Archive for the ‘attitude issues’ Category

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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Gathering of Quilters in Uruguay

Monday, July 16th, 2007

On saturday last I went to what was billed as the first national gathering of quilters in Uruguay. Now there aren’t a lot of us/them and two, Graciela and Soledad, have been in contact with everyone most of us know of; several came in from places several hours away from Montevideo but we still numbered only about 10 with several apologies – there’s a lot of ‘grippe’ ie coughs and colds, around in this freezing weather. I am the only non traditional quilter among them, no surprise there. But from discussions during the day it is clear that several of the quilters would like to learn some of what experimental quilters everywhere else are learning.

I went along wanting to initiate discussion about something I have noticed about all the work I have seen so far in Uruguay, from all the quilters I have met over the past few years – it’s more properly described as an actual lack of quilting. Apart from traditional geometric patterns, and they do tend to be the less complex ones at that, the one thing that has always struck me is that here the quilting is structural, minimal, period. None of that quilting-as-an-additional-surface-design-element so evident in some of the quilting done in many other countries. And in many art quilters’ works just now there is a huge range of minimal up to quilted-to-death, but overall traditional quilters generally add at least a moderate amount of quilting, but not here, and I’ve been wondering why. So, I took along Dijanne Cevaal’s machine quilting book, the latest QN catalogue, several recent quilt magazines from various countries, and one of my own quilts with a lot of close free machine quilting, and raised the question. Even the arrival of Polly whom I’d not met before, bringing several large bed quilts with lots of quilting, didn’t really defuse my questions. Polly lived in Canada for a few years and got totally hooked on P&Q there. And she was well taught.

We had a long discussion on this, with one comment being that Uruguay has no cultural background of quilting and even further, that there is very little societal value placed on technical excellence, key word excellence, in hand made things, which is interesting, and on reflection is at least partly true. A lot of beautiful things are hand made here, but often lack the highest levels of technical excellence reached elsewhere by many artisans in most media, and although this has been addressed by organisations such as Manos del Uruguay and the Hecho Aca’s shops and annual expositions, it is still evident.

Those present marvelled at free machine quilting as per Dijanne’s examples, and since I myself have done quilte a bit of fmq and non-tradiitonal hand quilting, I can see some demos and learning sessions coming up. Another general comment was agreed, that it’s only because no one knows how to do that nor been able to show them.

One girl, Susana blew me away with the very fine and very even quilting she was doing through much of the day – I kid you not, the needle was barely one inch long with an eye there is no way I could get a thread through, and she had the rocking-the needle-motion thing going, would get a few stitches on the needle, and then use a little non-slip grabber thingy to pull the needle through, rather slow and quite painstaking with amazingly long fingernails. Athough I could never work that way, and I’m quite jealous of those fingernails, she says that’s the way she likes to work and there’s no way I would try to persuade her otherwise: people quilt the way they do for all kinds of reasons, and I respect that. It will be interesting if she or some of the others ever become interested in experimenting.

Suitable cotton fabrics are difficult to find here in uruguay, even and perhaps especially plain colours. But it seems there is a great store over in Buenos Aires, and there was clearly quite a bit of fabric coming in from travels and some mail order. One quilter, Ines, is really interested in dyeing about which I know little or nothing – and she’s considering getting dyes down from the US, and buying a bolt of two of fabric from BA, and possibly sharing it with some others. she still needs some good quality tuition, though. I know I heard of someone doing shibori dyeing here, and will ask around to find that person and see if she can help – Uruguay is an amazing place, there is always someone working quietly in some corner that you rarely hear about.

After a lot of show and tell, I did another demo of freehand rotary cutting and piecing for those who hadn’t seen it and experimented at last year’s workshop… see next post.

Soledad revealed that Mosca, the large stationers in several places around the city including a branch out near us, told her they are no longer stocking rotary cutters and blades – she bought the rest of their stock, probably enough to last a lifetime – about 15 cutters and God knows how many 5-packs of blades, priced at about $1 and 50c respectively – no those are not typos. I’m off down to Mosca in the morning myself….but it might only be the store in her area, of course.

So, in many ways it was rather like a gathering of quilters anywhere else I’ve been to – so small it was more like a bee. Towards the end of the afternoon it was suggested that a group project would be fun – which I will do my best to avoid being caught up in! But it all depends, time will tell whether it ever gets off the ground, or indeed, what kind of idea is proposed. Although I don’t want the group to become a set of classes with me being the teacher and expected to come along each time with something new to teach, I am prepared to demo and show stuff that I know in small and relevant doses. I noticed for example that good quality neat, flat, square bindings were not much in evidence. That can easily be refined, and so I will do up a set of samples of my favourite french binding that I learned years ago from the Mimi Deitrich book, “Happy Endings” and take them along next time.

Copyright Issues – what’s in a name?

Friday, June 29th, 2007

Plenty – and on this theme a couple of things bother me at the moment, seeming to be on the very edge of being copyright issues.

Firstly, today I went onto another quilter’s blog and found the writer had posted a pic of a non traditional quilt top she had just made for her group’s “Gees Bend Challenge” For those who are in tune with the quilt world just now it is well known that a group of quilters from the very poor, isolated, southern Alabama township of Gees Bend are currently in the news. Their utilitarian quilts were ‘discovered’ a few years ago by an agent who introduced them to the art world which has gone crazy about them – books have been published, exhibitions are touring, coffee mugs, other souvenirs and nick nacks produced for sale; several law suits are now out there based over alleged agreements, or lack of them and other misunderstandings behind the current situation in which most of the quilters in that town claim they have had almost no financial/material benefit from all this attention. All the while big bucks are being paid for some of their works to intermedaries belonging to a certain family claiming to be acting as their agents, and also claiming to be working to bring about improvements in the lives of these quilters in this community. sounding rather paternalistic, too – but like most people, I really don’t know the facts behind it all, and the tangle will take quite a while to unravel in the US courts. What really bothered me that is that the name of this town/group has been used by a quiltgroup (on the other side of the world, no less) for a challenge that could just as easily and much more properly been called something like an” Improvisational Piecing Challenge”.

And the other thing that has always bugged me is how some people use the names of other (usually deceased) artists in the titles of their own works. Quilters especially seem to freely do this, with particular favs being Klimt, Klee and Huntderwasser (sorry H – not sure of the spelling of your name – forgive me) If you are claiming to be producing original work not copying anyone else’s designs, you may neverthless recognise that a particular artist or school of artists had some degree of influence in that work – and, let’s face it, we are all influenced by what is around us, and that includes all we experience in Life. If an influence is significant we should acknowledge it in statements or interviews; but to use someone’s actual name in the title of your (own?)work IMHO is just sleezy, and further, bone lazy. It has always been my contention that the best artist’s statement is a carefully chosen, apt title, which then leads the viewer into the work and encourages that viewer to engage with the work on personal terms that will vary from viewer to viewer. Yep, I’m picky.

Traditional and contemporary quiltmakers and textile artists still have a long way to go to get the hang of what copyright really means.

July 29th: below follows a series of exchanges between myself and two readers in which I feel the whole point of my post was missed, and remind anyone reading this that my first sentence refers to what IMHO are a couple of issues “on the very edge of copyright issues” – not that they are copyright violations. My intention was only to pose food for thought, and although IMHO the exchanges became a bit silly, and I became over pedantic perhaps – can’t resist it – nevertheless I have not removed or barred any comments, theirs or mine, being strongly pro free speech and anti most censorship. And the phrase “sleazy and just bone lazy” may have come across too strongly – water that down as you like, I still think it is a regrettable practice no matter how widespread.

When is a Quilt an Art Quilt?

Saturday, June 23rd, 2007

According to one writer on the Quiltart list this week, art quilts are “Stuff That Hangs on The Wall and Never Gets Washed”.
The discussion topic centred about what batting/filling people preferred to use in their quiltmaking, and her comment inferred that lightness and warmth were irrelevant for those who made art quilts, ie that these were too small to be of body warming use, anyway, since they hang on walls, see above, and, ergo, are small.

Does this mean only art quilts are small? Does this mean that art quilts cannot be large? Or does it mean that no art quilts are large, ergo, sufficient to be placed on beds as either docorator covers or warmth pieces? Someone else on the Quiltart list today even asked if anyone could give her a list of the dimensions that are usually required for entries into art quilt exhibitions ….. my only thought was ” how long is a piece of string?” there is no answer – anything goes, usually.

The term ” Art Quilt” is a vexed one. It has come to be a generally accepted but often confusing and criticised term describing those quilted textiles which are far removed from the domestically crafted work that we know and understand to be ‘traditional quilts’, and yet which at the same time by virtue of construction similarity (2 or more likely 3 layers,, quilted together as one) are clearly derived from the traditional. The differences between the two focus on their implied purposes (bed coverings versus decorator, wall-art functions) and the manner of the decorative patterns on the quilt top/front. In general terms, the majority of traditional quilts involve patterns of either intricately pieced geometric patterns (sewn together by hand or machine) or pictorial designs (either pieced or appliqued) After the surface design or patterning, the top is layered with batting and backing, and the whole quilted, with often very elaborate quilting stitchery forming another surface pattern. In the constantly evolving world of art quilt design, almost anything goes, from digitally enhanced photographic images, applied with stencil, screen or by hand, paints or dyes, inkjet and various other means of print and other transfer processes, fabrics bonded with adhesive film, and in addition various modern uses of the older traditional technqiues. Piecing and applique techniques still abound, but I noticed that in this year’s Quilt National exhibition, that something less than 25% of exhibited pieces relied for surface design on the ‘ old’ techniques of hand or machine piecing and applique – all others have some blend of paint, dye and computer aided digital something or other, and often quite a few different surface design techniques were used in the one piece. This is not a criticism – just a sign of how rapidly and how far things are changing in the world of Art Quilting. Some prefer the term Studio Quilts, by the way, and yet to me this implies something a bit aloof , elitist perhaps… so I don’t feel really comfortable with it, either.

Since everything I make is of my own design, regardless of size or intended function, I claim that everything I do is an art quilt. Modern quilted textiles, IMHO, defy categorisation in any meaningful way other than to say they are all ‘quilts’. The pic above shows “Tara and Ivan’s Quilt”, a very large king size bed cover intended for their 4-poster as a modern day ‘wedding quilt’. Two friends, Robin and Vance, pictured with me in front of this very large art quilt, were attending the opening of my most recent solo exhibition in Washington DC at the Aus Embassy, in 2005.

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Craftmanship issues

Saturday, January 27th, 2007

A recent morning on the quiltart list there was discussion of techniques. The previous writer had issues with fusing of uneven cutting and fraying edges, and I posed the question whether readers could conceive a design in which frayed edges and uneven cut lines, with fusing technique, were appropriate.

Well some of the answers were interesting, but I then realised I had done such a design myself, not too long ago, in which the pieces were either fused (the hand dyed squares in this piece) and or frayed – the gold scrim squares are hand sewn onto the top of the larger squares, and despite beng cut on the cross this stuff does fray easily – witness the fraying doubled over edging that surrounds the quilt.

This small quilt uses a traditional pattern of a square within a square to explore particular techniques, but overall the design isn’t too crash hot in terms of vitality and excitement, and this is probably why I haven’t exhibited it anywhere yet. And yet it is one of those pieces that somehow become important on the way towards new developments.

An earlier version of this post had this and a detailed view but the buttons would not open to show the pics, although they had done so when first posted. This is the best I can do for the moment, however, and maybe I will learn something blindingly obvious to everyone but me on this new blogger program, or need to take another path after a while.

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