that might go with it, we talked about how well gold and cream go with grey, and that brief conversation has remained in my mind.

What I’m currently working on has very strong colours, and I really feel the need to follow this with some more orderly calm tones in my next art quilt, something probably quieter and less sensational than anything I’ve ever done before. I’m envisaging some kind of grid layout in soft light colours with lots of metallic thread – going for the shimmer factor. I’m in no special hurry, as the intense hand stitched surface design of what I’m currently working on will take me at least another couple of weeks to finish, probably. (It’s another mosaic one ~1.m+sq.)

My regular readers might also remember that one of my favourite design motifs is a square-within-a-square – which appears every now and then, generally referring back to this suede sample I fused to cream fabric at least 8 or 9 years ago. It’s usually kicking around on my design wall, inspiring but never quite actually becoming the ‘star’ of anything. A square-within-a-square is a very popular patchwork block design in traditional quilt making, and I’ve used that idea in some samples, with and without punched holes:

My much loved square-within-a-square motif, very popular in traditional patchwork.
Fabric and threads encased: http://www.alisonschwabe.com/weblog/?p=7297

But as the auditioning of fabrics and threads wanders along for treatment on this lovely grey sateen, the square within a square motif has surfaced again as a way to get a major part of a pattern onto the grid I have in mind. Earlier this week I made this quick little sample, two squares within squares, see below:

One comment was that the stitching looked like Roman letters and numbers – I had the im0pression it was ‘print’ too – which led me to ‘SHIMMER’ ….

On the right is cream nylon organza fused to the grey, but it doesn’t show up well… HOWEVER some random stitching over the edges with a little square motif at each corner does speak volumes to me about potential over with the same light grey sheer in the middle. And the brown square is way too dark for inclusion in this exercise – so there’s been some auditioning of sheer fabrics to find something lighter, and I think I’m ready to go with these squares to be the fused basis for the stitchery in light and darker gold metallic, or even gold and silver. We’ll see….

Carolyn Nelson, Soliloquy II, detail.

I know ‘YES’ is a much simpler word than “SHIMMER’, but I’m about to experiment with it, to stitch around each side of the proposed squares … Carolyn Nelson must have stitched ‘YES’ on that work hundreds if not a thousand times, so ‘SHIMMER’ 4 times per block for 165 blocks max., ie stitching SHIMMER 660 times, and I think that’s do-able.

Evolution Of A Motif

April 15th, 2022

I’ve always loved hand stitching, and am among the growing number of textile artists whose surface designs are featuring greater amounts of hand stitch than they previously used in their 2D and 3D functional and/or decorative stitched layered works. I extensively use that most basic of all stitches, the straight stitch, or as I think of it – the Glorious Straight Stitch, on account of its mark making versatility.

My regular readers know that I periodically browse on Pinterest, spending an hour or two viewing images and sometimes saving them onto to and sometimes deleting from my boards, (categories or collections, for the Pinterest uninitiated) Important things I search for on Pinterest include Lines and shapes, and it’s not exaggerating to say that I really do see lines as potential individual stitches or collections of them. And any kind of grid, regular or not, interests me, so I also save images of art designed on grids or grid-like layouts in this board, Grids! l spent several months last year experimenting with stitch as mark making through sample making, and many of the samples were on grids.

Probably a couple of years back my attention was grabbed by an image that I saved but didn’t investigate at the time. However, it kept attracting my attention, and one day last year I picked up my needle and began doodling. See lower left – it became the basis of several of the samples I did in that samples-only period. I began with a stitched square which I then went over again with the lines slightly off kilter and then followed with different arrangements of a few lines. This was the essence of that image which, when I investigated it recently, I found was of computer generated art designed by a Hungarian artist, Vera Molnar, pioneer of generative computer and kinetic art. So then I began reading more about this woman artist who apparently frequently declared “My life is squares, triangles, lines. I am mad about lines.” – quoted from the interesting Mayor Gallery artist bio on Artsy.

Now here’s a fascinating article by information designer Duncan Geere on his blog, https://observablehq.com/@duncangeere/structure-de-quadrilateresas. He’s young, clearly very able with computer algorithms and all the big words that go with that stuff. In 2018 he discovered Vera Molnar and was smitten; I really recommend you take a minute or two to scroll through his article, following the evolution of complexity in his diagrams until right at the end you get to a similar kinetic drawing like the Molnar one that grabbed my attention on Pinterest, though that one on Pinterest didn’t ‘move’ ­čÖé

Earliest sample explorations of the stitched square, inspired by the pen plotter art of Vera Molnar

Anyway, my little stitched block gradually developed complexity, all without any help from a computer program, and has become a signature motif, really:

2022 Spotlight Auction piece, ~8″ x 6
https://www.saqa.com/events/2022-spotlight-auction

I used it with neon nylon thread to produce this small piece; and at 6″ x 8″ like all other submissions – it’s too small even to call a potholder, let alone a ‘quilt’. and it will be auctioned off during the SAQA Spotlight Auction during the annual conference, this year from April 29th to May 7t. Bidding is online and open to everyone, anywhere, whether registered for the conference, or not, so for further details go to https://www.saqa.com/events/2022-spotlight-auction

My square motif ~1.5cm fused silk organza was first used in this work, which is now quilted and hanging in our home.
I’ve auditioned several styles of embellishment, but favourite is the square, top right.
See previous blog post.

Influences – The Drama Of Weathering Rocks

April 14th, 2022

I’m currently listening to the recorded book Charles Darwin’s “The Voyage Of The Beagle beautifully read by Barnaby Edwards . As I currently live in Uruguay, and have travelled in various parts of the South American continent (it will never be ‘enough’ as there are still many places I’d particularly love to visit, though tempus fugit) I’m finding it a pleasure to listen to Darwin’s writing about this part of the world, and sense the wonder he felt about everything he saw and experienced as a land and ocean traveller in the 1830s. It’s amazing how widely he had read other travellers’ observations and experiences through books published at that time and how often he referred to the journals of scientific organisations he contributed to. I recommend reading his books, but if you want a taste of how interesting his writing is, read some excerpts here Reading or listening to his writing, the greatest thrill comes when he starts talking about somewhere I have actually been, or in the case of this photo, flown over!

These stone runs are quite awe inspiring, the results of the erosion processes (wind, water and temperature changes) on the Earth’s surface, on this part of the Earth’s surface we know as The Falkland Islands.

Exactly eight years ago I returned to Montevideo after a week in The Falkland Islands, which was perhaps the most exhilarating week’s solo travel I’ve ever had. One of the most thrilling things I saw were the hills like this one, their surfaces marked with stone runs like this. I’d never heard of ‘stone runs’ until that time, even though I did a few geomorphology units at uni, and for many decades have been married to an exploration geologist who’s expanded my knowledge of many things terrestrial since we met in March 1965.

Other runs look like rivers of rocks winding along at the bases of hill; but these slopes were the most fascinating as they look more dynamic, Nature in Action, sort of thing. I was airborne, so of course I had a different perspective from Darwin’s view from being mounted on horseback or walking along, as he often did, closely observing the ground beneath his feet and looking at everything between him and the horizon. His diary frequently reveals that he was constantly thinking about the possible connections between what he knew or had observed elsewhere, and what was in front of his eyes much time and distance removed..

Landscape shapes and textures feature in my art as repeated units of abstract patterns in fabric, thread and other materials, an enduring influence from my brief period of learning about and making traditional patchwork quilts in the late 1980s.

detail – Timetracks 3 2006.
detail – Timetracks 16 2009.

I’ve produced several small works on grid layouts in the last few months, and am currently auditioning treatments for the surface of another larger work that is about formal order (the grid) calming colour (in soft light earthy shades) and precious values (metallic glitter always denotes ‘preciousness’ to me, though of course, all that glitters is not gold)

Grids: My Go-to Design Layout

April 13th, 2022

Landscape shapes and textures feature in my art in repeated units of abstract patterns in fabric, thread and other materials, and grids remain an enduring influence of my early, but brief period of making traditional patchwork quilts when I first went to the USA in 1987.

In early 2021, I made this small 60cm x 40cm piece, Sunburnt Country, which was selected into Australia Wide 7 and is currently in Paducah, KY with that touring collection.

Sunburnt Country 60cm x 40xm 2022. Australia Wide 7 collection.

This work seemed to bring my focus back to grids, which I’ve used since as the framework for several recent small works, including this tiny little 6″ x 8″ piece for the Spotlight Auction at the forthcoming SAQA virtual conference. April 27th to May 7th.

2022 Spotlight Auction. ~1.5cm sq. Myla squares, neon yellow nylon thread
Detail, Untitled. Triangles encased in plastic 5cm plastic squares, on grey, hand quilting,
Detail, untitled, 9 Patch; fused squares ~1.5cm

I have in mind something much larger now, of between 1.5 m- 1.75m, but I’m not really sure how large it will turn out. Anyway, I’m currently auditioning treatments for the surface design:

Fused squares ~1.5cm, metallic gold thread in several configurations.

I feel this work will be about restoring order (grid) and calm through colour (soft, earthy shades) and precious values as represented by the metallic glitter always denotes ‘preciousness’ to me, though of course, “…all that glitters is not gold”.

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