3D Inspiration

September 14th, 2020

Every few years I sign up for a workshop with a good teacher, knowing that it will bring something fresh to my art, and provide new inspiration. Last January I was thinking this would be one of those years, had found several potentially interesting workshop announcements, preparing to sign up once we started making travel plans to visit the offsprings in USA or, later in the year, go to Australia for a while to find a place to settle ourselves back there. The last workshop I took as a student was more than 7 years ago, so I was feeling overdue for such a treat. But of course the pandemic shot all that to pieces.

By way of compensation, I signed up for an online stitch course, The Stitch Club, organised by TextileArtist.org and am so glad I did. Great teachers roll out new online week-long and now 2-week workshops, supported by online video tutorials, inspirational links, Q&A sessions during and after the w/s, and members-only FB page for discussion. If you can’t actually be in a residential summer school or symposium workshop, this must be the next best thing. Obviously the teachers were briefed to prepare projects needing only simple tools and common materials that stitchers are likely to have at home or can easily get hold of in this pandemic. Many teachers are focusing on including recycled and salvaged textiles. This week’s course by Clarissa Callesen is very much based on those principles. this is one of the best so far, and is reminding me of some 3D forms I made decades ago, of which this one is perhaps the best of all:

The famed, fabulous, Golden Eagle Nugget, found near Kalgoorlie in 1931, epitomises the wealth of the Eastern Goldfields region of Western Australia, where gold has been continually mined since it was discovered there in 1893. A perfect inclusion on the quilted banner community project representing the region in the Australian Bicentenary Touring Exhibition of 1988.

Much of what is now termed mixed media technically fits into the concept of an ‘art quilt’ as defined by SAQA, Studio Art Quilt Associates: “a creative visual work that is layered and stitched or that references this form of stitched layered structure.” and indeed, a number of artists are now showing 3D work, though the logistics of touring exhibitions mostly precludes those 3D works. After years of quiltmaking, soft sculpture has retreated to the back of my mind, but Clarissa’s video reminded me of a very satisfying 3D moment in 1987: for a community project I produced a soft sculpture model of the famous Golden Eagle Nugget , which was found in 1931 near the mining town of Kalgoorlie in the Eastern Goldfields region of Western Australia.

The Patchwork Pollies and the Goldfingers Embroiderers were invited to participate in a nationwide project to produce double sided quilts to form a large portiere exhibition at the entrance to the touring Australian Bicentennial Exhibition 88. As construction proceeded, our letter ‘H’ was formed by blocks of crazy patchwork, the embroidering of which enabled many people in the community to do a few stitches on work days held for that. For the reverse side we decided on a traditional quilt format of a medallion in the centre sourrounded by strips/rays of goldfields colours. Sewing those strips of fabric together in work days was another avenue for communityh involvement. It was suggested the medallion should feature something very central to the region. I don’t remember who suggested a nugget, but I certainly offered to make one somehow and agreed to free machine embroider some local motifs on the orange-brown goldfields soil of the nugget’s background. That nugget was to be added only after the quilt construction and quilting was all finished, and, typical me, despite having several months to produce that nugget, I really only tackled it about a week before it was due! By that time, we were preparing to leave town and relocate to the other side of the world, meaning our household goods including my fabrics and sewing machine would soon be all packed up 😮  Of course I’d been thinking about it, but with all the other things going on in my life, I’d serially procrastinated until, finally, with just a few days left before the deadline, I focused, sat down and made it. These photos were taken at the official handover the very day before we flew out of town.

So this morning I’m heading upstairs to select some materials and follow her suggestions of forms to start her assignment. I’ve already put the washing through and have absolutely nothing else scheduled for the rest of today!

Auditions – New Small Work

September 11th, 2020

I had a nice play around early this morning, designing and putting in place this header to sit across the top of the entry prospectus the Oceania: Distance And Diversity exhibition next May. The basics have already been announced, and the actual detailed prospectus will be sent to all SAQA Oceania region members in the next few days. I asked a few people to send me quilt images to use (there’s a slice of each one of them) and I added landscape elements from my own photos. Someone kindly commented the result captures the sense of our part of the world, which is just how I hoped it would read:

I often collage photos rather than post them in full one by one, and this next photo covers the auditioning, Phase 1.

(a) 40 cm wide fabric! (b) scraps are being sorted for ‘land’ bits (c) test applique

The fine hand woven blue Japanese cotton fabric I bought at a fibre conference or symposium at least 15 years ago, and was right at the back of my cupboard exactly where I expected to be. Untouched since I brought it home, though it has a lovely texture and I have always adored it, I’ve never considered using it – as I almost never make anything using a lot of blue. this fabric was deliciously expensive, and as it’s sat there unused, I’ve occasionally wondered why the heck did I buy it? Only a fibre artist would understand this perplexing conundrum. Now, since I’m thinking about the phrase ‘girt by sea’ , sept 7th post, then obviously I could/should consider using it right now. Entries must be 40cm x 60cm, with tolerance of +/- 1cm. In what I think must be an omen of some kind, this particular fabric is 41cm width.

Gathering Ideas

September 10th, 2020

Every now and then I mention how browsing on Pinterest led me to discover an artist whose work I really like. Pinterest is a wonderful way to access new ideas and trends previously only accessible through gallery visits or catalogues and books. Of course, designs themselves are the intellectual property of the artist and therefore copyrighted. What is most exciting to see are media and techniques other artists are using to explore shapes, lines and textures, which might be far removed from the textile medium I’m engaged in. Every time we visit a gallery or or look through a book or catalogue, we absorb something we might not even be aware of, but whether subtle or bold, it becomes an influence and brings something new to our own art…. which is I why I browse on Pinterest and occasionally pin something exciting or interesting to me. To see what I collect go here

Having a concept or idea about a proposed artwork is one thing; executing it is another. It is more than 40 years since a wonderful teacher, Cynthia Sparks, introduced me to some low tech ways to apply paint to fabric and add stitch. Cynthia was a leading Australian embroidery teacher and inspiration to many textile artists there in the 70’s and 80’s, and she became a personal friend. Some other wonderful people followed, all contributing to the textile art creativity she encouraged me to develop.

Having stitched by hand and machine most of my life, and having learned additional different surface design techniques along the way, I do have a wide range of techniques from which to choose. However, like most artists, I tend to work in a group of favourite, go-to techniques. It’s interesting how I can number these on one hand: improvisational machine pieced constructions aka freehand patchwork, free machine embroidery, freestyle hand stitchery, simple hand printed or painted design elements … pretty well everything I do belongs in one of those groups. My approach has always been very low tech, for multiple reasons that I won’t dwell on here, except to say that my peripatetic life has played a big part in this.

If I’m considering using straight stitch in a work, for example, I look through my Pinterest pin boards, and copy several selected images of its usage that seem particularly inspiring, even though these may be mark making rather than actual stitches. I insert these few special images into a word document, 3-6 / page, leaving space around them for notes and lists – and call them ideas sheets. Here’s an example using some of my own images – I don’t want to break anyone’s copyright here!

Segments from several works (my own) on what I call an IDEAS SHEET. I use the spaces around them to jot notes.

Once I’ve compiled the document, scanned it and printed it off, I use the surrounding space to add lists and annotations on possibilities. At this stage if a quote or potential title comes to mind, I note that, too. I generally sketch out very simple little pencil line diagrams of a plan / layout in my sketch book; and most often this is some form of grid, as my brief traditional patchwork background still exerts a strong influence. I love grids 🙂

Sketchbook page diagrams – a key part of my planning process

Once I’ve started to sew the work I almost never look at it again. The searching, selecting and compiling are the important part of the process which pushes me along to pick up fabric, needle and thread and start creating what I have in mind. This morning I spent a little time compiling an ideas sheet for the next project – that theme of ‘girt by sea’ is still rolling around in my mind…

SAQA Benefit Auction Starts Tomorrow !

September 10th, 2020
Afterglow 2″ 2020. 12″ x 12″

Tomorrow, September 11th, at 2pm Eastern Standard Time USA the annual SAQA online benefit auction starts. It runs from September 11 through October 4. This year there are nearly 500 pieces, and about 1/3 of them will be auctioned each week until the end of the auction. But, tomorrow, September 11th, Day 1, for just 24 hours, every one of those donated 12″ square quilts goes on sale for the price of US$1000.

My quilt this year, is auction item #17. If it doesn’t sell tomorrow, it will be in the second group auctioned the week beginning Monday September 21st at which point the bidding starts at US$750 and drop in price each day until it sells, or the end of the week passes after which it will be for sale through the SAQA online shop. For further information on how the auction works, and how to make your bid on my quilt 🙂 go to https://www.saqa.com/auction/auctionFAQ.

The money raised by this annual auction helps fund the exhibition programs, publications, and education outreach of Studio Art Quilt Associates. Additionally, every purchase helps increase the recognition for art quilts and the artists who make them.

Except for one year, I have always suported SAQA’s program by making and donating one of these small textile art works for the auction. Many collectors use the annual auction to collect up-and-coming-names in the art quilt world. Others collect to a theme, and I’ve seen some lovely collections on walls. Two of my collectors own 2+ Alison Schwabes, which is very pleasing to me.

Documenting Works In Process

September 8th, 2020
Details of my most recent landscape inspired quilts: both hand applique over raw edged shapes.

This morning I listened to most of a webinar as several artists from the latin world talked about their textile art and how the COVID19 pandemic has impacted their artistic process. I had to leave the webinar before the end – a load of firewood was being noisily delivered, my cleaning lady was approaching this zone with the vacuum cleaner, and I couldn’t find any headphones to fit into my sound system. The recorded session will be accessible for replay soon, but I might not have missed much substance – there was a bit of waffly philosophising.

However, by the time I left the zoom meeting, a theme had developed through all the speakers who, with some variation, were united on these points: (1) that the restrictions imposed by the pandemic offer unique opportunities for us as textile artists to reflect on our work and what we were doing with it. (2) Through video, photography and writing about it, documenting our process can help us reach deeper understanding of our own growth as artists. (3) Additionally, both making and documenting of our processes can be very healing in any troubled period such as the one we’re all living through.

I was recently telling a friend about something I was doing, and she launched into a bit of a lecture on how I should be sure to document it. She’s not an artist herself, and hasn’t known me long, so she had no idea that documentation of my process is one of the driving forces behind this blog, the nearest thing I will ever have to an artist’s notebook or a visual diary. Both of those quilts, of which you can only see details above, are well documented here here and here

My documentation always includes photographic images including some of mine and finally Eduardo Baldizan’s of the finished work and a brief written statement of <100 words about it or the series to which it belongs. I just finished a medium sized wall quilt that I named Pandemic Pattern, and feel sure that several ideas other ideas I have on this concept will comprise a series in time. Stay tuned.

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