Making Marks With Stitch

A Uruguayan friend, Laura F, visited the recent glass and textile exhibition Salonlatino Artevidriotextil in which I had a piece. Although I had talked with her about it and sent her the publicity about the works in that show, she later told me she’d instinctively looked about for one of my art quilts (tapices) that she’d always known as my art.

I met Laura here in Uruguay on my first visit in 1989, and it was the year I began making quilted textile art, too – art quilts or tapices as people call them here. I was accompanying husband Mike on a business visit from Denver CO where we were living at the time. A few years later Laura helped arrange a couple of solo exhibitions in Montevideo and in Punta del Este in the early 90s. She had never known my pre-quiltmaking persona as a creative embroiderer, but my first solo exhibition of anything was of embroidered art, “Sunburnt Textures”, Perth, Western Australia, 1987, just before we moved to the USA where I began making quilted textile art. So my piece in the show somewhat suprised Laura, as she had no idea I was “a really very good embroiderer!!”

“Sunburnt Textures” title piece from solo exhibition, 1987.
Detail – with paint+stitch+found objects.

In the last five decades I’ve read many textile and quilt catalogues, visited websites, browsed on Pinterest, participated in and attended fibreart exhibitions, met many makers and taken some amazing workshops with some special teachers. After such a long time, there are many artists whose work I instantly recognise in an online exhibition, a magazine or a Pinterest page. By this I mean that whatever they do, a certain signature aura shows up in any image of their work. Such a signature comes from how they combine different elements in a work including techniques, materials, patterns and imagery used, and the use of colour – collectively forming the artist’s style. On a more personal level, when an artist’s emotions and feelings are presented through their unique style, their voice reaches the viewer. I have always felt that the best artist statement about any piece of art is a well chosen, brief title, and whether it comes with a written statement is usually not important to me, but I find some statements can help some viewers interpret what they see a bit more deeply.

Textile artists whose work I easily recognise and really love because it always resonates with me, include Dorthy Caldwell, Emily Barletta , Carolyn Nelson , Bonnie Sennot , Roberta Wagner , Annita Romano , Marian Bijengla , but there are many more. And there are several non-textile artists whose work I adore because they make marks in repeat patterns that always make me think of texture in stitch, so I feel akin to each of them, even though I don’t know the first thing about any of their media. These are generative artist the late Vera Molnar, glass artist Giles Bettison and painter Shane Drinkwater.

Like all the above artists, I don’t do pictorial textile art, and my semi abstract works might more properly be likened to craftsmen like weavers, knitters and traditional embroiderers and more who glory in repeat patterns. My own patterns are not usually rigidly repetitive, but are more akin to the general but recognisable patterns of the earth’s surface textures and the structures within its crust, from where a lot of my inspiration comes. I’m considering signing up for a Sue Stone workshop in repeat pattern and texture when it opens for registration next. Even though Sue’s embroideries are not the kind of thing I do, at all, there’s a disconnect that might take me in an interesting direction with my own art.

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